Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Alice In Chains "Live Facelift" (2016 Black Friday RSD EP)

Alice In Chains' Live Facelift is a six-song live EP recorded on December 22, 1990 at the Moore Theatre in Seattle, WA. This concert took place shortly after the release of the band’s 1990 debut album Facelift, and about one year before the enormous success of Nirvana and Pearl Jam turned Seattle grunge rock into a worldwide phenomenon. (In fact, the then-unknown Pearl Jam was actually the opening act at this gig, although their name at the time was Mookie Blaylock). Before it was released in this vinyl EP format on the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, limited to 5,000 numbered copies, Live Facelift had previously been issued in 1991 only as a VHS home video cassette, which is now out of print.

Although this concert recording holds major interest because of the presence of deceased frontman Layne Staley, Live Facelift is also a good showcase for the rest of the band. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell, original bassist Mike Starr (who also passed away, in 2011), and drummer Sean Kinney all show focused playing and chemistry throughout this set. Staley is also in mostly good form; there is little about his performance during this set (except for the lyrics of “Real Thing”) that suggests the way his drug addiction problem would soon degrade his ability to perform – not to mention that it would lead to his death in 2002.

The music of the Facelift studio album was a more straightforward type of Zeppelin-derived metal than the band would explore on its later works, and it was not a very far cry from the type of late-‘80’s hair-metal that grunge would soon displace. These live versions are faithful to the album originals, but are rawer in this setting. The sound quality of the recording is very good. The set opener “It Ain’t Like That” was omitted from the original VHS issue, but is included on the vinyl EP. It’s certainly not lacking in quality, as it showcases the band’s early chemistry just as well as the other tracks. “Man In The Box” – which has become the best known song from the Facelift album – was probably considered to be a better choice as an opening track for the home video presentation. Although all six of the songs are well-played by the band, “Sea Of Sorrow” is a particular standout, and “Bleed The Freak” is notably better than its studio version. In audio or visual form, Live Facelift is a telling snapshot of Alice In Chains performing in their early, hungry stage, just a few short years before drug problems would derail their career.

Notes on the VHS version: The concert is presented in black-and-white film. The video cassette also contains the official promo videos for the Facelift album’s three singles: “We Die Young”, “Man In The Box”, and “Sea Of Sorrow”.

Alice in Chains - Live Facelift

Alice In Chains “Live Facelift” VHS (SMV Enterprises 14V-49081) 1991

Songs Performed:

1. Man In The Box
2. Real Thing
3. Love, Hate, Love
4. Sea Of Sorrow
5. Bleed The Freak
6. We Die Young (video)
7. Man In The Box (video)
8. Sea Of Sorrow (video)

Alice in Chains - Live Facelift

Alice In Chains “Live Facelift” EP (Columbia/Legacy 88985374931) 2016

Track Listing:


1. It Ain't Like That
2. Man In The Box
3. Real Thing


4. Love, Hate, Love
5. Sea of Sorrow
6. Bleed The Freak

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Alice Cooper "Live From The Astroturf" (2016 Black Friday Record Store Day single)

The original Alice Cooper band played a surprise reunion show on October 10, 2015 at the indie music store Good Records in Dallas, Texas. Four-fifths of the original lineup – singer Vincent Furnier (whom we now know as Alice Cooper the solo artist), rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway, and drummer Neal Smith – performed for a crowd of approximately 200 people. Ryan Roxie took the place of original lead guitarist Glen Buxton, who passed away in 1997. Their seven-song set was the longest set the original band had performed in 40 years. For the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, a limited edition 7-inch single was issued, containing two songs from that performance. The single, titled Live From The Astroturf, was limited to 2,500 copies, pressed in different colored vinyl variations: 1,150 white, 1,150 pink, 100 black, and 100 split color pink-and-white singles were randomly distributed. The pink-and-white variant contained art prints autographed by the four surviving original members. The single was co-mixed by Bob Ezrin, who produced most of the band’s early-70’s work.

