Monday, February 27, 2017

INXS B-sides and rarities 1980 - 2012

As an adjunct to my INXS rarity reviews page, I’ve put together a YouTube playlist of even more obscure INXS songs, spanning their entire recording career from their first single in 1980 to their apparent last recording in 2012. Most of these songs were B-sides to the band’s singles. The surprising thing is that many of these songs did not feature their late frontman Michael Hutchence – not necessarily because they were recorded after his death, because 32 of these 37 tracks were recorded before Hutchence’s 1997 passing. Many of INXS’ little-known B-sides were written, produced, and performed by one member of the band. Some were instrumentals, while others featured vocals by band members who usually did not sing the lead.

Beneath the embedded playlist below, I’ve written short explanations for each track. I hope you enjoy this playlist as much as I do.

1. Simple Simon (1980) -- The A-side of the first INXS single, released in Australia the same year as the band's self-titled debut album (which did not include this single's two tracks). It has the sort of Joe Jackson-like new wave sound that dominated that album. It’s a good, fast-moving song to start off a recording career with.

2. We Are The Vegetables (1980) -- The B-side to "Simple Simon". A decent two-minute hard rock song infused with the punk attitude.

3. Scratch (1980) -- The B-side to the single "Just Keep Walking". An adequate song that would have fit in well on the first album.

4. Lacavocal (1981) -- The B-side of the 1981 Australian single "Stay Young" is a mellow electronic instrumental version of that song. A good piece of experimentation.

5. The Loved One (1981) -- The A-side of another early non-LP single. Remake of a 1966 song by the Loved Ones, which INXS later remade again on the 1987 Kick album. Not exactly as primitive as the Loved Ones' original, but not as posh as the Kick version.

6. The Unloved One (1981) -- Pointlessly strange, jazzy instrumental B-side to "The Loved One". It doesn't go anywhere.

7. Prehistoria (1981) -- The B-side of the "Underneath The Colours" single. A better, more atmospheric instrumental experiment.

8. Phantim Of The Opera (1982) -- One of two B-side tracks for the single "The One Thing". Written and produced by Tim Farris, the track places recordings of film dialogue and operatic voices on top of a languid instrumental groove.

9. Space Shuttle (1982) -- The other B-side track from "The One Thing", an odd Talking Heads-like recording. Andrew Farris is rumored to have contributed some vocals to the track; there is also a female present.

10. Go West (1982) -- The B-side of the Australian "Don't Change" single. Not the Village People song, but a fairly straightforward rock ballad that is unlike most other INXS songs.

11. The Sax Thing (1983) -- A B-side for the single "To Look At You". An old-fashioned jazz instrumental written and produced by Kirk Pengilly. Good stuff, though not very INXS-like.

12. You Never Used To Cry (1983) -- Written, produced and sung by drummer Jon Farris, this song appeared on an Australian limited-edition two-single set with "To Look At You". It's an oddball doo-wop number, apparently recorded with no other instruments besides drums. This song was used in the 1984 film No Small Affair, which was the film debut of actor Jon Cryer.

13. Long In Tooth (1982) -- B-side of the U.S. "Don't Change" single. A mellow synth-pop song with a xylophone.

14. Any Day But Sunday (1983) -- Another song written by Tim Farris, who also talk-sang it. A wispy dance-club number, nothing more. This was also used in the movie No Small Affair.

15. Mechanical (1984) -- B-side for the single "I Send A Message". A pointless synth-pop experiment, "mechanical" indeed.

16. The Harbour (1984) -- The B-side of "Dancing On The Jetty". An ambient piece with Eastern-style instrumentation and sea sound effects. Very unusual for INXS, but it's nice and serene.

17. Merry Christmas (1984) -- A fan-club-only 7-inch single, sung by Kirk Pengilly. A very '80's holiday song, with electronic bells and slickly produced guitar strumming.

