Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Grateful Dead - Lazy River Road

The Grateful Dead – Lazy River Road
(soniclovenoize “Final Album” reconstruction)

Disc 1:
1.  Liberty [Atlanta 3/30/94]
2.  If The Shoe Fits [Boston 10/2/94 and New York 10/19/94]
3.  Corrina [New York 10/14/94]
4.  Lazy River Road [New York 10/14/94]
5.  Samba In The Rain [New York 10/14/94]
6.  Childhood's End [Boston 10/3/94]

Disc 2
1.  Easy Answers [Philadelphia 3/19/95]
2.  So Many Roads [Boston 10/1/94]
3.  Wave To The Wind [Auburn Hills 6/9/93]
4.  Eternity [Mountain View 9/17/94]
5.  Days Between [Los Angeles 12/19/94]
6.  Way To Go Home [New York 10/19/94]

Happy Halloween!  In honor of this most frightening night, I offer you probably one of the most gruesome Dead albums!  This is a reconstruction of what could have been The Grateful Dead’s “final” studio album, which would have been released in 1995 if Jerry Garcia had not passed away.  This collection, which I call Lazy River Road, collects the most pristine soundboard tapes of the best performances of the songs that would have been featured on their final studio album.  All songs have been EQd and volume adjusted to function as a cohesive whole, a final live double album.

After the release of 1989’s Built To Last and the document of their 1990 tour Without a Net, The Grateful Dead entered in the final era of the band, a time saturated in health problems and the accumulation of a lifetime of drug addiction.  Longtime keyboard player Brent Mydland died of an accidental drug overdose in July 1990 and was replaced by former The Tubes and Todd Rundgren keyboard Vince Welnick that September.  Furthermore, Jerry Garcia’s declining health and sudden relapse into heroin worried the band, who attempted an intervention in 1991.  Promising to shape up, the band planned more tours in 1992, as well as woodshedding new material for an eventual studio follow-up to Built To Last.

All of the key members contributed songs for the new project, most of them co-written with long-time lyricist Robert Hunter.  Jerry Garcia offered the folky “Lazy River Road”, the mid-tempo ballad of “So Many Roads”, the jaunty pop of “Liberty” (which had already appeared on Hunter's 1989 solo album Liberty) and the expansive ballad “Days Between”.  Bobby Weir offered the funky “Corrina”, the new wavey “Easy Answers” and jazzy “Eternity” cowritten by Willie Dixon.  Phil Lesh offered the downbeat “If The Shoe Fits” and ballads “Childhood’s End” and “Wave To The Wind”.  Vince Welnick offered the exotic “Samba in the Rain” and the bluesy “Way To Go Home”.  Most of the songs had a theme of traveling home, and much of Hunter’s lyrics seem to reference previous milestones of the band, as if this group of songs were wrapping up a 30-year career.  Whether intentionally or not, that is exactly what happened. 

In February 1993, the band recorded in-studio rehearsals of the new material, some of which would eventually find its way onto the 1999 live anthology box set So Many Roads.  After performing the batch of twelve songs regularly over 1993 and 1994, the band entered the West Marin recording studio The Site for about twelve days in November 1994.  Placed atop a huge hill in the secluded country, the studio seemed to be the perfect place to escape the wearies of the road and narcotics of the street and to concentrate on recording the new album.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.  Although the band recorded backing tracks for all twelve songs, bandleader Garcia was too strung out on heroin to participate in any meaningful way.  Also, due to The Dead’s insistence of tracking as a live band, they did not seem to nail many solid takes, being left with recordings inferior to the previous year’s rehearsals! 

After taking a break to hit the road again, The Dead returned to The Site for about ten days in May 1995 to try to finish the album.  As before, the burned-out Garcia barely contributed, leaving only a few scratch guitar tracks and nearly none of his vocals.   Surely the drugs talking, Jerry procrastinated and postponed his contributions, which the band allowed.  Unfortunately, Garcia would die three months later of a heart attack.  Later that year, Weir would revisit The Site recordings only to find them completely unusable. 

