Sunday, September 30, 2012
How It Was
The Great Society
Columbia CS 9702
The second of the two albums that Columbia issued of the Great Society, trying to cash in on the success of the Jefferson Airplane and Grace Slick. It is a shame that this music was tied to a shoddy bit of record company chicanery because this is first rate music in its own right. This may be presumptuous of me since I didn't see these bands live, but on the basis of the archival recordings I've heard, I'm inclined to believe that the Great Society might have been the best band in San Francisco in 1966. They had a great lead singer, a very creative guitar player and terrific songs. Both of the Columbia albums are full of dynamic and innovative music. The first album was derived from a 1966 concert at the Matrix in San Francisico. This album contains the remainder of that concert as well as a track ("Father") that reportedly comes from a gig at California Hall in San Francisco. Side one opens with "That's How It Is" by David Miner who played rhythm guitar in the group and was originally co-lead vocalist of the band with Grace Slick before she inevitably took command. This song was reportedly Autumn Records' choice for the band's first single but was rejected by the band's leader and lead guitarist Darby Slick for being too happy, ha-ha. It is a catchy song with upbeat lyrics, more commercial sounding than most of the band's oeuvre. It has a very winning vocal from Grace supported by Miner. I'm not sure why Columbia opted to leave it off the first album, maybe because Grace cracks up at the beginning of the song. Darby's "Darkly Smiling" is more typical of the Great Society's sound and I think it is one of their best songs. It has a Middle Eastern flavor to it, both in its guitar riff and Grace's stunning vocal. It is a very psychedelic song, I guess it is about death. It is hard to imagine Grace covering a Nat King Cole hit, but that is exactly what comes next with "Nature Boy." Of course the song is hardly typical crooner material, it has a remarkably mystical flavor for its era. Grace sings it very convincingly. The song features a lovely flute solo from band's bass player Peter van Gelder which evolves into a duet when Grace joins him on her recorder. The side ends with another Miner song, "You Can't Cry." Miner sings lead but Grace joins in at the end and blows him away. It is a straight ahead rocker with a driving organ riff and some stinging guitar licks. Side two begins with Miner's "Daydream Nightmare" which has a surreal title but is just a song about a guy leaving a girl who's done him wrong. It has a raga rock opening with a hypnotic bass and guitar riff supplemented by Grace playing her recorder like she is trying to charm a cobra. The song then goes into rocker mode for awhile before going raga again at the end for Darby's guitar solo and some more snake charming from Grace. It is another one of my favorites on the album. Darby's "Everybody Knows" is another my lover-did-me-wrong song. It is a straight ahead rocker with a folk rock flavor until the guitar solo which sounds psychedelic. Darby and his brother Jerry (the bands' drummer and Grace's husband at the time) penned "Born to be Burned." It is a moody song with a compelling bass riff and a powerful vocal from Grace. Darby has a lengthy guitar solo that sounds raga-influenced. "Father" is an instrumental notable for van Gelder's frenetic saxophone work which mixes raga with jazz. The song starts with a quiet surf-style guitar riff but builds in velocity and strength leading up to a fabulous incendiary guitar solo from Darby that finishes with a full band rave up that is terrifically exciting. It is the most psychedelic track on the album and proof of the band's instrumental prowess and originality. Being a huge Airplane fan, I can't really complain about Grace jumping ship when Signe Anderson left the Airplane, a lot of great music resulted from that merger. By all accounts the band was on the verge of breaking up anyway because of Darby Slick and van Gelder's desire to travel to India to study the sitar (van Gelder would actually become a skilled sitar player and performer of Indian classical music.) Nonetheless when I play this record I wonder what might have resulted if they had stuck together for a while. I think it would have been something special. Recommended to Jefferson Airplane fans who dig Ravi Shankar.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion
The Incredible String Band
I have been reading "Electric Eden," Rob Young's excellent survey of the English folk scene in the 1960s and 70s (actually he goes all the way back to the early 20th Century and Cecil Sharp.) The ISB figure very prominently in his history which prompted me to give this a spin. I was a big fan of the ISB from my teens into my twenties when I had a healthy appetite for hippie bullshit and when it comes to hippie bullshit nobody can sling it as well as these guys. These guys were the real deal, they make the Grateful Dead look like corporate bankers. They embraced communal living, anti-materialism, psychedelia, magic and getting back to nature and turned it into art. Even if I didn't like the band, I probably would have bought this album anyway simply for its wonderful title and amazing cover, one of the great psychedelic covers of all time. It was designed by Simon Posthuma and Marijke Koger, who will be familiar to Beatlemaniacs for their