Monday, 27 April 2009
♫ Good morning/afternoon/evening/night, whenever you happen to be reading this, and welcome to another instalment in the annual that is alan’s album archives. A note about the weekly publication of the newsletter before we start – owing to a refurbishment at the local library, the ‘news, views and archives’ will now be posted on Fridays/Saturdays rather than Mondays/Tuesdays. This will also enable me to check the tv guides for any interesting looking programmes in the coming week (I missed telling you about a really interesting night of female singers on bbc4 for instance, which broke after we went to press) and to consult with our it technician for any problems with our graphics. So rest assured, if there is a longer gap than normal before the next issue its not because we’ve A) had a nervous breakdown B) are touring on the back of a multi-million selling album or C) are holidaying in the Sechelles (although it might possibly be because of one of the above as well. Past history informs me it will probably be A). Alas the library refurbishment is likely to knock our website linking on the head for the short-term and me answering my emails as well, so apologies to everybody trying to get hold of me – don’t worry, you will get a reply before the end of the weekend. And now, the news – and there’s quite a lot to get through this week.
♫ Not least in the world of the Beatles. First-up is news that the long awaited and long overdue CD overhauls have been officially announced for September 9, possibly to tie-in with the ‘Beatles Rock band’ game due out that month. All the Beatles’ 1960s albums are to get digital overhauls and will each come with a bonus DVD documentary giving lots of extra insight into the record (although whether its re-hashed Anthology footage or something genuinely new is not yet clear). The first six of these – Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, Beatles For Sale, Help! and Rubber Soul will be issued on CD in stereo for the first time ever in the
! A box-set of all the albums will be made available too, along with a second box containing all the mono mixes of Beatles albums (with the albums Revolver-Yellow Submarine on CD for the first time; ie only ‘Let It Be’ and ‘Abbey Road’ are missing from the mono set as these two have never been mixed in mono). About blooming time – I can’t believe that, ‘Yellow Submarine Songtrack’ and the ‘Love’ remixes aside, the best quality Beatles releases are the occasionally dodgy BBC sessions and the late-period Anthology out-takes! We don’t know the price tag for these momentous sets yet but it’s probably £250 for each box, so get saving now! (Especially if you want the game and a replica of Macca’s Hoffner Bass – this is going to be an expensive month!) UK
Secondly, Macca and Ringo have caused a bit of a rumpus with local authorities because of their concert for the Coachellen Music Festival in
last week. Macca was having such a good time that his set over-ran by 54 minutes, violating tight noise licensing laws in the area that saw promoter Goldwise fined a ridiculous £54000. California
And finally, Macca is a busy boy this week, with a duet with Cat Stevens (now using the name Yusuf) on the latter’s ‘Boots and Sand’ appearing on the deluxe edition of Yusuf’s new CD ‘Roadsinger’ due out on May 9th. Let’s hope its better than the other AAA Macca collaborations – Brian Wilson’s cringe-inducing ‘A friend Like You’ and, with Lulu, the weirdest version of ‘Let ‘Em In’ you will ever hear. More on this story below…
♫ CSN News: A bit of early, sneaky news for you here – it won’t be out till late June but a new biography of the band is to be released featuring rare and unseen footage (most of it of Stills clowning around, having been on Amazon!) The DVD is called ‘ ‘ and will retail at ‘ ‘********************
♫ Kinks News: Don’t ask me why, but Ray Davies thinks the time is right to re-record some of his Kinks Klassiks in an orchestral setting. Yep, that standby of contract filler spin-offs has reared its ugly head quite a lot in the last 15 years (there’s new choral versions of Beatles, Pink Floyd and Rolling Stones songs currently on the catalogue) but this one is at least an official one. The choir is the one that Ray’s been touring with, by the way, which gives me mixed feelings – their mangling of ‘Shangri-La’ on tour was abominable, but the studio track ‘Thanksgiving Day’ from Ray’s ‘Other People’s Lives’ (2005) was much more enjoyable. Either way, ‘The Kinks Choral Collection’ is due for release in June.
♫ Rolling Stones News: And the Stones are copying the Beatles again, just like old times! No, sadly, it’s not a CD overhaul of their 60s material (though goodness knows they need one) but a CD overhaul of their 70s material and beyond, right up until 2006’s ‘A Bigger Bang’, starting with the release of ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Goats Head Soup’ (alan’s album archive favourite no 58 remember!), ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Black and Blue’. These four CDs are due out at the end of May with all the others set to follow thereafter (and if you’re worrying about the absence of ‘Exile On Main Street’ in this chronological list, a re-mixed version will be appearing in the next batch of releases apparently).