Although the album died with Garcia, a number of the songs went on to be resurrected in various forms.  Bob Weir recorded “Easy Answers” on the Bob Wasserman 1994 album Trios.  Welnick recorded “Samba in the Rain” for his Missing Man Formation album in 1998.  Weir recorded “Corrina” in 2000 for his Evening Moods album.  But after performing most of the twelve songs nearly 100 times over three years, The Grateful Dead themselves had left an abundance of recordings, many in soundboard form via taper Charlie Miller.  Many fans were able to reconstruct their own “final” Grateful Dead album, often shared among fans; some of these include a compilation called Earthquake Country and another called Days Between (The Final Album That Never Was).   But what does the official Dead camp have to say?  Since this was a divisive era for the band, posthumous releases have barely covered these twelve compositions, although there are a few exceptions: two live performances from 1993 appeared on Road Trips Volume 2 Number 4; six of the rehearsal and live recordings appeared on the official So Many Roads box set; and another eight appeared on the 30 Trips Around The Sun.  Finally, the 2019 release of Ready or Not covers this era, although fans don’t feel it contains definitive versions (as well as a simply hideous album cover).  It also lacks all three of Lesh's songs, at his request, for feeling incomplete and unrefined.  Is there a way to reconstruct what the final Dead album could have been?

I will be the first to admit: I am not a hug Deadhead.  But this was a blog-follower request and seemed to be an intriguing challenge.  Surely, this was a rough time for The Grateful Dead, with a sloppy or unintelligible Garcia and a cringey Welnick.  Because of this, it is very difficult to find a singular, definitive version of these songs--the "perfect, flawless performance".  Regardless, I plowed through dozens of performances of all twelve songs, searching for a singular, best version of each one, using Deadhead-voted favorites on as a guide.  Since I was not a diehard Deadhead, I admittedly might have missed some nuance in my selection.  But on the otherhand, my detachment from the culture and the band's historical expectations allowed me to judge these recording in a more non-bias way--something extremely useful for this set of songs, often dismissed by Deadheads simply out of hand! 

Each track was narrowed down to about three or four contenders for “definitive version”, using recordings that had the clearest sound in their Miller soundboard form, further mastering them all to be a cohesive whole.  After a painstaking  final selection, all songs were crossfaded into two discs to make it seem like one continuous performance on a double compact disc.  Track order was constructed so a particular band member would not have two of their own songs in a row.  In the end I particularly focused on the October 1994 shows as, in theory, these versions would have sounded the closest to what the studio versions could have sounded like since The Dead would enter The Site the following month.  

Disc 1 of Lazy River Road opens with what I felt was the strongest (and most pop-friendly) track, “Liberty”, taken from Atlanta 3/30/94 (voted the best on headyversions).  Next is Lesh’s mediocre-yet-palpable blues rocker “If The Shoe Fits”, which is an edit of the verses from Boston 10/2/94 and the choruses from New York 10/19/94 to make a definitive version.  Next is one of the highlights of the album, the New York 10/14/94 “Corrina” that morphs into a fantastic jam, reminiscent of classic Grateful Dead (also voted the second best “Corrina” on headyversions).   Another highlight is “Lazy River Road”, taken from the same show, followed by the embarrassing "Samba in the Rain", again from 10/14/94, including for posterity. Disc 1 closes with the whimsy of "Childhood's End" from Boston 10/3/94. 

Disc 2 opens with one of the later, new-wavey versions of “Easy Answers” from Philadelphia 3/19/95, which I preferred.  Garcia’s “So Many Roads” from Boston 10/1/94 is next, voted second-best on headyversions and, in my opinion, is far superior to the “final show” performance on 7/9/95.  Next is the rather boring "Wave to the Wind", this being the least terrible version of the later 1993 performances, from Auburn Hills 6/9/93. The droning “Eternity” emerges late in the game, from Mountain View 9/17/94.  Next is the highest point of the band in this era, Garcia & Hunter’s final masterpiece “Days Between”.  This was a tough call, but I eventually used the second-highest voted on headyversions, from Los Angeles 12/19/94.  The album concludes appropriately with Welnick’s “Way To Go Home” as more of an afterthought, taken from New York 10/19/94.  

In about one month, Ready or Not will be released, containing the Dead Camp's final take on this era.  Interestingly, aside  from "Corrina", I am using all different versions, ones I feel are superior.  Furthermore, I am including Lesh's three songs, which, really aren't all that terrible.  Since I personally feel my compilation far surpasses Ready or Not, I offer this as an alternative to an era that never got it's fair shake... even now.   

