mono

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (5 CD box set)

scan_20170123DEEP PURPLE – Hard Road: The Mark I Studio Recordings 1968-69 (2014 Parlophone)

It’s fantastic that old mono recordings are getting the CD treatment.  The original mono mixes of the old Beatles albums were a revelation to those who had never heard them before.  The original mono versions of Deep Purple’s Shades Of and Book of Taliesyn are less surprising, but still a welcome addition for completists who want to hear it “as it was” in 1968.  Comparisons are difficult, but both albums sound like they were meant to be in stereo.  Unlike the Beatles pop rock compositions, Deep Purple’s featured a lot of solo work and even full-blown orchestral movements.  The stereo separation makes that easier to appreciate.  Only Purple’s third album, 1969’s self-titled Deep Purple, did not receive a mono mix.  It is presented here in stereo only.

Now, these three Purple albums all received the deluxe edition treatment (single discs) in the year 2000.  Those versions on Spitfire (links in above paragraph) are still excellent ways to get this early Deep Purple music.  They are fairly common, have great liner notes and pictures, and feature the stereo versions plus 14 bonus tracks combined between them.  There is also a compilation CD called The Early Years featuring more bonus tracks, including 2003 remixes and live takes.  Where Hard Road fails is in replacing these previous four CDs completely.  One would hope you would get  all the associated bonus tracks from this period in one handy-dandy box.  Sadly this box is not quite so dandy.  Here is a list of tracks missing from Hard Road that were on the remastered single discs:

  • “Kentucky Woman” (alternate take on The Early Years)
  • “Hard Road” (BBC session on The Early Years and The Book of Taliesyn remaster)
  • “Hush” (live from US TV)
  • “Hey Joe” (live BBC recording from the remastered Shades Of).
  • “It’s All Over” and “Hey Bop-a-Rebop” (unreleased songs, live BBC sessions from The Book of Taliesyn)

The live BBC songs above can also be found on the double CD BBC Sessions…except for “Hard Road”.

scan_20170123-4

Of course there is plenty of material on Hard Road that is not on those earlier discs, making things that much murkier.  In addition to the original mono versions, these include:

  • “Kentucky Woman” remixed in 2003
  • “Playground” in a non-remixed version
  • “River Deep, Mountain High” and “The Bird Has Flown” (single edits)
  • A fresh 2012 stereo mix of “Emmaretta”
  • The isolated single B-side version of “April (Part 1)”
  • An early instrumental version of “Why Didn’t Rosemary”

Irritating, yes.  But only to completists.  For just about anyone else, Hard Road will satisfy their need for pretty much all the Deep Purple Mark I they can handle.  It’s not as complete as the title would let on, what with that live “Hush” and alternate take of “Kentucky Woman” missing in action.  Instead you will receive a large booklet with plenty of notes and a new 2013 interview with producer Derek Lawrence.  He was on board early, before they were in Deep Purple.  He describes an early version of the band called “Roundabout” (with Bobby Woodman on drums and Chris Curtis on bass) as “bland”.  When Ian Paice and Nick Simper joined, they sounded better, but to Lawrence clearly Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice were the stars.

Each disc comes in its own LP-style sleeve.  It’s a gorgeous set.  It sounds fantastic, and was assembled with the usual care that goes into a Deep Purple album.  A few niggling missing tracks aside, this is highly recommended to those looking add the first three Purple to their collection.

4/5 stars

 

 

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REVIEW: Little Richard – The Essential (1985)

Scan_20160106LITTLE RICHARD – The Essential (1985 Specialty)

Ah-OOOOOOO!  Little Richard!  Predator!  OOOOO!  Wop bop a loo bop!  Get to the choppa!

Who doesn’t love Little Richard?  If you answered that question with “me!” then click your “back” button now and go listen to some X Ambassadors or something equally un-rock and roll.  Little Richard?  Pure rock and roll, baby!  You have your rock bands that are based on guitar, but then you have other artists that are based on piano.  And let me tell you, when Little Richard (Ah-OOOOOOOO!) starts bangin’ on those keys, you can’t help but boogie woogie.

