Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Velvet Underground - IV (upgrade)

The Velvet Underground – IV

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

December 2017 Upgrade

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.  Ferryboat Bill
6.  Foggy Notion

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

This is an upgrade to my reconstruction of the fabled “lost fourth album” by The Velvet Underground, recorded in-between 1969’s The Velvet Underground and 1970’s Loaded.  With the master tapes discovered in the 1980s and remixed, the material originally saw the light of day on compilation albums VU and Another View.  The original 1969 mixes, as well as newer 2014 remixes that emulated the sound of those original 1969 mixes, were finally released on the 45th anniversary The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  Sundazed also released their own reconstruction of this “lost fourth album” as a limited edition vinyl entitled 1969, but various pressings used either the 1969, 1985 or 2014 mixes.  My reconstruction uses only the vintage 1969 or “dry” 2014 mixes to present a cohesive, completed album and attempts to be true to what an actual fourth Velvet Underground might have been like in 1969. 

Upgrades to this December 2017 edition are:

  • Original 1969 mixes of “Foggy Notion”, “I’m Sticking With You”, “Andy’s Chest” and “She’s My Best Friend” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes. 
  • New 2014 remixes of “One of These Days”, “Lisa Says”, “Coney Island Steeplechase”, “I Can’t Stand It” and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes.
  • “Ocean” is sourced from The Velvet Underground super delux, an upgrade from the What Goes On source.
  • The original 1969 mix of “Ferryboat Bill” is added to the reconstruction, after much protest from blog followers! 
  • “Ride Into The Sun” is speed-corrected and volume-adjusted to match the sound of the new sources.

After the proto-shoegaze of 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico and the groundbreaking noise-rock of 1968’s White Light/White Heat, we have a completely different Velvet Underground by 1969.  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.  Although the band was tired of MGM Records—or perhaps reading the writing on the wall and anticipated a drop from the label due to a lack of commercial potential—The Velvets continued recording a follow-up to The Velvet Underground while touring throughout 1969, biding their time until their management found a better label. 

These recording sessions, based at the Record Plant in New York, began on May 6th with The Velvet Underground tracking the jaunty “Coney Island Steeplechase”, as well as a rocker heavily featured on their current tour and effectively becoming the most-well known originals of this batch, “Foggy Notion”.  The band returned to the studio on May 13th and tracked a song Lou Reed himself would re-record for his seminal 1972 Transformer album “Andy’s Chest”, as well as the charming Mo Tucker-sung “I’m Sticking With You” which would be tried again but ultimately scrapped for the Loaded sessions.  The next day the Doug Yule-sung “She’s My Best Friend” was recorded, a song Reed would himself rerecord for his 1976 Coney Island Baby album.  On May 20th the band recorded another live staple that would be revisited for Lou Reed’s 1972 solo album Lou Reed, “I Can’t Stand It”.  The Velvets returned to the studio on June 19th & 20th to track an additional three songs: the bizarre “Ferryboat Bill”; another road-tested epic “Ocean” again later rerecorded for both Loaded and Lou Reed; and a rough performance of “Rock and Roll”, a song later re-recorded as the centerpiece for Loaded.  At this two-day session they also made mixes of seven of the nine songs tracked thus far and compiled an acetate that contained, in order: “I’m Sticking With You”, “Foggy Notion”, “Ferryboat Bill”, “Andy’s Chest”, “Ocean”, “Rock and Roll” and “She’s My Best Friend”.

With half the album in the can, The Velvets took the summer off to continue touring and returned to The Record Plant on September 5th for more work on the project.  The exquisite “Ride Into The Sun” was tracked, a song too later rerecorded but scrapped for Loaded and finally appearing on Lou Reed.   While a multi-layered instrumental version exists, the multitracks containing the vocal overdubs seems to have been lost, and unfortunately only exists as an acetate.  The band returned to the studio on September 23rd to cut the bar-room rollick “One of These Days” and the aimless instrumental jam “I’m Gonna Move Right In” was tracked on September 27th.  Live staple “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” was recorded three days later and finally the somber “Lisa Says” recorded on October 1st.  In the end, fourteen new songs were recorded between May and October—most of which were excellent, studio captures of this incarnation of The Velvet Underground who had become a live-performing machine throughout 1969.   But by the end of the year, MGM had dropped The Velvet Underground from their roster of artists and the mastertapes were filed away in a vault, forgotten and never to be heard again in that decade or the next. 

