Category Archives: CD

The Clash • The Clash [LP, CD]

In early April 1977, punk rock was something us Yanks enjoyed from the relative tranquility of our overstuffed living room chairs via nightly network newscasts and their exaggerated coverage of the UK’s latest outrage. Twenty-somethings with safety pins for earrings (and noserings!), ratty leather or Levi’s jackets emblazoned with patches and pins of their favorite bands – bands we’d never heard of here, with crazy names and logos – were shown constantly. It was real exciting for a 14 year old just starting his first band! I, like most of America, bought into the hyped-up, dumbed-down coverage, believing that “punk rock” must be pretty stupid judging from what our US talking heads were reporting. Of course, most of the stories on TV were shallow, not telling us how the movement was both a slam against the mega-rich rock stars of the time and the fact that there were no jobs for the working class, who were forced to try and live “on the dole” with no hope and quite likely no future.

By the time THE CLASH had their debut album, The Clash, released 40 years ago, punk was everywhere. The Damned had already issued their first records (see my review of Damned Damned Damned elsewhere on this blog), the Sex Pistols had a single out, and bands were forming everywhere in garages across the land. Here in the States, small, punk-infused movements were getting going in New York, L.A., San Francisco and nearly every city with more than four disaffected youths, and even way down under in Australia there was The Saints (see my review of I’m Stranded) singing about the same things! Fact of the matter is, teenagers and young adults all across the civilized world were feeling fed up with what appeared to be their lots in life and music was a real good way to express it. Anyone could pick up an instrument and play it, and some could even play together well enough to create songs – the rest could buy a cheap 7″ and sing along with the woes their new heroes had set to music. Punk rock wasn’t as homogeneous as it has been portrayed; some bands came up with great tunes and melodies while others set basic war chants to music. Some bands were political, others weren’t. If you had ears to listen there was something for you.

Photo by Chalkie Davies.

The Clash was for those who were through with what the government was giving them. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, with Paul Simonon and Tory Crimes, sang about “Hate and War,” a “White Riot” and “Career Opportunities” (“the ones that never knock”). The music was primitive and powerful. Strummer’s lead vocals weren’t so much sang as spat. Jones’ guitar was played with all the grit you could get out of a Gibson. This is a record that demands the listener to don full-on riot gear in order to avoid the blood splatter blasting from the grooves! “London’s Burning,” indeed.

In retrospect it’s strange that this album was considered so raw that it wasn’t even released in the USA until after the following album, Give ’Em Enough Rope, was issued. When it was finally released here (after it had sold over 100,000 units as an import), the A&R dude at Epic Records stripped a handful of songs from it and replaced them with some newer, more “radio friendly” cuts plus a 7″ single with two brand spankin’ new non-LP tracks. (See, even back in the late ’70s record companies were trying to get you to buy more and more copies of a release you already owned. “’Cause killers in America work seven days a week!”)

I’ve got a few different versions of The Clash. On CD there are both the 1999 issues (UK and US configurations, of course) and the 2013 remaster included in The Clash Sound System mega-boxset. Vinylly, I spin the pictured 2013 Record Store Day issue pressed in “white riot/Protex blue split color” wax. Both recent versions were mastered by “Tim Young & The Clash” (presumably minus Strummer!) and sound great considering the rawness of the recordings, unlike most of what was being released by major record labels in the ’70s. I imagine any 1999 or later CD or vinyl of legitimate issue will suffice – what we’re talking about here is a punk rock cornerstone, an album that would actually benefit from shoddy quality. If it was supposed to sound polished and proper it wouldn’t be punk!

4.5/5 (Epic Records, 1977)

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The Damned • Damned Damned Damned [CD, LP]

Some anniversaries make you feel old. Some of ’em make you feel young. And some – like the 40th anniversary of this, punk rock’s quintessential and inaugural album – make you feel both old and young at the same time. THE DAMNED‘s first album, Damned Damned Damned, was released in late February 1977 on UK upstart Stiff Records and in the last year it’s been reissued on both vinyl (Drastic Plastic USA) and now CD via BMG UK. It’s one of those records that never loses its cheeky appeal.

