Monday, 28 October 2013

Updates To Our 'Special Editions' on Books/DVDs/Compilations etc (News, Views and Music 217 Top Ten)

Dear all, it's been a while now since you brought you some of our 'special editions' - our lists dedicated to every AAA compilation/live album/solo album/DVD/book we could get our hands on. Inevitably some of them are getting a bit out of date now so here's a quick guide to the ten best 'new' entries to each list, which we're hoping to add to the 'proper' entries soon - some of which are 'new' releases and some of which simply passed us by at the time of writing (we can't see absolutely everything you know - reading Beatles books alone would take at least five years to complete without interruptions!) Hopefully there'll be another 'top ten' update sometime soon as there's a whole host of AAA books and DVDs due out for Christmas this year (including Graham Nash's autobiography at long last - the first by a member of the Hollies!) If you haven't read any of our five 'special' editions of News, Views and Music yet by the way you can find the links here:

Compilation Special:

Solo Album Special:

Live Album Special:

Book Special:

DVD Special:


1) "Tenology" (10cc Box Set, 2012)

10cc always get over-looked and their box set was long overdue after so many years of the same tired old tracks doing the rounds. As one of Hipgnosis' last commissions before the death of founder Storm Thorgerson, this set looks every bit as scrumptious as the band deserves and the special 'free' postcards that come with the set are a lot more 'special' than the coasters given away with Punk Floyd sets. The set also sensibly divides the band's career into 'singles' (both hit and flop), comparatively rare 'B sides' and a disc of 'album tracks', giving a much broader sense of what 10cc were than any other set to date. The album tracks feature a pretty spot-on selection of the 'Godley and Creme' years, while the pair of 'singles' CDs feature several songs available on CD for the first time (including the delightful 'Runaway' and the superb '24 Hours' which may well be my favourite 10cc song of all. However, the B-sides are a pretty sorry bunch (none of them are as rare as the box makes out either, as they've all been bonus tracks on one 10cc CD re-issue or another) and the set is terrible at even acknowledging 10cc's career post Godley and Creme. As far as I'm concerned the trio of albums 10cc made later ('Bloody Tourists' 'Ten Out Of Ten' and 'Windows In The Jungle') are the best the band ever made and the not-that-exciting liner notes add insult to injury by claiming the band should have given up in 1976, sticking the rest of 10cc's career into a single sentence (what about Eric Stewart's life-changing car-crash or even a mention of 10cc's biggest hit 'Dreadlock Holiday'?) A bit of a curate's egg of a box set this: parts of it are spot-on, others get things completely wrong; as it is this is an expensive way of getting a handful of rare songs and some gorgeous packaging when, surely, there will be a definitive box set dedicated to this most worthy of bands some day?

2) "Timeless Flight" (Moody Blues Box Set, 2013)

I write this review just after the news has broken that this expensive box set has just won a 're-issue of the year' award at some big music do. All I can say is - the judges got their copy for free or are millionaires because this surely is another case of the Moodies abusing the patience of fans after 30 years of being one of the most caring bands on the planet. The set retails for nearly £200 and while it would be the perfect way of getting hold of a complete set of Moody Blues albums if you didn't know any, surely the newcomer fan isn't going to be interested in a bunch of pretty gormless live recordings exclusive to this set. As for longterm fans, yes the new concert from the Blue Jays at the Royal Albert Hall is a great show that surprisingly escaped the bootlegger's clutches (featuring an especially gorgeous 'Who Are You Now?' and the best live version of 'Question' yet) and the 1983 shows promoting 'The Present' are quite interesting (we've not had the chance to hear many songs from that under-rated album done live before - and they sound pretty good!) But these are collection-filler curios at best and the talk of 'rare' outtakes and BBC radio sessions heard before the set come out turn out to be simply the (admittedly generally excellent) bonus tracks from the set of deluxe re-issues of Moody albums that came out a mere five years ago (and cost a fortune to buy at the time). I also resent the fact that the Moodies put out two separate versions of most of the albums in both CD and super CD format: surely whichever format you own you're only going to need one or the other - and I can't say I noticed any life-0changing improvement in the sound on the better equipment anyway. What a shame, what a waste, what a slap in the face for fans. The best thing about this set was the limited edition 'cassette' that came with it, replicating the copies of the Moodies' 'Greatest Hits' and 'Seventh Sojourn' taken up into space by the astronauts of apollo 15 - although sadly that was only available as a 'limited edition' and made the box set cost even more! Hmm, two expensive box sets now and the band still haven't got things right yet...

