Music Reviews: August 2018 issue

Here are selected music reviews taken from Goldmine’s August 2018 issue (plus a few extras!): from Love’s 50th Anniversary Edition of Forever Changes to Roger Daltrey’s latest solo album. (Note: Links on each cover image will connect you to where you can buy each release.)

 

LOVE
FOREVER CHANGES— 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITON
Rhino/Elektra (4-CD/LP/DVD)

4 Stars

Hailing from the same California environs that birthed such bands as The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, Three Dog Night and other denizens of mid-‘60s dayglo glory, Love became hugely influential in retrospect but less than widely appreciated at the time. No less an icon than Robert Plant frequently sings their glories. They initiated a number of firsts — among them, eliminating the color barrier in their lineup, creating the template for chamber pop and orchestral embellishment, and daring to defy any number of boundaries through their melodic prowess.

Led by the ofttimes tempestuous Arthur Lee, the band reached their heyday with their original lineup in the latter part of that decade, with their undeniable apex being the 1967 masterpiece Forever Changes, an album, which in retrospect, has  come to be recognized on the same level as Sgt. Pepper, Pink Floyd’s debut and the other breakthrough offerings of that stellar year. Indeed, it’s a collection that still stands the test of time, with songs such as “Alone Again Or,” “Amdmoreagain” and “The Daily Planet” among the standouts of a set that was seamless in every possible way. A remarkable album, it deserves its place in immortality.

It’s natural then that Rhino and original label Elektra would want to mark the half century since its inception with an elaborate package bringing full attention to its achievement. Expanding on a modest reissue from 2001, the latest edition repositions the original album with a 6-disc box that includes the original track list in both stereo and mono versions, as well as additional CDs offering an alternate mix and 14 outtakes, demos and backing tracks from the original sessions. Also included is an LP version in stereo and a DVD boasting yet another take on the album via a stereo 96/24 remaster and a rare promo short featuring “You Set the Scene/Your Mind and We Belong Together.”

It’s that video which makes for the most interesting aspect of the box, given the fact that everyone except the most ardent collectors may find the additional elements somewhat redundant. The bonus tracks — especially the discarded version of “Wonder People (I Do Wonder),” the tracks that didn’t make the album such as “Wooly Bully” and “Hummingbirds,” and the tracking sessions for “Your Mind and We Belong Together,” The Red Telephone” and “Andmoreagain” — provide the most valuable finds by far. Some, though not all, appeared on the 2001 reissue, giving the completist something of dilemma when it comes to deciding if it’s worth divvying out the extra dollars for alternate mixes, remastering and the seven additional rarities that were absent the first time.

The accompanying booklet may tilt the decision in favor of a renewed purchase, given the extensive history and track-by-track liner notes included within its pages. Had some other archival material been included — if indeed, any exists — there might not have been any need for debate. Nevertheless, Forever Changes remains an album well worth rediscovery, and for those who wish to bask in full appreciation, this deluxe edition offers the perfect excuse to ultimately indulge.

—Lee Zimmerman

 

The Beach Boys with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Capitol Records (CD)

4 Stars

I’m not really sure how to begin a review of this album because it’s new and it’s old. I’ll explain.

The gorgeous sepia-toned cover art features a group montage of The Beach Boys in all their glorious mid-1960s swagger towering over a recent stage shot of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra  (nestled in the subtlest way across the bottom). It perfectly captures exactly what’s inside; a tasteful marrying of original Beach Boys vocals and tracks with the celebrated Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

There are other RPO collections: Elvis (If I Can Dream, The Wonder of You and Christmas), Roy Orbison (A Love So Beautiful) and Aretha Franklin (A Brand New Me). The concept with these releases is that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performs underneath the vocals of the artists, and each release has been quite successful.

