Monday, June 25, 2018

George Harrison - Portrait of a Leg End (1992)

George Harrison released the album Cloud Nine in November 1987, his first release in five years. His previous outing, Gone Troppo, was an absolute failure, not managing to impress critics and failing to sell enough to make an impact on the charts. Such rejection prompted him to take a break from the music industry, focusing on his son's raising and gardening, only taking part on recording a soundtrack for one of his Handmade Films movies in the meantime. A surprise hit for him, Cloud Nine featured the hit single "Got My Mind Set On You", a cover of a Rudy Clark song from the late fifties, and the album sold remarkably well, managing to finally spark some interest on George's then overlooked solo career. One of the differentials of this album, as compared to his previous LPs, is the presence of a producer alongside him, namely Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne, his longtime admirer, and recently converted record producer. It gave C9 a sense of unity and form not seen on any of his albums in a long time. In order to cash in with the album's success and popularity, he recorded a couple of music videos for his songs (we're talking about the middle of the MTV era, mind you!) and released some singles off the LP, alogside GMMSOY.

One of those singles happened to be "This Is Love", and it needed a b-side. Having had some ideas for a track to fulfill that position, he asked Lynne to produce it over dinner with him and their friend Roy Orbison, who was asked to tag along. Soon after, they ended up in Bob Dylan's home studio with Tom Petty, and the rest is history. The finished song, "Handle With Care", was considered too good by George's label to be tossed off as a b-side, and so the five of them decided to form a group, named The Travelling Wilburys. They ended up releasing two albums, titled funnily enough Volume 1 and Volume 3 in 1988 and 1990, respectively. The second was recorded without Roy, who unfortunately had passed away in late 1988, due to a heart attack. They all took on nicknames/personas for the albums, which were warmly received and critically praised, being considered one of the most famous "supergroups" of their time. After the group entered a hiatus following the release of their 2nd album, he did a short tour of Japan with Eric Clapton in 1991, and went back to not recording much and being more of a recluse, only regaining interest in recording shortly before his death in 2001.

However, with the success of his comeback record, it was expected that he would soon record a followup to it, to try and keep his newfound popularity as high as it was back then. And so he did, with Lynne back in the producer's chair, recording sporadically throughout 1989. They managed to track three new songs: "Poor Little Girl", "Cockamamie Business" and "Cheer Down", all three meant for his next album. Despite recording some good songs, Harrison was a bit too burdened with recording and writing for the Wilburys, to manage to record an album to his liking, and he ended up scrapping his plans for a new record. The new tunes ended up finding a home in one of his Greatest Hits compilations, later in the year, with "Cheer Down" also being released on the soundtrack to the movie Lethal Weapon 2, which made it a quite successful single. That left some top notch already written tunes in his pocket for either a future release, or to be used by one of his many musician friends on their albums. The ex-Beatle's long-awaited followup wouldn't happen until almost 15 years after this first attempt, when he released his posthumous Brainwashed album in 2002.

However, what that might have left you wondering was: what if he hadn't given up on recording the album? To answer that question, we have to look at the songs George had available by then, as he had kept on writing after C9 was released, and would continue to do so on and off for the next couple of years. As the writing dates for most of his output is known, we will limit the songs to 1991, which is a likely date for its release, for him to be able to record sporadically between his commitments with TW. Speaking of them, no songs featured on their two albums will be a part of this, as that would end up screwing the timeline, and they really don't mix in well with the rest of the material, due to the great deal of collaboration on them. And it's not as if we need it, as we are supplied with enough material for a really top-notch album. One outtake from Vol. 1, however, will be included: "Maxine", which was mostly written and sung by him, making it fair game for this reconstruction. As well as that, one of the songs only features George on slide and backing vocals, despite having written it, something that will be addressed later. Without making you wait even longer, here is our LP: 

Any Road (Brainwashed)
Last Saturday Night (Brainwashed)
Poor Little Girl (Best of Dark Horse '76-'89)
Cheer Down (Best of Dark Horse '76-'89)
Cockamamie Business (Best of Dark Horse '76-'89)
That Kind of Woman (Still Got the Blues)
Stuck Inside a Cloud (Brainwashed)
Run So Far (Brainwashed)
Never Get Over You (Brainwashed)
Maxine (Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1)
Rocking Chair in Hawaii (Brainwashed)
In the Rising Sun (Brainwashed)

Harrison playing at the National Law Party benefit concert, April 1992

George's self-portrait begins with "Any Road", from Brainwashed. It was written during a break on recording the "This Is Love" music video, in early 1988. It predates the whole Wilbury thing by a couple of months and is one of the highlights off the album, being rightfully brought back in the late nineties to be the opener in his posthumous record. "Last Saturday Night" began life as a Cloud 9 outtake, being recorded during the original album's sessions in '87. However, he and Lynne deemed this satirical, Christianity bashing song too good to sit in the vaults forever, and brought it back with some minimal overdubs for his next album, something we guess they would still do in this timeline. Serving as track no.3, we have the first of the 1989 session songs, "Poor Little Girl". One of the most underrated songs in his back catalog, it suffered a lot from being put in a forgotten compilation, something we hope to manage to avoid here. Up next is "Cheer Down", co-written with Wilbury Tom Petty. The most probable lead single from Portrait of a Leg End, due to its popularity and inclusion on the Lethal Weapon movie, it's also a great tune, something this album has its fill of.

