Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Beatles - Imagine Clouds Dripping (UPGRADE)

The Beatles – Imagine Clouds Dripping

(a soniclovenoize re-imagining)

October 2021 UPGRADE



Side A:

1.  Back Off Boogaloo

2.  What is Life?

3.  Dear Boy

4.  Bangladesh

5.  Jealous Guy

6.  The Back Seat of My Car


Side B:

7.  Imagine

8.  Another Day

9.  Gimme Some Truth

10.  Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

11.  Oh My Love

12.  Isn’t It A Pity



Happy Halloween!  Here it is, my friends, an album that never was that is unrelated to Halloween!  This is an UPGRADE to the second re-imagined album in a series that posits “What if The Beatles never broke up?”  This collection would have theoretically been released near the end of 1971, and uses Lennon’s Imagine and McCartney’s RAM as it’s basis.  Additional tracks are pulled from Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and his “Bangladesh” single, and of course Ringo’s single “Back Off Boogaloo” as it was recorded in Fall 1971.  Notably, this upgrade uses the new All Things Must Pass remix, which sonically fits much closer to the other tracks.  The tracklist has been slightly revised as well, dropping “Power To The People” for “Gimme Some Truth”, which is admittedly more Beatles-esque and was actually familiar to The Beatles in 1969.  I have also replaced the Version II of “Isn’t It a Pity” with the more Beatle-esque Version I, edited to fit on the album. 


To restate once again, the “rules” of these 70s Beatles albums are:
1)  One album is represented per year, culled from tracks each Beatle recorded that year; the only exception is All Things Must Pass is split over 1970 & 1971, and Living In The Material World is split over 1972 & 1973.   
2)  Generally speaking, to include five Lennon songs, five McCartney songs, three Harrison songs and one Ringo song; there might be some deviance to this rule depending on availability per year.
3)  The chosen songs must be Beatle-esque in nature; we will attempt to avoid the idiosyncratic musical tangents each Beatle pursued in the 70s and vie for the solo songs that would have been most likely recorded by The Beatles (i.e. not vetoed by the rest of the band).
4)  The songs must flow together and make a unified album that shares a specific tone. 


Note that a suspension of disbelief is required to fully enjoy these 70s Beatles albums, and I encourage listeners to imagine what each Beatles would have contributed to each other’s songs, had they actually made these albums together.  

My original album notes from 2012, slightly revised:


This is the second in a series of albums that asks the question we’ve all asked at some time or another:  What if The Beatles never broke up?  This theoretical album attempts to cull the best of The Beatles solo material from 1971 (with some holdovers from All Things Must Pass) to create what could have been the band’s 1971 follow-up to my previous re-imagined Beatles album, Instant Karma!  This album is called Imagine Clouds Dripping, a surreal Yoko Ono quote that John had felt was particularly inspirational and sets the tone for a rather colorful album. 


The songs were chosen not only for quality but for what could continue to carry ‘the Beatles torch’.  While the solo members continued to stylistically diverge, there were always songs that could be described, in my opinion, as “Beatlesque” and we have the luxury of choosing those above the other more idiosyncratic numbers.  The best and least brickwalled/clipping remasters were chosen for source material, volume levels adjusted for song-to-song balance and all songs are tightly book-ended to make a continuous two sides of music.  Also, a completely unique edit of “Dear Boy” and “Bangladesh” is created when the two are hard-edited together, making them a medley. 


Musically, Imagine Clouds Dripping abandons the bare-bones arrangements on the previous re-imagining for the lush Phil Spector arrangements George had requested for his songs.  “What Is Life” and “Isn’t It A Pity” are all used on this album because they fit better with the RAM/Imagine contributions than with the Plastic Ono Band/McCartney contributions on the previous album.  Additionally, “Back Off Boogaloo” will be used as this album’s Ringo song, as it was recorded in September 1971, fitting in with RAM & Imagine’s timeline.  