18. I'm Over You (1985) -- B-side to "This Time". Likable enough mid-tempo synth-pop.

19. Six Knots (1986) -- On the B-side of "Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)". A one-minute trifle, written, produced, and sung by Kirk Pengilly.

20. Begotten (1986) -- A jazz instrumental number, written and performed by Pengilly. Pleasant and relaxing.

21. I'm Coming Home (1987) -- B-side of "Need You Tonight". Amusing dance club track composed by Tim Farriss, who presumably provides the filtered diabolical talk-singing.

22. On The Rocks (1987) -- B-side of "Devil Inside". Another likable jazz instrumental from Pengilly.

23. Move On (1987) -- B-side track on the U.S. 12-inch single and Japanese CD-single "Never Tear Us Apart". A good Hutchence-sung track that would have fit in well on Kick or X.

24. Everybody Wants U Tonight (1990) -- B-side of "Suicide Blonde". Five minutes of electronic noodling and doodling. It sounds more like Hutchence's 1989 Max Q side project than like INXS.

25. Soothe Me (1990) -- B-side of "Bitter Tears". A fun song sung by Andrew Farriss, who sounds like he's mimicking Hutchence.

26. The Other Side (1990) -- B-side of "By My Side" and the "Bitter Tears" CD single. Sort of an electronic classical instrumental by Kirk Pengilly, dominated by an organ sound.

27. It Ain't Easy (1992) -- B-side track from "Heaven Sent" CD-single. A slinky track co-sung by Hutchence and Andrew Farriss.

28. 11th Revolution (1992) -- B-side track from "Heaven Sent" CD-single. A decent hard-rock instrumental.

29. Deepest Red (1992) -- B-side track from "Heaven Sent" and "Not Enough Time" CD-singles. An album-worthy Hutchence-sung track.

30. Ptar Speaks (1992) -- B-side track from U.K. "Baby Don't Cry" CD-single. A bizarre semi-instrumental creation by Kirk Pengilly.

31. Questions (Instrumental) (1992) -- B-side of "Baby Don't Cry". Longish instrumental version of the short lead-off track from Welcome To Wherever You Are. Good track with a noticeably Eastern influence.

32. Firma Terror (1992) -- B-side track from the U.S. "Not Enough Time" CD single. Sung by bassist Garry Gary Beers, it's the type of tense social commentary that the Clash might have recorded if they were still around in '92.

33. I Get Up (2003) -- A-side of an Australian single, the only studio recording INXS made with singer Jon Stevens (formerly of Noiseworks), who was the first official INXS lead singer after Michael Hutchence's death in 1997. It's an enjoyable song that resembles something from the Listen Like Thieves era. Stevens sang it the same basic way Hutchence probably would have, although he was not an exact soundalike.

34. Easy Easy (2005) -- Sung by JD Fortune, who became the lead singer of INXS after winning on the TV reality show Rock Star: INXS. At the end of the series' final episode, the song "Easy Easy" was introduced as the intended first single from the upcoming album. However, "Easy Easy" never appeared as a single, or even as a track on the subsequent Switch album! It's hard to figure why, because the song has an authentic INXS groove, and Fortune's lead vocal uncannily recalls Hutchence.

35. Let's Ride (2005) -- Another song sung by JD Fortune. It is not included on most versions of the Switch album, but is available on iTunes as a bonus track. This one recalls the X album era, although Fortune's mimicry of Hutchence is less obvious this time. (This track is not to be confused with "Let It Ride", from the 2004 EP Bang The Drum).

36. Tiny Summer (2012) -- During their final 14 months in 2011 and 2012, INXS replaced Fortune with a Northern Irish singer named Ciaran Gribbin, who has also collaborated with Madonna and Snow Patrol. Gribbin had hoped to record new material with INXS, but the band unexpectedly called it quits in November 2012. This demo suggested a U2-like musical direction; Gribbin's vocals resemble Bono's more than Hutchence's.