Yours truly didn’t discover The Damned until 1981-1982 (via an IRS Records sampler featuring 1980’s “Wait for the Blackout”), and by then they’d undergone a bit of maturing. But on their debut disc, The Damned were a rowdy, youthful quartet just happy to be making noise and having someone record it. Producer Nick Lowe was that someone, and you don’t have to consult reissue liner notes or Wikipedia to tell that his job was primarily to keep the youngsters focused long enough to get a dozen songs on tape. Just listen to Damned Damned Damned and you can hear all the joy and energy these guys exuded. Whether it’s their debut single, “New Rose” (“is she really going out with him?”), followup single “Neat Neat Neat,” or any of the other punk classics here (I’ll cite “Fan Club,” “Born to Kill” and “Feel the Pain” as my favorites), this barely 30-minute “long player” charges out of the gate like a horse not just going for the win but running for its life. By the time closer “I Feel Alright” (aka The Stooges’ “1970”) finishes, there’s no doubt that this album deserves its inclusion in the top of the punk pops.

Damned Damned Damned still has a lotta life in it. Whether you pick up the late 2016 vinyl reissue on Drastic Plastic (available on 150 gram yellow or 180 gram black vinyl; excellently mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio), or the brand new 2017 BMG CD (no weight or mastering credit), you can’t go wrong. I like the vinyl for Gray’s beefy mastering job (the CD’s a tad bit thinner-sounding), but the CD comes in a book-style package with some great liner notes and photos. Neither has any extra tracks, though, so for those you’d have to grab one of the compilations like 2005’s 3CD box set, Play It at Your Sister, et al.

There have been way too many changes in personnel, temperament and outlook over the last four decades to detail here, but in ’76-’77 The Damned were vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist/songwriter Brian James, bassist Captain Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies; a buncha guys with colorful names making raucous rock ’n’ roll. Today only Vanian and Sensible remain (the latter having switched to guitar a long, long time ago), but the band – who have made a number of great records since 1976 – still tours regularly and this year they’re touring that killer record they made forty years ago. It’d be a shame to miss the chance to hear this punk classic performed nice ’n’ loud right in front of yer face by the only band that still matters, The Damned.

5/5 (Drastic Plastic DPRLP76, vinyl; BMG BMGAA01CD, CD)

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John Lennon • Rock ’N’ Roll [album] vs. Paul McCartney • СНОВА Б СССР [album]

lennon-rocknroll_400pxOr Battle of The Beatles Heavyweights! Right about now in 1975, former Beatle JOHN LENNON released an album of Rock ’N’ Roll oldies – and it was to be his last for over five years. At the time the critics weren’t exactly singing the praises of it or their hero’s seeming lack of new songs. In fact, they were fairly forthright about it. It doesn’t really matter anymore, though, as today Rock ’N’ Roll stands as the man’s unique tribute to the music that inspired him, eventually to form his own band and then change the face of popular music forever.

PAUL McCARTNEY, on the other hand, was then on a roll with his band Wings. By 1987, though, Lennon’s esteemed Beatles bandmate was having a rough time of it. The hits had slowed considerably and, in an attempt to recharge his psyche, Macca revisited his rockin’ roots and did a covers album of his own, Choba Б CCCP. It was initially only available in Russia (hence the title: Back in the USSR). The record was imported and bootlegged heavily, and after McCartney issued a few of the songs as B-sides to a 1987 single, “Once Upon a Long Ago” (not released in the US), he eventually relented and released an extended version of the album on CD for all the world to hear.

mccartney-chobabcccp_400pxLennon and McCartney, though once united in rhyme in The Beatles, chose different songs for their respective tributes. They both relied heavily on the big names of ’50s rock: Fats Domino (“Ain’t That a Shame” was the only song covered by both, with McCartney also doing Fats’ “I’m Gonna Be a Wheel Someday” and “I’m in Love Again”), Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. The albums were recorded over ten years apart, with different bands and under different circumstances (by ’87 Lennon had been dead for seven years, which must have weighed heavily on McCartney’s mind as he went about making his record). So pitting the two records against each other isn’t really a fair fight. But since I’m the referee in this ring, I’ve chosen to go for it anyway and render my decision. No punching below the belt, no name calling, gentlemen, let’s have a fair fight and may the best man win!

