Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Who - Who's Lily (UPGRADE)

The Who – Who’s Lily
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)
March 2020 Upgrade

Side A:
1.  Armenia City in The Sky
2.  Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
3.  Pictures of Lily
4.  In The Hall of The Mountain King
5.  Our Love Was
6.  I Can See For Miles

Side B:
7.  I Can’t Reach You
8.  Girl’s Eyes
9.  Early Morning Cold Taxi
10.  Relax
11.  Sodding About
12.  Rael

Continuing my set of “Social Distancing” bonus uploads—once a week until we’re out of quarantine—is a long-requested upgrade to The Who’s unreleased 1967 album Who’s Lily.  Standing as the working title of their follow-up to A Quick One—or Jigsaw Puzzle in my continuity—the album was revised from a loose collection of songs into a conceptual framework that mimicked a pirate radio broadcast and released as their seminal album The Who Sell Out.  This reconstruction attempts to reproduce what the original incarnation of the album could have sounded like, before the Sell Out concept.  Some new edits were created and several tracks crossfaded for continuity.   The album is again presented all in mono—as all early The Who should!—and uses the best possible masters for each track.  

Upgrades to this March 2020 edition are:

  • Dropped “Silas Stingy”, “Glittering Girl” and “Tattoo” for historical accuracy.
  • Added “Girl’s Eyes”, “Early Morning Taxi” and “Sodding About” for historical accuracy.
  • New mono fold of “In The Hall of the Mountain King”, including the into. 
  • New edit of Sell Out mix of “Our Love Was”, with a clean intro and outro from the alternate mono mix.
  • New edit of “Rael” parts 1 and 2

As London entered 1967 and became a lot more swingin', The Who found themselves in a rapidly changing music scene.  Contemporaries Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were laying the ground for a more wild sound and The Who’s mod image was beginning to seem outdated.  To keep up with their competition, The Who returned to IBC studios in early April to cut a handful of songs for a new single: “Glittering Girl”, “Doctor Doctor” and “Pictures of Lily”, the later being an exquisite specimen of power pop, concerning masturbation.  The song was just what The Who needed and shot up the charts, establishing The Who as a force that once again could be reckoned with in this upcoming year of musical change.  In keeping up with these tides, the band planned to follow the single with a purely instrumental EP and even recorded a duo of songs for it—the bass-driven “Sodding About” and a crazed rendition of Edvard Greig’s “In The Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt.  Although the duo of songs seemed to anticipate and embrace the forthcoming psychedelia craze, the results were less than satisfactory and the instrumentals were set aside, the EP concept scrapped.  The Who would have to go back to what they did best: writing great pop songs and performing them with gusto.

In May the band returned to the studio to cut a slew of new songs for their forthcoming third album, built around the previous month’s success of “Pictures of Lily”, making the album’s provisional title Who’s Lily.  Much had been learned from splitting the songwriting duties on A Quick One, and all Who members once again contributed original material: Daltrey offered “Early Morning Cold Taxi”; Moon offered “Girl’s Eyes”; Entwhistle offered “Someone’s Coming”; Pete offered what he thought was his magnum opus, “I Can See For Miles”; and finally “Armenia City in the Sky”, a song written by Pete’s driver Speedy Keen (of Thunderclap Newman) which fully captured the current psychedelic era.   With half an album started, The Who turned their eyes across the Atlantic for a handful of shows in New York and a spot in the famous Montery Pop Festival, co-headlining with The Who’s chief British competition: The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  Briefly returning home to De Lane Lea Studios in July, The Who cut the basics for two more Who’s Lily tracks, “I Can’t Reach You” and “Relax”.  They immediately left for a three-month tour of North America with Herman’s Hermits and additional work on Who’s Lily would have to be done on the road, across the ocean.

