Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Velvet Underground - IV

The Velvet Underground – IV

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together
2.  One Of These Days
3.  Andy’s Chest
4.  Lisa Says
5.  Foggy Notion

Side B:
6.  I Can’t Stand It
7.  Coney Island Steeplechase
8.  I’m Sticking With You
9.  She’s My Best Friend
10.  Ocean
11.  Ride Into The Sun

As a memorial to the death of Lou Reed today, I thought I’d rush this mix and post it immediately.  This is a reconstruction of the fabled ‘lost fourth album’ by The Velvet Underground, recorded in-between 1969’s The Velvet Underground and 1970’s Loaded.  Although much of this material has been released as the 1985 compilation album VU, the label made no attempt to reproduce that lost fourth album.  In contrast to VU, this reconstruction attempts to be true to what the actual fourth Velvet Underground might have been like.  I also utilized alternate sources of the songs from those contained on VU in order to include the longest edits of the songs as well as the best mastering available. 

By 1969, we have a completely different Velvet Underground.  After recording an album intended to be the polar opposite of White Light/White Heat with John Cale’s more musically apt (albeit less experimental) replacement Doug Yule, the band enjoyed critical success with their The Velvet Underground album, even though commercial success still eluded them.  Being tired of MGM Records—or perhaps reading the writing on the wall and anticipating a drop from the label due to a lack of commercial potential—the band continued recording a follow-up to The Velvet Underground while touring throughout 1969, biding their time until their management found a better label.  This follow-up, once complete, was indefinitely shelved by MGM as The Velvet Underground was no longer on their roster anyways.   It remained unheard until the tapes were accidentally found and released as the 1985 and 1986 compilation albums VU and Another View. 

Recorded at The Record Plant from May to October 1969, the actual band members have differing opinions on what the intent of these recordings was.  In interviews, bandleader Lou Reed expressed that the 1969 Record Plant recordings were meant for their fourth album—specifically noting that “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together” was meant as it’s ironic lead single.  Mo Tucker sides with Reed, in that she was under the impression they were recording a proper forth album, although she confusingly claims that The Record Plant recordings found on VU and Another View were not it.  Doug Yule however claimed they were simply professionally-recorded demos for the album that would eventually be Loaded.  Sterling Morrison offers a completely different explanation: that the recordings were simply “busy work”, a put-on so that MGM would not suspect the band as wanting out of their contract, and that these recordings were never even meant to see the light of day.   Who are we to believe, if we believe any of this at all? 

For the purposes of this reconstruction we will assume Reed and Tucker to be correct, and collect the Record Plant sessions into this album they were purportedly recording.  We will also need to assume that Tucker is mistaken, and that The Record Plant sessions were indeed the lost album; 40 years later, what else possibly could it be?  Had they recorded an undocumented album’s worth of material that somehow escaped Velvet Underground historians for decades?  Unlikely… 

While we don’t know what exactly would have been on the “lost forth album”, we do have fourteen finished songs, recorded at a state-of-the-art recording studio from the exact same time period in question.  Seems more than a coincidence!  While the 1985 album VU also includes the unreleased single “Stephanie Says” and “Temptation Inside Your Heart”, we must resist the temptation inside our hearts (no matter what Stephanie says) to include these two songs as they were most likely not a part of this project.  Of the fourteen tracks recorded in 1969, we will exclude the early version of “Rock and Roll”, since it later appears on Loaded; in contrast, although both “Ocean” and “I’m Sticking With You” were re-recorded for Loaded, they did not make that final cut and are thus free-game.  With thirteen songs remaining, I simply dropped the two weakest tracks—the unnecessary filler “Ferryboat Bill” and the long and uninteresting “I’m Gonna Move Right In”.  The result is eleven solid tracks that run nearly 40 minutes: the typical format for a Velvet Underground album! 

