One of my ultimate summer albums

61Ab-td5fbL

Used to illustrate the subject; use consistent with fair use doctrine

Released 14 August 1971 (and now 45 years old), Who’s Next is widely considered The Who’s most quintessential album. It’s one of the most ideal starting places for a new fan or someone interested in getting to know the band beyond the 5–10 tracks in rotation on most classic rock stations. This is one of those things which deserves the massive amounts of hype, instead of being more hype than substance.

WN started life as Pete’s very ambitious magnum opus Lifehouse, a rock opera which he’s kept coming back to over all these years. So many songs and themes from Lifehouse have been recycled or resurrected in both his solo and band albums. Though Lifehouse itself has never properly been completed, its story is familiar to longtime fans thanks to songs and dialogues Pete used in other projects.

WN came into my life on Halloween 2000 (the same day I bought The White Album), at an Amherst music store which I don’t think is in business anymore (or else moved). I only went to that store every so often, since they had a lot more CDs than vinyl, and typically charged more than Newbury Comics and Mystery Train Records.

Though The Who were always best as a live band, this album shows they could be just as good in the studio. It’s awesome hard rock, showcasing them at their prime. There’s a reason so many folks recommend this album above all others to potential new fans, because it contains everything awesome about The Who. It’s that quintessentially perfect album against which all others in their catalogue are judged, for better or worse.

Track listing, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Baba O’Riley”
“Bargain”
“Love Ain’t for Keeping”
“My Wife” (one of John’s signature songs)
“The Song Is Over” (so lush and beautiful)
“Getting in Tune”
“Going Mobile” (a song I didn’t really like or appreciate till I finally had a car and knew how to drive!)
“Behind Blue Eyes” (super overplayed!)
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” (also very overplayed, but never gets old)
“Pure and Easy”*
“Baby Don’t You Do It”*
“Naked Eye”* (live at the Young Vic Theatre)
“Water”* (Live at Young Vic)
“Too Much of Anything”*
“I Don’t Even Know Myself”*
“Behind Blue Eyes”* (original version)

In 2003, a 2-disc deluxe edition was released, though I haven’t bought it yet. The first disc contains the original first nine tracks, plus six outtakes. The second disc is a 26 April 1971 show from the Young Vic.

I love playing this album in the car stereo when it’s boiling hot outside. It’s such a perfect hot weather album, just like Live at Leeds, and begging to be cranked up. It’s also one of those albums where every time is like the first time all over again, taking me back to those special moments when I first heard each of the songs.

Advertisements

How to create a knockout début album

Duran1st

Copyright EMI; used solely to illustrate the subject in the context of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine. I unfortunately only have the 1983 American repackaging of this LP (which doesn’t have the same cover art), and thus can’t take a picture of my own album to showcase the cover art.

Some of my readers might remember 10 August is Duran Duran Appreciation Day (a totally real holiday). This year, I decided to review the band’s incredible début album (which is now 35 years old) on Monday, and on the actual holiday, I’ll finally be sharing my story of how this proud classic rock and pop fan ended up becoming a Duranie at the age of 31. I can’t believe this year makes it five years I’ve been a fan already!

Released 15 June 1981, this eponymous début was initially only a success in the U.K. It was released in the U.S. with some modifications (“To the Shore” got the chop, and the Night Version of “Planet Earth” was used instead of the single version), but it wasn’t a success. Meanwhile, back in the U.K., the album reached #3, and spent 117 weeks in the Top 100.

Following the band’s U.S. success with their awesome sophomore album Rio, their début was released again in 1983, with the current single “Is There Something I Should Know?” substituted for “To the Shore.” This time, it reached #10, and stayed on the Billboard 200 for 87 weeks.

IMG_0206

Thanks to Spotify, I now have access to the deluxe 2010 reissue, with tons of awesome bonus tracks. I’ll always be a vinyl person, but I can’t complain about MP3 music when it’s free and it has so much extra content!

 Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Girls on Film” (their Top 10 breakthrough in the U.K., and a #5)
“Planet Earth” (their début single, reaching #12)
“Anyone Out There” (kind of reminds me, thematically, of The Beatles’ “No Reply”)
“To the Shore” (such a gorgeous, underrated song!)
“Careless Memories” (their second U.K. single, released 20 April 1981, but a relative flop at #37)
“Night Boat” (a song I hated at first, since the video is really weird even by my standards)
“Sound of Thunder”
“Friends of Mine”
“Tel Aviv” (instrumental)
“Late Bar”* (the B-side of “Planet Earth”)
“Khanada”* (The B-side of “Careless Memories,” and the name of my current journal. It’s pronounced Ka-NAY-da, not like the name of the country.)
“Fame”* (originally done by David Bowie)
“Faster Than Light”* (the B-side of “Girls on Film”)
“Girls on Film” (Air Studio version)*
“Tel Aviv” (Air Studio version, with lyrics. It’s a completely different song from the instrumental, not just because this one has lyrics.)*
“Anyone Out There” (Manchester Square Demo version)*
“Planet Earth” (Manchester Square Demo version)*
“Friends of Mine” (Manchester Square Demo version)*
“Late Bar” (Manchester Square Demo version)*
“Night Boat” (BBC Radio 1 Peter Powell session)*
“Like an Angel” (BBC Radio 1 Peter Powell session)*
“Planet Earth” (Night Version)*
“Girls on Film” (extended Night Version)*
“Planet Earth” (Night Mix)*
“Girls on Film” (Night Mix)*

A Night Version is an extended dance remix, intended to be played in a nightclub. They’re basically longer versions of the songs with more instrumental breaks.

The album was recorded in December 1980. It was difficult to keep recording after getting the news of John Lennon’s murder, but they pressed on to complete the album.

It’s been said women tend to prefer Rio, while men tend to prefer the début album. Originally, I preferred the poppier Rio, but now I’ve switched and prefer the rockier sound of their début. I also like the darker tone to Simon’s voice on this album; as it was pointed out in a blog post on The Daily Duranie awhile ago, most of the rest of the band’s songs were written in a higher register than his natural key. Those songs are awesome and make his voice very recognisable, but I wish he would’ve stayed with this key for more songs.

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to this album as a writing soundtrack! It’s just so atmospheric and insistent. It’s a 5-star album, no question.

My lace anniversary with ATMP

I’d planned to review and discuss Who’s Next (which turns 45 this year) for Friday’s post, but then I remembered 1 July is my anniversary with the one and only All Things Must Pass. I need no excuse to talk about such a special, special, special album or how much George’s music means to me!

When I was younger, my parents played ATMP on tapes in the car on a fairly regular basis, but I can’t recall if I ever heard it all the way through until 1 July 2003. I do remember my mother saying she particularly loved “If Not for You.”

This album is so, so special, beautiful, moving, and amazing. This is one of those quintessentially perfect albums like Plastic Ono Band, Colour by Numbers, Rio, Empty Glass, and Who’s Next, against which all of an artist or band’s other albums are measured forevermore. It’s that good and perfect, this yardstick which is impossible to top.

From the very first note, I’m unfailingly drawn in. The lyrics and music perfectly set the note for the personal, spiritual journey which is about to follow. “Let me in here/I know I’ve been here/Let me into your heart….”

george-harrison-e1271725851204

I honestly consider George one of my spiritual mentors. He had such a beautiful, powerful, deep, sincere belief in the Divine and the power of humanity to positively transform ourselves and the world. He understood there are many different names and faces for the Divine, and that none of them are wrong, so long as the person has a sincere heart and belief. I don’t get the allegation that certain of his songs are “preachy.” To me, they’re just expressing his own beliefs, not telling everyone we have to believe exactly the same way or that we’re going to Hell if we don’t fall in line.

His message of love and spirituality stayed with him his entire life, even until his beautiful final words, “Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait, and love one another.” I often think of this final message he left to humanity.