The two songs included on Live From The Astroturf were both drawn from the 1971 breakthrough album Love It To Death. Alice and the band sound great on both tracks, still able to convincingly crank out anthems of teen rebellion well into their 60’s. During their performance of the classic “I’m Eighteen” on the A-side, Cooper ad-libs the line “I gotta get outta here, Mom and Dad got me drinkin’ beer”, showing that he can still get inside the head of an angst-filled teenager. Their performance of “Is It My Body” on the B-side has all of the rock and roll attitude that the song has always had. Pretty please, boys, you’ve gotta do this again!

Alice Cooper - Live From The Astroturf

Alice Cooper "Live From The Astroturf" (Good Records GRR33) 2016

Track Listing:

a. Eighteen (aka “I’m Eighteen”)
b. Body (aka “Is It My Body”)

Dungen “Häxan” (2016 Black Friday Record Store Day release)

For the Black Friday Record Store Day in 2016, the Swedish prog-rock band Dungen released an album titled Häxan in both CD and LP formats, with each format limited to 2,000 copies. The LP version was pressed in white vinyl, and came with a digital download card. Häxan (translation: “The Witch”) is Dungen’s first all-instrumental album, created as a new original music score for Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is believed to be the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film, predating Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by 11 years.

It is fortunate that this 90-year-old silent film has not been lost, because it is fascinating to watch. It was made with silhouette animation using black paper cutout puppets and images, and reportedly took three years to complete. The visually arresting animation tells a fairy tale derived from the Arabian Nights stories, following the adventures of the titular Arabian prince who mounts a flying horse and unwittingly flies off to an enchanted island, where he meets and falls in love with the beautiful princess Peri Banu. He then teams up with Aladdin and the Witch of the Fiery Mountains to battle an evil African sorcerer and an army of demons. The paper cutout images are impressively elaborate, and the animation is riveting.

The Häxan album is a fine art-rock opus on its own, consisting mostly of moody orchestral pieces that befit such an otherworldly fantasy film. It has occasional touches of ambient (“Grottan”) and dissonance (“Wak-Wak’s portar”), and climaxes with the clamorous six-minute hard-rocker “Andarnas Krig”, which ends the album with a burst of Hendrix-like guitar intensity.

So, do the movie and the music work well together? More often than not, they do. (This assumes that I properly synced the movie and the album; the LP played one-and-a-half times during the course of the film’s 65-minute running time). Admittedly, the harder-rocking tracks ("Andarnas Krig", the title track) sometimes seemed too overwrought to match the images onscreen, and some other scenes called for more intense musical accompaniment than they ended up having. But, for the most part, the album and the film combine for a unique and satisfying audio-visual experience, with Dungen’s music adding a modern dimension to a film that some might say is timeless.

Dungen - Häxan

Dungen “Häxan” (Mexican Summer MEX 222) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Peri Banu vid sjön
2. Jakten genom skogen
3. Wak-Wak’s portar
4. Den Fattige Aladdin
5. Trollkarlen och fågeldräkten
6. Grottan
7. Häxan
8. Aladdin’s flykt över havet
9. Kalifen
10. Achmed flyger
11. Aladdin och lampan, del 1
12. Aladdin och lampan, del 2
13. Achmed och Peri Banu
14. Andarnas Krig

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 29: Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016”

The 29th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in August and September 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 twenty-ninth Vault package contained a live LP from Pearl Jam, performed in the Blue Room at Third Man Records and recorded directly to acetate. The single in this package was a one-sided 6-inch disc recorded by Eddie Vedder in the Voice-o-Graph machine at Third Man. The package also contained a photo book. This Vault package was also offered through Pearl Jam’s Ten Club.

The LP Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016, pressed in black-and-gold split-colored vinyl, captures the June 9, 2016 concert by the ‘90’s grunge titans, performed for an audience of about 250 VIP’s in the Third Man Records Blue Room. Pearl Jam is currently comprised of four-fifths of the original lineup (Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready), along with Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron (who had also played in Temple Of The Dog with those same four Pearl Jam founders) and keyboardist Boom Gaspar.

The direct-to-acetate recording gives this record a “closeness” to the listener, but with an analog type of clarity, not with the type of exactitude that we would expect from a digital recording on a CD. The intimate venue also undoubtedly played a part in this, although the band did not exactly hold back during this show. The band put the same level of energy into this performance that we would expect them to give to a large arena concert.

