Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Monkees - The Monkees Present 2LP

The Monkees – The Monkees Present 
Micky, Peter, Michael and Davy

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Micky Side:
1.  Through The Looking Glass
2.  Mommy and Daddy
3.  Rosemarie
4.  Just a Game
5.  Shake ‘Em Up and Let ‘Em Roll
6.  Shorty Blackwell

Peter Side:
7.  (I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love
8.  Lady’s Baby
9.  Seeger’s Theme
10.  Tear The Top Right Off My Head
11.  Merry Go Round
12.  Come On In

Michael Side:
13.  Listen To The Band
14.  The Crippled Lion
15.  Nine Times Blue
16.  St. Mathew
17.  Carlisle Wheeling and The Effervescent Popsicle
18.  Hollywood

Davy Side:
19.  My Share of The Sidewalk
20.  Me Without You
21.  Laurel and Hardy
22.  Smile
23.  You and I
24.  The Girl I Left Behind Me

Happy holidays!  This reconstruction is a little ‘present’ for you…  Four presents actually!  This is a reconstruction of the unfinished 1969 Monkees double album entitled The Monkees Present Micky, Peter, Michael and DavidIntended as a four-part solo album in which each Monkee wrote and produced their own side of the double album, the project was scrapped after Peter Tork quit the group at the conclusion of 1968.  The completed tracks were all either shelved or trickled out on subsequent Monkees releases, with the title itself reappropriated for an unrelated album.  This reconstruction attempts to gather the best of the material intended for the project and present the double album The Monkees could have released, had Tork not left.  Attempts were made to use vintage mixes as well as the best masters when available, and unique mixes and edits were created to present the album as a complete, cohesive whole, true to what it would have sounded like in 1968. 

The battle for creative control—and respect—had been the undertone of The Monkees chaotic existence; it was also their own undoing.  Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones were initially cast as a band of characters (or rather, characters who were in a band) but Colgems producer and Monkees creator Bob Rafelson didn’t care that of those four young men who could sing and act, one was already a locally-known Greenwich Village guitarist and the other a promising Los Angeles singer/songwriter himself.  Rafelson and Screen Gems musical director Don Kirchner insisted chose not only to use their own slew of Brill Building professional songwriters (including Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Carol King and the pair who wrote many of The Monkee’s classics, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) but session musicians to actually play on the recordings (often The Wrecking Crew), leaving the four Monkees to act in the show and to drift into the recording studio to add lead vocals to already finished backing tracks.  

Dismayed they were not even allowed to perform on albums credited to themselves, Tork and Nesmith spent the early years of The Monkees attempting to gain some sort of musical control over their career, even if the remaining Monkees Jones and Dolenz were simply actors who could sing, mostly ambivalent to the quest for musical independence.  Rafelson and Kirshner eventually acquiesced and allowed The Monkees to tour as a live band.  The tour proved financially successful (and musically adequate) and the producers allowed The Monkees to write and record as an actual band, albeit under the supervision of The Turtles’ Chip Douglas as acting producer.  The results were a pair of 1967 albums—the charming Headquarters and the ambitious Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd—and the chart-topping singles “Daydream Believer” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” 

The celebration was short lived, as this musical independence took its toll on The Monkees.  While it was relished by Tork, Dolenz and Jones learned that being in a real band was hard work and it was easier to operate with session musicians; Nesmith learned that it was just easier to do it all himself!  By February 1968, The Monkees television show was cancelled; this was not a big problem for Rafelson and Kirshner, as The Monkees made more money from record sales anyways, and their solution was to give the band unlimited studio time to continue making product: this time records instead of television programs.  The result was a staggering amount of material recorded by all four members acting as essentially four solo artists with their own set of backing session musicians, although still under The Monkees’ unified banner.  By April 1968, Kirshner handpicked twelve out of the sea of over 40 songs recorded since November 1967 to constitute their fifth album The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. All of Tork's tracks were passed over (aside from a short spoken word piece), being mostly unfinished and obviously in need of help from his bandmates. 

If never-ending recording sessions for each individual Monkee was not enough, they also commenced a larger project in February 1968 that overlapped with the recording sessions: a full-length motion picture co-written by Jack Nicholson, intended to not only destroy the mythos of The Monkees, but end their career as they knew it.  Meandering, nonsensical and decidingly psychedelic, HEAD made zero sense to their teeny-bopper audience and Screen Gems failed to market it properly to the counter-culture scene who might have understood it.  While the movie was a complete bomb, the soundtrack album has recently been reevaluated as a psychedelic masterpiece, including Frank Zappa-esque dialog collages assembled by Jack Nicholson, interspersed between seven of the remaining 30-or-so songs recorded during The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees sessions, as well as a few months beyond.

