Friday, 20 July 2012

News, Views and Music Issue 153 (Top 10): AAA Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

‘Time Fades Away’ is unique in featuring wholly unreleased recordings performed live. But there are plenty of examples of AAA musicians releasing individual songs on concert recordings and we feature the top ten highlights of those this week. Note: we’ve listed the artists in alphabetical order this week rather than in some sort of order as that seemed the fairest way to do it!

The Beach Boys “We Got Love” (available on ‘In Concert’ 1973)

There is a studio recording of this song kicking around on bootleg, as it was due to appear on the Beach Boys’ 1972 album ‘Holland’ until the last minute (Warner Brothers wanted a ‘hit’ and substituted it for ‘Sail On Sailor’). The fourth song to be written by the ‘Flame’ new kids on the block, guitarist Blondie Chaplin (who ended up touring with the Stones) and drummer Ricki Fataar (who became a Rutle), I have more time for their songs than most fans and this one of their best. A happy-go-lucky song, its the most Beach Boysy track of all the ones they recorded with the band, a sort of hippie dippie update of the old 60s formula of good vibrations, with a chorus that goes ‘we got love and we’re going to change this world, that’s right!’ As with all of Chaplin’s songs for the band it features an especially strong middle eight where the song drops from major chord to minor and digs slightly deeper into the song, revealing just why the narrator is so sure of success this time around (basically he’s never experienced love like this before in his hapless life). The live version of this song is a little more ragged than the studio version, especially the extended gospel ending, and its missing the pedal steel country vibes of the original, but it’s still a fine addition to the Beach Boys archives.

Crosby and Nash “A Slice Of Time” (available on ‘In Concert’ 2011)

The most recent song on this list and only real reason why fans should buy the new Crosby-Nash live DVD/CD, this is a slice of pure Crosby, more in keeping with his CPR work than the other songs by the duo and it’s effectively a camera’s eye view of life caught in an instant, coupled with the characteristic jazz time switches Crosby has made his own down the years. Slow and lugubrious, it really pulls at the heartstrings, especially with Crosby’s greatest vocal in years. It would have fitted nicely onto ‘CSN’ or even ‘After The Storm’ and may well appear in the future on the new CD Crosby’s working on at the moment with son James Raymond. ‘Images, images, images arranged against a blank wall, telling the truth to us all’.

Grateful Dead “Wharf Rat” (available on ‘Grateful Dead’ 1971)

Along with Neil, the Dead are the champions of releasing previously unheard tracks on concert recordings, especially in the late 60s and early 70s. There are many we could have chosen: ‘Ramble On Rose’ ‘Bertha’ ‘Turn On Your Lovelight’ etc, but I’ve plumped for my favourite of all Dead tracks. Now, nothing on this song should work at all: its basically four minutes of the same chord played over and over and a middle eight that’s played on a church organ; not the most promising start for a song. But Bob Hunter’s cleverest set of lyrics perfectly matches the mood of Jerry Garcia’s music, with a tale of the drunkard ‘August West’ battling with a wondering chick, his own addictions and guilt. Stuck in the same groove for most of the song, the moment when he interrupts the song to cry that ‘I’ll get back on my feet someday’ and that ‘I’ll get up and fly away’ only to end up stuck in the same musical hole time is among the most moving experiences in the Dead’s canon. We know the narrator is suffering, we know he means well and yet we know he’s promised the same thing over and over again and he’s never quite managed to turn his life around. Classic stuff. Alas the Dead never did record a studio version of this record – had they kept their original material from ‘Grateful Dead’ (aka Skulls and Roses) and ‘Europe ’72 and released it properly without the cover material in between it might have been the best Dead set of them all. ‘Old man down, way down down by the docks of the city...’

Jefferson Airplane “Fat Angel” (available on ‘Bless It’s Little Pointed Head’ 1971)

Donovan’s original version of this song is awful: it noodles along in a cod-mystical sense trying to make him sound all ‘spiritual’ and ‘in’ with the hippies. The Airplane’s version strips away all of the artifice but keeps the mystery, with a low-key blues jam extended out for several minutes in true Airplane style as Paul Kantner gets the most out of the song’s weird vibe. Jorma Kaukanen’s superb soloing at the front and end of this song is wonderful too, with athe song just vague enough to give him the space to play anything he wants. There is of course a heart-warming reference to the band in the song – the main reason why they played it on-stage in the late 60s, ‘Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time!’ An extraordinary example of how a piece of garbage can be made to shine with the right arrangement. The Airplane never did release this one on record, sadly, despite playing it lots in this period. Still no idea why it’s called ‘Fat Angel’ though...

The Kinks “It (I Want It)” (available on ‘The Road’ 1986)

Written by Ray Davies to go with his new wife’s dancing (she joined the band on tour in the 80s and performed all sorts of weird moves to old Kinks classics), choreography really wasn’t the Kinks’ strong point. Like many of the songs from the band in the mid 80s, its an uneasy hybrid of the then-contemporary scene, the very flamboyant 70s and retro 50s rock. Ray Davies starts the song by spoofing a TV commercial broadcast to a bored housewife and then dissects America in the 1980s by remorselessly demonstrating how desperate people are to buy stuff they don’t need, simply because someone with authority on TV tells them they want it. Not strong enough to stand against other Davies songs on the same subject (‘Cliches Of The World’ ‘Entertainment’ ‘Give The People What They Want’), this rather unlikable and angular song only ever appeared on the band’s mid-80s concert LP, their poorest seller. The Kinks never did record this one in the studio, despite the fact that it would have fitted on the next album, the sarcastic ‘Think Visual’, pretty well.  Frankly, if you don’t own it you’re not missing much: without the visuals to go with it this is one of those ‘you had to be there’ songs rather than some lost classic, understandably dropped from the set when Ray and his wife split up. 

