Thursday, May 15, 2014

Frank Zappa - We’re Only In It For The Money (Uncensored)

Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention – 
We’re Only In It For The Money

(Uncensored Original Mix by soniclovenoize)

May 2014 UPGRADE

Side A:
 1. Are You Hung Up?
 2. Who Needs The Peace Corps?
 3. Concentration Moon
 4. Mom & Dad
 5. Bow Tie Daddy
 6. Harry, You’re A Beast
 7. What’s The Ugliest part of Your Body?
 8. Absolutely Free
 9. Flower Punk
10. Hot Poop

Side B:
11. Nasal Retentive Calliope Music
12. Let’s Make The Water Turn Black
13. The Idiot Bastard Son
14. Lonely Little Girl
15. Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
16. What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body? (reprise)
17. Mother People
18. The Chrome Plated Megaphone of Destiny

Okay okay okay…  Even Einstein was allowed a “biggest blunder” so cut me some slack, alright? On my blog, my biggest blunder (to date) was using the 1986 overdubbed version of We’re Only In It For The Money as source material for the patches for my Uncensored Original Mix.  I got a lot of flak for it, and I guess rightfully so.  Because certainly a completely uncensored stereo 1968 version of the album could be made, I just had to try harder!  Zappa fans spoke out against my ignorance, and so here is my UPGRADE to that.  Please forgive me!

The upgrades to this revision:
- A new edit of “Harry, You’re A Beast” is created, restoring the censored “Don’t cum in me, in me” verse using original 1968 recordings, NOT the 1986 overdubbed versions.  To do this, I re-assembled the entire cut-up verse in correct order, forward, using the mono master from Lumpy Money Project/Object.  I then synced that reassembled mono verse to the stereo instrumental backing track, creating a full stereo, uncensored verse for the first time ever (at least to my knowledge - no the acetate demo version is in mono and in subpar quality!)
- a new edit of “Mother People” is created, restoring the censored “Shut your fucking mouth” verse using original 1968 recordings, NOT the 1986 overdubbed version.  To do this, I took the reversed version of the verse from “Hot Poop”, swapped the channels to match “Mother People”, and inserted the verse to its proper place.  I then extracted the “Shut you fucking mouth” line from the mono mix found on Mothermania and restored the uncensored line in place.  To keep the stereophonic mixing of uniform, I panned the entire mono line to the right and added a low-pass-filtered mix of the line to the left.  The result was surprisingly cohesive and kept with Zappa’s original mixing scheme with the bass to the left and the drums to the right, with the only discrepancy that the singular vocal line being single-tracked for a second or two while the rest of the verse remains double-tracked.   
- a new edit of “Hot Poop” is created, restoring the reversed and censored “Shut your fucking mouth” verse using original 1968 recordings.  To do this, I reversed the above edit I created for “Mother People”, swapped the channels and inserted it back into the track. 

Note that my same edit of “Concentration Moon” is still used here because, although sourced from the 1986 remaster, there were no 1986 overdubs featured in the edit itself and it is technically all original 1968 material. 

This was a special request a number of months ago, and it sounded like a fun challenge.  This  is my own unique edit of Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention’s We’re Only In It For The Money that utilizes all original 1968 stereo mixes, but reinstates all the originally censored material, thus creating a completely uncensored original mix. 

Frank Zappa famously said, when accepting an award for his third album We’re Only In It For The Money, “I prefer that the award be presented to the guy who modified this record, because what you're hearing is more reflective of his work than mine.”  Although he was exaggerating a bit, it is certainly true that much of Zappa’s groundbreaking and cutting edge humor was softened or even literally removed for commercial release.  Numerous pieces of the album were edited to appease late 60s “decency standards”, thus beginning Zappa’s heavily-championed cause for artist’s Freedom of Speech and the battle against censorship and the suits who perpetuate it.  For decades, fans could only enjoy what the label thought would appease social standards at the time, rather than what the artist intended.  Luckily throughout the years, there were a handful of reissues and international repressing of the album that did reinstate many of the dubious censored pieces. 