association with Apple under the name The Fool. I had this record on display in my room for many years. On this album the ISB is just Robin Williamson and Mike Heron playing an assortment of instruments supported by future Pentangler Danny Thompson on bass and future ISB member Licorice providing background vocals. The album begins with Heron's "Chinese White" which sounds like a drug reference (it actually refers to a shade of paint) but if there is any drug involved in this song it is acid not heroin. The lyrics are trippy but with all the references to hugging rainbows and magic Christmas trees there is a strong back to nature element to the song as well. The music sounds very Middle Eastern courtesy of Williamson's bowed gimbri and the vocals are all over the place. It is an extraordinary song, it almost sounds like they are making it up as they go along. It establishes the exotic nature of the ISB at their best. In contrast Williamson's "No Sleep Blues" is more like a conventional folk song with some Eastern touches in its string sound courtesy of a sitar. It is about insomnia with vivid references to the hovel he was living in, but there are also various fanciful elements as well including lines like "the size of the future declared itself no part, aloof like a Sultan in the autumn of your heart." The sitar is also evident on Heron's "Painting Box" which is a love song, albeit one with talking fishes and baby raindrops. There is a nice flute solo from Williamson and Licorice's back-up vocal enlivens the song. Williamson's "The Mad Hatter's Song" seems to me to be one of those gotta-get-back-to-the-country type songs so popular with hippie rockers delivered in the ISB's usual inimitable manner, a torrent of weird and obscure imagery. It is another droning, unstructured song with lots of twists and turns. It mixes honky tonk piano and sitar, these guys are nothing if not eclectic. It is one of my favorite songs on the record. Nobody was making songs like this in 1967 (or any other year probably,) it is truly magical. Heron makes friends with a talking cloud in "Little Cloud" which has an escapist theme. The song is a sprightly folk song with prominent percussion driving it along. Williamson closes out side one with "Eyes of Fate" which I think is about perception or as he puts it "you see what you see, you see seldom what is." The music on this song is much starker, just guitars playing flamenco style riffs and the chanting in the background vocal sounds almost medieval. In contrast to the sunny, exotic disposition of most of this album, this song is dark and moody befitting it's more serious and gloomy lyrics. Williamson opens side two with "Blues for the Muse" which is about the importance of playing guitar in his life and the need to make the most of your life before its inevitable termination. The song sounds sort of like a blues particularly with Heron's harmonica dominating the sound, but it is hardly the sort of blues you are going to hear on a Muddy Waters album. On the folk-style "The Hedgehog's Song" Heron sings about his inability to commit to a steady relationship with a woman because of a song that a hedgehog sings to him. No really that's what it is about, whenever he is about to tie the knot, the hedgehog's song stops him. A truly goofy song that Heron sings tongue-in-cheek. Williamson's "First Girl I Loved" is the most conventional song on the record as he reminisces about a teenage love affair that continues to haunt him long after it has ended. Musically it is anything but conventional as the tune shifts around restlessly and Williamson singing all around the scattershot melody. Heron's "You Know What You Could Be" is another song about illusion and perceiving the truth. It is an energetic folk song with the boys playing up a storm particularly in the Middle Eastern style instrumental passage at the end. In Williamson's "My Name Is Death" a woman unsuccessfully attempts to bribe death for a few more years of life. In keeping with the somber theme of the song, the music has a very spare arrangement, just Williamson and his guitar. He sounds like a troubadour from centuries past. The album returns to an upbeat tone with Heron's "Gently Tender" which is another oddball lovesong that relies heavily on nature imagery. The song is percussion driven with a rich instrumental palette led by Willliamson's flute playing. The album ends with Williamson's "Way Back In the 1960s" which is set in about 2034 after World War III and Williamson has become a millionaire and moved to Paraguay. He reminisces to his grandchildren about the days in the 1960s when people ate real food, made their own amusements and listened to Bob Dylan. Given the ISB's obsession with getting back to the simpler ways of the past, it figures that their sci-fi song would be looking back at the good old days of the 1960s. It is a rollicking tune with a bluesy flavor, another one of my favorite songs on the album. I suppose you could say that the themes of this album are pretty dated, kids nowadays embrace technology rather than nature and the simple lives of our ancestors. Being an old dude with a fondness for hippies, I'm more sympathetic to the ISB's vision than most people I suppose, but even I don't listen to them all that much anymore. Still when I'm in the right mood, I can spin this record and still feel the magic. Recommended to Donovan fans who like "Atlantis" better than "Mellow Yellow."
