Monday, March 21, 2016

Metallica "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica!" - (2016 Record Store Day First Release)

As you've probably heard by now, Metallica are the official ambassadors of Record Store Day 2016, which falls on Saturday, April 16th. The band that released a cassette on last year's Record Store Day will this year release a CD, entitled Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! - Live at Le Bataclan. Paris, France - June 11th, 2003. As the title indicates, the CD documents a nine-song live set performed at the Bataclan in Paris in June of 2003. In light of the recent terrorist attack at that venue in November 2015, proceeds from sales of the CD will be donated to the Fondation de France's Give For France charity.

This concert was performed at a strange time in Metallica's history, just days after the release of their chaotic St. Anger album. This was the first year that the band employed current bassist Robert Trujillo, after they weathered two years of troubles documented in the film Some Kind Of Monster.

This show was the second of three shows that the band performed on that day. Hopefully, the official CD issue will have cleaner sound quality than the muddy bootlegs of the show that have surfaced, because this concert shows a rejuvenated Metallica coming back strong from troubled times. Interestingly enough, only one song from St. Anger appears in this set, and this performance of “Frantic” is about as harsh as its studio version. The other eight songs are drawn from the band’s ‘80’s albums, and are full of pre-“Black Album” intensity. Even on bootleg recordings, the power and fury of “No Remorse”, “Ride The Lightning”, and “Blackened” force their way through the recording anomalies. Again, it will be fortunate if the sound is cleaner on the official CD release, because the bootleg muddiness does get in the way, especially during the first half. If that problem is remedied, then Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! has the makings of a powerful live album.

4/16/16 Update: Record Store day has come. I was lucky enough to score a copy of this CD, marked no. 7040 of 20,000 copies pressed. The sound quality on the CD is excellent. The first half of the concert sounds infinitely better than on bootlegs. "Fade To Black" has a particularly eerie beauty, and "Frantic" sounds much more professional than I had realized. With the cleaner sound quality, the last four tracks sound less raw but no less powerful. Recommended.

Metallica - Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! Live at Le Bataclan, Paris, France: June 11th, 2003

Metallica "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, Metallica! - Live at Le Bataclan. Paris, France - June 11th, 2003" (Blackened) 2016

Track Listing:

1. The Four Horsemen
2. Leper Messiah
3. No Remorse
4. Fade To Black
5. Frantic
6. Ride The Lightning
7. Blackened


8. Seek & Destroy
9. Damage, Inc

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Animals "Animal Tracks" EP (1965)

For Record Store Day 2016, ABKCO is reissuing the Animals' 1965 EP Animal Tracks in a 3,000-copy limited edition. This EP was originally released in the U.K. and Europe in 1965, and has never been released in the U.S. Animal Tracks was originally pressed as a 7-inch 45; the Record Store Day EP is pressed in 10-inch vinyl for better fidelity. This EP is not to be mistaken for the full-length Animal Tracks album, which was also released in 1965. None of this EP's four tracks appeared on the American version of that album, although all of them were included on the U.K. version of the album.

The first three tracks find the British Invasion quintet playing covers of R&B classics from Chuck Berry ("How You've Changed"), Ray Charles ("I Believe To My Soul"), and Louis Jordan ("Let The Good Times Roll"). On each of these three tracks, Eric Burdon croons soulfully over Alan Price's restrained yet intricate piano arrangements. These tracks are well done, but the best of the four is the closing track, a cover of Big Maceo Merriweather's blues standard "Worried Life Blues", which has Price switching to an electric organ, Burdon singing a more emotional lead vocal, and Hilton Valentine adding a jazz-based guitar part.

The Animals - Animal Tracks

The Animals "Animal Tracks" EP (Columbia SEG 8499) 1965

Track Listing:

1. How You've Changed
2. I Believe To My Soul
3. Let The Good Times Roll
4. Worried Life Blues

The Animals "Animal Tracks" EP (ABKCO 84991) 2016

Same track listing as above.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Shiloh with Don Henley

After spotlighting the pre-Eagles work of the late Glenn Frey, I also wanted to talk about the early band of Frey’s Eagles co-founder Don Henley. Before Frey and Henley met, Henley played drums and sang lead vocals for a Texas band called Shiloh. Shiloh recorded one self-titled album in 1970, and it was released on the same label – Amos Records – which distributed the sole album of Frey’s early duo Longbranch/Pennywhistle.