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

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Beatles - The 1970s Beatles Albums (upgrade)

The Beatles – The 1970s Beatles Albums
(a soniclovenoize reimagining)

October 2019 UPGRADE

Disc 1 – Instant Karma! (1970)
Side A:
 1.  Instant Karma!  (We All Shine On)
 2.  All Things Must Pass
 3.  Every Night
 4.  I Found Out
 5.  Beware of Darkness
 6.  Working Class Hero
 7.  Momma Miss America
Side B:
 8.  It Don’t Come Easy
 9.  Isolation
10.  Junk
11.  My Sweet Lord
12.  Maybe I’m Amazed
13.  Love
14.  Hear Me Lord

Disc 2 – Imagine Clouds Dripping (1971) 
Side A:
 1.  Power To The People
 2.  What is Life
 3.  Dear Boy
 4.  Bangla Desh
 5.  Jealous Guy
 6.  The Back Seat of My Car
Side B:
 7.  Imagine
 8.  Another Day
 9.  Back off Bugaloo
10.  Oh My Love
11.  Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
12.  Isn’t It A Pity

Disc 3 – Living In The Material World (1972)
Side A:
 1.  Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
 2.  Hi, Hi, Hi
 3.  John Sinclair
 4.  I’m The Greatest
 5.  Who Can See It
 6.  Woman Is The Nigger Of The World
Side B:
 7.  Live and Let Die
 8.  New York City
 9.  Living In The Material World
10.  Single Pigeon
11.  Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
12.  My Love

Disc 4 – Band On The Run (1973)
Side A:
 1.  Mind Games
 2.  Jet
 3.  One Day At A Time
 4.  Mrs. Vanderbilt
 5.  Photograph
 6.  Be Here Now
Side B:
 7.  Band On The Run
 8.  I Know (I Know)
 9.  Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long
10.  Out Of The Blue
11.  The Day The World Gets Round
12.  Let Me Roll It

Disc 5 – Good Night Vienna (1974)
Side A:
 1.  Venus and Mars/Rock Show
 2.  Whatever Gets You Thru The Night
 3.  Love In Song
 4.  So Sad
 5.  Steel and Glass
Side B:
 6.  Junior’s Farm
 7.  (It’s All Down To) Good Night Vienna
 8.  Dark Horse
 9.  #9 Dream
10.  You Gave Me The Answer
11.  Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down and Out)
12.  Venus and Mars (Reprise)

BONUS Disc 6 – Skywriting By Word Of Mouth (1980)
Side A:
 1.  (Just like) Starting Over
 2.  Take It Away
 3.  Dream Away
 4.  Ballroom Dancing
 5.  Watching The Wheels
 6.  Wanderlust
Side B:
 7.  Tug of War
 8.  Nobody Told Me
 9.  All Those Years Ago
10.  The Pound is Sinking
11.  I’m Losing You
12.  You Can’t Fight Lightning
13.  Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

Well hello there.  This is a long requested re-upload/upgrade, and I’ll finally make good on my promise to do it: The 1970s Beatles albums.  A series of reimaginings that ask “What if The Beatles didn’t break up in 1970?”, my collection, included here as one singular set, includes five proper 1970s Beatles albums: 1970’s Instant Karma, 1971’s Imagine Clouds Dripping, 1972’s Living In The Material World, 1973’s Band On The Run and 1974’s Good Night ViennaI am also offering my long-lost 1980 Beatles reunion album Skywriting By Word of Mouth as a sixth bonus disc of this set

Pretty much all sources have been upgraded, specifically from John’s Signature Box (which contains all original mixes), George’s Apple Years box set and Paul’s Archive Series releases.  Some slight tracklist alterations were made to fix errors or misjudgments I made seven years ago.  More importantly, all crossfades were recreated and, in my opinion, improved over the originals

Source used:
George Harrison – The Dark Horse Years 1976-1992 (2004)
George Harrison – The Apple Years 1968-75 (2014)
John Lennon – Sometime in New York City (2005 remix)
John Lennon – Signature Box (2010)
John Lennon – Imagine (2018 box set)
Paul McCartney – Band On The Run (2010 remaster)
Paul McCartney – McCartney (2011 remaster)
Paul McCartney – RAM (2012 remaster)
Paul McCartney – Venus and Mars (2014 remaster)
Paul McCartney – Tug of War (2015 remix)
Paul McCartney – Red Rose Speedway (2018 remaster)
Ringo Starr – Stop and Smell The Roses (1994 remaster)
Ringo Starr – Photographs: The Best of Ringo Starr (2007)

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

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The United States of America - Gifts and Creatures

