Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Who - Empty Glass (1980)

Keith Moon, the drummer of The Who, passed away in late 1978, shortly after the band released their "Who Are You" album. The band finished the editing of "The Kids are Alright", a documentary about the band that was being produced since late 1977, right before his death, and its release was dedicated to him, as he passed merely weeks after the band approved the film's rough cut, not changing anything of the cut after that. His death devastated many fans around the world, and it was expected that the band was going to break up as an effect of that, and also due him being a vital part of their sound. However, the remaining three members of the group decided to carry on, soon afterward recruiting ex-Small Faces and Faces drummer Kenney Jones as his replacement, and went on a large US and European tour the following year. The tour, their first full-fledged one in more than three years, was criticised by many, mostly due to the stark difference in the drumming style of Jones and his predecessor, and a tragedy in Cincinnati that killed 11 people just before one of their performances didn't help matters either, leading to a very negative mood within the group.

At the same time as the tour was beginning, this incarnation of The Who entered the studio for the first time, to record new versions of "Quadrophenia" outtakes, to be used in the motion picture of the same name, based on their 1973 rock opera. The band debuted many freshly written tunes in their live performances, mostly led by Pete Townshend, with some of them even managing to become live staples for them. It seemed that the next logical step was for the band to record an LP with those songs, as had been the norm until then. However, Townshend had other plans, and ended up recording a lot of the material they had performed, as well as other songs he had written the previous year, as "Empty Glass". His first real solo album, it was mostly based on his estranged relationship with his wife Karen, his ongoing alcohol addiction, and even a couple of nods to Moon, his deceased bandmate. The album was pretty well received by the fans and critics, even managing to score a hit, with "Let My Love Open the Door". Even Roger Daltrey, one of his fellow band members, expressed his liking for it, even citing a couple of songs he considered his favorites off of it.

The other members of the band weren't idle during that whole time either, with Roger releasing the soundtrack to the movie "McVicar", on which he also played the lead role. John Entwistle, however, spent that time recording the bulk of his "Too Late the Hero" album, that ended up only being released in 1981. After that small break, touring started again throughout 1980, with them booking time in the studio for the final months of the year. That led Pete to write all of their next album, "Face Dances" during that short period of time, with John also writing a couple of songs for it. When it was released, however, the first Who album without Keith Moon was bashed by critics, and despite the success of "You Better You Bet" as a single, failed to make as much of an impression as their albums often did. Because of that, comparisons between both Face Dances and Empty Glass, written and released one year apart, became inevitable, with almost always EG being seen as the superior album, and Daltrey even accusing the guitarist of saving the best material for himself, on one occasion.

However, what was in the back of every fan's mind during that time was: what if they had recorded "Empty Glass", instead of it being just a solo album? To start off, it would probably still follow the tracklist and be mostly songs from that album. Nothing from FD will be included, in order not to overlap between both albums, so that they can co-exist as separate entities. This is going to be mostly an imaginative effort, due to the lack of Who versions of the tracks, so we'll have to stick to our imaginations for the time being. Only one cut off Entwistle's TLTH album makes the album, due to that being generally the number he got for each album, even though Who Are You featured a record three by him. No songs here are sourced from McVicar, however, since it features only covers, and the last time they had included one in a studio album was in 1969, so I doubt they'd record any. "And I Moved" is taken out of the album, to make place for Entwistle, and also due to its lyrical content, which I doubt Roger would be happy to sing. Without stretching it any further, here's our tracklist:

Side One:
01 Rough Boys
02 I Am an Animal
03 Talk Dirty
04 Empty Glass
05 Jools and Jim
Side Two:
06 Keep on Working
07 Cats in the Cupboard
08 A Little is Enough
09 Let My Love Open the Door
10 Gonna Get Ya

Daltrey, Townshend and Jones playing live, 1980
Our 1980 Who album begins with "Rough Boys", which features Kenney Jones on drums, playing as a guest on Pete's album. On some interview, Roger has stated he felt some of the album's songs would be better suited for The Who, going as far as citing this song, being an indicator he enjoyed it, apart from its pretty risqué lyrics. I'd think that its arrangement would be mostly untouched, apart from the vocals, of course. Afterward, comes the great "I Am an Animal", which they even debuted on tour in '79, during some of the encores. It would still, I believe, feature Pete on the lead vocals, since it suits him better than Daltrey's "stronger" vocals would, considering its acoustic and midtempo. As track no. 3, "Talk Dirty" is our sole Entwistle tune, and its a great song, with his typical sense of humour showing up. Its synth driven sound also fits in well with the rest of the songs, guaranteeing its spot in here. What led me to include this specific song is that its the most famous from his solo album, which was being developed concurrently with EG, what leads me to believe they would record it.

We move on to "Empty Glass", which was even first demoed by the band during the sessions for the "Who Are You" album two years beforehand, with Moon behind the drumkit. A pretty hard-rocking tune, it would fit in with our lead singer's voice like a glove, and be one of the highlights of the album, deserving to be its title track. The short and fast-paced "Jools and Jim" comes next, which was written during one of their tours, but not played during it, and as in the original album, finishes the first side of it. Starting off side two we have "Keep on Working", first demoed in 1977, during sessions for "Rough Mix", but never recorded until the time came for his album. I believe it would still have been sung by its author since it sounds pretty good as it is, and I don't believe Roger would be able to do it justice, so it remains the same. Up next is "Cats in the Cupboard", which was featured in several of their encores during that time. Due to it being a pretty energetic tune, I believe the band's lead singer would do a great job on it, and would probably become a consistent live staple for them.

