Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Beatles - A Doll's House




The Beatles had quite the year in 1967, releasing two groundbreaking albums, a critically bashed movie, and discovering eastern religion, so it's really surprising they started the year of 1968 in such a quiet manner, recording only four songs and releasing two of then in a single, one in a movie soundtrack, whilst the fourth tune remained in the vaults for two more years, before finally being released in 1970. But that was all about to change, when in March 1968 the four Beatles and their wives went to Rishikesh, India to study Trancendental Meditation, there picking up with some eastern religion, as well as writing a lot of songs. With a combination of both food issues (which made Ringo the first Beatle to leave), and their spiritual leader's supposed flirting with women inside their meditation place (making George and a disilussioned John finally leave), arriving in Britain with a, depending on the source, 30-45 song batch. So, what did they do? They, along with ever-present producer George Martin decided to release a double album, with the India-written songs, along with others as well. Martin came to regret it, saying that he would rather have it as a single disc of stellar-only material. Oh, the benefits of 20/20 highsight. I don't agree with all the folks that argue for the "single album" idea, because I've many times tried to strip it down into only two sides, and I always ended up with three fantastic sides worth of music. I could easily make others into single entities, such as Exile on Main St. but for me the WA is what it is. Recordings, for the first time, were tumultous: numerous fights and arguments, thousands of takes of songs were recorded, only for the fifth one to be chosen, and things even reached a point in which Ringo left for two weeks, only to return and find his drumkit filled with flowers, and engineer Geoff Emmerick giving up on the project midway and leaving. George Martin "went on a holiday" during the latter half of sessions, with soon-to-be famous producer Chris Thomas filling in his shoes. Probably the biggest elephant in the room (there were many) was the presece of Yoko, which was discussed so many times that me writing about it is unnecessary. Some songs, mostly by McCartney and Lennon, featured only one Beatle at them, multiple studios were used at the same time, making all three studios of Abbey Road occupied. All this chaos and division led the group to the verge of breaking up, but they still managed to record some of their best songs and release their best selling LP. Now, instead of using the old "turn it into a single!" formula, let's try something even more ambitious: what if the White Album was a triple album instead of a double? We can begin by the most obvious choices: the "Hey Jude" single and b-side, some era outtakes (such as the great "Not Guilty" and the weird "What's the News Mary Jane?"), the fourth February '68 song (fits way better here than in LIB), and, you may consider it cheating, but other songs already completed by then that weren't recorded until later, such as "Mean Mr. Mustard" or "The Long and Winding Road". A little bit unfair? Well, sure, but had they agreed on releasing this six-sided monster from the beggining, it's really likely they would record all the mentioned songs for it, since many are even in the Esher demos. I was against using Esher demos themselves, causing the inclusion of solo output, but one excuse had to be made: "Child of Nature", a great song that despite becoming "Jealous Guy", has no real studio version, so it's included. It's sound quality is screamingly different from the songs around it, but we can make the excuse it's a "lo-fi experiment", since bands such as the Velvet Underground were doing that at the time. And there are some limits as well: I will not mess up the tracklisting of the album by throwing the songs on sides they don't belong in, so the bew material will be in a new disc (Sides 1-2 are disc one, new material is disc two, and sides 3-4 are disc three), and considering the strenght of the material available, it won't make that much of a difference. I did exclude some songs, however, such as Goodbye and Sour Milk Sea (given to other artists for recording), Circles (the single most boring Beatle song in existence), in order to make this a listenable effort, at least. We as well restore the album's original art and title, A Doll's House, scrapped when the group Family released their debut Music in a Doll's House, causing our now famous name and cover. Basically, because changing a little is nice sometimes, we stick with the alternate title, and it's psychdelic-like cover, to later be re-used in the compilation Ballads. I as well use some alternate versions found on Anthology for some songs, combined with a fantastic remix of the album with some additional stuff and different things (I'll post a link and a thank you to the guy who made it in the comments), giving us some much needed variety in the albums, after hearing it the same way for 49 years! Listen carefully to the songs and notice all the small changes, it's great. Without further adue, there it is:

Side A
1. Back in the USSR
2. Dear Prudence
3. Glass Onion
4. Ob La Di, Ob La Da
5. Wild Honey Pie
6. The Continuing Story of Bungallow Bill
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8 Happiness is a Warm Gun
Side B
1. Marta My Dear
2. I'm So Tired
3. Blackbird
4. Piggies
5. Rocky Raccoon
6. Don't Pass Me By
7. Why Don't We Do It in the Road?
8. I Will
9. Julia
Side C
1. Revolution
2. Something
3. Every Night
4. Child of Nature
5. Junk
6. What's the News Mary Jane?
7. Look at Me
8. The Long and Winding Rōad
Side D
1. Across the Universe
2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps #1
3. Teddy Boy
4. Mean Mr. Mustard
5. Polythene Pam
6. Not Guilty
7. Hey Jude
Side E
1. Birthday
2. Yer Blues
3. Mother Nature's Son
4. Everybody's Got Something to Hide, Except for Me and My Monkey
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Helter Skelter
7. Long, Long, Long
Side F
1. Revolution #1
2. Honey Pie
3. Savoy Truffle
4. Cry Baby Cry
5. Revolution #9
6. Good Night


