Thursday, 19 July 2012

“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” - A Review Of The 2000 Coen Brothers Film - Now Reissued On An ‘All Regions’ BLU RAY In 2011.


"Hot Damn! It's The Soggy Bottom Boys!"

When the Coen Brothers unleashed "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" into cinemas in September 2000 - it was an audio and visual sensation. The DVD that followed in 2001 received equal praise. But little will prepare fans for this truly beautiful 2011 BLU RAY transfer - it's properly gorgeous to look at - and up there with the best this (often frustrating) format can offer...

When it was originally filmed on location - a 'lossless' digital process was used to fully realise the specific light and scenery of Depression-hit Mississippi in 1937 (beautiful gold and yellow hues). That process combined with the stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins both get to shine like never before. There are times when the visuals are quite literally breathtaking in their clarity. And the canvas to impress your eyes just keeps coming at you as the movie progresses from location to location - open fields, hay barns, twisted swamps, dust roads, river banks, inside period cars and beat-up trucks, the chain-gang detail, radio stations and bank interiors. Even in the notoriously difficult indoor scenes in ramshackle homesteads and around campfires at night - it all looks 'so' good. Add to this a blisteringly funny script full of savvy life-observations and brutal local colloquialisms - and it's hardly surprising that it was nominated for 2 Academy Awards in these areas (Best Script and Cinematography).

Defaulted to 2.35:1 aspect ratio - it has bars top and bottom of the screen - but even when stretched to full screen - it rarely loses any definition. And better news for fans around the world is that this issue is an 'ABC/All Regions' BLU RAY - so it will play on every machine (as well as PlayStation 3 consoles).

Written and Directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen - "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" comes across as a sort of Three Stooges Road Movie with song accompaniment. Roughly based on Homer's Greek tragedy "The Iliad" about a journey of salvation with many "ob-stack-les" along the weary way - its genius soundtrack also sparked a worldwide interest in Blues, Gospel and Old Timey Country music - much of which had been long forgotten and often derided as hick and corny (2011 saw a 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' reissue of this). The film was immediately followed by the DVD release of the "Down From The Mountain" concert in Nashville, Tennessee featuring live music played by musicians on the Grammy-winning soundtrack. Anyone who has seen it will know that it's an equally joyful and musically charged experience. This is America before the sadness and loss of 9/11 - enjoying itself and celebrating its heritage - and rightly so.

The large and varied cast is exceptional - especially the grotesque caricatures that pepper scene after scene. Quinn Gasaway as a gun-totting boy in filthy overalls, Stephen Root as the bug-eyed giggling recording studio boss, John Goodman as the dodgy Bible salesman Big Dan Teague whose ears pop up when he hears the crisp click of dollar bills in a restaurant. His eye-patch signals him as the club-wielding one-eyed Cyclops. Wayne Duvall as the hood-wearing racist Homer Stokes trying to get elected over Charles Durning - the portly but wily Governor of Mississippi - Pappy "Pass The Biscuits" O'Daniel who also hosts a radio show. So many great parts...

The story goes something like this - chained together as a trio of escaped convicts - they are driven to find a $1.2 million dollar treasure Everett is supposed to have hidden in a shack in a valley that is to be flooded in five days time to build a massive hydro-electric dam. But they are being pursued by the Devil in sunglasses with his mean dog - Sheriff Cooley (played with relish by Daniel Von Bargen). After visiting a relative of Pete's called Wash (a man who rarely does) - the boys are hounded off the farm yet again. They then meet a Negro called Tommy Johnson at a crossroads and give him a lift (superbly played by Louisiana guitarist Chris Thomas King). He explains that at midnight the night before he sold his immortal soul to the Devil in return for a guitar that he "sure can play" (like the folklore surrounding Blues legend Robert Johnson). Delmar is appalled but Everett sees a business opportunity. If they can get to a radio station on the outskirts of the State - there's a man there who'll give them money to "sing into a can". They eventually get there - pretend to be The Soggy Bottom Boys - do a charged rendition of "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" - and cut a record. But unbeknown to the hapless crew - a radio hit is born that will literally save their souls (and lives) in the end. But before they can get to that redemption of sorts - all sorts of journey hilarity ensues - including a reunion between Everett and his estranged wife Penny (Holly Hunter) and their 4-strong progeny of mouthy daughters. There are gun-battles with a madcap bank robber George 'Baby Face' Nelson who shoots livestock because he hates cows (a fantastic turn by Coens' favourite Michael Badalucco) and sexy Sirens by the river who turn Pete into a horny toad. It all ends with tins of Dapper Dan pomade floating by the screen when the big flood comes (along with everything else)...

