Saturday, 6 June 2015

Forever Changing: The Golden Age Of Elektra Records 1963-1973 by VARIOUS ARTISTS [Standard and Deluxe Editions] (2006 Rhino 5CD/1CD-Rom Box Set - Dan Hersch and Bill Inglot Remasters)

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"...The Invisible Backwards-Facing Grocer Who Rose To Fame..."

Shock and awe is the appropriate response I think. This gorgeous Elektra Records retrospective comes at you in two UK/Europe variants (both superbly annotated and remastered with skill and affection by people who care - long-time reissue giants Rhino Records of the USA). Although neither highlight themselves as such (both have the same name of the outer packaging) - released 16 Nov 2006 the 'Standard Edition' is in a Tall Book Pack on Rhino 8122 74745 2 (Barcode 081227474522) - while the 26 Nov 2006 'Deluxe Edition' is a 12" x 12" Box Set on Rhino 8122 74746 2 (Barcode is the same number) that comes with a huge amount of beautifully reproduced memorabilia exclusive to this variant.

Both are 5CD sets (117 tracks in total) and each comes with a CD-ROM (Audio Acrobat V.5 required) that allows PC and Mac users to access a PDF version of the 440-page book "FOLLOW THE MUSIC: The Life And High Times Of Elektra Records In The Great Years Of American Pop Culture" by JAC HOLZMAN and GAVAN DAWS first published in 1998 by FirstMedia Books of the USA (republished in 2000 with a limited edition 26-track CD). That book has a very usual and detailed Discography from the 1950s onwards at the rear. The CD-ROM also has a PDF for “The Elektra Records Illustrated Discography 1963-1973" which pictures (in colour) every sleeve from 1963 to 1973 along with track lists and catalogue numbers – and even shows UK-Only releases, Box Sets and Promo-Only LP Samplers at the end of the list.

This indepth review will cover the much-coveted Deluxe Edition 12" x 12" Box Set and discuss all the goodies contained within. Here are the Audio Butterflies and Rainbows...