In addition to the minor mixing changes explained above, some songs were even swapped out altogether for alternate versions.  "Obla-di, Obla-da" is the first of them, being exchanged for the accoustic guitar centered version of Anthology 3. Ringo's first original song, "Don't Pass Me By" now includes the 50-second intro "A Beginning", as was originally intended and scored by Mr. George Martin. And speaking of Ringo, the third change is that of "Good Night", exchanging the sappy orchestration for a more stripped piano version, with the strings only making their presence known in the end. And for our new disc of surprises, we begin with maybe the most obvious choice for the album: the single version of "Revolution", the second time around for this song, but since it is a triple album, we're allowed to have the same song twice, right? Even the Clash did that with the dub versions on side six of "Sandinista", so why can't we? The song is followed by probablly the best song George ever wrote, "Something", that was already complete during the last batch of White Album recordings, but not recorded for, well, George Harrison syndrome reasons. The first Paul song on our new side is "Every Night", began in mid-'68 and finished in time for inclusion on his first solo LP. It does feature some proeminent backing vocals for Linda, but Yoko even sang her own line in "Bungalow Bill", so here's for a bit of McCartney revenge. Song no. 4 is our little lo-fi experiment, "Child of Nature", soon to become "Jealous Guy" in it's original Esher demo format, with background talk and everything. Soon following is "Junk", with which McCartney toyed with for the next two years, before finally settling with it in "McCarntey" in '70. The acoustic existencial crisis of "Look at Me" is next, complete with finger-picking guitar techniques (courtesy of Meditation colleague Donovan), only being released in John's 1970 studio album debut. Probably the weirdest piece of music ever attached to the Beatles name, "What's the News Mary Jane?" is here edited to only feature it's first three minutes. You're welcome, no need to thank me. Being followed by the mellow and overblown ballad "The Long and Winding Road", being the side closer for our brand-new Side C. Side D begins with the gentle and mystical "Across the Universe", oddly enough the only song here recorded before the India trip, here found in it's Anthology 3 version, complete with Indian-sounding sound effects. The second (and last) re-recording here is the "LOVE" version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", with the only instruments featured being the acoustic guitar and the background orchestration. Another recycled India reject is "Teddy Boy", tried out for both the WA and the Let it Be album, before finding it's home in Macca's solo career. "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam", now part of the Abbey Road Medley, are still bonded here, but instead of just seguing into "She Came Into the Bathroom Window", now "Pam" fades-out, giving it a proper ending, courtesy again of Scott G. Thanks! "Not Guilty" is a strange case: 100+ takes were recorded for it, before it got scrapped for whoever knows the reason. Maybe they just got fed up with it. It is featured in it's Anthology version, but a little surprise was added to it's ending: before Hey Jude begins, 20 seconds of the crazy outro from "WTNMJ?" play, half as a transition and half as a mean jumpscare prank. And what a better way to finish it up than with "Hey Jude", the classic in it's full 7-minute glory? It's featured in it's regular form, and the next two sides, I think, don't need much introduction.
The White Album is a mixture of a thousand genres and moods: it is both joyous, depressing, humorous, creepy and corny, even one after the other sometimes, something all "trimmed down versions" fail to do. A new LP even adds more to that, making the already kaleidoscopic White Album into the schizophrenic A Doll's House.Even the origin of the name fits with the general theme: it is based on the 19th century play by the same name written by Henrik Ibsen, telling the story of Nora, an unhappy woman who leaves her husband and children to lead a new, happier life alone. At this point, it seems all Beatles could be represented by her: repressed people, who would soon spread their wings to their own, individual lifes. A Doll's House is the sound of collapse and breakup, and ever since then, desintegration has never sounded so beautiful.

Download link: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/51qz7g9mam31gz6/AAC1RbPlrBd7vxtQ84-kCWx1a?dl=0

Sources: 
- The Beatles 
- Anthology 3 
 - Abbey Road 
- Past Masters 
- Let It Be 
 - McCartney (Paul McCartney) 
 - Plastic Ono Band (John Lennon)
- LOVE 
- White Album Unplugged [Bootleg]

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Travelling Wilburys - Travelling Wilburys Vol. 2