37. We Are United (live) (2012) -- The only INXS song recorded with Ciaran Gribbin, and possibly their recording swan song. It was written by Gribbin and Andrew Farriss to celebrate Australia Day. It was available by download only on iTunes Australia and the Petrol Electric website. Gribbin proved to be a likable frontman; in this live performance video, he comes on a bit like JD Fortune!

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Feelies "Uncovered" (2016 Record Store Day EP)

The Feelies are about to release a new album on February 24th, titled In Between, on Bar/None Records. This is certainly big news for followers of the New Jersey indie-rock band, whose albums are few and far between. In Between is only the sixth full-length Feelies album to be released since 1980 (the year of their debut LP Crazy Rhythms), and it is their first album in six years, since they issued Here Before in 2011 – after a two-decade hiatus.

Although it has been six years since their last full-length album, the Feelies did issue a four-song EP titled Uncovered for Record Store Day 2016. Limited to 1,200 copies, the 12-inch, 45 rpm vinyl EP contained covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Doors, and Patti Smith. It’s a decent little record that delivers exactly what it promises, rendering the four covered songs through the Feelies’ guitar-based garage rock sensibilities. Glenn Mercer’s vocals sound less restrained on this EP than on most Feelies album tracks, suggesting that playing the songs of his influences tends to bring out his more intense side.

The EP begins with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Seven Days”, which has the kind of guitar jangle that the Byrds might have given to the song – that is, if the Byrds had recorded a rendition of the song in a garage. The cover of Neil Young’s “Barstool Blues” is appropriately raw and ragged, with instrumentation that owes as much to the Velvet Underground as it does to Crazy Horse. Their rendition of the Doors’ “Take It As It Comes” is somewhat faithful to the original, except that it substitutes the usual Feelies second guitar in place of the original’s keyboards. The best of the four tracks is the cover of Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot”, sung by bassist Brenda Sauter. Although Sauter’s vocals do not quite have the same haunting quality as Smith’s did on the original, this version has a power of its own, boosted further by a couple of Neil Young-like guitar bursts.

Notes: Although none of these four tracks were available commercially before they were issued on Uncovered, two of them did show up decades earlier on rare discs. “Dancing Barefoot” was on the B-side of the 1988 12-inch promo single “Away” (where Glenn Mercer was credited as the songwriter!), and on a flexi-disc included with Issue #35 of The BOB magazine. “Barstool Blues” appeared on a French two-song promo CD-single in 1990, and on the 12-inch promo single “Doin’ It Again” in 1991.

The Feelies - Uncovered

The Feelies “Uncovered” EP (Bar/None / Coyote BAR-LP-240) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Seven Days (Bob Dylan)
2. Take It As It Comes (The Doors)
3. Dancing Barefoot (Smith/Kral)
4. Barstool Blues (Neil Young)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Andrew Ridgeley “Son Of Albert” (1990)

Sadly, December 25th of 2016 truly was the “Last Christmas” for George Michael. One of many pop icons who passed away that year, Michael was found dead in his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day at the age of 53. As of this writing, the cause of his death has still not been officially determined. Michael was one of Britain’s biggest music stars, achieving tremendous success as a solo performer and as one-half of Wham!, an '80's pop duo he formed with his former schoolmate Andrew Ridgeley.

And what ever happened to Andrew Ridgeley? After the breakup of Wham! in 1986, Ridgeley recorded only one solo album, titled Son Of Albert, in 1990. The album was a flop, and Ridgeley left the music business shortly after. There were rumors about a possible Wham! reunion during the years just before Michael's passing, but it never happened.

The Son Of Albert album suggests that Ridgeley would rather have been part of Def Leppard or Poison. Its sound is very un-Wham!-like, having more in common with the type of ‘80’s pop-metal that was still popular that year. By turns, Ridgeley’s vocals resembled those of Joe Elliot and Bret Michaels, and the album’s guitar sound was big and loud. Despite the huge successes that Ridgeley's former partner-in-pop had achieved at the time, there was no clear-cut audience to market this album to: its hard-rock sound was not likely to appeal to fans of Wham! or of George Michael, and fans of this type of hard rock probably had no interest due to Ridgeley’s past association.

