Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers (featuring David Crosby)

  The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers 

featuring David Crosby

(reimagining by soniclovenoize)

Side A:

1.  Old John Robertson

2.  Triad

3.  Dolphin’s Smile

4.  Change is Now

5.  Draft Morning

6.  Universal Mind Decoder

Side B:

7.  Lady Friend

8.  Don’t Make Waves

9.  Tribal Gathering

10.  Goin’ Back

11.  Space Odyssey 

In honor of the passing of the great David Crosby, I offer this album reimagining: an alternate version of The Byrds’ classic psychedelic rock masterpiece The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which presumes David Crosby had not left the band, and is featured as an equal to Roger McGuinn.  To do this, we will restructure the album to feature recordings made during the early sessions of the album, which actually featured Crosby.  

By 1967, the tumultuous relationship between The Byrds frontman Roger McGuinn and guitarist David Crosby had escalated to the boiling point.  From an early career of jangly Dylan covers, to their groundbreaking embrace of psychedelic and raga rock, The Byrds were always attempting to push new ground.  Unfortunately, there was disagreement about which ground to break.  

Coming into his own manhood of a songwriter, Crosby was fighting for his songs to be heard through McGuinn’s, and especially took a heavy hand in their first single of the year, his own “Lady Friend”, recorded in April.  In contrast, McGuinn & bassist Chris Hillman’s “Old John Robertson”, the b-side recorded the following month, showed the pair’s desire for a more Country-influenced sound that would emerge the following year.  Despite “Lady Friend”’s grandiose quality, the single was a relative flop as compared to their previous hits, with Crosby taking a hit to the ego and the band soldering on with a song already scratched from the theoretical running order of an album in the works.  Sessions resumed briefly in July with Crosby’s serene “Draft Morning”, but after sessions of percussive tension, drummer Michael Clarke was dismissed from the band.

Regrouping in August with session drummers Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine alternatingly replacing Clarke, the group recorded Crosby’s hippy anthem “Tribal Gathering”, as well as McGuinn & Hillman’s poppy “Dolphin’s Smile”.  But more inter-band stryfe reared its head when the group was offered “Triad”, a song about a throuple from the free-loving lady’s man Crosby.  Although recorded by the group, McGuinn took offense to the song’s subject matter and ultimately rejected it, leaving the song to later be recorded by Jefferson Airplane the following year.  After recording the McGuinn/Hillman’s “Change is Now”, the final straw was drawn as McGuinn insisted on recording the Goffin/King ballad “Goin’ Home” in September.  Crosby felt the song was meaningless filler, especially when compared to the majestic psychedelic rock the band had been recording the year thus far, as well as questioning why a band with three songwriters would bother recording a cover.  Crosby was finally cut from the band, and McGuinn became the defacto leader of the band.  

Regrouping in October with previously exiled backing vocalist Gene Clark, the fragmented band recorded “Goin’ Back”, as well as the experimental “Space Odyssey” influenced by Science Fiction writer Aurther C Clarke.  This was short lived, as Clark was once again asked to leave the band, and sessions continued in October with guitarist Clarence White, the newly remade Byrds recording “Bound To Fall”, “Moog Raga”, “Get To You”, “Flight 713”, “Natural Harmony”, “Wasn't Born To Follow” and “Artificial Energy”.  

Released in January 1968, The Notorious Byrd Brothers was released to critical acclaim and over time, became the band’s crowning achievement.   As for David Crosby, he had no time for feelings of resentment.  Soon after, Crosby started jamming with friend Stephens Stills of Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash of The Hollies, and the trio formed the legendary supergroup Cosby, Stills & Nash.  But could The Notorious Byrd Brothers have been, well, less notorious and more harmonious?  

If we are going to create a Notorious Byrd Brothers album that would theoretically contain an active (and even leading) David Crosby, then we’ll need to almost exclusively use the material recorded before Crosby's exit.  There is not a lot of material–just enough to make an album–but luckily Byrds albums were historically short: eleven songs, running about 30 minutes.  All sources are taken from the 2011 remaster of The Notorious Byrd Brothers, as well as using some of the bonus tracks on the 2011 remaster of Young Than Yesterday.  All songs will be crossfaded together into two continuous sides of music.  

Side A begins with the most upbeat and staggering song of the bunch, “Old John Robertson”, using the very psychedelic mix found on the Notorious Byrd Brothers album, rather than it’s original single mix.  Next we restore “Triad” to its rightful place, here with some gentle volume adjustments in the verses; we are putting the song front and center, as Crosby is getting the attention he deserves.  This is then crossfaded in “Dolphin’s Smile” and “Change is Now”.  The side closes with “Draft Morning”-- which features one of my favorite 1960s artists, The Firesign Theatre!--followed by the outtake instrumental improvisation “Universal Mind Decoder”.  

Side B begins with Crosby’s glorious “Lady Friend” which melds into the admittedly low-hanging fruit “Don’t Make Waves”, included here as it was recorded during the “Lady Friend” sessions.  The jaunty “Tribal Gathering” follows, tallying five songs lead by David Crosby!  Closing the album an outtake version of “Goin’ Home” which does feature David Crosby on guitar, recorded before his departure, followed by a song recorded just after departure, “Space Odyssey”, as it was needed to fill out the album; a piece of “Moog Raga” is used as an outro to the album.  