The music deserves a special mention. While audiences expected to howl with laughter and cringe at the array of unhygienic ingrates displayed on screen - what they hadn't expected was to be so moved by the old-timey music - full of ballads about heartbreak, poverty and death. A perfect example is The Cox Family singing "I Am Weary (Give Me Rest)" on a truck at a town gathering - the melody and lyrics are genuinely moving. The congregation making their way through the trees to the river to be baptised as they sing (Acapella) "Down To The River To Pray". Country and Blues musicians also have on-and-off-camera cameos - Clooney lip-synching in the recording booth is really being sung by Dan Tyminski of Alison Krauss' band Union Station - Gillian Welch asking for a copy of the song in a record shop - Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris provide the Acapella vocals as the seductive Sirens on the river - Ralph Stanley of The Stanley Brothers singing "O Death" as Tommy is led by a lynch mob to a gallows and a burning cross - The Fairfield Four Gospel group singing as they dig graves by a log cabin...

But the movie belongs to the three principal leads - John Turturro as the permanently moaning Pete Hogwallop and Tim Blake Nelson as the less than Mensa-material Delmar O'Donnell (a role he would revive to great effect in "Flypaper" - see review). There is a rare and completely believable chemistry between them. But the big revelation here is George Clooney playing the philosophy-jabbering Everett Ulysses McGill. While he doesn't quite reach the cult-inducing peaks of Jeff Bridges as 'The Dude' in the Coens incomparable "The Big Lebowski" (a part emblazoned into cinema lover's hearts forever) - Clooney shows a deftness of touch for comedy and pathos throughout that is quite fantastic. More importantly he seemed to finally park his devastatingly handsome good looks by taking a career chance and showing the world that he was more than just a pretty face. Clooney can act his soggy pants off if given the right part (something he's proved many times since).

The only real let down is the paltry extras (those that accompanied the initial DVD issue) which last only a few minutes and leave you craving more.

Still - this is a fantastic advertisement for what BLU RAY can offer. I only wish I had a humungous home-cinema system to watch it on.

To sum up - after they fail to catch a passing train full of men with "aimless lives of wandering..." Delmar is asked by the other two squabblers to give the deciding vote on who is leader of the trio. Delmar sappily says - "I'm with you fellas!"

I wholeheartedly agree.

BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: 1080p High Definition - Aspect Radio 2.35:1
AUDIO: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital
SUBTITLES: English SDH (Hard Of Hearing), French and Spanish

1. The Making Of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
2. Two Storyboard-To-Scene Comparisons
3. "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow" Music Video
4. Theatrical Trailer

PS: Isaac Freeman - the bass vocalist with the legendary Gospel/Acapella group "The Fairfield Four" (mentioned above) - released his 1st solo album at the age of 73 in 2011 on Lost Highway Records called “Beautiful Stars”. It’s a beauty. Check it out…


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

“Ebony Woman” by BILLY PAUL (June 2012 Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remaster of his 1970 Neptune Records Album Reissued By Philadelphia International In 1973 With A Different Sleeve) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
SOUNDS GOOD E-Book on all Amazon sites
SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exception CD Remasters  
Just Click Below To Purchase for £3.95
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"...Traces Of Love Long Ago..." 

As a long-time contributor to Amazon - I've raved about Britain's BIG BREAK RECORDS before and have reviewed many of their in-depth Reissues and Remasters (see list below).

Each BBR issue has been uniformly superb - especially for those of us looking for great sound quality rather than the half-hearted efforts thrown at us by the majors these days (when they can be bothered). And once again - BBR has delivered on the sound front - even if the material isn't nearly as stellar as you'd hope for. Here are the ebony traces...