lennon-mccartney-hamburg_400pxLennon’s LP, Rock ’N’ Roll, is a very thick-sounding record. Replete with not only guitar and keyboards but a horn section, its production – by Lennon and “Wall Of Sound” originator Phil Spector – is multi-layered and at times suffers from too-much-happening-all-at-once. Yet the arrangements are quite spectacular, sometimes unique (the slow reggaefied rhythm of “You Can’t Catch Me,” for instance), and delivered with commitment. When John sings “Stand by Me” you can feel the song’s import on his life. The album’s been reissued many times. I highly recommend the 2010 vinyl, remastered from 24/96 digital files (purportedly taken directly from the analog master) but very detailed and with no noticable digital ick. For a different take on the material, find the 2005 CD – it was remixed at the time and de-clutters some of the arrangements to give you a different, maybe even better idea of just what was going on at Record Plant East Studios (“everybody here says ‘hi’”) all those years ago.

As for Choba Б CCCP, McCartney’s take on some of his favorite rock ’n’ roll classics, it’s also a winner. (I know, I know: There are no ties allowed. Wait for it.) Sparse compared to Lennon’s, these arrangements pretty much stick to your standard guitar/piano/bass/drums variety, making for a more immediate feel. Yes, the snare’s a bit overbearing (this was the mid ’80s, after all) and the guitar sometimes has a slightly over-processed tone, but this album sounds no more “Eighties” than Lennon’s does “Seventies.” McCartney, too, sounds like he means it when he’s singing Bo Diddley’s “Crackin’ Up” or Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock,” a song fabled in Beatles lore as the one he impressed Lennon with in 1957 or so when the two boys met and cemented their connection to each other forever. Though McCartney’s covers album was second in release (and really, Ringo Starr did an album of covers in 1970! – not a rock ’n’ roll outing), it’s hard to say which one is first in terms of greatness. But because there are no ties in pugilism – and because America loves a winner – I gotta go with Lennon. By a hair. Yes, those who know me know that McCartney is my man, but Lennon ain’t no slouch either. “But Marsh,” you might say, “McCartney’s put out a lot of crap as a solo artist.” And I would reply with, “Had Lennon kept releasing records for another thirty plus years, he might have put out a similar number of stinkers himself.” Besides: YOU WON. Let it be.

4.5/5 (Lennon, Parlophone/Apple); 4/5 (McCartney, Capitol)

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The Move • Magnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move [CD+DVD]

move-magneticMagnetic Waves of Sound: The Best of The Move gets its name from a line in the immortal song, “I Can Hear the Grass Grow.” A CD+DVD digipack from the UK’s Esoteric Recordings, it’s a right plethora of audio and video highlights of Birmingham, England’s THE MOVE. Each disc contains 21 tracks; the CD is a greatest hits compilation featuring a majority of their singles and some key B-sides and album cuts. Most Move fans will already have a serviceable compilation of one vintage or another that probably covers most of what you’d want, though, and for them the attraction here is the DVD. On the region-free, NTSC video disc you get a whole lotta seldom seen footage, including the band’s complete performance on the BBC’s Colour Me Pop program from 1969, appearances on German TV’s Beat Club, and the original promo film of the title song (“I Can Hear the Grass Grow”). Video quality is pretty amazing when compared to what little is available on YouTube and other video ports, though some of the songs aren’t complete (probably due to cutting out the announcer overlapping the beginning or end of a song) or appear two or three times. Still, it’s a DVD that compiles a great many interesting and historic TV appearances.