They did, however, steer clear of familiar radio hits from their grunge glory days – unless you count “Deep”, one of the lesser-known songs from their classic 1991 debut album Ten; that song sounds a notch less intense but no less effective in this setting. The other two ‘90’s selections found here are obscurities that eventually turned up on the band’s 2003 odds-and-sods collection Lost Dogs: the mid-tempo “Hard To Imagine” (which has a slightly heavier sound than its studio version) and the disillusioned Christmas ballad “Let Me Sleep” (which shows more vocal restraint from Eddie Vedder than the studio version from an early fan club single).

The first four songs on this LP are drawn from the band’s lower-profile post-1990’s albums. All four tracks are performed well, whether the band rocks out on “Life Wasted” and the furious “Mind Your Manners”, or displays a more moody approach on “Pendulum”. Mike McCready shows impressive guitar chops on the blues-rocking “1/2 Full”.

The most notable track here is “Of The Earth”, a song that has never been released on a studio album, but is often performed at Pearl Jam’s live shows. Jack White joined the band onstage for this ten-minute song, jamming with McCready in an intense lead guitar duel.

I’ll leave it to Pearl Jam scholars to determine how well Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 compares to other Pearl Jam live recordings (especially considering their hundreds of official bootlegs). Judged on its own merits, it’s certainly a good one. Spin this black (and gold) circle.

The six-inch single, pressed in clear transparent vinyl, contains one song recorded solo by Eddie Vedder with an acoustic guitar in Third Man’s 1947 Voice-o-Graph recording machine. The ancient recording technology gives this single the sound and feel of a scratchy old folk record. The low-key, lo-fi “Out Of Sand” is a somber ballad about aging and regret, movingly sung and played by Vedder. It’s a good track, succeeding as both a recording novelty and as a musical work. This song is reportedly intended for the soundtrack of the forthcoming Twin Peaks TV series in 2017, presumably in a fully realized studio version.

The bonus book is a thorough visual component to the package, containing 50 pages of black-and-white photographs by Jamie Goodsell, taken onstage, backstage, and around Third Man Records on the day of the event. With a foreword by Ben Blackwell explaining the logical connection between Pearl Jam and Third Man, the 9” x 6” hardcover book -- titled Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016 -- provides decent pictures from the band’s performance, and perspective on the Blue Room experience for those of us who’ve never been to Third Man’s Nashville headquarters. And, yes, we do see a few pictures of Jack White interacting with the band. The last few pages show Vedder in the process of recording “Out Of Sand”, and display that song’s handwritten lyrics.

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 LP has “A Unmute the boom!” and “Live at Third Man” carved on Side A, and “KW shouts in approval” and “direct to acetate” carved in Side B. The single has “She was washing windows” carved in its one side.

Pearl Jam “Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016” (Third Man TMR-388) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Pendulum
2. Mind Your Manners
3. 1/2 Full
4. Life Wasted
5. Deep
6. Of The Earth w/Jack White
7. Hard To Imagine
8. Let Me Sleep

Eddie Vedder “Out Of Sand” (Third Man single TMR-389) 2016

a. Out Of Sand

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-014):

Pearl Jam Live at Third Man Records 06.09.2016. Third Man Books, 2016.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Beatles "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" album to be reissued in September

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album has been out of print for decades, but it will be released for the first time on CD and digitally on September 9th, 2016. The reissue, now titled Live at the Hollywood Bowl, contains four previously unreleased tracks. It was sourced directly from the original three-track tapes of three concerts performed at the L.A. venue in August 1964 and August 1965. The reissue was remixed and remastered at Abbey Road by George Martin's son, Giles, and engineer Sam Okell. More information (including the updated track list) is at the Rolling Stone site:

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album was originally released in 1977. According to the late producer George Martin's liner notes for the original LP issue, the shows were recorded "for posterity" by Capitol, but neither Martin nor the band wanted the recordings released at the time because it only consisted of songs that were previously released on studio albums (apparently, releasing such an album was considered unusual at the time!). But the only flaw of the album has been the quality of the recordings. Only three-track recording was possible in the mid-1960's, and the 1977 issue of the album often contains tape hiss and other anomalies (not to mention the constant screaming of the young girls in attendance). Otherwise, the album is totally enjoyable. The charm of the Beatles' performances shines through on this recording, making it an absolute treat for Beatlemaniacs. Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick did their best to clean up the sound using 1977 technology; I can't wait to hear how the more modern remixing techniques have cleaned up the sound further.