During the ‘60’s, Henley and other members of Shiloh had previously played together in at least two other bands. The first of these was the Four Speeds (no relation to the Gary Usher surf-rock band of the same name). Henley and two other future Shiloh members – bassist Richard Bowden and keyboard/trumpet player Jerry Surratt – were in this band, along with original guitarist Freddie Neese. These four teenagers cut two singles in 1964, “Variety” and “Why Did You Leave Me”, both of which were decent Texas-style garage rock songs that would fit in on a Nuggets box set. Henley sang the lead vocals on both, although he sounded little like his future self. The B-sides of both singles are offbeat instrumentals: “El Santa” mixes “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with “Tequila”; “Bedrock” is derived from Henry Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme.

The band recorded their next single in 1967 under the name The Felicity. Richard Bowden switched to lead guitar after Neese’s departure, and his cousin Mike Bowden took on the bass duties. This single offers more sophisticated songs on the order of the Young Rascals, with vocals by Henley. The A-side “Hurtin” spells out the intended emotion. Surratt’s keyboards create a fairly effective mood, but it’s Henley’s vocal that makes the song ache. The B-side, “I’ll Try It”, was penned by Henley, and is the better track, presenting a more subtle melancholy feeling behind a jangly guitar sound. Good stuff.

The band then changed their name to Shiloh, and recorded a single in 1969 under that name before recording their full-length album. That inauspicious single offered two bland soft-rock tracks – “Jennifer (O’ My Lady)” on the A-side, “Tell Me To Get Out Of Your Life” on the B-side – built on piano and strings. The single was produced by Kenny Rogers, during his time with The First Edition.

Tragically, Jerry Surratt died in a motorcycle accident in March of 1970. Henley and the Bowdens soon regrouped, joined by journeyman steel guitar player Al Perkins and future country record producer Jim Ed Norman (who replaced Surratt as their keyboardist). This five-man country-rock band recorded the self-titled Shiloh album in 1970, under the continued production guidance of Kenny Rogers.

The album's high points are three enthusiastic roots-rock numbers reminiscent of The Band (“Swamp River Country”, “Left My Gal In The Mountains”, “Simple Little Down Home Rock & Roll Love Song For Rosie”). Logically enough, the album's three Henley-penned country-rock tracks (“I’m Gone”, “Same Old Story”, “God Is Where You Find Him”) bear some resemblance to songs that he would later help create with the Eagles, albeit without the California vibe. Of those three, the six-minute closing ballad “God Is Where You Find Him” is the most satisfying. Perkins’ arrangement of the traditional “Railroad Song” also has something of a proto-Eagles sound. Additionally, the album contains a serene steel guitar instrumental (“Du Raison”), as well as two tongue-in-cheek country ditties (“It’s About Time”, “Down On The Farm”) written and sung by Richard Bowden – foretokening his future as one-half of the country-comedy duo Pinkard & Bowden. Although Rogers' production gives the varied album a general feeling of consistency, the whole of Shiloh is somehow less than the sum of its parts, preventing the band from cementing their own place among country-rock's founding fathers. It’s a pleasant album, to be sure, but not a particularly seminal one. However, it may be an essential find for Henley fans, Eagles completists, and country-rock connoisseurs.

Shiloh has been out of print for decades. Its distributor, Amos Records, went out of business in 1971, and the album has never received an American reissue. However, it was released on CD in South Korea in 2014 by the Big Pink label.

Four Speeds - Variety / El Santa

Four Speeds "Variety" b/w "El Santa" (Crabbe single 100) 1964

Track Listing:

a. Variety
b. El Santa

Four Speeds - Why Did You Leave Me /  Bedrock

Four Speeds "Why Did You Leave Me" b/w "Bedrock" (Harlyn single 101) 1964

Track Listing:

a. Why Did You Leave Me
b. Bedrock

The Felicity - Hurtin / I'll Try It

The Felicity "Hurtin" b/w "I’ll Try It" (Wilson single 101) 1967

Track Listing:

a. Hurtin
b. I’ll Try It

Shiloh “Jennifer (O’ My Lady)” b/w “Tell Me To Get Out Of Your Life” (Amos single AJB-140) 1969

a. Jennifer (O’ My Lady)
b. Tell Me To Get Out Of Your Life

Shiloh - Shiloh

Shiloh "Shiloh" (Amos AAS 7015) 1970

Track Listing:

1. Simple Little Down Home Rock & Roll Love Song For Rosie
2. I'm Gone
3. Left My Gal In The Mountains
4. It's About Time
5. Swamp River Country
6. Railroad Song
7. Same Old Story
8. Du Raison
9. Down On The Farm
10. God Is Where You Find Him