As the eighth track, "A Little is Enough" is a great tune, and reportedly Townshend's favourite song off the album, as he has stated in some interviews and his autobiography. Since in his solo gigs he has played it constantly since releasing the song, I believe the band would have done the same thing. The lead single off the album would most certainly be "Let My Love Open the Door", which managed to hit #9 in the Billboard charts. Since Daltrey even covered the song recently, with Pete guesting on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, we can assume he is a fan of the song, and they would most surely record it. His version is not included here due to the sheer difference in age between it and the rest of the songs, making it sound pretty out of place within the album. Finishing off the LP, "Gonna Get Ya" is the longest song on it, clocking in at six and a half minutes. Its also the one I consider to sound the most like the famous "old Who sound", making my choice for lead singer quite obvious, since it would suit Roger perfectly, and would sound awesome live, had they played it on tour.

Had this really become The Who's ninth studio album, it would have been pretty well recieved, due to its stellar songwriting and performance. However, I reckon most Who purists would disown it, as they did with "Face Dances" and "It's Hard", since it doesn't feature Keith, and has a much more 80's sound than what came of it. It is surely an improvement over FD, being overall stronger and considerably personal in its lyrics, as well. The main single off of it would of course be "Let My Love Open the Door", which with the Who brand name would most likely hit #1, since it came close to doing that with Pete alone, even. The main sequencing changes were swapping out LMLOTD and the title track, to make the sides even out, with them ending up at about 20 minutes each, the standard for an LP. Had their main songwriter not begun a solo career, The Who would end up with a much stronger post-Moon discography, something much needed for a band that was trying to re-establish themselves and prove they could go on, without the band member who never had an empty glass.

Sources used:
- Pete Townshend - Empty Glass
- John Entwistle - Too Late the Hero

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Pink Floyd - Spare Bricks (1982)

"Pink Floyd - The Wall", released in 1982, was Pink Floyd's second full-length film, and was based on their album of the same name. It featured most of the album's songs in their original form, and followed Bob Geldof playing the role of Pink, as he built an imaginary wall between himself and the world, also explaining the reasons that led him to do such a thing. Mostly driven by the music, the film expanded on the original rock opera's narrative's themes of war, isolation and even the very own nature of rock and roll, being a great companion piece to the LP, as well as a fan favorite of many. The film was pretty well received by the critics, and was even a moderate success at the box office, screening from July 1982 to early 1983. The flick combined Gerald Scarfe's surreal animation sequences with other additional live-action scenes, written by Roger Waters himself, who later criticised the way his screenplay and vision were treated, saying it didn't do them justice. In addition to all that, it also featured a new song, "When the Tigers Broke Free", originally written for the 1979 album but dropped before the recordings started, due to being "too personal", for the band and producer Bob Ezrin's liking, but brought back for this project. Other songs, such as "Mother" and "Bring the Boys Back Home", were re-recorded entirely, featuring different, more orchestral arrangements or different interpretations, to better fit the narrative and visuals of the motion picture they were inserted on.

Because of that, there were plans by the group of releasing a soundtrack album with the re-recorded tracks and the new song, as was announced in the credits of the movie, with a planned release date of November 1982. Pink Floyd also planned on adding other songs, either The Wall leftovers or newly written tunes, to help make up an album, since the movie versions weren't enough to make up a full album, and the band felt fans wouldn't buy an album of rehashed older material only. It was also supposed to flesh out its narrative, adding some more depth to the story with these new tunes, as the band had to work within the limitations of the LP. The "Spare Bricks" sessions, as the album was now known, then began in mid-1982, with the band recording about six new songs, all of them written by Waters. However, in May of the same year, after album sessions were already underway, Argentinian dictator Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the Falklands Islands, leading to a war against the UK for the area. Roger Waters was enraged by this, and began writing a new concept. That conflict caused a direction change on the album, which then became "The Final Cut - A Requiem for the Post-War Dream", with him writing the rest of the LP's material based on the war and his feelings about it. Since the band was already uninterested in the soundtrack idea to begin with, Waters decided that scrapping SB and starting anew was the right thing to do, as the next Pink Floyd album.

So instead of a new album, all the band's fans got in that year was a single, with "When the Tigers Broke Free" on the A-side and their new orchestral version of "Bring the Boys Back Home" on the B-side, in July 1982. It charted considerably well, considering it's nature, peaking at #39 and being well received by critics. However, now that the album had grown into a standalone unit, problems arose: in-fighting within the band was at an all-time high, with Gilmour and Waters simply not getting along. The lead guitarist's lack of productivity also further extended the issues, with him later criticizing the album for its overtly political tone and lack of musicality, and ends up only singing lead vocals on one of The Final Cut's songs. With keyboardist Rick Wright long gone by this point, the piano parts were played by the album's producer Michael Kamen, who also wrote most of the orchestration on it. He proved to play an essential role on the sessions, but did not manage to ease the tensions between the band members, as Bob Ezrin had before him, and his more passive approach in producing could be seen, with Roger finally managing to take the reins of the band. Due to all that was mentioned above, Floyd fans were left without a "real" release of the soundtrack, and even to this date, the seven movie-exclusive songs haven't been released anywhere, leading the rerecordings to be largely forgotten among the listeners, and very few info being available about them.