move_3some_333pxThis isn’t to say that you don’t need the CD, oh Move fan you. It’s rare to get a best-of that includes their later, Harvest Records singles like “China Town,” “California Man” and Jeff Lynne’s classic “Do Ya,” the original version recorded by The Move. By the time they recorded these last few tunes in ’71-’72, the band consisted of Lynne, Roy Wood and Bev Bevan (the latter two the only original members left in the band). At that point the three were creating the new Electric Light Orchestra on the side, and of course, that’s the group that more people are familiar with today. But it’s here that you hear a unique alloy of the beat group that The Move started out as and the much more expansive, cello-fied group they became. It is a little odd that they chose the LP version of “Cherry Blossom Clinic” instead of the snappier single version (the version here appeared on their Shazam album and was farther out than the original) – it breaks up the momentum established by the first half of the CD. Regardless, sound quality is pretty top notch considering the combination of mono and stereo mixes and the time span covered (1966-1972).

Magnetic Waves of Sound is an audio/video document that covers all the ground The Move did during their decade together and deserves a slot in every rock fan’s CD collection.

4/5 (Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22554, 2017) – My review of the live album, Something Else from The Move, is here.

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The Turtles • All the Singles [2CD]

If you know THE TURTLES only by the sublime “Happy Together” you’re missing out on a lot of late ’60s rock ’n’ roll fun. All the Singles is a 2CD compilation of the group’s original White Whale 45s and it’s a wide ranging collection of sounds ’n’ styles these guys, known for their killer harmonies, put out during their original half decade of success.

turtles_allthesingles_400pxThis compilation, released on the band’s own FloEdCo imprint (via Manifesto), is a mainly mono affair, in keeping with the “singles” vibe the title conjures. What comes through loud and clear — besides the pristine melodies and harmonies singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (aka Flo & Eddie) vocalized – is the driving, sometimes envelope pushing arrangements courtesy of their own rhythm section (bassist Jim Pons and drummer John Barbata, mainly) and the host of different producers they used. Starting with June 1965’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and encompassing “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “Elenore,” “You Showed Me” and more, the 48 songs here go a long way to demonstrating that these L.A. teenagers (who started out as a surf group called The Crossfires) were more than the sum of their surf ’n’ folk roots. In fact, soon after their first single the guys were determined to move on from folk to something more poppy, hence their latter, aforementioned A-sides. Their B-sides were frequently penned by the band themselves and some of them were quite good – though some were inevitably forgettable. I cite “Buzz Saw,” “Come Over” and “Surfer Dan” among the memorable ones.

Another thing they did was an ingenious exercise called The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, an album in which they took on various then-current pop genres as if they were actually different groups. They went so far as to name the bands for each track (though it was always The Turtles); on this comp you get Nature’s Children (“You Showed Me”), Howie, Mark, Johnie, Jim & Al (“Elenore”), The Fabulous Dawgs and The Cross Fires, but the concept begs further investigation for sure. Later on (early 1970) The Turtles put out a single under the name The Dedications, and both the doo woppy A-side “Teardrops” and the garage/Jan & Deanie flipside “Gas Money” are here.

As for production, the singles herturtles_band_350pxe were helmed by a host of producers including the legendary Bones Howe, Joe Wissert, Chip Douglas and even The Kinks’ Ray Davies (yeah, kool!), who oversaw 1969’s Turtle Soup and its attendant singles “House on the Hill,” “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain,” and the poignant, cheeky “Bachelor Mother.” Different producers didn’t really change the group’s sound much, though the Davies-produced cuts do have a slightly Kinky feel to them.

Have I mentioned “Can’t You Hear the Cows”? It’s a B-side (to the Nilsson-written “The Story of Rock and Roll”) and has my name written all over it. According to the copious liner notes it “might have had a deeper significance that is now lost to time.” Ahem: “Each and every day / Eatin’ all that hay / Moo baby, moo baby.” The Beach Boys never sounded this swell!

All the Singles represents yet another case – like me discovering The Blues Magoos – of me thinking, how the hell did I let The Turtles escape my complete immersion all of these years?! Sure, I knew the obvious singles. I knew that Flo & Eddie were later members of Frank Zappa’s amazing Mothers and sang on Fillmore East – June 1971 (“Mud sh-sh-shark!”) and even T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” yet somehow all I had until now was a 14-track cheapie CD comp. Good God, Gooch! What took you so damned long?!

