Friday, July 17, 2020

Pink Floyd - Paranoid Delusions (1974)

Pink Floyd released their eighth studio album, The Dark Side of the Moon, in March 1973. A concept album, it had been part of the band's setlists for more than a full year before its release date, and its massive commercial success and critical acclaim made Pink Floyd unexpected superstars. After the tour in support of the album ended, in October 1973, the band initially took an extended break to rest from their incessant touring, but after a while, decided to tackle the daunting task of following up DSOTM. And their first idea, Household Objects, was as idiosyncratic a followup could be. Harkening back to their more experimental roots, the main concept behind Household Objects was to make music without using any actual instruments. In the two pieces the band completed in early '74, "Wine Glasses" and "The Hard Way", they achieved keyboard-like sustain by sliding their wet fingers over wine glasses, played basslines on rubber bands, created percussion by stamping their feet, and so forth. However, after the second track was completed, Waters, Gilmour, Wright, and Mason lost interest in the project, and instead, they decided to focus on more, let's say, conventional musicianship. With a tour of France booked for the Summer of 1974 fast approaching, the band wrote two brand new pieces: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", a 20-minute long meditation on the influence and life of Syd Barrett, and "Raving and Drooling", a frenetic and jammed-out song about insanity. 

They were both road-tested during this tour, and were later joined by "You've Got to Be Crazy", a very critical and acidic song about business and capitalism, during their November 1974 British Tour, with a gig at Wembley in the 16th being professionally recorded. With those three songs amounting to more than 50 minutes when played live, there was more than enough reason to believe that this would serve as the backbone of the next Floyd album, as they were known to work out their material live before heading into the studio. Guitarist David Gilmour seemed to agree with this notion, citing his wish that those three be the next PF album, while bassist Roger Waters disagreed. Waters thought that while "You've Gotta Be Crazy" and "Raving and Drooling" were good songs, they didn't fit his vision for the next record, and that he wanted to use only "Shine On", and expand on its themes of the demise of Barrett and the Music Industry. In the end, as we all know, Waters ended up winning this musical tug-of-war, and the classic Wish You Were Here album got made. It had three more songs being added alongside SOYCD, which acted as a bookends to the album, divided into two parts. And as for those two leftovers, both ended up undergoing some considerable rewriting, getting adapted into "Dogs" and "Sheep", from PF's Animals, from 1977, which some consider an even stronger album than the one that came before it. As is Pink Floyd tradition, not a note was wasted.

So, the purpose of this reconstruction is to answer the question: what if Pink Floyd had released an album consisting of those three songs? Had Gilmour won the fight for the future of the next PF record, what would such a record look like? And to answer that question, we'll need to set up some ground rules first. No live recordings will be accepted, as this is supposed to be a studio album, after all. We can use them for reference when it comes to basing our edits, but not use the live, unfinished versions themselves. Second of all, only those three are allowed as part of the album, due to time constraints. During the band's 1975 US tour, they played then brand new tune "Have a Cigar" alongside the three aforementioned songs, a couple of months before they finished recording WYWH. And as much as I like it, it doesn't fit the general theme of the record, and since the album is already much too long as it stands, nevermind when we add yet another song. And as for the two Household Objects songs, "Wine Glasses" got lucky and got included added as the intro to "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", but since "The Hard Way" was not recycled in any form, we cannot use it, unfortunately. Since the Animals versions of the outtakes are the closest we have to a finished product, we'll use alternate versions of them, with explanations of what would be different in their 1974 versions provided by me. Anyway, not to stretch this any further, here's what said album would look like:

Raving and Drooling (The Extraction Tapes)
You've Got to Be Crazy (The Extraction Tapes)
Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Wish You Were Here)

Bonus tracks:
Wine Glasses (Wish You Were Here)
The Hard Way (The Dark Side of the Moon)