However, what some of us fans were left wondering was: if Pink Floyd had carried on with the project as was intended, what would that album look like? Well, to start off, the six newly written songs would obviously, with some minor lyrical changes, be released on TFC, so it is our main source of material in this reconstruction. All tunes featured here were recorded with the intention of being a part of SB, between 1981-82 by the band, with only one notable exception, that will be explained later. As well as that, all of the film songs would be taken from a fan-made DVD rip, since it hasn't met an official release yet, and any other sources aren't available. That implies that most of these songs will feature some sound effects from what was happening onscreen, but unfortunately, those are unavoidable. The album's sequence will be mostly inspired by the one on The Final Cut, because of our familiarity with the album and the direct linking of some tracks, thankfully making my job a lot easier. The songs from The Wall are not sequenced in order of appearance, however, but on the spots I felt they fit on the best within the LP, to make up the best listening experience possible within our limitations. Very few editing was needed in this, mostly to make the songs segue smoothly, and since it's no use to try and avoid the many sound effects in the songs, the movie tunes are left mostly unaltered from their original state on the movie. So without any further ado, here's our tracklist:

Side One:
01 In the Flesh
02 Your Possible Pasts
03 One of the Few
04 When the Tigers Broke Free
05 The Hero's Return
06 Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3
07 What Shall We Do Now?
Side Two:
08 Bring the Boys Back Home
09 The Fletcher Memorial Home
10 Mother
11 The Final Cut
12 The Moment of Clarity
13 Outside the Wall

Waters, Gilmour and Hugo Zuccarelli during the TFC sessions, 1982
Starting off the album is the re-recording of "In the Flesh", which is led by an almost Wagnerian orchestral arrangement and features actor Bob Geldof unaccompanied on lead vocals. As an intro for the album, a snippet of "The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot" by Vera Lynn is used, in order to emulate the beginning of the film, that featured the aforementioned song as its opener. That is followed by "Your Possible Pasts", whose chorus was recited as a poem by Geldof as a part of the tune "Stop" in the flick. One of the first to be recorded for the LP, it was based on some early ideas written early on for The Wall by Waters, but that were scrapped beforehand, more than justifying its inclusion in here. After that comes "One of the Few", featuring Roger alone on acoustic guitar and vocals. Originated from the first 1978 demos for TW, it was originally named "Teach", and is sung from the point of view of the Teacher from "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2", having been brought back from there by the band for use in this project. "When the Tigers Broke Free" comes next, featured on a different, slightly longer mix with different vocals in some spots, as well as added military snares to certain sections of it. At first rejected by the band due to being "too personal" on the original album, back then when it was titled "Anzio, 1944", it was not forgotten by Waters, finally finding a home in the film. Being the only new song in it, it more than justifies its own inclusion in here.

Up next is "The Hero's Return", first recorded as "Teacher, Teacher" during the The Wall sessions. The version used here is an edit of both parts, joining them together and excluding the verse about "the gunner's dying words", as it doesn't quite fit. Also sung in the POV of the teacher, it was the first song recorded for the project, what led to its appearance here. Track no. 06 is "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3", here re-recorded in a slightly faster tempo than the original, and with it's classic "TV smashing" intro intact. "What Shall We Do Now?" finishes up the first side, having been excluded from the original album at the last minute due to the album's length and the constraints of vinyl. It's a shame it couldn't be featured on the LP, but it ended up finding a good home on the movie and soundtrack. It features a reprise of "Empty Spaces" as its first section, then leading to a different, fast-paced section, that is exclusive to it. "Bring the Boys Back Home" is next, an orchestrated version featuring vocals by the Portaddulais Male Voice Choir, not featuring any Pink Floyd members in it, and was the only of two songs of the film to see an official release. "The Fletcher Memorial Home" follows, having been written for SB, without any leftover material being used on it. This version doesn't feature its spoken word bridge, since it was only added after they had shifted towards The Final Cut, and dates the song considerably, with its many references to 1980s politics.

"Mother" is next, being re-recorded almost entirely, with the exception of its guitar solo section. The only song on the album to feature a lead vocal by David Gilmour, it has a much slower and different arrangement than the LP version, being mostly orchestral and led by a glockenspiel, instead of the acoustic guitar-led arrangement it had before. Afterward comes "The Final Cut", having been inspired by many "bits and pieces" left over from The Wall, and even featuring a reference to it in its lyrics. The line "I'll tell you what's behind the wall" is obscured by a shotgun blast, in order to try and disguise its connection to TW. Most probably, if SB had happened, it would have been present in its original form, but since there isn't a version without the blast, the regular one is used here. "The Moment of Clarity" is next, being recited by Bob Geldof as a poem during the movie. While not appearing as a song per se, it was performed in the movie, and due to that, I think the band would end up recording it for Spare Bricks. Since that didn't happen, we use Waters' solo version, released on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, instead, with him alone on acoustic guitar. Finally, "Outside the Wall" ends the album, in a longer and much less ironic version. It features an instrumental bridge, with the melody of "Southampton Dock", from TFC as its main motif, and is mostly orchestrated, and with Waters on lead. It ends the album on a much more positive note than the original, and also gives it a proper ending.