Currently, all but four specific alterations of the album had been restored to the original 1968 mix of We’re Only In It For The Money: the spoken Velvet Underground reference in “Concentration Moon”, the “Don’t cum in me” verse of “Harry, You’re A Beast”, the “Shut your fucking mouth” verse of “Mother People” and the reversed version of that same verse in “Hot Poop”.  But is there a way to reinstate these sections?  Some of those pieces exist on a bootleg of demos recorded for the album, but only exist in mono at the wrong tape speeds, and are thus unusable.  Maybe there is another option? 

The next chapter of the album’s curious history began with revolutions in the recording industry, specifically the advent of digital mastering.  In 1986, the album was slated for a new digital remaster along with the rest of Frank Zappa’s discography.  In a move that is almost universally considered sacrilege by fans, Zappa utilized the remastering process as an excuse to literally replace the original drum and bass tracks on the album with a newly recorded rhythm section.  Not only was this new remaster of We’re Only in It For The Money condemned by purists, but the end result seemed extremely anachronistic with an obviously 1960s guitar, keyboard & vocal sound juxtaposed with an obviously 1980s drum & bass sound; today in the 2010s, the effect is exacerbated with the 1980s overdubs sounding extremely dated.  This version of the album is currently out-of-press, aside from being included in an exhaustive box set release from this era of The Mothers.

The only benefit of this horrid 1986 remix/remaster was that three of the aforementioned censored tracks, “Concentration Moon”, “Harry, You’re A Beast” and “Mother People”, all contained their original unedited, uncensored material, albeit with an infuriating re-recorded rhythm section ("Hot Poop" curiously retained the orignal, untouched reversed and censored line).  What can be a generally painful listen can also be revelatory in showing Zappa’s original artistic intent… in regards to the originally censored material, of course.

What I have done here is take the best master available of the original 1968 stereo mix (which reinstates all the minor censored parts that were internationally restored via reissues) and replaced the four remaining censored bits with their uncensored equivalents from a number of source, thus creating a completely uncensored and completely stereo version of We’re Only In It for The Money.  The spoken Velvet Underground line in “Concentration Moon” was mixed to mono and panned to 10:00 to match the original mix; the result sounds completely authentic as there were no 1986 overdubs underneath the edit.  The replaced verses of “Mother People” and “Harry, You’re A Beast” also fit perfectly, and are for the first time here in full stereo.  I even went ahead for extra credit and uncensored the backwards bit in “Hot Poop” for any anal-retentive listeners out there! 

Other minor technical errors of the source material remaster were fixed, such as the rejoining of “Telephone Conversation” and “Bow Tie Daddy” into one track (as Zappa originally intended) and the correction of the half-second track-split offset that was inherent to this remaster.  With this, I hope you enjoy what Zappa originally intended us to hear, all in stereo. 

Sources used:
We’re Only In It For The Money (2005 MFSL remaster)
Lumpy Money Project/Object (2009 release)
Mothermania (2009 remaster)

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Smashing Pumpkins - Glass and The Machines of God

The Smashing Pumpkins – 
Glass and The Machines of God

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Disc One:
1.  If There Is A God
2.  Cash Car Star
3.  The Imploding Voice
4.  Wound
5.  The Sacred + Profane
6.  Stand Inside Your Love
7.  Real Love
8.  Innosence
9.  Let Me Give The World To You
10.  The Crying Tree of Mercury
11.  White Spyder
12.  Raindrops + Sunshowers
13.  Glass + The Ghost Children
14.  Go

Disc Two:
1.  Glass Theme
2.  The Everlasting Gaze
3.  Dross
4.  In My Body
5.  Speed Kills
6.  Lucky 13
7.  Heavy Metal Machine
8.  Blue Skies Bring Tears
9.  I of the Mourning
10.  Here’s To The Atom Bomb
11.  Try, Try, Try
12.  Home
13.  This Time
14.  With Every Light

This is a reconstruction of the proposed double-concept album originally meant to be The Smashing Pumpkins’ fifth and final proper studio album in 1999.  Originally conceived as a rock opera, the concept was dropped because of band member disintegration and disinterest as well as record label pushback.  The album was eventually released as the massive commercial failure MACHINA/The Machines of God in 2000, with most of the leftover tracks released posthumously by the band without their label’s consent as MACHINA II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music later than year.  This reconstruction attempts to cull the best possible sources (including the Machina pre-master and the best vinyl rip of Machina II), unifying their respective volumes and organize them into a cohesive double album that follows the Machina storyline.  Specific alternate versions of some tracks were utilized to give the album more of an organic “live band”-sound as opposed to the overproduced Machina album.

