Friday, October 31, 2014

Jimi Hendrix - First Rays of the New Rising Sun (upgrade)

Jimi Hendrix & The Cry of Love – 
First Rays of the New Rising Sun
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Nov 2014 UPGRADE

Side A:
1. Dolly Dagger
2. Night Bird Flying
3. Room Full of Mirrors
4. Belly Button Window
5. Freedom

Side B:
6. Ezy Ryder
7. Astro Man
8. Drifting
9. Straight Ahead

Side C:
10. Earth Blues
11. Izabella
12. Drifter’s Escape
13. Beginnings
14. Angel

Side D:
15. Stepping Stone
16. Bleeding Heart
17. New Rising Sun (Hey Baby)
18. In From The Storm

Happy Halloween!  This is an UPGRADE to my reconstruction of Jimi Hendrix’s final album before he passed away, First Rays of the New Rising Sun.  Hendrix had spent the final year of his life—and especially the final months—working on what would-have-been a double-album follow-up to Electric Ladyland.  Instead of assembling the album as Hendrix had envisioned, the material was dashed together by producer Alan Douglas and released on a number of posthumous albums, including The Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, War Heroes, Loose Ends and Voodoo Soup.  After securing the legal rights to his catalog, a separate attempt was made by The Hendrix Estate in 1997 to re-issue a compilation meant to replicate Hendrix’s wishes for First Rays, but many fans noted that poor song selection and mastering missed the mark as well.  My reconstruction attempts to gather all of Jimi Hendrix’s own final mixes of the most completed tracks when possible (13 out of 18 songs), ignoring posthumous mixes.  Also  the sources featuring the best mastering and highest dynamics are used to correct what both Douglas and The Hendrix Estate could not, and present a more accurate representation of what Hendrix desired for his swansong and come-back album. 

The upgrades to this Nov 2014 edition are:

  • “Dolly Dagger”, “Room Full of Mirrors” and “Hey Baby” are all taken from the new 2014 Experience Hendrix remaster of Rainbow Bridge, the very best source for the songs
  • “Night Bird Flying”, “Belly Button Window”, “Freedom”, “Ezy Ryder”, “Astro Man”, “Drifting”, “Straight Ahead” and “Angel” are all taken from the new 2014 Experience Hendrix remaster of The Cry of Love, the very best source for these songs
  • The actual vintage Jimi Hendrix mix of “Earth Blues” from the Purple Box is used here, replacing the posthumous mix found on Rainbow Bridge
  • The actual vintage Jimi Hendrix mix of “Drifter’s Escape” from South Saturn Delta is used here, replacing the posthumous mix found on Loose Ends
  • The actual vintage Jimi Hendrix mixes of “Stepping Stone” and “Izabella” from a needledrop of their single is used here, replacing the posthumous mix found on War Heroes. 
  • The actual vintage Jimi Hendrix mix of “In From The Storm” from West Cost Seattle Boy is used here, replacing the posthumous mix found on Cry of Love
  • An original artwork collage reproducing a sketch made by Hendrix the day before his death, thought to be his actual cover art concept for the First Rays of the New Rising Sun. 
  • "Izabella" was moved up to the second song on Side C, so that it closes with “Angel” as per Jimi’s handwritten tracklist. 

1969 was the year of metaphorical death and rebirth for Jimi Hendrix.  After dissolving his chart-topping power trio The Jimi Hendrix Experience and it’s following brief incarnation Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (who backed him at Woodstock), Hendrix was under pressure by Civil Rights activists to form an all-black band.  His answer was Band of Gypsies, featuring bassist Billy Cox (who had played in Gypsy Sun and Rainbows) and drummer Buddy Miles.  The trio set out to rehearse all-new Hendrix originals to fulfill a contractual loophole in which Hendrix owed producer Ed Chalpin an album’s worth of new material; the result was the live album Band of Gypsies, which showcased more structured songs with a funk and R&B-influenced sound, of course infused with Hendrix’s own penchant for psychedelia and guitar wizardry.   A studio single “Stepping Stone” b/w “Izabella” was also released at this time, before being quickly withdrawn due to Hendrix’s dissatisfaction with the mix.  Although the band dissolved in January 1970, Hendrix had written a vast amount of new material with the trio and had secretly set aside what he deemed the best material from the live Band of Gypsies album for his fourth proper studio album, what he was now announcing to the press as First Rays of The New Rising Sun.