3) "Grrrrr!" (Rolling Stones compilation, 2013)

Grrrr indeed! The Rolling Stones finally get round to doing the sensible thing and putting all of their hits (and a couple of choice album cuts) into a three CD set for their 50th birthday - less than a decade after most of us bought the comparatively shoddy '40 Licks'. While this set still doesn't match the brilliant As and B sides comp 'The London Collection', it is one of the better compilations on the market, giving the casual fan everything they probably expect to find on CD - and full marks both for putting them in strict chronological order this time and for finally giving room to both 'We Love You' and 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?' (possibly the two greatest Stones singles of the 60s, obscure as both of them are). As for the two new songs 'Doom and Gloom' and 'One More Shot' they continue the good work of last Stones album 'A Bigger Bang' without coming close to matching anything released on this set from before 1979. But why oh why did it take 50 years (or 25 years since the coming of the CD if you prefer) to get this set right? And why oh why oh goodness why is there a cover of an inane grinning ape with teeth on the cover instead of a picture of the band?!? Grrrr!

4) "Made In California" (Beach Boys Box Set, 2013)

The Beach Boys already made one of the very best AAA markets with their superb '30 Years Of Good Vibrations' set in 1993. Twenty years on, their best bet should have been simply to re-issue that set (perhaps with a CD of extras attached), but this time around the band seem to be adamant that this set is going to be as different as it can be. As a result, a new selection of tracks from the Beach Boys' back archives are included, featuring several great choices not part of the 'old' set ('Lonely Sea' 'Busy Doin' Nothin' 'Baby Blue' 'Solar System' and 'Angel Come Home', classics all) but there's nothing here to rival the hits (which were included pretty much complete before and are only here in part) or the excitement of getting half an hour of unheard buts from 'Smile'. The 'new' material is a bit of an odd bunch too, most of which is kept for the 'bonus' sixth CD but strangely not featured in chronological order (so the set actually ends with 'Wendy', one of Brian Wilson's earliest songs). 'Goin' To The Beach' and 'It's a Mystery' are lost classics fully deserving of release and many of the demos heard here for the first time are fascinating too. But why didn't the band go the whole hog and include all the Beach Boys rarities out there and do the thing properly ('We Got Love' is still unavailable on CD after being unceremoniously booted off 'Holland' at the last minute and there's nothing from the unreleased 1977 Christmas album or the aborted get-togethers in the late 1970s and 1980s). The packaging too isn't quite as special as on 'Good Vibrations', even if it does include a nice Brian Wilson essay that's less scatterbrained than his album re-issue essays. Overall, our advice is if you own all the Beach Boys CDs already then you won't miss this - but if you loved the first box set and don't know anything else then this would make a fine companion set. Oh and the new music - from recording in 2012 - is horrible and doesn't deserve the same house space as the band's old classics.


5) "Keith Moon - Instant Party" (Alan Clayson, Book, 2005)
More a series of essays linked by interview clips by those who knew Keith, this is an intriguing companion to 'Dear Boy' that isn't as comprehensive a work and is clearly meant for those who know their Who chronology in-depth so they can follow the story (this is very much Keith's stories, not theirs) but adds quite a few fascinating titbits of detail. The book starts with a quote from Tony Hancock about not being able to take his 'character' on or off and you sense that our old friend Alan Clayson is more interested in what made Keith tick than in telling all the old stories about cars driven into swimming pools and TV sets being thrown out of windows. Ultimately, though, a list of Keith's faults and biggest mistakes (including running over his own chauffeur after being mobbed by a crowd) is only half the story - the 'darker' side of Keith so apparent here and the fun-loving soul largely sketched in 'Dear Boy' are two parts of the same coin, Keith's mistakes and larger than life personality driving the fun and vice versa before the whole thing got out of hand by the mid-70s. Still, Clayson does get to grasps with at least part of Keith's character and this is a maturer, kinder book than most in the same spirit. There's almost no mention of the actual music Keith made, though, which seems odd - he might not have driven The Who like Townshend but his contribution was key to all the albums he played on.