Disc 1 - 28 Tracks from 1963 to 1965 (76:37 minutes):
1. Turn! Turn! Turn!/To Everything There Is A Season - JUDY COLLINS (1963 USA Stereo LP "Judy Collins No.3" on Elektra EKS 7243)
2. He Was A Friend - DIAN & THE GREENBRIAR BOYS (1963 USA Stereo LP "Dian & The Greenbriar Boys" on Elektra EKS 7233)
3. High Flying Bird - JUDY HENSKE (1963 USA Stereo LP "High Flying Bird" on Elektra EKS 7241)
4. Dink's Song (Fare Thee Well) - BOB GIBSON (1964 USA Stereo LP "Where I'm Bound" on Elektra EKS 7239)
5. Casey - DICK ROSMINI (1964 USA Mono LP "Adventures For 12 String, 6 String & Banjo" on Elektra EKL 245)
6. Shady Grove - DICK ROSMINI (1964 USA Mono LP "Adventures For 12 String, 6 String & Banjo" on Elektra EKL 245)
7. Little Brown Dog - DICK ROSMINI (1964 USA Mono LP "Adventures For 12 String, 6 String & Banjo" on Elektra EKL 245)
8. Linin' Track - KOERNER, RAY & GLOVER (1963 USA Mono LP "Blues, Rags & Hollers" on Elektra EKL 240)
9. The Even Dozens - THE EVEN DOZEN JUG BAND (1964 USA Stereo LP "The Even Dozen Jug Band" on Elektra EKS 7246)
10. Wild Child In A World Of Trouble - VINCE MARTIN & FRED NEIL (1965 USA Stereo LP "Tear Down The Walls" on Elektra EKS 7248)
11. Good Luck Child - 'SPIDER' JOHN KOERNER (1965 USA Stereo LP "Spider Blues" on Elektra EKS 7290)
12. Downtown Blues - GEOFF MULDAUR (1964 USA Various Artists Mono LP "The Blues Project" on Elektra EKL 7265)
13. I Ain't Marching Anymore - PHIL OCHS (1965 USA Stereo LP "I Ain't Marching Anymore" on Elektra EKS 7287)
14. The Last Thing On My Mind - TOM PAXTON (1964 USA Stereo LP "Ramblin' Boy" on Elektra EKS 7277)
15. Pride Of Man - HAMILTON CAMP (1964 USA Stereo LP "Paths Of Victory" on Elektra EKS 7278)
16. Tomorrow Is A Long Time [Bob Dylan cover] - JUDY COLLINS (1965 USA Stereo LP "Judy Collins' Fifth Album" on Elektra EKS 7300)
17. Black Mountain Rag [Instrumental] - THE DILLARDS with BYRON BERLINE (1965 USA Stereo LP "Pickin' & Fiddlin'" on Elektra EKS 7285)
18. Green Rocky Road - KATHY & CAROL [Kathy Larisch and Carol McComb] (1965 USA Stereo LP "Kathy & Carol" on Elektra EKS 7289)
19. Cocaine - PHIL BOROFF (1965 USA Stereo LP "The String Band Project" on Elektra EKS 7292)
20. House Un-American Blues Activity Dream - RICHARD FARINA (1965 USA Stereo LP "The Singer Songwriter Project" on Elektra EKS 7299)
21. West Egg Rag - DAVE RAY (1967 USA Mono LP "Fine Soft Land" on Elektra EKL 319)
22. Two Trains Running [Muddy Waters cover] - MAXWELL STREET JIMMY DAVIS (1965 USA Stereo LP "Maxwell Street" on Elektra EKS 7303)
23. Breeze [Traditional Song cover] - OLIVER SMITH (1966 USA Stereo LP "Oliver Smith" on Elektra EKS 7316)
24. Joshua Gone Barbados - TOM RUSH (1965 USA Stereo LP "Talk A Little Walk With Me" on Elektra EKS 7308)
25. Other Side To This Life - FRED NEIL (1965 USA Stereo LP "Bleecker & MacDougal" on Elektra EKS 7293)
26. Birdses - DINO VALENTE (1964 UK 7" Single on Elektra EKSN 45012, A)
27. Blues With A Feeling - THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND (1965 USA Stereo LP "The Paul Butterfield Blues Band" on Elektra EKS 7294)
28. Moonlight Drive (Early Version - aka Demo) - THE DOORS (1965 recording first appeared on "Essential Rarities" on Elektra 7559-62530-2 in 1999)