Post Script: In the movie "Pirate Radio" one of the DJs on the sinking radio ship attempts to save his precious copy of this album from the rising water. Another DJ pulls him from the water, grabs the album, pronounces it to be lousy and tosses it in the ocean. Hilarious. This pretty much sums up why that is such a crappy movie. That plus the boatload of vinyl they sacrificed to make this idiotic film, which pains me even more than the time I wasted watching it.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Port of Morrow
It is mid-September and I still haven't blogged about a record from this year. I'm so far behind on my backlog that I haven't even blogged about all the records I liked from last year. I've been sitting on this one for months already. It is one of my favorites of the year so far. I guess the Shins never changed my life, but they did definitely make it better. "Oh, Inverted World" and "Chutes Too Narrow" have long been two of the handful of albums that I turn to when I'm feeling down and need a lift. The Shins were a band I strongly connected with on an emotional and intellectual level. Thus I was really unhappy a few years ago when I heard that James Mercer had fired his band mates in the Shins or chose to go in a different musical direction depending on whose perspective you believe. Nonetheless there was no question that Mercer was the creative force in the band and I had high hopes for his new projects which his excellent music with Broken Bells confirmed. I was surprised and a little dismayed when I heard that Mercer had signed with a major label (Columbia) and formed a new version of the band. My initial thought that it was kind of a dick move akin to Axl Rose and his version of Guns N' Roses. I have a lot of respect for Mercer's talent so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think that this album is as good as the other Shins albums although admittedly only one of the new Shins actually appears on the album, drummer Joe Plummer, who appears on about half the tracks. Mercer's principal collaborator on the album is Greg Kurstin of the Bird and the Bee who co-produced the album and plays multiple instruments on it. The album begins with "The Rifle's Spiral" which appears to be about a suicide bomber. Mercer is one of the best lyricists in alternative rock and this song's brilliant imagery and language is proof of that. With Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss pounding the skins the song has a lot of drive and Kurstin fills out the song with loads of synth sounds. The whirling force of the music and the space age sound effects running through it reflect the frenzied thoughts of the terrorist in the song. "Simple Song" is a charming and romantic love song. The line "you know things can really get rough when you go it alone" makes me think of the break-up of the original Shins although in the context of the song, it is more likely a reference to being single. Weiss' muscular drumming again forcefully propels the song along its course and it has a soaring, upbeat melody that made it the natural choice for the single off the album. Mercer's vocal is very passionate and uplifting. It is anything but a "simple song," I think it is one of the best songs Mercer has ever done. "It's Only Life" offers the title advice to a friend going through some problems. I don't mean to make light of anyone's existential crisis, but if your biggest worry is that "time will wash every tower to the sea," you should count your blessings. The song shows off Mercer's great range as a vocalist. He starts out low and then takes off into the upper register where he is so effective. "Bait and Switch" picks up the pace again with a highly propulsive tune about a guy whose peaceful solitary existence gets disrupted when he takes up with a wild girlfriend whose allure he can't resist. The song's potential misogyny is leavened by Mercer's typically clever descriptions and metaphors. Side one ends with "September," another lyrical love song in which Mercer acknowledges his shortcomings and his appreciation that his lover perceives his good qualities and that she brings him happiness. This slow, romantic song with a slight exotica flavor is the tune on the album that most resembles the classic Shins sound. It would fit comfortably on any of their previous albums. "No