So sit back, relax and imagine the following:  After the success of their first album of the 1970s, Instant Karma!, The Beatles regroup and focus diligently on a new album with some of their strongest songs since Abbey Road, often with grandiose arrangements from returning producer Phil Spector; Half-way through recording the album, George learns of the tragedy befallen in Bangla Desh and quickly writes a song in tribute that The Beatles record and release as a single; George organizes the Concert For Bangla Desh, at which The Beatles headline, marking their first live performance in two years; The positive experience of this concert gives The Beatles—particularly George and John—the courage to begin a limited-engagement European Tour in late 1971 in support of Imagine Clouds Dripping; The tour also features old friends Billy Preston on keyboards and Klaus Voormann who played bass when Paul was needed to play guitar or piano. 


The critics hail Imagine Clouds Dripping as one of the highest points of The Beatles career, comparing it to a second Sgt. Pepper.  There are a number of hit singles released throughout 1971, including “Imagine” with the non-LP B-side “Monkberry Moon Delight”, “Another Day” with the non-LP B-side “Crippled Inside” and “Jealous Guy” with the non-LP B-side “I Dig Love”.  And as aforementioned, “Bangla Desh” was released as a single to promote their concert, with the b-side “Smile Away.”  The success of The Beatles late 1971 European tour spurred them to plan an American tour in 1972, and a need for new material in the material world… 




George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)

John Lennon - Imagine (The Ultimate Collection, 2018 remaster) 

Paul McCartney – RAM (2012 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



Monday, September 27, 2021

Weezer - Songs From The Black Hole (upgrade)

Weezer – Songs From The Black Hole
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Act I, Scene 1:
1.  Blast Off!
2.  You Won’t Get With Me Tonight
3.  Maria’s Theme/Come To My Pod
4.  Tired of Sex

Act 1, Scene 2:
5.  Superfriend
6.  You Gave Your Love To Me Softly
7.  Waiting On You
8.  Tragic Girl

Act 2, Scene 1:
9.  She’s Had A Girl/Good News!/Now I Finally See
10.  Getchoo
11.  I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams

Act 2, Scene 2:
12.  No Other One
13.  Devotion
14.  What Is This I Find
15.  Why Bother?
16.  Longtime Sunshine

In honor of the 25th anniversary of Weezer’s influential sophomore album Pinkerton, this is a very long-overdue upgrade to my reconstruction of Songs From The Black Hole, the space rock opera which was the precursor to the album.  Originally meant as a literal opera which functioned as an allegory to Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo’s disenchantment from the band’s instant stardom, the album was scrapped and restructured into the seminal Pinkerton in 1996.  This updated reconstruction, using a combination of Weezer’s studio takes and Rivers’ demo tapes, more closely follows Cuomo’s actual script of the opera.  My own reconstruction of the final script is included here, pieced together from his notes included in The Pinkerton Diaries.  I have also created some cover and back artwork based on river’s sketches in his Diaries.  

With a slew of 1994 hits and lovable, quirky music videos including “Buddy Holly”, “Say It Ain’t So” and “The Sweater Song”, Weezer  seemed to fill the gap left by recently-departed Nirvana, merging Brian Wilson-esque songwriting with fuzzed-out grunge guitars.  The unlikely nerd rockers found themselves in the limelight after hashing it out in the LA club scene, with years of work and dedication paying off and their debut Blue Album becoming a 90s Alt-Rock classic.  But the band’s newfound fame seemed to be a burden for the anxious and introverted frontman Rivers Cuomo, overwhelmed with the reality of what he had always wished for.  

On a break from touring during around Thanksgiving 1994, Rivers charted out the bare bones of the band’s second release: a futuristic concept album about a rock band whose singer was dealing with the band’s popularity, as well as personal relationship issues with a “good girl” and a “bad girl”.  At first using a handful of already-written (and largely unrelated) newer Weezer songs (such as “Getchoo” and “Tired of Sex”), Rivers composed additional material to link the songs, including lyrics as dialog between characters: an actual rock opera.  After creating a rough draft of a script with no real ending, Rivers revised his concept that Christmas, turning the ‘band’ into a crew aboard the space ship Betsy II, on a mission to save the planet Nomis on the edge of a black hole.  At this time, Cuomo recorded demos of most of the rock opera, now titled Songs From The Black Hole.  