Disc 2 - 23 Tracks from 1966 to 1969 (76:36 minutes):
1. My Little Red Book - LOVE (1966 USA Stereo LP "Love" on Elektra EKS 74001)
2. Wings - TIM BUCKLEY (1967 USA Stereo LP "Tim Buckley" on Elektra EKS 74004)
3. So Easy She Goes By - DAVID BLUE (1966 USA Stereo LP "David Blue" on Elektra EKS 74003)
4. I Got A Mind To Give Up Living - THE BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND (1966 USA Stereo LP "East-West" on Elektra EKS 7315)
5. The Magic Carpet - PAT KILROY (1966 USA Stereo LP "Light Of Day" on Elektra EKS 7311)
6. First Girl I Loved - THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (1967 USA Stereo LP "The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion" on Elektra EKS 74010)
7. The Invisible Backwards-Facing Grocer Who Rose To Fame - ALASDAIR CLAYRE (1967 UK Mono LP "Alastair Clayre" on Elektra EUK 255)
8. One Time And One Time Only - TOM PAXTON (1966 UK-Only 7" single on Elektra EKSN 45003, A)
9. Changes [Live] - PHIL OCHS (1966 USA Stereo LP "Phil Ochs In Concert" on Elektra EKS 7310)
10. Hard Lovin' Loser - JUDY COLLINS (1966 USA Stereo LP "In My Life" on Elektra EKS 7320)
11. She Comes In Colors - LOVE (1967 USA Stereo LP "Da Capo" on Elektra EKS 74005)
12. Light My Fire - THE DOORS (1967 USA Stereo LP "The Doors" on Elektra EKS 74007)
13. Black Roses - CLEAR LIGHT (1967 USA Stereo LP "Clear Light" on Elektra EKS 74011)
14. Once I Was - TIM BUCKLEY (1967 USA Stereo LP "Goodbye & Hello" on Elektra EKS 74038)
15. Virgo - THE ZODIAC COSMIC SOUNDS (1967 USA Stereo LP "The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds" on Elektra EKS 74009)
16. Buy For Me The Rain - STEVE NOONAN (1967 USA Stereo LP "Steve Noonan" on Elektra EKS 74017)
17. Nevertheless - ECLECTION (1968 USA Stereo LP "Eclection" on Elektra EKS 74023)
18. Fields Of People - ARS NOVA (1968 USA Stereo LP "Ars Nova" on Elektra EKS 74020)
19. Dame Fortune - THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS (1967 USA Stereo LP "The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders" on Elektra EKS 74026)
20. Girl Of The Seasons - BAMBOO (1968 USA Stereo LP "Bamboo" on Elektra EKS 74048)
21. Magazine Lady - 'SPIDER' JOHN KOERNER & WILLIE MURPHY (1967 USA Stereo LP "Running Jumping Standing Still" on Elektra EKS 74041)
22. The Red Sox Are Winning - EARTH OPERA (1968 USA Stereo LP "Earth Opera" on Elektra EKS 74016)
23. I Want You (To Be My One And Only Girl) - THE WAPHPHLE (1967 USA 7" single on Elektra EK 45616, A)

Disc 3 - 22 Tracks from 1967 to 1969 (78:19 minutes, all tracks Stereo):
1. Alone Again Or - LOVE (1967 USA LP "Forever Changes" on Elektra EKS 74013)
2. Both Sides Now [Joni Mitchell cover] - JUDY COLLINS (1967 USA LP "Wildflowers" on Elektra EKS 74012)
3. No Regrets - TOM RUSH (1967 USA LP "The Circle Game" on Elektra EKS 74018)
4. Jennifer's Rabbit - TOM PAXTON (1968 UK-Only 7" single on Elektra EKSN 45021, A)
5. Swift As The Wind - THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (1968 USA LP on Elektra EKS 74021)
6. Frozen Mornings - NICO (1968 USA LP "The Marble Index" on Elektra EKS 74029)
7. Down River - DAVID ACKLES (1968 USA LP "David Ackles" on Elektra EKS 74022)
8. Mad Lydia's Waltz - EARTH OPERA (1968 USA LP "The Great American Eagle Tragedy" on Elektra EKS 74038)
9. Sing A Song For You - TIM BUCKLEY (1968 USA LP "Happy Sad" on Elektra EKS 74045)
10. The Sun Comes Up Each Day - DAVID STOUGHTON (1968 USA LP "Transformer" on Elektra EKS 74034)
11. Early Morning Blues & Greens - DIANE HILDEBRAND (1968 USA LP "Early Morning Blues & Greens" on Elektra EKS 74031)
12. She Sang Hymns Out of Tune - THE DILLARDS (1968 USA LP "Wheatstraw Suite" on Elektra EKS 74035)
13. Arthur Comics - STALK-FORREST GROUP [later became Blue Oyster Cult] (1968 USA 7" single on Elektra EKS 74046, A)
14. Five To One - THE DOORS (1968 USA LP "Waiting For The Sun" on Elektra EKS 74024)
15. Apricot Brandy - RHINOCEROS (1968 USA LP "Rhinoceros" on Elektra EKS 74030)
16. When The Battle Is Over - DELANEY & BONNIE and Friends [Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett - Dr. John and Jesse Hill tune] (1969 USA LP "The Original Delaney & Bonnie/Accept No Substitute" on Elektra EKS 74039)
17. Mt. Healthy Blues - LONNIE MACK (1969 USA LP "Whatever's Right" on Elektra EKS 74050)
18. Kick Out The James - MC5 [Motor City 5] (1969 USA LP "Kick Out The Jams" on Elektra EKS 74042)
19. I Wanna Be Your Dog - THE STOOGES [featuring Iggy Pop] (1969 USA LP "The Stooges" on Elektra EKS 74051)
20. Go Back - CRABBY APPLETON [featuring Michael Fennelly] (1969 USA LP "Crabby Appleton" on Elektra EKS 74067)
21. Dismal Day - BREAD [featuring David Gates] (1969 USA LP "Bread" on Elektra EKS 74044)
22. August - LOVE [featuring Arthur Lee] (1969 USA LP "Four Sail" on Elektra EKS 74049)