"Spare Bricks - Music from the Film" is a pretty decent companion piece to The Wall movie and album, adding more depth to it's narrative than ever intended before, and also finding a home for many of its outtakes, that were otherwise without any proper context, stranded in TFC. With both of its sides clocking in at about 23 minutes, it would easily fit into the vinyl's constraints, and with 13 songs, makes up for a solid listening experience. The most probable lead single of the album would be "Your Possible Pasts" backed with "The Final Cut", due to them being released that way as a promo single for TFC, and being part of the new material recorded for the project, it would make sense to think that. As even as a promo, it managed to climb to #8 on the charts, I'd consider it would manage to be a hit, with the single release and Wall association probably helping it. As a standalone album, there's no doubt that it suffers considerably, with the new material making up for about half the LP, and even still, of a slightly sub-par quality. However, as a companion piece to The Wall, it works quite well, proving to be an essential piece of the rock opera's lore, and giving the movie re-recordings a home, instead of being lost as they are at the moment. With the original LP's 40th anniversary on the way, a deluxe edition featuring the film tunes, without sound effects would be the ideal thing to do. But until then, we're all left to speculate about The Wall's lost spare bricks.

Sources used:
- The Final Cut (2004 remaster)
- The Wall - Music from the Film
 - The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Pink Floyd - Bricks In The Wall (1980)

The 1977 "In the Flesh?" tour of Europe and North America was a massive success both commercially and musically for Pink Floyd, with them playing about 60 shows during the duration of its two legs. They sold out big arenas, and even though Animals didn't have the same commercial impact as the two albums before it, set attendance records all over during the tour. However, all was not well in the band: Roger Waters had, throughout the tour, began to show increasingly aggressive behavior outside the stage, and even sometimes towards the audience. He often yelled at disruptive fans who would not stop screaming and releasing fireworks during the more quieter numbers of the concert. All of that came to a head when, during the last night of the tour, in Montreal, Waters was performing "Pigs on the Wing, Pt. 2", alone on his acoustic guitar, when yet another group of fans started screaming and cracking fireworks, only this time considerably closer to the stage. He stopped the song three times, and during the third, barely made it to the verses, when the firecrackers started again. The band finishes the song, but as they play "Pigs (Three Different Ones)", Waters calls one of the fans responsible for that closer to him and proceeds to spit on him, out of anger.

That was something no one even noticed at the time, but it had an impact on Waters nevertheless, with him noticing his that stardom had alienated him from Pink Floyd's audience. He then started having ideas, especially regarding his desire to completely isolate himself from the world. He envisioned the construction of a wall across the stage between the band and the public during the shows, having expressed his dislike for performing in stadiums. With those ideas in mind, and with the band taking a long break after the tour, he started developing two concepts on his own. The first of them, about a man's self-imposed isolation, through the metaphor of a wall, after years of traumatic interactions with authority figures and the loss of his father at a very young age, being named Bricks on the Wall. The second, a concept album about a man's dreams across only one night that dealt with his marriage, sex, and the pros and cons of his family life, against a promiscuous life on the road, titled The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. He presented both to the band in July 1978, after a year-long break. The band eventually chose the "Bricks in the Wall" concept, with it being "more universal" in David Gilmour's words, with both even sharing some musical motifs.

The band had some doubts about the concept, and while they chose the Wall concept, according to Wright and Gilmour both had "no melody" and that if the band's situation hadn't been that bad at the moment, they would probably have expressed their dislike for it and started over from scratch. But they still soldiered on with the album, and with the help of producer Bob Ezrin, started works on the new album in December 1978 in Super Bear Studios, France. The recording sessions were nothing short of tense, with band members barely communicating and Ezrin having to serve as a mediator between them, mostly without any success. Things came to a point where Wright was sacked from the band, due to both his lack of contribution to the new concept and his constant fighting with Waters. He remained on the sessions, but as a hired gun only, playing the same part during the tour. Sessions were also held in New York, LA and the band's studio in Britannia Row, London. They were always being hurried, with them accepting larger advances for changing the deadline for delivering the album to CBS from early 1980 to November 1979, also having to edit out many small sections of songs, due to the time constraints of vinyl, even dropping a full song, "What Shall We Do Now?".

That problem was largely caused by the band and Ezrin's decision to trim what was in Roger's demos a triple album to a double, focusing on the more finished songs than on the bits and pieces also present. Some of the "bits and pieces" were later reused by the band for work in a follow-up album, updating some lyrics and finishing them. They also cut small sections of many songs, such as "Run Like Hell", trying to make the album more concise and "fittable" into the LP, with the album sides going past 20 minutes. After the The Wall Tour's conclusion, in June 1981, they had enough recordings for a live album, which they did not release until 2000's superb "Is There Anybody Out There? - The Wall Live", as well as professionally videotaping the final dates, for future use in the The Wall movie - which by then was half fictional, half concert film. The concert film idea was quickly dropped, with the excuse of the footage being "too dark", even though on the bootlegs, they look superb, despite the low quality. But nevertheless, as soon as The Wall became a fully fictional movie, Roger recorded a new song, "When the Tigers Broke Free", started way back in the Wall demos as "Anzio, 1944", and scrapped before the first production demo for being "too personal".

Free from the constraints of the album, many songs were presented in longer, unedited versions and some were even re-recorded altogether, such as "Bring the Boys Back Home" and "Mother". During most of the first semester of 1982, the plan was to release Spare Bricks, an album of both the re-recorded songs and new, Wall-related songs, to help "flesh-out" the narrative. The new tunes would also help to fill the album, as the band didn't feel there was enough strong material for a soundtrack. "The Hero's Return" and "One of the Few" were both brought back from the early Wall Demos, when they had the names "Teacher, Teacher" and "Teach", respectively. "Your Possible Pasts" and "The Final Cut" were in very embryonic form, as bits and pieces, being finished and re-written for the project, with the chorus from YPP even being recited by "Pink" on The Wall, as well as most of "The Moment of Clarity", a song which wouldn't appear until Roger, alone, released The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. The only real "new" song written for Spare Bricks was "The Fletcher Memorial Home", which didn't feature anything demoed before, and dealing with similar themes as most of the album's third side, such as war/politics and its impact on people, this time focusing on politicians.