Throughout the first half of 1995, Rivers would continue to refine the Songs From The Black Hole concept, while rehearsing and recording segments of the cycle with his Weezer bandmates.  Since the entire lyric of the album were sung by different characters, it was decided that the different members of Weezer would sing for the various characters: Cuomo would sing for the protagonist, Jonas, the captain of the ship Betsy II; crewmate Wuan would be sung by guitarist Brian Bell; crewmate Dondo would be voiced by bassist Matt Sharp; roadie Karl Koch would voice a robot crew member M1, via a vocoder effect; “good girl” love interest Laurel would have been sung by Rachel Haden of the band that dog; “bad girl” love interest Maria would have been sung by Joan Wasser of the band Dambuilders; and Mike Stanton of the band Avant Gard would appear on the album as a pre-recorded message of a television host.  

While on tour in Germany that February, bassist Matt Sharp headed back to the United States due to a family emergency.  The remaining members recorded band demos of several SFTBH songs at a studio in Hamburg, notably the lead-off song “Blast Off!”.  By August, the band had formally entered Electric Lady Land Studios to track SFTBH, recording versions of “Blast Off!”, “Tired of Sex”, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly”, “Waiting On You”, “Getchoo”, “I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams”, “No Other One”, “Devotion”, “Why Bother?” and “Longtime Sunshine”.  The recordings were much more raw and less polished than their debut Blue Album, as the band desired a “live in the studio” sound with minimal overdubs.  Anticipating a short break from the band due to Cuomo being enrolled into Harvard that September, Weezer booked a final recording session for Songs From The Black Hole in August at Fort Apache Studios in Boston.  Although left unfinished, they recorded new versions of “Tired of Sex”, “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly”, “Waiting On You”, “Getchoo”, “No Other One”, “Devotion” and “Why Bother?”. But a new event would shift the course of Songs From The Black Hole into self destruction and ultimately reinvention.  

While at Harvard that Fall, Cuomo began writing new songs that strayed greatly from the Songs From The Black Hole concept-- songs about his loneliness and isolation and a desire to return to simplicity and innocence.  Regrouping with the rest of the band in January 1996 at Sound City Studios, Weezer tracked two of these newer compositions “El Scorcho” and “Pink Triangle” (as well as newer versions of “Tired of Sex”, “Getchoo” and “No Other One”.  Basic tracks of “Superfriend” were finally attempted, but never completed, as seen in the 2004 Weezer DVD Video Capture Device).  Returning to Sound City on Rivers’ spring break, Weezer cut even newer compositions “Across The Sea”, “The Good Life”, “Falling For You” and “Butterfly.”  

By Summer break, the album was complete and now titled Pinkerton.  The Songs From The Black Hole concept was completely abandoned for that of SF Pinkerton from the opera Madame Butterfly, used as a metaphor for Cuomo’s own wanton access that lead to regret.  The tracklist was arranged to be (approximately) in the order in which they were written to illustrate Cuomo’s own emotional progress throughout the last two years.  The album was more immediate, personal and more musically raw in presentation than that of The Blue Album and was a turn-off for some (casual) fans.  Coupled with the simple fact that hype still had not died down from The Blue Album, Pinkerton was an often overlooked release in 1996.  In effect, Cuomo would be disenchanted from writing emotional, personal songs with a rawer production.  He would spend the next three years attempting to create a mathematical formula for the perfect pop song-- a concept that would actually see fruition on their third release, The Green Album, hailed as Weezer’s (first) great comeback.  

Meanwhile, Pinkerton was not exactly the failure that Cuomo saw it as.  Aside from actually hitting the Billboard Top 20 and spawning two hits, a new generation of fans embraced the unfiltered, personal lyrics and cut-throat production of the album and at the turn of the century, began playing a new, “emotional” version of punk rock; Pinkerton had become, intentionally or not, the godfather of the Emo movement.   

