Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround Part 1 & Percy: Deluxe Edition" by THE KINKS (2014 Sony/Legacy/BMG 2CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Got To Be Free...Got To Be Free Right Now..." 
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2014 'Deluxe Edition' 2CD REISSUE ***

"...I see that Union Man walking down the street...
He’s the man who decides if I live or I die...if I starve or I eat..."

For a band so intrinsically linked with the Sixties - as ever Ray Davies refused to be pigeonholed by its sentiment and started the new Seventies decade with a musical hand-grenade – something of a kick in the nadge for the hippy dream. Yet despite being a bit of a caustic brute (especially lyrically) – November 1970's album "Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part 1" also contained huge popular hits like "Lola" and "Apeman" – provocatively charged sexpot songs that felt all grown up and mature and even gender-bender risky. The Kinks' "Lola..." has always been a great album and its arrival on DE has been much anticipated...

But after the thrilling CD reissue ride their 60ts catalogue received at the hands of Universal's double-disc 'Deluxe Editions' in 2011 - this August 2014 Sony/Legacy 2CD addition sounds better for sure but is actually incomplete. Although we get the "Percy" Soundtrack from 1971 on Disc 2 as a bonus along with many other outtakes on both CDs (some superb unreleased stuff amidst the 12 new cuts like "Anytime") - we lose two tracks that were on the previous 2004 issue - and it comes in a forgettable double jewel case instead of a foldout card digipak that would have matched the other spines in the series. Still - despite the packaging and content niggles - there's so much on here to love and want - there really is. Let's get physical...

UK released August 2014 - "Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround & Percy: Deluxe Edition" by THE KINKS on Sony Legacy/BMG 88843089592 (Barcode 0888430895928) is a 43-Track 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' Reissue and Remaster with 12 Previously Unreleased tracks that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (64:48 minutes):
1. The Contenders
2. Strangers
3. Denmark Street
4. Get Back In Line
5. Lola
6. Top Of The Pops
7. The Moneygoround
8. This Time Tomorrow [Side 2]
9. A Long Way From Home
10. Rats
11. Apeman
12. Powerman
13. Got To Be Free
Tracks 1 to 13 are the album "Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One" - released 27 November 1970 in the UK on Pye Records NSPL 18359 and 2 December 1970 in the USA on Reprise RS 6423 in Stereo. It peaked at No. 35 on the US LP charts.

14. Anytime
15. The Contenders (instrumental Demo)
16. The Good Life
17. Lola (Alternate Version)
18. This Time Tomorrow (Instrumental)
19. Apeman (Alternate Version, Stereo) - originally appeared on the April 1971 Japanese LP of "Lola..." on Reprise YS-2456-Y
20. Got To Be Free (Alternate Version) - originally broadcast in the UK 15 Oct 1970 on BBC 1 Television

Disc 2 (63:25 minutes):
1. God's Children
2. Lola (Instrumental)
3. The Way Love Used To Be
4. Completely
5. Running Round Town
6. Moments
7. Animals In The Zoo
8. Just Friends
9. Whip Lady
10. Dreams
11. Helga
12. Willesden Green
13. God's Children (End)
Tracks 1 to 13 are the Soundtrack LP "Percy" - released March 1971 in the UK on Pye Records NSPL 18365 in Stereo. No US LP - but "God's Children" and "The Way Love Used To Be" was released as an American 7" single on Reprise REP 1017 in July 1971.

14. Dreams (Remix) - Previously Unreleased
15. Lola (Mono Single) - 12 June 1970 UK 7" single on Pye International 7N 17961 - 12 June 1970 US 7" single on Reprise 0930 with "cherry cola" lyric
16. Apeman (Mono Single) - 20 Nov 1970 UK 7" single on Pye International 7N 45016, A-side
17. Rats (Mono Single)  - 20 Nov 1970 UK 7" single on Pye International 7N 45016, B-side of "Apeman" - 16 Dec 1970 US 7" single on Reprise 0979
18. Powerman (Mono) - first issued May 1998 in the UK on the CD reissue of "Lola..." on Essential ESM CD 509
19. The Moneygoround (Alternate Version, Mono) - first issued August 2012 in the UK on the 5CD/1DVD Box Set "The Kinks At The BBC" on Sanctuary/UMC 279 721-8 as part of the DVD - Audio here for the first time - Previously Unreleased
20. Apeman (Alternate Version, Mono) - first issued December 1970 on a Denmark 7" single on Pye 7N 45016, A-side - Previously Unreleased
21. God's Children (Mono Film Mix) - Previously Unreleased
22. The Way Love Used To Be (Mono Film Mix) - first released May 1998 in the UK on the CD Reissue of "Percy" on Essential ESM CD 510
23. Gold's Children (End) (Mono Film Mix) - Previously Unreleased

The 24-page booklet is the usual feast of colour photos, picture sleeves, repro'd memorabilia and in-depth recording/release date factoids you've come to expect from these DE releases. The second half of the booklet features racy stills from the iffy movie "Percy" - a superb 15-strong picture array of rare 45 single-sleeves from around the world ("Lola, "Apeman", "God's Children" and "Animals In The Zoo") - while the final few pages feature the handwritten lyrics to the "Lola" LP that graced the inner gatefold of British and American albums on Pye and Reprise. Noted writer and author PETER DOGGETT gives a detailed analysis of the band's leap into the heavy rock decade and their dubious involvement in a dubious movie. It's beautifully laid out. Unfortunately the "Apeman" and "Powerman" Demos that were unreleased extras on the 2004 reissue CD are AWOL when there was clearly room on either disc for them - so docked a star for that and the boring jewel case presentation.