If Ridgeley had hoped to live down his pretty-boy pop star image and convince the world that he was actually a macho hard-rocker at heart, then he had his work cut out for him, and on Son Of Albert, he didn’t cut it by a long shot. For a guy who wrote and sang head-bangin’ songs about sexy women and fast cars, Ridgeley sounds rather wimpy here, struggling with a weak singing voice that is usually drowned out by loud instrumentation and slick production. The opening track “Red Dress” features George Michael as a guest vocalist, but his presence adds nothing to a song that sounds mainly like a Def Leppard reject. And that sets the formula for most of the album’s other tracks. On “Flame”, Ridgeley attempts a sexy glam-rock vocal, and it might have worked if he wasn’t smothered in so much noisy instrumentation. “Kiss Me” is the worst of the bunch, resembling something lifted out of Poison’s dumpster. Ridgeley fares a bit better with “Mexico”, a Van Halen-like cruncher with an unexpected Latin-dance coda, and a confident Def Lep-flavored cover of the Everly Brothers’ “The Price Of Love”. The not-too-poppy ballad “Baby Jane” is a nice change of pace, but it wants better singing.

Is there anything at all here that might appeal to fans of Wham!? It’s not likely. The cover of Chic’s “Hangin’” is about as dance-poppy as the album gets, but even that track has a sludgy hard-rock sound that renders it unappealing. “Big Machine” is a slightly better pop-song-with-a-metal-edge. The six-minute “Hardcore” version of “Shake” is a dull and repetitive club mix of the album’s ineffectual second track, the sort of thing you’d expect to find on the B-side of a 12-inch single.

Son Of Albert is interesting as an example of a solo album by a recording artist who tried something boldly different from what made him famous, but as a musical work, it’s expendable.

Andrew Ridgeley - Son of Albert

Andrew Ridgeley “Son Of Albert” (Columbia CK 46188) 1990

Track Listing:

1. Red Dress
2. Shake
3. The Price Of Love
4. Flame
5. Hangin’
6. Mexico
7. Big Machine
8. Kiss Me
9. Baby Jane
10. Shake (Hardcore)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Orion The Hunter (1984)

Orion The Hunter was a short-lived band led by Barry Goudreau, who was an original guitarist for Boston. Their only album was the self-titled Orion The Hunter, released in 1984. Boston lead singer Brad Delp sings background vocals on three of the tracks (“All Those Years”, “Stand Up”, and “Joanne”), and had a hand in co-writing five, but you would think his role was bigger than that. Orion’s lead singer was Fran Cosmo, who sounded similar to Delp, but with a higher vocal range. Cosmo had previously sung on Goudreau’s self-titled 1980 solo album, and later joined Boston’s lineup, performing on the albums Walk On (1994) and Corporate America (2002). The quartet was rounded out by bassist Bruce Smith and former Heart drummer Michael De Rosier.

Orion The Hunter was cut from the same cloth as the aforementioned solo album by Goudreau, which sounded so Boston-like that it was hard to believe Tom Scholz was not involved with it. Orion The Hunter is just a shade less Boston-like than that album, with a tad less technical sophistication than the better-known band but with no less musical skill on display, offering melodic arena-rock that is nearly equal to that of the first two Boston albums. Goudreau produced the album, and co-wrote eight of the nine songs with Cosmo. “So You Ran” has the most immediate pop appeal, and was a minor radio hit, but “All Those Years”, “Dreamin’”, and the power pop number “Too Much In Love” are almost as good. “Stand Up” has a Jefferson Starship feel, with phasing and sound effects; “Fast Talk” uses some effects as well, but has plenty of hard rock energy. “Dark And Stormy” resembles too much of its decade’s pop-metal, but “Joanne” is a better ballad, co-written and co-sung by Cosmo and Delp. The excited “I Call It Love” gives the album a strong finish.