Purest fans might look at this release and ask, “Beyond the cover, what makes this release anything special?” Depending on your thought process, you might not think you’d enjoy this collection. On one hand, when looking at the track selections, nothing really stands out as all that unusual. There are five songs from Pet Sounds, which is cool. “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes And Villains” are here, too. Even “Disney Girls.” Herein lies the challenge. Why touch these great classic recordings? They’re already perfect. I think that’s where the confusion enters into the picture here. The Beach Boys with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra isn’t an attempt to replace, replicate or better the original recordings; it’s a release that simply marries together two great atmospheric entities. And the results are cool.

Each of the original 16 Beach Boys recordings feature the original vocals and a lot of the original tracks, so The Beach Boys’ (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston) original vocals and tracks are included on this collection. Granted, I’ve heard “California Girls,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Kokomo” more times than I can remember, but if you listen with your heart (as Brian is prone to suggest) the depth of the beauty caught on this collection will find you.

The difference between this Beach Boys release and the Elvis, Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin releases is night and day. While each release has its own special something, this is the only release that features Brian Wilson’s unmatched vocal and instrumental arrangements. Remember, Brian used the voices of The Beach Boys as instruments… essentially creating a vocal symphony in their own right. Just listen to the second side of the Today! album, the Pet Sounds album and beyond. No one has ever touched Brian’s capacity for great arrangements, and/or The Beach Boys group harmonics and harmonies.

Producers Nick Patrick and Don Reedman are the creative team that works with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on these projects. You can tell they are each real fans of The Beach Boys. Coming from classical backgrounds, they understand Brian’s genius and The Beach Boys’ vocal prowess, so their greatest concern was to accentuate this great group without being heavy-handed. Make The Beach Boys the star of the show, remind people it’s great and present it in a contemporary manner.

The results? There are moments on this collection that are — as Brian recently told executive producer and Brother Records president Jerry Schilling after hearing the set — “brilliant.” I agree.

Is this Sounds of Summer 2018? No. Is it a symphonic outing similar to Bruce Johnston’s 1998 Symphonic Sounds pet project (also with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)? No. What makes it interesting? Brian, Mike, Al and Bruce were each involved in the track selection and personally approved the project upon completion. The Beach Boys’ thumbprint is on this album. That, in most cases, is considered the seal of approval.

— David Beard

 

The Grateful Dead
Anthem Of The Sun— 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Rhino (2-CD, LP)

3 Stars

The Grateful Dead, while compiling over a dozen studio albums over an almost 30-year career, have been largely known best for their live work. There the band established musical moments that have become historical earmarks within the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Whether it was for an unusual trip through “space” or an out of left field cover of an old Motown hit, it was in concert where their legend was truly built. So it’s not surprising that new material continues to surface that captures those specific moments in time. But now, the band’s 1968 album Anthem of the Sun is being re-released, in celebration of its 50th anniversary. Anthem is the one album that kind of straddled the live and studio worlds delivering one singular experience. To this day, the results are equally as mixed as the tracks themselves.

The Grateful Dead founded in 1965 in Palo Alto, but until 1968 they were largely a cover band. You’ll probably never read about the Dead and Bon Jovi in the same article again, but to quote Jon Bon Jovi from his recent Rock Hall acceptance speech when addressing his decision to leave playing covers behind, you can either “play for fun or play for keeps.” The Dead like Bon Jovi chose the latter. This re-release represents their first attempts at just that, establishing life-long relationships with new writers like Robert Hunter and stretching their own musical chops.

The recording process moved between California and New York City as their producer grew tired of the pace with which the band preferred to record. The move assured that the project would be completed, but not much else. Sure, during these recordings they laid down the classic “Dark Star,” but only its B-side would appear on the album. And yes, this officially is the record where Mickey Hart joined the band, but the challenges the band members themselves have had with the material since the album’s release are reflected in their various acts to revisit and improve the record. First there was the Phil Lesh remix from ’72, then the remaster in 2001 for The Golden Road box set, and again now in 2018. This album is in some ways their Darkness On The Edge Of Town, a record that Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt never thought they got quite right.