Way Down" is surprisingly political and polemical in its tone. Mercer addresses the economic inequities in the world. With pointed references to Asian wage slaves and the upper crust elite over here, Mercer doesn't beat around the bush. The song sounds like it was inspired by the Occupy movement. It has a strong beat and is sonically rich, it really jumps out of the speakers. It is one of my favorite songs on the record. "For A Fool" in contrast is slow and languid as Mercer describes the aftermath of a bad relationship and trying to get over the resulting heartbreak and humiliation. The song features some of Mercer's most emotional and soulful singing. "Fall of '82" is a song in which Mercer expresses his gratitude to his sister for helping him get over a dark period in his life in 1982 and helping to make him the person he became. It is a remarkably personal and revealing song that I find very touching. In keeping with its theme, the song has a retro flavor that brings to mind 1970s era pop to me. "40 Mark Strasse" is about a German girl from an unhappy home who sleeps with American soldiers and a boy who wants to save her from that life. This song features a complicated multi-tracked vocal performance from Mercer that gives a lot of beauty and depth to an otherwise ordinary tune. The album concludes with the title cut which is a grim song about the evil in the world and the falseness of perceptions that we as humans are different from the rest of nature. I think he is directing his observations towards religions and other beliefs emphasizing the moral superiority of specific people. Mercer sings in two different octaves so it sounds almost like a duet. It is a remarkable song that ends the album in a majestic manner albeit one that I find a bit depressing with lines like "there are flowers in the garbage and a skull under your curls." I agree with Mercer's perspective but I don't really want to be reminded about "the bitter mechanics of life." I consider James Mercer to be one of the major talents in contemporary rock and I'm happy to report that my worries about him stumbling on some ego trip have been alleviated by this excellent album. It is clear that despite signing to a major label, Mercer's vision is uncompromised and his music is as strong as ever. Long live the new Shins whoever they are! Recommended to fans of the old Shins.
Monday, September 10, 2012
Even Born Again
Model Citizens Entertainment MCE 004
I picked this up at a show at the Mayan Theater where Jaffe opened for the New Multitudes show. I had never heard of her prior to the show, but she blew me away with her intensity and her strong voice. When I went to the merch table I was drawn to this album right away with its lovely artwork by Melanie Gomez. It is nice inside the sleeve as well with marbled vinyl and a cute insert with an illustration of the girl in the yellow dress on the cover. This six song mini-album was Jaffe's debut recording. It opens with "Even Born Again" which uses Christian language to analyze a love affair. The song begins quietly with Jaffe singing softly over an acoustic guitar and gradually builds in strength as she is joined by strings and a rhythm section. The "Black Hoax Lie" is about heartbreak and her aching vocal strongly conveys the emotion behind the song. It effectively uses strings to add feeling to the music. "Adeline" is just Jaffe and her guitar. The nakedness of the arrangement puts all the focus on Jaffe's throbbing vocal as she sings of a tormented love story. "Under" is a moody rocker in which Jaffe asserts her independence. The distortion in the vocal and the song's sustained tension really make it jump out at you. "Two Intangibles Can't Be Had" is another stripped down song that relies on Jaffe's voice to deliver its power. The lyrics examine ambivalence in a relationship in terms of being drawn to one's lover yet wanting to be alone too. "Backwards/Forwards" expresses similar ambivalence and confusion regarding a love affair. Sounds like the gal has issues. The song has a more complicated vocal structure with double tracking as well as a background vocal from Jonathan Clark who also adds a second guitar. There aren't a lot of singers around who hold my attention with such minimal arrangements and bare bones song structures, but Jaffe does it easily. There is a raw, almost gravelly quality to her voice that really grabs me and she excels at imbuing a song with tenderness and feeling. I value authenticity, edginess and emotional honesty in singer-songwriters and Jaffe has that in spades. Recommended to Lucinda Williams fans.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Warner Bros. WS 1951
