Sunday 18 January 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 18 (Intro)

Hello and welcome to the first AAA newsletter of 2009. Apologies that this issue has been so long in the making, but we’ve been on our xmas hols and had a lot of listening to catch up on! What did you lot get in your stockings this year? Aside from holes? Send us in your comments about any new AAA-related CD/DVD that’s out and we’ll stick it on our next newsletter.

The good news about our site is that over the Christmas holidays our index has been added to both the ‘yahoo’ and ‘google’ search engines. Helloooo to all of you out there. The bad news is that, as yet, the only tag for our site is our actual address which isn’t much good for people who don’t actually know about us already (which is, let’s face it, 99.99999999 (recurring) per cent of the world’s record collectors). Hopefully we’ll get a few more mentions as time goes on. A quick shout out to all our new friends visiting us from other sites (especially the excellent 4waysite dedicated to all things CSN; stick the name in a search engine now if you don’t already know about it) – hope you enjoy your stay with us! More on our progress next week.

A quick comment on the new Belle and Sebastian set ‘BBC sessions’ that came out just before Christmas. Boy, was that what they call a limited edition – the 2CD version disappeared so fast I only got a chance to see it once! If you see this set complete with ‘bonus’ concert disc then grab it quick – most copies about now just feature the band’s john peel/radio one sessions for the same price as the two-disc set (£10.99 or thereabouts), although a little online bird tells me it may still  be available via their official site.

A quick mention too for our honorary AAA artist Johnny Cash (he’s not reviewed in the site ‘proper’ but his name does seem to crop up an awful lot on here!) To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Johnny’s ‘Folsom prison’ concert Sony are releasing a special 3-disc edition of the album tie-in later this month, featuring yet more rarities left off the original album (16 tracks no less, alongside the 20 available on the current extended CD version) and a 90-minute DVD documentary about the concert itself. Although there are still great gaps in my collection of things cash-related (story of my life, you could say…) the two prison concerts are by far the best of his CDs that I own so far, so this new re-issue looks like promising news. There are substantial rumours, too, that a last volume of Johnny’s ‘American Recordings’ series with producer Rick Rubin will soon be with us, featuring Cash’s last ever performances. More news when and if we hear it.

CSN News: perhaps the most exciting new year news is that Rhino are finally getting around to releasing their Graham Nash retrospective, a 3-CD set in the same style as their Crosby set ‘Voyage’ from 2006. Titled ‘Reflection’, this set will be available from February 3rd and features no less than 36 ‘new’ bits and bobs (although, alas, 22 of these are just alternate mixes). Like the Crosby set, the first 2 CDs are a quick jog through Graham’s career from the Hollies to CSN/Y and the spin-off Crosby-Nash albums with an emphasis on his five solo albums (most of which are hard-to-find nowadays, although ‘Songs For Beginners’ is back out in the shops as mentioned a few issues back). Most of the rarities are left to the third disc although, alas, there aren’t as many completely unheard tracks to savour this time around. In fact all we get are half-a-dozen tracks and those are mainly from the end of Graham’s career – although unheard studio versions of old friends like the concert favourites ‘Right Between the Eyes’ and ‘Try To Find Me’ plus alternate versions of the under-rated ‘Michael (Hedges Here)’ and ‘Liar’s Nightmare’. Like ‘Voyage’ the tracks included here are a real mixture – gems like ‘Marrakesh Express’ and ‘Teach Your Children’, lesser known gems like ‘I Used To Be A King’, ‘Sad Eyes’ and the sublime ‘Another Sleep Song’ (is Graham a fellow chronic fatigue sufferer I wonder?!) and some really curious choices (‘On The Line’, ‘Mutiny’ and ‘Heartland’ are strong candidates for the worst tracks on ‘Wild Tales’, ‘Whistling Down The Wire’ and ‘Looking Forward’ respectively – and all three are candidates for Graham’s weaker album releases).

Just as ‘Voyage’ was scuppered by including just three examples of Crosby’s early excursion with the Byrds, so ‘Reflections’ seems to have sunk itself by including just three tracks with the Hollies. To make matters worse, all three tracks are common to every Hollies hits compilation since time immemorial (and there’s one heck of a lot of them around even now) - how much better might this set’s track-listing have been with tracks from ‘Evolution’ and ‘Butterfly’ (album archive favourites both). Having said all that, what we’ve seen of the packaging looks absolutely stunning – again like ‘Voyage’ – and we’ve seen quite a few times recently what a hi-fi buff graham, is at heart so the news that he’s been involved so much with the project can only be a good thing. And hearing anything by Graham is great news by me (heck, he could read out the phone book and it would still sound great) so, overall, thanks Rhino – roll on the Stephen Stills box-set!

Simon and Garfunkel news: Goodness knows what its doing out again for the third or fourth time but, for those of you who missed the superlative Simon and Garfunkel ‘Collection’ during any of its previous issues, here it is again at an even cheaper price than normal (£12 seems to be the norm). This handsome little set features all five of S and G’s albums from ‘Wednesday Morning 3AM’ to ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ plus a DVD of the duo’s ‘Concert In Central Park’ reunion and a fine run of albums they are too (the middle album, ‘Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme’, is part of the AAA canon in fact, no 7 on our list). Each album comes in miniature picture sleeves and do include a small selection of bonus tracks – although, sadly, there are no pre-fame tracks by the duo’s early aliases (Tom and Jerry, Jerry Landis, Tico and the Triumphs et al), none of the live or studio tracks including on either of the two recent Simon and Garfunkel box-sets and – most surprisingly – none of the three rare re-recordings from the ‘Graduate’ film (which is, after all, the point where most people became S and G fans the first time round).Lets hope Sony get round to bunging them all on a 2-CD ‘additional collection’ set some time in the future!                  