The Who's seafaring seemed to be an influence on the new album, as Townshend unearthed a rock opera he had been composing since the beginning of the year, concerning a soldier from the fictional country of Rael who travels across the sea to battle the invading Chinese.  In an attempt to finish Who’s Lily for its proposed summer release, Townshend whittled his rock opera down from 30 minutes into a 10 minute opus; it was further whittled down as much as possible for consideration as a single!  “Rael” was recorded at Mirasound Studios in New York with Bob Dylan’s keyboardist Al Kooper, but it’s 6-minute run time excluded it from a single release and "Rael" was tossed into the batch of other album-contenders.  Two more songs were recorded at Mirasound with further August recording at Columbia Studios in Nashville for the single that “Rael” could not occupy: a balled called “Our Love Was” and another power-pop song about masturbation, “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand”, the later released as a single in the US.  After more work was done at Columbia Studios to complete the unfinished tracks recorded throughout the year, as well as a September session at Goldstar in LA to complete “I Can See For Miles”, a total of ten album contenders were to be paired with “Pictures of Lily” (and possibly it’s b-side “Doctor Doctor” or session outtake “Glittering Girl”).  This was most certainly the Who’s Lily album, but was it the best album The Who could muster in this changing musical climate?  Was it a good idea to build an album around a straight-ahead power-pop song midst the increasingly colorful Summer of Love?  The Who gave pause to Who’s Lily and they would have to come up with the album’s selling point.   

Throughout 1967, The Who recorded various commercial jingles, including adverts for Coke in April and Great Shakes in May.  Perhaps the success of these adverts inspired The Who to use it as a framework for a redesigned Who’s Lily.  Upon returning home in October, The Who hit the studio and cut a number of ridiculous faux commercial jingles: “Medac”, “Top Gear”, “Heinz Baked Beans” and “Odorono”.  These jingles would be interspersed throughout the proper Who songs on their upcoming album, designed to replicate a pirate radio broadcast.  This sudden burst of inspiration fueled the band to pump out several more proper Who songs to trump the weaker material recorded earlier in the year: Entwhistle’s creepy character-study “Silas Stingy”; Townshend’s paced classic “Tattoo” and the atmospheric acoustic ballad “Sunrise”; updated versions of “Glittering Girl” (now with a stronger rhythm and Roger’s vocal), “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand” (now acoustically laid-back) and “Rael” (now more typically power-pop but lacking the psychedelic majesty of the New York version).  Choosing the original “Rael” over the new version (although the final minute was edited off due to time limitations of the LP), several more jingles were cut—"Jaguar", “Premiere Drums”, “Rotosound String”, “John Mason Cars”, “Bag O’ Nails”, “Charles Atlas” and “Track Records”—and Sell Out was completed.  Released in December, it was a critical and commercial success, being one of the most obvious and intentional rock concept albums, one which pushed into the borders of pop-art.  But is there a way we can hear the original commercial-free version?

For this reconstruction of Who’s Lily we will stick to the batch of songs prepared up until the end of the American tour, as that seems to be the point where Who’s Lily became Sell Out.  We will also exclusively keep the album in mono for two reasons: 1) a stereo “Pictures of Lily” does not exist and 2) early The Who simply sounds better in mono!  All the songs recorded between April and August 1967 are fair game, although we will drop the two weaker Entwhistle tracks “Doctor, Doctor” and “Someone’s Coming”, already featured as b-sides anyways.  We will also exclude “Glittering Girl”, since the more refined version was not recorded until October (which could be saved for Who’s For Tennis, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…).  Leaving only ten real contenders for the album, we will use both of the instrumentals from April, as they give the album a slightly different and more heavy, psychedelic atmosphere, making Who’s Lily more contemporaneous for 1967. 

Side A of my reconstruction begins with “Armenia City in The Sky”, taken from the 2014 HD Tracks remaster of Sell Out, the most pristine source of its original mono mix.  Following is the original US single mono mix of “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand”, a bonus track from the aforementioned HDTracks remaster.  The pseudo-title-track follows, “Pictures of Lily” taken from its currently best source, The Who Hits 50.  In a nod to the band’s brief initial concept of an instrumental EP, I have included a mono fold of “In The Hall of the Mountain King” from the 2009 Sell Out Deluxe; although admittedly this track probably would not have been featured on Who’s Lily, it serves as an interesting diversion and fits the psychedelic theme of the album.  Following is “Our Love Was” from the 2014 HDTracks remaster, but using the clean intro and outro from the alternate mono mix found.  Closing Side B is the song that is essential to be heard in mono: “I Can See For Miles” from the 2014 HDTracks remaster.