But there's better news for fans in the CD transfers. A team of three trusted names have tackled the new 2014 Remasters - ANDREW SANDOVAL, DAN HERSCH and ANDY PEARCE. Sandoval was involved with all of the Universal DE's for The Kinks and much praised for it - Dan Hersch has been Rhino's go-to guy for decades and Andy Pearce (along with Matt Wortham) has a growing rep for fabulously realistic transfers that just keeps getting better (Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, Budgie, the 2016 Free reissues and the much-anticipated new versions of Deep Purple's catalogue in 2017). The moment you hear the 40-second Acoustic into to "The Contenders" or the sheer punch to the riffage of "Powerman" or the 'Yes It's No. 1!' "Top Of The Pops" and you can 'feel' the punch. Great stuff. Let's get to the music...

"...On the verge of a nervous breakdown...I went to see a solicitor..." Ray sings bitterly on "The Moneygoround" as he (like so many musicians of the day) wonder - there's all this fame so why is there so little cash to go with it? No one at the record label is answering the phone. That kind of probing angst imbibes songs like "This Time Tomorrow" and the 'where are you going' cries in "Strangers" - each tune filled with cool music unpinned by a weary pathos. The audio on the Stereo "Lola" and "Apeman" makes them huge - those brilliant and fun lyrics still raising a smile after 46 years. I'd forgotten just how New York Dolls the "Rats" track is (B-side to the "Apeman” 45 in most territories) – a hard-hitting little rocker where slick and aggressive city types are crowding our Ray's personal space. It ends on the brilliant and upbeat "Got To Be Free".

Fans will love the newest find - "Anytime" - a 3:30 minute amble that feels epic. Probably the very guitar-based feel excluded it from the LP - but there's no doubt in my mind that it's the premium find on here - brilliant and exciting. The Instrumental of "The Contenders" is truly fascinating stuff - half Gary Moore's Skid Row when the guitars dominate - half Chicken Shack when the piano gets a look in. Just when you think it's going to descend into filler - "The Good Life" chugs its Havana Cigar way across your speakers - a wickedly good rocker that makes you wonder why it wasn't used as a B-side. There's Take 11 dialogue before the Alternate Take of "Lola" and a slower intro - and again - it's impressive stuff even for such a familiar song. Fans are going to eat up an instrumental of their LP fave "This Time Tomorrow" - piano and rhythm acting as a backing track as you hum along to the words in your head. The car sounds at the beginning of the Stereo "Apeman" are still intact - but after being used to the Mono Single - the 'nuclear war' instruments and lyrics feel 'massive' - an amazing listen. But the most radically different take is "Got To Be Free" where Ray sounds like he's channelling his inner Alan Price as he plinks away on a childlike piano - shame it's not better recorded and fades out too fast...

CD2 gives us the "Percy" Soundtrack - a much-maligned beast that's far better than I remember it - with some shining moments like the obvious upbeat single "God's Children" and its lovely flipside "The Way Love Used To Be". With lyrics like "...I want to go back to the way the good Lord made me..." - Davies gives "God's Children" a hopeful feel complete with choruses and strings. I've always thought the funked-up guitar version of "Lola" to be cool even if the cheesy organ that follows the opening kind of ruins the vibe. I also dig the chugging Bluesy guitar-and-harmonica instrumental "Completely" - like The Kinks forgot who they were for a moment and went all Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac for one song. "Moments" is pretty too - remembering things the main characters have forgotten. You can hear why "Animals In The Zoo" was chosen as a leadoff single - funky acoustic to begin with - yet so Kinks in its rhythms as it boogies along in a very catchy way. Of the unreleased on Disc 2 "The Moneygoround" and the Alternate Mono of "Apeman" come off the best - an impressive end to an impressive release. 

"...It might even turn into a steady job..." - our Ray roared on "Top Of The Pops" (number 11 with a bullet) about the life of a Rock Musician. And on the evidence of this 2CD reissue - thank God it did...

"Family Album" by STONEGROUND featuring Sal Valentino (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD Reissue - Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...How About A Welcome For My Children..."

By the time California's STONEGROUND released the 2LP-set "Family Album" before Christmas of 1971 - their 2nd platter for Warner Brothers in a year – the San Francisco ensemble were a sprawling ten-piece Rock act fronted by ex Beau Brummel’s singer and guitarist Sal Valentino and featured no less than four other singers - all ladies (see list below).

Their self-titled debut "Stoneground" had arrived in April 1971 on Warner Brothers WS 1895 to acclaim but poor sales and their ambitious but again ignored three-sides-live-one-side-studio "Family Album" 2LP set came in December 1971 (Warner Brothers 2ZS 1956). These albums were in turn followed by "Stoneground 3" on Warner Brothers BS 2645 in December 1972 - yet none bothered the US charts in any real way despite the favourable reviews, great live rep and big-label name (members of the band would morph into the yacht rock act Pablo Cruise and enjoy six charted albums - one of which "Worlds Apart" went Top 6 in 1978).

But on hearing this sprawling and at times brilliant double album from that halcyon year - you're left wondering - why? Maybe we missed something back there? I think we did and reissue label 'Beat Goes On' of England seems to think so too. There’s a lot to love on this gorgeous-sounding 2CD reissue of this long-forgotten band and their gatefold shot at fame – there really is. Here are the rocky details...