Gilmour, Mason, Waters and Wright performing live at Wembley, November 1974

The album starts off with "Raving and Drooling", for which we use the Extraction Tapes version of "Sheep", with the bass guitar intro, and original (unfinished) lyrics reinstated. Had Waters agreed with Gilmour's idea of making an album out of the three songs they already had, he would probably end up revamping its lyrics considerably, as he did to make it fit the Animals concept. As for the musical structure of the song, it was already set in stone by late-1974, which means this version is faithful to the band's original idea of the track before it became "Sheep". And as for "You've Got to Be Crazy", we use another June 1976 take from The Extraction Tapes, which features almost the same lyrics as "Dogs", minus its 6/4 synthesizer solo, and with a horrible Roger Waters guide vocal. The original 1974 lyrics to the song didn't please David Gilmour, who thought it had "too many words", and found himself having almost to rap in order to get all of the words out. This problem was solved when, before their 1975 American Tour, Waters rewrote the lyrics of the track, making them into the words we all know as "Dogs", minus some animal references ("collar and chain" was "brittle and bit", "pat on the back" was "seat on the board", and so forth), and the aforementioned synthesizer solo. It also had David singing lead throughout, with the exception of the outro, which would probably also be the case here, with the tune clocking in at 13 and a half minutes, as performed live in 1975.

Occupying the whole of side two as a side-long epic, as originally intended, is "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", which I created by editing together the two parts, as a mockup of how the song was performed live in 1974. During the band's British Winter Tour, Part V segued into Part VI by overlaying the latter's introductory bass riff with the fading guitar riff of the former, which is how I edited both pieces together here, crossfading the outro to Part V to the intro of Part VI. The whole piece is 25 and a half minutes long, which is pushing the limits a vinyl record could hold, but was still doable (remembering side two of Atom Heart Mother is 28 minutes long!), if not recommended due to loss of fidelity. If you want to keep to those constraints, you can edit out the guitar solo on part III (which is the only part of the song that's edited out in every Floyd comp), and bring it down to a slightly more reasonable 24 and a half minutes. As for Paranoid Delusions' sequencing, I decided on having "Raving and Drooling" as the opener instead of the SOYCD suite, as by 1975 the former had become PF's opening number on live performances, with Crazy Diamond serving as the finale to set one, before an intermission and a full performance of The Dark Side of the Moon. It also works fairly well, making for a better listen than having the two sides in their "original" orders. If Waters could only finish the lyrics to R&D in time, they'd have one hell of an album ready by early 1975.

Clocking in at 49 and a half minutes, Paranoid Delusions would easily be one of my favorite Pink Floyd albums ever, if not my favorite. It features the band in their performance and songwriting apex, and with three epic suites, marks the Floyd at their proggiest. Much more complex than The Dark Side of the Moon, but still retaining its world-weariness and bleak outlook, it feels like a natural step forward from it, to a greater degree than Wish You Were Here ever could. However, due to its expansive nature, I can see this selling less than WYWH did. Not that it would be a poor seller (impossible, after the massive success of DSOTM!), but without a radio-friendly single such as the title track or "Have a Cigar", it'd lose a bit of its mass appeal. But if that's the price to pay for such a fantastic LP, I'm all for it! I took the name Paranoid Delusions from a bootleg of a 1973 show, as I felt it fit in pretty well with the album's material, and calling this Household Objects could be a bit misleading. And as for its cover, I recycled one of the booklet artwork pieces from WYWH, which was placed right next to the lyrics of Shine On, as I felt it represented well the feelings present on the album, especially on SOYCD, evoking a strong feeling of absence. It's a shame that the band didn't explore this option further, as we the fans would greatly benefit from it. But we can't complain about how it all turned out, with the Floyd calling out the Machine and reading too much George Orwell.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here [Immersion Edition]
Pink Floyd - From Abbey Road To Britannia Row - The Extraction Tapes 1975/76
Pink Floyd - The Dark Side of the Moon [Immersion Edition]

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Cream - Goodbye! (1969)