It’s regarded as the first real concept album but that is likely more the result of the art work and packaging, as well as the early pressings that included the phrase “the faster we go, the rounder we get,” inscribed on the record itself. It’s more accurate to instead call this album “an expression” of what the band would in time become.

The record has its moments. Within the opener, “Cryptical Envelopment” is framed within a slinky jazz-driven saunter that has come to define their sound. Frankly it’s the same kind of sound you find in The Allman Brothers’ track “Dreams.” It’s delicate, smoky and cool. This may be the only part where the sense of restraint is more a demonstration of real musical confidence than a lack of musical cohesion. Also noteworthy is Phil Lesh’s “New Potato Caboose,” the embodiment of what the early ’70s Dead sound would move toward. Lesh was the first to really commit to developing his writing skills, attending writing workshops and lectures to sharpen skills and broaden limits of their creativity. Here, the outside work both shows and pays off.

However among some real gems are songs that just don’t work. Most of Garcia’s “That’s It For The Other One” has a real murky sonic sound, that isn’t helped by leaden guitars that weigh the music down. What saves everything is the dual drumming, a new sound for the Dead. This gives some lift and keeps the song from tumbling across the record. The same holds true on their rendering of the traditional song, “Cold Rain and Snow.” The song is very rough and jumpy, more reminiscent of what they likely left behind with their cover band.

The stand out, of course, is their version of “Turn On Your Love Light.” Through the Dead this classic became a musical tower, the ultimate jam band song and a real ‘anthem’ to what the band came to define. Bob Weir is in great voice, the song rolls along with ease, and Garcia’s guitar embraces the melodic solo styling he is now forever associated with. Ironically, his guitar tone here sounds more like Warren Haynes who would one day play some of these very parts with various assemblies of Dead personnel.

Some at the time called Anthem a “masterpiece.” It found itself high and, at times, at the top of album rankings that year. But 50 years provides more perspective, and given that consideration the best was still yet to come for a band that from this point forward always “played for keeps.”

—Ray Chelstowski

 

THE WHO
LIVE AT THE FILLMORE EAST 1968
Geffen Records (2-CD, 3-LP)

5 Stars

Recorded on April 6, 1968 at the Fillmore East on New York City’s Lower East Side, this explosive performance by The Who speaks to the intensity of the times. Only two days prior, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. The Who’s planned four shows at the Fillmore East were cut to two over concerns of potential unrest in New York City following Dr. King’s death.

Since the two-night stand at the Fillmore East was near the end of a grueling tour of North America that The Who had begun in February 1968, they were a tired band by the time they hit the Big Apple. Being kicked out of not one but two hotels, including the tiny Waldorf Astoria, during their New York stay due to Keith Moon’s use of cherry bombs, had left them exhausted. The band even fell asleep during a Life Magazine photo shoot during that New York visit. The photo of a snoozing Who under a Union Jack was later used to promote their 1979 film, The Kids Are Alright.

Technical difficulties on the first night at the Fillmore East meant that only some of the show was recorded. On the second night, the first two songs — “Substitute” and “Pictures Of Lily” — failed to be recorded due to glitches. But the remainder of the set was recorded without problems. Those songs are what are documented on this album, and, despite the band’s exhaustion, they are magnificent.

This collection kicks off with a ferocious cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” that features an extended instrumental break. This is followed by a cover of Benny Spellman’s “Fortune Teller,” which Pete Townshend introduces by telling the crowd, “We dig it. It’s pretty slow.” Following an intro bashed out by Moon on drums, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle share the lead vocal.