Any fan of Boston who has not acquired Orion The Hunter is advised to search it out. If you’ve ever wished that an additional Boston album had been recorded during the stretch between Don’t Look Back (1978) and Third Stage (1986), then Orion The Hunter is the second-closest thing you’ll find besides Goudreau’s solo album.

Orion the Hunter - Orion the Hunter

Orion The Hunter “Orion The Hunter” (Portrait BFR 39239) 1984

Track Listing:

1. All Those Years – (Goudreau/Migliacco/Delp)
2. So You Ran – (Goudreau/Migliacco)
3. Dreamin’ – (Goudreau/Migliacco)
4. Dark And Stormy – (Goudreau/Migliacco)
5. Stand Up – (Goudreau/Migliacco)
6. Fast Talk – (Goudreau/Migliacco/Delp/Percy)
7. Too Much In Love – (Goudreau/Migliacco/Delp)
8. Joanne – (Migliacco/Delp/Smith)
9. I Call It Love – (Goudreau/Migliacco/Delp)

See also RTZ (Return To Zero) .

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Distractions “And Then There’s…” EP (1981)

Great news for the lucky few of us who know of the existence of the Distractions, the Manchester band who recorded only one album in 1980, titled Nobody’s Perfect, before disbanding and being unjustly forgotten. Those of us in the know are aware that the Distractions – led by original singer Mike Finney and original guitarist Steve Perrin – eventually reunited and released a second album titled The End Of The Pier in 2012 – a whole 32 years after their long-lost treasure of a debut album. Now, a third and reportedly final Distractions album – titled Kindly Leave The Stage – has been completed, and is scheduled for release this spring. Also, a much-delayed box set titled Parabolically Yours – which hopefully will contain the tracks from the Nobody’s Perfect album – is now scheduled to be released this summer by the U.K. Hidden Masters label.

After the Nobody’s Perfect album proved to be a commercial failure in 1980, the Distractions were dropped from Island Records, reportedly in favor of a promising young Irish quartet called U2. Original guitarist Steve Perrin left the band, and was replaced by ex-Ludus guitarist Arthur Kadmon. The Distractions were on their last legs, but they did record one more EP titled And Then There’s… This 3-song, 7-inch EP was distributed independently by Rough Trade in 1981.

On this EP, hints of ska and reggae were added to the Distractions' brand of ‘60’s-influenced pop. The guitar and drums exude island-style rhythms, as do the horns on the Kadmon-penned “Ghost Of A Chance”. Although the songs are still not exactly uplifting, they have a less melancholy tone than the songs on the album, with slightly quicker tempos and less sadness suggested in Mike Finney’s vocals. In fact, it’s hard to tell for sure if “Love Is Not For Me” is meant to be sad or funny, as it takes the point of view of a man afraid to enter into a relationship for fear of experiencing real emotions. “Ghost Of A Chance” describes a fear of rejection without sounding quite as hopeless as its lyrics. And the A-side track, “Twenty Four Hours”, actually sounds quite hopeful, if not necessarily confident, that romance may be in store for its main character. How would a full-length album by this Distractions lineup have turned out? Alas, we shall never know.

The Distractions - And Then There's

Distractions “And Then There’s…” EP (Rough Trade THAT1) 1981

Track Listing:

A. Twenty Four Hours
B1. Ghost Of A Chance
B2. Love Is Not For Me

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Third Man Records vinyl Vault exclusives, Part 30

The 30th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in December of 2016. For those who are unaware, Third Man Records is the label owned by Jack White, who is the leader of the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, and is now a solo artist as well. The Vault service promises to deliver exclusive vinyl-only records (one full-length album and one 7” single) to its Platinum members every three months.

The thirtieth Vault package was designed to touch on all four of White’s well-known musical outlets. Packaged together in a thick yellow box, it contained two LP’s instead of one: a live album by the Raconteurs, and another live album partially featuring the Dead Weather. The single in this package contained a White Stripes song on one side, and a Jack White solo track on the other.