Even after eating up the riches of The Monkees’ 1968 recording sessions on both The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees and HEAD, there was still an abundance of quality music remaining.  That summer during the press junkets for HEAD, The Monkees hinted at their next project: a double album consisting of 24 tracks, with each Monkee writing, producing and featured on 6 of the songs.  That November, in the final group interview with all four Monkees, Micky confirmed the plan for a double album with each Monkee given their own side of the LP and further elaborating that each side would have its own unique sound due to each Monkee’s own musical interest (noting that Michael’s side would by Country/Western, Davy’s as Broadway-Rock and Micky describing his own side as, oddly enough, weird and electronic).  This comment was all but verified by Nesmith’s move to record nine of his own compositions in Nashville that May (with the studio musicians who would eventually be called Area Code 615), effectively completing his side of the intended 2LP ahead of schedule.

Unfortunately Nesmith’s side—which predated Bob Dylan’s attempts at Nashville country-rock by a year—would be the only Monkees Present side completed.  November 1968 saw The Monkees returning in-front of a camera, filming 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, a television-special equivalent of HEAD that would further cement the band’s demise.  During the first day of filming, Tork announced he was quitting The Monkees, and the 2LP Monkees Present project was effectively shelved indefinitely.  1969 saw attempts to commercially revive the Monkees, now a trio, at first with an updated sound courtesy of newly-drafted The Association and The 5th Dimension producer Bones Howe (who oversaw musical production on 33 1/13 Revolutions per Monkee).  The decision was also made to resurrect some unused  Monkees songs from 1966 in order to exploit the initial Monkeemania.  Both accrued dismal results, with Instant Replay released in February (featuring only 8 of The Monkees Present 2LP songs) and the official incarnation of The Monkees Present Micky, David, Michael released in October (featuring only three of the original 1968 Monkees Present 2LP songs).  Nesmith officially quit the group in early 1970, choosing to focus on his own music with his newly-formed First National Band.  By this point The Monkees had completely devolved from their spur of creativity in 1968... but is there a way to find their 2LP missing link?

For my reconstruction of The Monkees Present we will assume that any song recorded between November 1967 (the start of The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees sessions) to November 1968 (when Tork quit The Monkees) which hadn’t already been released on either The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees or HEAD is fair game.  That amounts to 44 possible songs throughout twelve months (8 Micky songs, 7 Peter songs, 13 Michael songs and 16 Davy songs) to choose from for this 24-song album, allowing each Monkee their best six, for optimal quality.  We will also attempt to exclusively use mixes prepared in 1968 (when possible), rather than later mixes that could feature new overdubs and revisionism.  This reconstruction is also all in stereo since this was the time period that mono was beginning to be phased out, since The Monkees Present would have been release in early 1969.   

Micky’s side is quite easy to assemble; dropping the weakest track (“Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad”) and excluding the single "D. W. Washburn" released in June, we are left with six strong songs from the voice that defined the band, creating a side that is quite the psychedelic-fueled Sunshine Pop--an excellent successor to HEAD.  We open Micky’s Side with the original 1968 mix of “Through The Looking Glass” from the The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees Delux 3CD.  This is followed  by his own composition, the politically charged “Mommy and Daddy” to which Colgems highly objected, using a vintage 1969 mix with its uncensored lyrics but the intro taken from the album version, both found on the Monkees Presents remaster.  Next is a 1968 mix of Dolenz’s own funky “Rosemarie” taken from TBTBTM 3CD, followed by the rollicking Leiber/Stoller-penned “Shake ‘Em Up and Let ‘Em Roll”, an alternate mix also from TBTBTM 3CD.  Dolenz’s own stream-of-conscious track “Just A Game” is taken from Instant Replay, and his side ends with his truly bizarre but wonderful psychedelic-pop of “Shorty Blackwell”, this being it’s original 1968 stereo mix found on the Instant Replay Delux 3CD. 