6) "Searching For The Sound: My Life With The Grateful Dead" (Phil Lesh, Book, 2006)

We Deadheads waited a long time for one of the actual band to tell their story and the fact that it was the no-holds-barred Phil Lesh talking surely meant we were in for a treat. After all, this is the same Lesh who sent engineers and producers alike quaking under their chairs during the band's 60s heyday and who was the only band member to have had a big row, splitting off on his own (albeit long after Jerry Garcia's death when the others were still playing as 'The Other Ones'). However, the years have seen Lesh mellow - this book is more a reflection on several years that seem wonderful in hindsight, working with wonderful people and searching for an elusive sound that was wonderful on the good days - and not on the others. Understandably, Lesh's near-death from hepatitis (he was waiting for a liver transplant the same year as David Crosby) has made him slow down and see the world with more patience than his younger self ever had. Unfortunately that means this book doesn't really have much more to add that you can't get from any other good Dead biography - indeed Lesh's memory is occasionally sketchy, so he doesn't actually remember the music as well as many of the Dead writers. Still, this isn't a bad book and it's nice to hear some of the stories of the band working together that haven't been heard before - it's just not the honest warts-and-all revelation that fans were perhaps hoping for.

7) "The Truth - My Life As Oasis' Drummer" (Tony McCarroll, Book, 2010)

Oasis' first drummer is a likeable chap. Long dismissed as the 'Pete Best' of the band (Noel Gallagher erroneously claimed that he overdubbed a lot of the drums on the band's first album himself), McCarroll was badly treated by one and all - which seems poor return for the effort that all the band put in in the early days (when Noel wasn't even in the group, still travelling the world as the Inspiral Carpet's roadie). McCarroll's claims that he has no axe to grind is clearly wrong (he loves sticking it to Noel - and quiet bassist Paul McArthur to some extend, although he seems fond of both Liam and Bonehead), but you sense that the drummer's view of the band is probably more accurate than either of the Gallagher's (Tony's reports of success going to Noel's head circa 1994-7 as Alan McGee's 'favourite' and talk of a 'masterplan' that revised all Oasis' real history sadly rings very true). In fact Oasis sounds like an even more unhappy band than we fans thought, and not just between the brothers either as all the band quitting at some stage during their first two years of success! The drummer was just unlucky enough to be trapped in the middle. McCaroll is at his best at the beginning of the story, though, before Oasis have even formed, receiving an eerie premonition of things to come when he and his gang are set upon by a group of older teens including Noel Gallagher, teasing him for his Irish ancestry (Noel doesn't take too well to being reminded of his Irish ancestry in front of all his friends, but does at least have the grace to allow the young Tony to 'escape'!) McCarroll remains quite an upbeat character throughout - which is quite a feat in itself given the tough circumstances - but in the end this is a sad and unsettling book, with five people who were at the peak of their powers in 1994 dissolving in a sea of acrimony and bitterness without any real reason for any of it. The appendix list of gigs that the early Oasis played (as taken from his diaries) is especially useful.

8) "Syd Barratt - A Very Irregular Head" (Rob Chapman, Book, 2010)

One of the better Syd books around, Chapman's work is another that tries to work out why Syd had 'an irregular head' by looking at his past and the triggers that set him off into his sudden decline somewhere around the Autumn of 1967 - and on that score it fails. Syd's sorry story seems to be unfathomable and any amount of looking at childhood photographs and old Pink Floyd clips won't give us any more clues. However, the sheer wealth of detail in this book - and the exciting amount of access to unseen things from Syd's childhood and the Floyd's early years - give it a leg-up over other Syd biographies and there's lots here even the biggest Floyd scholar probably hasn't come across. As ever, though, the story goes cold somewhere around 1970 (after Syd's two solo albums) and even for a comparatively short book there's not actually that much 'story' to get to grips with. Syd the artist will always be an enigma - but if you want to know about Syd as a human being, studying the facts rather than conjecture, this is about the best book on Barratt yet.

