Monday, June 25, 2018

The Flaming LIps - 7 Skies H3 (100-minute edit)

The Flaming Lips – 7 Skies H3
(100-Minute Edit by soniclovenoize)

Disc One:
1. I Can’t Shut Off My Head
2. Meepy Morp (Calliope Trance with Major and Minor Celestial Sections)
3. Radiation Wind
4. Battling Voices From Beyond
5. Electronic Toy Factory
6. In A Dream
7. Metamorphosis

Disc Two:
8. Requiem
9. An Outpouring of Immaculate Light From The Heavens Consumes Your Body
10. Meepy Morp (Reprise)
11. Riot In My Brain!!
12. 7 Skies H3 (Main Theme)
13. Can’t Let It Go

This is my own unique edit of The Flaming Lips’ epic 24-hour song, “7 Skies H3”, edited to the length of a 100-minute double-album.  Each of the song’s fourteen movements were extracted from the 24-hour piece to represent a “song” on the “album”; each song was then edited down to an appropriate length for that particular song in the context of a double-album.  In effect, some tracks act as mere transitions to others, while some tracks remained epic in scope (in the context of a double-album anyways).  While similar to the band’s own official 50-minute edit released on limited edition vinyl for Record Store Day in 2014, my 100-minute edit is twice that length and much more inclusive; not only allowing specific songs a more epic breath that they deserved but including music that was completely removed from the RSD release altogether.  All track segues are intact and this album plays as a continuous 100-minute piece--although one could separate tracks 1-7 as Disc One (49 minutes) and tracks 8-13 as Disc Two (51 minutes).  All official song titles are used except for the unnamed movements, which will default to the long-held fan-chosen titles.    

By the 2010s, The Flaming Lips have reached a mid-life crisis.  They had already made their cherished acid-punk indie releases in the 1980s; they already had their breakthrough noise-pop hit in 1993 with “She Don’t Use Jelly”; they already made their self-serving experimental four-disc 1997 album, Zaireeka; they had already made their critically acclaimed symphonic-pop masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in 1999; they had already managed the trick of gaining mainstream success while still retaining their core audience with Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in 2002; they had already made a complete musical about-face into dark, hypnotic Krautrock for Embryonic in 2009.  If they refuse to break-up, what does a band who has already done everything do next?  The answer: whatever the fuck they want.

This of course meant a series of bizarre EP releases throughout 2011 which included: a song meant to be played on 12 different cell phones simultaneously; recordings released on flash drives encased in marijuana-flavored gummy skulls; and a six-hour song released inside a strobe light toy.  While one could perceive this as pure gimmick, this observer saw it as a result of the combined boredom with the typical rock-band archetype and the realization of ultimate artistic freedom, something earned after 30 years of making music.  But it was that six-hour song, “I Found A Star On The Ground”, that set a new bar for the band searching for something interesting to fill their time in 2011: how does one top a six-hour song?  With a 24-hour song, of course!

“7 Skies H3” tells the story of a protagonist whose love commits suicide, and the listener embarks on a psychedelic journey through his grief process as well as a musical representation of her afterlife.  The song—becoming an insane challenge for Flaming Lips fans to even listen to it in its entirety—was released to a limited edition of 13 copies on Halloween 2011, encased in an actual human skull.  It was also broadcast as a live webstream, which continually (and to this day) plays the song indefinitely.  While detractors found even more gimmick to condemn, there was one thing they could not argue: “7 Skies H3”contained some of the best music The Flaming Lips ever produced. 