The Who were at something of a crossroads when this show took place. They were moving away from the three-minute power-pop singles upon which they had built their initial reputation in the mid-1960s and going into more experimental territory, clearly influenced by peers such as Pink Floyd and The Jimi Hendrix Experience. As a result, this show is an interesting mix of the earlier short-and-sharp power-pop material and longer, sometimes meandering, songs. The version of “Tattoo” included here, which features Townshend and Daltrey trading off on the lead vocal, is both quite powerful and more moving than the studio version. “Little Billy,” Townshend tells the audience, is a song that the band recorded for an American Cancer Society radio spot. A strident and spiky take of “I Can’t Explain” includes good backing vocals by Townshend and Entwistle.

Following “Happy Jack,” the band took a sharp left turn to delve into what was their only stab at psychedelia, the lengthy “Relax.” Townshend and Moon shine during the instrumental break, and Townshend snuck a bit of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” into the song. They sandwiched the quick power-pop gem “I’m A Boy” in between “Relax” and the similarly lengthy “A Quick One (While He’s Away).” Townshend introduces “A Quick One” as a preview of what fans can expect on future albums. Moon’s drumming on the song is outstanding.

Two additional Eddie Cochran rock-and-roll chestnuts — “My Way” and “C’mon Everybody” — were performed. Townshend introduced “My Way” as “Hard Rock!” It’s quite explosive, and it’s evident that Daltrey loved singing it. An extended cover of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over” features terrific work by Townshend during the instrumental break. And “Boris The Spider,” with lead vocals shared by Entwistle and Daltrey, also includes impressive playing by Townshend.

A 33-minute version of “My Generation” closes the set. It includes a very lengthy instrumental break that showcases Entwistle, Moon and Townshend at different intervals. Some of the instrumental break includes a bit of the embryonic “Sparks,” which would turn up on 1969’s Tommy.

This set is sure to be treasured by fans of The Who alongside Live At Leeds and Live At The Isle of Wight 1970. It is a must have. —John Curley

    

PETE TOWNSHEND
WHO CAME FIRST
UMe (2-CD)

4 Stars

This collection has a warm and personal feel that stands in stark contrast to some of the heavy-duty music that The Who were performing at the time. The original album, which was released in 1972, was Townshend’s first official solo release, and it mixed tracks dedicated to Townshend’s spiritual guru Meher Baba with songs from The Who’s abandoned Lifehouse project that later morphed into their Who’s Next album. This expanded version of Who Came First features a second disc of alternate takes, unreleased tracks and live performances. The set was remastered by longtime Townshend collaborator Jon Astley using the original master tapes.

The original album kicks off with Townshend’s demo of “Pure ans Easy.” It’s more easygoing than The Who’s version, and it contains the great lyric “All men are bored with other men’s lives.” The buoyant and bouncy “Evolution,” with a lead vocal by Townshend’s friend Ronnie Lane, follows, and it is a joy to listen to. Another Townshend friend, Billy Nicholls, took the lead-vocal duties on “Forever’s No Time At All.” It contains somewhat funky guitar and bass. The version of “Let’s See Action” here has some extra lyrics not included in The Who’s version. The beautiful “Time Is Passing” and the countrified “There’s A Heartache Following Me” both feature excellent vocal performances by Townshend. “Sheraton Gibson,” one of Townshend’s strongest solo tracks, is about yearning to get off the road and return home. The quiet and beautiful “Content” features piano and vocal with some acoustic guitar. The powerful “Parvardigar” is a devotional song with terrific lyrics. It serves a fitting close to the original album.

Highlights of the second disc include: an acoustic and quite relaxed take on “The Seeker”; the sweet “Sleeping Dog,” which is about Townshend working late into the night in his home studio while his wife and children were asleep; “I Always Say,” which starts out as a John Lee Hooker-style blues song and then shifts into a freewheeling Randy Newman type of tune, and then back again; an acoustic cover of Cole Porter’s “Begin The Beguine,” which was one of Meher Baba’s favorite songs; an extended instrumental version of “Baba O’Riley,” which features the well-known synth loop and piano with drums by Townshend; a brief acoustic version of “Drowned,” which was recorded live in India in 1976; and the truly wonderful version of “Evolution” that Townshend performed at the Ronnie Lane Memorial Concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall in April 2004, which Townshend introduced by saying that the song is about “the evolution of consciousness.”

