Monthly Archives: August 2015

John Lennon • Shaved Fish

shavedfish_AAdding this to your Lennon collection may not be a must but it’s pretty close. Since its original release in 1975, there have been a number of compilations of the man’s solo work, including some very nice single and double albums such as The John Lennon Collection and Lennon Legend. Shaved Fish, though, was the first – and the only one overseen by the man himself. It’s a slim volume. Just eleven songs made the cut, but what an eleven! There were non-LP singles such as “Instant Karma!,” “Power to the People” and “Cold Turkey,” there were edited album versions of songs that were also hit singles (“Mother” and “Woman Is the Nigger of the World”), and straight up hits like “Mind Games” and “Whatever Gets You Thru the Night.” And then there were the truncated “Give Peace a Chance” and “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” in versions that were unique to Shaved Fish. The artwork was unique, too: each song had its own illustration to show you what it was about.

shavedfish_BLast year Shaved Fish was reissued in a 180-gram pressing complete with the original artwork and inner sleeve (which included the lyrics on one side and a Japanese flag on the other), pressed for worldwide release in Europe (mine says it was pressed in France). It’s basically the same as the original, all the way down to the Apple labels on the record itself. I’m not sure what source the reissue was cut from, but it’s a very good sounding pressing, whether it’s from the original analog master tapes (doubtful) or from 24-bit/96kHz digital files (highly likely). Neither analog or digital is necessarily better – it’s all about making whatever source that’s being used sound its best. Naturally, us analog geeks want to believe that analog is always going to sound better, but that’s just not always the case.

If you want this particular collection in your collection, then, this reissue is a great way to get a great-sounding copy of Shaved Fish for a relatively great price. An original ’75 issue in pristine shape will set you back a whole lot more.
4/5 (Apple/Universal)

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John Lennon • Lennon Signature Box Set [8 LPs]

Well, well, well. A few months ago they finally released the John Lennon Signature box set on vinyl. I finally got a copy when a couple of stars aligned in my own universe: I got a good paying job again and the price went down enough to make it doable. Comprising all eight of Lennon’s studio albums, the 9-record set (one album is two records) puts almost everything John ever recorded as a solo artist in the studio together in one place. There lennon_vinylboxare some singles missing, though. “Instant Karma!,” “Cold Turkey” and “Give Peace a Chance” weren’t on any of his albums until the best of compilation Shaved Fish (see a forthcoming review), so for those you’ll need to go back to your record library and dig out that or one of the many other collections (Lennon Legend, The John Lennon Collection) that they showed up on. (The CD version of this box set actually had a disc with these songs and some stray B-sides on it; they didn’t reproduce that here. And no, I don’t know why.)

What you do get is: John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Some Time in New York City, Mind Games, Walls and Bridges, Rock and Roll, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey. All are mastered from the digital 24-bit/96kHz digital files they used for the 2010 CD box, which, after The Beatles In Mono vinyl box of last year, seems like a bit of a let rock_roll_sleevedown – at least on paper. Those were all mastered in analog from the original analog master tapes. But put any of these albums on your turntable and you’ll find the blokes at Abbey Road did a helluva careful job making sure things sounded great. Aside from one colossal boo boo, this box set is amazing. Here’s the big oopsie: Rock and Roll has one song on there twice and another missing completely. This kind of thing can happen when you’re mastering from digital – the wrong song title gets linked to the wrong digital file in the workstation – so it’s not exactly unlikely, though you’d think they would have caught that in quality control. Have no fear, Lennonites. If you got the box set and yours is one with the bad disc, you can get a replacement. (Click here for details.) So don’t let that stop you from picking this up if you want all of Lennon’s studio stuff on wax.

Aside from Live Peace in Toronto and Shaved Fish, all of Lennon’s non-posthumous solo output is here and it’s a great addition to your Beatles vault. Having these eight albums together in a nice, simple but elegant box set is, ummm, just like starting over.
4.5/5 (Universal/Calderstone)

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Led Zeppelin • In Through the Out Door (Deluxe Edition)

LedZeppelinInThroughTheOutdoorFrontJimmy Page has reissued the last two proper Led Zeppelin albums, as well as a posthumous collection of unused tracks, to complete the reissue program started last year. As with the other releases in the series, each album comes in a one disc version (CD or vinyl), a two disc deluxe edition (or three in the case of Coda) (again, CD or vinyl), and a mega big deal super (hype) deluxe version that includes the CDs, the LPs and probably some marbles or something. (Oh wait – the marbles were in the Pink Floyd reissues. My bad.)

For In Through the Out Door you get the paper bag outer – as with the original. Which is cool, but the 1979 first release was available with six different covers – you didn’t know which cover you were gonna get because of the paper bag. This time there’s only one cover available so you get what you get. Another thing you don’t get in 2015 is the inner black and white sleeve that, when you rubbed water on it, colorized itself. (The CD version would be a bit small for that.) Oh well. It’s the music that’s the point.

ittod_invertThe mastering job Page oversaw was done by John Davis at Metropolis, and sounds pretty faithful to the original. Unfortunately, I don’t have an original LP, the original CD or the 1993 remaster to compare this to. But what I do know is: this is the album that got me into Led Zeppelin, so for me it’s “In the Evening,” “Fool in the Rain,” and “All My Love.” This time around I’m also digging “I’m Gonna Crawl” and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for the rockabilly-esque “Hot Dog.” Yes, I know – this is the Zep album that the hardcore fans thought was too pop, and for me that’s precisely what opened the (out) door to the band. From there I got into the rest of the catalog, and even got around to Led Zeppelin III and Presence. I owe this to my brother Dana (who had the album first), and my stepbrother Dave, who always regarded Page’s lead guitar as the best. So it took me until the band was basically over to get into ’em. So what. Better late than never.
3/5 (Swan Song)

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