Side A begins with Reed’s idea of an ironic and intentionally-inane single designed specifically to ‘give FM radio what it wants’, “We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together”.  Although Reed later re-recorded this unreleased song for his 1978 solo album Street Hassle, this is the original Velvet Underground version taken from Another View.  Following is the barroom snarl of “One of These Days”; this is the longer version found on the What Goes On boxset, that runs about five seconds longer than the typical VU version.  “Andy Chest”, a song Reed re-recorded for is classic 1972 Transformer album, follows and is taken from the CD pressing of VU.  “Lisa Says” follows, a song Lou re-recorded for his first solo album; it is taken from the Peel Slowly and See boxset, which runs three seconds longer than the typical VU version.  Concluding Side A is my own edit of “Foggy Notion”, the first of two necessary ‘epic’ songs on a Velvet Underground album.  This reconstruction attempts to make the longest possible complete version by using the guitar intro from the vinyl pressing of VU and the longer-fade mix found on the What Goes On boxset.  This “Foggy Notion” is now as long and complete as possible, clocking in at 7:00 as opposed to the 6:45 version on VU.

Side B starts with a song Reed again re-recorded for his first solo album in 1972, “I Can’t Stand It”, here using the best master found on What Goes On.  After “Coney Island Steeplechase” from Another View, the longest version of “I’m Sticking With You” is taken from Peel Slowly and See, in which the final chord of the song is more articulated.  A song re-recorded by Reed for his 1976 solo album Coney Island Baby, “She’s My Best Friend” is the long version taken from the promo cassette pressing of VU which runs 19 seconds longer.  The second necessary epic of the album, we have the superior master of another song re-recorded for Reed’s first solo album: “Ocean”, which is taken from What Goes On.  The album concludes with a serene What Goes On version of “Ride Into The Sun” that actually features vocals, unlike the common Another View version.  While they were clearly recorded at the same 1969 studio session (mislabeled on the What Goes On liner notes), this version is unfortunately sourced from an old acetate rather than the remixed mastertapes.  The result is that, while definitely listenable and certainly enjoyable, “Ride Into The Sun” has a very obvious lower soundquality than the rest of the album.  But is that really a problem?  After all, we are talking about The Velvet Underground here!  This acetate sounds as good as half of the songs on White Light/White Heat!  This rougher acetate version seemed a perfect fit to conclude the album, not to mention it's one of the best recordings the band ever made.

The resulting album reconstruction—which here I simply titled IV as it would have been The Velvet Underground’s fourth album—lies somewhere between the band-oriented garage-rock of White Light/White Heat and the serene pop sensibilities of The Velvet Underground.  Without any pretense at all ("Are we even making an album right now?  Oh well..."), it is a very clear recording of the band playing directly, something they needed at this point of their career, although no one actually did hear it at this point in their career.  But let's not fool ourselves; if they had, I doubt it would have made much of a difference anyways.  The Velvet Underground's fate was always sealed to be ahead of their time.  But now that that time has passed, we can appreciate the simple beauty of a very honest Velvet Underground album previously lost, as we celebrate Lou Reed’s ride into the sun. 

Sources Used:
Another View (1986 CD)
Peel Slowly and See (1995 CD box set)
The Ultimate Stereo Album (bootleg CD box set, 1996 Nothing Songs Limited)
VU (1985 original CD pressing)
VU (1985 vinyl rip by Kel Bazar)
What Goes On (1993 CD boxset)

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Beach Boys - Adult/Child

The Beach Boys – Adult/Child

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Life is For The Living
2.  Hey Little Tomboy
3.  Deep Purple
4.  H.E.L.P. Is On The Way
5.  It’s Over Now
6.  Everybody Wants To Live

Side B:
7.  Shortenin’ Bread
8.  Lines
9.  On Broadway
10.  Games Two Can Play
11.  It’s Trying To Say
12.  Still I Dream of It

This was a follower-request reconstruction for some time, so I thought I’d finally buckle down and do it for you guys!  This is a reconstruction of the unreleased Beach Boys 1977 album Adult/Child.  Initially recorded as a solo project by Brian Wilson, almost all of it was scrapped and the MIU Album was released instead in 1978.  Here, the tracks which were officially released have been compiled from their best sources, and the tracks not officially released have all been personally remixed to match as closely as possible the fidelity of the officially released ones.  All tracks have been volume adjusted correctly and appropriate banding time has been either added or taken away, depending on the song.