Unfortunately, much of that great music was lost to it's own daunting massiveness.  Does one really have the time, energy and will-power to sift through a literal day of music to appreciate the highlights?  Some fans did... notably StrangePets who made both a 90-minute and 213-minute cut of "7 Skies H3" (which urged me to do the same!).  The Flaming Lips probably took notice, and issued their own condensed 50-minute version as an exclusive Record Store Day release in 2014.  Their "distillation" RSD cut showcased some of the most interesting music they'd made in their 30 year career as a standalone album, rather than a 24-hour endeavor.  Unfortunately not all of the magical moments from the full endeavor made the cut, notably the atmospheric interlude of "Radiation Wind", the quaint chaos of "Electronic Toy Factory", the ending jam of "Requiem" and it's following "The Other Side", and the driving ecstatic jam of “An Outpouring of Immaculate Light From the Heavens Consumes Your Body” and it's singular rainstorm breakdown.  And criminally, the centerpiece of 7 Skies H3--the seven-hour emotionally-catastrophic sound-experiment "Metamorphosis"--was reduced to a trite five minutes and lacked any of the nuances that made it one of The Flaming Lips' masterworks.  Is it possible to make a concise 7 Skies H3 as a typical album that could not only be enjoyed in one sitting, but also retain the aforementioned epic attributes?  I have found a run-time that precisely doubles the RSD release is the perfect length, assembled as a double LP--discs timing 49 and 51 minutes respectively--while still edited for continuous play just as the original 24-hour song. 

Disc One
1.  “I Can’t Shut Off My Head” [7:45]
My 100-minte edit of 7 Skies H3 begins with one of the four lyric-based compositions that explains the concept of the album itself.  While the original full-length version of “I Can’t Shut Off My Head” contained eight verses and ran 25:39, the Record Store Day edit cut it down to three verses and running at 8:23 (as well as adding superfluous echo onto Wayne’s vocals).  My edit is structured similarly as the RSD edit, as I chose to include what I felt were the three best verses (1, 2 & 4) as well as an instrumental introduction.  Additionally, each verse was edited down from seven to five lines, omitting the two weakest lines of lyric for each verse.  The instrumental passages were then edited to match the length of each verse.  Because of this, my edit is a bit more concise than the official RSD edit, clocking in at 7:45.
2.  “Meepy Morp (Calliope Trance with Major and Minor Celestial Sections)” [3:15]
Following is what fans called “Calliope Trance with Major and Minor Celestial Sections” but was officially titled “Meepy Morp” on the RSD record.  Originally an hour in length, I have reduced it down to just over three minutes to keep the album moving, featuring three different sections of the piece to give a feeling of variation as the instrumental progresses. 
3.  “Radiation Wind” [2:36]
An officially unnamed track “Radiation Wind”, originally running 37 minutes and not appearing on the RSD version at all, is reduced to a two-minute interlude before the battle begins. 
4.  “Battling Voices From Beyond” [4:02]
The epic “Battling Voices From Beyond” was a grueling two hours and 37 minutes on the original 24-hour "7 Skies H3".   While it was edited down to 3:05 on the RSD vinyl, my edit is a paced 4:02, which showcases several of the interesting sounds that dance around the pounding main vocal riff. 
5.  “Electronic Toy Factory” [2:27]
Another track that was completely omitted from the 50-minte RSD edit, the 10-minute and unnamed “Electronic Toy Factory” (featuring the experimental duo Pitchwafuzz), is edited down to a reasonable 2:27, acting as simply a linking track between two main selections.   
6.  “In A Dream” [6:28]
The original version of the second of four lyrical songs ran an hour and 4 minutes, which was edited down to a feasible 4:51 on the RSD release and included additional vocal overdubs to smooth of the mix.  Here I present a more hypnotic 6:28 mix, organized into two verses. 
7.  “Metamorphosis” [22:27]
The massive centerpiece of 7 Skies H3 is “Metamorphosis”, which originally ran seven hours in length!  It was reduced to an anticlimactic five minutes on the RSD edit, fading out at the end of side A.  With a theoretical double-album format, we can allow “Metamorphosis” to retain its true epic proportions.  My edit spans a reasonable 22:27 and features my favorite elements of the original seven-hour piece.  It is meant to be the conclusion of the first disc of this theoretical double album. 