The Smashing Pumpkins were no strangers to turmoil.  Firing their drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in 1996 for perpetual drug use, the band made a 180-turn from their patented guitar sonics that made 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness a landmark double album to an unusual combination of acoustic and electronic for their follow-up, 1998’s Adore.  Despite having superior songwriting and inventive arrangements, the album was less of a success as their previous efforts.  The tour in support of the album showed the band re-interpreting the soft-spoken material for a live rock-band, and the eventual re-hiring of Chamberlin in late 1998 showed promise that The Smashing Pumpkins were back to what they did best: loud fuzzy guitars pared with some of the best drumming of the decade. 

By April 1999, the band reconvened for their Arising Tour, meant to showcase the return of the original lineup.  Most of the set featured all new material, effortlessly written by head-Pumpkin Billy Corgan within the four months prior.  These tunes were part of a larger song cycle that would fill two CDs of a double-concept album tentatively called Glass and The Machines of God which concerned a rock star named Glass , his true love June, their rise and fall and Glass's redemption.  Most notably, the four members of The Smashing Pumpkins were to portray the characters of the concept album—Glass and his band The Machines of God, who were literal parodies of the public personas of the four members of The Smashing Pumpkins themselves —in promotion of the album. 

Unfortunately the machine was never switched on.  Halfway through recording the album, bass player D’Arcy Wretzky was dismissed from the band due to alleged erratic behavior; how could the band portray a convincing parody of themselves without the key members?  The situation worsened with guitarist James Iha’s increasing ambivalence to the band itself, as well as a record label unwilling to promote a convoluted double-album follow-up to the commercial failure Adore.  The solution was to scrap the concept and release the best material as MACHINA/The Machines of God, much like Lifehouse became Who’s Next 25 years earlier (a reconstruction also featured on this blog).  Machina was even more of a failure than Adore and by the end of the tour in support of the album, Iha wanted out.  The Smashing Pumpkins played their final show that December.  In one final rebellious move against the record label that had abandoned him, Corgan released the outtakes from the Machina sessions as a limited edition vinyl release, Machina II, with the explicit instructions to share and pirate it, making the album one of the first to be freely distributed on the internet by a major artist. 

Reconstructing Glass and The Machines of God is no easy task.  Corgan has been extremely vague and cryptic about how it would have been constructed, in as much as leaking false numerical codes allegedly forming track sequences.  Point of fact, of the 30-or-so songs recording during the sessions, Corgan has only divulged the narrative context of “Blue Skies Bring Tears”, “Speed Kills” and “With Every Light”.  Luckily Corgan has leaked a blueprint of the song cycle itself with a list of 17 of the cycle’s songs, all offering varying ways the songs could fit into the cycle.  Using this map, as well as song lyric interpretation matched with the synopsis of the album’s story written in Corgan’s typical superfluous prose, we are able to chart out a track sequence.  Both Corgan’s chart and his synopsis are included for reference. 

The only issue left is what sources should be used.  To avoid the terrible mastering found on Machina I, I used a rip of the leaked pre-master, featuring a larger dynamic range as well as subtlety different mixes.  As for the Machina II tracks I used the best possible source, the Virgin promo rip.  I then re-EQd the entire rip to match the EQ parameters of the tracks that were officially released (since those few were sourced from a non-vinyl master).  Since we also have a number of alternate versions of many of the songs, I specifically vied towards the versions of the songs that featured more of an organic ‘live-band’ and stripped-down arrangement and production, as that was allegedly how Glass and The Machines of God would have sounded.  The bootlegs Machina Acoustic Demos and The Original FEMM Tape were used, they were not the "th13rteen remasters" but original CD rips.  Setting a 28-song limit to ensure that this not become too overblown, a few songs were left on the cutting room floor: “The Age of Innocence” is excluded from this reconstruction as the song was written and recorded at the last minute and tagged onto the end of the Machina album, having nothing to do with the song cycle at all; “Slow Dawn”, “Vanity” and “Saturnine” all seemed too unfinished, skeletal and unneeded to communicate the story; “Soul Power” was a cover; and “Le Deux Machina” was already an element of “Glass + The Ghost Children”.  By the end, I have arranged two nearly 60-minute discs of 14 songs each, which seemed to be The Standard Smashing Pumpkins Album Length. 

