Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Move • Something Else from The Move [CD]

somethingelse-themove-cd_400pxA quintessential ’60s band that seemed to run into more bad luck than good, The Move were one of the UK’s finest nascent “rock” groups. At turn after turn they lost band members, saw their singles get banned from airplay and had other calamities keep them from the success that in hindsight seems a foregone conclusion. The Birmingham, England group was originally fronted by vocalist Carl Wayne, with guitarist Roy Wood and drummer Bev Bevan among the heavy hitting roster. Eventually the group lost Wayne (and a couple of others) and gained Jeff Lynne before disbanding in 1972. However, in 1968…

Prior to the release of Move, their first album, The Move proceeded to record a February 1968 show at London’s famed Marquee for release as a live EP. The resulting Something Else from The Move was a crude-sounding 5-song 7″ featuring the band covering some of their current favorites. Besides the famous Eddie Cochran ’50s rocker title track, there were tunes by Love (“Stephanie Knows Who”), The Byrds (“So You Want to Be a Rock ’N’ Roll Star”), a souped-up “It’ll Be Me” (made famous by Jerry Lee Lewis) and Spooky Tooth’s “Sunshine Help Me.” Upon release in June, the EP became their first record to miss the charts completely. It had to be because it was just too raw for the British pop public to digest – if it were a man this record would’ve had bigger balls than anybody within miles. The Move, for three of the tracks, were a four-piece with two guitars, bass and drums (plus Wayne on vox) and really delivered what can only be heard now as proto punk rock. (Because there were issues with the live recording, a second show was scheduled in early May 1968 to gain the needed tracks to make up the eventual five-song release. By that time bassist Ace Kefford left the band so guitarist Trevor Burton switched to bass.) Seriously, this kick-ass record deserves to be in every garage rock aficionado’s collection.

move-band-1Earlier this year, UK record label Esoteric Recordings reissued the 7″ EP for Record Store Day in its original picture sleeve and mono configuration – as a “trailer” for the CD we’re talking about here (released in May). This baby is a 17-track extravaganza, with twelve stereo tracks comprising all of the songs recorded at those two 1968 Marquee dates, plus the original five mono tracks from the vinyl EP. A couple of the band’s current singles are included (“Fire Brigade” and “Flowers in the Rain”), plus more incendiary covers like “Higher and Higher” (The Supremes!), “Piece of My Heart” (made popular later that year by Janis Joplin in Big Brother & The Holding Company’s classic rendition), and Denny Laine’s now obscure “Too Much in Love.” Holy crap! Hearing this album is like discovering an amazing rock band you never heard of before, making you wonder how it could have possibly escaped your attention! And the primitive sound quality – not exactly of bootleg material but definitely at “soundboard recording” level – just adds to the primordial pandemonium of Something Else! Ever wondered what Love would sound like if they had cajones? Suck this and see!

Foreshadowing the band’s second album, early 1970’s Shazam!, and its heavier sound, this live EP/LP sounds much tougher and taut than I expected or hoped. It is the best thing I’ve heard all year! I’m finally reviewing it now because I just received it in the mail thanks to a few extra bucks I had when pre-ordering Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move, which comes out next month and will feature (besides 21 audio tracks) an entire DVD’s worth of rarer-than-rare video from these Brummie brutes. You don’t have to guess that I’ll be covering that one here, too!

5/5 (Esoteric Recordings)

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Elton John • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [40th Anniversary 2LP]

gybr-1We heard “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” on the radio yesterday and so today I pulled out the album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road to give it a listen. The 1973 classic by Elton John still remains his greatest accomplishment, and in 2014 – a year late in celebrating the album’s 40th anniversary – the two-record set was reissued as both a deluxe CD box set and an amazingly great sounding 2LP set. I picked up both at the time but this vinyl edition is one you ought to hunt down. Issued on special yellow vinyl for the first 1700 copies (peculiar amount, don’t you think?), GYBR is pressed on 180-gram vinyl in the EU and benefits from a beautiful mastering job courtesy of legend Doug Sax and Robert Hadley at The Mastering Lab. The instruments come through nice and clear, without hiss and high-end sizzle (as you might hear on percussion such as shakers or high hats) and with solid bass (for the era – they didn’t mix it as loud back then as we do now). The album cover is as it was for the original US pressing, in a triple gatefold configuration with all the song lyrics, cool illustrations for each song and pictures of the band members. You can still find this pressing in stores or online, though I imagine the colored vinyl is out of stock, and if you’re as big a fan of this album as I am, you should pick it up.