Disc Two
8.  “Requiem” [5:15]
The second disc begins with the third of four lyric-based compositions on the album, which is also coincidentally the mid-point of the 24-hour "7 Skies H3".  Originally spanning 23:20—essentially a 3-minute song with a 20-minute jam—the RSD release unfortunately exorcised the ending 20 minutes completely.  Here I have restored the ending jam, although only keeping about two minutes of it for the sake of emotional finality for the song. 
9.  “An Outpouring of Immaculate Light From the Heavens Consumes Your Body” [25:58]
The series of musical movements which follow are mostly absent from the RSD edit, what Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne describes as “the other side of this long journey through death”, and seems to musically depict the significant other's journey in the afterlife. It starts with the unnamed but aptly fan-titled “The Other Side”; originally clocking in at over an hour, an edit of the serene piece eventually found a way onto 2013's The Terror as the outro to "You Lust".  Because of this, I have excluded “The Other Side” from my edit of 7 Skies H3 in the name of redundancy. Next is the unnamed yet fan-titled “An Outpouring of Immaculate Light From the Heavens Consumes Your Body” (but described by Wayne as a “Bb chord with varying accompaniment”, which would also suffice as a title, I suppose), originally spanning three and a half hours and also completely missing from the RSD release.  In reality, the movement is a loop of the same 26-minute no-wave jam in Bb with different sets of embellishments upon each repeat (with one even being played backwards!).   For my mix, the piece is introduced by one of the greatest moments of the original 24-hour edit: a between-rotation breakdown of a rainstorm, ticking stopwatch and chiming keyboards.  I then have included a complete rotation of the full 26-minute jam. 
10. “Meepy Morp (Reprise)” [2:42]
“Meepy Morp (Reprise)”—also known as the fan-titled “Movement of Celestial Bodies”—was originally two hours and 15 minutes in length, although it is simply a loop of the same eleven-minute piece.  On the RSD edit, “Meepy Morp” is paired down to a short, two-minute interlude.  I have made a similar edit, but allowed the piece to continue for another 40 seconds to create a logical outro to the instrumental. 
11.  “Riot In My Brain!!!” [4:32]
The destructive noise jam “Riot In My Brain!!!” originally totals an exhausting hour and a half, but was trimmed down to a digestible 4:28 on the RSD release; I have made a similar edit. 
12.  “7 Skies H3 (Main Theme)” [6:26]
The gorgeous main theme to 7 Skies H3 (fan-titled “Forever Floating”) drifts on for two hours and 12 minutes and includes three movements; the RSD release condenses it down to 6:26.  I have made a similar edit, giving each of the three movements about two minutes of time.  Coincidentally, my edit runs the same length of the RSD release! 
13.  “Can’t Let It Go” [6:08]
The closing song—the fourth lyric-based composition—originally ran eight minutes in length, with the RSD release not bothering to edit it at all.  Here I have trimmed it down to 6:08, with numerous edits in the ending outro.  In effect, the build-up is no longer gradual, but immediately apparent and the track is perceived as more bombastic to end this amazing 100 minutes of music.    

320kps mp3s (part 1, part 2)
Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Flac/shn --> wav --> mixing & editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dylan & The Dead (Jerry Garcia's original mix)

Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Dylan & The Dead
(Jerry Garcia’s original mix – soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Disc 1:  Jerry Garcia’s Original Album Compilation
1.  John Brown (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
2.  The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
3.  Chimes of Freedom (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
4.  Slow Train (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
5.  Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
6.  Queen Jane Approximately (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
7.  Joey (live in Foxborough, 7/4/87)
8.  The Wicked Messenger (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
9.  It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)

Disc 2:  Soniclovenoize’s Bonus Disc of Tour Highlights
1.  The Times They Are a-Changing (live in East Rutherford, 7/12/87)
2.  I'll Be Your Baby Tonight (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
3.  Heart of Mine (live in Eugene, 7/19/87)
4.  Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
5.  Ballad of a Thin Man (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
6.  Shelter From The Storm (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)
7.  Simple Twist of Fate (live in Philadelphia, 7/10/87)
8.  All Along The Watchtower (live in Anaheim, 7/26/87)
9.  Knockin' On Heaven's Door (live in Oakland, 7/24/87)

In need of some Memorial Day Weekend Jams?  This is a reconstruction of the original version of the live album Dylan & The Dead.  While the brief, dismal 1987 tour of The Grateful Dead backing Bob Dylan birthed an even more dismal live album Dylan & The Dead in 1989, its original incarnation—personally compiled by Jerry Garcia—was a more consistent release that showed the idiosyncratic tour in its best light.  That mix—which was rejected by Bob Dylan—is reconstructed here using (mostly) bootleg soundboard tapes from the tour, remastered for coherency.  Also included is a bonus disc compilation of my remaining favorite performances of the tour that was not originally included on Jerry Garcia’s mix of the album. 