Disc one beings with Glass establishing his character as a rather agnostic rock star, leader of The Machines of God, utilizing Corgan’s acoustic demo of “If There Is A God” which overlaps into the pummeling “Cash Car Star”; although most reconstructions of this album begin with “Glass Theme”, I chose this alternate route because this was how the band often performed the two songs live.  It was also quite reminiscent of the first two tracks from The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1994 b-sides compilation Pisces Iscariot, which always struck me as an extremely dynamic opening.  “The Imploding Voice” represents ‘The Voice’ of God speaking to Glass through the radio and instructing him to spread the word of love to the world through his music; “Wound” is Glass’s reaction to the sudden realization that he is a modern-day prophet and with “The Sacred + Profane” Glass begins to change the message of his band’s music with heavenly divination. 

The next part of the song cycle involves Glass’s love interest June and so all of the ‘love songs’ are grouped together—“Stand Inside Your Love”, “Real Love”, “Innosence” and “Let Me Give The World To You”.  Following this, Glass reaches a ‘crossroads’ in trying to balance his hedonistic rock n roll life with June vs. what he believes as his spiritual duty, articulated in “The Crying Tree of Mercury”, “White Spyder” (the spyder being a symbol for June’s drug use) and “Raindrops + Sunshowers.”  Following is the standard Smashing Pumpkins epic 10-mnute track, “Glass + The Ghost Children” in which the dictaphone middle section now actually makes sense as it specifically deals with Glass confessing his holy charge to June but fearing he may be instead mad.  James Iha’s “Go” has been problematic as it didn’t seem to fit in with the Machina concept at all, so it is sequenced here to close disc one, much as his “Take Me Down” closes disc one of Mellon Collie.  Perhaps it is sung from June’s point of view?

The second disc opens with what Corgan revealed as the ‘live set’ of the album, in which several songs would be grouped together as a mock live performance of The Machines of God.  Opening with actual audience ambience from a soundboard tape of their 9/20/2000 performance, Glass has grown cynical from his fans’ perceived betrayal of ‘rock n roll’ in “Glass Theme” and questions if ‘The Voice’ was even real in “The Everlasting Gaze” as his own band’s record sales plummet.  June becomes alienated from Glass and her resent is stated in “Dross”, following by increased drug use and a withdrawal inside herself in “In My Body”.  After an explosive fight, June is killed in a car crash as depicted in “Speed Kills”, using the ‘live-band’ version from Machina 2.  Glass blames himself and this sends him over the edge in “Lucky 13”, finally deciding to break up the band in “Heavy Metal Machine”.  

The night before the final show, Glass has a terrifying dream as heard in “Blue Skies Bring Tears”: a vision that without God, love, fans or even a band, he is now completely alone.  Here I chose an early arrangement of the song as performed on the Arising Tour to avoid the overproduced album versions.  Abandoning all belongings, Glass takes to the streets as a beggar, as depicted in “I of the Mourning”, and “Here’s To The Atom Bomb” (the mellow version from Machina 2).  In being alone and with nothing, he realizes that love, God, etc was there in his heart all along in “Try, Try, Try” (the mellow version found on the "Untitled" promo CD), “Home” and “This Time”.  The album closes with “With Every Light”, as Corgan had claimed, some sort of happy ending. 

An interesting side note is that within 6 months to a year from now, Corgan plans to release a remixed and remastered Machina featuring his originally-intended double-album tracklist as a part of the remastered series of The Smashing Pumpkins’ discography.  Will it appear and sound as I have offered here?  That is anyone’s guess, and I am curious to see how close I am to his vision.  But keep in mind Billy Corgan’s penchant for historical revision, as well as the recent fan dissatisfaction with the remasters’ quality control issues.  Whether this reconstruction is truly what the artist intended, it will always be here as an 'album that never was' just in case the real deal is crushed underneath Corgan’s own heavy metal machine. 

Sources used:
Rotten Apples/Judas O (2001 Virgin Records)
The Original F.E.M.M. Tape (bootleg 2003)
MACHINA/the machines of God (pre-master, 1999)
MACHINA II/friends and enemies of modern music (Virgin Records-sourced needledrop, 2001)
Machina Acoustic Demos (bootleg)
Untitled (Virgin promo CD 2001)

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