But for Weezer die-hard fans, the underlying allure of Pinkerton wasn't it’s influence, but it’s unheard precursor, Songs From The Black Hole.  After clamoring for it’s release for years, fans were treated to leaked demos of the project, often by Karl Koch himself, throughout the Napster years.  Pieces of SFTBH eventually found their way onto the first three volumes of the Alone series, compilations of Cuomo’s early demos, the third of which exclusively covered the SFTBH/Pinkerton era.  Finally, a Deluxe 20th Anniversary release of Pinkerton gave fans a handful of studio versions of the SFTBH project.  Is this enough to reconstruct a fairly accurate SFTBH?  

Not precisely.  The smoking gun was found in the 2011 book The Pinkerton Diaries, which included excerpts from three different drafts of Rivers’ original script for Songs From The Black Hole.  At first glance this would provide the best road map to reconstruct the rock opera, until we realize that the final draft was not only partially included, but some pages were out of order!  The first step in reconstructing SFTBH is to reconstruct Rivers’ script; from there, we will be able to make a more accurate audio version of SFTBH.  To do this, we will be taking the third script draft as a base, and using clues from the previous two drafts to fill in the blanks and correct the page order.  Through this process, we will observe that neither Rivers nor Weezer actually recorded few of the crucial songs for the album: “She’s a Liar”, “Touch Down!”, “Special Thanks” and “I Don’t Belong.”  Along with my standard audio, I am also including my own reconstruction of the SFTBH script, which will note the missing, unrecorded songs in red text. 

Act 1, Scene 1 of Songs From The Black Hole opens with “Blast Off!” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, with the piano intro from “Longtime Sunshine” used as an introduction; note my addition of M1’s count down using the vocoder setting on a MicroKORG, if I may be so bold.  The song sets the stage as five astronauts and a robot head to the planet Nomis, on the edge of a black hole.  The captain Jonas notices Maria, whom they knew in the Academy...  “Who You Callin’ Bitch” is not used in the third draft, so we are going directly into “You Won’t Get With Me Tonight”, the channels swapped to match the panning of “Blast Off!”.  Next is “Oh Jonas/Come To My Pod” from Alone II, in which Maria seduces Jonas; “Please Remember” is excluded, as it was dropped from the third draft of the script.  This follows directly into the early version of “Tired of Sex” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, in which Jonas regrets his decision to hook up with Maria; note that “Oh No This Is Not For Me”  is excluded as it was dropped from the third draft of the script, with Rivers noting “Come To My Pod” should flow into the feedback intro of “Tired of Sex.”  

Act 1, Scene 2 begins with Jonas confiding to Laurel about his dissatisfaction with his relationship with Maria on “Superfriend” from Alone.  They realize they both like each other and hook up themselves in “You Gave Your Love To Me Softly” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Maria comes to Jonas’s pod (room) to tell him she’s pregnant with his child, but instead hears him fooling around with Laurel!  The unrecorded “Oh Jonas (I Hear You)” acts as a link to “Waiting On You” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, sung by Maria.  The three then confront each other in the unrecorded “She’s a Liar”, which I presume is a reworking of “Please Remember.”  Choosing to leave Laurel for his fatherly duties with Maria, Jonas laments his situation in “Tragic Girl”, from the Pinkerton Deluxe; note it is likely that the actual SFTBH version of “Tragic Girl” would have had a fairly different set of lyrics, but here we will use the glorious studio version, still somewhat relevant.  

Act 1, Scene 2 features a time jump, where Jonas and Maria’s daughter is born to Jonas’s lamentation in “She’s Had a Girl” from Alone III.  Wuan and Dondo announce the ship has finally arrived to Nomis in “Dude, We’re Finally Landing” from Alone I, followed by Jonas’s epiphany that he does want Laurel in “Now I Finally See” from Alone III.  Of course Laurel rejects him in the early version of “Getchoo” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, although she immediately regrets her decision in “I Just Threw Out The Love of My Dreams”-- the only SFTBH song to actually feature Rachel Haden singing her character.

