Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Mary Chapin Carpenter - Home Concerts 2, Afton, VA, 4-26-2020 to 5-24-2020

A few weeks ago, I posted an album of songs Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown. I'm happy to say that she's continued to post new songs every few days, so I now have enough for another album. May she keep on posting more songs, even after the crisis is over.

I don't have much to say that I didn't say for the first album compiling her home videos. As with that album, she usually talks a lot before starting each song. But, as I did there, I've edited her comments down a lot to make this something much more likely to stand up to repeat listens. I've cut out her repetitive comments wishing people well during the pandemic, as well as her frequent comments about her pets. Instead, I've generally just kept the parts that are relevant to the songs she plays.

Pretty much all of the songs are her originals, from all parts of her career. If you like the first album of home concerts I've posted, you'll like this one too.

One minor note: since she's posted enough songs for me to create this album, I've gone back to the previous album and renamed it "Home Concerts 1," with this being "Home Concerts 2." I've also changed the cover art accordingly.

01. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
02. The Age of Miracles (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
03. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
04. Why Shouldn't We (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
05. Transcendental Reunion (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
06. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
07. Rhythm of the Blues (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
08. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
09. Something Tamed, Something Wild (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
10. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
11. Quittin' Time (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
12. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
13. John Doe No. 24 (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
14. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
15. This Shirt (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
16. talk (Mary Chapin Carpenter)
17. I Take My Chances (Mary Chapin Carpenter)

The cover art is a screenshot from one of her videos. (I don't remember which one.) She lives with a dog, Angus, and a cat, White Kitty. At the start of each video, she typically reports on where her two pets are and what they're doing. So, given her emphasis on them, I figure it's only fitting to include a screenshot with them in it. This one only shows the dog Angus, since I don't think the two pets have made an appearance together yet. (That's not too surprising, since her cat seems to be napping 99% of the time.) Also, I widened the background on either side of her and her guitar in order to include enough vertically of the screenshot to show both her head and Angus's head.

X - My Father's Place, Roslyn, NY, 12-11-1983

I think X is a great band. Technically, I supose they're considered a punk band, but unlike most punk bands, I appreciate how they've had deep roots in older music forms, like folk and country. (This can best be seen in their alter ego band, the Knitters.) They put on a new album last month called "Alphabetland." It's their first album in 27 years. I haven't heard it yet, but it has all their original members on it, and it's been getting surprisingly good reviews. I figure that's a good excuse to post something by them.

In my opinion, the "golden age" of X was their first four albums, from 1980 to 1983. Let me quote from an review of one of their albums:

"X were undeniably not just one of the greatest punk bands, but one of the greatest live rock acts of all time. [But] they never issued a true live set featuring the stellar, original lineup with guitarist Billy Zoom."

Indeed. Zoom left the band (for the first time) in 1986. Their 1985 album was disappointing, where they tried for a different sound, so in my opinion the ideal time to have a live album from them would be 1983. Luckily, although no live album from that time has ever come out, there is an excellent bootleg of a concert that was played on the radio at the time, which is presented here.

That means it was professionally recorded to sound good for the radio. I didn't have to do much tweaking for this one. All I did was break was little talking there was between songs onto their own tracks, and lower the overall volume level, to put it in line with all the other albums I post on this blog.

There was one major snag with the recording in that the first song, "True Love, Part 1," fades in right as it was ending. I'm especially bummed since that's a really good song. It also suggests there could have been more of the concert that either didn't get on the radio or didn't get recorded by whoever captured the radio show. The concert is slightly less than an hour long, whereas they played well over an hour in other 1983 that are on bootleg, suggesting that a portion of the show is missing. At least we know the ending is correct, since the show finishes with a few parting comments.

I didn't want to start this off with just part of a song, so I found another bootleg from 1983 where "True Love" was played and I inserted that instead. While I was at it, I also included "Blue Spark" since that's one of my favorites of theirs, as well as a spoken introduction. I was tempted to include more, but I decided against it since the sound quality from the other show is less impressive.

If you want just one live X recording, I recommend this one, even though it's a bootleg. It beats all their official live albums, in my opinion. And it also kind of doubles as a "best of" for their early years, since they play most of their best known songs from that era.

01. talk (X)
02. Blue Spark (X)
03. True Love, Part 1 (X)
04. talk (X)
05. In This House that I Call Home (X)
06. talk (X)
07. Hungry Wolf (X)
08. talk (X)
09. The New World (X)
10. Universal Corner (X)
11. True Love, Part 2 (X)
12. Beyond and Back (X)
13. talk (X)
14. Los Angeles (X)
15. Make the Music Go Bang (X)
16. Some Other Time (X)
17. talk (X)
18. Hot House (X)
19. Soul Kitchen (X)
20. Breathless (X)
21. Johnny Hit and Run Paulene (X)
22. Motel Room in My Bed (X)
23. talk (X)
24. Poor Girl (X)
25. talk (X)
26. Devil Doll (X)

The cover art photo is of the band performing for "American Bandstand" in October 1983. I cropped it to focus on Exene Cervenka and John Doe. They're the band leaders and lead vocalists, and the other band members were mostly hidden in the darkness.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Fleetwood Mac - The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA, 1-31-1970

I just posted the Fleetwood Mac concert played at the Warehouse in New Orleans on January 30, 1970. While I'm at it, here's their concert from the next night at the same venue.