I learned about Curved Air from the Logan/Woffinden "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock" which was extremely influential on my early record collecting. The book has a British perspective which is a good thing as far as Curved Air is concerned since they never made any impact over here. To this day I don't think I've ever heard them on the radio and I rarely see their albums in the record bins. I guess American prog-rock fans preferred to listen to Keith Emerson butcher the classics than to listen to Sonja Kristina Linwood sweetly crooning this band's pop-oriented version of arty rock. The songwriting on this album is divided evenly with Linwood and the band's violinist Darryl Way writing all of side one and Francis Monkman (guitar and keyboards) writing the three songs on side two. "Young Mother" establishes the band's prog credentials right off the band with Way sawing away at his electric violin while Monkman goes nuts on his synthesizer. The narrative portion of the song gives way to a lyrical instrumental passage with a soaring synth line that I find exhilarating. The song is a statement of independence. Bassist Ian Eyre joined Linwood and Way in writing "Back Street Luv" which was a hit in England and should have been here too. Linwood sings of the perils of romance in a cool, reserved voice, she reminds me of Fairport Convention's Judy Dyble crossed with a young Marianne Faithfull. The song features a more stripped down sound than most of the record, it sounds like a conventional pop record. It has a strong hook and features hard rock heaviness in the verses contrasting with the lightness of the chorus. I consider it one of the best songs of its era. Art rock rears its fearsome head with "Jumbo" which is entirely synth and string driven. Linwood's icy vocals suit this ponderous song quite well. The title appears to be a reference to the jet plane the singer is flying home on. Straight ahead rock returns with "You Know" which I think is about the double standard among the sexes. The song has a heavy riff and even a couple of guitar solos. Side one ends with one of the artiest songs on the album, "Puppets" which is some sort of allegory about free will and conformity I believe. Linwood lifelessly intones the lyrics as if she were a puppet herself with Way's piano offering most of the instrumental color. Side two's opener, "Everdance" wakes me up again. It is another allegorical song about the roads people choose in life. It is a fast-paced, riffing rocker with a Middle Eastern flavor particularly in Way's violin lines. I can't believe I'm actually writing this, but I dig the dynamic interplay between the violin and Monkman's synth. "Bright Summer's Day '68" sounds like the title of some lyrical paean to hippie bliss, but it is instead a satirical portrait of a dysfunctional family. It is another rocker with a light, poppy chorus that ends with a surprising amount of guitar noise in the concluding instrumental passage. Then comes the grand finale, the nearly 13 minute long "Piece of Mind." With its shifting tempos, multiple musical themes, lengthy instrumental passages and numerous keyboard and string solos, the song is easily the most proggy one on the album, it sounds like the Nice jamming with It's a Beautiful Day. The song is about madness, nightmares, distorted perception and despair and is just as awkward and pretentious as you might expect, Monkman even name checks Berlioz's "Harold in Italy." Linwood can't do much with these lyrics although she gives it a game try. I doubt that even Sandy Denny could make me care about these words. Despite all that, I like the song, some sections of it are quite engaging. I just wish the song had a stronger finish than just petering out the way it does. Nonetheless if there has to be prog-rock, let it be like this. This is a very underrated album, one of the better albums of the early 1970s. The pop sensibility that Curved Air applied to progressive rock resulted in some complex yet enjoyable music. I'll take a good hook and a solid riff over a rock symphony anytime. Recommended for prog-rock fans looking for something a little sexier than their usual fare.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Tape From California