It should be noted that the actual band members seem to have differing opinions on what the intent of these recordings was.  In interviews and personal correspondence, 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 to be the lead single, a tongue-in-cheek ode to mindless dance music.  Mo Tucker sides with Reed, stating she was under the impression they were recording a proper fourth album (although she confusingly claims that The Record Plant recordings were not it).  In contrast, Doug Yule claimed they were simply professionally-recorded demos for the album that would eventually be Loaded.  Sterling Morrison offers a completely different explanation: the recordings were simply “busy work”, a put-on so that MGM would not suspect the band was shopping for a new contract, and that these recordings were never meant to see the light of day.   Who are we to believe, if we believe any of this at all? 

Regardless, the multitracks of the 1969 Record Plant sessions (along with a few unreleased John Cale-era tracks from 1968) were accidentally found in the vaults in the mid 1980s, remixed and released as the compilation album VU in 1985.  Perfectly timed during a revival of interest in the band, the album was a hit; it was probably no coincidence that VU featured rather modern mixing techniques (such as gated reverb on the drums) wowing audiences that a band from the 60s could have such a modern sound!  With the remainder of the tracks released on 1986’s Another View, these mixes circulated on compilation albums for nearly thirty years.  With fans complaining of the anachronistic mixing of the Record Plant sessions, the vintage 1969 mixes were finally given an official release in 2014 on the 45th anniversary super delux boxset of The Velvet Underground.  Also included were freshly-made remixes of the remaining seven songs, created to match the sound of the vintage 1969 mixes.  By this point in time, Sterling and Yule’s view of these recordings were ignored and the sessions were touted as “the great lost fourth Velvet Underground album,” be it accurate or not. 

My reconstruction attempts to use the best of these 1969 Record Plant Sessions and present a finished, cohesive album, as could have been released by the end of 1969 as the fourth Velvet Underground album.  We will be using all original 1969 mixes or the new 2014 mixes found on The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  All introductory studio chatter is edited out as well as some outros faded out, as per what the final tracks probably would have been released as.  My reconstruction drops “I’m Gonna Move Right In” for the sake of conciseness and drops “Rock and Roll” for the sake of redundancy.  We will also substitute the instrumental “Ride Into The Sun” with the vocal acetate version found on the What Goes On boxset, speed corrected and volume-adjusted to match the previous eleven songs.  The resultant album is a strong collection of twelve tracks that amount to just over 40 minutes, the perfect Velvet Underground album.  While succumbing to a more polished sound, we also essentially have a more energetic version of The Velvet Underground, bridging the gap between that and Loaded.  Also, we can fully appreciate the underrated powerhouse of Doug Yule, a forgotten hero who kept the band together without John Cale.  A document of a short-lived era of the band usually only heard on live recording like The Quine Tapes, IV are the waves to ride us into the sun.  Let's have a real good time together.  

Sources Used:
The Velvet Underground (2014 CD boxset)
What Goes On (1993 CD boxset)

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Traveling Wilburys - Volume 2

The Traveling Wilburys – Volume 2

(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

Side A:
1.  You Got It
2.  I Won’t Back Down
3.  Lift Me Up
4.  Cheer Down
5.  Runnin’ Down A Dream

Side B:
6.  Every Little Thing
7.  Poor Little Girl
8.  California Blue
9.  Zombie Zoo
10.  Blown Away

In remembrance of Tom Petty after his recent passing earlier this month, this is a re-imagining of the unrecorded Traveling Wilburys album Volume 2, which would have logically appeared in-between  1988’s Volume 1 and 1990’s Volume 2.  Culling material from 1989 that featured shared-contributions from four of the five band members Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne, this re-imagination attempts to fill the gap and present a cohesive album. Best sources have all been used and all tracks volume adjusted for continuity.