I had a long explanation to go with the January 30th concert. Most of what I said there also applies here, minus the colorful story from drummer Mick Fleetwood about driving a car from the backseat with his feet and so forth. I'll just focus on what's different with this one.

Both the January 30th and 31st concert recordings are soundboards done by the Grateful Dead's talented sound engineer Owsley Stanley. But for whatever reason, the 30th recording had an extreme stereo mix that required a lot of tweaking, while the 31th recording had a more normal, narrow stereo mix. Also, the vocals and instruments had a better balance. So while I had to do a lot of tinkering for the 30th show, I had to do very little here. One note is that the song "Tiger" is the only one in mono, because it comes from a different source. But in my opinion, it sounds just as good as the rest.

In terms of musical content, this show is a little bit longer, at an hour and two minutes, compared to 54 minutes for January 30th. And that's after I removed four songs: "Only You," "World in Harmony," "Stranger Blues,"  and "Twist and Shout." I removed those for several reasons. One, the first three are the only songs repeated from the 30th. I like listening to these two shows back to back, and I almost posted them as one big album instead of two shorter ones. I don't like repeats. "Twist and Shout" wasn't repeated, but there was something wrong with the vocals that bugged me and wasn't fixable. I can't explain it well, but it sounds as if his vocals were going "into the red," overwhelming the microphone, much of the time. So I removed it to keep the overall sound quality of the concert very high.

But also, three out of four of those are Jeremy Spencer-sung songs, and I have limited tolerance for his material anyway. With those songs removed, this concert becomes much more of a Peter Green showcase, whereas the 30th show is more dominated by Spencer's songs. Personally, I prefer this concert because of that Green emphasis. He really stretches out on the longer songs.

Speaking of Green stretching out, maybe the highlight of this show is the slow blues song "All Over Again." I've included this exact version on one of my stray tracks compilations, "The Green Manalishi," because it's the best recorded version available. So don't mind the minor duplication with that one.

Fleetwood Mac went on to record one more concert at the Warehouse the next day, February 1st. An excellent recording of that one exists as well. I've elected not to post that one here because the set list is almost exactly the same as this one, but I felt the performance here was better. Two different songs were played, but both of them were the typical Jeremy Spencer imitating Elmore James songs, which are my least favorite aspect of the band's music in the Peter Green era, by far. So I didn't even include those as bonus tracks. But if you want that concert, it's available at Wolfgang's Vault, and at various other Internet locations.

01. Sandy Mary (Fleetwood Mac)
02. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
03. All Over Again [I've Got a Mind to Give Up Living] (Fleetwood Mac)
04. I Can't Hold Out (Fleetwood Mac)
05. Oh Well, Part 1 (Fleetwood Mac)
06. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
07. Rattlesnake Shake - Searching for Madge (Fleetwood Mac)
08. Coming Your Way (Fleetwood Mac)
09. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
11. Tiger (Fleetwood Mac)

I had a rather detailed explanation on how I made the cover art for the January 30th show. I used the exact same art here, except I selected a different photo of Peter Green for the middle of it. And, of course, I changed the text slightly to show the different date. By the way, both photos of Green are from a TV appearance in late 1969, but I don't know what TV show it was. These concerts were about six weeks after that, so I think it's likely he still had that same bearded appearance.

Fleetwood Mac - The Warehouse, New Orleans, LA, 1-30-1970

Last week, I posted a Fleetwood Mac concert at the Carousel Ballroom in 1968. I thought that was the last posting of a full concert from the Peter Green era of the band that I was going to do. I'm keen to move on to posting more from the "Rumours" era of the band.

But then bk left a comment in the comments section, stating that the band's January 30, 1970 concert at the Warehouse in New Orleans was their most inspired of the Peter Green era. I'd heard that before, but I gave it another listen. I have to respectfully disagree, I don't think it's their best. In fact, I like the concert from a night later, also at the Warehouse, even better. But I was struck by the remarkable sound quality of that show and the next one, on January 31st. I also realized I could improve the sound even more with some sound editing. So I'm posting them here.

Furthermore, I want to post this as part of my continued beef against the abomination that is the 2019 officially released album "Before the Beginning." A big chunk of that consists of the Carousel Ballroom concert from 1968. The other main chunk comes from these Warehouse concerts in 1970. But, as I've mentioned before, fake crowd noise was slathered over the entire thing for no apparent reason, degrading the sound. The release also inexplicably claimed it was a mystery which concerts these recordings were from, even though bootlegs of the shows have widely circulated for decades.  Furthermore, it only included some of the Warehouse concerts when all of them are worth releasing. Even the title of the album, "Before the Beginning," is an insult, implying the entire Peter Green era of the band was just a warm-up before they really got going with the "Rumours" era line-up. Sadly, the fact that came out last year strongly implies that a correct official release of these shows isn't going to happen, at least not any time soon.