UK released 4 June 2012 (5 June 2012 in the USA) - "Ebony Woman by BILLY PAUL on Big Break Records CDBBR 0142 (Barcode 5013929044234) is a straightforward CD Remaster of the rare US Neptune Records LP from 1970 (later reissued by Philadelphia International in 1973) that breaks down as follows (35:41 minutes):

1. Ebony Woman
2. Mrs. Robinson
3. The Windmills Of Your Mind
4. Everyday People
5. Let's Fall In Love All Over
6. Windy
7. Psychedelic Sally
8. Traces
9. Proud Mary
Tracks 1 to 9 are Billy Paul's 2nd album "Ebony Woman" - released July 1970 in the USA on Neptune Records NLPS-201. Neptune was the record label started by the Soul songwriting and producing duo of Kenneth Gamble & Leon Huff. The LP received no UK release at this time. However - it was re-issued April 1973 on Philadelphia International Records KZ 32118 in the USA and on Philadelphia International PIR 65931 in the UK - but this time sporting a different front sleeve. This BBR CD Reissue uses the original 1970 artwork on the front - with the back sleeve featuring the 1973 photo of a woman's face (Grace Jones). It is this image that British Soul fans will recognise as the 1973 sleeve (reproduced in full on Page 6 of the booklet). There are no bonus tracks.

This CD reissue comes in one of those rounded-corner jewel cases and has a detailed 12-page booklet with liner notes by ANDY KELLMAN (writer for the "All Music Guide"). The A&B-sides of the lone 7" single initially issued off the album is pictured on Pages 4 and 8 - "Let's Fall In Love Again" b/w "Mrs. Robinson" on Neptune N-30 - while photos of Paul in his trademark hat pepper the text. There are also full album-credits on the last pages. But the real news for fans is the SUPERB SOUND QUALITY...

Remastered from the 1st generation tapes by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London - the clarity is fantastic - warm bass and clean vocals.

Just out of the Sixties - the album is full of contemporary hits of the time - Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", Sly & The Family Stone's "Everyday People" and Noel Harrison's "Windmills Of Your Mind" (theme from "The Thomas Crown Affair"). The single "Let's Fall In Love Again" was written by Bobby Martin (a friend of Gamble & Huff) and the title track "Ebony Woman" harks way back to 1959 when Billy Paul first sang it jazz-style.

Unfortunately most of these tracks are terribly dated and I'll admit to only having time for three songs on here - a Swingin' 60t's cover of Horace Silver's "Psychedelic Sally" (you can see some hippy chick dancing on a podium in a TV studio on this one), a piano-funky take on Creedence Clearwater Revival's classic "Proud Mary" and a truly lovely turn on The Classic IV's "Traces" (lyrics from it title this review).

To sum up - if you're a fan of the album - then you need to own this BBR reissue of it because of the fabulous sound and tasty presentation. If you're new to it and are expecting Billy Paul's "Let The Dollar Circulate" type of Philly Sound - then I'd suggest a listen 'before' you buy...

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed to 2015:

1. Is It Still Good To Ya – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1978)
2. Stay Free – ASHFORD and SIMPSON (1979)
3. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
4. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
5. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
6. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
7. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
8. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
9. In The Heart – KOOL & THE GANG (1983)
10. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
11.  I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
12. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
13. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
14. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
15. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
16. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
17. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
18. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
19. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
20. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
21. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
22. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
23. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
24. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
25. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
26. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
27. Live: Stompin’ At The Savoy – RUFUS and CHAKA KHAN (1983)
28. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
29. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
30. Spinners – SPINNERS (1973)
31. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
32. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
33. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
34 Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
35. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971)
36. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983) 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

“Graceland 25th Anniversary CD/DVD Edition” by PAUL SIMON. A Review Of The 2012 Reissue.

PAUL SIMON and artists like him are part of my Series "SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1970s Rock And Pop" Download Book available to buy on Amazon to either your PC or Mac (it will download the Kindle software to read the book for free to your toolbar). Click on the link below to go my Author's Page for this and other related publications:


"...Shining Like A National Guitar..."

I'd like to add my penny's worth to the chorus of approval this superb reissue is receiving. But would also like to point out that the fantastic sounding CD is no fluke - it's a GREG CALBI remaster from 2011 (an upgrade on his 2004 version).

Calbi has a staggering 2,300 mastering, remastering, audio restoration credits to his name across decades - so he knows his way around a tape or two. He was responsible for the audiophile quality of Supertramp's revered 1970's output (recently reviewed "Breakfast In America") and received unanimous praise for his work on the Bob Dylan SACD digipak reissues of 2004 and Paul McCartney's "Band On The Run" 25th Anniversary issue from 1999 (for my money better than the Deluxe reissue). Jim White, Whiskytown, Tom Petty, Chris Whitley, Patti Smith, Colin Linden, The Allman Brothers, Willie Nile, John Mayer, Cassandra Wilson, Lizz Wright - no matter who the artist is - he has the deftest of touches when it comes to getting the best out of the tapes.