Just five friends, sitting around a campfire, strumming acoustic guitars and makin’ up songs.  Sound familiar?  We all might have done it at some point.  But in this case those five friends were Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, and the songs they just simply made-up became Top 10 Hits.  The back-story is well known: George Harrison needed a b-side for his “This Is Love” single and over dinner with friends Roy Orbison and producer Jeff Lynne, asked them for help.  Bob Dylan provided the studio and Tom Petty brought the guitars.  Soon enough, the quartet quickly wrote and recorded a song in April 1988, each contributing one-off lines of lyric.  The result was “Handle With Care”, a song Warner Bros thought was too great for a mere b-side.  The band—now called the Traveling Wilburys—adopted personas Nelson (Harrison), Lefty (Orbison), Otis (Lynne), Lucky (Dylan) and Charlie T (Petty) and recorded a full-length album.  Released in October 1988, Volume 1 became a hit and The Traveling Wilburys were the premier super-group at the end of the 1980s.  But then what?  When the fun was over, the five friends went back to their own individual projects, although the various members often continued to contribute with each other. 

Roy Orbison had already been working on his comeback album throughout 1988, partially produced by Jeff Lynne.  “You Got It” and “California Blue” were co-written by Tom Petty and Lynne, and “A Love So Beautiful” co-written with Lynne; both Petty and Lynne also performed on the album, with other tracks produced by one of Petty’s Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell.   Tragically, Orbison passed away in December 1988 and the album Mystery Girl was released the following January, making the album a posthumous hit and a fitting epitaph to the legendary rocker who helped shape Rock n' Roll. 

Tom Petty himself was also working on a new album throughout 1988.  This time abandoning his backing band The Heartbreakers in order to be free of any musical expectations (although ironically still featuring most of The Heartbreakers anyways), the album too was co-written and produced by Jeff Lynne, who played many instruments on the album.  Recorded in Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell’s garage, the trio worked on the album throughout 1988, compiling a very concise and strong body of work featuring fellow Wilburys George Harrison on “I Won’t Back Down” and Roy Orbison on “Zombie Zoo”.  Unfortunately, MCA records were originally unsure of the marketability of the album and hesitated to release it that year.  But after the success of The Traveling Wilbury’s (and the addition of the newly-recorded “I’ll Feel A Lot Better” to commercialize the album a bit) MCA welcomed Lynne’s slick sound and Full Moon Fever was released in April 1989 to critical and commercial acclaim, many considering it Petty’s masterwork. 

In contrast to Petty, George Harrison was just beginning to let his career go into hibernation.  Content with the success of 1987’s Lynne-produced Cloud Nine and being the figurehead of The Traveling Wilburys, Harrison only completed an unfinished track from the Cloud Nine sessions, “Cheer Down”, in March 1989.  Co-written by Tom Petty and once again produced by Jeff Lynne, the song was released on the Lethal Weapon 2 soundtrack in August.  George also recorded two more tracks in his home studio Friar Park in July, meant for an October release on his upcoming Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989 compilation: the solid “Poor Little Girl” and meager “Cockamamie Business”.  Although the production credit was assigned to Harrison, Jeff Lynne again contributed instrumentation and the songs more-than coincidentally sounded like Lynne’s idiosyncratic production. 

Jeff Lynne himself was busy in the studio recording a solo album, his first since Electric Light Orchestra’s Balance of Power in 1986.  Throughout 1989 and 1990, Lynne whittled away at Posh Studios in England, often with his familiar Wilbury bandmates: Tom Petty co-wrote “Blown Away” and Harrison was featured on “Every Little Thing”, “Lift Me Up”, “September Song” and “Stormy Weather”.  The album Armchair Theatre was released as a moderate success in June 1990. 

What about that pesky fifth Wilbury, Lucky?  Bob Dylan was mostly apart from his four bandmates throughout 1989, just starting his Neverending Tour and recording with producer Daniel Lanois in New Orleans from February to April 1989.  The resulting album Oh Mercy released in September (a month before Volume 1), while hailed as Dylan’s masterpiece of the 1980s, was the complete opposite of a Jeff Lynne-produced album: it was dark, atmospheric and organic.  After more touring, Dylan made a complete about-face and recorded the follow-up with producer Don Was in Los Angeles from April to May in 1990.  Although the resulting album Under The Red Sky did feature a guitar solo by George Harrison on the title song, the album was an over-polished shamble of absurdly simple songs—very uncharacteristic for Dylan--and was seen almost immediately as a career embarrassment.  It would take him another seven years to regain his creative footing.