But some things Roger wrote during those productive early writing sessions for the project still weren't worked on, such as the aforementioned "The Moment of Clarity", "Sexual Revolution", which was as well demoed in a semi-complete version for the Wall but only released in PACOHH. Finally, also written were the two other parts of "Is There Anybody Out There?", it being supposed to be a trilogy, as the three "Another Brick in the Wall"s, never being worked on or rewritten ever since. But as tension grew between Gilmour and Waters, something unexpected happened: in May 1982, after album sessions had already begun, Argentinian dictator Leopoldo Galtieri invaded the Falklands, leading to a war against Britain for the area. Roger Waters was enraged by this, seen as his generation had always envisioned WW2 to be "the war to end all wars", and then suddenly the Thatcher administration simply starts a new, pointless war against Argentina for a  small island, putting lives of people like his deceased fathers at risk. That sudden war led to a direction change on the sessions, from complementing The Wall to a new concept, namely "The Final Cut - A Requiem for the Post-War Dream", with him writing the rest of the LP's material based on that conflict.

With all that in mind, you might be wondering: is it possible to reconstruct the original, longer album that Waters and co envisioned in the first place? One of the best attempts at doing so was done by Marty of The Wall Complete, which I would definitely recommend to check out, since it's the version I based on to create this. And since we already have that, my focus is to, as well as add the missing sections of the songs, add all of the Spare Bricks and leftovers into the narrative, in order to assemble a wider, more fully-fleshed version of it, finally being able to see the album as was originally intended, a 3LP piece. My additions will base themselves on if the song was meant at any sense for the project (be it the album, movie, or soundtrack), and how/where it fits in inside the narrative, even resorting to edits in some cases to make them fit completely. Since we're talking about 1980 here, I'll only use the studio versions (with one exception I'll explain later), because although the live takes are fantastic, the sides would be, well, too long to fill into three pieces of vinyl, and the live/studio hybrid doesn't work well in this setting due to difference in sound and the sheer difficulty of managing to edit both together. But without stretching this any longer than we already have, here's our tracklist:

First Act - Under Construction
Side One:
01 In the Flesh?
02 The Thin Ice
03 When the Tigers Broke Free
04 Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1
05 The Happiest Days of Our Lives
06 Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2
Side Two:
07 One of the Few
08 The Hero's Return, Pts. 1 & 2
09 Mother
10 Goodbye Blue Sky
11 What Shall We Do Now?
12 Young Lust
Side Three:
13 One of My Turns
14 Don't Leave Me Now
15 Sexual Revolution
16 Empty Spaces
17 Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3
18 Goodbye Cruel World

Second Act - Inside the Wall
Side One:
01 Hey You
02 Is There Anybody Out There?
03 Nobody Home
04 Your Possible Pasts
05 Vera Lynn
06 Bring the Boys Back Home
07 The Fletcher Memorial Home
Side Two:
08 Comfortably Numb
09 Isn't This Where We Came In?
10 The Show Must Go On
11 In the Flesh
12 Run Like Hell
Side Three:
13 Waiting for the Worms
14 Stop
15 The Final Cut
16 A Moment of Clarity
17 The Trial
18 Outside the Wall

Our story begins with "In the Flesh?", mostly an introduction to Pink's narrative, and happening way after most facts on the album. This more "complete" version features the "The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot" movie intro, and some small sections, present on other versions and cut on the album. Afterward, a baby's cry leads us to "The Thin Ice", a story about Pink as an infant and his parents' view of the world, warning him about the dangers of life in society. This features a short piano intro cut from the LP, where that and ITF? segued directly. Up next is "When the Tigers Broke Free", first demoed during the "The Wall" sessions, and only used in the movie. This version is a new, different mix, using a shorter intro and different vocals in some parts, as well as some pretty neat added military snares. As track number four we have the first part of "Another Brick in the Wall", introducing the impact of his father's passing on him as a child, being the first bricks in his wall, and we stick with the original version of it. Up next we have "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" and the second part of "Another Brick in the Wall", as the album's hit single. They are both in their original form, even though their live, longer counterparts are just as great, with added solos and jamming.

Introducing a new point of view to the story, we have "One of the Few". Sung from the viewpoint of the teacher, it tells of his experiences coming home from the war and having to pick a career. Used is the regular TFC version, segueing into "The Hero's Return". That tune is as well about the teacher's life and frustrations, and our version of choice is an edit of both parts, excluding the "the gunner's dying words" verse and going directly into the second part of it. Up next is "Mother", dealing with Pink's overprotective and overbearing mother, who then becomes one more brick in his wall. Here we use the 1982 movie version, in order to add some variation. As song number ten we have "Goodbye Blue Sky", mostly a wartime story used as a metaphor for our protagonist's loss of innocence, and entrance into adulthood, with the "phone call" part tacked on at the end of it. After that, we have the movie version of "What Shall We Do Now?", which speaks of Pink asking himself what he should use to finish his wall, citing many things associated with his rock n' roll lifestyle he could use. Up afterward is "Young Lust", with him cheating on his wife after being cheated on, featuring an extended intro not featured on the album, as well as a "phone-call free" fadeout, fading normally.