UK released November 2016 - "Family Album" by STONEGROUND on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1263 (Barcode 5017261212634) is a 2CD Reissue of the 2LP set from 1971 (no bonus tracks) and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (43:19 minutes):
1. Get Rhythm [Side 1]
2. Passion Flower
3. Corrina
4. Big River
5. Won't Be Long [Side 2]
6. Super Clown
7. Richland Woman
8. Queen Sweet Dreams
9. Precious Lord
Sal Valentino sings Lead Vocals on "Get Rhythm", "Big River" (both Johnny Cash cover versions) and "Queen Sweet Dreams" (his own song) and duets with Lynne Hughes on the Traditional "Corrina". Lynne Hughes sings Lead Vocals on "Passion Flower" (her own song) and "Richland Woman" (a Mississippi John Hurt cover) - Annie Simpson sings Lead Vocals on the spiritual "Precious Lord".

Disc 2 (43:30 minutes):
1. It Takes A Lot To Laugh (It Takes A Train To Cry) [Side 3]
2. I Can't Help It
3. Ro Doreen
4. It's Not Easy
5. If You Gotta Go
6. Total Destruction Of Your Mind
7. You Must Be One Of Us [Side 4]
8. All My Life
9. Where Will I Find Love
10. Gonna Have A Good Time
11. Jam It
Disc 1 and 2 make up the double album "Family Album" - released December 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers 2ZS 1956 (no UK issue). Sides 1, 2 and 3 recorded live by KSAN Radio in San Francisco, Sunday 8 August 1971 using the Pacific High Recording Studios in front of an audience of 200 invited guests. Side 4 is the studio side (Tracks 7 to 11 on Disc 2) and was recorded at the Record Plant in Los Angeles.

SAL VALENTINO - Lead Vocals, Guitar and Percussion
TIM BARNES - Lead Guitar and Backing Vocals
CORY LERIOS - Keyboards

BGO's now generic card slipcase adds the 2016 2CD reissue a classy look and the superb 12-page liner notes from noted wrier JOHN O'REGAN give a potted and affectionate history of the band's many line-up changes - explaining their history and unfortunate lack of commercial success (the public seemed indifferent to them no matter what they did). The original double vinyl LP was a gatefold sleeve laid out (not surprisingly) in a 'family album' way with pictures of all 10 players on the inner gatefold - that spread is reproduced on the inner two page spread. I still can't definitively say who sings lead on which track (the original never said) and O'Regan doesn't illuminate either. But I can say that audio-wise this is a gorgeous-sounding recording - a beautiful 'high definition' audiophile transfer from original masters by ANDREW THOMPSON that really gives the recordings an ethereal, loose and casually cool feel.

Stoneground's sound isn't easy to nail - probably a good reason as to why they were difficult to market. For this mainly-live (3 sides) double album with Valentino mostly out front singing - best approximation is early Little Feat 'live' with Leon Russell at the microphone - a combo most Seventies Rock fans would gladly embrace. They also had a knack of making very obvious 'cover versions' their own - and this is evident in their very Stoneground reworked takes on Johnny Cash's "Get Rhythm" and their boogie organ-driven version of Dylan's "If You Gotta Go" - turned into a Soul raver with one of the ladies getting all Tina Turner on its funky ass.

Reviewers complained at the time that the clearly sparse 'invited 200' audience members seemed just a little too vocal in their appreciation of the group giving some of the live cuts an awkward and false feel – but I'd say that this happens so little it's an utterly mute point. More likely that 1971 was such a huge year for rock (Hepworth's book "Never A Dull Moment" nails this argument convincingly) - reviewers were literally spoilt for choice and got a bit nasty on bands that weren't immediately sensational. But I suspect that the real problem was a lack of killer hits. The songs are good and at times - the rhythms funky and inspired – but there's no Top 10 winner on here. Even when they're tackling the Jerry Williams song "Total Destruction Of Your Mind" which they funk up into a sort of Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band rave up complete with drum solo – or have a go at Dusty Springfield's "Won't Be Long" turning it into an Aretha Franklin Atlantic Records bopper – they sound like a great covers band and that's all – it's good but not distinctive enough to make their own mark.

The lonesome slide guitar and lone voice of "Precious Lord" is chillingly brilliant though – sparse - like Ry Cooder sat on a chair with Doris Troy letting rip on a microphone nearby – her eyes closed – feeling every righteous word. Of the studio stuff Ron Nagle's "You Must Be One Of Us" has Sal Valentino sounding like the recently passed Leon Russell finding his inner Delta Lady. Keyboardist Cary Lerios supplied the mushy love song "All My Life" while Lynne Hughes gives us the better "Where Will I Find Love" – a very Delaney and Bonnie Soul-Rock funky dancer. There's amazing audio on the I-feel-good rocker "Gonna Have A Good Time” and near six-minute instrumental "Jam It" chugs along like The Allman Brothers having a Rock-Funk workout in the studio in-between "Brothers And Sisters" outtakes.

Piano player Pete Sears who played on their debut would later feature in Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship and along with Ian McLagan became a member of the house band that played on Rod Stewart's mighty trio of classic albums - "Gasoline Alley", "Every Picture Tells A Story" and "Never A Dull Moment". Cory Lerios, Steve Price and David Jenkins would form Pablo Cruise and sign to A&M Records for major chart success in the Seventies. Stoneground went on make more albums that no one remembers - even returning to Warner Brothers in 1978 for the "Hearts Of Stone" LP in 1978. There's a website to the band that tells you bugger all info about them...

To sum up - there's much to dig here and as I listen to the announcer tell the audience to 'give it up' for his children in Stoneground (his words title this review) - I'm thinking he was onto to something with the ignored double "Family Album".

Fans of 1971 need to check this superb-sounding 2CD reissue out. And well done to BGO for doing such a top quality job...

Monday, 26 December 2016

"Meddle" by PINK FLOYD (September 2011 EMI 'Discovery' CD Remaster and January 2016 Pink Floyd Records CD Reissue) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Climb The Hill In My Own Way..."

