Monday, 10 February 2014

Ten AAA Songs That Are Better Unedited And Heard In Full! (News, Views and Music 228)

Sometimes more is just, well, more. Extended guitar solos. Missing verses. Elongated fadeouts. Jamming sessions par excellence. Really, you can't have too much of a good thing - unless, of course, you're trying to fit all that wonderment into a condensed three minute wow of a song that will actually fit on a record. All ten of these entries either are or have been made officially (sometimes by accident - oops!) and, in our humble opinion at least, sound even better than the finished, edited version that made the album, Happy hunting if you don't already own them all!

1) Buffalo Springfield

"Bluebird" (recorded 1967, hear it on the 1972 compilation 'Buffalo Springfield')

Heard on record (as part of 'Buffalo Springfield Again') 'Bluebird' is the Springfield's epic-but-compact psychedelic masterpiece, the much-belated follow-up to 'For What It's Worth' in which everything was thrown into the song (including, allegedly, 1111 guitar overdubs!) As released it's a tight, compact, four minute explosion of song and soul, zinging from one arena to another before reaching a criss-crossing guitar solo crescendo and a false ending with banjo that makes a u-turn and belatedly turns the song into a folk anthem. Before the banjo was added, however, 'Bluebird' was an epic nine minute freakout, involving much cries of 'alright!' , an improvised version of the band's previous number 'Leave' and all sorts of chaos that somehow, startlingly, seems to find it's way back into the riff just in time for the 'proper' conclusion from an audibly drained band. Not surprisingly, the Springfield never actually intended to release this in full at the time (it would have taken up half the album's running time for starters) and not surprisingly they were less than happy when ATCO dug out the master-tapes and accidentally left the song intact when releasing it as part of a compilation album. Still unavailable on CD (it would have made a fine addition to the Springfield box set), but available on youtube at the time of writing.

2) The Beach Boys

"Meant For You" (recorded 1968, hear it on the box set 'Made In California' 2013)

Among the new Beach Boy's set's biggest surprises was a full ninety second version of the thirty second fragment that came out as the opening song on AAA classic album 'Friends'. 'Have you ever seen a mother horse riding with her calf?' sings Brian Wilson, before singing a gorgeous middle eight about how all animals have 'families' and humans are no different - that they are meant to belong together. After years of speculating what the rest of the song might have sounded like, it's wonderful to know at last and - whilst still short and slight - this unedited version of the song doesn't disappoint.

3) The Monkees

"Star Collector" (recorded 1968, hear it on the CD re-issue of 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD' 1996)

To many fans 'Star Collector' is the three minutes of freakiness that ended the Monkees' fourth LP and was about as far into space as the Monkees ever got, complete with trippy mellotrons, risque lyrics about groupies and an ending built on absolute chaos as the song self-destructs before our ears. To real fans, though, who know the Rhino CD re-issues with their bonus tracks well, 'Star Collector' is - erm - four minutes of freakiness that ended.... etc There isn't all that much difference, to be honest, but the trip from A (when the song is 'almost' normal) to B (when it ends in accompaniment to armageddon) is much smoother and easier to follow, with an added minute of extra whoops, squeaks and Peter Tork yelling 'bye bye' while clicking two sticks together. Far out, man.

4) The Byrds

"Candy" (recorded 1968, hear it on the CD re-issue of 'Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde' 1997)

Unlisted on the outside of the box is an extra thirty seconds of one of the Byrds' most unfairly overlooked songs, Roger McGuinn and John York's attempt at writing the title song for Ringo Starr's film 'Candy' about that most 1960s of themes, a randy gardener (trust me, it's a much better song than what got used!) 'Candy' tries hard but can never quite shed it's clunkly comical rhythms until a marvellous bit of improvisation when Clarence White and McGuinn's guitars mesh as one, building up a peak of atmospheric beauty which - shockingly - was excised from the record when it came out (in pure guitar terms, The Byrds are my case for the most psychedelic group that ever was, but it's amazing how often they tried to hide the fact during their career!) Without this missing part 'Candy' sounds like a failed novelty song, with it it sounds like a most perfect piece of late 60s pop.

5) Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

"Almost Cut My Hair", recorded 1970, hear it on the box set 'CSN' 1991)

Even allowing for space issues, how on earth did this rare example of no-holds-barred, no overdubs CSNY get cut down from 8;49 to 4:25? The band are in terrific form that day, whalloping their way through Crosby's classic counter-culture song. Instead of fading on Cros' long held 'whoop', however, Stills and Young are having too much fun to stop and meet in the middle of one of the greatest guitar battles they ever fought. As the song gets faster and faster, Nash hits a organ groove that keeps the whole thing together before the band finally trip over themselves and leave the song to collapse in a smoking pile of rubble and drums. Perhaps the single greatest CSNY moment in terms of the studio, it's a huge shame that the quartet never work quite this closely ever again (indeed, there's only one other song from the 'Deja Vu' album that feature all four in the same room at the same time).

6) The Moody Blues

"Isn't Life Strange?" (recorded 1972, hear it on the CD re-issue of 'Seventh Sojourn' 2006)
As anyone whose read my review of 'Sojourn' will know, I really don't like this song, the one blot on an otherwise classic LP. It's not that the song is bad, just underdeveloped - ending each verse with a 'stra-a-a-a-ange' and rather irritating extended run of syllables that make poor John Lodge sound like he recorded it while his teeth were chattering. This song - already an epic at nearly six minutes - always sounded like it needed something more. And that something was, unforgivably, there from the beginning but left on the cutting room floor. A, err, 'moody' keyboard swell from Mike PInder in the middle of the song is quite lovely and makes the song sound both grand and grounded, exactly the moment of 'stop and smell the roses' awe that the song needs: without it it simply sounds like someone moaning and coming to conclusions that are, well, 'stra-a-a-a-a-ange'. Personally I'd have ended with this part and cut the whole second half of the song...

7) Pink Floyd

"Pigs On The Wing" (recorded 1977, hear it on the eight-track cartridge version of the album c.1981)

None of the band were in a good enough mood to oblige when EMI asked Pink Floyd if they could record an 'extra bit' for the eight track cartridge version of 'Animals', so that the album could be played in one long loop. The job went instead to Gilmour sound-alike Snowy White, who did a great job at capturing the haplessness and hope at the centre of this Roger Waters song which bookended the album. Heard as intended 'Pigs' is a quirky question-and-answer statement; heard as revisited here, going from security to doubt via a soaring guitar solo as great as any Gilmour recorded, this song somehow makes more sense (and, additionally, turns two minute long fragments into a substantial three minute song).

7) The Kinks

"Catch Me Now, I'm Falling" (recorded 1979, hear it on the CD re-issue of 'Low Budget' 2002)

Already quite an epic at 5 minutes, the CD version of Kinks album 'Low Budget' restores the 'missing' minute-and-three-quarters that got cut to keep the record down to size. You're not missing anything substantial if you only own the LP, but you do get longer and fierier Dave Davies guitar solos that make brother Ray's surrounding verses (sung as an angry America looking for help from Europe) all the more emotional.

9) The Rolling Stones

"Slave" (recorded 1981, hear it on the CD re-issue c.1990)

The version of 'Slave' heard on the original record never really takes off - it's clearly the result of a band jam, but it's one that trips over it's own big-riffed shoes before it has any real chance to become interesting. Hearing the full ten minute whack, though (added without comment to most CD versions of the album) makes a lot more sense. This is the Stones trying to ape 'proper' bands by stretching the song out far past breaking point and building on a claustrophobic riff that simply won't change it's mind (like the dominatrix of the song). Hearing the band stretch out gives the guitarists full chance to show off their skills while Mick Jagger, stretched to breaking point with having to come up with vocals for this mammoth beast, never sounds as if he's having this much fun during a Stones session ever again.

10) Neil Young

"Like An Inca" (recorded 1982, hear it on the CD re-issue c.1991)

Another CD that added a fuller,unedited mix (even if this, too, fades out at the end rather than gives a full ending) without comment. Instead of fading out around the 7:30 point (as on the original album), the song simply keeps going till an impressive 9:45. Unusually for this list, this time it's not just an instrumental passage missing but a whole last verse that was missing for nearly a decade, together with some brilliantly inventive Neil Young-Nils Lofgren guitar interplay (look, I know every other reviewer claims how boring this song is for sticking to one tired riff, but I don't hear that myself - this song is brilliantly claustrophobic and relentless, building up to a mammoth climax). The missing verse, which actually makes more sense of this time-travelling song: 'If you want to get high, build a foundation, sink those pylons deep and reach for the sky, we gotta go sooner than you know, gypsy told my fortune - she said that nothing shows!'

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