5/5 (FloEdCo/Manifesto)

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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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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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Ramones • Ramones (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) [3CD/1LP box set]

ramones-40thdeluxe2_500pxFinally got my turntable hooked up in the new place so I can now give this Ramones box set a full and proper whirl. And that’s because the main big deal here is the vinyl: it’s the original album, Ramones, newly remixed by original producer Craig Leon in mono. There are three CDs, too, with the original stereo mix, the new mono mix, a disc of single mixes, demos and outtakes, and a disc containing a never-before released live set recorded in Los Angeles at the Roxy in ’76. Finally, a 12″-sized booklet delves into the early history of the band and their freshman release, still a purely powerful punch in the face forty years later.

The first thing I felt when putting on the vinyl was that these cuts were made for mono. The impact is apparent the moment “Blitzkrieg Bop” blasts outta the speakers. Compared to the original stereo mix (via a mid 2000s pressing), the difference is greater than you’d expect, considering what stands out most in stereo are the cymbals, high hats and tambourines, which are panned fairly left or right. ramones-40thdeluxe_500pxThe lead vocals, guitars and bass were pretty much mono anyway, so the high end being panned one way or the other is almost a gimmick or an afterthought. According to Leon, despite feeling then that mono was the way to go, there was no way in 1976 they could release the record in anything but stereo. Eventually he came up with a suitable stereo mix, and that’s what we’re all used to. But you’re gonna wanna hear it in mono if you already like this record. And I know you do!

Because it’s a deluxe edition, on top of the essential vinyl you also get the previously noted CDs with lots of fun Ramones stuff. I like the live disc best – it’s got both sets the Ramones did at the Roxy in L.A. on August 12, 1976. The first set was mixed in ’76 while the second set was recently mixed by Craig Leon and Sam Okell and both sets are great, though not very different from each other. Still, if you’re gonna do a 40th anniversary release, why not pull out all the stops?

The box set is presented in a 12″x12″-ish hardcover book and it’s really nice. I could’ve used more photos and less verbiage (says me, the writer), but otherwise, Ramones couldn’t be better served by this package. Instead of sniffing some glue or going down to the basement, I suggest you snap this baby up, pronto.

5/5 (Sire/Rhino)

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The Beatles • Live at the Hollywood Bowl (CD, LP)

beatles-livehollywoodbowl-2016Released to coincide with the premiere of Ron Howard’s documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, this reboot of the band’s sole, totally official live record is a mixed bag. Yes, I wanted to love this. I mean, I’m glad they’ve finally revisited The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, the 1977 record and document of the Fab Four in concert circa 1964-1965, but they did a real half-assed job of it. I understand the idea: reissue the album to coincide with the documentary, which is ostensibly about The Beatles as a live act, but since that original concept turned into a much wider vision, the reissued Hollywood Bowl album feels like a real after thought.

First off: the artwork for The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl is horrible. While the cover image is cool and works well as the documentary’s main ad and poster image, as an album/CD cover it just looks wrong. Not that I’m overly enamored with the original cover, but it’s miles better than this new one. 1977’s release looked pretty classy as a 12″ album cover, and would look fine today. What they ended up using looks like an ad for an album, not an album.

beatles-hollywoodbowl-1977Second, calling it “an entirely new release” is a lie. The new version contains the word “live” in the title, which is new, but the album has the same original 13 tracks in the same order, with four more for a bonus. The sound, remixed by George Martin’s son Giles, is pretty good and punchy, but even today there’s not a lot they could do to rescue the sound quality. (The concerts were recorded on three-track tape, giving the engineers little to work with in terms of a mix.) George Martin’s 1977 version sounded pretty good, actually, and his son’s 2016 mix isn’t all that different. So, again, this reissue feels forced.