As the four longhaired Prog Rockers of Pink Floyd sat on a bench holding hands up to their faces and giggling as the camera snapped their hidden visages in 1971 – I doubt any of them would have thought then that they’d end being a 'limited company' in the future - the decidedly English lads now just as corporate as the machine they so raged against throughout the whole of the Seventies. Which brings us to the mighty "Meddle" album and its "...I'll Climb The Hill In My Own Way..." brand of music now re-issued yet again on CD in 2016...

UK re-released 8 January 2016 – "Meddle" by PINK FLOYD on Pink Floyd Records PFR6 (Barcode 5099902894225) is a straightforward 6-track reissue CD in 2016 using the Remaster from 2011 and in fact the same barcode. It's once again housed in a gatefold card digipak, has a stickered sleeve (on the outer shrinkwrap) and 12-page colour booklet (48:51 minutes).

The original version of this Remaster was released 26 September 2011 as a 'Discovery Edition' single CD on EMI/Harvest EMI 50999 028942 2 5 (Barcode 5099902894225) – this 2016 version on Pink Floyd Records uses that 2011 remaster and the same artwork. The 'Discovery Edition' sticker is gone as is the horrible 'green Ds' reinvented CD artwork that came with the 2011 issue – that's thankfully been replaced on the CD with the Cow's Ear cover artwork of the original LP.

1. One Of These Days [Side 1]
2. A Pillow Of Winds
3. Fearless
4. San Tropez
5. Seamus
6. Echoes [Side 2]

ROGER WATERS – Bass, Guitar and Vocals
DAVID GILMOUR – Lead Guitar and Vocals
RICHARD WRIGHT – Keyboards and Vocals
NICK MASON – Drums and Percussion

Released 30 October 1971 on Harvest Records SMAS-832 in the USA and 13 November 1971 in the UK on Harvest Records SHVL 795 - original UK vinyl copies of PINK FLOYD'S "Meddle" came in an untitled textured gatefold sleeve. American issues were titled and featured reversed artwork on a hard-card sleeve - the back of the UK cover put on the front.

JAMES GUTHRIE and JOEL PLANTE have carried out the remaster on this and all 14 albums in their catalogue at the Das Boot Recording Studios in Tahoe in California (Guthrie is a Sound Engineer associated with the band since 1978). The original 1st generation master tapes have obviously been given a thorough going over because it truly feels like each song has had a staggering amount of time spent on them worrying out every single nuance possible. The audio result is truly impressive. Those Discovery Edition Remasters have been reused for all 14 of the January 2016 reissues.

On the 1995 remaster - the six-minute opener "One Of These Days" took ages to arrive and even when it did it was somehow dull and lacklustre. How things have changed - when the huge synth riff kicks in about 2:50 on this 2011 version - the sound is incredibly clear - allowing you to hear crashes and bangs going on in the background that I've never heard before. Then the sort of Piltdown Man voice says "One Of These Days I'm Gonna Cut You Into Little Pieces..." and all Hell breaks loose - Gilmour's guitar indeed sounding like a musical chainsaw. It's revelatory genius and in that uniquely peculiar Pink Floyd kind of a way. 

But even that is trumped by the awesome clarity of the forgotten and hugely underrated "A Pillow Of Winds". Put simply - it sounds 'beautiful'. The jaunty "San Tropez" and the rather pointless ditty that is "Seamus" are both the same - so clear and renewed. The 23:25 minute Side 2 opus "Echoes" has hiss as it opens on sonar pings - but luckily Guthrie and Plante have allowed it to breath instead of using some no-noise dampening technique. So when the funky break takes place at about seven minutes (now being used by Dance DJs in the UK as a mix in sets) it sounds just HUGE. It's impressive stuff, it really is.

But on this album my heart has always been with "Fearless" - issued as a B-side to "One Of These Days" in the USA and other European territories. It seems like I've waited literally 40 whole years to hear this fabulous song in such clarity (lyrics above). It's a genuine wow - and reminds me of a club I used to go to in Dublin called The Grove in the Seventies when they actually used this song as a 'lurch' (a slow tune in Ireland). As it fades out to the Liverpool Football Club fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" (a no.1 UK hit for Gerry & The Pacemakers in 1963 and adopted by them as an anthem) - I'm in floods...

I wish I could say the same for the staggeringly unimaginative packaging. The 'Pink Floyd' logo you see in all the photos advertising these new reissues turns out to be a sticker on the outer shrink-wrap that gets lost the second you unpeel it. The card sleeves are like The Beatles 09/09/09 EMI reissues - glossy and flimsy - so they smudge with finger prints the second you open them and are easy to bend and crease. The Discovery CD label with its pointless generic artwork (a sort of Turquoise and Pale Green for "Meddle", a garish Red and Pink for "Obscured By Clouds" etc) has thankfully been replaced with an artwork picture CD (no Harvest Records logo) but again it has no protective gauze sleeve so it will scuff on repeated plays (I’d suggest you protect it with a paper inlay).

But the skimpy booklet is the biggest disappointment. Although it has the lyrics (like this is a major improvement) it seems little different to the 1995 issue. It has no history on the album, pictures of European and Worldwide 7" sleeves, the different US artwork etc. OK - it does look nice and does the job adequately - but that's all. It's a lazy-assed approach and undermines the sterling work done on the sound front. And there are no outtakes either...and man would they have been worth a listen.

Still – with the truly beautiful sonic upgrade – Floyd’s "Meddle" finally gets the five-star sound the album has always deserved - albeit housed in 3-star presentation. 