The Travelling Wilburys, formed almost coincidentally by Harrison due to a b-side commitment, are one of the most celebrated of the so-called supergroups, featuring some of the best musicians and songwriters of the time, such as Bob Dylan and George Harrison. They had the firm producing of ELO's Jeff Lynne, the guitar chops of the many guitarrists in the group, the great and unique voice of Roy Orbison, all that wrapped up with some really nice vocal harmonies, and the help of fake names, all surnamed Wilbury, to produce some of the best Heartland Rock in history. Their debut, the album "Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1", carried by the hit single "Handle With Care", was both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, and at that point their future looked bright, seen the sheer quantity of talent within the group, and the chemestry they shared (they were basically a group of friends playing). But then, tragedy struck when band member Roy Orbison died in late 1988, and mostly due to that not much was heard from the band throughout 1989. The band members used the time off from the band for their solo projects: Tom Petty released "Full Moon Fever", which some consider his greatest solo work, and is filled with guest appearences by fellow Wilburys, including Lynne's production duties. Jeff Lynne released his first post-ELO solo release "Armchair Theatre", with some guest bandmembers as well. Roy Orbison's last works were also released posthumously in that year, with Jeff Lynne on the production and some other members here and there. George Harrison had a rather calm year, releasing only a single from a soundtrack, "Cheer Down", and releasing two songs on a compilation, and those aren't really that worth talking about. He did however, contribute a song to his buddy Eric Clapton's 1989 Journeyman, which he recorded later, along with another song he wrote during that time, all of those, you've guessed it, with Jeff on the productor's chair. Bob Dylan however, was an exception (hell, it's Dylan, what did you expect?), releasing the album Oh Mercy, that didn't feature a single one of them in it. It's follow-up album Under the Red Sky however, featured Mr. Harrison with slide guitar duties on the title track, and seen as they were released one year apart, and the 1990 affaid is mainly leftovers from Oh Mercy, it's fair to consider it from '89. After that, they regrouped in 1990, and recorded their second and last studio LP, "Travelling Wilburys Vol. 3". It's peculiar name was thought by George Harrison as a joke, "to confuse the buggers", in his own words. Considered not as strong as their debut, it is still however a really nice listen, and did relativelly well with the audience and critics alike. Well, ever since then, their fans from all around have been asking: "what about Vol. 2?" leading to many fake bootlegs, and many even consider Petty's Full Moon Fever as being volume two, due to the great amout of guest appearances. Even though, there are still confused enthusiasts searching for the album throughout the internet now. But it had me thinking: what if we wrap up all their collaborations from 1989 into one album, could it stand as a TW album? I also had rules to it, of course: the songs on the album had to feature two or more guest Wilburys each, with only one exception, and be similar to their general style. I also considered drummer Jim Keltner as a honorary sixth Wilbury, having played on their two official albums and in most of the stuff here, complete with his own fake name. And here's what I came up with:

Side A
1. Any Road
2. I Won't Back Down
3. Lift Me Up
4. Cheer Down
5. Under the Red Sky
6. California Blue
Side B
1. You Got It
2. Run So Far
3. Everything's Broken
4. A Love So Beautiful
5. Every Little Thing
6. Zombie Zoo

We used two songs from George's Brainwashed album, that albeit being released in the far future of 2002, features "Run So Far" and "Any Road", which were fully developed by 1989, as well as his single from the same year, Cheer Down. I didn't use either "Poor Little Girl" or "Cockamie Businness" because they, for me, were pretty substandard, and we want some quality in our releases! All three songs are produced by Mr. Lynne, and feature him on bass and our forgotten bandmember, Jim Keltner. The closest thing to a Vol.2 released then was Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever", featuring many collabs with other members, including Harrison on guitar and backing vocals. Jeff Lynne himself released an album then, "Armchair Theatre", featuring some appearences. Because he isn't as great of a singer, we only give him two of the 12 tunes, well, fair enough. Now the sad part of the story: Roy Orbison's last recordings, produced by Lynne, were released posthumously in 1989. What I think would happen is, had they taken the Wilburys thing further in '89, they would finish those recordings as a group unity, in a tribute to the great Orbison. And next comes Bob Dylan, who in the most Bob-Dylanesque fashion possible, didn't collaborate with any of the other four guys in 1989 (what did you expect?). He did, however, have George play a slide guitar part on "Under the Red Sky" the next year, and so we add that tune, and a 1989 song that fits the best possible to the album, in this case, "Everything is Broken". Joining that all into one unity was no easy task, but the finished product came even better than what I expected. Clocking at about 45 minutes, it features some of the best individual tunes of each, and even some songs with the potential to be massive hits (hello, "You Got It"!), making it my favourite TW album, ironically enough. I think I have to explain the bscence of some songs in this: Petty's Free Fallin (I've reeeeally grown sick of hearing it, so it gets out), Lynne's "Blown Away" (kinda sub-par, even being a co-write with Petty), Dyaln's "Like a Ship" (not that similar to the TW's input, sorry) and Orbison's "In the Real World" (a boring cover). This is as well a really great eulogy to Roy Orbison, who seemed to be a really great guy. Any thoughts? All opinions are welcome, criticism, requests, anything, say what you like! And sorry for not posting in the last month, I'm taking some time between uploads to write more calmly now, but in the next couple of weeks, tune in for yet another album expansion!

Sources:
- George Harrison - Brainwashed
- George Harrison - Best of Dark Horse (1976-1989)
- Tom Petty - Full Moon Fever
- Jeff Lynne - Armchair Theatre
- Roy Orbison - Mystery Girl
- Bob Dylan - Oh, Mercy
- Bob Dylan - Under the Red Sky