Following the lead single is the quirky "Cockamamie Business", the third from the '89 sessions. They are put together because they sound good segueing from each other, especially in the order I put them. Next is one of the trickier songs from the album, "That Kind of Woman". Written by Harrison, and featuring his trademark slide guitar playing and backing vocals, no version with him on lead vocals has surfaced yet. That being said, Gary Moore's original 1990 version with him really comes close to being a GH recording. If you close your eyes and squint your ears a bit, it almost sounds like him. Opening up side two is "Stuck Inside a Cloud", the most probable 2nd single from the record. According to drummer Jim Keltner, it was a pretty old song, from the mid-eighties, with it being brought back, later on, to be included on Brainwashed. We will do the same here, as it is a great tune, and was already in the can for him to use. Following it up, "Run So Far" was given to his buddy Eric Clapton to be used on his Journeyman album, in 1989. The second of his "giveaway" tunes, he would later record it, showing he saw potential on the song, and that's a decision we will respect.

Up next is "Never Get Over You", written more or less in the same era as "Stuck Inside a Cloud", during the mid-eighties, and brought back later when there came the time for Harrison to compile BW. The second anomaly on the record, the nice "Maxine" comes next. An outtake from the Volume One sessions, it's basically a solo George song, with him handling most writing and singing. And as the Travelling Wilburys and him shared the same producer and backing band, it's only fair enough that we put it in here. The oldest song of the bunch, "Rocking Chair in Hawaii" had its origins during the All Things Must Pass sessions in 1970. Sometime later, it was re-written and re-recorded by him for his new album, with the arrangement being considerably similar to the original one from ATMP. What else could follow the oldest tune on the LP, and also end the record? The newest of the bunch, and one of his best, of course! "Rising Sun" was mostly written during the 1991 Japan Tour, according to his son Dhani. The track would be a pretty strong contender for this record, once he returned, and ends the album in a great majestic fashion, as it should be.

As an album, "Portrait of a Leg End" is a pretty good record, managing to pick up where its predecessor left out and even evolve on its ideas. It manages to have a consistent quality and sound throughout, and functions as sort of a "missing link" between Cloud Nine and Brainwashed, something that is pretty interesting to hear. Although some inevitable and constant overlap with the latter, it doesn't detract from the album at all, to my ears, and both can co-exist peacefully in my iTunes library. It is a respectable record by an already aging rock star, with much more high points than lows. Clocking in at about 47 minutes, with sides of similar lengths, the album would most probably be released in mid-1992, to both give him time to finish it, and to coincide with his last concert appearance in April. As for the album's name, it is based on an early working title for his final album, being both a pun on bootlegs, and a piss-take on his legendary status as an ex-Beatle. Despite the name being a bit exaggerated, this record paints a really nice picture of where he stood in this point of his life, with his not considering himself a legend not mattering much.
- George Harrison - Brainwashed
- George Harrison - Best of Dark Horse '76-'89
- Travelling Wilburys - Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1
- Gary Moore - Still Got the Blues

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Faces - Open to Ideas (1975)

"Ooh La La", the Faces' fourth and last studio LP, was released in March 1973 by Warner Bros Records. Produced by the band and Glyn Johns, it was released in a time when lead singer Rod Stewart's solo career was starting to get more and more popular, and as a result, it ended up charting as high as #1, despite not being that critically well received. The recording sessions for the album, which spanned from late 1972 to January of the following year, were fraught with tension and infighting between band members, with Johns having to mediate and help ease the mood in the studio. Stewart's growing disinterest with the band, due to his newfound solo popularity, was one of the main reasons things had escalated between them, with members Lane, McLagan, and Jones being tired of staying behind the vocalist's shadow, being seen merely as his backing group. Stewart's absence was such that he only sang in half of Ooh La La's songs, with the rest of the record being populated with instrumentals and Ronnie Lane originals. Stewart, obviously, was not pleased with the results, and spoke his mind about the album in a Melody Maker interview. Between many other things, he called it half-baked and said he wasn't really proud of the album, citing the long time they took to make it as detrimental as well.

That enraged Lane, who had been the main force behind the album's songwriting, due to the singer's lack of commitment. Tired of being sidelined and overshadowed, he quit the band shortly afterward,  and began a solo career for himself, recording his first album in 1974. He ended up being replaced with bass player Tetsu Yamauchi, who had played for Free as a replacement for Andy Fraser. This new lineup toured in the US and Europe in support of the album, with their setlists consisting of half Faces tunes and half RS solo songs, and the tour was announced with the headline of "Rod Stewart and the Faces". Later in the year, they record the non-album single "Pool Hall Richard" and it's b-side, both written by Stewart and lead guitarist Ronnie Wood. It was a minor hit, managing to make #8 in the singles chart, and was pretty well received as well. Another release from the band was "Coast to Coast: Adventure and Beginners", a live album from their recent US tour, released in early 1974. While that was being mixed, both Wood and Stewart began recording their solo albums, in the basement of Ronnie's mansion, The Wick. Several songs were recorded during the aforementioned sessions, with all members of the group, except Tetsu, participating. 