Hendrix quickly reformed a new backing band, this time featuring the winning combination of Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and Band of Gypsies bassist Billy Cox (who were the core rhythm section of Gypsy Sun and Rainbows), called The Cry of Love (although billed as The Jimi Hendrix Experience for commercial reasons).  Recording sessions commenced at The Record Plant from January to May; while touring that spring, Hendrix compiled a list of 24 songs to be considered for the album (at that point called Straight Ahead), all in various forms of studio completion (as shown by checks or Xs) from the Record Plant sessions.  After the first leg of their American tour, the trio returned off and on to Hendrix’s own Electric Ladyland Studios in June and July, recording more basic tracks as well as new work on the withdrawn Band of Gypsies single, “Stepping Stone” and “Izabella”.  By this point, Straight Ahead had reverted to its original title First Rays of the New Rising Sun, and had been described as an intended double-album by Hendrix’s inner circle. 

In late August, Hendrix and producer Eddie Kramer added overdubs and prepared mixes of several songs for the album, although we can never be sure if they were truly the final mixes, as Hendrix tended to add subtle touches to every song right up until their final release.   Regardless, tracks mixed by Hendrix at this time include: “Room Full of Mirrors”, “Ezy Ryder”, “Earth Blues”, “Night Bird Flying”, “Straight Ahead”, “Drifter’s Escape”, “Astro Man”, “Freedom”, “Dolly Dagger”, “In From The Storm” and curiously a solo demo version of “Belly Button Window.”  Of these, both “Dolly Dagger” and “Night Bird Flying” were approved as final, finished mixes and were dashed off to be mastered for a single release.  At this session it is believed that Hendrix began creating a tracklist for First Rays of the New Rising Sun, scrawled on the back of a 3M tapebox.  While Sides A and B seemed fairly definite, Side C had several titles scratched out or in parenthesis; Side D was left blank. 

Hendrix and The Cry of Love jaunted off for their ill-fated European Tour, beginning with the Isle of Wight Festival on August 30th.  As September rolled on, the shows were met with jeering and Hendrix’s spirits were visibly diminished.  Taking a week off in London, a paranoid Billy Cox apparently quit the group and headed home.  Spending his final days with figure skater Monika Dannemann, Hendrix created an illustration featuring his face as well as famous White, Black, Asian and Native American faces in the shape of cross which some believe to be a cover concept for First Rays of the New Rising Sun.  Hendrix was found dead the next day. 

Most of the completed material for First Rays was gathered together and assembled into the first of many posthumous Hendrix releases, The Cry of Love, released in 1971.  Coupled with many of Hendrix’s own working mixes from August 22-25th, additional recording was done to “Angel” and “Drifting” to make them release-worthy.  More tracks were mixed posthumously and appeared on the Rainbow Bridge soundtrack in 1972 with the bottom of the barrel scraped for War Heroes in 1973 and Loose Ends in 1974.  Producer Alan Douglas attempted to recreate a First Rays-like reconstruction in 1995 as Voodoo Soup, which blasphemously featured contemporary overdubs!  After gaining control of his catalog, The Hendrix Estate issued their own reconstruction of First Rays in 1997, perhaps the closest yet, but still missing a few key components.  Here we will try to set the record straight (ahead).