Lindisfarne “Ode To A Taxman” (available on ‘Lindisfarntastic Volume II’ 1983)

The best of a handful of songs released on the second live volume of recordings included in the ticket price of Lindisfarne’s 1982 tour and left on every seat for the audience to take home, ‘Ode To A Taxman’ is a hilarious Alan Hull song stripping every last ounce of dignity from ‘the disgusting, hateful rat bag kind of a person’ as Hull introduces it. Unlike the other ‘new’ songs ‘Mystery Play’ and ‘Brand New Day’ which are peculiar experiements and woefully slow, this iks a rip-roaring comedy rock and roll song, similar to ‘I Must Stop Going To Parties’ with Hull on classic rib-tickling form, pointing out the absurdities in the legal system the same way he more usually damned politics. Out of print for many years now, it’s a great shame that these ‘Lindisfarntastic’ shows aren’t available on CD at the moment: they’re a lot of fun and really do have the ‘vibe’ of being there that every concert recording should have (it’s pretty rare on vinyl, too, seeing as it was never available to buy from the shops per se). As far as I know Lindisfarne never did record a studio version of this song which is a pity – it would have livened up next LP ‘Dance Your Life Away’ no end! ‘Well I ain’t being funny but I got your money – ain’t that a laugh? By the way my daughter asked today for your autograph!’

The Monkees “You Can’t Judge A Book” (available on ‘Live 1967’ 1987)

When the Monkees played their own instruments on their world tour in 1966, you’d think people would have dropped the hoary old story about them not being able to play. But no – it was all downhill from here. Although the band on stage together played the familiar hits, the band each had a ‘solo’ spot, none of which were ever released until the CD version of ‘Live 1967’. Micky did ‘I Got A Woman’ Peter did ‘Cripple Creek’, Davy did ‘Gonna Build A Mountain’ and Mike did this Goffin and King song, best known for being covered by The Yardbirds. It’s a fitting song for the guitarist in a band getting criticised unfairly to play and is a lot funkier than most of the material the band had been playing. The Monkees were clearly fond of this song, attempting to record it in the studio a couple of times, but ultimately all we have left is a rather noisy audience-scream filled live recording and the brief minute-long glimpse of Nesmith tearing up the stage from the Monkees TV episode ‘Live On Tour’.

Oasis “Hey Hey My My” (available on ‘Familiar To Millions’ 2002)

We’ve covered this on our ‘AAA covering AAA’ top ten, but another mention here of Noel Gallagher turning one of the most popular Neil Young songs into a true Oasis record. The band were clearly having fun on their 2000 world tour, despite the occasional grumpy on-stage chatter and announcements, and there are some great songs not heard anywhere else (a knockout version of The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’ being another). But this song suits Noel’s voice every bit as well as Neil’s, pulling every last ounce of emotion from a song about the death/long life of rock and roll and the fact it needs to be updated every generation or so. Fitting, then, that the 1990s link between the 60s and the Sex Pistols gets to sing this song and adds some fantastic dollops of feedback drenched guitar which even Crazy Horse can’t compete with. Alas never recorded in the studio by Oasis, even for a b-side, where there are copious weird and wacky cover versions. ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away!’

The Searchers “What’d I Say?” (available on ‘The Swedish Broadcasts’ 2005)

After years of being unfairly dismissed as a rather dry and bland studio band, the release of four Swedish Radio Sessions from the band a few years ago was a revelation. Stripped of overdubs and attempting to play live, this is the Searchers at their charismatic best, with a wonderful set list including several songs not released on record (as well as the expected hits) and drummer Chris Curtis on tremendous form, joking with the audience despite the language barrier and singing like a madman. The track we’ve plumped for here is Ray Charles’ call-and-answer song, a bit of a drag to be honest on the original but transformed here into rocking mayhem, with Curtis bringing out all the primal energy of the band and giving his all to this band of Swedish teenagers who probably can’t understand a word he’s saying. The Searchers equivalent of ‘Twist and Shout’, it’s nothing short of tragic that the band never attempted this one in the studio: heard as the finale of ‘Meet The Searchers’ or ‘Sugar and Spice’, it might have changed their reputation as something of a square band forever. ‘Real deep now, I wanna know!...’

The Small Faces “If I Were A Carpenter” (available on ‘Autumn Stone’ 1968)

Technically, I guess this did come out on a studio record – albeit an unfinished one made from hit singles, B sides, outtakes, unfinished recordings and a handful of live gems. This storming cover of the famous Tim Hardin song is the best of several AAA versions around and Steve Marriott is at his OTT best here, pleading and cajoling the audience to believe that money has nothing to do with his love for them. Alas the band probably introduced the song into the setlist as a ‘joke’ – of all the bands to get screwed over by the businessmen and record contracts of the 1960s The Small Faces were hit worst; Marriott so badly that a few years after this recording he’s reduced to poaching to make ends meet. Alas the Small Faces imploded soon after this recording, made on their last tour of 1968, so they never got a chance to record it in the studio. Strangely Marriott never returned to the song, despite the fact that ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ is a pretty good match for the stuff he was doing with Humble Pie in the 70s. It’s just a shame the audience can’t keep quiet a bit longer, so we can hear Marriott at his charismatic best! All together now: ‘Don’t it make you want to fe-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-l al-l-l-l-l-l-l-right!’

And that’s that for another issue. Be sure to set your radio dial to Alan’s Album Archives next week for some more newsing, viewsing and grooving!

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