Following a rush of confidence after completing Love You nearly by himself, Brian Wilson continued work on a follow-up entitled Adult/Child, another set of songs unabashedly autobiographical about his state of mind (and physical health) at the time in 1976-1977.  The title was allegedly culled from Brian’s psychologist Eugene Landry, in which we can only presume that the “Adult/Child” is Brian Wilson himself.   Many of the arrangements emulated the 1976 album 15 Big Ones, which had a decidedly Sinatra-esque ‘big band’ sound.  As well as the new compositions, Brian also dusted off a few outtakes from earlier in the decade, including “HELP is On The Way” (which was promised but ultimately forsaken on Landlocked, a reconstruction I just recently tackled) and “Games Two Can Play”.  Unfortunately the album was canned by Reprise Records as not being commercially viable, although the long-running rumor was that half of the Beach Boys camp conveniently disliked the big band sound of Adult/Child anyways.  The album was essentially replaced by the MIU Album, headed up by Mike Love, and the sole Adult/Child survivor was “Hey Little Tomboy”, which featured a new set of overdubs. 

My reconstruction is rather straight forward as, while the songs on Adult/Child aren’t necessarily A+ material in quality, it is an extremely well-sequenced album as a whole and we are lucky to know what Brian’s intended track sequence was to be.  The biggest problem was within the realm of volume adjustments, as each song implied a different dynamic range.  Even worse, each song seemed to already have their own unique volume as they all came from vividly different sources.   Once we set certain album-peaks which featured the loudest points in the album (“Shortenin’ Bread” for instance) this could be fixed.  The second challenge was in remixing roughly half of the album since seven of the tracks were never officially released and exist only on bootlegs.  I found that the commonly bootlegged version—from a sometimes droppy cassette—seemed to lack bottom end and some highs but the mids were intact (unlike the Landlocked tapes).  When reEQ’d, they seem to fit wonderfully alongside the officially-released tracks. 

One note must be made that no speed corrections were made to my Adult/Child reconstruction.  The reason for this is that we do not have a reference point for some of the tracks, and they seemed to sound fine by my ears (aside from the fact that I am not too fond of digital speed correction)!  It also becomes tricky knowing Brian tinkered with tape speeds as a tool in the recording studio; was a slowed tape intentional or not?  Also, cassette dropouts were not fixed, as I did not feel they detracted from the listening experience and, if I may be so bold, adds an analog aura that seems to be lacking in today’s modern music production.  There is nothing like tape errors to remind a listener that we are all human and perfection shouldn't necessarily by our ultimate goal. 

Side A begins with my own reEQd version of “Life Is For The Living”.  In contrast to other reconstructions of Adult/Child, I did not sample an earlier part of the track to replace this tape error as I felt it desecrated the intentional a capella introduction, and is left as is.  Next is followed by the atrocious “Hey Little Tomboy” which is taken from the MIU Album.  While many prefer the unreleased early mix found on the Adult/Child bootlegs, I felt a more completed mix belonged here; also, the spoken word bridge section made my ears bleed in embarrassment.  This is followed by “HELP Is On The Way”, the exact same version as found on my Landlocked reconstruction, an edit of the officially released mix from the Good Vibrations boxset.  The brand new (and allegedly speed-corrected) “It’s Over Now” from the Made In California boxset follows, along with my own remix of “Everybody Wants To Live” to close the first side of the album. 

Side B begins with a perplexing track that Brian was allegedly obsessed with at the time, “Shortenin Bread”.  This is a remixed version of the bootleg, not the version found on the LA Album.  “Lines” and “On Broadway” follow, both remixed from a bootleg for improved soundquality.  Next we have a not-too-shabby “Games Two Can Play” taken from the Good Vibrations boxset, as well as a decent uptempo rocker “It’s Trying To Say”, personally remixed from a bootleg.  The album closes with “Still I Dream of It”, taken from the Good Vibrations boxset.

My final touch was new, original cover art.  I had noticed that there really isn’t any logical bootleg cover art for Adult/Child, so I deemed this a top priority to rectify for my reconstruction.  Using the MIU Album cover as a base—since this reconstruction essentially replaces the MIU Album anyways—we have a cover more suitable than a random 1950’s postcard illustration or a SMiLE-era ‘firehat’ picture of Brian Wilson.  Although I recognize that Adult/Child probably references a psychological state, I chose to go with a literal direction with the artwork, using a silhouette of an adult and a child hand-in-hand; who is to say that the title doesn’t have a double-meaning?  If anything, this cover represents the superficial meaning of the album with Landy’s prognosis relegated more sympathetically to a subtext.  With all the honesty already present in the lyrics, maybe we are doing Brian a favor and cutting him a little slack. Didn't he deserve it by 1977?  

