Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Beach Boys - SMiLE (UPGRADE)

The Beach Boys - SMiLE

(soniclovenoize Stereo 1967 / BWPS Mix)


Disc 1 – 1967 Stereo Mix

Side A:

1.  Our Prayer / Heroes and Villains

2.  Vege-Tables

3.  Do You Like Worms?

4.  Child is Father of The Man

5.  The Old Master Painter

6.  Cabin Essence

Side B:

7.  Good Vibrations

8.  Wonderful

9.  I’m in Great Shape

10.  Wind Chimes

11.  The Elements

12.  Surf’s Up

Disc 2 – BWPS Stereo Mix

Movement 1:

1.  Our Prayer / Gee

2.  Heroes and Villains

3.  Roll Plymouth Rock

4.  Barnyard

5.  The Old Master Painter / You Were My Sunshine

6.  Cabin Essence

Movement 2:

7.  Wonderful

8.  Song For Children

9.  Child is Father of The Man

10.  Surf’s Up

Movement 3:

11.  I’m in Great Shape / I Wanna Be Around / Workshop

12.  Vege-Tables

13.  On a Holiday

14.  Wind Chimes

15.  Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow

16.  In Blue Hawaii

17.  Good Vibrations

Happy Easter!  And what did the Easter Bunny bring you?  How about an upgrade to my stereo SMiLE mixes!  While my personal SMiLE interest was re-piqued in 2022 with my divisive Hitsville Mix, the common response was “Um, great… but what about an upgrade to your 1967 Mix, or your BWPS Mix?  I liked those…”  Well, I guess you were right, as the novelty wore off and I eventually circled back to my personal favorite– my original 1967 Mix… with some very minor changes influenced by the Hitsville Mix.  

As always, the premise of my 1967 Mix is “What would SMiLE have actually sounded like in 1967?”  Over the course of the last 50 years or so, many historical revisions and inaccurate assumptions have sort of twisted what I believe the original intent of the album actually was; this is absolutely fine, as it has been observed that SMiLE unintentionally became the world’s first listener-interactive album, in that it is up to you to finish it, using various mixes and sources.  Even the eventual Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE (BWPS) is more of Darian Sahanaja’s mix with the benefit of Brian Wilson actually fronting it!  But being the intentionalist I am, we will try to go to the source: what would this monster of an album sound like in its original incarnation?  

Well, the fact is that we will never know; SMiLE was never completed, and its author simply could not decide how it should be put together at the time of its creation.  We can, however, look at the probability of what it would have sounded like, based upon testimony of principal participants, Brian Wilson’s own rough mixes and studio documentation.  I have previously and exhaustively covered these specifics, so I am only going to very quickly gloss over them here.  But generally speaking:

  1. This “authentic” SMiLE will exist “simply” as a standard twelve-song album.  The twelve individual songs (excluding “Our Prayer”, functioning as the album’s introduction) are not crossfaded or presented as a medley.  However, we are generally losing the two-second leader time between tracks, much as how Sgt Pepper was presented.  

  2. The twelves specific songs are as listed on the January 1967 letter to Capitol Records from the band's own hand, although not necessarily in that specific order (see label for correct playing order).  The song order itself creates two 20-minute sides each,   sandwiched by the hit singles beginning the sides and the epic songs closing the sides.  There is no overarching concept, as originally suggested by Dominic Priore in the 1980s.  

  3. The construction of those twelve songs is generally dictated by Brain Wilson’s own blueprint, as heard in his own 1966/1967 rough mix assemblages.  If a rough mix assemblage does not exist for a song, we will construct it in a similar fashion as the others to create a cohesive whole, or postulate what it would sound like based upon information available.  