However, instead of keeping those tunes for use in their next studio album, Rod and Ronnie show off the level of disinterest they had in the band, and put them alongside other non-Faces tracks, recorded during the same sessions, and release two solo albums, "Smiler" and "I've Got My Own Album to Do", respectively. Sometime later in mid-1974, the whole group reconvenes and records a new single, "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything", planned to lead off their new LP. However, those sessions only yielded another song, which was used as its b-side, and as they had touring commitments, they left that as-is. Whilst on tour, they kept on writing and having new song ideas, eventually reconvening to finish the album by January 1975. Then again, the sessions weren't very fruitful, and Lane's absence meant that the songwriting camp had been weakened considerably. They ended up tracking only four new songs, which were then overdubbed over the following month, before once more leaving to tour. The group eventually broke up in November 1975, with Wood joining the Rolling Stones, which left the new material shelved indefinitely, leaving "Ooh La La" as their last effort as a group, and their first post-Lane album unfinished.

However, what that left us all wondering was: what if they had remained focused within the band, and finished the album? First of all, we know "Pool Hall Richard" and its b-side, despite being fantastic songs, would not feature in the album, due to being one year removed from the first recording sessions, and being intended to be non-album singles since inception. Songs from both solo albums are fair game, as if the band had focused on the album, they would end up featuring in it anyway. However, they still must feature three or more band members each, to still manage to sound like a band effort and retain a certain cohesion for our reconstruction. No live versions are allowed as well, both due to it being a studio album, and to limit the addition of solo Rod Stewart tracks performed live by them, which would make almost the whole of "Smiler" usable. We will include all four songs recorded during those final sessions, as well as both sides of the "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything" single. The sides will feature no more than five songs a side, as with most of their records, and with only two songs featuring a lead vocal not by Rod, in contrast with his minimal input in their previous release. Well, without further ado, here's our tracklist:

You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)
Sailor (Smiler)
Mystifies Me (I've Got My Own Album to Do)
Take a Look at the Guy (I've Got My Own Album to Do)
Gettin' Hungry (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)
Rock Me (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)
Dixie Toot (Smiler)
As Long as You Tell Him (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)
Hi Heel Sneakers/Somebody to Love (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)
Open to Ideas (Five Guys Walk into a Bar...)

Bonus tracks:
Sweet Little Rock n' Roller (Smiler)

McLagan, Stewart, Wood, Jones, and Yamauchi in early 1974

Starting off things is "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything", the final single the band released while they were together in November 1974. It was a hit single for the group, managing to hit #1 in the singles chart, and was a pretty poppy tune, with some orchestration and a disco beat, which contrasts a lot with their other material. Written by all band members, it was still credited to "Rod Stewart and Faces" on the single's sleeve, which angered the band. Released on Stewart's "Smiler" LP, "Sailor" is a great fast-paced rocker with some fun lyrics, featuring keyboardist Ian McLagan, drummer Kenney Jones and guitarist Ronnie Wood, which almost makes it a Faces song, if you think about it. Being written by the distinct songwriting duo of Wood and Stewart helps matters a lot, as well. "Mystifies Me" is up next, being sourced from Ronnie's "I've Got My Own Album to Do". A beautiful ballad, it was written by Ronnie for Pattie Boyd, with whom he was having an affair at the time (as were George Harrison and Eric Clapton, mind you!), and also features backing vocals from Rod during the chorus, and some great Hammond organ playing by McLagan. The tune is also one of the highlights from his debut record, more than earning its spot in here.

Track no. 4 is then again sourced from Woody's first solo release. "Take a Look at the Guy", with co-lead vocals by Rod Stewart and some fiery electric piano playing by McLagan. Written by RW, this song was a mainstay of the band's setlist from 1974 onwards as well, with them stretching the song by a couple of minutes with extended solos and jamming. Finishing up things in side one is "Gettin' Hungry", a Beach Boys song from "Smiley Smile", of all things. A very bluesy tune, it was recorded during the final 1975 sessions, and is one of the more interesting songs from that period, with a slow, organ-driven intro and some great vocals by Rod the Mod. Side two's opener is the appropriately titled "Rock Me", written by Wood, Stewart, and McLagan. Almost an archetype for the regular Faces tune, it was recorded during their January 1975 sessions as well, with lead vocals by Rod. Speaking of him, his "Dixie Toot" is the seventh song in here, being one of the best songs on the album. Featuring Jones and Wood alongside himself, as well as some carnival-like brass playing, courtesy of Chris Barber's Jazz Band. It speaks of searching for a good time, something I think is pretty appropriate for a Wood/Stewart song on a Faces album, so it stays here.

Up next is "As Long as You Tell Him", the b-side to "You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything". A great, slow ballad, it was once more written by Stewart and Wood, dealing with a messy breakup, with some great playing by the whole band. Then again, it became a mainstay of their setlists after its release, so it deserves a spot in here. As track nine, we have a medley of two Rn'B covers: "Hi Heel Sneakers", by Tommy Tucker, and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love", by Solomon Burke. It shows them in a pretty laid-back way, being of a live-in-the-studio fashion, making the whole thing pretty great, as well as making for a fantastic listen. Finishing things up for the Faces' fifth is its title track, "Open to Ideas". Yet another ballad, it was written by Ian McLagan with aid from Rod and Woody, and was first featured in a compilation album in 1999. One of the superior songs from the record, it more than earns its place as closer and title track. As an addendum, we have the Chuck Berry cover of "Sweet Little Rock n' Roller", from Rod's "Smiler", with McLagan and Jones playing alongside him. It didn't feature in the album both due to the lack of space and due to it not being of the same quality as the others. Good enough for a bonus track.