The most impressive aspect of this reconstruction is the cover art, which was in reality the genesis of this reconstruction in the first place!  Replacing the horse with Crosby, it’s like he never left!  

Sources used:

The Notorious Byrd Brothers (2011 Remaster)

Younger Than Yesterday (2011 Remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8

*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Beach Boys - SMiLE (Hitsville Mix)

The Beach Boys - SMiLE

(stereo “Hitsville Mix” by soniclovenoize)

Side A:

1.  Our Prayer

2.  Do You Like Worms

3.  Wind Chimes

4.  Heroes and Villains Part I

5.  Heroes and Villains Part II

6.  Surf’s Up

7.  Good Vibrations

Side B:

8.  Cabin Essence 

9.  Wonderful

10.  I’m In Great Shape

11. Child is Father of The Man

12.  The Elements

13.  Vege-Tables

14.  The Old Master Painter

Need something to be thankful about this Thanksgiving?  How about a new SMiLE?

I have gotten many requests for an update to my SMiLE mix lately… and while I don’t necessarily see any pressing need to upgrade my previous SMiLE reconstructions (as yes, I do stand by my ‘67 reconstruction!), I thought it would be a fun challenge to make a completely different SMiLE mix!  I call this the “Hitsville Mix” (named after a Brian Wilson ad lib while recording “Heroes and Villains”) and it is unassociated with my previous mixes.  It is a completely different mix and ideally, a different SMiLE listening experience, intending to be more unpredictable and bizarre, much like the actual Smiley Smile album.  Here, I am using ALL NEW stereo mixes I’ve made over the last few months, except “Good Vibrations”, which is the brand new 2022 official stereo extraction mix, which sounds the best it ever has! 

What is the theme/concept of the Hitsville Mix of SMiLE?  I gave myself a few guidelines:

1)  Unlike my previous “1967” mix, I am not beholden to strict “historical accuracy” or the theoretical artistic intent of Brian Wilson.  This is the mix that I wanted to make, rather than the mix I presumed Brian Wilson wanted to make.  

2)  ALL STEREO.  This requires, as aforementioned, new stereo mixes to be made for all songs, except “Our Prayer” and “Good Vibrations”, whose official stereo mixes are just fine. 

3)  As a challenge, I chose to limit myself to using the handwritten “Capitol Trackllist” as submitted to Capitol Records in January 1967 and subsequently printed on the reverse cover slicks.  The majority of SMiLErs discard this track sequence for various reasons and create their own track sequence–often based upon either Dominic Priore’s suggested tracklist in Look! Listen! Vibrate Smile! or Darian Sahanaja’s tracklist on Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.  Here, we will try to make sense out of the long-derided track order.  

The end result of my Hitsville Mix is exactly how I hoped: it is a little more bonkers and less logical than my previous reconstructions, and keeps the vibe of Smiley Smile, albeit more hi-fi.  Songs are allowed to be fragments and don’t necessarily go anywhere; the listener is thrown curve-balls and the trajectory of the album is fairly unexpected; Side B is specifically bizarre but ends with a wow! 

Side A begins like any other mix–with “Our Prayer”, the stereo mix from Made in California as an unlisted introduction to the album.  This is hard edited into a new stereo mix of “Do You Like Worms”, which uses the tracking sessions from The Smile Sessions as a base, with isolated vocals from the Smile Vocal Montage, Unsurpassed Masters 17 and the (lousy) 2022 stereo mix from Sounds of Summer.  Following is “Wind Chimes”, here ignoring the stereo Made in California mix and instead presented as a similar structure as Brian’s 1966 test edit, using a pitch-corrected backing track taken from The Smile Sessions, with vocals taken from The Smile Vocal Montage and Unsurpassed Masters 16.  

The project’s flagship song “Heroes and Villains” follows, which is a completely stereo version of the classic “Cantina Mix”, including the Verse and Three-Score-Five sections!  But instead, after Whistling Bridge there is a cut to Bridge To Indians and Prelude To Fade to create an ending (since I am using the proper Fade to end the actual album).  Next is my attempt to create the theoretical “Part II” of “Heroes and Villains”, that would have been found on its 7” single (or combined to the legendary six-minute “Heroes and Villains”, if you are so inclined).  Using the Gee and Part 2 iterations as a base combined with excerpts from the Brian Wilson led psychedelic sounds, mock interviews and experimental raps, we are able to create a faux Vaudeville variety act!  What I am intending is that the listener can imagine The Beach Boys as a psychedelic barbershop quartet who are literally framing a series of comedy sketches, all onstage and concluding with a laughing audience!

One gripe SMiLErs have with the Capitol Tracklist is the placement of “Surf’s Up” in the middle of Side A; while strange, we will embrace it and own it, as a song about a maestro artist on-stage literally follows an on-stage performance!  Here is a brand new stereo mix I’ve created using the tracking sessions from The Smile Sessions as a base, combined with the isolated vocals from the Feel Flows boxset.  Here, I’ve chosen to use Carl’s lead vocal instead of Brian’s, which seemed more appropriate with the song’s placement on the album.  Following is the fantastic 2022 stereo extraction mix of “Good Vibrations” from Sounds of Summer

Side B begins with a new, improved stereo mix of “Cabin Essence”, using the backing tracks from The Smile Sessions, combined with the extracted vocal from 20/20 and The Smile Vocal Montage.  Next is a brand new stereo mix of “Wonderful”, with a more defined soundstage, sourced from the Good Vibrations box set and The Smile Vocal Montage.  Using the Insert as a segue, we can modulate up to “I’m In Great Shape”, which combines the backing track from The Smile Sessions and the vocal from the Humble Harve demo, hard edited onto a stereo “I Wanna Be Around”; this follows the BWPS structure, which was how I always envisioned the song being constructed.  