Side B starts appropriately with the 2014 mono remaster of “I Can’t Reach You”, followed by John Entwhistle’s featured lead-vocal on Who’s Lily, Moon’s “Girl’s Eyes”, taken from the 2009 remaster of Sell Out and collapsed to mono.  Likewise, the power-pop bliss of “Early Morning Cold Taxi” follows, taken from the 1995 remaster of Sell Out and, again, collapsed to mono.  The droning psyche-rock of “Relax” follows, also taken from the 2014 mono remaster, followed by the second heavy psyche instrumental “Sodding About” which creates a musical continuity to the album, taken from the 2009 Sell Out remaster and collapsed to mono.  The album concludes with the cleaner-sounding early mono mix of “Rael” that includes an otherwise extracted verse, with its actual part 2 tagged onto the end, as the song was meant to be heard in its full six-and-a-half minute glory, both found on the 2009 Sell Out remaster.  Who's Lily's final touch is the psychedelic cover art by Mark Heggen, taken from the poster included with the original copies of Sell Out--truly a picture of Lily!   

Sources used:
Sell Out (1995 Polydor remaster)
Sell Out (2009 Polydor Deluxe Edition)
Sell Out (2014 HDTracks mono remaster)
The Who Hits 50! (2014 Geffin Records)

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

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Radiohead - Kid Amnesiac

Radiohead – Kid Amnesiac
(soniclovenoize Kid A/Amnesiac single-album reimagining)

1.  Optimistic
2.  Morning Bell
3.  How to Disappear Completely
4.  The National Anthem
5.  In Limbo
6.  Dollars and Cents
7.  Kid A
8.  Knives Out
9.  You and Whose Army?
10.  Everything In Its Right Place
11.  Pyramid Song

In light of recent events with the coronavirus, it seems I have a lot of spare time as I dwindle in my self-imposed quarantine; I assume you all need something new to listen to during yours.  So during this crisis, I will try to upload a new album reconstruction or reimagining every week until it’s safe to go outside again.  We will get through this together and hopefully these album reconstructions and reimagings will be just another little thing to help during our social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Starting with the perfect soundtrack to social distancing… is Radiohead!  This is a reimagining of Radiohead’s 2000 album Kid A and 2001 album Amnesiac as a singular album.  Recorded during the same recording sessions between 1999-2000 and resulting in a double-album’s worth of original material, the band chose to instead release two separate albums from the sessions instead of releasing a singular or double-album release.  Since then, many fans have wondered how a singular album, using “the best” from both Kid A and Amnesiac, would sound and many fans have constructed their own playlists.  For my own reconstruction, we will use the specific eleven songs Radiohead debuted in concert during their Summer 2000 tour after the completion of the sessions, but before Kid A was released.  In theory, this could represent Radiohead’s intent of a singular album sourced from the entirety of the sessions.  Furthermore, the songs will be sequenced in a similar fashion to the order of which the songs were actually performed during that tour, with my own unique edits and crossfades used to make the sequence flow. 

After their majestic 1995 album The Bends and awe-inspiring 1997 album OK Computer, Radiohead was literally the biggest rock band in the world.  Unwittingly hailed has the modern successor to Pink Floyd in their fusion of art-rock, pop, mastery of atmosphere, creative instrumentation and their ability to connect to the audience, Radiohead’s every move was compulsively under watch by the music media and obsessive fans hungry for any second of new Radiohead music.  No strangers to road-testing new material, the band began composing new songs for OK Computer’s follow-up, arranging them during soundchecks for the OK Computer tour in the summer of 1997.  Songs such as “Life in a Glasshouse”, “How To Disappear Completely”, “Follow Me Around” and “Nude” were woodshedded during the OK Computer tour throughout 1997 and 1998, and were captured on film for Grant Gee’s documentary on Radiohead’s world tour, Meeting People Is Easy. 