One new revision from my previous 1967 Mix is my intentional exclusion of post-1967-recorded material.  With a cue taken by my previous Hitsville Mix, we will use recordings dating from just after the conclusion of the SMiLE sessions (“Whispering Winds”, “Water chant”, etc) in order to present a more complete SMiLE.  We will NOT, however, use any audio dating past the 1971 Surf’s Up sessions, especially NOT anything “flown” in from 2004 Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE.  Also, we will NOT be using AI-created Brian Wilson-emulated vocals to complete unsung verses; while I appreciate the technology and am not specifically against it, I chose to leave these recordings as complete as they were by 1971, for better or for worse.  This exercise is meant to see how complete a SMiLE could be using only vintage Beach Boys recordings.  

One final note: If this was released in 1967, yes, it would have been in mono only.  But I have always thought SMiLE was especially adaptable in the stereo format, as one is able to more easily appreciate its sonic treasures.  So since it is now possible to make a completely stereo SMiLE, well, we will!  

Side A begins with the stereo mix of “Our Prayer” found on Made In California, as an unlisted opening to the album.  This is followed by my complete stereo mix of the February 1967 “Heroes and Villains” (aka The Cantina Version), as blueprinted by the man himself, before he lost the SMiLE plot.  This is followed by “Vege-Tables”, which is the same mix as from my Hitsville Mix–a completely stereo version of Mark Linnet’s 1993 mix.  Next is “Do You Like Worms”, similar to my previous Hitsville Mix but with the Bicycle Rider theme panned from right to left, representing Western Expansionism.  A slightly improved mix of “Child is Father of The Man” is next, which follows Brian’s three-minute rough mix structure.  My Histville stereo mix of “The Old Master Painter” follows, but using the remade “Heroes and Villains” Fade, as the Barnshine Fade was already used in “Heroes and Villains” proper.  The side closes with my Hitsville stereo mix of “Cabin Essence”, but with a longer fade-out.  

Side B starts with “Good Vibrations”, using the fantastic 2022 stereo mix from Sounds of Summer as a base, but with the slightly longer fade.  Next is a new and improved stereo mix of “Wonderful”, with the lead vocal and bass centered, harpsichord panned left and backing vocals panned right!  Following is a new stereo mix of “I’m In Great Shape” with a better sync of the vocal and backing track, and my Hitsville stereo mix of “Wind Chimes” which follows Brian’s 1966 rough assemblages.  

“The Elements” has always been the most divisive track on SMiLE, but here I used the same construction as featured on my HItsville Mix, which ended up being the closest to what I imagined a vintage “The Elements” to actually sound like: each element is represented by one simple, repeated musical motif–here “Barnyard”, “Whispering Winds”, “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” and “Water Chant”--not already heard on the album.  Although I regret that the four segments do not follow their natural order, this is the most logical order in a musical and dynamic sense.  Note that this is a new stereo mix of “Barnyard” which features centered vocals and bass, backing vocals panned to the right and the rest of the backing track panned left.  Concluding is a new stereo mix of “Surf’s Up” featuring the lead vocal by Brian.  

While I personally do not enjoy the BWPS construction of this material, I recognize that many do, and feel it is THE version of SMiLE.  That is completely fine, so I am including an all-stereo reconstruction of the BWPS sequence as the second disc of this set.  I put great care into trying, to the best of my capabilities and materials at hand, to replicate that specific sequence as heard on Brian Wilson’s solo 2004 album–measure to measure!  All tracks are crossfaded and hard edited into each other, making three continuous Movements, as per BWPS.  Note that there were several interstitial orchestral pieces arranged by Darian Sahanaja that simply do not exist as a Beach Boys equivalent, and in those cases I had to substitute different or similar vintage recording.  Also, like the 1967 Mix, I am not using any modern fly-ins or AI-sung completions.  