The Raconteurs LP Live At Irving Plaza NYC documents the very first U.S. live show from the Racs. (This LP was pressed in clear vinyl with brown streaks, making it look like it was once dropped in a mud puddle). It was recorded in April 2006, about one month before the release of the band's debut album Broken Boy Soldiers. Although the Raconteurs were a brand new band at the time of this concert, they don’t really sound like one here; after all, these musicians had already known each other for years. Dual singer-songwriter-guitarists White and Brendan Benson are nearly indistinguishable from each other as they take lead vocal turns. The other two Raconteurs, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler, had worked together for years in the Greenhornes. Joining them for this show was future Dead Weather-man Dean Fertita, playing keyboards and additional guitar. They already sounded like a well-rehearsed outfit, as they played 9 out of 10 songs from the debut album. Except for the ballad “Together”, the rest of the band’s power-pop-with-bits-of-psychedelia rocked pretty hard in this setting. The hit-bound “Steady, As She Goes” is noticeably grittier than the studio version. The jamming gets intense on “Store Bought Bones” and “Broken Boy Soldier”. Their psychobilly rendition of Love’s “A House Is Not A Motel” has a ferocity that is more reminiscent of Arthur Lee’s post-Forever Changes work. The set closes with the “new” song “Five On The Five”, which turned up on the second studio album Consolers Of The Lonely; this track not only foreshadows the direction the Raconteurs would soon take, but also hints at the future Goth-rock sound of the Dead Weather. The Raconteurs may be old news to us at this point, but Live At Irving Plaza NYC manages to capture an exciting time and place when the world was about to be introduced to them.

Flash forward ten years, to April 2016. Live At Disgraceland, pressed in clear vinyl with blue streaks, features live performances that were filmed for, but only briefly appeared in, the October 2016 Nashville episode of the CNN program Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. (That would be Season 8, Episode 2, to be exact. It’s a very interesting episode, by the way, as the celebrity chef offers as many insights about Nashville’s music scene as he does about its eateries). “Disgraceland” is a nickname for the Nashville home of Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart, where these intimate house party performances took place. The LP starts with three songs by the Kills, Mosshart’s indie-rock duo with British guitarist Jamie Hince. This was a good setting for the Kills’ dark-hued minimalist rock, augmented with bass and drums. All three songs were drawn from the Kills' 2016 album Ash & Ice, which was released two months after this event. The third track, “Whirling Eye”, is the standout, taking on a Stooges-like intensity not heard on the studio version. Those three tracks were a good warmup for the next three, when Mosshart was joined by her Dead Weather mates (White, Lawrence, and Fertita) for a set that draws one song apiece from their three albums. This was the Dead Weather’s only performance in 2016, and they gave it their all, almost perfectly recreating their dark and fuzzy Goth-rock in Mosshart's living room. I don't know what time this house party took place, but the first side of this LP is best enjoyed late at night. On the LP’s second side, we get something completely different: three alt-country instrumental performances by William Tyler, the guitarist who has played with Lambchop and Silver Jews, and now records all-instrumental solo albums. Tyler and three other musicians offer richly-textured electric country rock that is certainly modern, but sounds far removed from the slickness of contemporary commercial country music. On their last track, “Area Code 601”, Tyler and company jam like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but with the constant presence of pedal steel to remind us of what genre we are listening to. Live At Disgraceland illustrates the point made by Bourdain on his program that Nashville is now a musical melting pot for rock and punk as well as country.

The 7-inch single, pressed in clear transparent vinyl with red streaks, contained two tracks that are available on Jack White’s compilation CD Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016. Both songs sound good on vinyl. The White Stripes song “City Lights” is a finished outtake from the 2005 Get Behind Me Satan sessions. It’s a gentle and touching folk-rock ballad about the longing to reunite with a loved one, with Meg White playing with shakers instead of drums. The acoustic mix of Jack White’s solo song “Love Is The Truth” –- which he originally recorded for a 2006 Coca-Cola commercial that only aired once –- is a short-and-sweet pop song with a simple, uplifting love-thy-neighbor message. I think I’ll go out and buy a Coke!