A&M SP 4148
Here's a Labor Day post for one of the most ardent unionists in American rock music, Phil Ochs. This is my favorite Ochs album in which, as the liner notes say, Ochs drops us "a line from the beautiful people coast." It is a satiric yet heart-felt album that represents Ochs at the height of his creative power. The opening song "Tape From California" is one of the best songs Ochs ever wrote. It uses a propulsive folk-rock structure with a piano and a harpsichord layering a chamber pop melody line on top while Ochs sweetly croons stunningly surreal and evocative lyrics. It captures the anxiety and craziness of the late 1960s as well as any song you will ever hear. It is followed by "White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land" which is a scathing anti-Vietnam War song. The song is a return to Ochs' folk roots in style and content although it is less overtly didactic and more poetic than his earlier work. It is mostly just Ochs and his acoustic guitar with some brass overdubs. "Half a Century High" rips television regarding it as a quasi-drug that distorts perception and reality. It returns to the sound of "Tape From California" mixing folk-rock with chamber pop courtesy of a harpsichord. "Joe Hill" is another folk song which describes the life and death of the labor hero. It is a different song than the Alfred Hayes/Earl Robinson song that Joan Baez sang at Woodstock. It is a lot longer and more detailed, an epic narrative ballad. Ochs and Ramblin' Jack Elliott play guitar on the song. Side one ends with "The War Is Over" which is yet another folk-rock/chamber pop hybrid with an elaborate arrangement and supplemented by brass and winds. At the end of the song the band plays the theme from Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore." This is a classic protest song in which Ochs attacks the Vietnam War to the point of likening it to America committing suicide and urging the opposition to declare the war over, in essence beating John and Yoko to the "war is over if you want it" idea. It is a very powerful and inspiring song that Ochs sings with a soaring optimistic vocal. This brilliant song transcends agit-prop to achieve anthemic status. Side two opens with "The Harder They Fall" which has strings and a piano giving it a chamber pop flavor. The song uses nursery rhyme characters to make cynical and bitter observations about contemporary life. It is a bit heavy-handed for my taste but he certainly lands a lot of punches. It is followed by 13 minutes and 15 seconds of "When In Rome" in which Ochs takes a sociopath on a journey through the decadence of contemporary American society which is pointedly compared to the fall of the Roman Empire. It is a grim song but Ochs' vivid imagery and poetic language make it really compelling. It is just the man and his guitar but I find the song completely gripping. Ochs follows this hellish song with the sweet chamber pop of "Floods of Florence." The song appears to be about the transience and fragility of art and mentions the silent film director D. W. Griffith which surely must be a rock first. Ochs would learn about the transience of art first hand in a few years when his career would go into a nosedive, but fortunately for those of us who admire him, his work would grow in stature after his tragic death. This marvelous album really captures the 1960s for me. What I find interesting about it, is the dynamic between the anger and turmoil in the lyrics and the beauty and lyricism of the music. In contrast to other 1960s politically charged albums like "Volunteers" or "Kick Out The Jams" where the music is loud and abrasive, this album is almost soothing in its sound. The other thing I find impressive about it, is that although on the surface Ochs expresses anger and anguish about the state of the world, his basic decency, idealism and patriotism is always evident beneath the surface. The man clearly loved America and what it is supposed to represent. Recommended for people who think that there is more to patriotism than waving a flag and blindly following leaders.