Act 2, Scene 2 sees Jonas resolving to be with Maria in “No Other One” from the Pinkerton Deluxe, followed by the unrecorded “Touch Down!”, clearly a musical reprise of “Blast Off!”  While Wuan, Dondo and M1 investigate the planet Nomis, Jonas finally pledges his love for Maria in “Devotion” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Unfortunately, he sees a used condom in her pod, as heard in “What Is This I Find” from Alone III!  Jonas is ultimately defeated by both Maria and Laurel and claims “Why Bother?” from the Pinkerton Deluxe.  Meanwhile on the planet surface, the crew find a prerecorded message on an unmanned satellite (which was supposed to be voiced by Mike Stanton) explaining that the crew’s entire mission was simply a reality-based TV show; this would have been featured in the unrecorded song “Special Thanks”, which Rivers described as a Sonic Youth-type of noise jam.  Mike explains that while there was no actual mission, there is an actual immediate danger as Nomis is about to be sucked into a black hole.  Luckily, there are five transports to carry the five human crew members to safety (sorry M1).  With the realization that with his new baby, they are one transport short and someone must stay behind, Jonas sacrifices his life for his daughter by giving his transport to her.  This is explained in the unrecorded “I Don’t Belong” and I have extrapolated the lyrics to this, based upon the melody of “Now I Finally See.”  As Jonas watches the crew escape, he awaits his eminent death by singularity.  Jonas then realizes that neither the love of Maria nor Laurel mattered, but only his love for his own daughter, and he sings “Longtime Sunshine” from the Pinkerton Deluxe as the planet is destroyed.  

Sources used:
Rivers Cuomo – Alone: The Home Demos of Rivers Cuomo (2007)
Rivers Cuomo – Alone II: The Home Demos of Rivers Cuomo (2008)
Rivers Cuomo – Alone III: The Pinkerton Years (2010)
Weezer – Pinkerton (deluxe edition, 2010)

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Beatles - Instant Karma! UPGRADE

The Beatles – Instant Karma!
(a soniclovenoize reimagining)
August 2021 UPGRADE

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

Alright, you asked for it, you got it!  This is an UPGRADE of the first in a series of album re-imaginings that proposes “What if The Beatles didn’t break up?”  This first volume—Instant Karma!would have theoretically been released late 1970, and was intentionally raw and stripped down.  This upgrade notably uses the brand new All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary remix as the source for George’s tracks, as well as the 50th Anniversary remixes of Plastic Ono Band for Lennon’s.  In doing so, John’s songs sound slightly more polished and George’s songs sound slightly less polished, somehow meeting Paul in the middle.  I have also thrown in a couple more surprises as well...   Maybe you can find them?  

To restate once again, the “rules” of these 70s Beatles albums are:
1)  One album is represented per year, culled from tracks each Beatle recorded that year; the only exception is All Things Must Pass is split over 1970 & 1971, and Living In The Material World is split over 1972 & 1973.   
2)  Generally speaking, to include five Lennon songs, five McCartney songs, three Harrison songs and one Ringo song; there might be some deviance to this rule depending on availability per year.
3)  The chosen songs must be Beatle-esque in nature; we will attempt to avoid the idiosyncratic musical tangents each Beatle pursued in the 70s and vie for the solo songs that would have been most likely recorded by The Beatles (i.e. not vetoed by the rest of the band).
4)  The songs must flow together and make a unified album that shares a specific tone. 


Note that a suspension of disbelief is required to fully enjoy these 70s Beatles albums, and I encourage listeners to imagine what each Beatles would have contributed to each other’s songs, had they actually made these albums together.  

My original album notes from 2012:

This reconstruction—or reimagining, as I’m calling it—asks the question that I think we’ve all asked at one point or another: What if The Beatles didn't break up?  This theoretical album attempts to cull the best of The Beatles solo material from 1970 alone to create what could have been the band’s follow-up to Abbey Road (or depending on how you look at it, Let It Be).  The songs were carefully chosen to create a unified and cohesive album that would best carry on ‘The Beatles torch’ while still retaining each of the members’ diverging interests.  The best and least brickwalled/clipping remasters were chosen for source material, volume levels adjusted for song-to-song balance and all songs are tightly book-ended to make a continuous two sides of music.  