But at least these 2016 reissues have a decent price (under eight quid in most places for a single CD) and come accompanied with their VINYL variants for the first time in decades – each beautifully reproduced 180-gram Vinyl LP featuring fully restored artwork and also reasonably priced compared to what Near Mint originals would set you back.

Unique music from a unique band. A pillow of winds indeed...

Monday, 19 December 2016

"...Stay Groovy...Be Free..." - Roadies Season 1 TV Show - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Stay Groovy...Be Free..." 

You know the way you love a cult TV program like "Ballers" or "Weeds" or "Lip Service" or mainliner groundbreaking quality like "The Wire", "The Sopranos", "Breaking Bad" - stretching back to "The West Wing", "Northern Exposure" and "Frasier" - and you're bereft when it's over - well Cameron Crowe's "Roadies" is the same for me.

Full of characters you actually like and storylines that unfold like flowers and written from a place that is real and knows its subject inside out - this affectionate and at times soppily nostalgic look at a typically deranged and tattooed road crew on a tour in 2016 USA with a fictional band is just so bloody entertaining.

Beautifully filmed in 4K and featuring a different city for each episode as the tour winds towards L.A. (there's a unique opening collage every week that shows that city's strengths and beauties, Seattle, New Orleans, Houston etc) - at the heart of "Roadies" is good writing from Director and ex Rolling Stone scribe Cameron Crowe. He's touched on this territory before in his superb film "Almost Famous" where he goes on the tour bus as a young journo back in the heyday of Seventies Rock. But all of that history and knowledge is naught without the troupe of actors and actresses to carry it off - and 15 or more characters in this 10-part Season 1 rock every scene with f-words, dodgy hair decisions, unwashed bodies and way too many espressos to keep them functioning as human beings.

The attraction/tension between Staton-House Band Tour Manager Bill (played by Luke Wilson) and the gorgeous Production Manager Shelli (played by Carla Gugino in her best part) is palpable - and I could look at skateboarding Rigger and budding photographer Kelly Ann (played by England's Imogen Poots) until my eyes bleed. Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rafe Spall and Colson Kelly (aka Machine Gun Kelly) all shine too as do Peter Cambor and Ethan Michael Mora who plays one of the band's children who might or might not be the spawn of Beelzebub.

There's very cool parts for Luis Guzman as Gooch the Tour Bus Driver who talks a lot but never anything wise, Branscombe Richmond as Puna the Indian Security guard whose in touch with all manner of spirits and can sense crap-about-to-go-down from a hundred paces and absolute casting genius in Ron White as Phil the 60-year old legendary roadie who spouts Jack Daniels wisdoms at the drop of his leather Lynyrd Skynyrd hat and has shot two people who annoyed him in his colourful past. Jacqueline Byres is the ditzy, loveable, restraining-order groupie who sneaks into every gig by hook or by crook and practically implodes if she gets near anything that resembles Tanc Sade and Catero Colbert playing Christopher House and Tom Staton - the I can't live with him but I can't live without him either songwriter nucleus of The Staton-House Band. There's a hilarious Rainn Wilson as the pompous critic Bryce Wilson naked on a piano in front of an audience - confessing his inner most feelings as they YouTube his druggy meltdown (someone who took umbrage to his online dissing of the band popped him a Joshua Tree root in his complimentary coffee).

Throw in cameo appearances from rock's founders Lindsey Buckingham, John Mellencamp, Jackson Browne and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and new carriers of the flame like The Head and The Heart, My Morning Jacket, Halsey, Lucius, Gary Clark, Jr, Reignwolf, Frightened Rabbit, Best Coast, Jim James and Robyn Hitchcock (to name but a few) - and you get something that's hugely entertaining, funny, sexy, cool and rammed with references that an old fart like me gets (Jackson Browne covering Little Feat's "Willin'" in Episode 10). This is the kind of program that can namecheck Hendrix and Kenny G in the same breath - play unheard material like "Maggot Brain" by Funkadelic and "Mohamed's Radio" by Warren Zevon and fit them in as if it was the most natural playlist in the world. Acoustic jams on the bus - Halsey walking through the stands singing to an enrapt crew during her soundcheck - Rosanna Arquette taking a photo of the band as they wreck a 'death of Rock 'n' Roll' shoot in true smash-em-up Who style.

I warmed hugely to Cameron Crowe's recent movie "Aloha" movie whilst others slagged it off - couldn't wait to tell us how he's lost his touch with filmmaking and music in general (detractors for "Roadies" want to tell you the same). But I find his writing warm and hopeful and humane when so many other TV programs seem only to focus on brutality, torture and nastiness as a badge of cool.

Sure "Roadies" is clunky in places – the relationship between Kelly Ann (Imogen Poots) and the corporate axe-man Rafe Spall never quite ignites in a truly believable way – but that's countered by amazingly touching moments between other characters. In truth despite its flaws I loved every minute of "Roadies" where episode after episode shined - even if there was six different directors at the unruly helm. And you can't help but feel that the family of actor journeymen and women making this were feeling damn lucky themselves – blessed to have been involved in something so effortlessly cool - enjoying every Tom Petty guitar string, Rolling Stones plectrum and signed Led Zeppelin photo on the walls of gigs.

Everyone loves a road movie. Roll on Season 2 and Joy To The World and Three Dog Nights to the entire cast, crew and writers...

Friday, 16 December 2016

"The Bass [aka 'Infinite Space' and 'Mountain In The Clouds'] by MIROSLAV VITOUS (2016 Beat Goes On Reissue - High Definition Andrew Thompson CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Mountain In The Clouds..."