Saturday, September 1, 2012
30 Nostalgia Hits
I know the Beatles and their heirs are as rich as Croesus and probably don't give a damn, but it is amazing how poorly the Beatles catalog is being exploited. How is it possible that "Sgt. Pepper" is not available on vinyl or any other original Beatles album besides "Abbey Road" for that matter? The Ventures and Dick Dale currently have more vinyl in print than the greatest band in the history of the universe. Have they seen what used Beatles vinyl is going for nowadays? These guys should take lessons from the Jimi Hendrix estate, that bunch could squeeze blood from a turnip. Put me in charge Sir Paul, I'll fix that for you speedy quick. My first act would be to reissue the entire catalog on vinyl using the original art work and Parlophone sequencing and in mono editions as well when applicable. I'd issue "Let It Be" in the Glyn Johns mix and sequencing and I'd put out bonus LPs of the best outtakes from those sessions. I'd issue all the BBC sessions in their entirety. I'd reissue "The Beatles Christmas Album." I'd issue the Hollywood Bowl concerts in their entirety, not cherry picking through them like Capitol did. I'd put out a bunch of other concerts as well, certainly all the ones that have decent sound as well as the historic ones like Shea Stadium and Candlestick Park. I'd put out the Kinfauns demos and the Decca audition tape. I'd issue DVDs of the Shea concert and "Let It Be." I'd even release the Saturday morning Beatles cartoon series. In short I would put the bootleggers out of business and Beatlemaniacs would not have to rely on crummy bootlegs like this to get their fix. Actually by bootleg standards this isn't all that crummy. It is a two record set generously filled with tunes (29 not 30 as advertised) and it is a decent pressing from good sources. Record one is the 1964 Hollywood Bowl concert. It runs without interruption and includes the stage patter which is how I recognize what it is, since the record has no notes aside from the song listings. You can hear some of the same patter on the official Capitol release of "The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl." This doesn't sound nearly as good as the Capitol version, but it is not bad and at least the whole show is here. The set list is: "Twist and Shout," "You Can't Do That," "All My Loving," "She Loves You," "Things We Said Today," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Can't Buy Me Love," "If I Fell," "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Boys," "A Hard Day's Night" and "Long Tall Sally." It is a tremendously exciting performance, I wish I could have been there. This concert alone justifies this record's existence. Record two is more dubious. Side one and the last two tracks on side two are devoted to the Beatles' June 30, 1966 concert in Tokyo. The entire concert is included except for "Nowhere Man" for some reason, that's probably the missing 30th song. This concert is well-known among Beatlemaniacs as it has been heavily bootlegged. It was recorded for broadcast by Japanese television so it has really good sound quality and there isn't a lot of screaming since apparently the Japanese crowd was too polite to scream a lot during the songs. The concert has a bad reputation among Beatle buffs because the Beatles perform rather sloppily although I believe most of the songs sound okay although Harrison's vocal and the guitar solo on "If I Needed Someone" are laughably poor. Personally I prefer the Tokyo show from July 1, 1966 which also was professionally recorded, I think that performance is a little better even though Lennon forgets the words to "Nowhere Man." Regardless, there aren't many quality tapes of the 1966 tour so I still think this is pretty special. The set list is "Rock and Roll Music," "She's A Woman," "If I Needed Someone," "Day Tripper," "Baby's In Black," "I Feel Fine," "Yesterday," "I Wanna Be Your Man," "Paperback Writer" and "I'm Down." The record is fleshed out with some miscellaneous unsourced songs. "Ain't She Sweet" appears to be the version from the Tony Sheridan session which was released on Polydor. I don't think it is particularly rare, I don't know why it would be bootlegged. "P. S. I Love You," "There's A Place," and "Misery" appear to be pirated off the Beatles' debut album which is both heinous and stupid. "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" appears to be the 1965 BBC session for "The Beatles (Invite You To Take A Ticket to Ride.)" It is a smoking hot version that is arguably better than the version on "Help!". "This Boy" and "From Me To You" are from the band's second appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. This is obviously still stealing, but at least it is useful stealing, ha-ha. I'm not going to defend a bootleg especially one that pirates legitimate releases, but until the Beatles put out some of this stuff themselves, fans are going to want this stuff in some format. The Hollywood Bowl concert is an essential recording and the Tokyo one is worthwhile too. You can find them on better bootlegs though. I see this one selling for a ridiculous amount sometimes and it just isn't worth it. Recommended to idle executives at Apple looking for a reissue project, I mean really is it so hard to find something to do?
Post Script: I guess the Apple boys were reading my blog, because a few weeks after my screed, they announced the release dates for the vinyl reissues of the Beatles catalog. I know that these records have been in the works for ages, I'm glad it just took a little push from me to get them finally finished, ha-ha. I don't really need them, but I'm glad they are coming out and I may pick up a couple at some point to see if they really sound any better than the originals, but I'll probably just wait for the mono versions which will supposedly be coming out next year.