The result—an album I call Instant Karma!—is a somber, introspective album, full of contradicting stripped-down John & Paul songs juxtaposed with the massively-produced George & Ringo songs.  Sonically, it lies somewhere between The White Album in its stark contrasts and Abbey Road with its epic majesty.  All of the songs are from different perspectives, yet hint at the same thing: a desire for understanding the essences of basic human nature and the quest for the soul itself.  If I may dare, the songs seem to create a particular narrative: the members of the band themselves engaging in their own dialog with themselves, repairing the bond between them that had slipped over the previous 4 years.

So sit back and imagine, if you will, an alternate timeline…  That sometime in 1970: The Beatles fired Allen Klein and somehow came upon an agreement of how to run Apple Records, allowing the band members to separate the music from the business, the chief destruction of the band being averted; with the success of “Here Comes The Sun” and “Something” and an amazing back-catalog of unused and new songs, George successfully campaigns for an equal share of his own songs to be featured alongside the Lennon/McCartney originals (with the compromise that Linda and Yoko are allowed in the Beatles' inner circle if need be); pleased with Phil Spector’s work remixing Let It Be, The Beatles opt to have him produce the bulk of their recordings throughout the 1970s (despite McCartney’s reluctance); John agrees but wants to elaborate on the stripped-down and live-band-sounding arrangements, as revisited in the Get Back sessions from the previous year, but at least for his own compositions written from his Primal Scream therapy sessions; Ringo was, as always, just happy to be there.

Instant Karma! is released to critical and commercial success in late 1970, re-establishing The Beatles as a dominant musical force in the 1970s.  Three hit singles were released from this album in 1970 and early 1971: “Instant Karma!” b/w the non-album B-side “That Would Be Something”, “Maybe I’m Amazed” b/w the non-album B-side “Apple Scruffs” and “My Sweet Lord” b/w the non-album B-side “Well Well Well”.  The success of Instant Karma! gave a new confidence to the band that was so close to breaking up, especially with a new producer, a stronger leading-role for their lead guitarist as a songwriter and the band's uncertainty of relevance in a new decade.  Regrouping in the summer of 1971 with a new set of songs and a new sense of unity, The Beatles attempt to record their second album of the 1970s.  Can you... imagine?

Sources used:

All Things Must Pass (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (2021 50th Anniversary remaster)
McCartney (2011 remaster)
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

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band - It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (UPGRADE)


Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band – 

It Comes To You In a Plain Brown Wrapper

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)


Disc 1 – Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Side A:
1. Safe as Milk
2. Big Black Baby Shoes
3. Moody Liz
4. Trust Us

Side B:
5. On Tomorrow
6. Dirty Blue Gene
7. Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones
8. Gimme Dat Harp Boy
9. Kandy Korn

Disc 2 – The Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers
Side A:
1. Mirror Man
2. 25th Century Quakers

Side B:
3. Korn Ring Finger
4. Tarotplane

Happy May Day! To celebrate, here’s a long-overdue upgrade to one of my favorite albums that never were. This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1968 double-album It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. Originally scrapped with half of the material re-recorded and infamously “psychedelicized” for the album Strictly Personal with the other half released as 1972’s Mirror Man, this reconstruction attempts to cull all the originally intended material for the double album that was supposed to be their sophomore release, more successfully bridging the gap between 1967’s Safe As Milk and 1969’s Trout Mask Replica. This upgraded version attempts to follow drummer John “Drumbo” French’s recollections of what Captain Beefheart actually intended with the album, organizing the composed material on Disc One and the improvised material on Disc Two. I have created unique edits of the improvised material in order to fit on a theoretical vinyl record, and have edited the composed songs in Disc One as per French’s notes on how they should have ended. Additionally, I have synced the isolated vocal from the Strictly Personal version of “On Tomorrow” with the instrumental Plain Brown Wrapper version, creating a 'finished' recording.