Czech Bass Player MIROSLAV VITOUS is known to most music lovers for co-founding Weather Report with Pianist Joe Zawinul and Saxophonist Wayne Shorter - yet much of his solo career remains shrouded in sideshow mystery. His second album - beautifully transferred here by England's Beat Goes On - is typical – having received two release dates, three differing names and four kinds of artwork across the years.

Recorded in November 1969 in at A&R Studios in New York - it was first issued February 1970 in the USA as "Infinite Space" on Embryo SD 524. It came in a fetching black and white gatefold sleeve with Miroslav’s photo centred and was distributed by the mighty Atlantic Records. Receiving very favourable 4-star reviews in the US trade mags - that initial LP had six tracks (3 on each side) and lined up as follows - "Freedom Jazz Dance", "Mountain In The Clouds" and "When Face Gets Place" on Side 1 with "Infinite Search", "I Will Tell Him On You" and "Epilogue" on Side 2.

However that version was deemed unsatisfactory and in 1972 it was remixed and reissued by Atlantic in November 1972 in Germany on Hor Zu/Atlantic ATL 30 024 now called "The Bass" with an extra unreleased-song - "Cerecka" - and a rejiggered track list. To confuse matters further - the American remixed and expanded version issued November 1972 on Atlantic SD 1622 was given yet another name - "Mountain In The Clouds". A further European issue actually sported yet more different artwork (a fourth variant). This December 2016 single-CD reissue uses the German name, artwork and 1972 WEA Remix. Here are the finite details...

UK released 2 December 2016 - "The Bass" by MIROSLAV VITOUS on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1260 (Barcode 5017261212603) is a straightforward CD transfer of the 1972 Remixed Atlantic Records LP and plays out as follows (47:25 minutes):

1. Freedom Jazz Dance
2. Mountain In The Clouds
3. Epilogue
4. Cerecka
5. Infinite Search [Side 2]
6. I Will Tell Him On You
7. When Face Gets Pale
Tracks 1 to 7 are the 2nd issue of the LP "Infinite Space" now renamed as "The Bass" - released November 1972 in Germany on Hor Zu/Atlantic ATL 30 024 and as "Mountain In The Clouds" in the USA on Atlantic SD 1622. Produced by HERBIE MANN – all tracks are by Miroslav Vitous except "Freedom Jazz Dance" which is an Eddie Harris cover version

JOE CHAMBERS – Drums on "Epilogue" only
JACK DeJOHNETTE – Drums on all other tracks

The 12-page booklet pictures the core four of Vitous, McLaughlin, Hancock and DeJohnette and little else (none of the differing artwork – there was even another cover variant in the late Seventies in France) –but that’s more than compensated by the new CHARLES WARING liner notes – a Jazz Columnist for Record Collector and Mojo. On top of that is the stunning ANDREW THOMPSON High Definition Remaster that I’m fairly sure is based on the Rhino Remaster of just a few years back. In short – this CD sounds amazing.

The moment the relentless and wild soloing of "Freedom Jazz Dance" (an Eddie Harris cover) hits your speakers – your room is filled with the kind of playing virtuosity that seems ridiculous even today – and in gorgeous sound quality too. At just short of eleven-minutes the opener is a tour-de-force for Fusion Jazz and is followed by two-minutes of "Mountain In The Clouds" where Miroslav finally takes centre-stage and lets rip on those fret runs. At just over seven minutes "Epilogue" is the smoky nightclub moment – softly plucked fret notes hovering over a vibes and piano backdrop – it’s beautifully realised in the transfer. "Cerecka" was added to the 1972 track list at the end of Side 1 - speeding cymbals doing battle with free-form Jazz from Shorter for just under three minutes.

Side 2 opens with the album's other mellow-yellow tune - the original title track "Infinite Space" - just under seven minutes of vibes underpinned by Miroslav leaning into notes. It's beautifully transferred and has such subtle guitar from McLaughlin. At eleven-minutes plus "I Will Tell Him On You" remains the album's other major piece - a rapid freak out of soloing with DeJohnette working those sticks like a man on speed-dial.

The album in its various forms has always been a celebrated collector's item on vinyl. Beat Goes On is to be congratulated for making the CD variant available again and in such beautiful audio style...

Thursday, 15 December 2016

"In Philadelphia/Don't Knock My Love" by WILSON PICKETT (2016 Edsel CD Remasters Plus 17 Bonuses - Vol. 5 of 5)

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"...Fire And Water..." 

England's Edsel Records are no strangers to Soul-reissues. Across the decades they've touched on major retrospectives for Philadelphia International (O'Jays, Billy Paul, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes), Holland-Dozier-Holland's HDH Label and Invictus Records (Chairmen Of The Board, Freda Payne and The Glass House) as well as anthologies for Ann Peebles, The Chi-Lites and Al Green covering their Hi Records label output.

For 2016 - our Demon Group heroes are tackling the whole of Wilson Pickett's ten-album stay between 1964 and 1972 at the legendary Atlantic Records. This fifth and final '2on1' set issued 26 November 2016 in the UK (see full list below) deals with his ninth and tenth studio LPs from 1970 and 1971 and comes bolstered up with a huge seventeen Bonus Tracks on 2CDs.

Across these five digipak-releases (three come with extras – the 1st, 4th and 5th) - you also get exclusive single mixes and many unreleased tracks formerly only available on 2009's "Funky Midnight Mover..." – a 6CD mail-order set from Rhino Handmade – an item that is now long deleted and extremely pricey into the bargain. The booklets also feature new liner notes from noted Soul writer and uber-fan Tony Rounce.

Here are the details for Alabama's finest Midnight Mover...