Next is a new stereo mix of “Child is Father of the Man”, using a structure that best fits this album’s track sequence, rather than any version that Brian Wilson specifically designed.  Next is an edit I am fairly proud of–a completely new version of “The Elements”, again made to fit this album sequence, rather than any historical accuracy.  It begins with the Earth section, represented by a brand new stereo mix of “Barnyard”; then it is overlapped with the Wind section, represented by the alternate Whispering Winds from Sunshine Tomorrow; Fire is next represented by “Mrs O’Leary’s Cow”, proper, without any Chimes or Heroes and Villains Intros which is otherwise common; concluding is the Water section, represented by the alternate Water Chant from Sunshine Tomorrow.  

The concept of this new mix of “Vege-Tables” is to make an all-stereo version of a specific edit of “Vege-Tables” I made 20 years ago, which mainly constituted Brian’s mono mixdowns from Unsurpassed Masters 17 and Mark Linett’s mix on the Good Vibrations boxset.  Thus, using the stereo mix from Made in California, tracking sessions from The Smile Sessions and vocals from The Smile Vocal Montage and Unsurpassed Masters 17, we are able to have both the extended reverb at the end of the first two verses, as well as the unique crossfade between the Do A Lot chorus and the Fade, now in true stereo!  The Hitsville Mix of SMiLE ends with a big send-off: “The Old Master Painter”, featuring a brand new (and more accurate!) stereo sync.  Note that the Barnshine Fade is used here to end the track as originally intended before it was gutted for the Cantina mix of “Heroes and Villains”, giving this SMiLE and joyous finale.  

Sources used:

Feel Flows (2021 CD box set)

Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (1993 CD box set)

Made in California (2013 CD box set)

The SMiLE Sessions (2011 CD box set)

Sounds of Summer (2022 deluxe edition)

Sunshine Tomorrow (2017 CD)

Unsurpassed Masters Vol 16 (1999 bootleg CD)

Unsurpassed Masters Vol 17 (2000 bootleg CD)

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Beatles - Between The Lines

The Beatles - Between The Lines

(a soniclovenoize reimagining)

Side A:
1.  Let ‘Em In
2.  Crackerbox Palace
3.  Silly Love Songs
4.  Cookin’ In The Kitchen of Love
5.  Warm and Beautiful

Side B:
6.  See Yourself
7.  San Ferry Anne
8.  Beautiful Girl/Dear One
9.  Beware My Love
10. Tennessee

Hey folks.  Sorry about my absence…  A mix of being busy at work, a break-up, depression, etc etc etc.  I’ll try to “get back up on the horse” and drop some soniclovenoize reconstructions and reimaginings, starting with one that I think will be fairly unexpected and possibly exciting
for some (and loathed by others!).  I know long ago I said I would never do this, but during the pandemic (I had assembled this in November 2020, actually) I buckled down and made some Albums That Never Were I never expected to!  And you know what?  I actually really liked this one!  

If you couldn’t figure it out by the tracklist, this is an album “re-imagining” that postulates “What if The Beatles never broke up?” and is a part of my previous series of similar albums, including Instant Karma!, Imagine Clouds Dripping, Living In The Material World, Band On The Run, Goodnight Vienna and Skywriting By Word of Mouth.  This theoretical album– called Between The Lines (the tentative title of Lennon’s follow-up to Rock and Roll that was scrapped after being domesticated in 1975)-- encompasses The Beatles solo material spanning 1975 and 1976, and would have been theoretically released in fall 1976.  

As with my previous Beatles 70s Albums, I will adhere to three rules, although there are some slight modifications for these albums that follow Lennon’s real-life domestication and retirement:
1)  One album is represented per year, culled from tracks each Beatle recorded that year; this rule is revised so that one album spans two years instead of one.  Not only will this accommodate a lack of new material from some of the Beatles during this time, it will also force the outcome to be of better quality.  
2)  Generally speaking, to include five Lennon songs, five McCartney songs, three Harrison songs and one Ringo song; this rule is revised to presume that Lennon largely retired from The Beatles, occasionally contributing as a studio musician but leaving most of the heavy lifting for
Paul and George.   
3)  The chosen songs must be Beatle-esque in nature; we will attempt to avoid the idiosyncratic musical tangents each Beatle pursued in the 70s and vie for the solo songs that would have been most likely recorded by The Beatles (i.e. not vetoed by the rest of the band).
4)  The songs must flow together and make a unified album that shares a specific tone.

Between The Lines collects the highlights from Paul’s Wings at the Speed of Sound, George’s Thirty-Three and a Third, Ringo’s Rotogravure and, well, the six solo Lennon demos that date from his early Dakota era, approximately simultaneous to the aforementioned albums.  Both sides of the  re-imagining are edited to be two continuous sides of music.  The cover is taken from a Miro painting that somehow evokes the feel of this curious little album.  

Side A begins with my own unique edit of “Let ‘Em In”, which replicates the very rare original radio edit, only released as a promo disc; this is significant because that is the version I grew up listening to on the radio, and it is otherwise lost to time–and the unnecessarily long and repetitive album version.  This is followed by George’s classic “Crackerbox Palace”, which seems to somehow fit seamlessly before “Silly Love Songs”; like “Let ‘Em In”, this is my own unique ‘single edit’ since the song is likewise unnecessarily long.  Next is Ringo’s token song, written by John, “Cookin’ In The Kitchen of Love”, with the side closing with Paul’s ballad “Warm and Beautiful.”   Side B begins with George’s “See Yourself”, followed by Paul’s “San Ferry Anne”.  Next is a massive Paul-esque medley of George’s “Beautiful Girl” and Paul’s “Beware My Love”, using a brief bit of George’s “Dear One” to bridge the songs.  I couldn’t not have a John song, so concluding is the voice of our old friend: my own custom edit of “Tennessee”; although a Lennon home demo would sound drastically different from Paul & George ‘s studio output at this time, I believe this song works here as a closing piano solo.  

So sit back and imagine, if you will, an alternate timeline…
Although The Beatles went on an indefinite hiatus following the short 1974 tour for their hit album Goodnight Vienna, all four remained friendly, although not musically active with each other.  Paul took the opportunity to perform a solo tour (featuring wife Linda and his old friend Denny Lane as accompaniment) playing stripped down selections of his Beatles favorites from the last fifteen years.  George released a solo album Extra Texture, which had a lukewarm response despite featuring a moderate hit “You” (a duet with Ronnie Spector of The Ronnettes).  Ringo continued acting, building his filmography to include the role as The Pope in Listztomania, the voice of God in Monty Python and The Holy Grail and Uncle Ernie in the film adaptation of The Who’s Tommy.  John chose to stay home with his wife Yoko Ono and newborn Sean.  But the release of The Beatles’ Live at Madison Square Garden in late 1975 renewed some interest in the group continuing as a studio band, much like their late-60s era.  

Gradually, three of the four Beatles found themselves in each other's periphery and began plotting a new album, to be begun in early 1976.  John was only able to casually commit to the album, as he was no longer interested in living the rock star life.  While making only scant appearances on rhythm guitar and some backing vocals (although he distinctly took the lead for Ringo’s contribution to the album), a question emerged in the fans’ collective mind: is it really a Beatles album without John?  Regardless, a Paul-and-George -driven quartet released Between The Lines in October 1976, promoted only with a handful of live television  performances.  Most notable was their performance of “Let ‘Em In” on Saturday Night Live, in which Chevy Chase guested on a marching-band snare, prompting John Lennon to lead the entire show’s cast in a march outside and around Rockefeller Plaza.  

The moderate success of the double A-side single of “Silly Love Songs” and “Crackerbox Palace” encouraged the group to plan a follow-up in this short-lived and strange era of the band, and broad talks were made to reconvene in a year or so to see what the trio (and hopefully quartet) could muster…  


Sources used:
Paul McCartney & Wings - Wings at The Speed of Sound (2014 Remaster)
George Harrison - The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992
John Lennon - Between The Lines (2006 bootleg)
Ringo Starr - Ringo's Rotogravure (2009 Rhino Remaster)

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

Friday, January 14, 2022

Hey we got BAND SHIRTS for sale!

 We finally have something you never asked for!  


Because I am a broke ass musician/sound engineer/music nerd/blogger effected by the pandemic, I am now selling BAND SHIRTS for the various album covers that never were that I have done over the years.  Although initially a silly idea, who wouldn't want a Beatles "Band On The Run" shirt?  And they're only $25 which is kinda the going rate for band shirts, is it not?


Get 'em here:


I currently only have a handful of options to test the waters.  If this is a thing you like, I can add more designs, and possibly do requests of previous and future album reconstructions.  


Thanks and apologies for being a sellout!  

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Beatles - Imagine Clouds Dripping (UPGRADE)

The Beatles – Imagine Clouds Dripping

(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

October 2021 UPGRADE



Side A:

1.  Back Off Boogaloo

2.  What is Life?

3.  Dear Boy

4.  Bangladesh

5.  Jealous Guy

6.  The Back Seat of My Car


Side B:

7.  Imagine

8.  Another Day

9.  Gimme Some Truth

10.  Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

11.  Oh My Love

12.  Isn’t It A Pity



Happy Halloween!  Here it is, my friends, an album that never was that is unrelated to Halloween!  This is an UPGRADE to the second re-imagined album in a series that posits “What if The Beatles never broke up?”  This collection would have theoretically been released near the end of 1971, and uses Lennon’s Imagine and McCartney’s RAM as it’s basis.  Additional tracks are pulled from Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and his “Bangladesh” single, and of course Ringo’s single “Back Off Boogaloo” as it was recorded in Fall 1971.  Notably, this upgrade uses the new All Things Must Pass remix, which sonically fits much closer to the other tracks.  The tracklist has been slightly revised as well, dropping “Power To The People” for “Gimme Some Truth”, which is admittedly more Beatles-esque and was actually familiar to The Beatles in 1969.  I have also replaced the Version II of “Isn’t It a Pity” with the more Beatle-esque Version I, edited to fit on the album. 


To restate once again, the “rules” of these 70s Beatles albums are:
1)  One album is represented per year, culled from tracks each Beatle recorded that year; the only exception is All Things Must Pass is split over 1970 & 1971, and Living In The Material World is split over 1972 & 1973.   
2)  Generally speaking, to include five Lennon songs, five McCartney songs, three Harrison songs and one Ringo song; there might be some deviance to this rule depending on availability per year.
3)  The chosen songs must be Beatle-esque in nature; we will attempt to avoid the idiosyncratic musical tangents each Beatle pursued in the 70s and vie for the solo songs that would have been most likely recorded by The Beatles (i.e. not vetoed by the rest of the band).
4)  The songs must flow together and make a unified album that shares a specific tone. 


Note that a suspension of disbelief is required to fully enjoy these 70s Beatles albums, and I encourage listeners to imagine what each Beatles would have contributed to each other’s songs, had they actually made these albums together.  

My original album notes from 2012, slightly revised:


This is the second in a series of albums that asks the question we’ve all asked at some time or another:  What if The Beatles never broke up?  This theoretical album attempts to cull the best of The Beatles solo material from 1971 (with some holdovers from All Things Must Pass) to create what could have been the band’s 1971 follow-up to my previous re-imagined Beatles album, Instant Karma!  This album is called Imagine Clouds Dripping, a surreal Yoko Ono quote that John had felt was particularly inspirational and sets the tone for a rather colorful album. 


The songs were chosen not only for quality but for what could continue to carry ‘the Beatles torch’.  While the solo members continued to stylistically diverge, there were always songs that could be described, in my opinion, as “Beatlesque” and we have the luxury of choosing those above the other more idiosyncratic numbers.  The best and least brickwalled/clipping remasters were chosen for source material, volume levels adjusted for song-to-song balance and all songs are tightly book-ended to make a continuous two sides of music.  Also, a completely unique edit of “Dear Boy” and “Bangladesh” is created when the two are hard-edited together, making them a medley. 


Musically, Imagine Clouds Dripping abandons the bare-bones arrangements on the previous re-imagining for the lush Phil Spector arrangements George had requested for his songs.  “What Is Life” and “Isn’t It A Pity” are all used on this album because they fit better with the RAM/Imagine contributions than with the Plastic Ono Band/McCartney contributions on the previous album.  Additionally, “Back Off Boogaloo” will be used as this album’s Ringo song, as it was recorded in September 1971, fitting in with RAM & Imagine’s timeline.  


So sit back, relax and imagine the following:  After the success of their first album of the 1970s, Instant Karma!, The Beatles regroup and focus diligently on a new album with some of their strongest songs since Abbey Road, often with grandiose arrangements from returning producer Phil Spector; Half-way through recording the album, George learns of the tragedy befallen in Bangla Desh and quickly writes a song in tribute that The Beatles record and release as a single; George organizes the Concert For Bangla Desh, at which The Beatles headline, marking their first live performance in two years; The positive experience of this concert gives The Beatles—particularly George and John—the courage to begin a limited-engagement European Tour in late 1971 in support of Imagine Clouds Dripping; The tour also features old friends Billy Preston on keyboards and Klaus Voormann who played bass when Paul was needed to play guitar or piano. 


The critics hail Imagine Clouds Dripping as one of the highest points of The Beatles career, comparing it to a second Sgt. Pepper.  There are a number of hit singles released throughout 1971, including “Imagine” with the non-LP B-side “Monkberry Moon Delight”, “Another Day” with the non-LP B-side “Crippled Inside” and “Jealous Guy” with the non-LP B-side “I Dig Love”.  And as aforementioned, “Bangla Desh” was released as a single to promote their concert, with the b-side “Smile Away.”  The success of The Beatles late 1971 European tour spurred them to plan an American tour in 1972, and a need for new material in the material world… 




George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)

John Lennon - Imagine (The Ultimate Collection, 2018 remaster) 

Paul McCartney – RAM (2012 remaster)

Ringo Starr – Photographs: The Best of Ringo Starr (2007)



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



Monday, September 27, 2021

Weezer - Songs From The Black Hole (upgrade)

Weezer – Songs From The Black Hole
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Act I, Scene 1:
1.  Blast Off!
2.  You Won’t Get With Me Tonight
3.  Maria’s Theme/Come To My Pod
4.  Tired of Sex

Act 1, Scene 2:
5.  Superfriend
6.  You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
7.  Waiting On You
8.  Tragic Girl

Act 2, Scene 1:
9.  She’s Had A Girl/Good News!/Now I Finally See
10.  Getchoo
11.  I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams

Act 2, Scene 2:
12.  No Other One
13.  Devotion
14.  What Is This I Find
15.  Why Bother?
16.  Longtime Sunshine

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Weezer’s influential sophomore album Pinkerton, this is a very long-overdue upgrade to my reconstruction of Songs From The Black Hole, the space rock opera which was the precursor to the album.  Originally meant as a literal opera which functioned as an allegory to Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo’s disenchantment from the band’s instant stardom, the album was scrapped and restructured into the seminal Pinkerton in 1996.  This updated reconstruction, using a combination of Weezer’s studio takes and Rivers’ demo tapes, more closely follows Cuomo’s actual script of the opera.  My own reconstruction of the final script is included here, pieced together from his notes included in The Pinkerton Diaries.  I have also created some cover and back artwork based on river’s sketches in his Diaries.  

With a slew of 1994 hits and lovable, quirky music videos including “Buddy Holly”, “Say It Ain’t So” and “The Sweater Song”, Weezer  seemed to fill the gap left by recently-departed Nirvana, merging Brian Wilson-esque songwriting with fuzzed-out grunge guitars.  The unlikely nerd rockers found themselves in the limelight after hashing it out in the LA club scene, with years of work and dedication paying off and their debut Blue Album becoming a 90s Alt-Rock classic.  But the band’s newfound fame seemed to be a burden for the anxious and introverted frontman Rivers Cuomo, overwhelmed with the reality of what he had always wished for.  

On a break from touring during around Thanksgiving 1994, Rivers charted out the bare bones of the band’s second release: a futuristic concept album about a rock band whose singer was dealing with the band’s popularity, as well as personal relationship issues with a “good girl” and a “bad girl”.  At first using a handful of already-written (and largely unrelated) newer Weezer songs (such as “Getchoo” and “Tired of Sex”), Rivers composed additional material to link the songs, including lyrics as dialog between characters: an actual rock opera.  After creating a rough draft of a script with no real ending, Rivers revised his concept that Christmas, turning the ‘band’ into a crew aboard the space ship Betsy II, on a mission to save the planet Nomis on the edge of a black hole.  At this time, Cuomo recorded demos of most of the rock opera, now titled Songs From The Black Hole.  

Throughout the first half of 1995, Rivers would continue to refine the Songs From The Black Hole concept, while rehearsing and recording segments of the cycle with his Weezer bandmates.  Since the entire lyric of the album were sung by different characters, it was decided that the different members of Weezer would sing for the various characters: Cuomo would sing for the protagonist, Jonas, the captain of the ship Betsy II; crewmate Wuan would be sung by guitarist Brian Bell; crewmate Dondo would be voiced by bassist Matt Sharp; roadie Karl Koch would voice a robot crew member M1, via a vocoder effect; “good girl” love interest Laurel would have been sung by Rachel Haden of the band that dog; “bad girl” love interest Maria would have been sung by Joan Wasser of the band Dambuilders; and Mike Stanton of the band Avant Gard would appear on the album as a pre-recorded message of a television host.  

While on tour in Germany that February, bassist Matt Sharp headed back to the United States due to a family emergency.  The remaining members recorded band demos of several SFTBH songs at a studio in Hamburg, notably the lead-off song “Blast Off!”.  By August, the band had formally entered Electric Lady Land Studios to track SFTBH, recording versions of “Blast Off!”, “Tired of Sex”, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly”, “Waiting On You”, “Getchoo”, “I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams”, “No Other One”, “Devotion”, “Why Bother?” and “Longtime Sunshine”.  The recordings were much more raw and less polished than their debut Blue Album, as the band desired a “live in the studio” sound with minimal overdubs.  Anticipating a short break from the band due to Cuomo being enrolled into Harvard that September, Weezer booked a final recording session for Songs From The Black Hole in August at Fort Apache Studios in Boston.  Although left unfinished, they recorded new versions of “Tired of Sex”, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly”, “Waiting On You”, “Getchoo”, “No Other One”, “Devotion” and “Why Bother?”. But a new event would shift the course of Songs From The Black Hole into self destruction and ultimately reinvention.  

While at Harvard that Fall, Cuomo began writing new songs that strayed greatly from the Songs From The Black Hole concept-- songs about his loneliness and isolation and a desire to return to simplicity and innocence.  Regrouping with the rest of the band in January 1996 at Sound City Studios, Weezer tracked two of these newer compositions “El Scorcho” and “Pink Triangle” (as well as newer versions of “Tired of Sex”, “Getchoo” and “No Other One”.  Basic tracks of “Superfriend” were finally attempted, but never completed, as seen in the 2004 Weezer DVD Video Capture Device).  Returning to Sound City on Rivers’ spring break, Weezer cut even newer compositions “Across The Sea”, “The Good Life”, “Falling For You” and “Butterfly.”  

By Summer break, the album was complete and now titled Pinkerton.  The Songs From The Black Hole concept was completely abandoned for that of SF Pinkerton from the opera Madame Butterfly, used as a metaphor for Cuomo’s own wanton access that lead to regret.  The tracklist was arranged to be (approximately) in the order in which they were written to illustrate Cuomo’s own emotional progress throughout the last two years.  The album was more immediate, personal and more musically raw in presentation than that of The Blue Album and was a turn-off for some (casual) fans.  Coupled with the simple fact that hype still had not died down from The Blue Album, Pinkerton was an often overlooked release in 1996.  In effect, Cuomo would be disenchanted from writing emotional, personal songs with a rawer production.  He would spend the next three years attempting to create a mathematical formula for the perfect pop song-- a concept that would actually see fruition on their third release, The Green Album, hailed as Weezer’s (first) great comeback.  

Meanwhile, Pinkerton was not exactly the failure that Cuomo saw it as.  Aside from actually hitting the Billboard Top 20 and spawning two hits, a new generation of fans embraced the unfiltered, personal lyrics and cut-throat production of the album and at the turn of the century, began playing a new, “emotional” version of punk rock; Pinkerton had become, intentionally or not, the godfather of the Emo movement.   

But for Weezer die-hard fans, the underlying allure of Pinkerton wasn't it’s influence, but it’s unheard precursor, Songs From The Black Hole.  After clamoring for it’s release for years, fans were treated to leaked demos of the project, often by Karl Koch himself, throughout the Napster years.  Pieces of SFTBH eventually found their way onto the first three volumes of the Alone series, compilations of Cuomo’s early demos, the third of which exclusively covered the SFTBH/Pinkerton era.  Finally, a Deluxe 20th Anniversary release of Pinkerton gave fans a handful of studio versions of the SFTBH project.  Is this enough to reconstruct a fairly accurate SFTBH?  

Not precisely.  The smoking gun was found in the 2011 book The Pinkerton Diaries, which included excerpts from three different drafts of Rivers’ original script for Songs From The Black Hole.  At first glance this would provide the best road map to reconstruct the rock opera, until we realize that the final draft was not only partially included, but some pages were out of order!  The first step in reconstructing SFTBH is to reconstruct Rivers’ script; from there, we will be able to make a more accurate audio version of SFTBH.  To do this, we will be taking the third script draft as a base, and using clues from the previous two drafts to fill in the blanks and correct the page order.  Through this process, we will observe that neither Rivers nor Weezer actually recorded few of the crucial songs for the album: “She’s a Liar”, “Touch Down!”, “Special Thanks” and “I Don’t Belong.”  Along with my standard audio, I am also including my own reconstruction of the SFTBH script, which will note the missing, unrecorded songs in red text. 

Act 1, Scene 1 of Songs From The Black Hole opens with “Blast Off!” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, with the piano intro from “Longtime Sunshine” used as an introduction; note my addition of M1’s count down using the vocoder setting on a MicroKORG, if I may be so bold.  The song sets the stage as five astronauts and a robot head to the planet Nomis, on the edge of a black hole.  The captain Jonas notices Maria, whom they knew in the Academy...  “Who You Callin’ Bitch” is not used in the third draft, so we are going directly into “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight”, the channels swapped to match the panning of “Blast Off!”.  Next is “Oh Jonas/Come To My Pod” from Alone II, in which Maria seduces Jonas; “Please Remember” is excluded, as it was dropped from the third draft of the script.  This follows directly into the early version of “Tired of Sex” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, in which Jonas regrets his decision to hook up with Maria; note that “Oh No This Is Not For Me”  is excluded as it was dropped from the third draft of the script, with Rivers noting “Come To My Pod” should flow into the feedback intro of “Tired of Sex.”  

Act 1, Scene 2 begins with Jonas confiding to Laurel about his dissatisfaction with his relationship with Maria on “Superfriend” from Alone.  They realize they both like each other and hook up themselves in “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Maria comes to Jonas’s pod (room) to tell him she’s pregnant with his child, but instead hears him fooling around with Laurel!  The unrecorded “Oh Jonas (I Hear You)” acts as a link to “Waiting On You” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, sung by Maria.  The three then confront each other in the unrecorded “She’s a Liar”, which I presume is a reworking of “Please Remember.”  Choosing to leave Laurel for his fatherly duties with Maria, Jonas laments his situation in “Tragic Girl”, from the Pinkerton Deluxe; note it is likely that the actual SFTBH version of “Tragic Girl” would have had a fairly different set of lyrics, but here we will use the glorious studio version, still somewhat relevant.  

Act 1, Scene 2 features a time jump, where Jonas and Maria’s daughter is born to Jonas’s lamentation in “She’s Had a Girl” from Alone III.  Wuan and Dondo announce the ship has finally arrived to Nomis in “Dude, We’re Finally Landing” from Alone I, followed by Jonas’s epiphany that he does want Laurel in “Now I Finally See” from Alone III.  Of course Laurel rejects him in the early version of “Getchoo” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, although she immediately regrets her decision in “I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams”-- the only SFTBH song to actually feature Rachel Haden singing her character.

Act 2, Scene 2 sees Jonas resolving to be with Maria in “No Other One” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, followed by the unrecorded “Touch Down!”, clearly a musical reprise of “Blast Off!”  While Wuan, Dondo and M1 investigate the planet Nomis, Jonas finally pledges his love for Maria in “Devotion” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Unfortunately, he sees a used condom in her pod, as heard in “What Is This I Find” from Alone III!  Jonas is ultimately defeated by both Maria and Laurel and claims “Why Bother?” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Meanwhile on the planet surface, the crew find a prerecorded message on an unmanned satellite (which was supposed to be voiced by Mike Stanton) explaining that the crew’s entire mission was simply a reality-based TV show; this would have been featured in the unrecorded song “Special Thanks”, which Rivers described as a Sonic Youth-type of noise jam.  Mike explains that while there was no actual mission, there is an actual immediate danger as Nomis is about to be sucked into a black hole.  Luckily, there are five transports to carry the five human crew members to safety (sorry M1).  With the realization that with his new baby, they are one transport short and someone must stay behind, Jonas sacrifices his life for his daughter by giving his transport to her.  This is explained in the unrecorded “I Don’t Belong” and I have extrapolated the lyrics to this, based upon the melody of “Now I Finally See.”  As Jonas watches the crew escape, he awaits his eminent death by singularity.  Jonas then realizes that neither the love of Maria nor Laurel mattered, but only his love for his own daughter, and he sings “Longtime Sunshine” from the Pinkerton Deluxe as the planet is destroyed.  

Sources used:
Rivers Cuomo – Alone: The Home Demos of Rivers Cuomo (2007)
Rivers Cuomo – Alone II: The Home Demos of Rivers Cuomo (2008)
Rivers Cuomo – Alone III: The Pinkerton Years (2010)
Weezer – Pinkerton (deluxe edition, 2010)

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Beatles - Instant Karma! UPGRADE

The Beatles – Instant Karma!
(a soniclovenoize reimagining)
August 2021 UPGRADE

Side A:
1.    Instant Karma!  (We All Shine On)
2.    All Things Must Pass
3.    Every Night
4.    I Found Out
5.    Beware of Darkness
6.    Working Class Hero
7.    Momma Miss America

Side B:
8.    It Don’t Come Easy
9.    Isolation
10.   Junk
11.   My Sweet Lord
12.   Maybe I’m Amazed
13.   Love
14.   Hear Me Lord

Alright, you asked for it, you got it!  This is an UPGRADE of the first in a series of album re-imaginings that proposes “What if The Beatles didn’t break up?”  This first volume—Instant Karma!would have theoretically been released late 1970, and was intentionally raw and stripped down.  This upgrade notably uses the brand new All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary remix as the source for George’s tracks, as well as the 50th Anniversary remixes of Plastic Ono Band for Lennon’s.  In doing so, John’s songs sound slightly more polished and George’s songs sound slightly less polished, somehow meeting Paul in the middle.  I have also thrown in a couple more surprises as well...   Maybe you can find them?  

To restate once again, the “rules” of these 70s Beatles albums are:
1)  One album is represented per year, culled from tracks each Beatle recorded that year; the only exception is All Things Must Pass is split over 1970 & 1971, and Living In The Material World is split over 1972 & 1973.   
2)  Generally speaking, to include five Lennon songs, five McCartney songs, three Harrison songs and one Ringo song; there might be some deviance to this rule depending on availability per year.
3)  The chosen songs must be Beatle-esque in nature; we will attempt to avoid the idiosyncratic musical tangents each Beatle pursued in the 70s and vie for the solo songs that would have been most likely recorded by The Beatles (i.e. not vetoed by the rest of the band).
4)  The songs must flow together and make a unified album that shares a specific tone. 


Note that a suspension of disbelief is required to fully enjoy these 70s Beatles albums, and I encourage listeners to imagine what each Beatles would have contributed to each other’s songs, had they actually made these albums together.  

My original album notes from 2012:

This reconstruction—or reimagining, as I’m calling it—asks the question that I think we’ve all asked at one point or another: What if The Beatles didn't break up?  This theoretical album attempts to cull the best of The Beatles solo material from 1970 alone to create what could have been the band’s follow-up to Abbey Road (or depending on how you look at it, Let It Be).  The songs were carefully chosen to create a unified and cohesive album that would best carry on ‘The Beatles torch’ while still retaining each of the members’ diverging interests.  The best and least brickwalled/clipping remasters were chosen for source material, volume levels adjusted for song-to-song balance and all songs are tightly book-ended to make a continuous two sides of music.  

The result—an album I call Instant Karma!—is a somber, introspective album, full of contradicting stripped-down John & Paul songs juxtaposed with the massively-produced George & Ringo songs.  Sonically, it lies somewhere between The White Album in its stark contrasts and Abbey Road with its epic majesty.  All of the songs are from different perspectives, yet hint at the same thing: a desire for understanding the essences of basic human nature and the quest for the soul itself.  If I may dare, the songs seem to create a particular narrative: the members of the band themselves engaging in their own dialog with themselves, repairing the bond between them that had slipped over the previous 4 years.

So sit back and imagine, if you will, an alternate timeline…  That sometime in 1970: The Beatles fired Allen Klein and somehow came upon an agreement of how to run Apple Records, allowing the band members to separate the music from the business, the chief destruction of the band being averted; with the success of “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something” and an amazing back-catalog of unused and new songs, George successfully campaigns for an equal share of his own songs to be featured alongside the Lennon/McCartney originals (with the compromise that Linda and Yoko are allowed in the Beatles' inner circle if need be); pleased with Phil Spector’s work remixing Let It Be, The Beatles opt to have him produce the bulk of their recordings throughout the 1970s (despite McCartney’s reluctance); John agrees but wants to elaborate on the stripped-down and live-band-sounding arrangements, as revisited in the Get Back sessions from the previous year, but at least for his own compositions written from his Primal Scream therapy sessions; Ringo was, as always, just happy to be there.

Instant Karma! is released to critical and commercial success in late 1970, re-establishing The Beatles as a dominant musical force in the 1970s.  Three hit singles were released from this album in 1970 and early 1971: “Instant Karma!” b/w the non-album B-side “That Would Be Something”, “Maybe I’m Amazed” b/w the non-album B-side “Apple Scruffs” and “My Sweet Lord” b/w the non-album B-side “Well Well Well”.  The success of Instant Karma! gave a new confidence to the band that was so close to breaking up, especially with a new producer, a stronger leading-role for their lead guitarist as a songwriter and the band's uncertainty of relevance in a new decade.  Regrouping in the summer of 1971 with a new set of songs and a new sense of unity, The Beatles attempt to record their second album of the 1970s.  Can you... imagine?

Sources used:

All Things Must Pass (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)
McCartney (2011 remaster)
Photographs – The Best of Ringo Starr (2007)

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