Upon the conclusion of the OK Computer Tour in April 1998, Radiohead took a much needed rest, while front man Thom Yorke attempted to write new songs for the album’s follow-up.  This was not an easy task, as Yorke faced two challenges...  Firstly, Yorke had grown tired of the band’s sonic signature, feeling that Radiohead had become Alt Rock trend-setters after the sudden emergence of a number of “copy-cat” bands that sounded very similar to Radiohead.  The only way to keep themselves ahead of the curve and to challenge themselves artistically was an intentional and radical departure from Radiohead’s established sound.  Unfortunately, Yorke’s second challenge was a bad case of writer’s block, leaving Yorke with only unfinished song sketches by the time the band reconvened in January 1999, instead focusing on rhythm, influenced by the artists of Warp Records 

Formal rehearsals and recordings begin at Studio Guillaume Tell in Paris with producer Nigel Godrich, with EMI Records allowing Radiohead complete artistic freedom and no deadline to finish the album.  While it was fortunate the rest of the band shared Yorke’s desire to drastically change their musical direction, this also allowed for an extended period of musical soul-searching, for better or for worse.  Although the song “In Limbo” was completed at this time, the majority of the sessions proved unproductive and the band relocated to Copenhagen’s Medley Studios in March 1999.  Influenced by Krautrock legends Can, Radiohead experimented with hypnotic jam sessions which were later edited into a song structure, resulting in the basis of the song “Dollars and Cents”.  Otherwise, the sessions were again deemed unproductive, with the entire band second-guessing their working methods of playing live, together in a room, as a standard rock band. 

Once again relocating in April to a mansion fitted with recording gear in Gloucester called Batsford House, the band chipped away at several small musical breakthroughs.  In order to reinvent themselves as a musical entity, each member had to reevaluate their roles in the band as not necessarily playing their chosen instruments specifically, but contributing sounds or ideas to York’s experiments.  This was exemplified in “Everything In Its Right Place”, which simply revolved around the chords played on a Prophet-5 synthesizer and Yorke’s vocal being digitally “scrubbed” by Godrich.  Additionally, the band made progress adding sound elements to an unfinished backing track, originally recorded in November 1997 during a b-side session: “The National Anthem”, based on a bass riff Yorke wrote when he was 16!

After picking up some much needed momentum, Radiohead relocated once again in July to their own Oxford recording studio Canned Applause, which would remain their home base for the remainder of the recording sessions, sporadically detailed by guitarist Ed O’Brien’s daily journal posted to Radiohead’s website.  Sessions dragged on throughout the remainder of 1999 with a number of ideas attempted and abandoned, rearranged and discarded.  After successfully tracking several more ‘live band’ songs such as “Optimistic”, “You and Whose Army?” and “Pyramid Song”, Radiohead once again hit a creative wall with Yorke’s desire to move beyond the sound of a rock band.  By January 2000, Goodrich made a bold suggestion: all five members of the band abandon their acoustic instruments for all digital instruments, synths and programs, forcing Radiohead to completely rethink arrangements.  This reinvigorated the band, allowing them to create new, experimental compositions such as “Kid A” and “Idioteque”.  Sessions carried on into the spring, with “Knives Out” being completed in March after a year of work!  The album was finally finished in April 2000 with over 20 completed song, enough material for a double album.

To road-test the new material, Radiohead played a brief summer tour in June and July, performing eleven of the new songs: “Optimistic”, “Morning Bell”, “Dollars and Cents”, “The National Anthem”, “In Limbo”, “Everything In Its Right Place”, “Knives Out”, “How To Disappear Completely”, “Pyramid Song”, “Kid A”, and “You and Whose Army?”.  Yorke additionally performed “I Might be Wrong” and “Fog” acoustically during encores, although only once each.  Predictably, Radiohead fans clamored to hear the mysterious new material, and bootlegs of their live recordings were traded on file sharing networks. 