♫ Yet another new Simon and Garfunkel live album has come out of the woodwork (that’s the fifth one in about 10 years…), this one dating from the very end of the duo’s partnership in 1969. Entitled , imaginatively, ‘Live 1969’, the CD features 17 songs including many from the then-unreleased album ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ (and many have already been issued on the ‘Old Friends’ box set including the only non-LP item here, a cover of Gene Autry’s ‘That Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine’).
♫ Cat Stevens News: The long awaited follow up to Yusuf’s ‘comeback’ album ‘Another Cup’ is due out in shops on May 9th. As mentioned above, the new set is to be called ‘Roadsinger’ and will be released in ‘ordinary’ single CD and ‘deluxe’ CD/DVD formats. The album will be released by a label I’ve not come across before with the curious name ‘To Warm You Through The Night’ (very Cat Stevens that!). Highlights are said to include ‘The Rain’, an unfinished song from the early 1970s that has never been issued before and a song called ‘Boots and Sand’ about Yusuf’s eviction from the United States in the wake of 9/11 when terrorist attacks put the country on high alert about visiting Muslims (even ones as peace-loving and upstanding as the former Cat Stevens!) For some reason the latter song only features on the DVD not the CD and features guest appearances by Paul McCartney and Dolly Parton.
On a slightly less interesting note, Island are following up their pointless ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ re-issue with an equally pointless re-issue of ‘Teaser And The Firecat’. Like the former album, this new set features a second CD containing live versions of the album tracks recorded in concert over the past couple of years. Which is all nice and well, but if this expensive 2CD set is to completely replace the original budget price single CD (as ‘Tillerman’ seems to have done) then Island have rather shot themselves in the foot – very few fans seem to want the new live recordings and there’s going to be less newcomers willing to give good ol’ Cat a try for that kind of price. Bah humbug.
♫ Neil Young News: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before…The Neil Young Archives has been given yet another release date, this time for June 2 (but which year? Ha ha!) At the moment this humungous CD/Blu-Ray set is said to contain 10 CDS and some 30 hours of music, although sadly most of it seems to be made up of previously issued albums. There are only 20 unheard songs in the set, a number which would be very impressive for any artist except Neil who must have about 150-200 songs that have been heard in concert once and never played again. Then again, this set only covers the years 1967-72!
♫ Anniversaries: Happy (Birth)days are here again for Klaus Voormann (Beatle friend, cover artist and bass player) who turns 67 on April 29th, Jo Callis (keyboardist with the Human League 1981-89) turns 54 on May 2nd and – amazingly – two CSN girlfriends have their birthdays on May 1st, Judy Collins (who turns 70 this year) and Rita Cootlidge (who turns 65). Anniversaries of events include: Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach’s 29th wedding anniversary on April 27th; Andrew Loog Oldham sees the Rolling Stones in concert and officially becomes their manager the next day decides he wants to manage them (April 28th and 29th 1963); The Kinks headline a tour for the first time with support from The Yardbirds (April 30th 1965); Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of the Moon celebrates both its first week at number one (April 28th 1973) and its first week out of the top 200 charts (unbelievably its as late as May 1st 1988!); The Floyd’s single ‘Another Brick In The Wall’ is banned in South Africa after schoolchildren take its message to heart and protest against the low level of education in their country (May 2nd 1979); The Beach Boys officially abandon ‘Smile’ despite having worked on it for nearly a year (May 2 1967) and finally The Who play their first gig with Kenny Jones on drums after the death of Keith Moon and attend the UK premier of their film ‘Quadrophenia’ on the same day (May 2nd 1979).
♫ And now the latest in our series of top fives: the five best Rolling Stones B-sides! Now, unlike the Beatles and the Hollies, who used their flipsides to experiment with early songwriting attempts and gave them an opportunity to hone in on their own writing style without the hoo-hah of being played a million times on radio, the Stones actively used their B-sides to carve out a new niche for themselves away from their rock and rolling image. Very few of the Stones’ 60s B-sides are rock and rollers – instead we get one blues jam, a rockabilly instrumental, a throwaway comedy and oodles of passionate heart-warming ballads. For the purposes of this review, we’re sticking to non-album B-sides here and we’re also missing the double ‘A’ side of ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together/Ruby Tuesday’, simply because its too well known (and which one was the flipside anyway? They both got over-the-counter-request sales). So which other definitive B-sides should you own? Well, blue may turn to grey and we may well be playing with fire here, but we think we might just have the answer.
5) As Tears Go By (B-side of ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).