After a prominent rise of notoriety upon the release of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s psychedelic-blues debut Safe As Milk in 1967, the group stood at a crossroads of how to proceed: continue being a cutting edge cult act or expanding their horizons? After a disastrous warm-up performance for their scheduled 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, it seemed that breakthrough success would elude the riotous bunch. To make matters worse, Don Van Vliet’s band had been damaged by lineup changes due to members who had had enough of The Captain’s drug hallucinations, erratic behavior and alleged emotional abuse. Prodigal guitarist Ry Cooder vacated to be replaced briefly by Gerry McGee, who was in turn replaced by Jeff Cotton.

Despite the troubled waters, Vliet reunited with a Magic Band that consisted of Cotton, Alex St. Clair Snouffer, Jerry Handley and John French in the November of 1967 to record their follow-up to Safe As Milk at TTG Studios in Los Angels. The band had spent months writing and rehearsing new material, which they tackled in the studio: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy”, “Kandy Korn”, “Big Black Baby Shoes”, “Flower Pot”, “Dirty Blue Gene” and “Moody Liz”. The new material was more intricate and abstract as compared to the Blues-based Safe as Milk, yet often retaining a melodic sensibility for the possibility of mainstream airplay; “Trust Us” was specifically earmarked for the lead single for the new record.

But expectations were even higher than this impressive collection of songs, as Vliet intended their sophomore album to be a conceptual double-record: The first disc would contain the aforementioned “composed” works, and be credited to Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band; a second disc of improvisational jams would constitute the second disc, credited to their alter-egos the Twenty-Fifth Century Quakers, who were essentially “opening” for Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band. The album was to be called It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper, in reference to an ambiguous parcel containing either narcotics, drug paraphernalia or possibly pornography. The cover art was to feature exactly that as well, a plain brown wrapper marked ‘strictly personal’, with both records addressed from one band to the other. There was even a photo shoot with the band dressed as Quakers!

Producer Robert Krasnow ran tape as the Captain and His Magic Band soldered through a number of live improvisations-- “Taroplane”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Mirror Man” and “Korn Ring Finger” – which Drumbo French thought were disorganized due to Vliet being unable to conduct the unprepared band properly, as he was contained in a vocal booth. After tracking more than a double album’s worth of material in total, the sessions were paused for a European tour, leaving only six of the ten composed songs with vocals. The band never returned to the TTG Session recordings, forever leaving these tracks unfinished. No reason was ever given for the session’s halt, but it has been suggested that their label Buddha Records had pulled the plug out of disinterest. Interestingly enough, due to Buddha Records misfiling of the band’s contract, Captain Beefheart and company were free to sign to a different label by the Spring of 1968. The very next day, Krasnow and the band entered Sunset Sound Studios to rerecord a single-LP version of the album on Krasnow’s own Blue Thump label.

Recorded in April and May of 1968, Don & his crew recut the more ”commercial” tracks from the November 1967 sessions at a much more abbreviated length: “Safe as Milk”, “Trust Us”, “Mirror Man” (cut from the original 15 minutes down to 5!), “On Tomorrow”, “Beatle Bones ‘n; Smokin’ Stones, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, as well as a new improvisation called "Ah Feel Like Ahcid." In a move that angered Beefheart fans for ages, Krasnow allegedly took the liberty himself to overdub numerous faux-psychedelic effects onto the newly-recorded album, even completely burying the mixes under unlistenable phasing. The resulting released album—Strictly Personal—was a commercial disaster and The Captain disowned the album, claiming the effects were added without his permission. Some speculate that was untrue and Vliet had given his approval only to later turn on the album after its failure. Either way, this folly of questionable truth is just simply a part of the Captain Beefheart mythos-- as was everything else!