The release of Live at the Hollywood Bowl will coincide with a new Ron Howard documentary about the band's early years, called Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. The documentary will be available for streaming on Hulu on September 17th.

9/12/16 Update: The reissue of the album does not disappoint. The remixing made a major improvement, making the sound much clearer, and bringing the music further to the front of the mix while pushing the audience's screaming into the background. The four previously unreleased tracks are: "You Can't Do That" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand" from the 1964 show, and "Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby" and "Baby's In Black" from the 1965 show.

Rarebird's Beatles Reviews:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Third Man Records vinyl exclusives, Part 28: Jack White acoustic in Idaho and Alaska

The 28th set of exclusive vinyl items offered to Platinum members of Third Man Records’ Vault service was mailed out to the members in June and July 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 twenty-eighth Vault package contained a 2-LP set and a DVD, featuring live acoustic concerts from Jack White performed in Idaho and Alaska in April of 2015. As a bonus item, it contained a travelogue photo book. These items were packaged together in a box with the title Acoustic Tour 2015.

These two shows were part of an acoustic tour that White undertook for the purpose of performing in the only five U.S. states in which he had never performed previously (Wyoming and North and South Dakota were the other three states). He was backed by Dominic Davis (upright bass), Fats Kaplan (fiddle and mandolin), and Lillie Mae Rische (fiddle, mandolin, and acoustic guitar). Each of these shows was announced only hours beforehand, and tickets were only $3 apiece! Only ribbon microphones were used for these performances, and no amplifiers were used at all. Both concerts were well-performed, presenting many of White’s songs in a new and different way.

The double-LP Acoustic In Idaho (or “Live From Idaho”, as it is titled on the LP’s center labels) is pressed in “icy Idaho blue vinyl”. It captures White’s acoustic concert at the Egyptian Theater in Boise. This concert has a strong Nashville country flavor, even more so than White’s two recent solo albums. White scales down his vocal delivery to fit the small acoustic setting; Rische sings harmony vocals throughout the set. The set begins with three songs selected from Lazaretto, the acoustic reworkings of which set the gentle and countrified tone of the concert. Most of the selections from the White Stripes oeuvre retain their blues roots with a more rustic sound, although this version of “Hotel Yorba” sounds so southern that you may forget that it’s about a hotel in Detroit (even after White tells the funny story behind the song at the end of Side A). On the other hand, “You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket” and “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” have simple folk arrangements, and are apparently performed solo by Jack with only an acoustic guitar. Some of the best tracks on this album are the selections that are the most unexpected, such as the non-album B-side “Inaccessible Mystery”, as well as “You Know That I Know”, White’s interpretation of an unrecorded Hank Williams composition. The Raconteurs’ “Carolina Drama” has an authentic Southern Gothic feeling in this setting. The show concludes with a graceful performance of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight, Irene”.

The 77-minute DVD Acoustic In Alaska gives a visual presentation of White’s acoustic concert at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage. It was filmed by Brad Holland, the former drummer of Whirlwind Heat. Performed two days before the Idaho show, this concert has the same aesthetic and a similar set list. It was the first of the five shows on the acoustic tour, and (as we are informed in the beginning) White’s first-ever all-acoustic performance. Much of it was filmed in striking black-and-white, which complements the show’s old-fashioned nature. (Some camera angles are in color, showing a blue-lit stage; the back-and-forth editing is sometimes distracting). Musically, this concert is the equal of the Idaho show. There are three songs here which were not performed at the Idaho show, each with a detailed spoken-word introduction about its origin: one more track from Lazaretto (“Entitlement”), another White Stripes number (“Offend In Every Way”), and another non-album B-side (“Machine Gun Silhouette”). All three of these songs are well suited for the acoustic environment. Another notable difference: “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” is here given a full band arrangement, albeit an understated one.

