Friday, July 31, 2015

The Nice: "Fillmore East, 1969"

I was excited to find about this one when it came out. I really enjoyed the live material across three of their five albums, feeling that they were so much better live than in the studio. At least from what I've heard...I can only wish I'd been there!

It's a two-disc set, a composite of two shows from the Fillmore East, newly remixed from the original multi-track tapes, and the sound is nothing short of amazing. When I would listen to Elegy and Five Bidges, I was amazed at Brian Davison's drum sounds, but even more astonished to later find out that he was playing a small jazz-type kit. How did he get such a big sound out of such a small kit?

One interesting thing about this entire set is that Keith Emerson plays the Hammond L-100 all the way through (save for the opening of the "Five Bridges Suite") and that includes "Hang Onto A Dream", which was always played on the piano. The only aspect missing would be the sight of Keith bucking the organ across the stage, playing it from the rear, dragging a thumbnail across the spring-reverb on the bottom, and slamming it down on the stage, getting all kinds of feedback and weird noises from his battered Hammond.

A great companion to their small but fascinating discography, and a nice overview of their work, whether you've heard it or not.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Steve Miller Band: "Extended Versions" (2002)

I found this one at K-Mart in the summer of 2003, in the $4.99 section. I'd never seen it before, and it didn't really say when or where it was recoded, but the tracklisting on the back was more than interesting, so it went into the shopping basket, alongside the potato chips, socks and cat food.

Once at home, I slid it into the CD player in the living room, and turned up the volume. It kicked off with "The Joker", moving onto "Fly Like An Eagle", and then going on to some pretty cookin' versions of "Living In The USA" and "You Cash Ain't Nothin' But Trash". At the end of the set, Steve introduced the members of the band, which I immediately recognized from being around the 1976 period, so I knew I'd picked up a good one.

Actually, it was a composite of a 2-CD live set that I'd seen floating around, from two different shows, including a 1973 show from Washington D.C., when they were a compact 4-piece band, with Steve being the only guitarist in the band. On my next trip to Circuit City, I found that, and added that one to the collection.

Some of those CD's in the Extended Collection series are actually pretty good, despite the cheesiness of their presentation. This is a good one to start with, and should be pretty easy to find.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

THE MOODY BLUES: "This Is The Moody Blues" (1974)

I found a second-hand CD copy of this at Hi-Voltage last week, and it's been spinning in the Discman more than a few times since then. To be honest, this is the first time I'd really ever played it the whole way through. I'd had my favorites on it, but I wanted to give it a good listen, now that I had it on CD. Very cool re-examination of their works from seven albums, with vastly different mixes and cross-fades between them. I love the more well-known hits on this, but I have since added "The Actor", "New Horizons" and "Dear Diary" among my favorites.

A damn shame that it hasn't been properly remastered and re-released, but it still sounds pretty good for being a CD mastered in the late '80s. I'm still partial to the album copy, with the swirling "fireball" Threshold label to stare at while playing the albums (the way I fist heard it), though I do have what seems to be the first pressing, with the original white labels, featuring the smaller Threshold logo at the top.

Monday, July 20, 2015

E.L.P.: 3-LP

Found the 2-CD copy of this at Hi-Voltage on 6th Avenue. It's been a number of years since I've played it, although I've had the vinyl copy of this behemoth since the 4th grade. I really only played it occasionally, mostly due to disappointment with the sound/recording quality. It always sounded to me like the recording mikes were standing at the back of the hall, hollow and echoey, sometimes catching the Moog sounds flying around in Quadraphonic sound.

Speaking of which, this album was released on Quadraphonic 8-track (a three-tape set). I'll bet that sounded pretty cool on a Quad system!

It's good, but as a whole, did we really need full renditions of "Tarkus" and Karn Evil 9"? Had they put this out a year or two prior, they would have had a more interesting range of stuff, and maybe across only two albums instead of three. The sound quality was not improved, even with a remastering job on this. I think I'll reach for Pictures At An Exhibition and the live set from the Mar Y Sol Festival when I wanna crank something by these guys.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pete Townshend: "Scoop" (1983)

I actually heard the second volume, Another Scoop, back in 1989. My Dad got the cassette copy of it from the library. As I was hearing it (and not knowing about the first volume, let alone the overall concept of these collections), I didn't understand the concept of it. I thought Pete was re-recording the songs on his own to his liking, or had re-mixed the songs, leaving only his voice and guitars...or something like that!

Flash forward ten years later, and having become a born-again Who fanatic for the past few years, I found this 2-CD bootleg collection of demos for Lifehouse (Who's Next) and Quadrophenia. I found it interesting that not only did Pete write all of these songs, but played all of the instruments on them as well...and very well, I might add! It was fascinating to hear how he originally constructed the songs; "Bargain" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" were both done at a kind of medium tempo, but when the songs got into Keith Moon's hands, he kicked them up a few notches, tempo-wise.