After I bought the 2000 reissue on MP3 for my second trip to Israel in February 2008, I made a playlist of just the first 18 original tracks. I left off the bonus tracks and jam sessions. To me, the album properly ends at “Hear Me Lord,” and doesn’t contain any bonus tracks interrupting the journey, nor is it ruined by extraneous material coming after the assumed end.

George Harrison through the years.

Now that I think of it, it’s kind of like one of my favourite Rap Critic reviews, “Every Girl,” by Young Money. After he roasted this terrible song and seemingly ended the review, there came an unexpected fourth verse. He didn’t know if it were an outro or another verse, since they’d already had three verses and could end the song.

George had a wealth of excellent material, after years of having to fight to be thrown a bone or two every album. I know this is a rather infelicitous metaphor, but he compared it to having diarrhea for years and being unable to get to the toilet, and then he finally was able to let it all out.

This album is so, so perfect, and has more than earned its place as my #2 album, ranking only after Quadrophenia. It really helped to set the stage for George becoming my favourite solo Beatle. Words can’t express just how very, very, very much George and his music mean to me.

Track listing:

“I’d Have You Anytime”
“My Sweet Lord”
“Wah-Wah”
“Isn’t It a Pity”
“What Is Life”
“If Not for You”
“Behind That Locked Door”
“Let It Down”
“Run of the Mill”
“Beware of Darkness”
“Apple Scruffs” (a throwaway, in my opinion)
“Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)”
“Awaiting on You All”
“All Things Must Pass”
“I Dig Love” (also approaches throwaway territory for me)
“Art of Dying”
“Isn’t It a Pity” (Version Two)
“Hear Me Lord”

There are also five tracks on what was originally the third LP, four endless, pointless, meandering jam sessions and a brief nonsense song, which I never listen to anymore:

“Out of the Blue”
“It’s Johnny’s Birthday” (the song)
“Plug Me In”
“I Remember Jeep”
“Thanks for the Pepperoni”

The 2000 remaster has one new song, “I Live for You,” plus alternate versions of “My Sweet Lord,” “Beware of Darkness,” “Let It Down,” and “What Is Life.”

Happy 50th Birthday to Rubber Soul!

RS U.S. Front

Don’t blame me for the shoddy condition of this record! The U.S repackagings of most of The Beatles’ albums came into my possession in 2008, and they were all in less than very good condition when I got them.

Released 3 December 1965, the same day as The Who’s début My Generation, The Beatles’ sixth studio album is widely established as one of their all-time best, both then and now. It holds up very well over time (unlike the most overrated album of all time), and marked the start of the band’s middle period, my favorite of their three eras. Even Capitol Records recognized what a special album it was and didn’t change the title or cover art.

Though this wasn’t the gigantic sea change many people portray it as, it was still a rather noticeable evolution from the types of songs on their last album, Help!, released just four months earlier. Their songwriting was starting to reflect their growing maturity, moving beyond simplistic boy-loves-girl songs to more introspective, complex scenarios, with artsy, sophisticated lyrics.

The songs:

“Drive My Car”
“Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”
“You Won’t See Me”
“Nowhere Man”
“Think for Yourself”
“The Word”
“Michelle”
“What Goes On”
“Girl”
“I’m Looking Through You”
“In My Life”
“Wait”
“If I Needed Someone”
“Run for Your Life”

As per usual, Capitol Records changed the track listing and used songs from earlier albums. I can now understand this widespread practice in historical and economic context, but I still really, really dislike how it was once considered acceptable and appropriate to mess around with a band’s artistic vision and integrity. It would be like releasing a book or movie with scenes and chapters in different orders, and material from earlier works scattered in, for different international markets. The only repackaging Capitol got right was Magical Mystery Tour.

RS U.S. Back

The album was a huge chart and critical success, knocking The Sound of Music soundtrack out of Britain’s #1 spot and holding that most coveted position for 8 weeks. It stayed on the charts for 42 weeks, later returned to #1 upon the CD release on 9 May 1987, and most recently came to the charts again in 2007. In the U.S., it entered the charts on Boxing Day 1965, went to #1 on 8 January 1966, and stayed on the charts for 59 weeks.