Add in the stunning "Under African Skies" DVD (perfectly complimenting the audio CD), the lovely 3-way card packaging (slightly oversized) and the reasonable price (£10 on some sites for a 2-disc set) - and you're on a winner.

A beautifully handled reissue of a classic and groundbreaking album (I saw the tour at The Royal Albert Hall in London - a cherished memory).

"...Shining Like A National Guitar..." Indeed it is.

Monday, 9 July 2012

“I'll Play The Blues For You” by ALBERT KING. A Review Of His 1972 Album Now Remastered And Expanded Onto A 2012 “Stax Remasters” CD.

"…Come On Over To The Place Where I Work…"

I'm loving these "Stax Remasters" CD Reissues even if they do seem to be a bit slow coming out (see list below). And any Albert King album from the period is nectar to my weary palate - so let's get with the details...

Released Monday 4 June 2012 in the UK (22 May 2012 in the USA) - "I'll Play The Blues For You"by ALBERT KING on Concord Music Group, Inc 0888072337169 (Barcode 888072337169) is an 'Expanded Edition' and release number seven in the 2011/2012 "STAX REMASTERS" CD Series and breaks down as follows (60:59 minutes):

1. I'll Play The Blues For You (Part 1 & 2)
2. Little Brother Make A Way
3. Breaking up Somebody's Home
4. High Cost Of Living
5. I'll Be Doggone [Side 2]
6. Answer To The Laundromat Blues
7. Don't Burn Down The Bridge ('Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Across)
8. Angel Of Mercy
Tracks 1 to 8 are the album "I'll Play The Blues For You" - released October 1972 in the USA on Stax Records STS-3009 and January 1973 in the UK on Stax Records 2325 089 

9. I'll Play The Blues For You (Alternate Version) (8:44 minutes) 
10. Don't Burn Down The Bridge ('Cause You Might Wanna Come Back Across) (Alternate Version) (5:13 minutes)
11. I Need A Love (4:29 minutes) [Album Outtake]
12. Albert's Stomp (2:18 minutes) [Album Outtake - Instrumental]

The new 12-page booklet has very knowledgeable and affectionate liner notes by BILL DAHL who did the exceptional liner notes on Bear Family's 1961-1970 "Sweet Soul Music" CDs (10 volumes) and their 1945-1960 "Blowing The Fuse" series on R'n'B music (16 volumes). I've reviewed nearly all of them. You also get the original artwork on the front and rear of the booklet, musician and session details and the LP's original liner notes etc. But once again the big news is the NEWLY REMASTERED SOUND...

I've reviewed all the other titles in the "Stax Remasters" series (see list below) and duly raved about the fabulous sound quality on them - especially after years of lacklustre reissues in jewel cases and repro digipaks. Well this is the same. 24-bit remastered from the first generation tapes at JOE TARANTINO Mastering in Berkeley, California - the audio quality is superbly warm - especially the drum and bass (so sweet). The groove of the keyboards and punchy brass fills are both lovely - full - yet not too forced. My only compliant here would be that the vocals are ever so slightly subdued on some tracks (the title song) - buried in the back of the mix - but the overall quality of the album and the shockingly good bonus material quickly nips that minor quibble in the bud. 

Style-wise this is not so much straight-up Blues - but Soul meets Funk with some Blues guitar licks over the top of the band (a genre I can't get enough of). We open for business with one of Albert's signature songs "I'll Play The Blues For You" (written originally by Shreveport guitarist Jerry Beach for Texas Soul singer Geater Davis). It's 7:19 minutes Part 1 and 2 was cut down to a 3:20 minute 'Part 1 Edit' and issued in advance of the album as a 7" single in June 1972 on Stax STS-0135 with The Bar Kays And The Movement credited as the backing band. The slinky sound quality hits you immediately as do the ever-so-slightly cheesy talking lyrics (title above). On that subject - one of the gems on here is Track 9 - a previously unreleased version of "I'll Play The Blues For You" that runs to an extended 8:44 minutes. It removes the talking and replaces it with a great Sax solo and then a lengthy guitar jam to the end. It's brilliantly recorded and a genuine blast for King fans. How has this remained in the vaults for 40 years! I played it in the shop the other day and it had customers asking at the counter after it...