Cream played their final concert at the Royal Albert Hall, in November of 1968. It was the last date on their Farewell Tour, which they embarked upon after releasing Wheels of Fire, a half live, half studio album, which further cemented their spot as one of the biggest groups in the blues-rock and psychedelic rock genres. However, not all was well in the band by that point. The group had decided to quit right before the release of the aforementioned album, mostly due to the constant fighting between bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, as well as guitarist Eric Clapton's wish for a change of musical direction in the band, inspired by first hearing The Band's Music from Big Pink. After their farewell tour wrapped up at the Albert Hall in November, they were to finish a final album, fittingly titled Goodbye, before moving on to their respective solo projects. Recording started in October 1968 at London's IBC studios, where the band tracked three songs, one by each of the band members, produced by their regular producer, Felix Pappalardi.

The album they were making was supposed to follow on Wheels of Fire's footsteps, in that they intended to split the album into a "live" disc, chronicling their final performances together, as well as a "studio" disc, which was supposed to feature three compositions by each of the band members, in order to make for a truly collaborative effort. The three songs recorded in October seemed to be a strong starting point for this new record, with "Badge", Eric's tune, featuring George Harrison on guitar and co-writing status, apparently as a thank you for playing on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Bruce's "Doing that Scrapyard Thing" and Baker's "What a Bringdown" are also pretty good songs, all rooted in the type of psychedelia Cream did best. However, it seems the band lost interest in such an idea, and the strain in their relations was such that they never really got any further than those three songs. In order to fill out an album, three live recordings from a gig at the LA Forum were added, which meant their final album amounted to a paltry 30 minutes.

However, what you all might be asking by now is: what if Cream had managed to go on with their plan of a double album version of Goodbye? And to answer that, we will first set up some ground rules: We will keep ourselves to only nine songs on the "studio" half, with all the songs coming from either Blind Faith's first and only album, or from Jack Bruce's Songs for a Tailor album, as those were the two releases that immediately followed Cream's demise. The songs that most closely resemble the type of material the group played, or that had strong evidence of being part of their later repertoire, will be included. And as for the "live" half, we will keep ourselves to five to six songs in total, as the band improvised quite a lot live, and the live part of WoF consisted of only four songs. We will also try to keep the selection of material restricted to their final October and November 1968 shows, with only one exception that will be explained later. Either way, not to stretch this out any further than I already have, here's our reconstruction of Goodbye:

Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune (Songs for a Tailor)
Theme for an Imaginary Western (Songs for a Tailor)
Do What You Like (Blind Faith)
In the Presence of the Lord (Blind Faith)
Badge (Goodbye!)
Weird of Hermiston (Songs for a Tailor)
Doing That Scrapyard Thing (Goodbye!)
What a Bringdown (Goodbye!)
The Clearout (Songs for a Tailor)
I'm So Glad (Goodbye!)
Politician (Goodbye!)
Sitting on Top of the World (Goodbye!)
White Room (Live Cream Vol. 2)
Deserted Cities of the Heart (Live Cream Vol. 2)
Steppin' Out (Live Cream Vol. 2)

Bruce, Baker, and Clapton playing live at the RAH, November 1968

In order to select six more songs to fill out the studio side of Goodbye, first, we will need to look at what the three band members were doing right after the band split. Luckily for us, Clapton and Baker came together again, alongside Traffic's Steve Winwood and bassist Ric Grech, to form Blind Faith. While most of the band's material doesn't quite sound like Cream, it does feature two compositions by the pair: Clapton's gospel-tinged "Presence of the Lord", and Baker's 15-minute jam fueled "Do What You Like". That brings us to our first two problems: we only have a song each, and one of those is almost a side long. The solution would be to edit Baker's opus down to a more sensible five minutes, which is the length it was performed in during BF's first gig, and to fill out the album with whatever it is Jack Bruce had available back then. Luckily for us, Jack released a pretty good solo album that year, which was produced by Pappalardi, and even featured a couple of songs that Cream had demoed way back in 1967. So our final four will have to come from him.

