Tag Archives: The Who

Various • Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production

I finally made time for this one. A compilation of tracks produced by an American ex-pat, Making Time: A SHEL TALMY Production is a 25-track platter of mostly British rock and freakbeat from the early/mid ’60s. Talmy is most famous for producing The Who’s first album (and its same-titled single) My Generation, a few Kinks records and The Creation’s greatest, errr, creation, “Making Time.” Ace Records, the UK label known for putting out quality compilations of this ilk, has once again sorted out a quality collection of tunes, including some big names and lots of lesser known ones—and even a pseudonymous track by a fellow called Davy Jones (not that guy from the Monkees). What you don’t get with Making Time is the feeling that Talmy was the great producer that legend has him, but really just a hustler with a good ear.

After all, Shel Talmy is famous not only for a handful of great singles but the fact that he lied his way into producing in the first place. In the early ’60s there was no such thing as the internet or even fax machines; Talmy flew across the Atlantic with a stack of records he hadn’t produced, presented them as his own and landed himself a job with Decca Records UK. (He was supposedly given the okay to do so by the man who did produce them, Capitol Records’ Nik Venet, who passed away in 1998.) Apparently Talmy was a good enough salesman to quell any doubts there may have been about his CV because the next thing you know he’s producing The Kinks—represented here with “Tired of Waiting for You”–and then The Who. Along came The Easybeats, Manfred Mann, The Creation, Chad & Jeremy and a load more. Hell, he even produced a female singer with the unlikely but cool name of Perpetual Langley! Later down the road he started his own label, Planet Records (not to be confused with the one started by Richard Perry in the late ’70s). Talmy gets a bad rap for keeping The Who in mid-sixties limbo with litigation that severely curtailed their early momentum, but that was eventually sorted out by both parties.

Making Time presents such a varied group of artists that it’s hard to make a case for him being such a great producer. His productions are fine, for the time, but they don’t stand out as being all that unique, like Phil Spector’s and even Brian Wilson’s do. He did pick some talented groups to produce, though, so perhaps we should really salute his ear for talent rather than production. This compilation presents a reasonable number of great artists and tunes, but there are some definite duds, too; good lord please don’t make me listen to anything else by Lee Hazlewood if it’s as bad as “Bye Babe”! And I could live without ever hearing Tim Rose or Trini Lopez again. In all, though, this CD is of Ace’s usual high quality level and worth the price.

Bonus notes: One track here is by The Rockin’ Vickers, which was a group that included the young Ian Kilmister under the name Ian Willis (who finally achieved fame as Lemmy of Motorhead). Also, the Davy Jones track, “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving,” is a “previously unissued alternate overdub” of the young David Bowie’s 1965 Pye single.

2.5/5 (Ace Records CDCHD 1497; 2017)

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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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Lord Sitar • Lord Sitar

Who is Lord Sitar? Well, he’s a man known for his sitar playing prowess who, in 1968, recorded the one and only album under his name, Lord Sitar, released originally via EMI Records labels worldwide (in the US on Capitol, in Europe on Parlophone). The LP was one of those from the mid to late ‘60s that presented instrumental arrangements of current hits in order to cash in on a current fad. Think Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, or Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, only this time the sitar is the star.

lordsitarWho is Lord Sitar? He was Big Jim Sullivan (born James Tompkins), the famed English session guitarist who played on literally hundreds of records by mostly British music acts of all ilks. (See the Wikipedia entry on him.) After learning the sitar, Big Jim recorded a couple of clever sitar-based albums, the other being Sitar Beat (credited to Big Jim Sullivan). This one, reissued on 180-gram clear green vinyl for Record Store Day 2015, features covers of a handful of Beatles tunes, including “Blue Jay Way” and “I Am the Walrus,” as well as “Daydream Believer,” “Black Is Black,” and my favorite, The Who’s “I Can See for Miles.” I first heard the Lord Sitar version one day at Jive Time Records in Seattle, immediately asked who it was, and then dutifully researched it until I found a CD copy (Jive Time, alas, only had the tune on a compilation album).

You can hear “I Can See for Miles” on YouTube below.

To today’s ears the album will sound cheesy. There are spunky horn sections, fuzzed out guitar a la Neal Hefti (Batman TV series theme), crazed cellos and of course the sitar, taking the lead vocal part with its elastic, nasal tone. And let’s not forget the inevitable female background choruses (usually singing only “la la las”). bigjimsullivan-lordsitarBut Lord Sitar is so “of its era” that it can’t help but either make you wince at its cheese factor or smile at the enjoyable, carefree arrangements as they merrily make their way out of your speakers. One bummer: Lord Sitar also covered The Rolling Stones’ “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?”, which appeared on the single of “Black Is Black” but which wasn’t added to this reissue or previous CD issues. It’s a killer cover!

Lord Sitar—that is Big Jim Sullivan—passed away in 2012 with a discography like no one else in popular music. With over 750 charted singles and over 50 number one hits, Big Jim was more of a god than a lord.

3/5 (Parlophone)

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