Thursday, 28 April 2016

"Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen/Tales From The Ozone/We’ve Got A Live One Here!" (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Honky Tonk Music..."

I'd admit that Idaho's George Frayne (Commander Cody) and his crew of permanently Lost Airmen produced Country music that is actually hard to define. You take straight up story-song pedal-steel Country as a base – and every second song you throw in some 40s Swing, 50's R&B and Rockabilly – then layer that lot with some good old knees-up-mother-brown 60ts brass backing – and you get an approximation of the ever so slightly anarchic musical stew that's on offer here. Great fun for sure when it works – but a shade short of hammy awful when it doesn't.

But all musical summations aside - if you're a fan of Commander Cody – then a state of seventh heaven awaits you here because the High Definition Audio Remaster on these 2016 British CDs is truly fabulous stuff (taken from first generation master tapes). Here are the not-so-lost details...

UK released Friday, 29 April 2016 (May 2016 in the USA) – "Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen/Tales From The Ozone/We've Got A Live One Here!" by COMMANDER CODY and his LOST PLANET AIRMEN on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1238 (Barcode 5017261212382) offers 3LPs (two studio, one live double) Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (68:22 minutes):
1. Southbound
2. Don't Let Go
3. California Okie
4. Willin'
5. The Boogie Man Boogie
6. Hawaii Blues [Side 2]
7. House Of Blue Lights
8. Keep On Lovin' Her
9. Devil And Me
10. Four Or Five Times
11. That's What I Like About The South
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 5th album (debut for Warners) "Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen" – released in the USA January 1975 on Warner Brothers BS 2847.

12. Minnie The Moocher
13. It's Gonna Be One Of Those Nights
14. Connie
15. I've Been To Georgia On A Fast Train
16. Honky Tonk Music
17. Lightnin’ Bar Blues
18. Paid In Advance
19. Cajun Baby
20. Tina Louise
21. The Shadow Knows
22. Roll Your Own
23. Gypsy Fiddle
Tracks 12 to 23 are their 6th slum (2nd for Warners) "Tales From The Ozone" – released October 1975 on Warner Brothers BS 2883

Disc 2 (70:06 minutes):
1. One Of Those Nights
2. Semi Truck
3. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!
4. Big Mammau
5. San Antonio Rose
6. 18 Wheels
7. Mama Hated Diesels
8. Lookin' At The World Through A Windshell
9. My Window Faces South
10. Milkcow Blues
11. It Should've Been Me
12. Back To Tennessee
13. Seeds And Stems
14. Rock That Boogie
15. Riot In Cell Block No. 9
16. Don't Let Go
17. Too Much Fun
18. Hot Rod Lincoln
19. Lost In The Ozone
Tracks 1 to 19 are the double live-album "We've Got A Live One Here!" – released July 1976 in the USA on Warner Brothers 2LS 2939

There's a card slipcase which always makes these BGO releases feel classy – a 16-page booklet new liner notes from noted writer JOHN O'REGAN – photos of the band recording – album credits and so on. It discusses their first four albums on Paramount and then the trio – presented here – two studios efforts for Warner Brothers and a live double that includes material from entire career stretching back to 1971. But the big news is the 'Mastered In High Definition Audiophile Recording From The Original Master' emblazoned across the top of the card slipcase. Carried out by BGO's resident sound engineer ANDREW THOMPSON – the Audio is a total triumph. There's amazing clarity and warmth on both of these CDs – a great sound that doesn't feel amped up for the sake of it. 

Hoyt Axton stumped up the opening "Southbound" – the bass and vocals so clear. Jesse Stone wrote the irrepressible bop of 'Don't Let Go" and the golden-voiced Roy Hamilton had a hit with it in 1958 on Epic Records – a great R&B dancer. Cody sticks pretty much to that bopping formula. By direct contrast is the pure country tune of "California Okie" – a lost-my-wife song supplied by Kevin 'Blackie' Farrell. They attempt a passable version of Little Feat's "Willin'" but it isn't a patch on Lowell George's hurting original. Better fun is the barrelhouse piano of "The Boogie Man Boogie" – a song about a ghost who won't leave the black and white keys alone in the dead of night. Another goody in that R&B vein is "House Of Blue Lights" – a 78" hit for Eddie Slack and Ella May Morse on Capitol Records way back in 1946 (Jerry Lee Lewis did a cover of it too). Bob Wills and his Playboys along with Phil Harris (the voice of Baloo The Bear in The Jungle Book) both had a hit with "That's Why I Like About The South" – so Cody keeps it Country and ends the album well.

Although it tries to seem like it's having fun - the 2nd Warners LP feels forced with ill-advised covers of Cab Calloway's "Minnie The Moocher" and Lieber/Stoller's "The Shadow Knows" which The Coasters did in 1958 on Atlantic. Better is "Honky Tonk Music" - a huge sing-a-long crowd pleaser. Hoyt Axton's "Lightnin' Bar Blues" is very good – a man wanting to have a brewski in peace. The live double screams good time R&B shindig more than line-dancing country – the audience whooping and hollering to "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!" and the final flourish of R 'n' B and R 'n' R tunes like "Rock That Boogie" and Charlie Ryan's 1959 Rockabilly winner "Red Hot Lincoln".

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and the music on these 2CDs are very much an acquired taste. But if you're partial – you'll need to own it for that truly stunning audio. And don't you just love that 'spacemen' artwork...

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