Soon after the groupie's monolog, we have "One of My Turns", where he destroys his hotel room and scares the girl away from him. We use the regular album version, segueing into "Don't Leave Me Now", with Pink begging his wife not to leave, and citing his less than valid reasons for still wanting her. We use the regular take of it, however fading out a little later. "Sexual Revolution", sourced from Pros and Cons, begins next, in its regular album version. It tells of Pink's relationships and views towards women, and was even demoed during the Wall sessions. Right afterward, "Empty Spaces" begins, in its intended spot, as a reprise of WSWDN?, wishing to fill the last few slots in the wall. Up next is the third part of "Another Brick in the Wall", where Pink's basically telling himself he can live behind the wall without any outside contact whatsoever. Here, we use its album version, as well as "The Last Few Bricks", an instrumental medley from its live incarnation, used as an outro for it. Finally, after that, we have "Goodbye Cruel World", his final farewell to the outside world, where he finally shuts down completely. We use its regular version, with a dark, distorted instrumental reprise of "The Thin Ice" from the demos being used as its outro, as his descent into the Wall, so to speak.

The second half of the album begins with the album version of Hey You, where Pink tries to call out to the outside world but realizes that he has been shut out entirely, and he is completely alone. Next up we have Is There Anybody Out There?, a plea from the imprisoned Pink, calling for the attention of anyone beyond his wall, getting no answer. We use its regular take, segueing into "Nobody Home". That same song, used here in its original version, although live takes featured a guitar solo, deals with Pink's many possessions and addictions, and while he has all that, he is still alone and can't get to reach his wife, or anyone for that matter. Up afterward is "Your Possible Pasts", one of the many spare bricks, dealing both with Pink's isolation and already adding some war themes, something predominant in the next couple of songs, forming a "bridge" of sorts. Next is "Vera Lynn" in its regular version, dealing with the promise that the soldiers would return, as in Vera's song, "We'll Meet Again", but in Pink's case, his father did not, and he is asking himself what has become of that. After that, the superior, movie version of "Bring the Boys Back Home" comes in, pleading that the soldiers come home from the war, and that the children aren't left fatherless, as Pink was before.

Keeping on with the war themes, "The Fletcher Memorial Home" is a criticism of world leaders, accusing them of sacrificing human lives for their political objectives, featured here without its spoken word bridge, it being instrumental instead. Up next is the fantastic "Comfortably Numb", about how Pink has finally gone insane, no longer telling the real world from the one he has created, while here its regular version with the coda of BTBBH as an intro is used. "Isn't This Where We Came In?" is the other two parts of ITAOT? I mentioned before, only retitled and shortened a bit. It is kept in its original position, however, and still has the same usage, a last cry for help before his fascist hallucination. "The Show Must Go On", now featuring the lost verse, cut at the last minute. It talks about Pink's uncertainty if he could perform at his concert. Afterwards, we have "In the Flesh", with the same added section from its earlier counterpart, where he has the hallucination his concert has become a fascist rally, and that he is its leader. In the same vein, "Run Like Hell", also has him threatening his audience, with racist insults and so on. This song features about one minute of music originally cut, mainly on its introduction and middle section, finally being a "complete" song.

Our final side opens with Waiting for the Worms, where Pink once more has one of his fascist rants, and says that if his listener wishes things to be as they used to, they need to follow him. This version has the extended movie coda edited in, resulting in a couple more chants of "hammer". But after that, all falls to pieces with "Stop", where he realizes what he has done, and wonders if he's guilty about it. "The Final Cut" comes in next, where he falls into depression once more, and almost commits suicide, due to his actions on the previous songs. On "The Moment of Clarity", recorded by Roger alone, he decides and tries to show his feelings, tries to open himself, and fails, a feeling also expressed on the last few verses of "The Final Cut", before his failed suicide attempt. Most probably the centerpiece of the whole album, "The Trial" is next, where Pink, after being caught "showing feelings", is put on a mental trial, with all the figures from his past there to judge him. This version has both a longer intro and outro, sourced from the live version, with more "tear down the wall!" chants as well. "Outside the Wall", here in its movie version, serves as an optimistic ending to the story, telling people that it's not easy to feel that way, and that, after all, they're not alone.

I like the end result of this 36-song long monstrosity, which explains a lot more of the story than the released version ever tried to tell us to begin with. It creates a bigger and more developed universe, giving us other smaller stories and even more detail and reasons for Pink to have done what he did, before it all collapsed and ended with "Outside the Wall". It is, yes, much more overblown, and I'll admit that even maybe too long (there are even folks that consider the normal one too long!). But anyway, as an experiment, and a tryout at telling the complete story, it works pretty well. It gives us the teacher's point of view of the world, and the little sections of songs added somewhat improve the album's flow, now it was allowed to go on longer. The sides are all in the margin of 21-23 minutes long, with all tunes more or less evenly distributed, so to not end up having the album with bad sound quality due to long sides, one of the main worries Waters and co. had with the original album. The new songs also benefit from the narrative and music of the album in a great way, with most songs given a brand new meaning outside their common albums, and finally being awarded the context they deserve. Now that all was said and done, we were finally able to put the final bricks in the wall.