Sources used:
Adult/Child (bootleg, 1997 Peg-Boy/Vigotone Records)
Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys (1993 CD box set)
Made in California (2013 CD box set)
MIU Album (original 1991 CD pressing)

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*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Beach Boys - Landlocked

The Beach Boys – Landlocked
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)
Side A:
1.  Loop De Loop
2.  Susie Cincinnati
3.  San Miguel
4.  H.E.L.P. Is On The Way
5.  Take A Load Off Your Feet
6.  Carnival
7.  I Just Got My Pay
Side B:
8.  Good Time
9.  Big Sur
10. Fallin’ In Love
11. When Girls Get Together
12. Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)
13. Til I Die
The third of a four-part Beach Boys upload, this is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1970 Beach Boys album Landlocked, an early version of the 1971 album Surf’s Up.  All of the tracks that have been officially released have been compiled from their best possible sources (spread over six different releases), and the remaining unreleased tracks were personally remastered from bootlegs for their best possible soundquality.  All tracks were volume-adjusted with appropriate track leader to create a finished, cohesive album as a whole—the album that could have been Surf’s Up, as of late 1970.
Reconstructing any unreleased album from this period of The Beach Boys’ recording history is tricky.  Landlocked (or at least the sequence of songs that have come to be associated with the title “Landlocked”) is actually one of three different unreleased Beach Boys albums from the 1969-1970 period; to understand Landlocked’s context we must examine her older twin sisters.  Remember that what we think of as Landlocked is essentially a tape of nine Sunflower outtakes (of which only one would make the cut onto Surf’s Up) and four of the songs that The Beach Boys were then currently working on for the Surf’s Up album (only two of those would make the cut).  Also of note that there has been a dispute over whether this album ever existed at all!  Some say that not only was  Landlocked” never really a serious working title for the Surf’s Up album, but that this track sequence—which was indeed an early running order for the album that eventually became Surf’s Up—was never called Landlocked anyways.  I will put this argument aside for my blog’s purposes; the working title of Landlocked and this specific tracklist has become linked—erroneously or not—over time.  Besides, if Landlocked never really existed, it would truly be an album that never was! 
Landlocked’s genesis essentially came out of the band’s flurry of studio activity in 1969 while making the Sunflower album.  Between January and March The Beach Boys had recorded nine-or-so songs, just falling short of an album’s worth of material.  Of these initial Sunflower sessions, Landlocked’s “San Miguel” and “Loop De Loop” were recorded.  A second session in July and August yielded another four songs, with even more sessions resuming in October and continuing until January 1970.  The result was nearly 30 songs, more than twice needed for an album!  The first attempt to compile an album from these sessions, called Reverberation and meant to complete their contract to Capitol Records, was rejected for unknown reasons (this sequence contained the two aforementioned Landlocked tracks recorded during the initial Sunflower sessions as well as an instrumental “When Girls Get Together”).  The Live In London album instead took Reverberations' place to fulfill their contract, and the band compiled a completely different sequence of tracks from the recording sessions as their first offering for Reprise Records.  This second unreleased album Add Some Music contained the eventual Landlocked tracks “When Girls Get Together” (with vocals), “Susie Cincinnati”, “Fallin’ In Love”, “Carnival”, “I Just Got My Pay”, “Good Time”, and “Take A Load Off Your Feet” and was eventually rejected by Reprise for not having an immediately radio-friendly hit single.  After a final recording session in July 1970, the strongest songs from the past year and a half of recording were resequenced into what we know as the Sunflower album, leaving all of the aforementioned tracks on the cutting room floor.  But what are some labels’ trash are other bands’ treasure, as the Sunflower rejects became the seeds of The Beach Boys’ next project.