After the critical success of the seminal experimental and Frank Zappa-produced rock album Trout Mask Replica (not to mention its respectable follow-up Lick My Decals Off Baby), Buddha Records wished to capitalize on Captain Beefheart’s renewed cult status and artistic credibility. Going back to the original November 1967 Plain Brown Wrapper tapes, they compiled a single-disc of material, primarily focusing on the extended live improvisations. 1971’s Mirror Man included “Tarotplane”, “Kandy Korn”, “25th Century Quaker” and “Mirror Man” and showed the world (or at least the few who were listening) what Strictly Personal was supposed to sound like, to some extent. But wasn't without its own short comings: not only was it merely half of the original Plain Brown Wrapper album, but it featured anachronistic cover art, improper musician credits and Buddha falsely claimed the album was recorded in one night in 1965!

Beyond the Mirror Man LP, the TTG Sessions remained unheard, although “Big Black Baby Shoes” was rerecorded as “Ice Rose” for 1978’s Shiny Beast and “Dirty Blue Gene” was rerecorded for Doc At The Radar Station in 1980. Years passed before fans were able to piece together the actual Plain Brown Wrapper album, beginning with questionably-legal British import I May Be Hungry But I Ain’t Weird in 1992. Suffering from the same fate as other early Captain Beefheart CD reissues of poor mastering and use of inferior mastertapes, it wasn’t until 1999 when Buddha Records released The Mirror Man Sessions, essentially a properly-mastered Mirror Man with five outtakes from the Plain Brown Wrapper sessions included as bonus tracks; seven more TTG outtakes were included as bonus tracks on the 1999 remaster of Safe As Milk. Finally, Sundazed Records collected all the non-Mirror Man outtakes and one more additional track in their own vinyl-only 2008 reconstruction of It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper (which made no attempt to literally reconstruct the lost album).

While all the pieces are now available to recreate It Comes to You in a Plain Brown Wrapper, we still have the task to wrap it all up as one. While my previous reconstruction featured a mix of the composed and improvised selections evenly spread across the four theoretical LP sides, here we will follow what drummer John French has said he believed the album would have been structured, according to conversations he’d had with The Captain himself! This will include making my own unique edits of the four improvisational pieces (“Mirror Man”, “25th Century Quaker”, “Korn Ring Finger” and “Tarotplane”) so that they will fit on a 40-minute vinyl record. The remaining songs will be sequenced as French suggested (beginning with “Safe as Milk" and ending with “Kandy Korn”), using the songs’ officially-released versions as a template of when the tracks should end (as most of the TTG Sessions simply did not have proper endings), as well as French’s own comments about when songs should have ended. Finally, Side B will be structured to emulate the Side B of Strictly Personal, just for fun!

For the Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band disc, side A begins with Take 5 of “Safe as Milk”, a bonus track found on the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, faded out just before the 4-minute mark; French had said he believed Vliet wanted to begin the album with “Safe as Milk”, to make a sort of continuity from the previous album. Following is “Big Black Baby Shoes” from the 1999 Safe as Milk reissue, edited to match the Shiny Beast rerecording. Next is “Moody Liz” from The Mirror Man Sessions, with the side closing with Take 9 of “Trust Us” from the Safe as Milk reissue, but faded out after the drum crescendo, as suggested by French. Side B attempts to replicate a non-psychedelicized Strictly Personal, as it opens with “On Tomorrow” but with the isolated vocals from the Strictly Personal recording synced to the TTG version from the Safe as Milk remaster. Next is “Dirty Blue Gene” again from the Safe as Milk reissue, followed by “Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smokin’ Stones”, “Gimme Dat Harp Boy” and “Kandy Korn”, all taken from The Mirror Man Sessions.

For the Twenty-Fifth Century Quaker disc, Side C begins with “Mirror Man” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 15:46 to an even 13:00. This is followed by “25th Century Quaker” also from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 9:50 to 7:36. Side D opens with the hypnotic “Korn Ring Finger”, presented in it’s full 6:47 length as heard on the Safe as Milk remaster. The album closes with the epic “Tarotplane” from The Mirror Man Sessions, edited down from 19:08 to a reasonable 14:04.

Sources used:
The Mirror Man Sessions (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Safe as Milk (1999 Buddha Records CD remaster)
Strictly Personal (1994 Liberty Records CD remaster)

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