The bonus items in this package are a Third Man silk-screened yellow pennant, and a print of the Rob Jones-designed concert poster from the Raconteurs show, depicting Teddy Roosevelt with vampire fangs.

A note for fellow vinyl aficionados: the practice of engraving text in the dead wax, or the runout grooves between the sticker and the last track’s grooves, is present on these items. The Raconteurs LP has “Forever Changes” and “converge afresh” carved in its respective sides; the Live At Disgraceland LP has “neither feather” and “nor blether” carved. The single has “leaky roof” carved in the White Stripes side, and “Oh evilest truth” carved in the Jack White side.

The Raconteurs “Live At Irving Plaza NYC” (Third Man TMR-415) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Level
2. Intimate Secretary
3. Hands
4. Steady, As She Goes
5. Together
6. A House Is Not A Motel
7. Store Bought Bones
8. Call It A Day
9. Yellow Sun
10. Broken Boy Soldier
11. Five On The Five

The Kills | The Dead Weather | William Tyler “Live At Disgraceland” (Third Man TMR-414) 2016

Track Listing:

1. HEART OF A DOG – The Kills
3. WHIRLING EYE – The Kills
5. GASOLINE – The Dead Weather
7. WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN – William Tyler
9. AREA CODE 601 – William Tyler

The White Stripes “City Lights” / Jack White “Love Is The Truth” (Third Man single TMR-400) 2016

a. The White Stripes – “City Lights”
aa. Jack White – “Love Is The Truth” (Acoustic Mix)

Monday, December 12, 2016

(We Three) Monkees "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" (1976 fan club single)

As noted in an earlier post, Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones of the Monkees attempted a full reunion of the original quartet in 1976, but Michael Nesmith declined, and Peter Tork's whereabouts were unknown. So Dolenz and Jones recorded and toured with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart that year instead. However, Tork did turn up by the end of 1976, and he helped record a Christmas fan club single with Dolenz and Jones, titled "Christmas Is My Time Of Year". The trio was unable to simply bill themselves as the Monkees, due to copyright issues, so they called themselves by their three individual names for this single. The single also reunited them with sometime Monkees producer Chip Douglas, who co-wrote the A-side with his fellow ex-Turtle Howard Kaylan.

The 1976 fan club issue came with no picture sleeve, and some promo copies had no B-side. “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” is a likably jovial three minutes of Yuletide cheer, with lyrics that celebrate the celebratory and family-friendly mood of the holiday season. Dolenz and Jones take turns on the lead vocals, surrounded by musical passages that echo “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World”. Tork played the organ; Douglas provided steel guitar and bass.

As for the copies that did have a B-side, that side featured Davy Jones softly crooning Irving Berlin's classic "White Christmas", gently accompanied by acoustic and steel guitar. Passable.

In 1986, another pressing of the single with both sides remixed was circulated by Chip Douglas at Monkees conventions, around the time of the 20-year anniversary reunion tour. This issue came with a picture sleeve, and billed the trio as "We Three Monkees". The remixed version of “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” had a more synthetic drum sound, which was fashionable in the mid-‘80’s; this version turned up on the 1988 Rhino compilation Cool Yule Volume 2. The remixed “White Christmas” is an improvement over the 1976 version, adding strings and a touch of piano.

So, did the Turtles ever record “Christmas Is My Time Of Year”? Not exactly, but the song was originally recorded and released on a 1968 single by a one-off Howard Kaylan side project called the Christmas Spirit. Kaylan’s collaborators reportedly included Douglas, Mark Volman, Linda Ronstadt, and Byrds-to-be Gram Parsons, Clarence White, and Gene Parsons. It’s difficult to find a complete and definite list of participants, but whoever was involved in this version, it is inferior to the eventual Monkees recording. The original lyrics are of a more personal nature, but otherwise, many of the same ingredients are present, including a country-based guitar sound. The snippets from “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy To The World” are delivered vocally here, instead of instrumentally, by Bessie Griffin & the Gospel Pearls. Unfortunately, this version is too hectic, with the song’s various ingredients (especially its countless vocal turns) put together in chaotic fashion. Douglas co-produced this version with Kaylan, but without the smooth professionalism that he would later bring to the Monkees’ version. (Note: This song was recently included on the 2016 Turtles compilation All The Singles).

