Friday 5 June 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 34 (Top Five): Top Outtakes and Rarities Sets

And now, it’s time for a top five. Rarity sets are becoming a bit of a rarity these days, but back about 10-20 years ago they were all the rage. This week we look at the five best out-takes/ unreleased rarities albums featuring AAA groups. And not a bastardised rejigged Beatles Anthology record in sight…

5) Jefferson Airplane “Early Flight” (1973). Highlight: High Flyin’ Bird (the Grace Slick version,) which was a live favourite but somehow never made it to any of the classic early Airplane records.

Back in 1973, we thought we’d seen the last of the Jefferson Airplane – temporarily as it turned out, thanks to their transmogrification into the Jefferson Starship. So when RCA stuck out this low-key out-takes set, we thought it might be a final goodbye – and in truth it probably would have been a finer farewell than most of the Starship records to follow. This nine-song set rounds up both sides of a flop single (Grace’s venomous Nixon-bashing ‘Mexico’ – Go Gracey! -and one of Paul Kantner’s finest sci-fi songs ‘Have You Seen The Saucers?’), a lengthy bluesy studio jam (‘Up Or Down’) and six out-takes from the first two Airplane albums, ‘Takes Off!’ and ‘Surrealistic Pillow’. And very fine they are too – Skip Spence’s song ‘JPP McStep Blues’ is easily his best song (his eccentric work with Moby Grape included), ‘Runnin’ Round This World’ is one of the key Airplane songs from their earliest days (but banned when radio networks took a dislike to the line ‘the nights I’ve spent with you have been fantastic trips’) and best of all is ‘High Flyin’ Bird’, with Slick’s and Marty Balin’s vocals soaring into the sky…The only downside is how short this whole album is (33 minutes – and the worst two tracks fill up around 12 minutes’ worth of the playing time).

4) Beach Boys “Endless Harmony” (1998). Highlight: it’s a close flight between the glorious Brian Wilson-sung demo of ‘Break Away’ (one of the finest Beach Boys singles, whatever the poor sales tell you), Brian’s understated demo for ‘Sail Plane Song’, the all-out harmony fest that’s ‘Soulful Old Man Sunshine’ and Dennis Wilson’s gorgeous piano paean to his wife ‘Barbara’.

There had already been an impressive haul of 40-odd unreleased songs, out-takes and alternate mixes on the 5 CD Beach Boys box-set – and a further 50-odd rarities on the later 2CD out-takes set ‘Hawthorne California’, but it’s this middle single CD set that contains the best unreleased Beach Boys tracks. The CD was the companion to a so-so documentary about the band but thankfully refuses to go down the Anthology route (no re-jigged alternate takes spliced together as the band certainly never intended and no spoken word sections) although it would have been nice to go down the Monkees route (lots of volumes with lengthy running times of all unknown songs, instead of several not-that-different-really remixes and far too many dodgy live tracks). For all it’s faults, though, many of the unreleased tracks here are superior to most of the songs the Beach Boys did release in their lifetime and it’s a joy especially to hear the Wilson brothers playing their own instruments on particular demoes rather than the often over-polished mid-70s material. As you can tell by the list above, there’s an awful lot of gems to savour – although there are, too, quite a few tracks that should have remained in the vaults (with the completely false song ‘Brian Is Back’ the worst of all – what was Mike Love thinking? This is his cousin he’s talking about for crying out loud! And how on earth did he persuade Carl Wilson to sing lead on it?!)  

3) The Who “Odds and Sods” (1974).Highlight: On original LP version – “Glow Girl”, a breakthrough Townshend composition that did in two-and-a-half minutes what it took Tommy 75 minutes to say and the stunning ‘Who’s Next’ out-take ‘Pure and Easy’, one of the classiest Who songs of all. On CD version – add the Quadrophenia out-take ‘We Close Tonight’, a classic song about jazz record collectors showing off their wares to impress girls they’re too scared to speak to!