The 1980s certainly had its ups and downs for Bob Dylan.  Starting the decade with a trilogy of derided Born-Again albums, Dylan released what was touted as his comeback album Infidels in 1983 (also a subjectof reconstruction on my blog).  He followed it up with the increasingly mediocre mainstream MOR rock albums Empire Burlesque in 1985 and Knocked Out Loaded in 1986, with the worst of the batch Down in the Groove mostly in the can.  While his studio work failed expectations, his live material seemed to be consistent: the live shows for the Born-Again albums were, although preachy, intense and rejuvenating thanks to his massive band; a sample of the Infidels tour was captured on 1984’s Real Live, which gave the material its much needed grit thanks to Mick Taylor and Ian McLagan; and Dylan harnessed Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' youthful edge for their joint 1986 tour. 

Continuing this precedent, the idea somehow came about that none other than The Grateful Dead could act as Dylan’s backing band in 1987!  The Dead themselves were no strangers to Dylan’s material, having covered a great number of his songs, from greatest hits to deepest album tracks.  But they too had their own ups and downs in the 80s—after a creative drought, Jerry Garcia had just succumbed to a diabetic coma in July of 1986 and had to relearn to play the guitar entirely.  On the other hand, the band was just gearing up to release their first and only Top 40 single, “Touch of Grey”.  Could the pair of aging musical icons of the 60s pull off a powerhouse tour? 

The answer was unfortunately ‘no’; the idea of The Dead backing Dylan was much better than the reality.  This tour ushered in Dylan’s “Cookie Monster” era in which much of his lyrics were indecipherably mumbled in a vague melody escalating upward, rather than the actual vocal melody of any given song.  He also seemed to lack the motivation to really rehearse well enough for the tour itself, being satisfied to run through about 100 different songs once or twice (the actual bootlegged rehearsal tapes prove this!)—not to mention Dylan’s fascination with spontaneously changing a song’s arrangement, on-stage, without giving advance warning to his band.  Also, Dylan always played best with a strong backbeat—from Jim Keltner to Stan Lynch—to guide his vocal and scrub-a-dub rhythm guitar, something that The Dead’s pair of busy percussionists Bill Kreutzmann and Micky Hart could not provide.  No fault should necessarily be given to The Grateful Dead for this, as their very nature of meandering stoner jazz simply could not work with the rolling thunder of Dylan.  The thin, wild mercury sound was replaced with a thick, schmellow haze of lysergic acid.  While sometimes interesting, it was most often a disaster. 

After six dates in the July of 1987—Foxboro, Philadelphia, East Rutherford, Eugene, Oakland and Anaheim—it was all over (baby blue) and the aging superstars went their separate ways, but not without talk of a live document of the tour on wax and the brand new compact disc.  Credit must be given to Jerry Garcia for plowing through the tapes and finding the gems amongst the dreck—for surprisingly, there were some great moments on the tour.  Enough for an album, at least! 

Garcia’s lineup for this album included a number of Dylan deep cuts, such as the long-lost 1962 Dylan original “John Brown” from Foxboro; played three times on the tour to varying success, this performance was driving and mysterious.  Next was the John Wesley Harding deep cut “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”; played only once, in Eugene, the band miraculously clicked and gave a performance that gains momentum to an explosive rollick.  The majestic “Chimes of Freedom” from Anaheim was chosen next; played dismally on three other dates, the band played it gracefully on their final show.  The basic blues vamp of “Slow Train” from Foxboro followed; not spectacular, but not terrible.  Eugene’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” was next; its sole performance had a raw energy captured only by a band who must have jammed to the classic on numerous occasions, this time behind its actual author.  An exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” from Eugene also followed; although attempted four times on the tour, only Eugene’s had a such a sombre longing to it... as well as guitars in tune.  Garcia’s inclusion of Foxboro’s “Joey” was curious indeed; Garcia himself must have been the song’s only fan, as its performance was passable at best. Next was the biting “The Wicked Messenger” from East Rutherford, another fantastic performance of a deep cut from John Wesley Harding.  Garcia’s 50-minute tape concluded with Eugene’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, another song that seemed to benefit from The Dead’s jazzy interplay. 