Lastly, the B-side of that 1968 Christmas Spirit single was “Will You Still Believe In Me”. It was a mellow folk-rock ballad sung by Chip Douglas, with a harmony vocal by Linda Ronstadt. It was written by Bobby Kimmel, Ronstadt’s bandmate from the Stone Poneys. It’s imperfect but pleasant enough, with Douglas singing in a warm tenor. The vocal interaction between him and Ronstadt is not unlike that of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in the duets they would record a few years later. Therefore, it's possible that this session may have had an impact on Gram's musical development. Both songs from this once-rare Christmas Spirit single are currently available digitally as part of the 2004 compilation album Out Of Nowhere: The White Whale Story Volume 2.

Micky Dolenz / Davy Jones / Peter Tork - Christmas Is My Time of Year / White Christmas

Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-700) 1976

Track Listing:

a. "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" - Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork
b. "White Christmas" - Davy Jones

We Three Monkees...Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork "Christmas Is My Time Of Year" b/w "White Christmas" (single) (Christmas CDS-702) 1986

Track Listing:

a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. White Christmas

The Christmas Spirit - Christmas Is My Time of Year  / Will You Still Believe in Me

The Christmas Spirit “Christmas Is My Time Of Year” b/w “Will You Still Believe In Me” (White Whale WW 290) 1968

a. Christmas Is My Time Of Year
b. Will You Still Believe In Me

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Monkees "Good Times! Plus!" (2016 RSDBF EP)

Later the same year of the release of the Monkees reunion album Good Times!, a 10-inch vinyl EP titled Good Times! Plus! was released on Record Store Day Black Friday 2016. Pressed in red translucent vinyl and limited to 2,500 copies, the EP collected four tracks which previously appeared as bonus tracks on various editions of the full-length album.

The two tracks on Side One were bonus tracks on digital versions of the album, both produced by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne. "Terrifying", written by Zach Rogue of the indie-pop band Rogue Wave, is an innocent pop song sung by Micky Dolenz, about the scary feeling of being in love. Although Dolenz is now in his 70’s, he can still convincingly sing from the point of view of a man who is “feeling like a schoolboy”. Notably, this is the only song on the EP that all three surviving Monkees (Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith) played on.

"Me & Magdalena (Version 2)" is an alternate take of an album track written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. The version on the album is a gentle piano-based ballad sung by Nesmith and Dolenz. The version on this EP has a faster tempo and is propelled by a jangly guitar, giving it a more buoyant power-pop vibe. If the album version sounds like the Monkees doing Death Cab, Version 2 sounds more like the Monkees doing R.E.M.

On Side Two, the EP contains "A Better World", which appeared as a bonus track on the versions of the full-length CD sold at Barnes & Noble and FYE stores. Sung by Peter Tork and written by Nick Thorkelson (Tork’s graphic-artist brother), the ballad’s lyrics are reminiscent of ‘60’s protest songs. The laid-back string arrangement is also reminiscent of that time period, although the production (by Tork and Andrew Sandoval) gives the song a modern-enough feel.

Finally, Good Times! Plus! ends with "Love's What I Want", a bonus track from the Japanese CD as well as the Barnes & Noble version. Written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, and produced by Sandoval, this song resembles many of the classic Monkees hits that were sung by Dolenz, although (like “A Better World”) it does have serious overtones.

The Monkees - Good Times! Plus!

The Monkees “Good Times! Plus!” EP (Rhino R1 557113 ) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Terrifying
2. Me & Magdalena (Version 2)
3. A Better World
4. Love's What I Want