Richard has an extensive catalogue of albums and singles, and much like any of the other founding fathers of rock and roll, there is so much more to him than just the greatest hits.  This album is called The Essential, and it is.  There is much, much more.  “Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave” isn’t on here, but so many favourites are!  (OOOOO, gonna have some fun tonight!)

Commencing in 1955, every single track on this CD (single A’s and B’s) is in the two minute range. Wham bam, thank you ma’am! (No, that’s Dean Martin…) Loaded with piano, sax and Little Richard’s unmistakable voice, every song is incredible. My favourite song is “Jenny Jenny” (OOOO!), which is so damn raw and perfect, sax honkin’ and Richard letting loose with every “Woo” and “Ooo”. His throat is pushed to the limit, running off the rails from time to time, but always perfect. From Lucille to Teddy to Jenny to Miss Ann and Miss Molly, some may notice that there is a certain sameness to the material. That would be missing the point. Richard is like AC/DC. You get what you want, every time. Since the songs are so short none overstay their welcome.

Everybody should know plenty of these songs, whether from movies or TV. At least half the album should be familiar. Even if you haven’t heard Richard’s version of “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”, you probably know it from Etta James, Happy Days, Bugs Bunny, or I Love Lucy. It’s just one of those songs that everybody has heard. (Richard’s version is the best one, if you asked me! Ah-OOOOOO!)

Even though this is an older release, the audio is just fine. According to the booklet, all tracks were remastered from the original mono tapes. Old time rock and roll just sounds better in mono. In mono, it sounds saturated and harder. (WOOO!) The booklet isn’t skimpy and has plenty of old black and white photos.

So, if you have “Heebie-Jeebies” for some “Long Tall Sally”, then “I Got It” for you. You’ll be “Slippin’ and Slidin'” for the whole length of this 45 minute CD, which will be over before you know it. If you wanna “Keep-A-Knockin'”, then just play it on repeat and “Rip It Up”.

5/5 stars

Final note: I will happily give a lollypop to anyone who can tell me where I can buy Richard’s elusive version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”.

Part 215: Mono

RECORD STORE TALES Part 215:  Mono

Today, I was listening to some old-school Dio, and I had a thought.  A sudden thought that I wanted to explore:

“My taste in music was 100% solidified by that month in 1986 that I had mono!”

Yeah!  I think it’s true!  I was sick at home for a month (at least) too tired to do anything except record videos on the Pepsi Power Hour!  I was inundated with a steady intake of incredible songs, in many cases for the first time.  And because I still have the old VHS tapes, I know exactly what’s on them.  This brief but intense period of my life was rocked by this soundtrack, over and over again:

power hourOzzy Osbourne – “The Ultimate Sin”

Hear N’ Aid – “Stars”

Dio – “Rock and Roll Children”

Black Sabbath – “Die Young”

Lee Aaron – “Shake It Up”

ZZ Top – “Rough Boy”

Kim Mitchell – “Lager and Ale”

Thor (Jon Mikl Thor) – “Keep the Dogs Away”

Triumph – “Never Surrender”

Loudness – “Let It Go”

Spinal Tap – “Hell Hole”, the theme song that my sister and I dedicated to our old Catholic grade school!

These songs were first impressed upon me during that period, the visuals always cool and intriguing to me.  Especially Lee Aaron.  Ahem.  Anyway.  I watched these videos over and over again.   I recorded the audio (in mono) (…hah, I made a pun!) to a cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman.  This came in handy at the cottage.  We didn’t have a VCR or cable there, so the only way to bring my songs was to tape them from the TV.

That one intense period of being stuck at home with nothing but heavy metal heroes might have made me the LeBrain I am today.  I’m glad something good came out of it!  I couldn’t even go swimming that entire summer!