The bonus book Pictures From Unknown States contains 44 pages of photographs – mostly black-and-white – taken on the acoustic tour by David James Swanson, the former Whirlwind Heat vocalist. Most of the pictures are shots of White and company either onstage or backstage, with an occasional outdoor photo from the road; the best of those were taken at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. A photo taken from the window of a plane over or near Alaska is another standout; that photo also appears inside the LP's gatefold cover. Some of the pictures taken inside the venues suggest that those spaces were the same approximate size of many movie theatres. The package also contains stylish 8 X 10 photographic prints of two of Swanson’s photos from the book.

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 double-LP has “Things got heated” carved on Side A, “Bullet-proof glass is not a great way to make friends” carved in Side B, “You got time for one more?” carved on Side C, and “I appreciate you coming here on short notice” carved on Side D.

Jack White “Acoustic Tour 2015” (box set)

Jack White “Acoustic In Idaho” (Third Man TMR-380) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Just One Drink
2. Temporary Ground
3. Alone In My Home
4. Love Interruption
5. Hotel Yorba
6. You Know That I Know
7. Do
8. Sugar Never Tasted So Good
9. Inaccessible Mystery
10. We’re Going To Be Friends
11. Blunderbuss
12. A Martyr For My Love For You
13. Carolina Drama
14. You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket
15. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
16. Goodnight, Irene

Jack White “Acoustic In Alaska” (Third Man DVD TMR-380) 2016

Track Listing:

1. Intro
2. Just One Drink
3. Temporary Ground
4. Love Interruption
5. Machine Gun Silhouette
6. Offend in Every Way
7. The Same Boy You’ve Always Known
8. Alone in My Home
9. You Know That I Know
10. We’re Going to Be Friends
11. Entitlement
12. Carolina Drama


13. You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket
14. A Martyr For My Love For You
15. Goodnight, Irene

Bonus book (Third Man Books TMB-011):

Swanson, David James. Pictures From Unknown States. Nashville: Third Man Books, 2016.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart (1976)

Having recently examined the 20th anniversary reunion of the Monkees, we now turn our attention to another Monkees reunion of sorts, dating from the mid-1970's. This took place in or around their 10th anniversary year, but it was not exactly sold as a 10th anniversary tour by the Monkees. Instead, the band that coalesced came to be known as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, & Hart. The tagline for their tour was "The Golden Hits of The Monkees: The Guys Who Sang 'Em and The Guys Who Wrote 'Em".

Why was this? Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones were the only original Monkees who took part in the reunion. Michael Nesmith was invited to join, but (as usual) declined, while Peter Tork could not be contacted at the time. They were replaced by two "Guys Who Wrote 'Em" -- namely Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Boyce and Hart had written and produced many of the Monkees' songs, including their TV show theme and the #1 hit "Last Train To Clarksville". This songwriting duo also recorded three of their own albums in the late '60's.

This quartet was legally prohibited from using the Monkees name, so they instead chose to simply call themselves Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In 1975 and 1976, the quartet performed shows at major American amusement parks, including Disneyland and Six Flags. They next went on tour in Asia, and had the distinction of being the first American band to perform in Thailand.

The recorded output of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart consists of one studio album from 1976, and one live album recorded in 1976 and released in Japan in 1981. Both albums are out of print in most countries. Both will probably only be of interest to Monkees lovers.

The self-titled 1976 album Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart succeeds only partially at recapturing the Monkees' sound and spirit, updating it in some ways for the soft-rock-and-disco-dominated landscape of the mid-'70's. Boyce and Hart produced the album, and wrote five of the songs. The album's first two tracks unfortunately make a very bad first impression. "Right Now" seemingly introduces the quartet as a straight-faced clone of the Bee Gees, with Davy Jones doing a not-so-great impression of Barry Gibb. Worse yet, "I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It)" is a simply awful soft-rock ballad sung by Hart. But the album gets better after those two near-fatal missteps. The entire first side is unwisely front-loaded with ballads, but “You And I” – written by Dolenz and Jones – is a darn good one, recalling the original Monkees. (In fact, the Monkees re-recorded this song for the Justus album 20 years later, but this version is arguably better). Dolenz is in good form on that song, as well as on his co-composition “It Always Hurts The Most In The Morning”, and on Dion and the Belmonts’ “Teenager In Love”. “Sail On Sailor” is not the Beach Boys song, but it sounds something like a Beach Boys song from that time period, when they had become a nostalgia act; Jones, Boyce, and Hart each take lead vocal turns on this song.

