Monday, 10 March 2014

"Ooh La La: An Island Harvest" by RONNIE LANE and SLIM CHANCE. A Review Of The March 2014 2CD Reissue And Remaster From Universal.

This review is 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:


"…I'm Gonna Miss You…"

As every Small Faces and Faces fan knows – Ronnie Lane’s primo and sought-after solo career on GM and Island Records in the mid to late Seventies has had a ludicrously convoluted history on CD. It’s involved obscure re-issue labels, followed by quick deletion and extortion setting in on the price front almost immediately. And most of these discs have had OK to occasionally better sound quality. Well – at last – all of that ends with Universal’s big label 2CD reissue "Ooh La La: An Island Harvest". It's not perfect for sure – but damn close. Here are the tins and tambourines…

UK released Monday 10 March 2014 (25 March 2014 in the USA) on Universal-Island 5345422 (Barcode 600753454220) – "Ooh La La: An Island Harvest" breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (74:41 minutes):
Tracks 1, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 15 are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED - "Ooh La La (Alternate Studio Take – Take 4)", "Buddy Can Spare A Dime (Alternate Studio Take – Take 5)", "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself A Letter) (Alternate Studio Take)", "You Never Can Tell (Take 1)",  "Back Street Boy (Jam Session)", "Country Boy (Alternate Take)"
Tracks 8, 14, 17 and 18 are from the 1975 UK album "Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance" (see sequence below)
Tracks 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12 and 13 are from the 1976 UK album "One For The Road" LP (see sequence below)
Track 16 is "What Went Down (That Night With You)" – the A-side of a non-album UK 7” single issued February 1975 on Island WIP 6216

Disc 2 (75:26 minutes):
Tracks 1 and 14 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED - "The Poacher (Take 2)" and "Anniversary (Alternate Mix)"
Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7, 9 and 10 are from the 1975 UK album "Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance" (see sequence below)
Tracks 3 and 5 are from the 1976 UK album "One For The Road" LP (see sequence below)
Track 8 is "Lovely (Single Version)" – the Non-Album B-side of Track 16 on Disc 1
Tracks 12 to 19 are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED LIVE tracks from a BBC Concert 23 April 1974 - "Last Orders Please", "Done This One Before", "Flags And Banners", "Tell Everyone", "How Come", "I Believe In You", "Debris" and "Ooh La La".

You can sequence 'most' of both Island LPs as follows (1/18) = Disc 1, Track 18 etc.:

Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance  (July 1975 2nd UK LP on Island ILPS 9321)
Side 1:
1.    Little Piece Of Nothing (1/18)
2.    Stone (2/4)
3.    A Bottle Of Brandy (2/6)
4.    Street Gang (2/2)
5.    Anniversary (1/14)
6.    I’m Gonna Sit Down And Write Myself A Letter
7.    I’m A Country Boy
Side 2:
1.    Ain’t No Lady (2/9)
2.    Blue Monday (2/10)
3.    Give Me A Penny (1/8)
4.    You Never Can Tell
5.    Tin And Tambourine (1/17)
6.    Single Saddle (2/7)

One For The Road (July 1976 3rd UK LP on Island ILPS 9366)
Side 1:
1.    Don’t Try 'N' Change My Mind (1/2)
2.    32nd Street (1/7)
3.    Snake (1/12)
4.    Burnin' Summer (1/13)
5.    One For The Road (1/3)
Side 2:
1.    Steppin' An' Reelin' (The Wedding) 1/5)
2.    Harvest Home (1/6)
3.    Nobody's Listening (2/3)
4.    G’morning (2/5)

The 2CDs are housed in a three-way foldout card sleeve that’s admittedly flimsy with CD1 on the left, CD2 on the right and the 16-page booklet in the centre (and again no inner bags for protection – be careful extracting the discs). A nice touch however is that CD1 repros the Pink-Rim Island Label - while CD2 repros the one after it – the Blue and Orange mid to late Seventies label. There are hugely affectionate liner notes by renowned music writer PAOLO HEWITT who also compiled the set with JOHNNY CHANDLER. We get mini photos of the two album sleeves and UK Island singles, master tape boxes, concert tickets, gig posters and reissue credits. But of course the big news is the sound – remastered from original tapes by ALEX WHARTON at Abbey Road Studios – we finally get to hear these tracks breath and sound wonderful.

The sonic wallop is immediate when you get to Track 2 – a rare UK 7" single "Don't Try To Change My Mind". Last I heard it was on a Neon CD from 2000 (see review) and its sound quality was good rather than great. Now it’s a revelation. The accordion and mandolins are so clear – lovely tune. And it seems like I’ve waited 40 years to hear "Tin And Tambourine" sound this good – what a blast. And when the band goes into that harmonica jaunt half way through – I’m bawling like a sappy fool. God I miss this guy…

As fans will have noticed from the LP lists above there’s bad news and niggles – three tracks from "Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance" are AWOL - replaced with Alternates. However in the case of "Country Boy" – the Alternate Mix is shockingly good – as pretty as Lane could be – it’s going to be an absolute highlight for many. Another downer is serious distortion and crackle on "Burnin' Summer" - unbelievably bad (corrupted tape?).

But in compensation the BBC In Concert stuff on Disc 2 comes over as a FACES gig done live-in-the-studio in a ramshackle Ronnie Lane & Slim Chance style (and don’t get me started on the gorgeous “Debris” – we’ll be here for years). The finisher "Ooh La La"is joyous stuff. There are one or two of the Takes with small amounts of studio banter (the Chuck Berry cover "You Never Can Tell") and Plonk’s infectious laugh that will put a smile on many a weary kisser. Fans of "The Poacher" will also flip for the "Two, Three, Four…" count in on Take 2 where I swear he’s changed the words but all the magical ingredients are there – just slightly different. Another gem for many will be the sonic upgrade on the lovely "Anniversary" (lyrics above) – it’s featured in both album and alternate form.

As a long time Amazon Reviewer (over 1000 posts) – I regularly heap praise on UK independent labels that keep the flame alive for so many of us (especially on CD). But in 2014 someone somewhere seems to have lit a large torch under the stodgy bottom of Universal – because like the brilliant Eric Clapton 2CD set “Give Me Strength” – for me this is yet another 2014 Reissue of the Year  from a major record company. What is going on!?

Paolo Hewitt writes of Ronnie Lane, "He had stars in his eyes and he had love in his smile…"

Well after a mere four even five decades after the event and his sad passing – fans of Ronnie 'Plonk' Lane finally have something worth getting weepy about. I raise a Pint of Guinness to him and to all involved in this superb reissue.

Cheers to you all...

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