Disc 4 - 18 Tracks from 1970 to 1973 (76:03 minutes, all tracks Stereo):
1. Down On The Street (Single Version) - THE STOOGES (1970 USA 7" single on Elektra EK 45695, A)
2. Louise - PAUL SIEBEL (1970 USA LP "Woodsmoke & Oranges" on Elektra EKS 74064)
3. Amazing Grace - JUDY COLLINS (1971 USA LP "Whales & Nightingales" on Elektra EKS 75010)
4. That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be - CARLY SIMON (1971 USA LP "Carly Simon" on Elektra EKS 74082)
5. Riders On The Storm - THE DOORS (1971 USA LP "L.A. Woman" on Elektra EKS 75011)
6. The Future's Not What It Used To Be - MICKEY NEWBURY (1971 USA LP "Frisco Mabel Joy" on Elektra EKS 74107)
7. Start Living - FARQUAHR (1971 USA LP "Farquahr" on Elektra EKS 74083)
8. Taxi - HARRY CHAPIN (1972 USA LP "Heads & Tales" on Elektra EKS 75023)
9. True Story Of Amelia Earhart - PLAINSONG [featuring Andy Roberts and Ian Matthews] (1972 USA LP "In Search Of Amelia Earhart" on Elektra EKS 75044)
10. I Hardly Know Her Name - THE WACKERS (1972 USA LP "Hot Wacks" on Elektra EKS 75025)
11. Ballad Of The Ship Of State - DAVID ACKLES (1972 USA LP "American Gothic" on Elektra EKS 75032)
12. The Guitar Man - BREAD (1972 USA LP "The Guitar Man" on Elektra EKS 75047)
13. You're So Vain - CARLY SIMON (1972 USA LP "No Secrets" on Elektra EKS 75049)
14. You Don't Grow Old - COURTLAND PICKETT (1973 USA LP "Fancy Dancer" on Elektra EKS 75060)
15. Dolphins - CYRUS FARYAR (1973 USA LP "Islands" on Elektra EKS 75068)
16. Shadows On The Wall - SKYMONTERS with HAMID HAMILTON CAMP (1973 USA LP "Skymonters" on Elektra EKS 75073)
17. Burning Love - DENNIS LINDE (1973 USA LP "Dennis Linde" on Elektra EKS 75062)
18. Keep Yourself Alive - QUEEN (1973 USA debut LP "Queen" on Elektra EKS 75064)