gybr-2Now on to my big observation. Back in the ’70s, for double albums, they pressed the sets with sides one and four on the first record and sides two and three on the second, so if you had a record changer you could stack the records and have the sides play in the correct order. (For you younger folk, record one/side one plays first, then record two/side two drops and plays next; you then take the records off the spindle and flip them over together, put them back on and then record two/side three plays, followed by record one/side four. Brilliant, huh?) Sometime in the ’80s they started putting sides one/two and three/four together, as record changer use had fallen by the wayside and it wouldn’t make sense to split the sides the way they used to. Nowadays those old two record sets are novel because of their side pairings. But I got to thinking: I wonder if sides one and four are my favorites from GYBR because they were paired together on the same record and I was too lazy back then to shuttle the records to and fro to play them in the right order, meaning the songs on sides two and three were played less often because they were on the other record, or if I prefer sides one and four because they have the best songs on them. I mean, “Dirty Little Girl,” “Grey Seal,” “The Ballad of Danny Bailey” and the title track are all great songs and they all appear on sides two and three. But the aforementioned “Funeral for a Friend,” as well as “Bennie and the Jets,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Roy Rogers” and “Harmony” are all on sides one or four…

Perhaps you think I have too much time on my hands. And perhaps you’re right.

5/5 (Mercury/Universal Music [originally MCA])

Please enjoy Elton John lip syncing the title track on Top of the Pops from 1973:

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The Who • Live at Leeds [Deluxe Edition 3LP]

wholiveatleeds-frontSome have called it the greatest live album, ever. Some think it’s completely overrated. And then some of us just plain think it’s pretty awesome. Originally, The Who‘s Live at Leeds was issued in 1970 as a short, single record. A supremely truncated representation of the band’s heralded live shows of the time, it nevertheless was widely considered to be a great live record. Well, now – 46 years later! – you can have the entire concert on vinyl, and it’s a pretty sweet package.

First issued in its entirety in 2001, then again in 2010 with more between-songs dialog included and the songs in the origial set list order (as part of an over-the-top “super deluxe edition”), the February 14, 1970 concert has finally been released in the fashion it deserves. This vinyl album, which uses the 2001 “remix,” was half-speed mastered at Abbey Road Studio and comes in a tri-gatefold cover, with printed inner sleeves and pretty lengthy (though incomplete) liner notes. I put remix in “quotes” because the credits indicate it has been done, but don’t say whether it is a new mix or the same from 2001, and who knows whether that was really a remix or just the first time the entire concert had been mixed in one go. With The Who and their many re-releases the credits can be confusing! As for the liner notes, each song is discussed – except the entire Tommy set! Yet, the inclusion of the Tommy songs is a big part of why having the entire concert is so important to us rock enthusiasts. You could say they ran out of room but you’d be wrong; there’s plenty of room. (I bet they lifted the notes out of the 2001 release, which had Tommy taken out of its spot in the set and relegated by itself to the second disc.) So, who knows?!

wholiveatleeds-spreadHalf-speed mastering is another thing. Some believe it is the salvation of vinyl, some think it’s a gimmick, and then some of us realize there are times when it appears to be a boon and others when it may very well be a bust. Those against it believe the high frequencies benefit from the process but the lows are lessened. (Basically, half speed mastering means the tape is played at half speed and the master is made at half speed, which supposedly lets more information make it into the groove. When you play the resulting record at the proper speed, you are arguably getting more out of your speakers. But even that’s not necessarily so, since your speakers may muddy up the sound from having more information thrown at them!) (I’m so glad I’m not as snobby a hifi enthusiast as some think I am! It’s tiring!) For what it’s worth, you can learn more about Universal’s half speed mastering at their special site.

Despite all the hoo-haa, I gotta say I really like this release. The Who were, indeed, at the top of their game in 1970, as evidenced by this album, the Hull concert from the previous night (included on the 2010 Leeds release and then separately), the official-but-posthumous Live at the Isle of Wight concert from later that year, and the many bootlegs of other shows from that era. Whether you’re a Tommy fan or not, it’s historically enlightening to hear it performed in near-entirety around the time of its debut. The fact of the matter is, you can skip the Tommy bits if they make you want to go to the mirror, boy, and smash it up. As for the half speed mastering, it’s impossible to judge whether or not it makes a difference since the entire show has never come out on vinyl before, and the 1970 album is from the original mix of the six tracks that made it to release then. I can say this: it sounds about as blistering as you’d hope. It’s kind of a hassle to deal with six sides of vinyl (as opposed to just two compact discs), and it’s weird (but unavoidable) that a couple of the side breaks are in the middle of between-song dialog. But the presentation is top notch (despite no discussion of Tommy in the notes) and the price is pretty reasonable (currently listed at $43 on Universal’s site) for a 3LP, audiophile, 180-gram set. I mean, there’s no… ahem… substitute for vinyl!