UK released 26 November 2016 (2 December 2016 in the USA) – "In Philadelphia/Don't Knock My Love" by WILSON PICKETT on Edsel EDSK 7122 (Barcode 740155711238) offers 2LPs Remastered onto 2CDs plus Seventeen Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (63:52 minutes):
1. Run Joey Run
2. Help The Needy
3. Come Right Here
4. Bumble Bee (Sting Me)
5. Don't Let The Green Grass Fool You
6. Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number Nine [Side 2]
7. Days Go By
8. International Playboy
9. Ain’t No Doubt About It
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 9th studio album "Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia" - released September 1970 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8270 (Stereo Only) and April 1971 in the UK (with the same tracks) as "Engine No. 9" on Atlantic 2400 026 (Stereo Only).

10. International Playboy (Remix)
Track 10 is the A-side of Atlantic 45-2961 – a US 7" single from 1973
11. Pray For The Rain
12. Let It Come Naturally
Tracks 11 and 12 are from "Funky Midnight Mover: The Atlantic Studio Recordings (1962-1978)" released 2009 in the USA on Rhino Handmade RHM2 07753
13. Funky Broadway (Live In Ghana)
14. Land Of 1000 Dances (Live in Ghana)
Tracks 13 and 14 are from the Various Artists LP "Soul To Soul – Music from The Original Soundtrack Recorded Live In Ghana, West Africa" on Atlantic SD 7207
15. Un' Avventura
Track 15 is the A-side of a 1969 Italian-only 7" single on Atlantic ATL NP 03097
16. Heaven
17. Can't Stop A Man In Love
Tracks 16 and 17 are from "Funky Midnight Mover: The Atlantic Studio Recordings (1962-1978)" released 2009 in the USA on Rhino Handmade RHM2 07753
18. One Step Away
19. Funk Factory
Tracks 18 and 19 are the A&B-sides of a 1972 US 7” single on Atlantic 45-2878

Disc 2 (68:44 minutes):
1. Fire And Water
2. (Your Love Has Brought Me) A Mighty Long Way
3. Covering The Same Old Ground
4. Don't Knock My Love (Part 1)
5. Don't Knock My Love (Part 2)
6. Call My Name, I’ll Be There
7. Hot Love
8. Not Enough Love To Satisfy
9. You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
10. Pledging My Love
11. Mama Told Me Not To Come
12. Woman Let Me Be Down Home
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 10th studio album "Don't Knock My Love" - released December 1971 in the USA on Atlantic SD 8300 and January 1972 in the UK on Atlantic K 40319.

13. Don't Knock My Love (Part 2) Single Version - 1972 US 7" single on Atlantic 45-2797, B-side
14. If You Need Me (Remake)
15. Don't Forget The Bridge
16. Rock Of Ages
17. Many Roads To Travel
18. Hope She'll Be Happier
19. Believe I'll Shout
Tracks 14 to 19 are from "Funky Midnight Mover: The Atlantic Studio Recordings (1962-1978)" released 2009 in the USA on Rhino Handmade RHM2 07753 - Track 15 mistaken credited as Atlantic 45-2909

Each of these five card digipaks comes in a gatefold with Volume 5 being the only double-disc issue. Like the four others it sports a comprehensive 16-page booklet in the left flap with new liner notes from legendary Soul writer TONY ROUNCE – a man whose name has graced literally hundreds of quality CD reissues. He goes into all the chart statistics for 1970 and 1971 - his Gamble & Huff project "In Philadelphia" with the second LP embracing Rock artists like Free and Randy Newman - the concert at Accra in Ghana that resulted in the "Soul To Soul" Soundtrack LP in 1972 (Atlantic SD 7207) – his progression to RCA Records and recording at Muscle Shoals and finally to Little Richard attending his funeral in 2006 paying homage in his sermon to one of the Soul greats. Mastered by PHIL KINRADE – the tracks are licensed from Warners and are therefore the US 1996 Rhino versions of old and those 2009 Rhino Handmade rarities – full and punchy Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch CD Remasters from original tapes.

The "Wilson Pickett In Philadelphia" LP (called "Engine No. 9" in the UK after the song became a hit) is dominated by two song writing forces – Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff and a team of four other staff writers which included Bunny Sigler. Gamble & Huff threw three tunes into the ring – the opener "Run Joey Run", the two-parter single and hooky-as-Hell Bobby Eli guitar-fuzz of "Get Me Back On Time, Engine Number Nine" (a No. 3 R&B hit in October 1970 for Pickett on Atlantic 45-2765) and the final LP cut "Ain’t No Doubt About It" – a mid-tempo stroller with choppy keyboards and sweet brass accompaniment (could even have been another 45). Bunny Sigler had his hands in the melodrama of "Days Go By", the don’t worry baby pluck of "Come Right Here" (used as B-side to "International Playboy" in May 1973 on Atlantic 45-2961) and one the album’s genuine gems - "Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You" – co-written with John Bellmon, Reginald Turner and Jerry Akines who also contributed "Bumble Bee (Sting Me)". The LP peaked at a respectable No. 12 on the US R&B charts with Atlantic in fact taking advantage of the hits on it and pumping out "The Best Of Wilson Pickett, Vol. II" in May 1971 – rewarded with an even higher No. 8 placing (the last time Pickett would break the Top 10).