As an album, "Open to Ideas" is a pretty good mid-1970s rock and roll record, with some great songs and performances in general. However, one cannot underestimate the damage Ronnie Lane's absence caused, both within the group and musically. Lost were his incredible songwriting chops and the variety he brought to them with his acoustic numbers, as was their interest in going further with the band, which was what doomed it from the start. It pales in comparison to what the band could do at their peak, but as a companion to "Ooh La La", it is more than fitting, and they sound pretty good alongside each other. Clocking in at 41 minutes with a longer side two, its most probable second single would be its title track, and using our bonus track as the b-side would be a nice way to use everything they recorded. It's a shame how a band of such potential and capabilities as the Faces ended up with such a short career together. In their heyday, they managed to challenge the Rolling Stones for the crown of the greatest rock n' roll band in the world, all that while playing some of the most energetic live gigs of the time. This unreleased album is a great glimpse of their final days, before they ended up either joining their competitors or crossing the Atlantic.

- The Faces - Five Guys Walk into a Bar...
- Rod Stewart - Smiler
- Ron Wood - I've Got My Own Album to Do

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Who - 7ft. Wide Car, 6ft. Wide Garage (1970)

"Tommy", The Who's first rock opera, was released in mid-May 1969, to immense critical acclaim and sales, and cemented their reputation as a band and act on what was for them the ever-elusive USA. Based on other works, such as the Pretty Things' "SF Sorrow", it tells of a messiah-like child who is deaf, dumb and blind, and is cured through pinball, before starting his holiday camp/cult and spreading his teachings to his followers. When performed live, the whole piece transformed them into most probably the greatest live band of the period, as was demonstrated in 1970's "Live at Leeds", and their appearance on both the Woodstock and Isle of Wight films. This conceptual double album was what kickstarted their domain over the UK and America over the 70s, and is still heralded as a masterpiece, with the group resurrecting the piece periodically since 1989, and always playing at least a couple of selections off it live. So from the get-go, the band knew it would be no easy task to follow such a blockbuster album, which especially frightened songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend, on whose shoulders was the responsibility to top what he saw as his best work. In order to gain time for the next LP or project of theirs, while still remaining on the public eye, they released the aforementioned concert as a stopgap of sorts, and started recording as soon as January of that year alternating the recording with more continued touring for "Tommy" around the world.

Pete's first attempt at writing a song after the opera's release was "Naked Eye", that evolved from one of the many "My Generation" jams they played as part of their act at the time, while on tour. After that first try, the rest of the songs started coming rather naturally to him, managing to write a couple more along the year. John Entwistle, their not-so-secret weapon, had also penned some songs, and it seemed that all was coming together for them, song-wise. Recording at both IBC Studios and Eel Pie, located in the guitarist's garage, they released their first new material in the year in the form of the single "The Seeker", backed with one of Roger Daltrey's few compositions, "Here for More". It did considerably well, managing to hit the Top 40 on both sides of the Atlantic, however, Pete remained unsatisfied. He still deemed it vital for The Who to have another concept to work under, instead of just having stand-alone songs without any link between them. However, while he didn't figure out what that concept was, they kept recording new material on and off through the year, during tour breaks. The sessions turned into an EP project, jokingly titled "7ft. Wide Car, 6ft. Wide Garage" by drummer Keith Moon, after the rather unusual location of their recording studio. However, that four-song release ended up scrapped by them and their label, Track Records as they would end up focusing more on tracking a couple more songs for the project, turning it into a new studio album.

However, during a break on their activities during September 1970, Townshend composed "Pure and Easy", the very beginning of the new concept he had asked for. From then to early 1971, he wrote the storyline and composed songs for a new 2LP opera, prospectively titled "Bobby". It was a story about a dystopian future, set in the year 2000, about people living in "lifesuits" due to the world being too polluted, and living in a virtual reality of sorts called the Lifehouse. Rock music was banned, then, so some hacker, named Bobby, ends up transmitting rock (obviously through Who songs), and helping the people rebel against the establishment. So from then on, the '70 material had two options: either being abandoned and left in the vaults for the time being, or being added into the new concept, as was the case with some of the album's tunes. As work progressed on the new opera, retitled "Lifehouse", they started new recording sessions in New York's Record Plant studios. They managed to track some 10 songs, before the concept was abandoned, mostly due to the rest of the group's inability to understand the concept of the album, and Pete's inability to explain it to them. Returning to England, sessions in Olympic with Glyn Johns on the producer's chair gave birth to "Who's Next", their stadium rock masterpiece, born from Lifehouse's best songs. A single album without any underlying concept, it ignored their songwriter's ideas, but ended up being a massive hit nevertheless.