"Breaking Up Somebody's Home" was a hit for Ann Peebles in February 1972 on Hi Records (written by Al Jackson (drummer with Booker T & The MG's) and Timothy Matthews). King's version is a fabulous 7:19 minute slink-fest sounding not unlike something off "Be Altitude" by The Staple Singers (again from 1972). It was issued as an edited 7" single in October 1972 along with the LP and it's a shame that cut isn't included on here as a bonus. "High Cost Of Loving" is excellent uptempo Blues/Soul too. The only real clinker for me is the opener of Side 2 - his cover of Marvin Gaye's old Motown hit "I'll Be Doggone" where live crowd voices are added to the mix. It probably sounded cool then - but it's terribly dated now. Things perk up considerably with the hilariously un-PC lyrics of "Answer To The Laundromat Blues" (great guitarwork and a sleazy backing rhythm) which are thankfully sung tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps you don't want to sing "We gonna buy you washer and dryers and put you in the basement..." to the ladies in your life any day soon! The album ends is real style though with a great double-whammy - the slow funky guitar-groove of "Don't Burn Down The Bridge..." and the money-worries of "Angel Of Mercy" where Albert pleads with real feeling "...Would you please look down on me...a little mercy is all I need." 

As if the album wasn't good enough - the excellence of the 4 extras are a shock. The first two are blistering 'Alternate Versions' of album tracks while the last two are LP outakes (all in fantastic sound quality). I've discussed "I'll Play The Blues For You" above - the 'Alternate' of "Don't Burn Down The House..." is a more attacking guitar version with a huge sound. Great stuff. You can hear why "I Need A Love" was left off the record - it's good - but it sounds too much like other better tracks. The only real letdown is that the fantastically funky "Albert's Stomp" is criminally cut short at 2:18 minutes - just when you were getting into it (sounds like Ike Turner meets Booker T meets Albert King). All in all - very impressive...

So there you have it - a cracking Blues/Funk album bolstered up with four tracks actually worthy of the description 'bonus' - and all of it topped off with great sound and a value-for-money price tag.Very tasty indeed...and highly recommended.

PS: titles in the "STAX REMASTERS" series are (all reviewed): 
1. Green Onions - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1962) 
2. McLemore Avenue - BOOKER T. & THE M.G.'S (1970)
3. Woman To Woman - SHIRLEY BROWN (1975)
4. Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get - THE DRAMATICS (1972)
5. Born Under A Bad Sign - ALBERT KING (1967)
6. I'll Play The Blues For You - ALBERT KING (1972)
7. Be Altitude: Respect Yourself - THE STAPLE SINGERS (1972)
8. Taylored In Silk - JOHNNIE TAYLOR (1973)
9. Do The Funky Chicken - RUFUS THOMAS (1970)

PPS: Lovers of ATLANTIC, STAX and VOLT Records should note that as of October 2012 there is a massive reissue program of classic albums going on in Japan - 100+ titles to be exact (which includes Albert King). They feature Fifties Blues and R'n'B, Sixties and Seventies Soul, Funk & Fusion. All are budget price (£7.50 per disc) and feature 2012 DSD remastering. Many of these titles are familiar - but a huge number are new to CD. For a full detailed list of these Japanese reissues - see the 'comment' section attached to this review…

Monday, 2 July 2012

“The Importance Of Being Earnest”. A Review Of The 2002 Film Now Reissued On A 2012 BLU RAY.

"…Anyone Can Play Accurately…I Play With Wonderful Expression…"

As a long-time reviewer and fan of this new format - I am constantly yo-yoing between praise for BLU RAY reissues and damning them. Some films are massively enhanced by the format’s capacity to show more  - others are either made worse by it - or have suffered at the hands of a lazy and sloppy transfer.

Well I'm pleased to say that "The Importance Of Being Earnest" is in the former - because the print on this 2012 BLU RAY reissue is TRULY GORGEOUS - shockingly so even.