My own favorite Beatles’ album is Revolver, but RS is nevertheless on my Top 5 (the others being The White Album, Abbey Road, and MMT). My favorite tracks are “Girl,” “Wait,” “In My Life,” “Think for Yourself,” and “If I Needed Someone.” The lattermost two songs were George’s, marking the first time he got more than a token song. Like John and Paul, he really began growing and maturing in his songwriting around this time. He got three on the next album, but then was back to just one for the next two albums.

The album’s not perfect, however. I totally agree with John’s assessment of the closer, “Run for Your Life.” It was a silly, substanceless throwaway that should’ve been left on the cutting-room floor or not even written. This isn’t even closing track material. Still, I’d rather listen to a throwaway from The Beatles (with a few certain exceptions) than anything from most modern-day pop groups. There’s just no comparison.

Happy 50th Birthday to My Generation!

My-Generation

Fair use, good faith rationale to illustrate the subject

The Who released their début album, My Generation, on 3 December 1965 (the same day Rubber Soul was released). It came into my life on 30 January 2001, as my seventh Who album, bought in the same Newbury Comics expedition as A Quick One. Given the date, the album I got was the U.S. repackaging, The Who Sings “My Generation,” not the British original. Due to disputes with their original producer Shel Talmy, there was no proper CD remastering until 2002.

After how embarrassed I was to discover the audiomaniac fanatics were completely wrong about the 2001 deluxe remastering of Live at Leeds, I paid them no attention when they began bitching about the upcoming remastered MG. Normal people don’t care about minute differences in sound, nor do they have access to all these different versions and overdubs to compare and contrast. We just care about great music, not nitpicky, anal-retentive excuses to whine and pretend we could’ve done such a better job.

The main difference between the U.S. and U.K. releases was that the U.S. version ended with the beautiful, haunting “Circles” and removed “I’m a Man.” Honestly, by modern standards, the “offending” lyrics are so tame: “All you pretty women/Stand up in a big long line./When I get you in bed, darling,/Gonna make love all the time.”

The track listing:

“Out in the Street”
“I Don’t Mind”
“The Good’s Gone”
“La-La-La-Lies”
“Much Too Much”
“My Generation”
“The Kids Are Alright”
“Please, Please, Please”
“It’s Not True”
“I’m a Man”
“A Legal Matter” (sung by Pete)
“The Ox” (instrumental)
“Circles (Instant Party)”
“I Can’t Explain”
“Bald Headed Woman”
“Daddy Rolling Stone”

Bonus disc:

“Leaving Here”
“Lubie (Come Back Home)”
“Shout and Shimmy”
“(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave”
“Motoring”
“Anytime You Want Me”
“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (alternative version)
“Instant Party Mixture”
“I Don’t Mind” (full-length version)
“The Good’s Gone” (full-length version)
“My Generation” (instrumental version)
“Anytime You Want Me” (a cappella)
“A Legal Matter” (mono)
“My Generation” (mono)

Though I don’t feel moved to listen to it that often, it’s a great album, made even greater with the two-disc deluxe remastering. In 2014, there were new remasterings in both mono and stereo, but that’s not something I’m interested in purchasing. I’m not an audiomaniac like certain infamous people on the Odds and Sods mailing list (which I unsubscribed from years ago due to these audiomaniacs and their outrageous behavior, which went far beyond just throwing tantrums over minute sound differences).

It’s a raw, gritty album, rather sounding like an unrefined garage band with deep roots in R&B. They were still finding their style and didn’t yet write all their own material. As for Roger, he was literally finding his own voice. If you compare MG and anything from Live at Leeds onward, the difference is like night and day. In this earliest album, Roger sounds so unformed, without much range. However, that works great for a song like “I’m a Man” or “Bald Headed Woman.” They weren’t yet making songs which required tons of range and emotion. Touring Tommy all over the world gave him a huge boost of self-confidence, and his vocal prowess went through the roof.

My favorite track is “Circles.”