The second side is a bit livelier, reminding the listener that these guys were once involved with a TV comedy series. (It's funny to imagine how their cover of the Coasters' comedy song "Along Came Jones" could have been used in a Monkees episode). Two odd up-tempo rockers (“Moonfire” and “You Didn’t Feel That Way Last Night”) help to pick up the album’s pace. Another Dolenz and Jones composition, “Savin’ My Love For You”, proves to be another standout track, as well as another good showcase for Dolenz. Both ex-Monkees sing lead vocals on the easily likable “I Remember The Feeling”, which could withstand comparison to the original Monkees’ recordings.

Ultimately, Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart has too many flaws to recommend it, yet too many good points to dismiss it.

(Note: Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart is currently available on CD in the U.K., with different cover art. If you do purchase this album on CD, I recommend programming your player to skip the first two tracks).

Concert In Japan was recorded at Yubin Chokin Hall in Tokyo on July 20, 1976. It was first released in Japan in 1981 to coincide with a Monkees revival in that country; it was later released on CD in the U.S. in 1996 by the Varese Sarabande label, catalog no. VSD-5625. For this concert, the quartet was backed by four musicians: Keith Allison (a guitarist who frequently played on Monkees recordings), Rick Tierny (bass), Steve Johnson (keyboards), and Jerry Summers (drums). Besides playing songs from the self-titled DJB&H album, the ensemble also performed several songs by the Monkees, as well as Boyce & Hart’s 1968 top ten hit “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight”. (Their Monkees repertoire was not limited to the songs written by Boyce and Hart, as evidenced by the inclusion of Goffin/King's "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and Harry Nilsson's "Cuddly Toy", among others). Their performances of those familiar songs are adequate and pleasant, but not great or exciting. On a brighter note, the four selections from the 1976 album do sound fresh in this setting. Even the live version of the Hart-sung “I Love You (And I’m Glad That I Said It)” comes off slightly better than the studio version – although the song is still an undeniable low point of any album it appears on. The most surprising selection comes in the form of a medley of songs which Boyce and/or Hart had a hand in writing for other artists (i.e. Jay and the Americans, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Austin Roberts). The show's finale is a rendition of the Boyce-written theme song from the mid-'60's TV music show Where The Action Is; for this number, guitarist Keith Allison takes the lead vocal and the ensemble shows plenty of enthusiasm. As nostalgia concerts go, this Concert In Japan is not the worst one you’ll ever hear, nor is it the best. This disc is mainly an item for fanatical collectors.

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart - Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart" (Capitol ST-11513) 1976

Track Listing:

1. Right Now -- (Boyce/Hart)
2. I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It) -- (Boyce/Hart)
3. You And I -- (Dolenz/Jones)
4. Teenager In Love -- (Pomus/Shuman)
5. Sail On Sailor -- (Trevor)
6. It Always Hurts The Most In The Morning -- (Boyce/Dolenz)
7. Moonfire -- (Martin)
8. You Didn't Feel That Way Last Night (Don't You Remember) -- (Boyce/Hart)
9. Along Came Jones -- (Lieber/Stoller)
10. Savin' My Love For You -- (Dolenz/Jones)
11. I Remember The Feeling -- (Boyce/Hart)
12. Sweet Heart Attack -- (Boyce/Hart)

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart - Concert in Japan

Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart "Concert In Japan" (Toshiba-EMI ECS-91018) 1981

Track Listing:

1. Last Train To Clarksville
2. Medley:
-- a. Valleri
-- b. Daydream Believer
-- c. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
3. I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight?
4. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
5. I Wanna Be Free
6. Savin' My Love For You
7. Pleasant Valley Sunday
8. I Remember The Feeling
9. A Teenager In Love
10. Cuddly Toy
11. Medley:
-- a. Come A Little Bit Closer
-- b. Pretty Little Angel Eyes
-- c. Hurt So Bad
-- d. Peaches 'N' Cream
-- e. Something's Wrong With Me
-- f. Keep On Singing
12. I Love You (And I'm Glad That I Said It)
13. Action