So, what I wonder is: what if they had soldiered on with the 1970 project? Had the sudden inspiration for Lifehouse not happened, what was going to be next for the Who? First of all, any song written before September 1970's early conception of the opera is fair game to be included in this album. Due to that, two of the songs weren't even recorded in 1970, but I believe that had they carried on with the project, they would end up recording them for inclusion on the project. Also included is a live-in-the-studio BBC version of a song that wasn't properly recorded by The Who, back in the day. Since it fits in with the rest of the material sound-wise and is period accurate, it's included here. Both sides of the "The Seeker" single are present here, as I believe they would feature with the rest of the material from the sessions, despite being released early in the year. Live staples such as "Summertime Blues" and "Shakin' All Over" aren't included, as I don't think the band would be up to record such covers at the time. I also don't think Pete's worries that they needed a concept had reasoning, due to the immense success of "Who's Next", and the unfortunate scrapping of Lifehouse (a  reconstruction of which you can find here). To me, the album would have to be released in about November 1970, and feature about ten songs. I kept the joke title they gave, as it is pretty good, and it matches the theme of some of the more humorous songs on the album. Without further ado, here's our tracklist:

I Don't Even Know Myself (Who's Next)
Postcard (Odds and Sods)
The Seeker (Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy)
Now I'm a Farmer (Odds and Sods)
Water (Odds and Sods)

Heaven and Hell (BBC Sessions)
Here for More (Who's Missing)
Drowned (Quadrophenia)
Behind Blue Eyes (Who's Next)
Naked Eye (Odds and Sods)

Bonus track:
Shakin' All Over/Spoonful (BBC Sessions)

Townshend, Daltrey, Moon and Entwistle in late 1970

Starting off the album, "I Don't Even Know Myself" would make a great opening song to it. Later added to the Lifehouse concept, it was recorded in May 1970, in the garage studios at Eel Pie. In their now famous Isle of Wight gig in August, it was even introduced as from their next album they were recording then. Afterward, bassist John Entwistle's composition "Postcard" is track number two. With some new brass overdubs added in 1974 before inclusion on "Odds and Sods", their first outtake compilation. The rest of the song was recorded in May as well, with John on lead vocals, also being a great description of their life on tour back then, and pretty funny as well. The lead single from the sessions, "The Seeker" was the first recording from the sessions, recorded in January 1970 at IBC studios. Despite being released a couple of months before the album would be, I believe they would include it, based on quality alone, something the song has a lot of. Written in late 1968, but not included on Tommy due to the lack of a connection to the concept, "Now I'm a Farmer" is up next, finally being recorded in 1970 by the group. Townshend's composition also has a humorous side, being about life in the country and being able to grow your own food, with him being very proud of the song, as stated by himself in some pre-Tommy interviews, also being in the tracklist of the scrapped extended play the band had planned for release, causing its inclusion in here.

As the fifth and final track on the first side, "Water" is one of the highlights of the album. Later being added to the "Lifehouse" concept, it was one of the highlights from their live concerts at the time, sometimes getting up to twelve minutes in length, as was the case in the Isle of Wight gig. We will use the studio version of it, considerably shorter, but just as good as it. Also a part of the scrapped EP, it was recorded by them in late May 1970, being written by Townshend and sung by Daltrey. Starting off side two is their usual show starter through most of the 1969-70 tours, "Heaven and Hell". First played during their late-1968 live performances and staying there until December 1970, it suffered the same fate as "Now I'm a Farmer", as in not being in "Tommy" due to the lack of a concept, but getting to stay in here nevertheless. A rarity, as it is a Roger Daltrey-penned number, "Here for More" isn't a masterpiece, but is a pretty decent song, and not bad at all for a guy who doesn't write many tunes. Used as a b-side to "The Seeker", here being the second track of side two instead. Surprisingly enough, up next is a song from 1973's "Quadrophenia", the great "Drowned". Despite being recorded some three years after the rest of the album, it was written way back in the day, along with most of the selections in this LP. Considering that had they soldiered on with this project, they would have used all or most songs available, it seems fair to think they would end up doing it anyway.

Soon afterward, is "Behind Blue Eyes", sourced from their masterpiece, "Who's Next". Despite what is believed by many, it did not begin its life as a Lifehouse song from the get-go, and had a pretty peculiar evolution. Pete started writing it on the road sometime in late June 1970, firstly as a prayer, consisting of its "rock" ending's lyrics. And then, through the next couple of months or so, it evolved to become the song we all know and love. So, as it was begun and mostly finished before the main ideas for "Lifehouse" were fully fleshed-out, and is much more universal in theme than most LH songs, it is included here. Finishing off things for The Who's fifth studio album, is one of the biggest highlights of it. One of the planned EP songs, it stayed in their live repertoire for most of their career, which shows just how good it is. Before finding a home on "Odds and Sods", it was also slated for "Lifehouse", and there are even rumors it was re-recorded during sessions for it. But despite that, we will include the regular studio version of it, from the aforementioned outtakes compilation, to end our album with the song that started it. Keeping the promise I made of not including their live cover staples, a medley of both "Shakin' All Over" and "Spoonful", the first a 50's rock tune and the second a blues standard, is added as a bonus track. It was recorded for a BBC program, in the same session as "Heaven and Hell", making it seem fair that we included it, even if in a limited form, so to speak.

As an album, "7ft. Wide Car, 6ft. Wide Garage" is one of the best representations of the era which I consider to be the peak of their talents in the studio and live. With great compositions and individual performances, with special praise to drummer Keith Moon, who of course was at the top of his game as a drummer back then, the ten songs featured in this reconstruction are some of their best. The fact that three-fourths of the group contributed to the songwriting should be noted as well, something quite rare with them. To me, it is in the same league as "Who's Next" in the terms of quality. Considering both were planned less than a year apart and overlap by only a song, that's impressive. It would have affected the Lifehouse project in some ways, I believe. On one hand, it would give the band more freedom to write and record without the pressure to release an album in 1971, since they already had the previous year. On the other, the project now misses some key songs, both on the narrative side and on the musical aspect as well, which Pete would have to fill in with new songs, further overloading him with work in a much troubled period of his life. As the group had said, it would be no easy task to follow such a mammoth of an LP as "Tommy", but they sure did try their best to do it, with some pretty impressing results. We now have the "missing link" of sorts between their two biggest albums, and it is in the most literal way possible, a garage rock album.