Set in 1890's British upper-class society - "The Importance Of Being Earnest" was a lavish 2002 Ealing Studios/Miramax production – so the BLU RAY should shine when it comes to 'detail' - and that's indeed what you get. Dandy clothing, ladies refinery, interiors of men's clubs, alleyways in London, carriages to the country, Stately homes and their gardens, cucumber sandwiches and tea on the lawn, vicars and language tutors – it all looks beautiful.

Throw in Wilde's clever jabbing at society and a cast thoroughly enjoying themselves with witty material (especially Rupert Everett as the good-for-nothing Algernon Moncrieff and Judy Dench as the matriarchal Lady Augusta) – and you're on a reissue winner. Americans Reese Witherspoon and Frances O'Connor show a deftness of touch too, while Colin Firth is as effortlessly charming as ever. I also particularly like Tom Wilkinson and Anna Massey as the elderly couple whose courtship goes unexpressed but is so deeply touching. And Edward Fox as Lane - Algernon's old butler – constantly evading Algernon's need for praise (dialogue above) with wily replies…shutting Algernon too up by mentioning vulgar things like 'wages'…

Director Oliver Parker shows a genuine empathy to the material and his adaptation of the play is superb. But more than anything – you feel the 'presence' of genius behind it all – the master - the immortal OSCAR WILDE. Every sentence and set scene is craftsmanship - and few have ever matched him.

Some would say that "The Importance Of Being Earnest" is very slight fare for a film – fluff even – and should remain in a local theatre with a local troupe. I disagree. This big-screen version is an absolute delight and made with real affection and pride.

To sum up - if you're a fan of this lovely film – then you need to own it on BLU RAY. 

Why it's like finding a baby in a handbag at Victoria Station – first class all the way…

Sunday, 1 July 2012

"Them Changes" by BUDDY MILES (2003 Universal/Miracle Records 'Original Funk LP Series' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I'm Hung Up On Dreams I Never See…"

Working in a secondhand record shop in Central London you come across Soul and Funk LP rarities that have acquired an almost legendary status across the years - and "Them Changes" is one of them. US originals regularly cross the counter for £20+ while British copies are even harder to find. I mention this because Buddy Miles' third album is one of those semi-unknown nuggets that's worth the wonga and 'so' deserves a bigger audience on CD...

In fact checking on his catalogue for this review - I find that only 2 of his 6 albums on Mercury are available on CD anywhere in the world - a very pricey and now deleted Hip-O Select issue of "Expressway To Your Skull" (his US debut LP from 1968 produced by Jimi Hendrix) and this. Fans of Funk-Soul will also notice that of the 15 CD reissues in this 2003 series - most are now deleted and have garnished ludicrous price tags (ranging from £40 to as high as £90) - except this - which is still available at a paltry fiver.

1. Them Changes 
2. I Still Love You, Anyway
3. Heart's Delight
4. Dreams
5. Down By The River 
6. Memphis Train 
7. Paul B. Allen, Omaha, Nebraska 
8. Your Feeling Is Mine

The vinyl LP for "Them Changes" by BUDDY MILES was originally issued June 1970 in the USA on Mercury SR-61280 and October 1970 on Mercury 6338 016 in the UK (see Discography below). 

This May 2003 CD on Universal/Miracle Records 063 693-2 (Barcode 044006369327) is a straightforward 8-track reissue of that 1970 LP (33:46 minutes) issued under the banner of their "ORIGINAL FUNK LP SERIES” on CD (out of Europe). The card digipak reproduces the American gatefold sleeve artwork (inside and out) and provides an 8-page booklet too. 
Page 2 gives you a readable repro of the album credits in full and there's also a very knowledgeable and concise essay on the album by noted Soul writer DEAN RUDLAND - a name known to many collectors of reissues.

ROBIN McBRIDE and BUDDY MILES produced seven of its eight tracks - the exception being "Memphis Train" - which is produced by STEVE CROPPER of Booker T. & The M.G.'s. The album was mixed by top engineer BRUCE SWEDIEN who later worked with a number of Brunswick label artists (The Chi-Lites etc) and features on Michael Jackson's "Off The Wall" and "Thriller". Other notable musicians are CHARLIE KARP and JIM McCARTY on Lead Guitar, ANDRE LEWIS on Keyboards and LEE ALLEN on Trumpet. Miles was of course the drummer with American Rock-Fusion band THE ELECTRIC FLAG and part-time participant of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys. As well as drumming he provides lead vocals on every track.