Monday, June 13, 2016

Remembering the Monkees 20th anniversary tour, 30 years ago

The Monkees released a new album titled Good Times! on May 27th. It's their first new studio album in 20 years (since Justus in 1996), and their first album following the 2012 death of founding member Davy Jones. In short, Good Times! is very good, and has been well-received, both critically and commercially. The album was recorded by surviving original Monkees members Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith; one lead vocal track recorded by Jones in 1967 is utilized for the song “Love To Love”. Also, Dolenz and Tork have embarked on a North American tour which will run until October. What brought about these events? 2016 marks the Monkees' 50th anniversary.

I was not yet born when the Monkees debuted -- on TV and on record -- in 1966. However, I do remember when the Monkees embarked on a 20th Anniversary Tour in 1986, and the recordings that resulted from that particular reunion 30 years ago.

During their 1986 reunion tour, the Monkees played in over 100 North American cities over the course of seven months. The tour was a huge success, setting off an incredible new wave of Monkeemania. MTV showed episodes daily from the '60's TV show, and sales of the band's back catalog - as well as the compilation album Then And Now...The Best Of The Monkees - soared. The Monkees' surprising resurgence helped to legitimize them as more than just a "fictitious" band created for a TV show.

20th Anniversary Tour 1986 was a live album recorded during that tour, sold in double-LP and cassette formats at stops on the Monkees' 1987 tour the following year. It was not properly issued on a record label, and it was not labeled as an album by The Monkees; instead, it was billed as an album by Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork. (As usual, Nesmith sat this tour out, joining the other three on stage only once -- but that's another story). It’s surprising that this album was never released commercially, because it’s everything that most listeners would want it to be. It’s consistently entertaining, with the three Monkees deftly trading vocal duties and repartee reminiscent of their TV show. Their eight-piece backing band was solid and professional. The sound quality is very good, despite the between-tracks choppiness. The song selection includes nearly all of the Monkees’ best-remembered hit songs (most of them pre-Head), as well as their then-new songs “That Was Then, This Is Now” and “I’ll Love You Forever” (the latter of which finds Davy Jones sounding quite Lennon-like in this setting), and Tork’s “MGB-GT”. If you’re wondering who sings the lead vocal on Nesmith’s “Listen To The Band”, all three of them tackle it in two minutes. And you may want to note that the closing rendition of the Monkees TV theme is only an instrumental performance by the supporting musicians. We really couldn’t have asked for a better souvenir of the 1986 tour than this fun-filled album. (Note: The same album was later available on CD from the Monkees fan club in 1994, simply titled Live!).

The success of the 1986 tour resulted in much Monkee business during the following year. The same trio embarked on another tour in 1987. And during that same year, two very different attempts were made to update the Monkees – in both sound and concept – for the ‘80’s. Unfortunately, both of those attempts were ill-fated.

One of those attempts was made by the real Monkees. Dolenz, Jones, and Tork recorded an obligatory new studio album (their first in 17 years) titled Pool It!, a boring bag of store-bought synth-pop songs that bear no resemblance to the Monkees songs of old. The Tork-penned-and-sung “Gettin’ In” is the danceable high point, but the other two Monkees are not heard to good effect here. Jones is mostly stuck singing weak saccharine ballads, including his own “(I’ll) Love You Forever”. The Dolenz-sung songs show a bit more enthusiasm, but the cover of Wreckless Eric’s “Whole Wide World” is the only half-interesting one. Pool It! is currently available, but is not recommended.

The new wave of Monkeemania also led to the formation of a new quartet called the New Monkees in 1987. This quartet recorded one self-titled album, and starred in the syndicated New Monkees TV series which lasted only 13 episodes. The show, produced by Columbia Pictures Television, was an embarrassingly inept attempt to create a new musical situation comedy series that updated the original Monkees TV show concept for the MTV generation. This idea may have had some potential, since the musical interludes on the original Monkees episodes are often considered to be among the earliest music videos, but the New Monkees series just fell flat on its face.