Sources used:

Feel Flows (2021 CD box set)

Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (1993 CD box set)

Made in California (2013 CD box set)

The SMiLE Sessions (2011 CD box set)

Smiley Smile (2012 CD remix/remaster)

Sounds of Summer (2022 deluxe edition)

Sunshine Tomorrow (2017 CD)

Unsurpassed Masters Vol 16 (1999 bootleg CD)

Unsurpassed Masters Vol 17 (2000 bootleg CD)




Friday, March 1, 2024

Nazz - Fungo Bat


Nazz - Fungo Bat

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:

1.  Forget All About It

2.  Only One Winner

3.  Magic Me

4.  Gonna Cry Today

5.  Meridian Leeward

6.  Under The Ice

Side B:

7.  Some People

8.  Rain Rider

9.  Resolution

10.  Old Time Love-Making

11.  Featherbedding Lover

12.  Take The Hand

13.  How Can You Call That Beautiful

Side C:

1.  Loosen Up

2.  Sing You A Song/Good Lovin’ Woman/Sing You A Song (Reprise)

3.  It’s Not That Easy

4.  Plenty of Lovin’

5.  Letters Don’t Count

6.  Kiddie Boy

7.  Christopher Columbus

Side D:

8.  Hang On Paul

9.  Not Wrong Long

10.  You Are My Window

11.  A Beautiful Song

A leap-year post seems appropriate for this album that never was!  This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1969 Nazz double-album Fungo Bat.  Recorded amidst the actual disintegration of the band, the album was paired down to the single-album release of Nazz Nazz, with the remaining material seeing the light of day as the posthumous Nazz III in 1971.  This reconstruction those two albums and attempts to present what a finished Fungo Bat would have sounded like, using Todd Rundgren’s personal acetates as a blueprint.  I’ve also personally remastered the tracks to not only function as a cohesive whole, but to be a more listenable album with a more balanced high-end and more articulated low end, what I perceived as sonic limitations of the original album.  

Philadelphia hometown kids making good, teenaged garage-rockers Nazz miraculously scored a record deal with Colgems and some high-profile gigs opening for such luminaries The Doors and The Bee Gees.  Although stifled by performance venues for being underage, the quartet was also marketed as a heavier alternative for teeny-boppers and scored their first hits in 1968 with “Open My Eyes” and “Hello It’s Me”, penned by their prodigal guitarist: one Mr. Todd Rundgren.  Being simultaneously influenced by the electric Blues of the British Invasion, yet also distinctly (and curtly) American, Nazz seemed to have a fast and high trajectory behind their self-titled debut, effortlessly courting Garage Rock and shades of Psychedelia and creating the template for Power Pop.  But some things were just simply not meant to last, as the cracks in the band began to show upon the sessions for the sophomore album.  

Taking cue from the newly-released Beatles The White Album, Rundgren planned Nazz’s follow-up also as a double-album of newly composed songs.  Additionally, much of the material was ballad-heavy, influenced by his current obsession with keyboardist Laura Nyro– much to the chagrin of the rest of the band, who just wanted to rock!  While on tour in Europe in January 1969, Nazz booked studio time at Trident Studios to start tracking the album.  With one song in, the British Musicians Union immediately shut the four 19-year old Americans down and ejected them from the studio.  

Returning to their home base of ID Sound Studios in Hollywood with The Electric Prunes’ James Lowe behind the board, the quarter restarted sessions for the double album, with the intention of self-producing the album entirely.  Political divisions between the band members further hampered progress– a Rundgren resolved to refine his vision of the sprawling double album by secretly replacing singer/keyboardist Stewkey’s organ parts with session musicians, and a Stewkey who outright refused to sing on Rundgren’s pop ballads that, to him, sounded more like solo efforts.  

Stewkey and drummer Thom Mooney pleaded with their label to intervene with the as-yet unnamed double album (although the inside-joke “Fungo Bat” had been used to designate recordings meant for the album, it was not actually meant as the album title proper, contrary to general belief!).  Colgems Records put the hammer down on Rundgren and made the executive decision to trim the double album down to a single LP length, claiming it too pretentious for such a new band to release such a mountain of material as their second-ever release.  Rundgren acquiesced and the “Fungo Bat” material was reduced to a single LP of the most band-oriented songs and released as Nazz Nazz in April 1969… but not before the outright resignation of bassist Carson Van Osten, who had tired of the band drama.  