I wanted to be Mr. Positive in this review – I’ve been known to be a curmudgeon (though I thought you had to be old to be one of those!) – but I can’t help but feel they should have reissued the original with the same cover, but with updated sound and as a true “companion to the film” and not a second-thought, half-assed appendage to the documentary. That being said, I can’t wait to see the film!
3/5 (Apple/Capitol/UMe)

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The Saints • (I’m) Stranded (LP, CD)

saints-imstranded-LP_400x400Forty years ago this month a scruffy Australian foursome called The Saints recorded their debut single, “(I’m) Stranded” b/w “No Time” and unknowingly gave birth to the prototype for a movement that would eventually discard them for not fitting in.

That record – which gave title to the band’s debut album, (I’m) Stranded – was likely the first punk single recorded, before the Sex Pistols, The Damned or the Ramones*, yet that fact is constantly disregarded by those who believe (get this!) there’s a certain order to accepted punk rock history and it shouldn’t be messed with.

A quick recap of The Saints’ history shows that Chris Bailey (vocals), Ed Kuepper (guitar), Kym Bradshaw (bass) and Ivor Hay (drums) formed a band in Brisbane, Australia in 1974. There were no clubs featuring bands playing original music (much like today) so The Saints booked halls and created their own gigs. stranded_fatalEventually word got out that there was a hot young band playing gritty, loud, fast songs of their own that spoke to working class youth and with a growing following the band decided to put out a record. That 7″ appeared on their own Fatal Records in Australia and led to an independent UK release that eventually reached the English arm of global EMI Records, who promptly signed them to a deal. By this time The Damned and Sex Pistols had already been signed and released their own debut singles. The Saints relocated to London after recording the album (which the band thought was actually a demo), gigged and got written about, recorded a second album with a horn section (the amazing Eternally Yours), took a cursory shot at playing the game but found it wasn’t for them, and by early 1979 called it quits.

(I’m) Stranded lives on as one of the most brutal, confident records ever released – whether you call it punk, rock or whatever. The snotty, snarly vocals of Bailey were a perfect fit for Kuepper’s totally raw guitar tone and the two’s ability to write songs with attitude – unmatched then and now. Released in February 1imstranded-EMI_400px977, the album thundered out of the speakers like nothing before it. It bears a bit of a resemblance to The Stooges’ Raw Power, if that record was cranked up to twice the speed. It’s hard to understand the lyrics, but it’s easy to feel the vibe. In fact, if ever you needed a record to epitomize what lo-fi sounds like, this is it. (I’m) Stranded is raw power, alright. It’s a punch in the face, not from some cartoon kid with a mohawk, piercings and de rigeur ripped leather jacket, but from a real guy in a ratty t-shirt with long hair and a chip on his shoulder from years of being fucked with by mom, dad, school, the cops, etc., just for not fitting in.

Sure, the Sex Pistols came from a similar situation, but they were caricatures created by a media-playing egotist. Their attitude was forced on them and their songs were written around their manager’s ideas of what would speak to their chosen audience. The Saints wrote about what they wanted to, unconcerned with adapting any particular stance except their own. They didn’t wear a pre-conceived uniform, they wore what they had. They were true punks. And since they didn’t fit into the media-dictated mold, The Saints were cast off and left behind. Fine by them.

Even against quintessential punk album contenders like Damned, Damned, Damned and The Clash, (I’m) Stranded is the clear champion. Forty years of being overlooked makes it that much more of an outsider’s bible than if it had been consistently hailed as a classic. As Chris Bailey himself says today, “The world needs scumbags like The Saints to exist somewhat outside the pale.”

* It has been pointed out to me that Ramones’ first LP came out in April of 1976, so it is possible that The Saints may have heard it prior to recording “(I’m) Stranded” in June ’76. However, with the speed that underground information got arounnd the world 40 years ago, it’s a safe bet that word (or audio sample) didn’t get down to Oz in time for the already-established Saints to adapt their sound. Way more likely, as Damian Lovelock of the Celibate Rifles points out in the video below – definitely worth watching – the Ramones, Saints and Pistols all came up with their similar approaches simultaneously, independently of each other.

5/5 (Harvest/EMI; now Parlophone)

To learn more about what makes this album so great, check out this documentary.

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