Disc 5 "Another Time, Another Place 1963 to 1973" - 26 Tracks (79:20 minutes):
1. Wind Chimes (25 seconds of wind chimes - from the 1966 3LP Box Set "Elektra Library Of Authentic Sound Effects" on Elektra 313/4)
2. Don't Be Long - THE BEEFEATERS (1964 USA 7" single on Elektra EKSN 45013, B-side of "Please Let Me Love You" - band featured Roger 'Jimmy' McGuinn, Gene Clark and Harvest Gerst - early version of The Byrds)
3. I'll Be Back - JOSHUA RIFKIN (1966 USA Stereo LP "The Baroque Beatles Book" on Elektra EKS 7306)
4. Baldheaded End Of The Broom - THE DRY CITY SCAT BAND (1965 USA Various Artists Stereo LP "The String Band Project" on Elektra EKS 7292)
5. We Shall Be Happy - JOSEPH SPENCE (1966 USA Mono LP "Happy All The Time" on Elektra EKL 273)
6. Good Time Music - THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL (1966 USA Various Artists Stereo LP "What's Shakin'" on Elektra EKS 74002)
7. Born In Chicago - THE PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND (1965 USA Various Artists LP "Folk Song '65" on Elektra SMP 6)
8. Crossroads - ERIC CLAPTON & THE POWERHOUSE (1966 USA Various Artists Stereo LP "What's Shakin'" on Elektra EKS 74002)
9. I'll Keep It With Mine - JUDY COLLINS (a Bob Dylan cover, 1965 USA 7" single on Elektra EK 45601, A)
10. She's A Woman - THE CHARLES RIVER VALLEY BOYS (1966 USA Stereo LP "Beatle Country" on Elektra EKS 74006)
11. Sunshine Sunshine - TOM RUSH [James Taylor cover] (1968 USA Stereo LP "The Circle Game" on Elektra EKS 74018)
12. Bird Song - THE HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS (1968 USA 7" single on Elektra EK 45644, A)
13. She's Ready To Be Free - CLEAR LIGHT (1967 USA 7" single on Elektra EK  45622, A)
14. Wayfaring Stranger - TIM BUCKLEY [from the 1969 "Happy Sad" Sessions] (1999 CD Compilation "Works In Progress" on Rhino Handmade RHM2 7705)
15. Laissez-Faire - DAVID ACKLES (1968 USA Stereo LP "David Ackles" on Elektra EKS 74022)
16. Alphabet Song - DAVID PEEL & THE LOWER EAST SIDE (1968 USA Stereo LP "Have A Marijuana" on Elektra EKS 74032)
17. Voodoo Woman - DAVID STOKES & THE NIGHTHAWKS (1968 USA 7" single on Elektra EK 45670, A)
18. Please (Mark II) - ECLECTION (1968 UK-Only 7" single on Elektra EKSN 45046, A)
19. Flames - LEVIATHAN (1969 UK-Only 7" single on Elektra EKSN 45076, A)
20. No Words Between Us - SHOW OF HANDS (1969 USA Stereo LP "Formerly Anthrax" on Elektra EKS 74084)
21. Listening to Music - JACK S. MARGOLIS (1969 USA Stereo LP "A Child's Garden Of Grass" on Elektra EKS 75012)
22. Lotus - THE RAINBOW BAND (1971 USA Stereo LP "The Rainbow Band" on Elektra EKS 74092)
23. The Persecution & Restoration Of Dean Moriarty (On The Road) - AZTEC TWO-STEP (1972 USA LP "Aztec Two-Step" on Elektra EKS 75031)
24. P. O. W. - GOODTHUNDER (1971 USA LP "Goodthunder" on Elektra EKS 75041)
25. All Around My Grandmother's Floor - ANDY ROBERTS (1973 UK LP "Urban Cowboy" on Elektra K 42139)
26. World Within End - JOBRIATH (1973 USA LP "Jobriath" on Elektra EKS 75070)

Remastered by long-standing Engineers BILL INGLOT and DAN HERSCH at Digiprep in California - the Audio fluctuates from awesome to hissy disappointment. If I was to split it - I'd say the earlier Folk/Blues/Bluegrass material sounds amazing - while the late Sixties to the early Seventies is very hit and miss (better in more cases that not). But whatever way you look it - the sheer diversity of artists and recordings is impressive - and time and time again you're discovering music that only makes you want to dig deeper. The audio is discussed more within the reviews of each disc.