And out of all songs on the Songs for a Tailor album, the more adequate would be the opener, "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune", as it's very Cream-like and even features Harrison on guitar, "Theme for an Imaginary Western", which the band was supposed to record before the split (and would sound a hell of a lot more like the Mountain version of the track, with Clapton's input added in), as well as "Weird of Hermiston" and "The Clearout", which the band had demoed for the Disraeli Gears record, but didn't include as they were "too weird". All arrangements I didn't mention before stay the same, except for "Presence of the Lord", which gets a Clapton lead vocal, as he performs it live nowadays. As for the second disc, we keep those three songs from the original Goodbye album, while adding "White Room" and "Deserted Cities of the Heart", both from the same LA Forum gig, and an earlier recording of "Steppin' Out", which despite being slightly anachronistic, is the perfect way to close the final Cream album, all things considered.

As an album, I honestly think Cream's farewell is a better listening experience than its predecessor, Wheels of Fire. The live side especially is miles better, focusing more on their ensemble playing and fierce improvisation, rather than on drum solos and solo spots. As for the originals, they certainly don't reach the heights of songs like "White Room" or "Politician" (although "Badge" and "Imaginary Western" surely come close), but make for a much more uniform record, without any particularly bad songs. Its lead single would probably be "Badge", which already did pretty well in our timeline, with "What a Bringdown" as its b-side. We honestly have no reason to change the album's great and certainly pretty ironic artwork, so we get to keep it as well. It certainly is a shame that the relations between band members were so strained and uncompromisable that they couldn't go out on a more positive note. Hopefully, with this reconstruction, we managed to paint a clearer picture, of what the final words of one of the most important bands of the '60s were supposed to be.

- Cream - Goodbye!
- Jack Bruce - Songs for a Tailor
- Cream - Live Cream, Vol. 2
- Blind Faith - Blind Faith

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt (1975)

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention released their tenth studio album, "One Size Fits All", in June 1975. Featuring the Fall 1974 lineup of the Mothers, it was the last studio album Zappa released under the MOI moniker, as he disbanded the group in mid-1975. The album was recorded mostly in two separate sessions: one, which took part from early to late December 1974 at James Guercio's Caribou Ranch in Colorado, and sessions in mid-January 1975 at LA's Record Plant. With both of the sessions combined, Zappa and the Mothers recorded enough for a double record, with half of the material being more rock-oriented material with vocals, and the jazz-fusion inspired instrumentals making up the other half. Interestingly enough, Frank released the rock-oriented songs as the OSFA record, leaving the jazzier, more experimental songs in the vault, from which they'd only come out in 1978 in the earliest. Afterward, the guitarist changed his focus to a Beefheart collaboration album, recorded both live in the studio, called Bongo Fury, released in October, and to using a full-scale orchestra in concert, in September of the same year.

The songs from those sessions would still figure as part of Läther, a four-LP box set which was supposed to be released in late-1977, alongside material recorded both live and in the studio, from 1969 to 1977. His record label, Warner Bros, didn't quite like that idea (I wonder why), and seen as FZ was in the middle of litigation with both his former manager and his label, Zappa split the tunes into four different albums, with most of the songs from the sessions coming out in Studio Tan, from 1978, and Sleep Dirt, in 1979. However, according to Zappa himself, a long time before both Läther and the four record split, this material was supposed to make an album of its own. Frank says in the liner notes of One Size Fits All that it was recorded simultaneously with its followup, and stated in an interview in April 1975 that "Greggery Peccary", started in the December 1974 sessions and finished in LA in January, would be a part of the record. So it seems that Zappa had intended to release these songs in 1975 after all, only to wind up getting distracted by Bongo Fury and his Orchestra project and shelving the songs, leaving them in the vault.