The New Monkees bore no resemblance to the old Monkees, except maybe in terms of cuteness. Bassist Marty Ross had previously played in a power pop band called the Wigs; the other three New Monkees were Larry Saltis (lead guitar, vocals), Jared Chandler (guitar, vocals), and Dino Kovas (drums, vocals). The music on their self-titled New Monkees album was the type of commercial pop-rock fluff that was prevalent in the mid-‘80’s, just before the explosion of hair-metal; think Mister Mister, the Outfield, Glass Tiger, Cutting Crew, etc. The New Monkees album was far from the worst recording to come out of that school. It was well-produced, and the band did have talent; Saltis’ guitar leads gave some of the songs a stronger spine than many others from that place and time. But it’s an expendable album just the same. Where the original Monkees’ songs were written by top-tier songwriters of the day, the New Monkees’ songs were written by the likes of John Parr, Eddie Schwartz, and Tom Cochrane (their cover of Cochrane’s “Boy Inside The Man” is one of the more noteworthy tracks). The New Monkees album is a lightly likable footnote, nothing more.

Davy Jones / Micky Dolenz / Peter Tork - 20th Anniversary Tour 1986

Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork "20th Anniversary Tour 1986" (no label, FSH 71110) 1987

Track listing:

1. Last Train to Clarksville
2. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
3. (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
4. Cuddly Toy
5. Goin' Down
6. Pleasant Valley Sunday
7. I Wanna Be Free
8. Your Auntie Grizelda
9. She
10. For Pete's Sake
11. That Was Then, This Is Now
12. Shades of Gray
13. Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)
14. No Time
15. Daydream Believer
16. Listen to the Band
17. Randy Scouse Git
18. I'll Love You Forever
19. MGB-GT
20. Valleri
21. I'm a Believer
22. (Theme From) The Monkees

The Monkees - Pool It

The Monkees “Pool It!” (Rhino RNIN 70706) 1987

Track Listing:

1. Heart and Soul
2. (I’d Go The) Whole Wide World
3. Long Way Home
4. Secret Heart
5. Gettin’ In
6. (I’ll) Love You Forever
7. Every Step of the Way
8. Don’t Bring Me Down
9. Midnight
10. She’s Movin’ In With Rico
11. Since You Went Away
12. Counting On You

New Monkees - New Monkees

New Monkees "New Monkees" (Warner Bros. 9 25642-1) 1987

Track Listing:

1. What I Want
2. Do It Again
3. I Don't Know
4. The Way She Moves
5. Boy Inside the Man
6. Burnin' Desire
7. Whatever It Takes
8. Affection
9. Carlene
10. Corner of My Eye
11. Turn It Up

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Twenty One Pilots "Double-Sided" (2016 Record Store Day single)

Twenty One Pilots, the Ohio-based alt-pop/hip-hop duo, released a 7-inch single on Record Store Day 2016 titled Double-Sided. Limited to 7,500 copies, the single contained two previously unreleased live tracks recorded at the Fox Theater in Oakland, CA. The single was part of a series of 7-inch singles labeled "Disquaire Day", to show solidarity with French record stores after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.

The A-side, titled “A Few Older Ones”, is a live medley of songs from the first three albums: Twenty One Pilots (2009), Regional At Best (2011), and Vessel (2013). The mashed-up songs include “Pantaloon”, “Semi-Automatic”, “Forest”, “Screen”, “Ode To Sleep”, and “Addict With A Pen”. This live medley is built on a piano-and-drums combo, without the electronic instrumentation of the studio versions. The duo does well performing in this fashion, and they skillfully segue between the different song passages to create a coherent-sounding whole. The only problem: the track ends abruptly in mid-performance. The B-side contains a live version of “Doubt”, a song from the 2015 album Blurryface. It’s faithful and well-done, using the same electronic sounds as the studio version. Tyler Joseph mimics the vocal effects of the studio version without sounding bad at all. Even the audience participation, orchestrated by Joseph, sounds pretty good.

Twenty One Pilots “Double-Sided” (Fueled By Ramen single 554232-7) 2016

Track Listing:

a. A Few Older Ones
b. Doubt