Marianne Faithful has been doing the rounds again recently and everyone seems to have trotted out this gossamer light ballad asbeing perfect for the young Marianne and somehow less than excellent in the Rolling Stones’ fans. Actually this Jagger/Richards ballad suits the Stones like a glove – they were always better at ballads than their hell-raising reputation and it’s generally the ballads that stand out on their more recent CDs. ‘As Tears Go By’ is simple and workmanlike in places but it sports a pretty tune and Jagger has a convincing air as the narrator here, half genuine in his sadness and half sending the whole thing up, giving this recording an edge that Marianne was simply too young and inexperienced to give to her version.
4) The Spider And The Fly (B-side of ‘Satisfaction’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).
Wow, clever wordplay, a fine blues-rock riff and some storytelling lyrics – why wasn’t this is a single in its own right? It would have sparked off quite a new phase in the Stones repertoire, a million miles away from the relentless angst of the A-side. The story is this – the young, inexperienced narrator gets seduced Mrs Robinson-style by an older woman, unable to escape her charms as he falls into her trap. The song was hilariously revived for the band’s mid-90s tours where the age of the female in question went from ‘dirty, flirty, she looked about 30’ to ‘thrifty, nifty, she looked about 60’. Brian Jones seems to be having fun on this track too, a rarity in this period of Stones history, something the sweet blues riff must have had something to do with.
3) Play With Fire (B-side of ‘The Last Time’, available on ‘Rolling Stones – Singles Collection – The London Years’).
Hmm, nice. The Stones might have only just begun writing A-sides in this period, but already they’re writing genius cast-offs for their B-sides too. A spooky Mick Jagger vocal and a surprising amount of restraint in the instrumentation (considering the clatterbang of musicians on the A-side anyway) make this drama-queen ballad almost unique in the Stones’ back catalogue. Richards’ riff is a low grumble, taught as any of his killer electric riffs, and Jagger’s lyrics are up a notch from normal in this early period, warning off his latest girlfriend with a menace not heard outside ‘Sympathy For The Devil’.
2) Dandelion (B-side of ‘We Love You’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).
For my money, ‘We Love You’ is the best single the Stones ever made, even though hardly anybody mentions it anymore (it didn’t sell as well as some of the others, which might be why it was unceremoniously booted off the ’40 Licks’ compilation in favour of such, err, classics as ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll’ (too right!) and ‘Fool To Cry’ (yuk!) The B-side is lighter, fluffier but equally devastating in the scary-choral harmony stakes, with some terrific drum rolls from Charlie Watts and an emphatic Jagger lead. A close cousin of ‘She’s A Rainbow’, this is the Stones in commercial spot-on catchy pop phase, but this template pop song is performed with such force and wild abandon that it still ends up sounding like a drum-heavy rocker. The lyrics are more typical Jagger fare, with the narrator trying to get rid of his girlfriend without having to tell her directly (a la most of the songs on 1966’s ‘Aftermath’ and 1967’s ‘Between the Buttons’ albums), hoping that she would ‘blow away dandelion!’ Despite its low visibility on the Rolling Stones radar these days, the band were seemingly fond of this song at the time – Keith Richards even named his daughter ‘Dandelion’ until she decided to rebel in teenager-hood and started calling herself after another Rolling Stones song from the ‘Goats Head Soup’ album (see review no 58 again; clue: it’s not ‘Mr D’ or ‘Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo’).
1) Child Of the Moon (B-side of ‘Jumping Jack Flash’, available on ‘Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years’).
An absolute classic, this sweet and swirling slab of psychedelia shows just how good the Stones could be at this sort of thing when they put their minds to it. Jagger sings to Brian Jones’ mellotron accompaniment and like many of Brian Jones’ parts, it’s the bit that makes the song, pulsating and rumbling underneath some more of those scary but beautiful Stones harmonies. Jagger’s at his best in this song too, sneering his way through the verses as if in disdain of the weakness of the song’s character and the way he/she (we never find out which!) keeps breaking down at the slightest thing, but the gorgeous choruses find the singer letting down his guard and showing some real compassion and warmth to his subject. Given the unusual subject matter and the unusual lack of gender here, I’d hazard a guess that this is Jagger/Richards’ parting gift to Brian Jones, offering him almost the last opportunity to solo on a Stones record before the band get back to rocking and rolling and leave him behind for good (as per the A side). If so, it’s a fine farewell, with Richards’ melodic guitar passages and Wyman’s angular bass finding the perfect complement in Jones’ sweeping keyboard parts, creating one of the most ethereal and romantic feelings the Stones have conjured up since the similarly constructed ‘Lady Jane’. An absolute gem and – dare I say it – a song that beats its more famous A-side companion hands down.