4/5 (Polydor/Universal)

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Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift • “Love Is a Drag” b/w “Life Is Change” [7″]

Hitchcock Swift Love Is a DragThere hasn’t been a lot of  activity in Robyn Hitchcock‘s discography in the last year or two, so his new 7″ single with Emma Swift is notable. “Love Is a Drag” is a moody dirge of a tune, the duo’s second outing on vinyl, primarily acoustic but with a sizable helping of atmospheric sounds to bring the point on home. The single was recorded earlier this year by Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) and just released on Hitchcock & Swift’s Tiny Ghost label. I’m not normally a fan of low tempo balladry, but then Hitchcock wouldn’t share his authorship with anything as normal as what is commonly considered a ballad.

This slowpoke starts with a lone nylon stringed guitar, joined by Emma and an electric guitar somewhere off in the distance. Soon Robyn comes in along with a toy-sounding xylophone and by the time it gets to the chorus this song would make those with weak constitutions for depressing lyrics hastily pick up the needle and perhaps look for one attached to a syringe to bring them a little comfort. The attraction to this song for me is the atypical harmony these two singers bring to the chorus – partly because the girl is singing the lower part while the boy is handling the higher harmony. It kind of reminds me of Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” (from 1986’s Blood & Chocolate), though it is mercifully shorter and not nearly as psychotic. The B-side, “Life Is Change,” is almost a “part two” to the A-side, as if the chorus (“you robynhitchcock_emmaswift_300pxdon’t want to see that life is change” or “…life has changed”) is the reason why the antagonist of the first song has found himself the subject of this single in the first place. This tune starts off at a similarly lethargic energy level as it’s dark brethren but starts to pick up toward the end, and features a nice descending guitar line that sounds vaguely like something from a Beatles tune whose title is escaping me at the moment. (I’m sure I’ll come up with it eventually but I’m not gonna wait for it to happen before I put up this review. Meanwhile it’s gonna drive me crazy, so if you solve this mystery, please post a comment here. It’s not close enough to Christmas – nor healthy – for me to be going this insane over a silly little single.)

You can order the record directly from Robyn Hitchcock’s web site, and it comes with a download card so you can put the songs in your iTunes and carry them close to your soul. If you’re that brave.

3/5 (Tiny Ghost)

 

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The Blues Magoos • The Mercury Singles (1966-1968) [CD, LP]

Blues MagoosSometimes I think about things like: what if I would have been around to dig bands like The Blues Magoos as they were happening? Would I have appreciated them, as a nascent rock enthusiast, the way I do now? So I thank Sundazed for putting out The Mercury Singles (1966-1968), a compilation of the 7″ sides the NYC band did for Mercury at the birth of psychedelia. Driven by a wild guitarist and kick-ass keyboardist (Peppy Castro and Ralph Scala), the Magoos came up with two of the greatest psych psingles of all time, “Tobacco Road” and “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,” and merged the folk and rock scenes into a unique sound that has never been duplicated. This album makes it easy to get an idea of what it might’ve been like, in ’66, to get a load of their idea of rock.

Blues Magoos Mercury SinglesMade up of the eight mono singles they released during their short stay with the label, The Mercury Singles includes the aforementioned classics and their B-sides (a few of which were never originally released on LP), plus “One by One,” “There She Goes” and its flip “Life Is Just a Cher O’Bowlies,” a take on The Move’s then-current “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” and even a Christmas single with a psyched-up “Jingle Bells.” There are a few not-so-hot sides but overall you can’t go wrong with this baby. Sundazed did a great mastering job (as usual) and that makes it worth considering their other other Blues Magoos releases, the band’s first two albums Psychedelic Lollipop and Electric Comic Book, too.

Fans of West Coast garage bands like the Sonics ought to give the Magoos a listen if they’re not already familiar with these nuggets of psychedelia. Even if you’re already familiar, this compilation is definitely too psuperb to pass up.

4/5 (Sundazed)

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