Three songs are BM originals "Them Changes", "Heart's Delight" and a co-write with Andre Lewis on "Paul B. Allen, Omaha, Nebraska" while the lovely "I Still Love You, Anyway" is written by band guitarist Charlie Karp. His cover versions are masterfully chosen and arguably the highlights of the album - a fantastically funky reinterpretation of "Dreams" by The Allman Brothers (lyrics above), "Memphis Train" by Rufus Thomas, "Your Feeling Is Mine" by Otis Redding and a truly brilliant and soulful version of "Down By The River" from Neil Young that never ceases to bring customers to the counter asking "Who is this!"

Like The Undisputed Truth CD in this series "Face To Face With The Truth" (see separate review) - it doesn't say who remastered the tapes or where it was done - but the sound is clear and funky (if not a little hissy in places) - and 'pre-production' appears to have something to do with 'Miracle Records' via Universal UMG out of Europe.

I love this album and recommend this CD version of it wholeheartedly.
If you want to get a lay of the land - try the opening 20 seconds of "Down By The River" - that should get you Buddy-hooked immediately...

PS: A Buddy Miles LP Discography (1968 to 1972):
1. Expressway To Your Skull (January 1969 (1968 USA) UK LP on Mercury 20137 SMCL) - USA Hip-O Select CD only, Gatefold Card Repro Sleeve, No'd to 5000.
2. Electric Church (October 1969 UK LP on Mercury 20163 SMCL)
3. Them Changes (October 1970 UK LP on Mercury 6338 016) - REVIEWED ABOVE
4. We Got To Live Together (January 1971 UK LP on Mercury 6338 028)
5. A Message To The People (June 1971 UK LP on Mercury 6338 048)
6. Live (February 1972 UK 2LP set on Mercury 6641 033)
[NOTE: 1 and 2 credited to BUDDY MILES EXPRESS, the others to BUDDY MILES. As of July 2012 - 2, 4, 5 and 6 are NOT ON CD]

PPS: The 15 Titles in the "Original FUNK LP Series" of CD Reissues/Remasters:
(1975 US LP on Polydor, CD reissue is 065 620-2)
2. Propositions - BAR-KAYS
(1982 USA LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 822 885-2)
3. Summertime Groove - BOHANNON
(1978 USA LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 077 014-2)
4. Ugly Ego - CAMEO
(1978 USA LP On Chocolate City, CD reissue is 077 251-2)
5. Con Funk Shun 7 - CON FUNK SHUN
(1981 USA LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 063 699-2)
6. Nice And Soulful - CAROLINE CRAWFORD
(1979 USA LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 067 517-2)
7. The Gap Band - THE GAP BAND
(1979 USA LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 063 698-2)
8. Something Special - KOOL and THE GANG
(1981 LP on De-Lite, CD reissue is 063 695-2)
(1974 LP on 20th Century, CD reissue is 063 625-2)
10. Just Outside Of Town - MANDRILL
(1973 LP on Polydor, CD reissue is 065 619-2)
11. Them Changes - BUDDY MILES [Drummer with The Electric Flag]
(1970 LP on Mercury, CD reissue is 063 693-2)
12. One Way featuring Al Hudson - ONE WAY featuring AL HUDSON
(1979 LP on MCA, CD reissue is 113 201-2)
13. What Am I Gonna Do - GLORIA SCOTT [Barry White production]
(1974 USA LP on Casablanca, CD reissue is 063 694-2)
(1975 USA LP on 20th Century, CD reissue is 063 691-2)
15. Face To Face With The Truth - THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH
(1972 LP on Gordy & Tamla Motown, CD reissue is 067 100-2) [see REVIEW]




SOUL, FUNK and JAZZ FUSION - Exceptional CD Remasters

GROOVIEST SOUNDS AROUND! 1960s MUSIC ON CD (All-Genres) - April 2019 Update

PROG ROCK, PSYCH, AVANT GARDE - Exceptional CD Remasters...


I GOT THE NEWS - 1975 to 1979 Exceptional CD Remasters


MY BROKEN HEART (75 Days In The NHS) - Poem of Poems

1969 - WHOLE LOTTA LOVE - Your All-Genres Guide To Exceptional CD Remasters and Reissues...



TUMBLING DICE - 1972 - Exceptional CD Remasters

ELOQUENT PROFANITY - 1973 - Exceptional CD Remasters







INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order