Luckily, our work is cut out for us as Hendrix himself had already decided on a track order for disc 1, as per his list scrawled on the back of a 3M tape box (which is included for your reference); our work is half done!  Opening Side A is “Dolly Dagger” from the amazing 2014 remaster of Rainbow Bridge.  Following is “Night Bird Flying” from the equally amazing 2014 remaster of Cry of Love.  While this title also was scrawled in as opening side C, it is written in boldface as the second track on side B, suggesting it was a later and more definite revision, and is thus used here.  “Room Full of Mirrors”, again from Rainbow Bridge is next, followed by Hendrix’s solo demo of “Belly Botton Window” from Cry of Love. While many don’t believe this drastic dynamic shift would have been on the album, I think it’s a rather welcomed change in the side’s flow, and we’ll stick to Jimi’s wishes.  The side closes with “Freedom” from Cry of Love.  Side B opens with “Ezy Rider”, followed by “Astro Man”, “Drifting” and “Straight Ahead”, all also taken from Cry of Love.  Many fans question Jimi’s tracklist here, as side B is much shorter than A, running four songs at 16 minutes compared to five songs at 19 minutes.  While that may be true, I will stand by Jimi’s choice here as what he intended, and furthermore I feel that despite its length, it sounds like a fairly complete side.  This is apparently what Hendrix wanted for First Rays: a concise album, no sprawling instrumental experiments, just all killer and no filler. 

With disc 1 complete, we are left to create the second disc Jimi never got around to.  The method for my disc two reconstruction is simple: use the remaining complete (or mostly complete) tracks to make a second disc that is as comparable as possible to the first: straight-forward funk/R&B, running nine songs at 35 minutes with the fourth side shorter than the third.  We will drop some songs that are too skeletal (“Cherokee Mist”), others that do not feature the funky R&B sound of disc one (“Come Down Hard On Me”) as well as instrumentals that would not have made the cut anyways (“Pali Gap”).  For the case of side C, we will open it with an upbeat soul-rocker, as side A did: with “Earth Blues”, using Jimi’s own vintage mix found on the Purple Box, as opposed to the posthumous mix on Rainbow Bridge.  Next is “Izabella”, portraying the equivalent of “Night Bird Flying”, using Hendrix’s own original vintage mix found on the Band of Gypsies 7” (a rare mix that is exclusive only to that release).  Following is the more aggressive rocker, the part played by “Drifter’s Escape”, again using Hendrix’s own mix found on South Saturn Delta.  The idiosyncratic dynamic shift is next with “Beginnings” taken from a vinyl rip of Loose Ends; although we are avoiding instrumentals, it is included because not only does it fit the sound of the album, but it was written in as a contender for side C by Hendrix.  The side also closes as per his wishes, with “Angel” taken from The Cry of Love. 

Side D opens much like B, with the dense, heavy guitar fury of “Stepping Stone”, again using the extremely rare vintage Hendrix mix found on the Band of Gypsies 7” as opposed to the posthumous mix on War Heroes.  The side's bouncy rocker follows with “Bleeding Heart”, taken from War Heroes, and then the mid-tempo epic “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)” taken from Rainbow Bridge.  Much like the previous disc, the album ends with a mid-tempo groove-rocker “In From The Storm”, here using Hendrix’s own vintage mix from West Cost Seattle Boy as opposed to the posthumous mix found on The Cry of Love.  In the end, we have a second nine-song, 35-minute disc that matches the first.  The final touch is my own collage reproduction of the sketch Hendrix made the day before his death, possibly his actual cover art idea: Hendrix’s own face in the center of a cross; with Martin Luther King Jr and an African queen on the left arm (representing blacks); John F Kennedy and Adolph Hitler on the right arm (representing whites); Buddha and Genghis Khan in the top arm (representing Asians); Cochise, Crazy Horse and Geronimo on the bottom arm (representing Native Americans).  While I have no idea why Hitler is right next to JFK, we will accommodate Hendrix's own concept; please excuse any perceived audacity.  This, coupled with the two discs of this set, seem to be the first rays of what could have been Jimi’s last rising sun. 

Sources used:
The Cry of Love (2014 Experience Hendrix CD remaster)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (2000 CD box set)
Rainbow Bridge (2014 Experience Hendrix CD remaster)
South Saturn Delta (1997 CD)
Stepping Stone/Izabella 7” (1970 US vinyl, rip by professor stoned)
War Heroes (1971 German vinyl pressing, rip by vinylhound)
West Coast Seattle Boy (2010 CD box set)

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Clash - Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg

The Clash – Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:

1.  Straight To Hell

2.  Know Your Rights

3.  Rock The Casbah

4.  Red Angel Dragnet

Side B:

5.  Should I Stay Or Should I Go

6.  Ghetto Defendant

7.  Sean Flynn

Side C:

8.  Car Jamming

9.  The Fulham Connection

10.  Atom Tan

11.  First Night Back in London

Side D:

12.  Inoculated City

13.  Death is a Star

14.  Cool Confusion

15.  Idle in Kangaroo Court W1

A blog-follower request, this is a reconstruction of the unreleased Clash album Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg.   Originally conceived as a double-album by guitarist Mick Jones who had tried to harness more creative control of the band, Rat Patrol was eventually skimmed down and remixed into a more commercial single-disc, their seminal 1982 album Combat Rock.  Unlike other Rat Patrol bootlegs, this reconstruction follows Mick Jones’ actual track order found on his rough cut of the double-album.  Also my reconstruction uses a number of sources to provide the most complete, pristine and dynamic album possible, including remastered bootleg tracks and a needledrop vinyl rip of an original pressing of Combat Rock.  As always, all tracks are volume adjusted for a cohesive listening experience. 

By the early 1980s, the cracks in The Clash had begun to form.  Coming off their daring 1980 triple-album Sandinista!, work began on their fifth album in late 1981 at a London rehearsal space, demoing new material with a mobile multitrack set-up.  While Clash frontman  Joe Strummer hoped for a more commercial and concise single album of roots-rock, guitarist Mick Jones wished to continue the world beat influence of their previous album, pushing the envelope to his current tastes in dub, reggae and American hip-hop.  Temporarily shelving their differences, The Clash embarked on a tour and residency to road-test the new material.  During this period, the band embraced images and concepts associated with the Vietnam War—or at least the Vietnam War as seen through the Hollywood lens.  They also embraced elements of urban American culture, even as much as having graffiti artist Futura 2000 paint the backdrop of their tour.  Blending this ‘ghetto’ and Vietnam War imagery together, they created an aesthetic of “urban warfare” which was perpetuated in Joe Strummers lyrics for the new material.  Was this perhaps a metaphor for the band’s own internal warfare? 

Reconvening in New York’s Electric Ladyland Studios in late 1981—Mick’s choice as he felt that was the center of modern musical activity—The Clash got to work recording the album proper, led by Jones’ vision of a more funk/reggae/dub-inspired sound and fueled by Topper Headon’s appropriately globalized drumming.  Sides were drawn as Headon’s heroin addiction led to his own perception as being an outcast in the group and sided with Jones, leaving Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon (who felt he had been forced to take a creative backseat) to unite on the other side of the battle field and vie for a single disc punk record.    As sessions progressed, the songs became longer—an obvious dub influence—and  despite Strummer’s worries that they needed a single-LP for CBS Records to properly promote the album, the project was steadily becoming yet another double album, possibly doomed to distribution limbo.  The situation amounted to running two studio rooms simultaneously so both Strummer and Jones could work independently on their vocals and guitar overdubs respectively, without having to actually interact with each other. 

Just before leaving to tour Asia in early 1982, Mick Jones prepared his vision of the double album, provisionally titled Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg.  Long-winded, indulgent and sometimes even superfluous, the album contained 15 songs and ran over 65 minutes—and that was excluding at least four outtakes (“Overpowered By Funk”, “Walk Evil Walk”, “Midnight To Stevens” and “Long Time Jerk” did not make the cut on Jones’ sequence).  The rest of the band hated it and Joe Strummer championed to have the album remixed and edited into a more commercial product.  Strummer’s wishes eventually won and producer Glynn Johns was brought in to fix the album (note this is the third time this blog has covered an Album That Never Was that Glyn Johns was supposed to produce and/or clean-up, including The Beatles Get Back and The Who’s Lifehouse!!). 

That April, Strummer and Johns reviewed the material at Wessex Studios in London and remixed the songs to emphasize its guitar elements and begin whittling the songs down to their basic necessity, eliminating their unneeded near raga-lengths.  “Know Your Rights”, “Red Angel Dragnet”, “Ghetto Defendant”, “Sean Flynn” and “Inoculated City” all lost approximately two minutes each.  The songs earmarked as singles, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and “Rock The Casbah” (the later actually referencing the raga-lengths of the Rat Patrol songs), were treated to new vocal tracks.  Four songs, “The Fulham Connection”, “First Night Back In London”, “Cool Confusion” and “Idle In Kangaroo Court W1”, were dropped entirely, while “Overpowered By Funk” was curiously added back into the running order.  Despite Mick Jones and allegations that his art had been tampered with, the album was appropriately retitled to Combat Rock and CBS Records had their more commercial, single-disc album, rush-released that May. 