- Odds and Sods
- BBC Sessions
- Quadrophenia
- Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
- Who's Next
- Who's Missing

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Oh, Lonesome Me (1970)

The Rockets were a Californian psychedelic rock group, consisting of band members Danny Whitten, Leon Whitsell, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. They had been together since 1963, when they began as a doo-wop vocal group, of all things, called Danny and the Memories. After several name changes, stylistic changes, a Sly Stone-produced single and relative fame on Los Angeles' nightclub scene, they released a self-titled album in 1968, through White Whale records. With Whitten and Whitsell on lead vocals and also sharing most of the significant songwriting duties, it didn't sell very well, only managing to score about five thousand copies sold and no expressive charting singles. However, their luck began to change when, in late 1968, they got in touch with Neil Young, an old acquaintance they had interacted with in '66, when he was still a member of Buffalo Springfield. After leaving the aforementioned band a couple of times and releasing his first solo album early in 1968, he saw them perform at the Whisky-a-Go-Go club, and impressed with what he saw, Young invited the group for a couple of jam sessions, with Whitten, Molina, and Talbot accepting the invitation.

After those sessions, they received an offer to become his official backing group from then on, and so they did. Rechristened as "Crazy Horse", the three of them began the recording of Neil's second solo studio album, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere", in early 1969. After released, in April of 1969, it became a hit, with songs such as "Cinnamon Girl" becoming AM radio staples, and managing to chart much higher than his previous studio LP. The album even featured a "tribute" of sorts to the deceased Rockets written by NY, "Running Dry", even featuring ex-member Bobby Notkoff on violin. As was the norm, they toured throughout the year to promote their album, with the special addition of producer and friend Jack Nitzsche handling the keyboard duties, and so they undertook their first North American tour together as a band. And then as early as August of the same year, they began recording on and off with Young, for a possible follow-up record. In that month alone, they recorded some eight new songs, with one of them even being a Danny Whitten original, and due to all that happening in the space of a year, the future looked pretty bright for them.

However, right around that time, Neil received an invitation, right around that time, to join Crosby, Stills, and Nash in their next gig, this little festival in the middle of nowhere called "Woodstock". That extended into an album and sold-out tour with CSNY, leading to him understandably not having much time to record his album, which led to all his activities with the Horse being put on hold for the time being, the LP obviously included. After he returned, in February 1970, things had changed. He decided to scrap most CH recordings and start anew, in a brand new direction. With a different backing group, he recorded the more personal and folksy "After the Gold Rush", that when released featured only three songs with the Whitten/Molina/Talbot lineup. As with its predecessor, it was a big hit, and cemented Young's reputation as a great artist of that era. The band, however, also used their newfound popularity to their favor, recording a new DW-led album, that featured songs such as the great "I Don't Wanna Talk About It", later covered by Rod Stewart. While both parts went their separate ways, for the time being, their second unfinished effort stayed in the vaults.

However, what many of us still wondered was: how could a second NY&CH effort have sounded like? First of all, we know of the working title of it, during the August 1969 sessions. It was named "Oh, Lonesome Me" after a Don Gibson cover they recorded, and was to be released in early 1970. Second of all, I believe it would have featured about twelve songs, as they did not record any other ten-minute epics, as was the case in Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. The group's influence and output in it would have also been bigger, I think, as shown by their live performances and sessions at the time, featuring Whitten-sung numbers and such. In addition to the eight songs from the 1969 sessions, live versions by them of Young-written songs will be included here, due to the unavailability of period-accurate studio versions of them, and the fact they would probably be recorded had the whole CSNY thing not happened. Some songs from the Crazy Horse album will be included as well, due to being recorded concurrently with ATGR and to the idea that their album would feature more input from them. Without stretching it any further than this, here it is:

Winterlong (Live at Fillmore East)
Look at All the Things (Crazy Horse)
Everybody's Alone (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)
Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown (Live at Fillmore East)
Wonderin' (Live at Fillmore East)
It Might Have Been (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)

Oh, Lonesome Me (After the Gold Rush)
I Don't Want to Talk About It (Crazy Horse)
When You Dance I Can Really Love (After the Gold Rush)
I Believe In You (After the Gold Rush)
Dance, Dance, Dance (Crazy Horse)
Birds (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)

Young and Whitten performing live, March 1970

Our album begins with "Winterlong". It was first recorded during the Horse sessions, but that take remains unreleased. A studio version was recorded during sessions for "Tonight's the Night", being released on Decade. In here, however, we will use a live version from March 1970, as it features the group and is from the same time period as Gold Rush. Up next is Whitten's It Might Have Been, an oddity in here as it doesn't feature Neil playing or writing in it. However, its justified by the fact that in those same sessions, the group recorded a version of the tune, and it remains unreleased. Instead, we'll use the "Crazy Horse" LP's version of it. As track number three, we have "Everybody's Alone". Recorded by both Young and the Horse and as a group effort between him and CSN, we will use the original version of it, tracked by the band, and found on his "Archives Vol. 1" anthology release. Afterward, the live "Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown" comes. Found on both "Tonight's the Night" and the March 1970 gig, we will use it as opposed to a studio version without Neil from the Horse LP, due to featuring the group's frontman, and being good enough for a different album.