Peter seemed to be the only Monkee who had problems finishing a side of an album; by the time he left The Monkees in late 1968, he only had a handful of finished songs and a laundry list of unrealized ideas.  He infamously spent a lot of work on “Lady’s Baby”, recording four different versions, each with multiple revisions.  Unfortunately for this reconstruction, the most final versions of the seven songs he cut only total twelve and a half minutes, so we must essentially use all of it just to complete Peter’s side of the album!  In effect Peter’s side seems a bit minimal, meandering and frankly unfinished, but appropriately reflects his folky roots.  Beginning with the fantastic “(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love”, presented here as an exclusive stereo mix created when the mono vocal acetate mix is synced with the stereo backing track, both found on the Instant Replay 3CD.  Following is one of many versions of his own “Lady’s Baby” he cut throughout 1968, this being the overdubbed acoustic Second Version from TBTBTM 3CD.  Following with Peter’s standard spoken-word interlude of “Alvin”, uncredited here but taken from TBTBTM 3CD, flowing directly into the Third Version of “Seeger’s Theme” from TBTBTM 3CD.  Next is “Tear The Top Right Off My Head”, the acetate mono mix from Missing Links Vol 2 is speed-corrected, with stereo spectrum processing by my friend Skyfinity.  Following is the admittedly unrealized Version Two of “Merry Go Round” from TBTBTM 3CD and Pete’s scant side concludes with “Come On In”, taken from Music Box and speed-corrected. 

Michael’s side becomes a bit more tricky, since we have a wealth of material to choose from: “Propinquity”, “Some of Shelly’s Blues”, “Don’t Wait For Me”, “The Crippled Lion”, “Hollywood”, “How Insensitive”, “Good Clean Fun”, “Listen To The Band” and “St. Mathew” were all recorded in late in Nashville specifically for the album, not to mention Michael had the TBTBTM outtakes “While I Cry” from January and “If I Ever Get To Saginaw Again” from March, and the HEAD outtakes “Carlisle Wheeling” and “Nine Times Blue” from April already in the can.  Here we will pick the cream of the crop and open with his own tribute to The Monkees, “Listen To The Band”, using the original 1968 mix found on The Monkees Present remaster.  Following are the vintage 1968 mixes of “The Crippled Lion” and “Nine Times Blue”, both found on the Instant Replay 3CD.   The alternate 1968 mixes of the psychedelic-country rocker “St. Mathew” and the Dylanesque “Carlisle Wheeling” from Instant Replay 3CD follows, with the side ending with a ride out in the sunset of “Hollywood” from the Instant Replay 3CD, but with the channels swapped in order to match the rest of the songs. 

Davy’s side is even trickier, as he recorded a vast amount of songs in 1968: TBTBTM outtakes "The Girl I Left Behind Me", "Ceiling In My Room", "Me Without You", "Laurel and Hardy", "Don't Listen To Linda" and "My Share of the Sidewalk" (note we are excluding the "It's Nice To Be With You", which appeared as the b-side to "D.W. Washburn" in June); HEAD outtakes "Changes", "War Games", "Look Down", "Smile", "You and I", "I'm Gonna Try" and "The Party"; and the Bones Howe-produced "A Man Without a Dream" and "Someday Man" from November 1968.  Just as the previous LP side, we will take the six best songs from these 15 to make the strongest album possible (or at least the least obnoxious; I will admit a significant amount of bias against this batch of songs!).  The side opens with “My Share of The Sidewalk” found on TBTBTM 3CD, followed by the cream of Davy’s crop, the vintage 1968 mix of “Me Without You” from the Instant Replay 3CD.  Although a bit cheesy, “Laurel and Hardy” from the TBTBTM 3CD is next, purely because of the sitar and my own nostalgic love of the comedy duo!  Of all the original compositions Jones offered during this time period, the least terrible would be the sappy “Smile” and followed by the relentless rocker “You and I” featuring a Neil Young guitar solo, both taken from the Instant Replay 3CD.  The Monkees Present 2LP concludes with the Second Version of “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, the very first song recorded during these sessions.  This version is sourced from the Music Box set, but includes a reprise of the unfinished tag of “A Girl Named Love” sourced from TBTBTM 3CD and remixed to match the panning of the Music Box mix. 