In August 1970, the band began recording their follow-up to Sunflower, tracking  “Lookin’ For Tomorrow”, “Big Sur”, “Til I Die” and “H.E.L.P. Is On The Way”.  By September, a tape was compiled of these four new songs as well as the aforementioned nine Sunflower outtakes and submitted to Reprise records (albeit with a Capitol Records letterhead!).  While some claim that Landlocked was never actually an early title for Surf’s Up, documentation connects the title to this tape submitted to Reprise on this date.  I am using this sequence for my Landlocked reconstruction as it was not only historically accurate to the rough sequences at the time, but it simply sounds great!  Unfortunately, Reprise Records disagreed; they rejected the album and new Beach Boys manager Jack Rieley urged the band to restructure the album into a more commercial and “socially relevant” album.  The entire Landlocked sequence bit the dust (save for “Lookin For Tomorrow” and “Til I Die”) with their replacements recorded between April and May 1971.  Included was the newly-finished SMiLE outtake “Surf’s Up” which became the title track for the album’s release in August 1971.  But what of Landlocked, the Surf’s Up that never was?  Half the songs staggered out as b-sides and as exclusive tracks on anthology releases, with another handful appearing only on bootlegs.  Two were even rerecorded for later releases (“Big Sur” and “When Girls Get Together”) and another found it’s way onto yet another unreleased Beach Boys album (“H.E.L.P. Is On The Way” on Adult/Child, which I will tackle shortly).  Here we can re-essemble what The Beach Boys really had in mind to follow-up their Sunflower album before big-business pressures squeezed all of the fun out of being landlocked. 
Side A of my Landlocked reconstruction—the silly side—begins with “Loop De Loop”, a song that Al Jardine had been tinkering on for some time, even up until it’s release in 1998 on the Endless Harmony soundtrack.  But presented here is its original 1969 mix, remastered from a bootleg to match the EQ of the final version.  “Loop De Loop” runs directly into the original single mix of the upbeat rocker “Susie Cincinnati”, taken from the 2000 compilation Greatest Hits Volume 3: The Brother Years.  Note the modern remix found on the 2013 Made In California box set was not used here because the mixing did not match the aesthetics of the rest of the songs.  The original mix of “San Miguel” follows, taken from the 1993 Good Vibrations box set.  Also from that box is the transparent jingle “HELP Is On The Way” edited to match the original Landlocked version (as noted on the September 1970 tape box).  The goofy yet adorable “Take A Load Off Your Feet” is culled from the most recent remaster of the Surf’s Up album and is followed by the dizzying unreleased “Carnival”, again reEQ’d to match the rest of my reconstruction.  The side concludes with “I Just Got My Pay” from the God Vibrations box set.
Side B—the serious side—opens with my own remaster of the up-until-recently unreleased “Good Time”; the newly remixed version from Made In California again omitted here because it frankly sounded better than the rest of the songs, as well as a little light on backing vocals, in my opinion.  Following is my own remaster of the unreleased original 1970 recording of “Big Sur”, particularly reEQd to un-muddy the mix and bring out the missing highs and lows.  Next, the modern remix of Dennis's “Fallin’ In Love”, taken from the 2009 compilation Summer Love Songs, is re-edited to match the original 1969 version.  After my own remaster of the unreleased original 1969 version of the equally brilliant (musically) and inane (lyrically) “When Girls Get Together” is “Lookin’ For Tomorrow”.  This version is taken from Surf’s Up as the overly flanged version seemed to fit the neo-psychedelic vibe of the rest of the songs.  Concluding Landlocked is my one instance of creative license, the longer Steve Desper mix of “Til I Die” found on the 1998 Endless Harmony Soundtrack.  Although Landlocked would have actually included a version of similar length to what was released on Surf’s Up, I felt Desper’s longer version was more appropriate to end the album. 
With the addition of a less-gruesome cover image to match the carnival-on-acid vibe of the album, our reconstruction is complete.   But how does our resulting Landlocked compare to Surf’s Up and even Sunflower?  For one thing, it is decidingly more psychedelic, goofier and more, well, fun.  The tracks don’t seem to be concerned with commercial potential: just songs for their own sake.  While Sunflower and much of Surf’s Up seem overly serious, Landlocked seems whimsical and certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously.  We also have a sound more reminiscent of the SMiLE era, although lacking the poetics of Van Dyke Parks or any conceptual or sonic envelope pushing.  But at the same time, one can surely see why Landlocked was never released: it was not the correct album for The Beach Boys in the early 70s.  If Sunflower and Surf’s Up were the engines that drove the band for that decade, Landlocked was merely the dining car, filled with libations and merriment, but unable carry the weight of the whole train.  But with that said, I’d much rather be having a drink than shoveling coal… 
Sources used:
Endless Harmony Soundtrack  (1998)
Good Vibrations: 30 Years of The Beach Boys  (1993)
Greatest Hits Volume 3: The Brother Years  (2000)
Landlocked: The Last Capitol Album  (bootleg, 1994 Invasion Unlimited)
Summer Love Songs  (2009)
Surf’s Up  (2012 remaster)

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