After previewing Garcia’s guitar-heavy mix on a $40 boombox in a large, empty den in Dylan’s mansion, Dylan rejected it, requesting a remix to reduce the vocals and add more bass!  The eventual album, mixed tamely for the MOR crowds, also cut all of the most staggering, energetic or beautiful performances from Garcia’s mix: “John Brown”, “The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”, “The Wicked Messenger”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Chimes of Freedom” and “Rainy Day Women” were left on the cutting room floor.  They were replaced with a mediocre run through of “I Want You” from Oakland and the most obvious, robotic takes of “Gotta Serve Somebody”, “All Along The Watch Tower” and “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” from Anaheim.  Mind-mindbogglingly the dirge of “Joey” remained, but at least the exquisite “Queen Jane Approximately” was also spared.  The resulting live album, released in February 1989, was so dismal, lifeless and uninspired, it was hailed has possibly the very worse album by both Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead.

Luckily, a slightly crusty copy of Garcia’s original mix survives, forever preserving an album that could have been, or at least serving as a reminder that there was gold in them thar hills.  Even better, soundboard tapes exist of all six shows, although they are all of varying quality (with Eugene & Foxboro being release-quality and Anaheim & East Rutherford being muddy, poor-quality board taps).  While the bootleg of Garcia’s cassette is a bit beyond repair itself, we are certainly able to reassemble its track sequence, remastering the tracks (as much as possible, anyways) to match the albums's official release.  Additionally, I have compiled a second disc of further selections from the tour, personal favorites from a fascinating moment in history that could have been amazing, but… wasn’t quite there. 

My bonus disc begins with “The Times They Are a-Changing”; performed only three times in a similar arrangement to “Chimes of Freedom”, East Rutherford’s was the least sloppy and was quite an interesting listen.  “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” always had the best of intentions but its performance was generally a disaster; luckily Oakland’s performance was charming and made my cut.  Likewise, the sole performance of the Shot of Love track “Heart of Mine”, while not fantastic, warms this heart of mine.  “Stuck Inside of Mobile” was one that held the most promise, but proved difficult for Kreutzmann & Hart to find a footing on; all four performances have dropped beats in the first verse, as they struggle to keep up with Dylan and find the downbeat.  Once they do find their groove however, the song propels and becomes a highlight of the entire set, for all four shows. Here I’ve chosen Philadelphia’s “Stuck Inside”, as the mistake is the least-noticeable of the four.  A convincing take of “Ballad of a Thin Man” also from Philadelphia follows, the best of the five performances from the tour.  The sole performance of “Shelter From The Storm” from Oakland is presented; although featuring a similar arrangement as “The Ballad Frankie Lee and Judas Priest” it’s another case of when this band could be ‘on’, they were really on!  Philadelphia’s “Simple Twist of Fate” is the best of its three tour appearances, another that seems to fit The Dead’s style.  Nearing the end, I’ve chosen the official album mix of Anaheim’s “All Along The Watchtower” because, well, it's the best of the batch  Concluding my bonus disc is the very longest performance of “Knockin On Heaven’s Door” from Oakland, which dissolves into an appropriate a capella hymnal. 

320kps mp3s (part 1, part 2)
Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

Sources Used:
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - John F. Kennedy Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Alameda County Coliseum (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Autzen Stadium (Dolphinsmile remaster)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Anaheim Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Giants Stadium (unknown soundboard source)
Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead – Orbiting Uvula (1992 Turtle Records)
Dylan & The Dead (2013 remaster from The Complete Album Collection)

Flac/shn --> wav --> mixing & editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included