Sources used:
The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (3CD Delux Edition, 2010 Rhino Records)
Instant Replay (3CD Delux Edition, 2011 Rhino Records)
Missing Links Vol 2 (1990 Rhino Records)
The Monkees Present (1994 remaster Rhino Records)
Music Box (2001 Rhino Records)

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

* md5 files, track notes and artwork included

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Who - Jigsaw Puzzle

The Who – Jigsaw Puzzle
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  I’m A Boy
2.  Run Run Run
3.  Don’t Look Away
4.  Circles
5.  I Need You (Like I Need a Hole In My Head)
6.  Showbiz Sonata

Side B:
7.  In The City
8.  Boris The Spider
9.  Whiskey Man
10.  See My Way
11.  Man With The Money
12.  Barbara Ann

This, the second in a series of alternate Who albums, is a reconstruction of the unreleased Who album Jigsaw Puzzle, which evolved into their 1966 album A Quick One (or Happy Jack, depending on your continent).  Originally intended to showcase each member of The Who as a figurehead by allowing each to write their own half of an LP side, the concept was scrapped due to a lack of quality material and was rescued by Townshend’s seminal mini-rock opera “A Quick One While He’s Away”, which replenished the scrapped material  and occupied the remaining LP side.  This reconstruction is all in its original mono—as early Who should!—and uses the best possible mastering available.  Unique mono mixes were made of some songs which never received a proper vintage mono mix.

After the success of The Who’s singles “My Generation” and “Substitute” that emphasized the songwriting talents of guitarist Pete Townshend, the public greatly anticipated the band’s sophomore album.  In June 1966, The Who recorded a trio of solid tracks for the follow-up single to “Substitute”: “Disguises”, “I’m A Boy” and the John Entwhistle/Keith Moon collaboration “In The City."  Although “Disguises” was originally earmarked for single release, its position was overpowered by “I’m A Boy”, the best and probably most idiosyncratic song The Who had in their repertoire at this point.  Originally written as part of a scrapped rock opera called Quads, “I’m a Boy” told the story of a boy whose parents wished he was a girl, and was performed with a dramatic power-pop arrangement that only The Who could muster.  It turned out to be their highest-charting single to date, and The Who began to collect original compositions for an album while simultaneously recording non-original compositions in August destined for their live residency on the Ready Steady Go!  program (“Barbara Anne”, “Man With The Money”, “Batman” and “Heatwave”). 

But Townshend wasn’t alone in the strive to compose original material; manager Kit Lambert (who had asserted himself also as The Who’s producer) secured a new publishing deal that could make the whole band a bit of cash, but the other members were required to write at least two songs each.  Taking Kit’s request to heart, the Jigsaw Puzzle album was originally conceived as a way to exploit this publishing deal by prominently featuring each member of The Who as a lead songwriter, thus making a virtual four-part solo album in which each member of The Who received their half of an LP-side (a concept later revisited in 1973 for the Quadrophenia album). 

Recording at IBA, Pye and CBS studios at the tail end of September and the first week of October, The Who tracked just under an album’s worth of material for Jigsaw Puzzle with the four-part-solo-album concept in mind.  Townshend offered his own “Don’t Look Away”, “Run Run Run” (a song he had originally given to the band The Cat) and “So Sad About Us” (a song he had originally given to The Mercies); lively Keith Moon contributed his snide snub of John Lennon “I Need You” and the instrumental “Showbiz Sonata” (later retitled “Cobwebs and Strange”); stoic John Entwhistle contributed his own compositions “Whiskey Man” and the now-classic “Boris The Spider”; and Roger Daltrey’s sole contribution was his “See My Way.”  The Who also recorded a new, longer and more elaborate version of “I’m A Boy” intended for Jigsaw Puzzle, as well as a cover of “Bucket T” and a new version of “My Generation” coupled with “Land of Hope and Glory”, again both intended for both Ready Steady Go! and it’s accompanying soundtrack EP, Ready Steady Who! 

By November 1966 the official announcement was made of Jigsaw Puzzle’s release on December 1st.  The official tracklist was as follows… Side A: I’m A Boy / Run Run Run / Don’t Look Away / Circles / I Need You / Showbiz Sonata.  Side B: In The City / Boris The Spider / Whiskey Man / See My Way / Heat Wave / Barbara Ann.  The problem occurred when astute fans notice a majority of the album had already been heard before: Both “I’m A Boy” and “Circles” had been an A-side and B-side respectively; “Run Run Run” had already been covered by The Cat; “In The City” had already appeared as the B-side to “I’m A Boy”; “Barbara Ann” was already released on the Ready Steady Who EP that same month!  Of the twelve album tracks, half of them were nowhere near being new. 