That leads us to this reconstruction's primary question: what if Frank Zappa had released his second installment of the December/January sessions? And to answer that question, we'll have to set up some basic rules first. We can't take tracks from either One Size Fits All or Bongo Fury, in order to keep his already confusing and messy discography as cohesive as possible, and to let it coexist with the two LPs it would be released in between of. In addition to "Greggery Peccary", we'll include only songs he deemed worthy of inclusion in either Läther or the four albums, in order to keep some kind of quality control over the material. Whether it would be released as a Mothers or a Frank Zappa solo record, it's pretty debatable. On the one side, it was recorded with the same band as the Fall 1974 incarnation of the MOI, but on the other, Zappa normally released his fusion projects, such as Waka Jawaka and Hot Rats, as solo albums. And considering the 1979 Sleep Dirt was almost subtitled "Hot Rats III", and it features almost all of the songs on our reconstruction, I feel like it's safe to assume this would be a solo album. Anyway, here's our tracklist: 

Regyptian Strut (Sleep Dirt)
Sleep Dirt (Sleep Dirt)
Flambé (Sleep Dirt)
Spider of Destiny (Sleep Dirt)
RDNZL (Studio Tan)
Time is Money (Sleep Dirt)
Greggery Peccary (Studio Tan)

Bonus tracks:
A Little Green Rosetta (Läther)
Planet of My Dreams (Them or Us)

Zappa performing live with his band in 1975

In December 1974, he and his band recorded "Sleep Dirt", "Regyptian Strut", "Flambé", "Spider of Destiny" and "Time is Money", from the album Sleep Dirt, and "RDNZL" and parts of the 20-minute "Greggery Peccary", from Studio Tan. They also recorded the basic tracks for "Planet of My Dreams", which would only see release in 1984's Them or Us. In January, they also tracked "Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra" and the rest of "Greggery Peccary", from Studio Tan, and recorded the first part of "A Little Green Rosetta", from Läther. From those, we can exclude both the then-unfinished "Little Green Rosetta" and "Planet of My Dreams", seen as neither of them were up to Frank's quality control back then. One more exclusion we'll need to make is "Revised Music for Guitar and Low Budget Orchestra", seen as it doesn't fit in as well with the rest of the material, and has much more in common with the September 1975 Orchestral Shows (of which it was part of), than this more fusion-like record. We can include it and "Rollo" on an expanded version of Orchestral Favorites, bringing its length up from a mere 34 minutes.

Now that we've narrowed the song list to album length, all we need to do is sequence the songs in a proper and interesting way. We start side one off with "Regyptian Strut", and end it with "RDNZL", taking our cues from the Läther album's original sequence, which had the former as album opener and the latter as last song on side three. We also reserve most of side two to "Greggery Peccary", as it was the final track on the final side of Läther, only adding the short "Time is Money" as side opener, making side two a healthy 23 minutes. And as for the rest of side one, I sequenced "Sleep Dirt", which would probably still be our title track, as track two, and put the combination of "Flambé" and "Spider of Destiny", which worked pretty well together on the Sleep Dirt album, as tracks three and four. I'd also note that none of the songs are included in their Läther mixes, due to some anachronistic vignettes being included in the start and end of tracks, which Zappa employed as a thematic link, and due to the fact that the Sleep Dirt mixes are considerably longer than their unreleased counterparts at times, which is beneficial when it comes to this.

Had FZ taken this project further, it would probably have been released sometime in September 1975,  through his own DiscReet records, with the release of Bongo Fury postponed to December or even January of 1976. I do believe that he would have still used the Sleep Dirt name, with the Hot Rats III subtitle as per his wishes. The cover would obviously be replaced by a Cal Schenkel work, seen as he was Zappa's artist of choice, and the released cover by Gary Panter isn't particularly great. No singles would be released off this album, seen as none of them have much commercial potential, and it's not as if he expected any hit singles to come out of an album like this. When compared to the two other installments of the Hot Rats Trilogy, it certainly is no slouch, and can stand as an equal to both Hot Rats and Waka Jawaka, maintaining his experimentation with jazz and experimental music, and it's probably no coincidence that they were to be released in three-year gaps (1969, 1972, 1975) either. It really is a shame that we never quite got to enjoy these fantastic tracks the way they were originally meant, as a lost brother to his most celebrated album.

- Frank Zappa - Sleep Dirt
- Frank Zappa - Studio Tan
- Donlope - FZ Chronology