As the fifth tune, we have "Wonderin'", introduced in the live album as "from my new album, when I record it". Despite being written way back then, the first studio version of it fans ever saw was recorded on 1983's "Everybody's Rockin'", in a surprisingly good rockabilly arrangement. Instead of that, we will use a live version of it, from the same gig as the other two tunes before it. A Jo London cover, "It Might Have Been" finishes off side one, then again as a live performance, but this time from an unknown venue in April '70, found on the Archives release. They did attempt a studio version, but as NY kept screwing up the lyrics on those takes, it was then rendered unusable. Starting side two is our title track, itself being a cover too, by Don Gibson. The studio version that was released on "After the Gold Rush" is our pick in here, also being one of my favorites from the Aug. '69 sessions. The surprise posthumous hit "I Don't Want to Talk About It" comes next, being written and sung by Whitten. Being the best song on the "Crazy Horse" LP, I think that it would most certainly be included on the album as it is, and due to that, we will use that version in here.

Serving as the eighth track on our reconstruction is "When You Dance I Can Really Love". Probably one of the best songs on the album, it was included on ATGR as recorded by the Horse, and would probably be released as one of the singles off this particular version, based on sheer quality. Up next is the final of three songs in here to be sourced from his 1970 album, "I Believe in You". It was also recorded with CSNY during sessions for their first album, but obviously, we will use the group version of it. Recorded and included on the Horse's album, but written by Young, "Dance, Dance, Dance" is sung by drummer Ralph Molina, and that's the version of it we'll use this time around. It was also attempted with the frontman, but then again nothing came of the tune with him, leading us to use this one. As the final track on this album, "Birds" is also the shortest song, clocking at more or less one and a half minutes. It was released as the b-side to the "Oh, Lonesome Me" single, and was later re-recorded to be used on his Horse-less album. For that, we will use the original CH take, found in the Archives collection, finishing off the album in a very beautiful way, as it should be.

Clocking in at about 42 minutes, in more-or-less evenly timed sides, "Oh, Lonesome Me" is a solid country/rock affair, being almost like a bridge between its predecessor and the hit that was to come afterward, 1972's "Harvest". In addition to all that, the non-Neil compositions and covers give this a sort of "spontaneous" feel to the LP and as a showcase for his now famous backing band, with its contrast between live and studio material. I also don't think the inclusion of live material is too far-fetched, as they have in the past released studio/concert hybrids, such as "Rust Never Sleeps", leading us to believe this could also be the case. Due to the fact that Neil is the king of unfinished albums, this particular lost LP doesn't have the same fame and mythology as "Homegrown", another of his non-projects. That is undeservedly so, because it plays a very important part on NY's discography, and helps us understand his later work. Due to it being Whitten's final work before his heroin addiction spiraled out of control, this album's release would make an album like "Tonight's the Night" a much more poignant statement about one of his greatest friends who died so tragically.

- Live at Fillmore East, March 1970
- Neil Young - After the Gold Rush
- Crazy Horse - Crazy Horse
- The Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Small Faces - 1862 (1969)

The Small Faces released their landmark album, "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", in May 24th, 1968, to massive critical and commercial acclaim, and the album is to this day considered one of the masterpieces of the so-called summer of love. Together with albums by the kinds of Traffic, the Beatles or the Jefferson Airplane, it defined the psychedelic era, and has a loyal cult following exactly 50 years after its release. It featured regular "pop" songs on the first side, and a fairy tale made up of songs and narration called "Happiness Stan" on the other. It followed Stan, a man who goes on an adventure to find the other half of the moon, and meets several characters and new friends throughout his journey. It helped the band to further distance themselves from their Rn'B and early rock n' roll roots, and establish them as a major act in Britain. However, it also proved to be unperformable by the quartet in a live setting due to its complexity and significant amount of overdubs, and that frustrated them quite a lot, especially frontman and guitarrist Steve Marriott. 

But they had to move on, and so they did, entering the studio soon after the Ogden's sessions had ended to record some newly written tracks. The first result the public saw of that was the single release of "The Universal" with "Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass" on the b side. Despite the sucess of their previous single, "Lazy Sunday", it charted much lower than its precedent, only being able to reach #16, which further upset Steve, who considered the tune to be the greatest song he had ever written up to that point. As the group continued recording as the year went by, they started conceptualizing a followup to their masterpiece, tentatively titled 1862, after the year a chapel next to Marriott's house was built. On and off due to their touring commitments, they recorded what amounted to about 8 finished songs, as well as three or four instrumental demos. However, after he and bassist Ronnie Lane produced a single by young band The Herd, he grew impressed of their lead guitarrist's playing habilities, Peter Frampton, and soon formed a friendship with him.

And so, in late '68, Steve suggested to his three bandmates that they make Frampton into a band member, to help with their live performances and help them overcome what he considered to be their "limitations" as a band. But the others, specially keyboardist Ian McLagan and Lane, were against the addition of a fifth Small Face, and nixed the idea. That was the final straw for the singer, and during a disastrous New Year's Eve gig, he announced his departure from the band, and simply left the stage. The band finished the rest of their already booked concerts, and called it quits in March 1969. Steve formed Humble Pie with Frampton soon after the breakup, and they went on to record their first two albums that same year. He tried to convince McLagan into joining, but he instead stayed with his other bandmates, who with ex-Jeff Beck Group's Ron Wood and Rod Stewart formed the Faces, and released their first album in 1970. With the unfinished album nowhere near a release-worthy status, their label released a comp called The Autumn Stone, and released the more finished tunes there.