After my 23rd birthday, at 2nd Time Around, I found sealed cassette copies of the two Scoop collections. I snapped them right up, and couldn't wait to play them. I was completely floored by the range of songs, playing and recording of the songs on the first much so that I played this cassette virtually nonstop for about three months in my Walkman whenever I went out anywhere. Songs like "Mary" and "You Came Back" would have sounded quite interesting had the Who done them on any of the albums.

The second volume had some brilliant moments, but had tendencies to go off into synthesizer-driven territory that didn't really hold my attention. There was a third volume, called Scoop 3, but I never did get around to picking that one up. I did, however, find Lifehouse Elements, a sort of sampler from the 6-CD boxed set that Pete had put out of a radio play, plus tons of home demos from that period. It was nice to hear them in their intended form, not bootlegged from scratchy old acetate discs, sometimes at the wrong speed.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

U.K.: "Night After Night" (1979), and more

Ever since hearing UK's Night After Night album in April of 1994, I had always wondered what the other songs from Danger Money (namely, the longer songs) sounded like played live. I used to buy and find stuff through collectors' magazines, such as Goldmine and DISCoveries, where one could find bootlegs in the right places by just about anybody, but I never saw anything from UK in any of the listings.

I did eventually find one CD at Borders in May of 1999, but it was really confusing. It had pictures of the guys in the band on the front, but they were recent shots (this was when the original band was said to be reuniting, but it never really happened), and some of the songs on it were from Danger Money. I bought the CD, and found out that it was indeed a live show, but from 1978, and songs such as "The Only Thing She Needs" and "Carrying No Cross" were test-driven by the original 4-piece band. But Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth sounded bored and unconvinced of the new material (as well as everything else) on this recording. It was interesting to hear, but I was still anxious to hear any additional live material by the 3-piece lineup.

In 2015, two things happened. First, I discovered a live show from 1979 on YouTube, from Oakland, when they were supporting Jethro Tull in the fall of 1979. It was an audience recording, about 52 minutes long, and although it didn't have all the songs I was longing to hear, this was an interesting companion to their live album. Plus, it had one "new" song on it, called "Waiting For You".

After a lot of searching (and getting nowhere most of the time), I FINALLY came across some links to some live recordings from various locations on the 1979 tours: the US tour in the spring of 1979, and the final European tour just before winter of that year. Not only were there full shows to downloaad, they were free, and they also sounded great (some more than others).

This one comes from Paris, February 11th, 1979. It goes under the titles Parisian Rendezvous, Paris Incident, Paris Master, and Three Court Musicians, among others (pick your favorite). A stereo soundboard recording, in pristine sound quality. This is one of the band's first show as a trio, if not the first show they did as just the three guys. And--wow!--is it intense! Terry Bozzio does nothing short of shredding for the whole 90 minutes. He and Eddie Jobson had been together in Frank Zappa's band for a time a few years prior to this, and Frank's influence on them shows in the music and their playing. Live versions of "Danger Money" and "Carrying No Cross" most definitely did not disappoint!

This one is from the Philadelphia Spectrum, March 1979. Great show, well played, although the sounds is not the best. I think this one may have even been from a radio broadcast of the show.

Also in the "not great recording" category is a show from the New York Palladium, under the title Amnesia, but it is a complete show.

And now onto the European tour shows. They had dropped "Carrying No Cross", but kept "Danger Money" (minus the intro), and when they did "Alaska", they went straight into "Nothing To Lose"; kind of a strange and jarring transition, but it worked. This one is from Hamburg, December 1979. After the first two songs, the crowd shouts at the band "It's too loud! Turn it down!", something I've never heard any crowd do on a live recording, official or otherwise!

Stockholm. Getting toward the end of the line, for the tour and the band itself. Another great show. The sound quality is not great in the first half, but eventually gets better as it goes along. Wetton's bass solo is pretty darned intense on this one. After the show, there is a brief but interesting backstage interview with Wetton, and then Jobson. Wetton tells of how and why Bruford and Holdsworth were ejected from the band, what the band's future plans were, and Jobson explains that Night After Night was originally intended to be a Japan-only release.

The final show in Nijmegen, Vienna (no, I've never heard of it, either!), on December 17th, 1979. The sound is a little better than its predecessor, in front of a happy and enthusiastic audience. It was the last show of the European tour, but they were still going strong, no tiredness to my ears, although Wetton's voice does sound a little dried out here and there. And...that was it. The end.

Although this was not included in the cluster of free downloads, I am still intrigued by the thought of all of their Japanese shows (in their entirety), some of which were recorded for their live album. Five shows in all. Very tempting...very tempting...stay tuned!