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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Pink Floyd - The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes (upgrade)

Pink Floyd – The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes

(soniclovenoize “The Man & The Journey” studio reconstruction)

September 2017 Upgrade

Side A:
1.  Daybreak, Pt 1
2.  Work
3.  Afternoon
4.  Doing It!
5.  Sleeping
6.  Nightmare
7.  Daybreak, Pt 2

Side B:
8.  The Beginning
9.  Beset By Creatures of the Deep
10.  The Narrow Way
11.  The Pink Jungle
12.  The Labyrinths of Auximenes
13.  Behold The Temple of Light
14.  The End of The Beginning

After the release of Pink Floyd’s The Early Years anthology—especially the Dramatis/ation volume—I reevaluated this previous reconstruction, contemplating if it could be improved upon.  And I found I could!  This is an upgrade to a studio reconstruction of the never-recorded experimental performance piece of “The Man and The Journey”, often titled The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes.  This reconstruction attempts to present a version of the performance that would have taken the place of the More soundtrack and Ummagumma album, only utilizing studio recordings and condensing the performance down to two sides of a vinyl album. 

The upgrades to this September 2017 edition are:
  • “Careful of that Axe Eugene” is used for “Beset by Creatures of the Deep” instead of “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up”
  • “Main Theme” is used for “The Pink Jungle” instead of the live version of “Syncopated Pandemonium”
  • “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party II” is used for “The Labyrinths of Auximenes” instead of the live version of “Interstellar Overdrive”
  • A new, longer edit of “Behold The Temple of Light was created.
  • “Cirrus Minor” is used for “The End of The Beginning” instead of the live version of “Celestial Voices”. 
Musical soul-searching was the predominant mindset in 1969 for Pink Floyd.  The previous year had seen the band attempt to mimic their former bandleader’s singles-oriented approach to psyche-pop with their second release A Saucerful of Secrets as well as the single releases “It Would Be So Nice” and “Point Me At the Sky”.  While both singles failed to make any significant chart impact, it was actually the latter’s instrumental b-side “Careful With That Axe Eugene” that garnished some underground FM-radio play, prompting the band to make it a live staple.  Following the cues of their audience’s reaction to the one-off track, Pink Floyd switched gears and focused on what the remaining four members could do the best without Syd Barrett: sprawling, experimental psychedelic jams. 

The perfect opportunity to test these waters came in February 1969, recording the soundtrack for the film More at Pyre Studios in London.  For several months, the band tracked a few songs and a number of musical themes for director Barbet Schroeder that ranged from Pink Floyd’s typical space rock to pastoral ballads, from exotic influences to even proto-metal hard rock.  The soundtrack album was released in June and while not a critical nor commercial success, several of the album’s highlights were added to their current set, including “Green is The Colour” and “Cymbaline”.  But More was not all; by then Pink Floyd had also been working on their own proper follow-up to A Saucerful of Secrets. 

That Spring, each member of Pink Floyd entered Abbey Road studios alone to record solo material, intended to be collected together as the next Pink Floyd album.  Although Nick Mason and Richard Wright’s material was largely instrumental and experimental, Roger Water’s and David Gilmour’s material each featured a song that had already been performed live with the full band, “Grantchester Meadows” and “The Narrow Way”.  Paired with exquisite live recordings from The Mothers Club on April 27th and the Manchester College of Commerce on May 2nd, Ummagumma was released in October and cemented Pink Floyd’s status as a cult band, prepared to push rock’s envelope, even without hit singles.

While both More and Ummagumma tell a story of Pink Floyd’s progress in 1969, it is not the complete story.  With new and original material spread across two separate albums essentially recorded simultaneously, as well as another two albums-worth of material in their back pocket, the band pondered how to present the material in a cohesive live setting beyond the typical rock band performance.  Choosing to cull the highlights from both projects as well as their favorite instrumental jams from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets (as well as the b-side that was the catalyst for it all), Pink Floyd designed a series of performances from April to June, sometimes entitled The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes but usually titled “The Man and The Journey”. 

“The Man & The Journey” was arranged as two 40-minute movements, and utilized the newly-built Azimuth Coordinator, a primitive incarnation of a surround sound system which played pre-recorded samples meant to fit into the performances itself.  The first set—called “The Man”—seemed to follow the events of a typical person throughout his mundane, British, post-Industrial life.  The set included the members of Pink Floyd actually building a table on-stage (to represent ‘Work’) and being served tea (to represent ‘Teatime’).  The concept, as explained by Gilmour, was inspired by graffiti near Paddington Station, which said “Get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, [repeated]... How much longer can you keep this up?  How much longer before you crack?”