The Who news: Thankfully someone at Polydor has heard our pleas and it looks as if a re-mix/ re-issue of classic album ‘Quadrophenia’ (no 60 on our list) is on the cards for release sometime later this year. However, despite the fact that ‘Uncut’ magazine have the re-issue listed in their ‘new albums to look forward to’ article, it looks as if Pete Townshend has merely announced that he’d be interesting in putting a new version out sometime soon (the band have actually missed their 35th anniversary quoted in some new articles). As mentioned elsewhere on the site the other Who CD re-issues have been pretty unanimously superb and there’s oodles of stuff we know about already that was curiously missing from the last 2-CD issue that had a grand total of 70 minute’s worth of space for missing extras (the three ‘new’ songs included in the soundtrack of the 1979 Quadrophenia’ film, plus the studio out-takes ‘Put The Money Down’ and the hilarious ‘We Close Tonight’ from the ‘Odds and Sods’ compilation, not to mention single edits of ‘5:15’ and ‘Love Reign O’er Me’). The Who’s other value-for-money CDs included loads of fascinating unheard extras too, both live and studio, so - what else do the Who have in their archives?!

Neil Young news: I said I wouldn’t believe it until I actually saw it but – shock horror – it looks as if Neil’s much-delayed, much-discussed box-set might be coming out at last (‘the Spring’ apparently). Ominously called ‘Volume One’, the set studies Neil’s career from his 1963 beginnings with the Squires to the first peak of solo career with 1972’s ‘Harvest’ and features 10 CDs, plus DVDs of Neil’s rare ‘Journey Through The Past’ film and several hours of film extras. Most of the music has been previously released, but a fair proportion of it hasn’t – alongside several demos and alternate versions the real meat of the set comes from the 15 previously unheard tracks. The set will also feature a 200-odd page booklet and will be housed in a vinyl-height box which looks downright gorgeous if the early press photos are anything to go by. The only bad point seems to be the ridiculously high asking price and the fact that - having announced this project at least half-a-dozen times in the last 20 years – we may not get to hear a second volume of ‘Archives’ till around 2025!     

♫ Seeing as we’ve missed quite a few issues over Christmas, there will be an extended version of the ‘anniversaries’ column this week:

December 29 - January 4: Happy birthdays went to AAA artists Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones (Monkees both; against all odds for a quartet chosen from wannabe stars from across the US and UK they were both born on December 30 but in 1942 and 1945 respectively!), Peter Quaife (bassist with the Kinks from 1963-1968 who turned 65 on New year’s Eve), George Martin (the Beatles producer turned 83 on January 3rd) and Stephen Stills (AAA stalwart who turned 64 on January 3rd). Events that week: the first time Brian Wilson’s mob ever used the name ‘The Beach Boys’ during a New Year’s Eve concert at Long Beach in 1961 (December 31st ) and the last ever recordings made under the Beatles’ name until the 1990s (‘I Me Mine’, recorded on the 3rd January 1970 – although like those later recordings Lennon was absent, having just been involved in a car crash during a holiday in Scotland).   

January 5 – January 11: Syd Barrett (technically in Pink Floyd just from 1966-68 but involved as a sort of ghostly presence with the band till the very end) would have turned 63 on January 6th, Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead 1965-95) would have turned 66 on January 8th and Terry Sylvester (Hollies 1968-80) did turn 62 on the same day. Events this week: the sad and unnecessary shooting of Beatles faithful roadie Mal Evans (a strong candidate for 6th if not 5th Beatle) on January 5th 1976 after a ‘misunderstanding’ by the local police, the first production of ‘The Wiz’, an all-black production of the Wizard of Oz, which believe it or not was originally mooted as a co-production between the Monkees’ Davy Jones and his good friend Charlie Smalls (January 6th 1975), CSN release their first record in nearly 6 years – the under-rated classic ‘Daylight Again’ (January 7 1983) and the John Lennon album turns platinum less than a month after the singer’s death (and five weeks after its release – January 10 1981).    

January 12 – January 18: A quiet week for AAA stars – the only birth-date we’ve come across is Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones 1969-74) turning 61 on January 17th. Events that week: the Beatles release ‘Please Please Me’ this week in 1963, their second single and their first real breakthrough, making either #2 or #1 in the UK charts depending on which chart you quote (January 12th), the Beach Boys and Jefferson Starship both play at the second ‘Benefit for Kampuchea’ concert in 1980 – the first previous year’s gig saw performances by the Who and the last ever concert given by Wings (January 13th), The Who debut in the charts in 1965 with their first single ‘I can’t Explain’ (January 15), two quite contrasting bits of Beatle news – the Cavern club opens it doors for the first time this week in 1957 (back then it was a jazz rather than rock club)  and in 1980 Paul McCartney is sentenced to seven years’ hard labour in a Tokyo prison cell after being caught with drugs in his possession – he’ll end up being incarcerated for just a week (both events January 16th).    

January 19 – January 25: Bottles of champagne/ Jack Daniels this week go to Janis Joplin, who unbelievably would have celebrated her 66th birthday on January 19th and Eric Stewart (10cc 1972-83 plus reunions, plus a spell writing with Paul McCartney in 1986) turns 64 on January 20th. Happy birthdays to all during the last four weeks! Events this coming week include: the release of the film ‘Easy Rider’ 39 years ago (January 19th), George Harrison marries first wife Pattie Boyd 43 years ago (January 21st) and John and Yoko officially ‘turn mad’ in the eyes of the world’s press, declaring 1970 ‘year one’ and shaving their heads in order to raise money for the ‘Black House’, an inter-racial community centre in London (January 25th 1970).

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