This beauty is already the stuff of legend. Compiled by STUART BATSFORD, MICK HOUGHTON and PHIL SMEE with Special Thanks to Sara Lawrence and dedicated to the label's spiritual maker JAC HOLZMAN - the 12" x 12" Box Set (with a detachable page track list beneath the shrink-wrap on the rear) has a velvet base in which four CDs sit in two inset hollows - each in CD-sized hard-card books. A very clever move is that when you open the gatefold CD book pack - there are eight cool pages of 7" singles from around the world (a page per single). Volume 1 for instance pictures rare US 45 promos of The Dillards, Vince Martin & Fred Neil, a lesser seen variant of the Elektra label from the UK for Phil Ochs and a beautiful French EP for The Lovin' Spoonful. Disc 2 has French pictures sleeves for The Doors and Eclection as well as hard-to-find UK-only 7" singles for Love on the black Elektra label (all in their original carrier bags). The picture CDs themselves sit on see-through trays with a dense collage of Elektra album covers stretching back decades beneath (very nicely done). The fifth CD called "Another Time Another Place" (covering the entire Box Set span) is contained within its own 5" card sleeve - complete with an inner and track details.

Also inlaid into top of the velvet bottom tray are two metal gold-coloured Elektra badges - the original red 'E' Logo and the equally famous Butterfly logo. After that are two textured-pouches - the first is an LP-sized envelope embossed with the Elektra logo and within features 4 album-sized art prints of front sleeves - "Judy Collins No. 3" (1963), The Doors "Strange Days" (1967), Love "Forever Changes" (1967) and Bread "Bread" (1971). The rear of each lists the catalogue number, Cover Artist and other people involved in the Art Direction. The 2nd pouch (again embossed in a sort of cream colour) is smaller but a gatefold (about 10" x 10"). Inside are four 8" x 10" black and white Elektra publicity photos for Tom Rush, The Doors, Love and Freddie Mercury of Queen. Wrapped in an Elektra logo bandana are 8 colour postcards - David Ackles, Tim Buckley, The Butterfield Blues Band, Fred Neil, Nico, Tom Paxton, Carly Simon and The Stooges. Then there are four three-way fold out track-list sheets for Discs One, Two, Three and Four - each with a different period Elektra Records label design. Inside are details for each song. And there is also the CD-ROM mentioned above with access to loads of Internet material.

But all of this - pales into trivia insignificance against the hardback book. Full box set size - it weighs in at 96 jam-packed pages discussing every song. The sepia-tinted pages feature hundreds of colour photos, album artwork and comments by and about every artist featured. Judy Collins, The Doors, Love and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are lynchpins for the label - but its extraordinary to see whole paragraphs on The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds, Alasdair Clayre or Rhinoceros let alone David Ackles, Tim Buckley and Nico. Arthur Lee's hugely influential LOVE quite rightly get two pages with comments from Producer Bruce Botnick and Lead Guitarist Johnny Eccles - but how cool is it to see the mighty Fred Neil have comments from David Crosby and Judy Henske whom I'm quite sure would have worshipped at his feet. I can't imagine the months and months it must have taken to collate this. Totally gorgeous to look at and a fascinating read - its Bear Family/Light in The Attic good...and that be heap big praise...