After a handful of replacement bassists and several gigs to support Nazz Nazz, Rundgren, too, tired of the drama–or probably what he considered artistic compromises in his burgeoning solo career–and quit the band as well.  Stewky and Mooney continued until 1970 as a trio and with fill-in musicians, only to officially call it quits shortly thereafter.  But record labels being record labels, Colgems wouldn’t let it rest and went searching for the remaining, partially unfinished leftovers from Nazz Nazz.  Still in possession by Mooney, he reunited with Stewkey and Lowe to finish the material, which was ill-advised by the pair yet ultimately released as Nazz III in May 1971, leaving a most puzzling epitaph to a short-lived band.  But is it possible to take a second swing at Fungo Bat, to hear the album Todd Rundgren originally wanted to release?

Luckily, a set of extremely rare production acetates have survived over the years, which blueprinted  Rundgren’s vision of how the 24 songs were to be constructed.  Those rough-ish mono acetates were only recently released in December 2022, demonstrating that the Rundgren-helmed Nazz had actually intended to create a fairly impressive double album that covers a majority of the pop landscape in 1969, and even veers into Progressive Rock territory!  For this reconstruction, we will use the aforementioned acetates as merely a guidepost, and combine the final Nazz Nazz and Nazz III albums into a more-or-less finished Nazz Nazz double-LP as Rundgred envisioned; this includes Stewkey’s 1970-overdubbed vocal versions rather than Rundgren’s original guide vocals, as they sound more complete and, well, finished.  Although the record has also been recently corrected that the material was never intended to be named “Fungo Bat”, we will use this title regardless in the name of historical continuity of music nerdity.  

It is also of note, that I have extensively re-EQed this album, as I thought this was a really great double-album ruined by very curious ear-piercing equalization choices.  In trying to make a more listenable master, I have significantly calmed down the high end– specicily 3dB cuts at 1kHz, 2kHz and 5kHz, with some songs even receiving an additional cut at 3kHz.  Conversely, there was a severe lack of low end on this album, so I have added some bottom to it as well.  It is conceivable that I have eliminated some of this album’s charm; to them, I say you are free to listen to the originals at any time.  

Side A opens with the fantastic “Forget About It All” from Nazz Nazz, which hard-edits into the Stewky-vocal version of “Only One Winner” from Nazz III, as demonstrated on Rundgren’s acetates.  This is again hard-edited into “Magic Me” from Nazz III, also as mapped out on Rundgren’s acetates.  This is followed by the killer trio of “Gonna Cry Today”, “Meridian Leeward” and “Under The Ice” from Nazz Nazz.  Side B opens with Nazz III’s “Some People”, followed by Nazz Nazz’s “Rain Rider”.  This is followed by the superior Stewkey-vocal version of “Resolution” and “Old Time Love-Making” from Nazz III, “Featherbedding Lover” from Nazz Nazz, and the record concluding with the Stewkey-sung versions of “Take The Hand” and “How Can You Call That Beautiful”.

Side C goes a bit down the rabbit hole, opening with the banter of “Loosen Up” and the chatter of “Sing You A Song”; note that although Rundgren’s acetates contain the entire four minutes of the “Good Lovin’ Woman” interlude, but I am only using the 40 seconds of it as heard in the bonus track from The Fungo Bat Sessions– and we are all better off for that!  This is followed by the Stewkey-sung versions of “It’s Not That Easy” and “Plenty of Lovin” from Nazz III.  Next is “Letters Don’t Count” and “Kiddie Boy” from Nazz Nazz and the highlight of the album, “Christopher Columbus” from Nazz III.   Side D opens with the manic psyche-pop of “Hang On Paul” and “Not Wrong Long” from Nazz Nazz, followed by “You Are My Window” from Nazz II and “A Beautiful Song” from Nazz Nazz, crossfaded as originally intended to become one 17-minute epic album closer.  

Sources used:

Nazz - Nazz Nazz including Nazz III - The Fungo Bat Sessions (2006 Sanctuary Records)