The Who must have been wise to this fact and that month the album was completely restructured.  Returning to the studio in the midst of touring, the band cut their next single, “Happy Jack” b/w “I’ve Been Away.”  They also cut a song meant to replace the redundant Jigsaw tracks, a song so quintessentially The Who in this period that it could only become the title track of this new, reborn album.  It was a nine-minute epic that functioned as a mini-rock opera, a collection of suites that formed a narrative about infidelity and reconciliation: “A Quick One While He’s Away.”  Using this as well as their fine rendition of “So Sad About Us” from October and a cover of “Heatwave” from their August Ready Steady Who sessions to replace “I’m A Boy”, “Circles”, “In The City” and “Barbara Ann”, a completely new album emerged: A Quick One (although “Heatwave” was replaced with “Happy Jack” in America, and instead being used as the album’s title track).  Although A Quick One became The Who’s sound-defining album of the 60s that initiated the creative trajectory of the band’s entire career, are we able to reassemble this jigsaw puzzle? 

The first step is source material.  It is very relevant that A Quick One signaled the beginning of Kit Lambert as an active producer of the band and the effects of this are immediate.  Although Lambert was a fine manager, music promoter and possibly even filmmaker, he was an awful record producer and the sound quality of A Quick One often sounds inconsistent, moving in and out of clarity.  After A/B’ing numerous masters and needledrops of A Quick One, I have determined that this is just simply how the album sounds, and no mastering of the album will fix “Run Run Run”.  Perhaps it was supposed to sound like garbage?  I have also determined that the very best master of the album is the latest HDtracks 2014 remaster, which features the most rich and robust sound and is often the most pristine, considering the sound of the album. 

The track order is an easy task, as The Who published Jigsaw Puzzle’s initial tracklisting and the songs are all readily available to reconstruct the album.  While at first it appears to be a fairly random assortment of songs The Who just simply had finished at the time, a closer inspection will reveal it’s organization: that Side A are all Townshend and Moon compositions and Side B are all Entwhistle and Daltrey compositions (note that since Daltrey’s original vision of The Who were as interpreters of cover songs, the two covers of “Heatwave” and “Barbara Ann” are included within his section of the album).  In attempt to create a conceptual continuity within this series of alternate Who albums, we will replace “Heatwave” since it was already featured on my previous reconstruction Introducing The Who.  Its replacement will be a different cover song: The Everly Brothers’ “Man With The Money” since it featured a fairly elaborate, album-worthy arrangement, not to mention Entwhistle had specifically stated in an April 1966 article that an Everly Brothers song was intended for their second album! 

As with my previous Who reconstruction Introducing The Who, we will only use the song’s original mono mixes, as that was the way they were intended to be mixed as; any listen to the awkward  stereo  mixes will tell you!  That is an easy task for all but the long October version of “I’m A Boy”, which only has been released as a modern stereo mix.  Luckily, the stereo mix featured elements prominently hard-panned left or right, so in splitting the left and right channels and mixing them separately I was able to create a mono mix that fit the rest of the album, specifically using “I Need You" (which seemed to feature a similar instrumental arrangement) as a reference.  Likewise, a mono mix of “Man With The Money” has not been released, so we collapse the stereo and rebuild a monophonic mix using “Don’t Look Away” as a reference. 

How does this jigsaw puzzle compare to a quick one?  As with the previous Who alternate album, this listener enjoys it much more!  It is surely missing a quintessential Who track, but I personally don’t believe they’d truly ‘nail’ the title track anyways until at least their 1968 performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away” on the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, not to mention the penultimate version featured on 1970’s Live At Leeds.  In that case it is a welcomed trade for this superb version of “I’m A Boy”, as well as “Circles” and “In The City”—smaller trees in The Who’s forest they might be, but the pair improve the atmosphere and create a slightly more horn-driven sound.  And although we lose the fantastic “So Sad About Us”, we have a more well-rounded album as a whole.  So what is next for The Who?  Maybe a better question to ask is... who’s Lily? 