9) " Sweet Judy Blue Eyes - My Life In Music " (Judy Collins, Book, 2011)

Folk singer Judy Collins isn't an AAA member, so the appearance of her autobiography on the list might be a puzzle to you. The title is a clue though - she's named the book not after one of her songs but after one of Stephen Stills' best known works, inspired for and named after Judy. In fact Judy spends more time talking about Stills' career than she does her own (with cameos for Crosby, Nash and Young) and this book is in many ways a 'love note' written in return for that song (sent through the publishing industry instead of the post, as it were). The pair's love-hate relationship is at the heart of this book, although it was probably with a sigh of relief that Stills read the proof and found out she's actually been very kind about the whole thing (apologising for her behaviour more times than Richard Nixon after Watergate, although to be fair the problems were probably on both sides), regretting that the pair never got it together despite their 'special' relationship (although she doesn't mention the bit about running off with another musician without telling him in 1970, unknowingly contributing to the first CSNY breakup in one stroke). Stills comes across as a sympathetic soul, in fact, always there at the end of a phoneline when Judy needs him - which isn't a view of their hero most CSN books have given!; it's certainly interesting after so many years of hearing just Stills tell his side of his story to know that she, too, felt they had 'connected' on some higher plain than other mere mortals, calling him the only person she really trusted to reveal her 'inner' self. The book was published not long after Stills' 'Just Roll Tape' from 1968 was discovered and released -taped late at night after a session Stephen worked on with Judy - and her take on those mainly unfinished Stills songs are fascinating (as we often suspected, many of them were indeed written about her). Sadly Collins is less interesting talking about her own interesting career (I'd have been very annoyed with this book if I hadn't got such an interest in Stills) and doesn't talk about many of her records at all (or her appearances on The Muppet Show!) The photographs are great though!


10) "The Linda McCartney Story" (Film, 2000)

Like the Beach Boys and Monkees biopics, this film is at alternating moments both a travesty and a heartfelt tribute. While seeing 'other' people play someone we know well is always disconcerting and many liberties have been taken with the story, this isn't quite the sacrilege feared it would be and is indeed quite powerful when it comes to Linda's death in 1998 (even if Linda dies in the wrong venue with the wrong members of her family around her on the wrong date - which kind of sums the film up). The film takes many liberties it really shouldn't, such as giving Wings the same five-man line-up for all of their career (who is the bearded guitarist meant to be - he doesn't look like Henry McCullouch, Jimmy McCullogh or Laurence Juber!) and giving Linda's daughter Heather a 'starring' role (even though she was actually in care for most of the second half of the film). And yet, this film gets so many details right: the painting Lennon whallops his fist through is spot-on in details, the dialogue of Macca thinking up the band name 'Wings' at the same time Linda is having a difficult birth with third daughter Stella and Linda's riposte to Mick Jagger's criticism that 'I would never have my old lady up on stage' ('that was nearly me!') are word-perfect, suggesting somebody somewhere did some research. The film is also extremely good on some characters (Linda and Paul are both 're-created' well, with this McCartney sensitive and vulnerable after both his mother's death and the Beatles break-up - his depression on their Mull OF Kintyre farm rings especially true - rather than the monster he's often painted out to be, although this McCartney is no saint either, seeing Linda behind Jane Asher's back). However John Lennon is painted all wrong (the pair weren't quite that nasty to each other even during the White Album), George and Ringo are mere ciphers, Yoko is painted as a one-dimensional witch yet again, Paul's second longest writing partner gets no lines and is only in one scene at all, whilst McCartney children Stella and James get a very rough deal compared to Heather and Mary. Oddly, too, the film seems to emphasise the McCartneys sending all their children to public school - in actual fact only Heather went and she hated it so much Paul and Linda pulled her out of school and gave all their children private tutoring before sending them to a local 'normal' secondary school, taking all four children on tour with them (whioch would have made for a more interesting sub-plot to the film). Not a disaster, then, but yet again it's odd that so many mistakes were let through that could have been so easily changed - or that some of the 'better' stories of the McCartneys life together was left untold. Half a tribute, half a travesty, this film is ultimately a bit of a mixture.

Right, that's all for now - we'll try and add this little lot to our previously published 'special editions'! See you next week for more New, Views and Music!

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