The United States of America – Gifts and Creatures
(soniclovenoize “Second Album” reimagining)

Side A:
1.  Kalyani
2.   You Can’t Ever Come Down
3.  Tailor Man
4.  Nightmare Train
5.  Osamu’s Birthday
6.  Do You Follow Me

Side B:
7.  No Love
8.  The Sing-Along Song
9.  Perry Pier
10.  Invisible Man
11.  The Sub-Sylvian Litanies
12.  The Elephant At The Door
13.  The Sing-Along Song (Reprise)

Happy Fourth of July!  This is a reimaging of a possible second album from psychedelic-pop visionaries The United States of America.  Using a combination of solo recordings from band-leaders Joseph Byrd and Dorothy Moskowitz, as well as a few outtakes from the debut United States of America album, we will attempt to make what a theoretical sophomore 1969 album by the band would have sounded like.   All tracks have been volume adjusted from the best sources and crossfaded into two continuous LP sides of music. 

To put it simply, there was never a band like The United States of America, nor there ever will be again.  Formed by young ethnomusicologist and Fluxus art movement centerpiece Joseph Byrd and his former-partner Dorothy Moskowitz in 1967, the pair were somehow equally influenced by John Cage and The Beatles.  After composing a set of material with Byrd on keyboards and Moskowitz on vocals, the duo recruited the rest of the band from musicians whom they knew and performed with in the Los Angeles art, experimental and scholarly music scene: Gordon Marron was recruited to play an electrified violin through a ring modulator; African-drum student Craig Woodson was recruited to play a drumkit amplified by a number of contact mics; modern classical bassist Rand Forbes played fretless bass, often through a fuzz pedal.  The quintet was also joined by Marron’s friend Ed Bogas, who supplied additional keyboards.  Young art students who essentially wanted to create a rock band—despite being totally unfamiliar with the medium—were also highly tapped into revolutionary 1960s politics and the counter-culture, and sought to subvert the establishment by ironically dubbing the band The United States of America. 

After recording a demo in September 1967, success was found fairly quickly as The United States of America were signed to Columbia before they even performed their first show!  After touring with Richie Havens and The Troggs, the group began recording their self-titled debut that December with Moby Grape producer David Rubinson.  Cracks already began to form in the unit, as Rubinson allegedly attempted to elevate Moskowitz to being the star of the show; likewise, creative differences between Byrd and the union of Bogas, Marron and Rubinson put a strain on the recording sessions.  Regardless, the sextet and it's producer created an album unparalleled in its fusion of rock music, experimental electronics, counter culture social commentary and genre hopping from pop to Dixieland to sound collage.  Released in March 1968, the band followed its release with another tour with The Troggs and The Velvet Underground. 

Despite being on the cusp of fame, the band quickly disintegrated.   Unfortunate circumstances shadowed the tour, including audience hecklers, a random attack on Byrd by unhip locals and a literal backstage fistfight between Marron and Byrd.  Columbia records had a difficulty in marketing the musical (and literal) revolutionaries and the band wondered if they were “selling out to the man”.  Internal band dynamics began to reach a breaking point as each tried to vie power of the band from its originator, Byrd.  After an additional recording session in May 1968 for a follow-up single “You Can Never Come Down”, the band called it quits that summer, with Byrd walking away from the creature he created (or fired from the band, as he claimed!).  Not surprisingly, additional demo sessions with Moskowitz and a backing band of session musicians were recorded in late July still under the name of The United States of America, indicating Columbia’s desire to continue the moniker with Dorothy as the centerpiece.  These recording of two Moskowitz originals “Tailor Man” and “Perry Pier”, as well as a third penned by Kenneth Edwards of Linda Ronstadt’s band Stone Ponies, “Do You Follow Me”, were decidedly more commercial-sounding, featured a standard rock instrumentation rather than the guitar-less and cutting edge sound of The United States of America.  Regardless, nothing came of these recordings, which were shelved after the band’s break-up.