As you can imagine - the Bonus Tracks are a mixed bag of killer vs. throwaway. It’s not surprising that Atlantic returned to the catchy legend-in-my-own-time "International Playboy" song in 1973 with a remix where Wilson lists ladies in Rome and New Orleans all too willing to cook more than egg fu yung for the Wicked Alabama lad (one of the Bonus Tracks on CD1). It’s very cool to hear the band count-in "Pray For The Rain" (one of the 6CD Rhino Handmade outtakes) but the vocal never quite takes off – better is the six-minutes of "Heaven" – all strings and ‘reach out and touch me’ lyrics. Sung half in Italian and the rest in English "Un Avventura" is clearly dubbed off a disc and is a weird hybrid that’s interesting but not much else. "Can’t Stop A Man In Love" dates from 23 Feb 1972 and is excellent. But best is the non-album track "Funk Factory" that was paired with the ballad "One Step Away" on Atlantic 45-2878 – a No. 11 R&B hit in June 1972. "Funk Factory" is a truly great Pickett groove co-written by him with Brad Shapiro and Luther Dixon – ending Disc 1 on a bit of a high.

You would think with three singles off the "Don’t Knock My Love" LP – one of which was the huge title track and another US No. 1 R&B hit – that the album would have charted higher than No. 23 - but it didn’t - a sign of things to come. Like many of the smarter players of the day Wilson Pickett was quick to take on board Rock acts whose music had a swing and swagger suited to Soul - here he tackles Free by doing "Fire and Water" from their 1970 Island Records LP of the same name and Randy Newman's "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" which had become a No. 1 rock hit for Three Dog Night. He then mixed these with Brad Shapiro songs like "Call My Name, I'll Be There", "Hot Love" and the huge title track - a co-write on Part 1 with WP. There's even a hint of Area Code 615 and Paul Butterfield in the harmonica-driven "(Your Love Has Brought Me) A Mighty Long Way" - a fantastic brassy groover that follows perfectly after "Fire And Water" (a Jack Avery, Earl Simms and Carlton McWilliams song itself covered by Bonnie Bramlett in 1975 on her "It’s Time" LP on Capricorn Records). This sexy little beast then segues into a set of strings that introduce the ballad "Covering The Same Old Ground" - a George Jackson song Atlantic used as the B-side to the November 1972 US single for "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)". The audio on this is gorgeous - full of warmth and even though the strings and girls threaten to drown the whole thing on occasion - Wilson howls his heart out and saves the day.

Edsel's decision to not separate the segue continues with the two-part title track which applies also to the lesser and ever so slightly hammy "Call My Name, I'll Be There". Another of the album's cool cuts is the fuzzed-up guitar of "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover" - a song with a Stevie Wonder writing credit. The Johnny Ace standard "Pledging My Love" was the B-side to "Fire And Water" which made R&B No. 2 in January 1972 on Atlantic 45-2852. It ends on another B-side with the funky potential of being an A - "Woman Let Me Be Down Home" which Atlantic used as the flipside to "Call My Name, I’ll Be There" on Atlantic 45-2824 in August 1971. Wilson lists off his country-boy complaints – his woman constantly telling him what to do, say and wear (oh dear).

Collectors are going to love the sheer in-yer-face fuzzed-up funkiness of "Don’t Knock My Love, Pt. 2" in Mono (one of the Bonus Tracks) coming on like a mash-up between a James Brown/Chi-Lites/Sly Stone instrumental – what a Funky Winner! Of the 1971 and 1972 unreleased recordings – and even though the vocal is not quite right - I like the mellow cover of Bill Withers track "Hope She’ll Be Happier" where the highly-polished acoustic guitars and piano make it feel more Carole King "Tapestry" than "Don’t Knock My Love". And the Wilson-penned Jesus song "Rock Of Ages" (another Bonus) is akin to Aretha's passion on the landmark "Amazing Grace" double.

The original Rhino CDs have been deleted for years and the Rhino Handmade set hard to find and liable to make your bang manager nervous – so this pairing of Pickett’s lesser-heard career is a very welcome reissue indeed. From here he would go on to limited success with RCA...

"...Start It off!" - Pickett roars to the band as they kick in with the righteous-groove of "Believe I'll Shout" – a holy-roller funk work out with a driving organ backbeat.

Not everything on these two CDs is unmitigated genius by any stretch – but there are so many great moments like the above that I'm digging it big time. I suggest you dig in too and enjoy the illicit fruit of the wicked man's labours...

Titles in this 26 Nov 2016 Edsel CD Reissue Series for WILSON PICKETT are:

1. In The Midnight Hour/The Exciting Midnight Mover
(1966 and 1967 Stereo 1st and 2nd LPs plus Three Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSA 3059 - Barcode 740155505936)

2. The Wicked Pickett/The Sound Of Wilson Pickett
(1966 and 1967 Stereo/Mono 3rd and 4th LPs – no bonus tracks
Edsel EDSA 3060 - Barcode 740155506032)

3. I’m In Love/The Midnight Mover
(1968 for both his 5th and 6th LPs – no bonus tracks
Edsel EDSA 3061 - Barcode 740155506131)

4. Hey Jude/Right On
(1969 and 1970 Stereo 7th & 8th LPs with Three Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSA 3062 - Barcode 740155506230)

5. In Philadelphia/Don’t Knock My Love
(1970 and 1972 9th & 10th Stereo LPs with Seventeen Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSK 7112 - Barcode 740155711238)

Edsel have also touched on PERCY SLEDGE in this series and his stay at Atlantic Records (three digipak CD reissues):

1. When A Man Loves A Woman/Warm & Tender Soul
(1966 and 1967 Stereo 1st & 2nd LPs plus Four Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSA 3063 - Barcode 740155506339)

2. The Percy Sledge Way/Take Time To Know Her
(1967 and 1968 Stereo 3rd & 4th LPs with Eight Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSK 7116 - Barcode 740155711634)

3. My Special Prayer/Singles And Rarities
(1970 fifth and final Atlantic LP - along with a compilation of 27 Bonus Tracks
Edsel EDSK 7113 - Barcode 740155711337)




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INDEX - Entries and Artist Posts in Alphabetical Order