The concept of the second set is less clearly defined and seemed to be largely instrumental and improvisational.  Called “The Journey”, sketches from the performances’ playbill—and even the songs themselves—seem to suggest the piece follows a pilgrim’s quest.  A member of Pink Floyd’s crew even appeared in a sea creature’s costume, moving through the audience and appearing on-stage near the end of the set.  Is there some greater meaning or metaphor beyond this?  Is this the Man’s own spiritual journey through existence?  Knowing Pink Floyd’s conceptual pretensions, that very well might be the case. But Pink Floyd has never given any hints of what the journey nor its prize was, the task apparently left to the imaginations of the listeners.  My own interpretation is that “The Journey” is the evolution of agricultural mankind into industrial mankind, the quest for knowledge and technology; while there isn’t an actual Greek name Auximines, it could be stemmed from the Latin auxiliāris (to help) and the first pharaoh of Egypt, Menes (whose name translates to “he who endures”), literally a metaphor for the king (of humanity) who is assisted by gadgets (our technology) as he endures (history). 

After two seasons of performances of “The Man & The Journey” which concluded with a penultimate performance in Amsterdam on September 17th professionally recorded by VPRO Radio, Pink Floyd retired the conceptual pieces in time for Ummagumma’s release in October.  Unfortunately, the music assembled as “The Man & The Journey” was never formally recorded in the studio, suggesting that it was simply a way for the band to present the disparaging More and Ummagumma material in a live setting, rather than “The Man & The Journey” being the true genesis of either albums.  But is there a way to construct a studio version of “The Man & The Journey”, to condense and create some sort of conceptual order to Pink Floyd’s 1969 output? 

My reconstruction of “The Man & The Journey” will have two rules.  The first (which I regretfully broke when I originally reconstructed this album a few years ago) is that only studio material recorded in this era will be allowed.  This will exclude both live material and anything after 1969.  The problem that arises from this rule is that some of these pieces (“Work” and “Behold The Temple of Light”, for example) were never properly recorded by Pink Floyd.  The solution to this is in the second rule: we will substitute some unavailable tracks for other similar ones, assuming they are still from this same era.  Likewise we will try to avoid using previously-released tracks (“Pow R Toc H” or any section of “A Saucerful of Secrets”, for example) so that this album reconstruction can fit into any continuity you desire.  The Azimuth Coordinator sound effects are also omitted, as I believe it fits better for a live performance rather than a studio album.  I also chose to condense each set to fit on its own side of an LP, limited to 24 minutes. 

Side A—The Man—remains unaltered from my previous version of this reconstruction.  The Man wakes at “Daybreak” (“Grantchester Meadows” from Ummagumma) and then goes to “Work (since this musical piece was never recorded by Pink Floyd, we will use a similar-sounding track, “Sysyphus Part III” from Ummagumma).  “Tea Time” is omitted from my reconstruction, as it seemed more of a performance piece and less effective as an album recording.  “Afternoon” follows (“Biding My Time” from Relics), as well as the track “Doing It!” meant to represent sexual intercourse (often a Nick Mason drum solo, Pink Floyd often used either “Up the Khyber”, “Syncopated Pandemonium” or “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party (Entertainment)” for this; here I use the later from Ummagumma).  Next the Man falls asleep (using an edited version of “Quicksilver” from More) and slips into a “Nightmare” (as represented by “Cymbaline” also from More).  The side concludes with the Man waking from his dream to the next day’s “Daybreak” (a short edit of "Grantchester Meadows"). 

Side B—The Journey—begins with the pilgrim leaving the British pastoral countryside (“Green is the Colour” from More) by sea, when they are soon “Beset By Creatures of The Deep” (depicted by “Careful With That Axe Eugene” from Relics).  The pilgrim’s ship plows through a 'horrid storm' (as depicted by “The Narrow Way III” from Ummagumma) and finally arrive on land, moving through a “Pink Jungle” (while Pink Floyd performed “Pow R Toc H” for this piece, here we will substitute a different ‘tribal’ track based around a rolling bass riff: an edit of “Main Theme” from More).  Our adventurers next creep through the “Labyrinth of Auximenes” (this piece often featured the bassline to the verses of “Let There Be More Light” juxtaposed with guitar effects and ominous drums; when stripped of the bass line, we are left with a track reminiscent of the first few minutes of “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party II” from Ummagumma, which I used here) and “Behold The Temple of Light” (looping the chord sequence from “The Narrow Way II” also from Ummagumma).  “The End of The Beginning” is a problematic conclusion to the album, as any use of “Celestial Voices” would be reusing an old track, not to mention an anticlimax if using the subdued studio version that lacks the bombast of how it was performed for “The Man and The Journey”.  Here, we will substitute a different song that features a very similar organ passage: “Cirrus Minor” from More.  Not only are we then concluding the album on an actual song, but also it references a journey and features bird sound effects, a reoccurring motif of the performance.  

Sources Used:
Relics (1996 remaster)

Soundtrack to the Film ‘More’ (1987 remaster)
Ummagumma (1994 remaster)
 flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included