Even though the more concise album was commercially successful—both “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock The Casbah” became hits—the cracks in The Clash were too deep to be fixed.  Topper was removed from the band due to his excessive heroin addiction in May, the month Combat Rock was released; Mick was fired from the band the following year.  Both Jones and Headon went on to form Big Audio Dynamite, who was more reminiscent of the world-beat hybrid found on Rat Patrol, while Strummer and Simonon continued the Clash and recorded their final album ironically titled Cut The Crap (which was later disavowed by all band members).  But luckily through bootlegs and an assortment of bonus tracks and compilations, we are able to reconstruct what this less-commercial and raga-like Combat Rock would have been—what turned out to be The Clash’s unreleased swansong.

The overall primary concern for this Rat Patrol is sound quality.  While Mick Jones’ original mix of the album is available on bootlegs, they are usually sourced from a highly generated cassette; because of this, I occasionally chose to use the Combat Rock versions of some tracks rather than the bootlegged Mick Jones mixes for the sake of a pleasurable listening experience.  Luckily, fairly pristine versions of Jones’ mixes of “Rock The Casbah”, “Straight To Hell” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” can be found on bootlegs, an alternate source than the muffled cassettes.  Likewise, the long Mick Jones mixes of “Ghetto Defendant” and “Sean Flynn” are found on the Sound System boxset.  The remaining tracks are sourced from a needledrop vinyl rip of Combat Rock by kel bazaar, which is the most pristine and dynamic version of the album I’ve heard.  We will also use the actual tracklist from Mick Jones’s master, which omits “Overpowered by Funk” and “Walk Evil Walk”. 

Side A begins with Mick Jones’ original mix of “Straight To Hell” taken from the bootleg Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg on Redline Records.  It sounded a bit crusty so I personally re-EQd it to match the EQ parameters found on the vinyl rip of Combat Rock used elsewhere on this reconstruction.  Following is the shorter Glyn Johns mix of “Know Your Rights” from the vinyl rip of Combat Rock.  Mick’s very different original mix of “Rock The Casbah” is next, taken from the bootleg Another Combat Rock, again re-EQed to match the parameters of the album version.  The side concludes with “Red Angel Dragnet” from the vinyl rip of Combat Rock, again choosing the shorter album version; note if we had used the longer mixes, side A would have been ridiculously longer than the other sides anyways!  Side B opens with Mick’s mix of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” taken from Another Combat Rock, again reEQd to match the album version.  Closing disc one is Mick’s long mixes of “Ghetto Defendant” and “Sean Flynn”, taken from the Sound System box set.

Side C begins with “Car Jamming” from Combat Rock, being that the Johns and Jones mixes were fairly similar.  “The Fulham Connection”, also known and released as “The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too”, is taken from the Sound System box set.  Next is “Atom Tan” from Combat Rock (again not too different from its original mix) followed by “First Night Back in London” from the Sound System box set.  Side C starts with the unedited Combat Rock version of “Inoculated City” which features the original ’2000 Flushes’ sample, albeit not the long Mick’s version.  Next is “Death is a Star”, again from Combat Rock.  “Cool Confusion” from the box set follows, with the album finishing on the goony “Idle in Kangaroo Court W1” also known and bootlegged as “Kill Time”. 

The final aspect is the cover image chosen myself, the famed photograph of the execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém in 1968.  While it may be either clichéd or insensitive by 2014 standards, this photograph would have been controversial in 1982 and I felt that it accurately communicated the lyrical references to the Vietnam War and the notion of “urban warfare” contained in Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg.

Sources used:

Another Combat Rock (CD Bootleg, 2003 Darkside Records)

Combat Rock (1981 Dutch vinyl pressing, kel bazaar rip)

Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg (CD bootleg, 2003 Redline Records)

Sound System (2014 CD box set)

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

*md5, artwork and tracknotes included