Sources used:
- The Wall Complete (Fan remix)
- The Wall (Immersion Edition)
- The Final Cut (2004 remaster)
- Soundtrack from The Wall (bootleg)
- Under Construction (Bootleg)
- The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Guns n' Roses - Gardens City (1995)

Guns n' Roses first attempted to record a follow-up to their massive Use Your Illusion albums in late 1993, with Slash putting together riffs and ideas he had written on tour with the aid of other members, recording in a studio in his basement in Los Angeles. He then presented the band with fourteen instrumental demo tunes in January 1994, of which both Axl Rose and Duff McKagan weren't much fans of. Rose called it "southern rock", and wanted the band to go on a more experimental route, such as his beloved Nine Inch Nails and other bands of the period, while Slash mostly stuck to his hard rock roots. But after a couple of months, Axl apparently changed his mind on the songs and decided to call Slash up to talk about them, now showing some interest. The only problem was he had already recorded, with Eric Dover (also a member of Jellyfish) providing lyrics, his first solo album, with the aforementioned demos used as a foundation for it. Rose got mad at Slash for that reason, which sparked a rivalry between both the band never quite recovered of.

After firing rhythm guitarist Gilby Clarke in June '94, they started trying to write a new album, without a second guitarist and with quite a lot of in-fighting happening between them. Due to that, the only recording made during that year was a cover version of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil", for a movie soundtrack. Axl had his old friend and collaborator Paul Tobias replace Slash's solo in that song without the lead guitarist's permission, which further upset him, afterward calling the cover "the sound of the band breaking up". After a couple of attempts at finding the substitute member (names such as Zakk Wylde and Dave Navarro were considered, with Wylde even attending a band rehearsal), and some failed attempts at songwriting, which only produced the instrumental for Velvet Revolver's "Fall to Pieces", Gn'R found themselves caught up in the conflicts between band members and unable to record a new album, and one by one all members except Axl and Dizzy Reed quit, leaving them to begin Chinese Democracy in 1997.

But that left all of their fans wondering: what if? After the great Appetite and Illusion albums, the expectations were high for a new album of the classic lineup, and the band simply couldn't answer their fans' request for more. Well, considering that, the closest we got was the first Snakepit album, being of course written for Gn'R, and featuring 4/6 of the band (Gilby Clarke, Matt Sorum, Dizzy Reed, himself, and Mike Clink in the producer's chair), as well as Mike Inez on bass and Eric Dover on vocals. In order to create a hypothetical album, we will have to base ourselves off from that, removing only a couple of tracks for other additions. I do believe that, had they gone further into the making of this fourth LP, the songs would have been virtually the same, except with Axl's lyrics instead of Dover's. The "Gilby Clarke situation" would also have to be turned around for this, because he was a big contributor to It's Five o' Clock Somewhere, co-writing a little less than half the album and also contributing backing vocals and rhythm guitar to it.

For this imaginative effort, we'll just pretend he still has the job. Seen as Axl was the only one who had any issues with him, our effort wouldn't be that far removed from the truth, as well as helping to keep the Paul Tobias incident from happening. In addition to IFOCS, the foundation of our album, we will have other 3 songs: Velvet Revolver's "Fall to Pieces", due to its instrumental parts and general structure being written/finished during those aborted '94 sessions, and that it's final recording features 3/6 of their then lineup. Duff's "Six Feet Under", released with the Neurotic Outsiders, also begun during the failed sessions, with ex-Pistol Steve Jones giving McKagan some help with it for it's final release, ending up in what we got. And finally, we have our only real Axl tune, "This I Love", begun as early as late '91, and even rumoured to have been demoed during the "The Spaghetti Incident?" sessions, with one of their engineers telling of tapes of the song in Sydney, Paris, and London, while they recorded on tour.

In order to include those, we will have to exclude some weaker stuff from the album (we don't want that "two double albums" thing all over again!), with my picks being "Jizz da Pit", for being an instrumental and Axl openly hating it, nicknaming it "redneck". "Monkey Chow", because it was written entirely by Gilby Clarke, and considering Axl's disliking of him, it would most likely not be included. Finally, we have "Be the Ball", written entirely by Slash, cut because it was written at the request of a pinball company, and had little to do with the Guns project. Throughout several interviews in '96, Duff and Matt mentioned the project they were working on featured about twelve songs, with few ballads and a more roots approach, "not as heavy as AFD and not as complex as UYI". Here we accomplished just that, with fourteen tunes (you can't blame me for keeping two more!), with few ballads indeed, and a great roots rock n' roll sound, fitting its description of being a mix of their earlier albums, and a development of both's ideas.

The only setback of this project would be Rose's lyric writing, which had by that point stagnated, and led to his next full song being released only in 1999. To blame are the many lawsuits he had to face during this time, being related to the band or his personal life. Zakk Wylde remembers, when rehearsing with the band, they only had instrumentals and no lyrics whatsoever. When asking their frontman about this, he got as an answer that if he tried to write any lyrics, they would all be about those lawsuits, which by then were tormenting his life. So, for the sake of this album, we'll just have to pretend it's Axl who's singing and the one who penned the lyrics, instead of Eric Dover and Scott Weiland. "Six Feet Under" would be the exception, being Duff's vocal solo spot, the only of its kind on the album. Duff's absence is also notable, only being fully present on four songs, due to his touring of his Believe in Me album during the making of the Snakepit album, with Mike Inez trying to fill his shoes and doing okay, although McKagan is missed in this. So without further ado, here's our tracklist:

Neither Can I (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Dime Store Rock (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Beggars and Hangers On (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Good to Be Alive (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
What Do You Wanna Be? (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
This I Love (Chinese Democracy)
Soma City Ward (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)