Sources used:
A Quick One (2014 HDtracks mono remaster)
A Quick One (1995 Polydoor CD remaster)
Who’s Missing Two’s Missing (2011 Japanese SHM-SACD remaster)

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wilco - Here Comes Everybody

Wilco – Here Comes Everybody

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

1.  A Magazine Called Sunset
2.  Kamera
3.  Radio Cure
4.  Cars Can’t Escape
5.  The Good Part
6.  Shakin’ Sugar
7.  Laminated Cat
8.  Ashes of American Flags
9.  Heavy Metal Drummer
10.  I’m The Man Who Loves You
11.  Pot Kettle Black
12.  Poor Places
13.  Venus Stopped The Train
14.  Iamtryingtobreakyourheart

In honor of the surprise release of Wilco’s (pretty fantastic) new album Star Wars, here is a reconstruction of what could have been their fourth album--Here Comes Everybody.  Eventually restructured as their 2001 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the album ended up very different than the early working tapes due to shifting band members, song arrangements and label affiliations.  Compiling alternate versions from two sets of demo discs as well as a number of studio outtakes, we are able to piece together a less-experimental album more in-line with the band’s previous album Summerteeth (ideally featuring more appearances of multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett and drummer Ken Coomer, who exited the band during this period).  Some unique edits were made to make new, complete takes;  the tracks were also either crossfaded or banded closely; and all songs are volume-adjusted to create a cohesive listening experience.  

At the end of the 20th Century, Wilco had become critical darling in search of the ever-elusive hit single and the battle between The Artist and The Industry had already bubbled over several times.  Lead singer/songwriter Jeff Tweedy desired Wilco’s second album--1996’s Being There--to be a double album, an idea vetoed by their label Reprise Records; a compromise was reached, in which Tweedy allowed a significant cut of his royalties from the album which offset the label’s loss, in order for it to be released as a double.  The sprawling album that straddled alt-country and experimental-rock gained enough critical success to warrant artistic freedom for their follow-up, 1999’s Summerteeth.  Although once again garnishing much critical acclaim for the album’s lush Pet Sounds-esque layers as well as Tweedy’s songwriting prowess, Reprise Records didn’t hear a hit single and demanded to create a radio-friendly mix of “I Can’t Stand It”.  Wilco acquiesced, knowing how much freedom they had been already allowed in an era of the emergence of media oligopolies and a long list of bands dropped from the label's roster.  The song failed to be a hit, and Wilco approached the danger zone. 

Regrouping at the band’s own rehearsal space in late 2000 to record the follow-up entirely themselves, Wilco’s fourth album at this point had the working title of Here Comes Everybody, a reference to James Joyce’s masterpiece Finnegan’s Wake.  The ever-changing metaphysics of Joyce’s H.C.E. character was appropriate, as the nature of the recording sessions changed as well, moving into early 2001.  While initially the songs were a second wind of Summerteeth—solid songwriting played by a solid rock band with layers upon layers of experimental sounds by multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett—Tweedy wished to push the boundaries of the band itself.  After spending the year with side project Loose Fur (consisting of Tweedy, experimental producer Jim O’Rourke and drummer Glen Kotche),  the more daring and sonically progressive sound of the trio greatly informed how Here Comes Everybody would progress as well.  The first step was replacing Wilco drummer Ken Coomer with Kotche himself.  A less busy drummer who focused on unusual and homemade percussion instruments, Kotche was able to rhythmically reinterpret Tweedy’s new songs (many already recorded) into a more exotic backbone to perpetuate the atmosphere of the songs, in contrast to Coomer’s more traditional rock drumming. 

The second step in the evolution of Here Comes Everybody into what we now know as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was the song selection and mixing process.  Dropping obvious career throwbacks (the Summerteeth-esque “A Magazine Called Sunset” or the Being There-esque “Never Let You Down") and focusing on the songs that specifically dealt with the curious dissatisfaction and personal alienation in an increasingly modern and technological world  ensured a fresh direction for the band.  Jim O’Rourke was brought in to mix the album and much to the displeasure of the rest of Wilco, the songs were drastically stripped to their emotional core, often leaving merely Kotche’s exotic percussion and Bennett’s dizzying sonics.  Gone was the traditional sound of a rock band and all that remained was the strength of the songs themselves, floating in a sea of opiate-inspired fuzzy guitars, twinkling pianos, anonymous voices and static.   