Finally, Radiohead’s culmination of the 18-month long sessions was released in October: Kid A, a singular, concise album of ten songs, that only occasionally featured the Radiohead fans had grown to love.  Although “Optimistic” and “How To Disappear Completely” seemed to be ‘classic Radiohead’, other songs seemed far-removed from their intelligent anthem rock.  The album often seemed cold and distant, sometimes clinical.  And the album lacked some of the fans’ favorites that had already been debuted live several months before: “Dollars and Cents”, “You and Whose Army?”, “Knives Out” and “Pyramid Song.”  Regardless, Kid A was a successful artistic statement, perfect in its execution as a singular, cohesive album.  Although some-old school Radiohead fans were turned off by it, many more were turned on, accepting the band’s radical departure and willing to go along with Radiohead’s ride.  Kid A became one of the more influential and groundbreaking modern ‘rock’ albums, signaling the start of popular music in the twenty first century. 

But what about the remainder of the music Radiohead recorded throughout the Kid A sessions, which did not seem to fit within its artistic vision?  As Radiohead began touring to promote Kid A, they indeed continued to perform those ‘lost Kid A songs’, much to fans’ delight, with “Knives Out” and “Pyramid Song” specifically being fan favorites.  After suggesting a series of EPs to release the material, Radiohead instead assembled a second album for a June 2001 release, entitled Amnesiac.  It included not only the four aforementioned fan-favorite ‘lost Kid A songs’, but an additional seven that spanned from the highly experimental “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” to the jazzy paranoia of “Life in a Glasshouse”, a song fans have been crying for since originally witnessed in the Meeting People is Easy documentary.  Despite this, Radiohead insisted that Amnesiac was not a Kid A outtakes album, but a separate album in its own right.  While not as much as a critical success as Kid A, it was as much a cherished album among Radiohead fans, with many often debating which album was better.  There were also a set of fans who wondered “What if the sessions amounted to one album with the best of Kid A and Amnesiac, rather than two separate albums?” 

The answer to this question varied wildly from one fan to another depending on their tastes, as clearly Radiohead have never given any official word what an album of that caliber would have sounded like.  For this reimagining, we will simply assume Radiohead did give an official word of what songs would have made the cut for a singular album from these sessions: those eleven songs initially performed after the sessions concluded but before Kid A was sequenced and released.  Additionally, we will attempt to sequence our album similarly to the general order in which the songs were performed.  Although that varied from show to show, we can observe general trends in set order and attempt to replicate it.  We are also excluding “I Might Be Wrong” and “Fog” as they seemed to be one-off performances.

Focusing solely on the Kid A-era songs, Radiohead always opened with “Optimistic”, followed by “Morning Bell”; here I created a new segue between the two songs.  Earlier in the tour, they would then follow with “How To Disappear Completely”, although it was moved to the end of the set later in the tour; here we will retain its initial position.  Next they always followed with “The National Anthem”, often itself followed by “In Limbo.”  This five-song sequence was most often played in the first half of the tour (with occasional minor variations), and becomes our Side A to this album reimagining. 

Most often, “Dollars and Cents” was the mid-point song that followed “In Limbo”, so we will use that to begin our theoretical Side B.  From here on, there is no real pattern to follow, as every date had a different song to follow “Dollars and Cents”.  For the sake of flow and album continuity, I am choosing “Kid A”, “Knives Out” and “You and Whose Army” to follow in that order, as well as for a reason that will be explained later.  Nearing the end, Radiohead almost always closed their main set with “Everything In Its Right Place” and often performed “Pyramid Song” in their encore; my album reimagining concludes the same way. 

The resulting album is less experimental than either Kid A or Amnesiac and seems to be a solid middle ground for the Radiohead fans craving an artistic reinvention and the fans who wanted more of the moody anthems of OK Computer.  It's beginning with "Optimistic" encourages the faithful listener, rather than challenging them with "Everything In Its Right Place" and "Kid A" immediately!  Also, this track sequence seems to follow a specific narrative—especially Side B—although I’ll allow you to interpret it however you wish.  My Kid Amnesiac is best experienced as its own entity, and I urge you to listen without the knowledge of Kid A nor Amnesiac; imagine you are first hearing it after only listening to The Bends and OK Computer for context.  And with that, everything is in its right place.

Sources used:
Amnesiac (original 2001 master)
Kid A (original 2000 master)

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