The set also includes a 24-page booklet featuring really interesting liner notes penned by Townshend as well as a poster of a painting by the artist and Townshend friend Mike McInnerney, who had introduced Townshend to the teachings of Meher Baba.

—John Curley

 

ROGER DALTREY
AS LONG AS I HAVE YOU
Polydor/Republic Records (CD, LP, Digital)

3 1/2 Stars

The rock veteran and longtime frontman of The Who is in fine voice on this solo effort, which was produced by Dave Eringa. The album features a good mix of covers and songs penned by Daltrey. And his bandmate Pete Townshend plays guitar on seven of the album’s tracks. Some of the songs were originally done by contemporaries of Daltrey’s, and a pair were tracks that The Who performed in their early years.

The bouncy title track, originally recorded by Garnet Mimms, is the standout song on the album, and features a bluesy vocal from Daltrey. Stephen Stills’ “How Far” has a laid-back, countrified vocal from Daltrey as well as really nice acoustic guitar. The gospel-sounding “Where Is A Man to Go,’ originally done by Dusty Springfield, is enhanced greatly by the backing vocals and keyboards. Parliament’s “Get On Out of the Rain” is a bit funky and features a rock vocal by Daltrey as well as great work by the horns. “I’ve Got Your Love” by Boz Scaggs flows easily and has impressive vocal work by Daltrey. Nick Cave’s “Into My Arms” is the real wild card on the album. It’s just piano and vocal, and Daltrey’s measured vocal has him sounding a bit like Leonard Cohen. It’s quite a stunning track. Stevie Wonder’s rock and funk “You Haven’t Done Nothing” gives Daltrey a vocal workout and has fantastic work by the horns during the instrumental break. The easygoing “Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” by The Five Keys provides Daltrey with a blues vocal spotlight. Daltrey’s composition “Certified Rose,” which he wrote for his daughter, offers a heartfelt vocal. Joe Tex’s “The Love You Save” has Daltrey providing a gospel-like vocal. And the album closes with the gentle Daltrey original “Always Heading Home,” which has piano, strings and soft vocal by Daltrey.

The album shows Daltrey’s range and his interest in different types of songs. It’s a solid piece of work.

—John Curley


QUICK PICKS

By Gillian G. Gaar

ZUIDER ZEE
ZEENITH
Light in the Attic
(LP, CD)

Genre: Glam

In the early ’70s, Zuider Zee relocated from Jackson, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee to seek their fortune, but after a self-titled debut album in 1975 they disappeared. Zeenith, never previously released, shows what might have been, a compelling mix of ’70s-era glam and the kind of pop whimsy found on Paul McCartney’s Ram. Great fun.

 

THE SUPREMES
THE BEST OF THE SUPREMES ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW

THE TEMPTATIONS
THE BEST OF THE TEMPTATIONS ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW

SOFA Entertainment/UMe (DVDs)

Genre: Motown

These reissues have been upgraded from standard definition to high-definition video, providing a better picture and sound. The classic lineups of each group are featured, along with post-Diana Ross and post-David Ruffin performances; the medley the two acts perform together is the most fun. Of course, they’d be even more desirable had they been complete collections of the two groups’ “Ed Sullivan” appearances.

 

THE QUICK
MONDO DECO
Real Gone Music (CD)

Genre: Power pop

Aptly described as post-glam and pre-punk, the Quick were pure pop for now people. From 1976 to 1978 they set up shop in L.A.’s clubs, having a sound rooted in the British Invasion, with a bit of a twist (“Hillary” is an ode to a dominatrix). Kim Fowley, who’d just landed the Runaways a deal with Mercury Records, also brought the Quick to the label, which released the band’s sole album. This is Mondo Deco’s debut on CD, featuring 10 bonus tracks.

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