After Orbison’s death, the remaining four Wilburys reconvened with a follow-up album tracked while Dylan was recording Under The Red Sky in Los Angeles.  Released in October and entitled Volume 3 as a joke at Harrison’s suggestion, the four members also donned new aliases: Spike, Muddy, Clayton and Boo.  Although a quaint sophomore release with moderate charting singles “She’s My Baby” and “Inside Out”, the album lacked the magic of Volume 1.  Upon Harrison’s death in 2001, The Traveling Wilbury’s were put to rest indefinitely without their founding brother.  But is there a way to make these volumes a trilogy and uncover the “missing” Wilbury’s album? 

Many have tried reconstructing a third Traveling Wilburys album, so my take on a Volume 2 will heed to a few rules.  Much like my CSNY Human Highway reconstruction, I will compile the solo material that each member recorded or released approximately in between both Volume 1 and 3 (generally in 1989).  I will also be selecting the songs that featured the most amount of Wilburys, with a minimum requirement of two contributing Wilburys for a song.  This will unfortunately exclude Dylan’s Oh Mercy album, as it had little to do with the other members.  Likewise, Under The Red Sky will also be disqualified since it was recorded simultaneously with Volume 3.  This is reasonable, since neither album really fits with Jeff Lynne’s production, in which the remaining tracks are steeping.  Sorry Bob…  The second rule is to follow the pattern of the other two Wilburys albums and only use original compositions.  This would exclude miscellaneous cover songs actually recorded by the Traveling Wilburys, such as “Nobody’s Child” and “Runaway”, as well as Jeff Lynne’s “Stormy Weather” and “September Song”.  I will also shy away from tracks that were later overdubbed by Dhani Harrison in 2007, “Maxine” and “Like a Ship”.None of these are needed anyways, as there is more than enough material spread across Armchair Theatre, Full Moon Fever, Mystery Girl and Best of Dark Horse

Side A of my Volume 2 begins with Orbison’s “You Got It” from Mystery Girl (featuring Otis and Charlie T).  Following is Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” from Full Moon Fever (featuring Otis and Nelson) and Lynne’s “Lift Me Up” from Armchair Theatre (featuring Nelson).  Harrison’s “Cheer Down” taken from Best of Dark Horse follows (featuring Otis and Charlie T), with the side closing with Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream” from Full Moon Fever (featuring Otis).  Side B begins with Lynne’s “Every Little Thing” from Armchair Theatre (featuring Nelson) followed by Harrison’s “Poor Little Girl” from Best of Dark Horse (featuring Otis).  Orbison’s “California Blue” from Mystery Girl (featuring Otis and Charlie T) and Petty’s “Zombie Zoo” from Full Moon Fever (featuring Lefty and Otis) is next, and the album concludes with Lynne’s “Blown Away” from Armchair Theatre (featuring Charlie T). 

Of the ten songs assembled, including co-songwriting, performance and production: Tom Petty contributed to seven songs; George Harrison contributed to five songs; Roy Orbison contributed to three songs; Jeff Lynne contributed to all ten; Bob Dylan contributed to exactly none.  Although you might be miffed that Lucky was not so lucky this time around, it is reasonable that if Volume 3 did not feature Orbison, Volume 2 wouldn’t have to feature Dylan.  If you disagree, feel free to swap “Runnin’ Down A Dream” with “Under The Red Sky” and even the playing field a bit.   Otherwise, may your Halloween be a full moon fever. 

Sources used:
George Harrison – Best of Dark Horse 1976-1989 (1989 Dark Horse Records, original pressing)
Jeff Lynne – Armchair Theatre (1990 Reprise Records, original pressing)
Roy Orbison – Mystery Girl (1989 Virgin Records, 2007 remaster)
Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever (1989 Warner Brothers Records, 2009 SHN remaster)

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