Monday, April 1, 2019

The Beatles - A Doll's House

The Beatles – A Doll’s House

(soniclovenoize “White Album” single-LP reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Revolution 19
2.  Honey Pie
3.  Not Guilty
4.  Don’t Pass Me By
5.  Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

Side B:
6.  Helter Skelter
7.  Wild Honey Pie
8.  What’s The New Mary Jane
9.  Can You Take Me Back
10.  Goodnight

After being probably the most highly requested reconstruction on my blog, I finally did the impossible and reconstructed the ultimate single-disc version of The Beatles’ 1968 self-titled release, aka The White Album.  Not only does this reconstruction whittle down the massive, bloated, filler-filled 30-song collection to its core essentials, it also represents the very best material The Beatles recorded during this period. 

After spending several months under the tutelage of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in early 1968, The Beatles emerged from Rishikesh, India with nearly 40 new compositions.  Uninterested in filtering only the best material to be featured on their follow-up proper to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles choose to record almost all of the material they had written, collecting it all onto the band’s first double album set.  Furthermore, although the songs had all predominantly been written on acoustic guitars in the Indian wilderness, each song’s arrangement was pushed as far as possible into drastically different genres—from electric blues to ska, from sound collage to western balladry, from ragtime to proto-metal. 

The resulting self-titled album—dubbed The White Album due to its entirely white cover—has been a controversial release.  With 30 songs of varying quality, the track order is a mess and each song incongruent with the one another.  Many feel the album could be drastically improved by pairing it down to one disc.  Not only could one reduce the album to the best songs, but one could also sonically unify the album to sound more cohesive.  But could it be done? I believe my reconstruction solves all of these problems and is the quintessential single-disc White Album, what The Beatles probably should have originally released in 1968.  
Side A opens with the flagship song of the album, “Revolution 1”.  Here, using both the standard stereo mix from the 2009 White Album Remaster and the Take 18 from the White Album Deluxe box, I was able to sync the full ten-minute track with its sister piece “Revolution 9”, also taken from the White Album Deluxe; thus presented is the closest to John Lennon’s true artistic intent for the song, what I call “Revolution 19”.  Finally, one can understand the relationship between “Revolution 1” and “Revolution 9” and how the two fit together, and it rightfully sets the tone for this cutting-edge Beatles album.  Following is one of Paul McCartney’s most complex and riveting pieces, “Honey Pie”, taken from the 2009 Remaster.  The very best of George Harrison’s material from this era follows: “Not Guilty”, taken from the White Album Deluxe.  It features additional EQ and stereo panning to make the vocals stand out and match the rest of the album, and faded out as George had intended as per it's rough 1968 mono mix.  Next is frankly one of the best songs of the album, the fantastic “Don’t Pass Me By”, complete with its restored orchestral introduction taken from Anthology 3.  Side B closes with Paul McCartney’s tortured romantic plea, a philosophical query that comments on the Greco-Roman concepts of lust, while simultaneously juxtaposing it with the post-modern notions of psychological abandonment due to a lack of peripheral perception.  Of course I can only refer to the masterpiece “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?, taken from the 2009 Remaster of the White Album.

Side B opens with one of The Beatles most sophisticated compositions, the slower, early twelve-minute version of “Helter Skelter” taken from the White Album Deluxe, a recording that essentially invented Krautrock.  Here it is reedited for logical cohesion.  The album takes a turn for the serious and decidingly dramatic, with “Wild Honey Pie” from the 2009 Remaster.  Next is one of John Lennon’s very best compositions of his later Beatles-period, the full length, original 1968 mix of “What’s The New Mary Jane”, taken from the White Out bootleg.  With a short excerpt of “Can You Take Me Back” from the White Album Deluxe to break the tension, A Doll’s House concludes the only way it possibly could: with Ringo’s “Goodnight”.

The resulting album becomes one of The Beatles most forward-thinking albums.  A Doll’s House pushes boundaries, invented numerous musical genres and is generally ahead of its time… while still remaining an enthralling yet challenging listen.  A revolution indeed!