On Disc 1 there are several rarely heard gems that floor you as you wade through the Folk, Blues and Ragtime - the steel-string acoustic guitar slide instrumental "Casey" by Dick Rosmini, another slide instrumental "West Egg Rag" by Dave Ray while Jimmy Davis does a storming guitar-and-voice only Blues of Muddy Waters' "Two Trains Running". We go full Rocking Harmonica White Boy Blues with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band on "Blues With A Feeling" (Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop playing blinders). American Folk beauty shows up in Tom Paxton's gorgeous "The Last Thing On My Mind", the beautiful rendition of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" by Judy Collins (covered magnificently by Rod Stewart on his 1971 masterpiece "Every Picture Tells A Story") and the cool vocal drawl of Fred Neil on "Other Side Of This Life" (he would later name an LP on Capitol Records by the same title) as his six-string guitar strums and purrs in the background. Things go 60ts Baroque with Dino Valente's "Birdses" (they never need any ladders apparently) while The Doors' crudely recorded Early Version (or Demo) of "Moonlight Drive" ends the disc in a nod to the Blues Rock to come. Cool Acapella comes in the shape of Leadbelly's "Linin' Track" covered by "Spider" John Koerner, Dave "Snaker" Ray and Tony "Little Sun" Glover. But my fave-rave is Dennis Farina's bitingly sharp "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream" where he combines social commentary with a wicked Folk-Rock groove. In truth I would have preferred "Turn Your Money Green" or "Galveston Flood" giving full reign to deep tonal vocals of Tom Rush instead of the rather dull "Joshua Gone Barbados" - but these are minor quips. Rhino successfully achieved a fantastic and fascinating opening salvo for CD1...a listen that leaves you gasping for more...

Disc 2 brings Rock and Pop into play with Love ("She Comes In Colors"), The Doors ("Light My Fire"), Clear Light ("Black Roses") and Ars Nova (Fields Of People") sided by the fabulous Blues-Rock of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The run of tracks is cleverly interspersed with the straight up Folk of Tom Paxton ("One Time And One Time Only"), England's Incredible String Band ("First Girl I Loved") and Phil Ochs ("Changes"). It's hard (even now) not to be bowled over by the beautiful vocal range and melody of Tim Buckley ("Wings" and "Once I Was") while Koerner & Murphy's "Magazine Lady" sounds some lost Love classic with a Baroque twist. The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds is fun for a trippy moment but hard to take nowadays - better is the Folk-Rock/Mamas & Papas vocal-layers of Eclection - an album that increasingly sounds ahead of its time and grows ever more impressive as the years pass. Judy Collins moves away from her usual soft song fare into the frantic pace of the so-Sixties "Hard Lovin' Loser" where she comes on like Bobby Gentry at Capitol Records. Peter Rowan's Earth Opera gets a rare outing in "The Red Sox Are Winning" - but sounding like some long-lost garage gem - The Waphphle finishes the disc very well. Discovery-time goes to the lovely "Buy For Me The Rain" - a self-penned sweetheart of a Folky tune by Steve Noonan.

What's noticeable on Disc 3 is not just ROCK taking over - but the hiss levels go through the roof on many of these transfers (it was about feel rather than Audiophile). Judy Collins got in with the Joni Mitchell song ("Both Sides Now") while the album she, James Taylor and Jackson Browne debuted on as songwriters - Tom Rush's wonderful "The Circle Game" is represented rather cleverly with his own masterful "No Regrets" (a huge hit for The Walker Brothers in 1976). I can't abide The Incredible String Band vocals at this time - but genius vocals/track choice goes to Nico's "Frozen Warnings" - a song that sounds decades ahead of its time and a precursor to an entire musical genre. Buckley's "Sing A Song For You" hits you with a wall of hiss - not so on the gentle guitar strums of "Early Morning Blues & Greens" by Diane Hildebrand. Cool rock singles ahoy with "Arthur Comics" by Stalk-Forrest Group (later morphed into Blue Oyster Cult). "Five To One" is a smart choice too - thudding its Rock beat across your speakers in impressive fashion. Put together band Rhinoceros have received something of a bad rap across the decades - but again - a seriously clever choice in the Instrumental Funky Guitar Rock of "Apricot Brandy". Things go piano boogie with "When This Battle Is Over" where Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett sound like The Staples Singers discovering their inner Eric Clapton (I'd forgotten how good this track is). But we hit the zenith of cool undiscovered genius with the absolutely incendiary  "Mt. Healthy Blues" from Lonnie Mack. Weighing in at 6:46 minutes - it's a slow grinding boogie - a Blues Rock instrumental where he just lets rip on a fuzzed up guitar - soloing like a madman as Blood, Sweat & Tears brass joins him as a backing. It's blistering and when we played it in Reckless - amazed punters would come to the counter demanding to know whose eating their guitar alive. Disc 3 features more wild Punk in the guise of Iggy Pop's The Stooges and MC5 (including the naughty intro) - while Michael Fennelly's Crabby Appleton and Arthur Lee's Love bring up the Melodic Rock rear - bit of a barnstormer frankly.