Fall to Pieces (Contraband)
Lower (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Take it Away (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Doin' Fine (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Six Feet Under (Neurotic Outsiders)
I Hate Everybody But You (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)
Back and Forth Again (It's Five o' Clock Somewhere)

Bonus track:
Dead Flowers (Pawnshop Guitars)

Our new album begins with "Neither Can I", a story about depression and suicide, featuring some inspired guitar work by Slash, as well as guest Teddy Andreadis (who was on their UYI tour) playing the harmonica. Eric Dover does a fantastic job singing this one, but we can't help to imagine Axl singing his part on this, which I think he would do really well. Up next, we have the fast paced "Dime Store Rock", a collaboration between Slash, Dover and Gilby Clarke, him being the one who wrote the main riff to it. It's an aggressive song in the best Gunner fashion, complete with a hard-rocking backing track and mean lyrics about fame and partying. Track three is "Beggars and Hangers On", a song that alternates between loud and heavy parts throughout itself, featuring then again some inspired Slash guitar playing (it is his album, after all!). It has Duff McKagan receiving a co-writing credit, even though he didn't play on the album sessions. That makes 5/6 of GN'R members to contribute to a song, and considering this is supposed to be their album, not bad at all.

Next up we have "Good to Be Alive", then again with the aid of Clarke on the songwriting. Once more, pretty much a standard tune of theirs, with most of their typical characteristics featuring in it. A good song, but nothing phenomenal, making for a good "deep cut" for the album. Up next is "What Do You Wanna Be?", featuring Matt Sorum receiving a co-writing credit. He features on the credits of five of this album's songs, something that didn't happen before, seen as when he arrived on the Illusion sessions, all material was completed, and here he has the chance to contribute. If you were missing a certain someone, now we have "This I Love", a power ballad of the best kind, written by Axl alone. If it were to be recorded in this moment in time, I believe it would feature a more "stripped down" arrangement: none of the orchestration it has, and more "heaviness" during the full-band section of it. Otherwise, it would sound as much as a fish out of water with its lush production as it does when you listen to it along with the Snakepit tunes, even though it's great as it is.

The seventh song in this collection is "Soma City Ward", featuring the illustrious Mr. Izzy Stradlin giving Slash a hand on writing the song, which is itself quite good, and while Izzy was a driving force on the composition camp of theirs, it's his only appearance on this album, having left the band some 5 years before. Up next comes "Fall to Pieces", yet another "softer" tune, a song about heroin addiction, which features Slash, McKagan, Sorum, and the great Scott Weiland on vocals, being a more than fair replacement for Rose. Up next is "Lower", a more mid-tempo song with Sorum once more providing songwriting aid. The song is again a good "deep cut", being a good song, but not enough to stand out on the album. "Take it Away" is next, a song with a great loud/quiet dynamic, while also being one of three tunes in this LP to not need our imaginations when regarding the lyrics, them being written by Slash with the aid of Matt. With all that combined we are almost able to hear Axl's voice in the song. We can dream, can't we?

Following that, we have "Doin' Fine", a great song about partying with an instrumental part that only helps to reinforce the party atmosphere of it. I sincerely could see this become some sort of "live staple" of theirs, such as "Mr. Brownstone" before it. Serving as track twelve on Garden's City is Duff's time to shine, "Six Feet Under". Although he is the only Guns member in it, it does sound like them, and it adds a nice "punk" edge to the album. The second to last tune of the album is "I Hate Everybody But You", and as was the case before, the lyrics are entirely by Slash, so no need to put our creativity to work on that one. As number fourteen on the album, we have probably my favorite song from it, "Back and Forth Again". A strong song, reminiscing of "Breakdown", it's a fantastic way to calm down the mood of the album, before building it up again for its chorus. We can add some credibility points for the fact that Axl and Slash are seen performing an acoustic early version of the song in the Making of Estranged video, and there we have a great finale to the album.

Those of you who pay a lot of attention to detail have noticed the lack of cover songs in this, something they had in abundance for UYI and "TSI?". Before you start wondering why and complaining about it, my reasoning for this is that their aforementioned cover album wasn't that well received and sold less, and given that their public was already saturated of cover songs by then, they decided to stick with original tunes. However, we will add one as a bonus track. "Dead Flowers", from Gilby's solo album, features Axl in the backing vocals and was played during their then latest tour, so it was an obvious recording choice, and possibly as a b-side to a "Fall to Pieces" single. Regarding the album's name and cover art, a couple of years ago, a rumor started spreading in internetland of the so-called Gardens City demos, recorded in 1996. Unfortunately for us, it turned out to be a hoax, but as I liked the title, I stuck with it and made some cover art with a painting I found elsewhere, doing some album title recycling, so to speak.

Simply to be able to see this band back together, after nearly a billion drug overdoses, lawsuits and fights is unbelievable, and while their semi-reunion doesn't release anything studio related, all we have to do is try to cobble together fan comps like this. While we endure that wait, we're left imagining Rose's possible lyrics and vocals to them, most certainly motivated by his then contemporary lawsuits and divorces. And this collection of songs, although really dependable of hypothetical scenarios, shows that they could produce some very strong material and great rocking songs, even while the band slowly fell to pieces.

Sources used:
- Slash's Snakepit - It's Five o' Clock Somewhere
- Velvet Revolver - Contraband
- Guns n' Roses - Chinese Democracy
- Neurotic Outsiders - Neurotic Outsiders
- Gilby Clarke - Pawnshop Guitars