This project was designed to mark time between Who Records ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Who By Numbers’, to cover both Townshend’s second nervous breakdown and the amount of time the band were spending getting the ‘Tommy’ film as right as they could (well, as right as they could with Oliver Reed trying to sing all the way through it). This set was compiled by John Entwistle from old tapes spanning back to the band’s very first recordings (the hilariously posy ‘I’m The Face’ when the band were The High Numbers; it’s actually a lot better than people think if not as distinguished as The Who’s later recordings) up to an abandoned killing time EP that should have come out in 1973 (with the hilarious ‘I’m A Farmer’ and ‘Postcard’ and stage favourites ‘Naked Eye’ and ‘Water’). The fact that Townshend had songs as strong as all of these unreleased is a testament to his creativity – but then The Who released less records in the sixties than most bands (one LP a year and three singles, as opposed to five albums a year and six singles as The Beach Boys did). The CD issue is better still, doubling the album’s length with only a marginal dip in quality – and as a bonus, you get Townshend’s hilarious sleeve notes, rubbishing the group, rubbishing his songwriting, rubbishing his fanbase for collecting such rubbish – and still he comes over as proud and justly arrogant. As only Pete Townshend can.

2) The Hollies “Rarities” (1988). Highlights: Allan Clarke’s moving ‘Sanctuary’, the storming single-that-never-was ‘Carrie’ and Graham Nash’s farewell quartet from 1968: ‘Relax’, ‘Tomorrow When It Comes’, ‘Like Everytime Before’ and ‘Wings’. What an album that could have been!  

The Hollies, on the other-hand, worked their socks off during the 1960s, so how they had this many classic tracks from the 60s and 70s left over I’ll never know. Consistency was never really a Hollies trademark in the same way as it was for the Beatles and others (nearly every album has something dodgy, up until ‘Butterfly’ at least) – on the otherhand, this out-takes set is about the most consistently excellent Hollies album there is. The harmonies are tight, the songwriting top notch and the much derided rhythm section of first Eric Haydock and then Bernie Calvert with Bobby Elliott sound magnificent. And Allan Clarke’s vocals shine on this album like never before (except for one track where the under-rated Mickael Rickfors shines instead). This nicely lengthy album (17 tracks, 50 odd minutes) was a wonderful surprise when it came out and only five of the songs here had ever been heard before and only two in the UK or US – a French-language version of ‘Look Through Any Window, a Germany-only B-side ‘Like Everytime Before’, a UK-only B-side ‘Open Up Your Eyes’, the non-album film soundtrack song ‘After The Fox’ (one of the best Peter Sellers films – see it if you can just to see how the music fits the plot) and the glorious ballad ‘Wings’, donated to the Spike Milligan Animal Charity LP ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change My World’ where it overshadowed everything else on the record (the Fabs’ ‘Across The Universe’ included). The only downside – why on earth is the CD programmed the way it is? Most out-takes sets are chronological, but this one is reverse-chronological, starting in 1988 and ending up in 1965, with all the earlier Nash-era material on the second side and all the post-Nash later material on the first.

1) The Monkees “Missing Links Two” (1990). Highlights: the original TV version of ‘Valleri’ (see above), the psychedelic early version of ‘Words’, Davy’s second-best song ‘Changes’, a very moody and melodramatic alternate version of ‘Mr Webster’ and the traditional carol ‘Riu Chiu’, with the best Monkees harmonies on record (if you thought the TV version was impressive – and it was – it’s got nothing on this alternate studio take!)


The list of plus points in Rhino’s series of Monkees out-takes CDs just goes on and on. Before they finished with volume three in the mid-1990s (with a good five volumes’ worth left in the vaults should they wish to release them), the record company had found no less than four hours of unreleased Monkees – and they’re practically all wonderful and certainly all unreleased or very very different to the finished recordings. We talked above how ridiculous the Monkees’ work load was – and they probably recorded just as much unreleased material as they did released. Although the first volume was a bit of a drag (too many overworked Davy Jones ballads and not enough out-takes featuring songs we know and love), the other two are excellent – this second volume wins only by a short nose. The highlights of these sets are nearly always the alternate versions – tracks recorded for the first six or so Monkees albums featured in their original versions (mainly intended for the first two LPs but left off because competition between songwriters was so tight). None of them are particularly better than their later recordings but they’re all just as good and the differences between them just go on and on. We also get some of the most important Monkees recordings of all – the ones featured in the TV series soundtrack and never seen again – which were almost as integral to the band’s relationship with their audience as the ‘Clarksville’ and two ‘Believer’ songs they plugged every other week. Finally, whoever came up with the great series name deserves a medal or at least a raise – it doesn’t just have Monkee-like connotations, it was the name of Micky Dolenz’s first ever band prior to his Monkee recordings and is such a clever Monkees-ish pun. Oh boy, when will those be coming out? Please tell me there’s a missing links four in the works… 

Well, that’s all for now. We’ll see you next week when, hopefully, we’ll be back online again!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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