Sources used:
Anthology 3 (1996 CD)
The Beatles (2009 Remaster)
The Beatles (2018 Deluxe Edition)
White Out (2015 bootleg, Ass Blaster Records)

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

Friday, February 1, 2019

John Lennon - Oldies But Mouldies

John Lennon – Oldies But Mouldies
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Here We Go Again
2.  You Can’t Catch Me
3.  To Know Her Is To Love Her
4.  Be My Baby

Side B:
5.  Bony Moronie
6.  My Baby Left Me
7.  Angel Baby
8.  Sweet Little Sixteen
9.  Just Because

This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1973 John Lennon/Phil Spector collaboration album Oldies But Mouldies, recorded in the midst of Lennon’s infamous “Lost Weekend”.  Put on hold when Phil Spector mysteriously disappeared with the mastertapes, the album was later recovered, mostly rerecorded and released as the Rock ‘n’ Roll album in 1975.  This reconstruction attempts to not only present a more listenable product, but to present what the album would have sounded like before it became Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

After being literally inseparable for five years, Yoko Ono sensed John Lennon’s wondering eye and questioned if he was able to remain loyal to her.  Her solution was to kick him out, allowing him to “sow his wild oats” and get “it” out of his system.  Accompanied by his assistant May Pang (who was essentially authorized by Yoko to be Lennon’s mistress), Lennon departed to Los Angeles in September 1973, looking for a good time... and more.  What was supposed to be a two-week stay became fourteen months of chaos and debauchery—both in the clubs and the recording studio.

The seeds of the Oldies But Mouldies album—which was also provisionally titled Back To Mono—were apparently two events: Lennon meeting his heroes Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, and a lawsuit by music publisher Morris Levy.  Lennon had nicked a line from Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me” for The Beatles classic “Come Together” and an out-of-court settlement stipulated that Lennon was to cover three songs from Levy’s Big Seven publishing catalog, earning royalties for Levy in lieu of any further litigation and the embarrassing co-writing credit to the Lennon/McCartney song.  Drunkenly giving in, Lennon decided to make a party of it and record an entire album of 1950s rockers and ballads that had influenced him as a teenager.  To top it off, he invited legendary producer Phil Spector to oversee the project, promising him complete creative control and even allowing Spector to choose the songs!

Sessions began in mid-October at A&M Studios with Spector creating his recognizable “Wall of Sound”, using an absurdly large group of the top session musicians in LA.  But the combination of Lennon’s destructive, drunken antics, Spector’s insane eccentricities and the revolving door of studio musicians, celebrities and hanger-ons, more lunacy was recorded than actual music.  Spector famously arrived with bodyguards, armed with a handgun, dressed alternatingly as a surgeon, karate master or a priest.  One night Spector even fired his gun in the studio, causing Lennon to dare to scream back at Spector, in fear of losing his hearing.  Other nights Lennon would go into violent, drunken fits, many believing in anguish over his separation from Yoko.  And of course, the backdrop to the proceedings was always a studio ridiculously full of musicians and a control room full of celebrities along for the ride—and the open bar. 

Throughout October and a final session in late November at A&M, eight songs were recorded: Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie”; The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”; Rosie & The Originals’ “Angel Baby”; Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”; Lloyd Price’s “Just Because”; Martha & The Vendellas’ “A Love Like Yours”; The Chordettes’ “Born To Be With You”; and The Teddy Bears’ “To Know Her Is To Love Her”.  Additional sessions at The Record Plant Los Angeles in December produced three more tracks: Arthur Crudup’s “My Baby Left Me”; the song that started this whole mess—“You Can’t Catch Me”; and John Lennon’s only original composition during this period, “Here We Go Again”, co-credited to Phil Spector.  With the backing tracks to eleven songs more or less in the can, the album came to a crashing halt when Phil Spector mysteriously disappeared after telling Lennon the studio had burned down.  With rumors that Spector had suffered a serious car injury and might not even be in the country anymore, Lennon resolved to finish the album himself… Until he found that Spector had stolen all of the master tapes!  Oldies But Mouldies was officially on hold until further notice.

As 1974 rolled in, Lennon went on to work on different projects during his “Lost Weekend”.  Firstly, producing an album with his old friend Harry Nilsson that spring, Pussy Cats.  Secondly, Lennon began preproduction on his follow-up to Mind Games, demoing newer compositions.  Suddenly (and appropriately in the midst of the Watergate scandal), Lennon received a mysterious phone call from Spector, claiming that he “had the James Dean tape.”  For a sum of $90,000 Lennon was able to secure the masters to nine out of the eleven songs recorded; Spector chose to hold on to the masters of “A Love Like Yours” for Cher & Nilsson and “Born To Be With You” for Dion. 

After reviewing the Back To Mono/Oldies But Moldies/James Dean Tapes that summer, Lennon concluded that the recordings accurately reflected the actual sessions—they were a catastrophic, drunken mess.  Spector’s "Wall of Sound" was overblown and Lennon’s scratch vocals were over the edge.  Setting the tapes aside, Lennon instead focused on his new batch of songs, using much of the same session musicians as on Oldies But Mouldies.  This album, called Walls and Bridges, seemed to be a return to form for Lennon after a series of forgettable albums, songs that largely concerned his longing for Yoko.  With the fate of Oldies But Mouldies in question, Lennon used it’s intended cover art for Walls and Bridges instead: a drawing he had made in 1952, when he was 11 years old. 