Meanwhile, the outcast Byrd struggled to find direction.  Salvation came when Columbia Records, recognizing him as a genius despite the failure to market and keep his band alive, offered him the chance to make a second album, this time a solo effort in which he (allegedly) had total creative control.  Like Moskowitz just recently prior, Byrd gathered several session musicians—dubbed The Field Hippies—and recorded a song cycle of hastily-written material under the working title Gifts and Creatures, using a new version of the unused United States of America single “You Can Never Come Down” as a centerpiece.  Although the sessions were difficult and Byrd had to utilize a series of female vocalists in obvious mimicry of his departed muse Moskowitz, the resulting album The American Metaphysical Circus was somewhat of a sequel to the sole Unites States of America album.  Again mixing experimental rock and pop with Dixieland and gospel, the album began with a suite of songs designed to replicate an LSD trip, followed by a suite of sharp-tonged songs dedicated to President Lyndon B Johnson and concluding with another suite parodying the decaying older generation and their early retirement farms.  Released in 1969, the album miraculously became a cult hit and remained in the Columbia Masterworks catalog for over 20 years, despite being too rock for the classical crowd and too arty for the pop crowd.  Both The United States of America and The American Metaphysical Circus became cult classics of the psychedelic 60s, remaining hidden gems of the era, waiting patiently to be discovered by music aficionados over the next 50 years. 

Even through the album title’s implication and the obvious continuity of band-leader Byrd, The American Metaphysical Circus wasn’t quite the sequel that these second-generation United States of America fans hoped for.  While having some musical similarities, The Field Hippies seemed to go on tangents that circled Byrd’s own fascination with traditional American music and his study in ethnomusicology.  And of course, the obvious lack of Dorothy Moskowitz strong yet cool voice, replaced by ragtag facsimiles Christie Thompson, Susan de Lange and Victoria Bond who simply could not hit the mark.  Is there somehow a way to reconstruct the album to make it more a proper encore to The United States of America?  

For my reimagining, we will use the core of The American Metaphysical Circus, but patch in the original United States of America recording of “You Can Never Come Down”, the three Moskowitz-lead United States of America recordings from 1968 and two outtakes from the self-titled 1967 sessions in order to make it a more appropriate follow-up that will almost solely feature lead vocals by either Dorothy or Joseph.  Sources are simply the 1996 One Way Records remaster of The American Metaphysical Circus and the 2004 Sundazed remaster of The United States of America, the later featuring a number of the required bonus tracks for this reimagining.  We will call the album Gifts and Creatures, the original, intended title of The American Metaphysical Circus, with cover art featuring imagery from The United States of America’s live shows in 1968. 

Side A begins with The Field Hippy’s “Kalyani”, but is hard edited into the USofA’s “You Can Never Come Down”, ideally establishing the intent of this reimagining.  Crossfading back into the outro of The Field Hippy’s version of the same song, we go directly into Moskowitz’s “Tailor Man”, followed by The Field Hippy’s “Nightmare Train”.  Next is The United States of America “Osamu’s Birthday”, an outtake from their debut album, with Moskowitz’s “Do You Follow Me” closing the side.

Side B begins with another outtake from the first USofA debut, “No Love”, going directly into The Field Hippie’s “The Sing-Along Song”.  Moskowitz’s “Perry Pier” follows and then edited into The Field Hippy’s “Invisible Man”.  Now, we could not have a United State of America album without a sound collage, right? If I may be so bold, what follows is my own creation from previously heard sound elements, ideally creating a reappropriation of several themes on the album into a new context, in which we will call “The Sub-Sylvian Litanies”.  We will use the most USofA-sounding selection from The Field Hippies as the epic track to conclude the album; hopefully there is a suspension of disbelief as we feature a lead vocal by Susan de Lange instead of our beloved Dorothy. 

What is the result of Gifts and Creatures?  While defiantly an interesting experiment of what could have been, two things become quite obvious.  Firstly, both Dorothy and Joseph seemed to depart from the experimental rock of their debut album, with Moskowitz leaning towards the female soft-rock singer-songwriter territory and Byrd towards ethnomusicological pursuits.   Strangely enough, those two sounds seems to match fairly well and make a cohesive album, despite it not really sounding like a true USofA album.  Which leads us to the second point: the truth is, the trinity of Marron’s modulated violin, Forbes’ fuzzy bass and Woodson’s electrified drums seemed to be the USofA’s secret weapon, and what stylistically set the band apart from their contemporaries.  Aside from the two songs that feature them, they are sorely missed from this reimagining of a sophomore album. 

Regardless, I hope you enjoy the album (that admittedly simply originated as a little experiment of my own), and make your Fourth of July an American metaphysical circus!

Sources used:
Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies - The American Metaphysical Circus (1996 One Way Records CD Remaster)
The Unites States of America - The United States of America (2004 Sundazed CD Remaster)
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included