Not only did the album transform, but the band itself.  The behind-the-scenes battle over creative control of the band between Bennett and Tweedy had concluded with Bennett being dismissed from Wilco, an event depicted in the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was also the breaking point of the fragile relationship between Wilco and Reprise Records.  After the band refused to bend to label exec’s requests to “make some changes” upon hearing the album, Reprise refused to release it and instead offered Wilco to buy-out their contract (which included the rights to the album) for $50,000.  Accepting their offer, Wilco not only bought the rights back to the album their label refused to release, but they leaked it themselves--streaming it on their website for free--and went public with Reprise’s tactics.  The situation—as well as the strength of the fantastic album itself—earned a Wilco a new record deal with the indie label Nonesuch Records, this time with complete artistic freedom.  Who owned Nonesuch Records?  AOL/Time Warner , the same oligopoly who owned Reprise Records!  Wilco self-produced an album of music they wanted and essentially sold it back to the company who refused to release it in the firstplace. 

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was the musical turning point in the postmodern era that embodied all the issues that artists presently face: digital media as distribution, the effect of media oligopolies and the transfer of power to the underdog indie artists from the dinosaur cash-cows.   But in its original incarnation as Here Comes Everybody, history could have been very different for Wilco’s fourth album.  Using two different bootlegs of the rough and early mixes of the album (known as the YHF Demos and the YHF Engineer’s Demos) as well as some of the outtakes which didn’t conceptually fit, we are able to make a very different album, one that more logically follows Summerteeth and did not create such a radical artistic shift.  We will try to use as many Coomer-drummed tracks as possible as if he hadn’t been ousted from the band (as much as we ascertain, without knowing the specific credit of every recording).  Just as well, we’ll include two Bennett-penned tracks that were left on the cutting room floor, as if he too hadn’t been ousted from the band.     

We can begin this reconstruction of Here Comes Everybody with the most radio-friendly song, “A Magazine Called Sunset”, taken from the More Like The Moon EP.  Although an early mix most likely featuring Coomer on drums is found on the YHF Demos bootleg, we will use the more polished, finished track featuring Kotche on drums.  This is followed with the more rock-anthem-arranged “Kamera” from the YHF Demos.  Next, an early and very different, nearly tropicalia version of “Radio Cure“ that was originally titled “Corduroy Cutoff Girl”.   Taken from the YHF Demos, the redundant verses are edited out for a more logical and concise song framework.  Next is the fantastic piano ballad “Cars Can’t Escape”, taken from the Alpha Mike Foxtrot boxset and followed by the very Summerteeth-esque “The Good Part”, using the unreleased version from the YHF Demos that seem to feature Coomer on drums.  “Shakin Sugar” from the YHF Demos follows, a deeper album cut for sure but a Jay Bennett original that would later be recorded for his only solo album post-Wilco.  “Laminated Cat” concludes the first half of the album, a song later reimagined and recorded by Loose Fur.  Here is a straightforward Springsteen-esque version from the YHF Demos originally titled "Not For The Season."   

The second half of Here Comes Everybody follows more closely the sequence of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, except all sourced from early mixes found on the YHF Demos; these versions of “Ashes of American Flags”, “Heavy Metal Drummer”, “I’m The Man Who Loves You” and “Pot Kettle Black” all demonstrate how much of an impact Jim O’Rourke was on the sound of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by deconstructing the arrangements at crucial points in the songs.  Next is a personal highlight for this album, the early version of “Poor Places” from the YHF Demos propelled by a barroom piano, featuring a full band and a slightly different structure.  Following is an edit of two rough mixes to create a complete take of “Venus Stopped The Train”, a song composed by Jay Bennett around a Jeff Tweedy poem, also re-recorded by Bennett for his solo album post-Wilco.  The album closes with the early version of “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” from the YHF Demos (which I have stylized as “Iamtryingtobreakyourheart”) which seems to feature Coomer on drums.  Instead of being an exciting opening track on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot that sets the mood for modern disillusionment, it becomes a confusing experimental afterthought to an already stylistically varied album. 

Is Here Comes Everybody an improvement over Yankee Hotel Foxtrot?  I don’t believe it is; pushing Wilco to new musical boundaries is a must for the band, and the album would not have had its historical impact had it not been cutting edge and unified vision.  Here Comes Everybody would certainly have been Wilco's White Album!  But this reconstruction at least shows how much Wilco did push their music at the time, how they got from point A to point B.  At the very least, Here Comes Everybody offers a more traditional option for those who like their Wilco without all the bells, whistles and... static.  

Sources used:
Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014 (1994 CD boxset Nonesuch)
More Like The Moon EP (2003 CD Nonesuch)
War On War (2002 CD Nonesuch)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos (bootleg, 2002)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos (bootleg, 2002)

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