Since Lennon felt that the Oldies But Mouldies tapes were basically unusable, he chose to appease Levy’s original lawsuit by including a short, impromptu cover of the Levy-owned “Ya Ya” to conclude Walls and Bridges.  Levy was not amused—nor satisfied.  Having to return to finish the Oldies But Mouldies project, Lennon and his backing band relocated to Levy’s own Sunnyview recording studio in order to sober up and focus on the project.  With Levy approving of the rehearsed material from his songbook, Lennon and his band entered The Record Plant New York in October 1974—one year from the start of the project—to record the additional songs intended to round out the salvageable material from the Spector sessions.  Nine songs were completed: Gene Vincent’s “Be-Bop-A-Lula”; Ben E King’s “Stand By Me”; a medley of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up”/”Ready Teddy”; Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame”; Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Wanna Dance”; Little Richard’s “Slippin and Slidin”; Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”; a medley of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me” and Little Richard’s “Send Me Some Lovin”; and a proper version of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya”. 

Now titled Rock ‘n Roll, Lennon used the leaner and sober 1974 New York sessions as the basis of the album.  Additional work was needed to some of the LA sessions: “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Bony Moronie” and “Just Because” received new vocals; an edit was made in “You Can’t Catch Me” to reprise the first verse, extending the song’s length; likewise “Angel Baby” was edited to lengthen the track, although it did not make the final cut for the album; conversely, the intro to “Be My Baby” was cut short and an entire verse removed to shorten the song by over a minute, although it too did not make the album. 

Finally, a reunification between Lennon and Ono, orchestrated by none other than Elton John, put an end to “The Lost Weekend”.  Choosing to focus on promotion for Walls and Bridges, Lennon provided a rough mix of the assembled Rock ‘n’ Roll album to Levy in good faith, promising a release later in 1975.  Not satisfied to wait a year, Levy proposed to release the album in advance through his own mail-order service, Adam VIII, believing that would circumvent EMI’s ownership of the master recordings.  Initially approving of the idea, Lennon gave his consent and Levy issued his own cut of the album—Roots: John Lennon Sings The Great Rock & Roll Hits, using his tape of rough mixes.  Of course EMI did not approve, and with Lennon quickly switching sides, slight alterations were made to the master and Rock ‘n’ Roll was rush-released in February.  Levy was later sued for breach of contract.  Lennon and EMI ultimately prevailed but not after 1,270 copies of Roots made their way into the market, making it one of the most valuable Lennon collector’s items.  A curious effect of these competing albums was that they each had different edits of the same songs.  But did either represent the original Spector-helmed Oldies But Mouldies album? 

This is a tricky reconstruction, because the existent rough mixes of the Phil Spector sessions simply do not sound very good; to that extent, both Roots and Rock ‘n’ Roll are neither great sounding albums in the first place!  Relying on purely the rough mixes found on Roots or The Lost Lennon Tapes bootlegs reveals a tiring listen, based on Spector’s overblown production and Lennon’s drunken rambling; the original rough mix of “Just Because” is really all you need to hear to understand this point!  Thus, we will choose to generally utilize the more sensible and sonically palatable remixes found on the 2004 reissue of Rock ‘n’ Roll, commissioned by Yoko Ono.  While the mix itself is not historically accurate—using the new vocals Lennon cut in 1974—the result is a much more enjoyable listen! 

Side A begins with Lennon’s sole composition, the lush but lackluster “Here We Go Again” taken from Gimme Some Truth.  Following is the culprit “You Can’t Catch Me’, taken from the 2004 remix of Rock ‘n’ Roll but re-edited to match the original rough mix of the song, effectively removing the extra verse.  Next is “To Know Her Is To Love Her”, taken from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll, although it is apparently in its original mix.  The side closes with what exemplifies the album’s madness and excess: “Be My Baby”, using the most refined mix of the full nearly-six minute version, taken from Phil Lip’s Delux Rock n Roll bootleg.   

Side B begins with the ruckus of “Bony Moronie” taken from the 2004 remix of Rock n Roll, a highlight of the album featuring a Lennon vocal teetering off the edge.  Following is “My Baby Left Me”, the remix also taken from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll.  “Angel Baby” from the 2004 Rock ‘n’ Roll follows, again re-edited to match the original rough mix, effectively removing the extra bridge.  The remixed “Sweet Little Sixteen” follows, and the album concludes with the rambling weak-link “Just Because”, using the 2004 remix just because, to put it simply, the original rough mix from 1973 is unlistenable due to Lennon’s drunk ramblings.  


Sources used:
Gimme Some Truth (2001 CD)
Rock 'n' Roll (2004 CD Remix/Remaster)
Rock 'n' Roll Delux (2018 fanmade bootleg, Phil Lip)

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