"My friends from collage are all married now..." Carly Simon sings on the aching and emotionally raw "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" - her equally brilliant "You're So Vain" kicks in at Track 13 with Mick Jagger provided 'those' vocals (who is it about - Carly ain't spilling the beans). The 7:15 minutes of the album version of "Riders On The Storm" by The Doors still floors me - what utter brilliance it is. More raindrops follow with a superb Mickey Newbury track "The Future's Not What It Used To Be" - a song that creeps into your heart slowly (see separate review for the gorgeous 4CD set "An American Trilogy" from 2011). Plainsong featuring Andy Roberts of Liverpool Scene and Grimms with Ian Matthews of Fairport Convention and Matthews Southern Comfort - a gorgeous UK Folk-Rock album themed around the heroic Amelia Earhart. The two-minute melodic Pop of The Wackers gets a rare CD outing in "I Hardly Know Her Name" (a throwback almost to the Sixties sound of The Association). I can't imagine how much money David Gates made Holzmans Elektra Records but in truth a genuine hit like "The Guitar Man" comes as welcome respite from too many nearly-rans. With a very similar voice to Neil - the unlikely sounding Cyrus Faryar does a passable version of Fred Neil's "Dolphins" - letting its slow Tim Buckley phrasing linger over the strings and strummed guitars. Elvis Presley would take Dennis Linde's "Burning Love" to Number 7 in September 1972 and you can hear why The King chose the song (it's a chugging winner). And Disc 4 ends with EMI's Queen giving it some Glam Rock on "Keep Yourself Alive" (signed to Elektra for US releases) - Brian May tearing into that flange pedal beneath his sunburst guitar.

Putting aside the familiar names - much of Disc 5 is new to CD and it's a mixed bag of the nutty, the dire and the inspired. Gems include "Voodoo Woman" by Simon Stokes and the Fotheringay-type Folk-Rock of Eclection's "Please (Mark II)" - but instead of making you giggle the hippy-stoned stuff like David Peel, Joseph Spence and Jack Margolis only grates the nerves. The double from the superb Various Artists set "What's Shakin"" by The Lovin' Spoonful and Eric Clapton (with Steve Winwood on vocals) stand out as total winners. Things get heavy towards the end of the disc with Brain Bennett's Leviathan and Show Of Hands (cleverly sequenced to follow each other). But it's easy to know now why bands like Aztec Two-Step, Goodthunder and Jobriath have stubbornly refused to exit the dollar bins - their tracks are good at best but never really inspired. In fact when you think of how many Elektra acts in the late Sixties and early Seventies like Courtland Pickett and Cyrus Faryar didn't make it - you'd have to say that Island Records of the UK for instance had an infinitely better roster of acts. One final gem turns up in Andy Robert's brilliant and beautifully produced "All Around My Grandmother's Floor" - the kind of Folk-Rock acoustic gem that amazes - a little like England's Mellow Candle or Zacharias (both on Deram) - and that's good praise indeed.

Since its deletion the 'Deluxe Edition' Box Set has fluctuated from £175 to about £75 shrink-wrapped and new. I picked up my VG copy for £40 on eBay - and this is one of those occasions where I'd urge you to go the few extra quid. Ups and downs notwithstanding - "Forever Changing: The Golden Age Of Elektra Records 1963-1973" is a thing of beauty - and I can only tremble at the thought of Rhino giving the mighty 'Atlantic Records' the same lavish treatment...

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc