Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Beatles - Good Night Vienna (1974)

The Beatles – Good Night Vienna

(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

Side A: 
1.  Venus and Mars/Rock Show
2.  Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
3.  Love In Song
4.  So Sad
5.  Steel and Glass

Side B: 
6.  Junior’s Farm
7.  (It’s All Down To) Good Night Vienna
8.  Dark Horse
9.  #9 Dream
10.  You Gave Me The Answer
11.  Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)
12.  Venus and Mars (reprise)

This album is the fifth and final in a series of “re-imagined” 1970s Beatles albums that presume the question: “What if the Beatles never broke up?”  Good Night Vienna collects the highlights of the various Beatles solo material from and around 1974 into one cohesive album, which followed the previous four re-imagined 1970s Beatles albums (Instant Karma!, Imagine Clouds Dripping, Living In The Material World and Band On The Run, chronologically). 

Source material for Good Night Vienna starts with Lennon’s final solo album in the 1970s, Walls and Bridges, as well as George’s Dark Horse.  The Lennon-penned and performed token Ringo track was taken from his album of the same name.  1974 mostly saw Paul McCartney touring in support of Band On The Run, so the A-side of his 1974 single “Junior’s Farm” was used, as well as the highlights of his 1975 album Venus and Mars, being the closest available source material next to his 1974 singles.  Once again matching the atmosphere of all four of their solo projects into one cohesive Beatle-esque  yet strong album—strong for 1970s Beatles, that is—was actually a simpler task than previous re-imaginings, as I felt the strongest of their material all seemed to be Beatle-esque anyways.  This album came together rather quickly, and its effortless flow, while not making an incredible impact like Imagine Clouds Dripping or Band On The Run, is a rather unified and enjoyable listen (if one enjoys mid-70s solo Beatles material in the first place!).  “Venus and Mars” and it’s reprise was specifically used to bookend the album, with an introduction of the band at the start of Side A and a concluding farewell at the end of Side B (reminiscent of Sgt. Pepper).  New edits and crossfades were created for many of the tracks to make a continuous two sides of music, notably the first three tracks of Side A and the last three tracks of Side B. 

As any astute follower of this series could assume, there would eventually come a certain point where these re-imaginings would no longer be possible, as Lennon ceased to make (commercially released) music in 1975, retiring to become a stay-at-home father.  We now have three choices to carry-on in the yearly fashion I’ve set forth with my series of 1970s Beatles albums: 1) continue this series without John Lennon; 2) continue this series with Lennon’s contributions being his Dakota acoustic home demos paired with Paul, George and Ringo’s studio solo material; 3) discontinue the series altogether.  As much as it might be a disappointment to you, constant listener, I have opted for Choice #3 and make the presumption that The Beatles took an indefinite hiatus in 1975, allowing for the other three to pursue their (sketchy) solo careers.  Since I’ve always felt that The Beatles had begun with John Lennon, it only seemed natural that they should end with John Lennon’s retirement.  Besides, after this point Paul and George’s solo albums diminished in quality at an appalling rate; it’s better to burn out then to fade away… 

So sit back, relax and imagine if you will:  After the success of the 1973 Beatles album Band On The Run, John continues what is called his “Lost Weekend”, a period of drugs and debauchery initiated by Lennon’s expulsion by Yoko Ono; after a world tour in support of Band On The Run in early 1974, The Beatles retreat to record another album that summer, but sessions are plagued by a disheveled Lennon preoccupied with partying alongside his celebrity-friends, not to mention a sudden onslaught of laryngitis for George, preventing him from contributing any number of new songs he’d written for the album; Paul’s leadership sees the band through to completing the difficult album, encouraging a generally “live-band” sounding album with one of his song fragments “Venus and Mars” beginning and ending the album; the album was named Good Night Vienna by Paul, after the Lennon-written song featuring Ringo’s lead vocals.  A cover photo was taken featuring The Beatles (as well as a Linda McCartney!) dressed as characters mentioned in the lead single “Junior’s Farm” (Bob Dylan was again impressed).

The response was generally positive for Good Night Vienna both critically and commercially.  It was definitely not their strongest album to date, but it wasn’t a disappointment such as Living In The Material World, and many fans and critics compared the album to the quaint Let It Be album from 1970.  “Junior’s Farm” backed with the non-LP B-side “Ding Dong, Ding Dong” was a hit in 1974 and brief European tour was planned along with a few select American dates.  That fall, around the time of the single release of “Whatever Gets You Thru The Night” b/w the non-LP track “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”, Paul foresaw his dear friend and bandmate’s eminent destruction from his joyously turbulent excess, and knew that something had to give; perhaps The Beatles had lived longer than they should have?  Paul realized that John was simply masking his loneliness and the loss of Yoko, the person who created balance in his life.  The title for their apparently final album—a slang for “it’s all over”—was  prophetic in that Paul knew the only way to save John was to stop the madness of The Beatles, the entity that had enabled John’s destruction.   While playing the final American dates, Paul orchestrated a meeting of John and Yoko to reconcile and hopefully let John rediscover the missing balance in his life.  Paul’s plan worked, and John and Yoko once again found the missing pieces of themselves in eachother, backstage of The Beatles’ final performance at Madison Square Garden on November 28th, 1974 (Elton John was the opening act).  Both John and Paul decided it was time for the Beatles to take an indefinite break—to save John and free the others.  Seeing an opportunity for redemption for his previous family abandonment, John subsequently retired from music to concentrate on a domestic family life and to attend his soon-to-be-born second child.  The rest of the Beatles were free to pursue their own solo careers, which they most certainly did.  And the rest is history…  Or could have been, anyways. 

Sources used:
All The Best! (original 1987 master)
Dark Horse (1992 CD pressing)
Photograph – The Very Best of Ringo Starr (original 2007 master)
Venus and Mars (1995 Steve Hoffman remaster)
Walls and Bridges (2005 remaster)

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

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Beatles - Band On The Run (1973)

 The Beatles – Band On The Run
(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

Side A:
1.  Mind Games
2.  Jet
3.  One Day At A Time
4.  Mrs. Vanderbilt
5.  Photograph
6.  Be Here Now

Side B:
7.  Band On The Run
8.  I Know, I Know
9.  No Words
10.  Out Of The Blue
11.  The Day The Earth Gets Round
12.  Let Me Roll It

This is a “re-imagined” Beatles album that presumes the question: What if The Beatles never broke up?  My Band On The Run collects the best of The Beatles solo material from and around 1973—including tracks from Band On The Run, Mind Games and Living In The Material World.  It is the fourth in a series which also includes The Beatles re-imagined albums: Instant Karma! (1970), Imagine Clouds Dripping (1971) and Living In The Material World (1972). 

Thanks to one of Paul McCartney’s crown achievements in his post-Beatles career paired with some fairly solid material from John, George and Ringo, this re-imagined album becomes one of the best of the series.  As with the other three albums, my song selections centered on the ones that seemed to be the most “Beatlesy” and could come together as a unified album.  Starting with the stand-outs of Lennon’s Mind Games, the plethora of great McCartney tracks were chosen based on how they fit in with John’s.  Likewise, the remaining George songs that were not taken for my 1972 Beatles album Living In The Material World were contenders for Band On The Run, and the more serene and majestic tracks fit nicely with the Lennon and McCartney choices.  Of course Ringo’s “Photograph” was a necessity. 

In my opinion, the resulting album was so cohesive that half of the songs all seemed to be in the same key, which allowed the first half of side B to crossfade continuously!  Note that the title track and it’s new sister-songs “I Know, I Know” and “No Words” lead off side B instead of side A because the album seemed to need the dynamic left and right punch of “Mind Games” and “Jet” to start the record.  Note that we are overlooking Deny Laine’s co-writing credit on “No Words”, since we’ve already been overlooking both Linda McCartney and Yoko Ono’s credits in this entire series!  But doesn’t Denny sing Lennon-esque harmonies anyways?  The final touch was the hilariously obvious cover art. 

So sit back, relax and imagine:  After the long “Never Ending” North American Tour in 1972, The Beatles retreat to a secluded Nigerian studio to write and record songs for their next album; the serenity from the hectic touring and after-show parties make the band more focused and united in their efforts; the non-LP single “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)” b/w “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)”, recording during these sessions, became a number one hit while The Beatles finished up the remainder of the album in back in London; Band On The Run was finally released in 1973 to massive critical and commercial acclaim, hailed as their “second Abbey Road.“

Seen as not only their best album if the 1970s but one of the best albums of The Beatles’ career, Band On The Run made up for any lost momentum from the previous year’s album Living In The Material World.  Two hit singles came from Band On The Run, including “Mind Games” b/w the non-LP B-side “Helen Wheels” and “Jet” b/w the non-LP B-side “Meat City”.  In support of the album, The Beatles embarked on a world tour in September 1973.  It would be bittersweet though, as at the conclusion of the recording sessions for Band On The Run John entered what was known as his “Lost Weekend”, which extended all through the tour and into next year.  Exasperated by John’s wild behavior and eminent disloyalty during the 1972 North American tour, Yoko Ono separated from John, presumably to allow him an extended bachelor party to exorcise his demons.  John embraced his new-found freedom with gusto, and the commercial success of Band On The Run and the resulting world tour was a stage for his increasing debauchery.  Into 1974 it was only Paul who recognized John’s downward spiral, and hoped there was a way to prevent The Beatles from saying ‘good night’… 

Sources used:
Band On The Run (1993 remaster)
Living In The Material World (2006 remaster)
Mind Games (2004 MFSL remaster)
Photograph – The Very Best of Ringo Starr (original 2007 master)

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Beatles - Living In The Material World (1972)

 The Beatles – Living In The Material World
(a soniclovenoize reimagining)

Side A:
1.  Back Off Boogaloo
2.  Hi, Hi, Hi
3.  John Sinclair
4.  Get On The Right Thing
5.  Who Can See It
6.  Woman Is The Nigger Of The World

Side B:
7.  Live and Let Die
8.  New York City
9.  Living In The Material World
10.  Single Pigeon
11.  Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
12.  My Love

This album “reimagining” is the third in a series that ponders the question: What if The Beatles never broke up?  My Living In The Material World album collects together various solo Beatles material from the year 1972 (and approximate) and is sequenced into a cohesive album (as best as can be done with the material at hand, of course).  It’s a follow-up to my two previous reimagined Beatles albums, Imagine Clouds Dripping from 1971 and Instant Karma! from 1970.   

To continue my model of constructing these albums—that each specific year of the 70s should be considered, rather than the best of the decade as a whole—you will undoubtedly reach some rough patches; 1972 was one of them.  Lennon released the extremely forgettable Sometime In New York City and McCartney relied solely on stray single releases, as well as recording the bulk of the sketchy Red Rose Speedway (which wasn’t released until the following year, but is still included here because it is still a product of 1972).  When combined with Harrison’s quaint yet hit-and-miss Living In The Material World (which it’s recording began in 1972 and is thus included here) we are left with a Beatles album that, although an extremely fun listen, would have probably been a critical failure, possibly hailed as the worst album of their career (by “Beatles standards”).    If it wasn’t for McCartney’s hit singles on this album, it probably would have been a commercial failure too. 

But is this really a bad thing?  I chose to leave the cards as they fell because my construction of Living In The Material World reflects the reality of each of The Beatles at that point in time.  Every artist has ups and downs, it only seems natural that The Beatles should put out a bad album, even if it took them until 1972 to do so.  And besides, this turns out to be a really fun listen.  The final touch is the collage cover art that for some reason seems to fit this album itself—scatterbrained and unfocused, yet enjoyable.  Living In The Material World is the underdog we love to root for, even though we know he’ll lose.  It is Magical Mystery Tour’s distant cousin. 

So sit back, relax and imagine if you will:  After The Beatles success of their European Tour in late 1971, they plan a North American in early 1972; early dates of the tour are such an immediate success and so enjoyable for The Beatles, the four members and their families strike up a temporary residence in New York and plan on a continual “never ending” tour of the continent throughout the remainder of the year (Bob Dylan was said to have attended many of these shows and was quite impressed with this concept); The Beatles recognize an immediate desire for new material and quickly draft members of The Elephant Memory Band and record Living In The Material World, again with Phil Spector producing; the demand for product to coincide with their impromptu “never-ending” 1972 American tour forces the label to include many non-LP singles and songs The Beatles already had in the can, as well as the newly recorded material. 

The only single-release of the album’s newer New York songs was Ringo’s “Back Off Boogaloo” b/w the non-LP b-side “Big Bard Bed” which had mixed reviews, many wondering why Paul’s superior “My Love” wasn’t released as a single.  Lennon himself maintained that “Woman Is The Nigger of The World” should have been the lead single, but the rest of the band refused for obvious reasons.  Paul claimed it was commercial suicide and didn’t even want to include it on the album.  A compromise was made when Lennon allowed “Live and Let Die” on the album, a song he loathed and performed on purely for contractual reasons (although he understood it was the album’s chief selling-point and even admitted to rather enjoying James Bond).  Phil Spector suggested sequencing Lennon’s feminist anthem at the end of side A on the LP, so that sensitive listeners could simply stop and flip the record if they were offended; the DJs seemed to do just that. 

The critics were very hard on Living In The Material World, calling it a cash cow and simply an excuse to extend their tour of America (rather than the other way around).  It was even noted that album seemed to be mostly tailor-made for the tour itself, and Lennon’s songs were too politically-driven.  Critics also noted the inclusion of current popular unrelated songs to round out the otherwise weak album, such as “Live and Let Die” and their December 1971 single “Merry Xmas (War is Over)” b/w the non-album b-side “C Moon”.  Rolling Stone even dubbed the album “Filler In The Material World” yet at least commended the band for excluding their single from that February, the well-intended yet hastily written and recorded “Give Ireland Back to The Irish” b/w “Luck of The Irish.”  The Beatles took the criticism of Living In The Material World to heart, through their “never-ending” tour and their purported increasingly excessive back-stage partying and drug use.  Hesitantly wrapping up their North American Tour at the end of 1972, The Beatles pondered their next move, how to keep their band on the run… 

Sources used:
All The Best! (original 1987 master)
Living In The Material World (2006 remaster)
Red Rose Speedway (1996 Steve Hoffman remaster)
Photograph – The Very Best of Ringo Starr (original 2007 master)
Sometime In New York City (2005 remaster)

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

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Beatles - Imagine Clouds Dripping (1971)

The Beatles – Imagine Clouds Dripping
(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

Side A:
1.  Power To The People
2.  What is Life
3.  Dear Boy
4.  Bangla Desh
5.  Jealous Guy
6.  The Back Seat of My Car

Side B:
7.  Imagine
8.  Another Day
9.  Art of Dying
10.  Oh My Love
11.  Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
12.  Isn’t It A Pity?

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 “Bangla Desh” 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”, “Art of Dying” 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.  The one drawback here is no contribution from Ringo; literally none of the Sentimental Journey and Beaucups of Blues songs even remotely fit on this or the previous album, and his more interesting solo singles chronologically appear later in my series.  But one must consider that over the course of The Beatles’ thirteen 1960s albums, a few albums had no Ringo contributions, such as Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be; Imagine Clouds Dripping is simply one of those albums.   I feel this fellow Ringo-less album is excusable because this resulting album is so solid and unified.

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 being Ringo’s sole contribution from the Imagine Clouds Dripping sessions, an original “Choochy Coochy”.  While “Bangla Desh” was chosen to make the cut for the album, “Coochy Coochy” was not.  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… 

Sources used:
All Things Must Pass (2010 40th Anniversary Master)
The Best of George Harrison (1990)
Imagine (2003 MFSL remaster)
RAM (1993 remaster)
Working Class Hero – The Definitive John Lennon (2005)

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Beatles - Instant Karma! (1970)

The Beatles – Instant Karma!
(a soniclovenoize reimagining)

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

I received numerous requests for this, so I thought I’d actually do it as a ‘thank you’ to everyone who is listening to my crazy reconstructions and supporting my blog Albums That Never Were.  Now, if you guys enjoy this one, it can be the first in a series of five albums.  I know it’s been done before, but this is my take on it.  Let me know if you want me to continue this series, and I most surely will…

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?

Source used:
All Things Must Pass (2010 40th Anniversary remaster)
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (2010 remaster)
McCartney (2011 remaster)
Photographs – The Best of Ringo Starr (2007)
Working Class Hero – The Definitive John Lennon (2005)

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