However, what every SF fan wondered was: what if they had actually finished the album and released it? What we actually know, is that it wouldn't feature a medley or concept, as they considered that formulaic after the success of ONGF. We can also assume that it would base itself on a 12 song, 40 minutes template, as was the norm at the time. We also have a list of songs, written by their guitarrist, of the album contenders up to then. It only features 9 tunes, with three of those being instrumentals, and two being the same under different titles! Due to that, I won't consider it as a tracklist, but will take it into account in other ways, when building my own. We also will allow some of the songs recorded by their "spinoff" bands soon after the breakup, due to them either featuring in his list, or being on complete by the time they were recording 1862. From that, however, we will exclude two songs: "Pig Trotters", being an instrumental version of  "Wrist Job", and "War of the Worlds", listed as "Blues Jam" due to being too incomplete. Without further ado, here it is:

Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall (The Autumn Stone)
Call it Something Nice (The Autumn Stone)
Red Balloon (The Autumn Stone)
Wrist Job (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
Hello the Universal (The Autumn Stone)
Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am (The Autumn Stone)

Buttermilk Boy (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
The Story of Evolution (First Step)
Growing Closer (As Safe as Yesterday Is)
Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake)
Collibosher (The Autumn Stone)
The Autumn Stone (The Autumn Stone)

Bonus track:
Every Little Bit Hurts (Ogden's Nut Gone Flake) 

Marriott, Jones, McLagan and Lane in late 1968.
Our reconstruction starts off with "Wide Eyed Girl on the Wall", written by Marriott and Lane. A great horn-driven instrumental, I consider it not to be an unfinished tune without vocals, but yes an attempt at a "scene setting" instrumental, just like the title track of their previous album, causing it to be the first track. Up next is "Call it Something Nice", with vocals by Ronnie and again written by the two. Begun in late 1967 during the Ogden's sessions, but held over for its follow-up, it's a great little ditty, that despite only having a working title, deserves a spot in here. "Red Balloon", a Tim Hardin cover, is the third track of the LP, and most probably the greatest song on the album, sung by Steve, and was recorded soon after the sessions for the aforementioned LP ended, being a fantastic acoustic rendition of it. Afterward is the organ-driven "Wrist Job", the first non-Small Faces track, is included due to being on the contenders list, and fitting in seamlessly with the other tracks, as well as being a vocal version of their "Pig Trotters", sung and written solely by their frontman.

"Hello the Universal" is next, retitled to the band's wishes, as it was titled incorrectly in the single. Recorded by Steve alone in his garden, with studio overdubs by the others, was then again written by Lane and Marriott. Finishing the first side we have "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am", a hard-rocking tune that was released as the b-side to their final single, "Afterglow". This tune serves as a companion to the style HP would later base themselves on, and we can barely tell they're played by different bands! Speaking of the devil, we have the Pie's "Buttermilk Boy" opening side two with a bang. As it featured in the contenders list and fits like a glove with the rest of the material, it deserves to be included in here. If you're wondering what is "The Story of Evolution", its simply "Stone" from the Faces' "First Step", edited to match the state it was in in late-1968, as showcased in the demo Lane recorded of it, released in Who Came First. I chose the more finished 1970 version of his solo tune, editing it down to both fit in and resemble more how it was at the time of recording this album.

"Growing Closer", by Humble Pie, was written by Ian McLagan, who when writing it was in between the two bands, eventually choosing its rival. It was written by one member and performed by another, with vocals by Marriott, so I think its fair to say it has merit to be included here. "Donkey Rides, a Penny, a Glass" comes next, being sung and written by both Steve and Ronnie. We will use a different version of it, featuring a brass overdub, as I feel its more finished than the released one (and a bit of variety sometimes is nice, as well!). As the second-to-last on the LP, "Collibosher" is an instrumental, being pretty similar to the opening track as well and I also consider it to be a finished song rather than a backing track. Written by SM alone, it was begun during the final session for Ogden's but finished sometime later. Wrapping up their farewell is "The Autumn Stone", the title track to their 1969 compilation. Written by Marriot/Lane and sung by the former, with guest Lyn Dobson on the flute, it gives the band the fantastic goodbye it deserved, in their final album and song.
As an album, "1862" is a pretty bold statement by them, showing a more folk and blues-oriented side, while abandoning the psychedelia of their previous record. They develop here a more hard rocking style, almost a sampler of their later bands, while also keeping that cheeky British and folksy side to it, as they knew wonderfully how to do. The album is about 41 minutes long, with both sides being more or less even in length. Its lead single would probably be "The Autumn Stone" b/w "Wham Bam", as it was a scrapped 45' that wasn't released due to their breakup. As a b-side to the second single, "Red Balloon", we can use another cover, the great ONGF outtake "Every Little Bit Hurts", also included here as a bonus track, used after being relegated from the original LP. The band most certainly would still split, due to the wounds between them all being too deep to solve that easily. However, by delaying that only by a couple of months, we get a great album, and proper farewell for them. It's a shame we didn't get this final glimpse of their brilliance, before they ceased to be small.


- The Autumn Stone
- Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
- Humble Pie - As Safe as Yesterday Is

- The Faces - First Step