These concerts came at a historically interesting musical moment. Fleetwood Mac opened for the Grateful Dead on both nights, so their concerts are shorter than when they were the main act.  Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood later recounted what happened on the night of January 30th:

"That Dead song with the line 'busted down on Bourbon Street' ["Truckin'," from the "American Beauty" album], that was the night that Fleetwood Mac played with them at The Warehouse in New Orleans. [Grateful Dead sound engineer and LSD enthusiast Owsley Stanley] had spiked the water fountains [with LSD] and after our set, [our bassist] John McVie was out of it, and couldn't handle the fact that the Dead were going to get up and play! So he stood in the audience while the rest of us jammed with the Dead. The audience loved it - a massive freak-out."

"That was what caused Owsley eventually to go to jail. We were nearly there [where the arrest happened]. We were following their car back to the hotel, absolutely out of it on acid.  I drove the car from the back seat with my feet while somebody else worked the pedals from the side - nobody was in the driver's seat. We got lost, and by the time we arrived, they'd been busted."

So when you listen to this show, keep in mind that the band and most of the audience was tripping on LSD!

Anyway, getting to the sound quality issue, the Grateful Dead often recorded their concerts in those days, and Owsley was an excellent sound engineer for the era. Sometimes, the opening act got recorded using the same equipment, and this happens to be one of those times. But the recording for January 30th has unusually extreme stereo separation, with nearly all the vocals and guitar on one side, and mostly the drums and bass on the other side. The vocals also were rather low in the mix, especially Peter Green's. So this allowed me to improve the recording, by boosting the vocals. For some songs, I increased the volume of one entire channel relative to the other one. For other songs, I selectively boosted just the bits of the song where Green was singing, adjusting it line by line.

So that improved things considerably, I think. But I also got my musical associate MZ to help out again. As he did with the Carousel Ballroom recording, once I had made the adjustments to the stereo channels, MZ reduced the amount of stereo separation by about 30 percent, just as he did for the Carousel Ballroom show. That allows for a more normal listening experience, since extreme stereo separation has long been out of favor, after some experimentation with it in the late 1960s, when stereo first became widely popular.

I also did what I usually do to concert recordings, which is putting the between song banter on their own tracks and increasing the volume to make those parts easier to hear. I also got rid of some dead air and guitar tuning between songs. Someone named "M" did extensive work on these concerts already, fixing minor drop outs and other problems. This builds on that version, so hopefully it sounds better than ever before.

The concert is only 54 minutes long. That may be entirely due to the fact that they were only an opening act that night. But I also strongly suspect that the recording is incomplete. In this era, the band pretty much always closed with covers of lively and famous rock songs, like "Twist and Shout" or "Tiger." They did that the next two nights in the same run of Warehouse shows. But still, what is here is pretty great, and deserves a worthy, non-butchered official release.

01. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
02. Before the Beginning (Fleetwood Mac)
03. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
04. It Takes Time (Fleetwood Mac)
05. Like It This Way (Fleetwood Mac)
06. Only You (Fleetwood Mac)
07. Madison Blues (Fleetwood Mac)
08. Oh Baby (Fleetwood Mac)
09. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
10. Albatross [Instrumental] (Fleetwood Mac)
11. talk (Fleetwood Mac)
12. The Green Manalishi [With the Two-Prong Crown] (Fleetwood Mac)
13. World in Harmony [Instrumental] (Fleetwood Mac)
14. Stranger Blues (Fleetwood Mac)

I put some extra effort into making the album cover art. I couldn't find any photos from the Warehouse concerts, or even any good color photos of the band in concert in 1970, period. But I found a concert poster for the band playing at the Fillmore East in November 1969 that I liked a lot. I made some major edits to it in order to get it to fit into a square shape. I had to remove the central artwork, because it wouldn't fit into the square space, nice though it was. I put a photo of Peter Green from late 1969 in there instead. The band name up top was kept from the original poster. I added some text at the bottom using the same font and color.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Larkin Poe - Home Concert, Nashville, TN, 5-22-2020

One silver lining to the dark cloud of the coronavirus pandemic has been the many home concerts and other home recordings musicians have done while they've been stuck in lockdown at home. I've been hoping that Larkin Poe would get in on the fun, especially since they excel so well in the acoustic format. However, they've chosen to do some home concerts behind a paywall. I don't want to hinder their efforts to make a living as musicians, so I don't plan on posting those, at least not for a long, long time. If you're interested in watching their livestream concerts, you can do so here (and you can sign up retroactively, by the way):

They've been doing about one a week, each one with a different focus. A portion of the proceeds are going to United Way Nashville.

Anyway, although I don't intend to post any of that stuff, I'm glad to say that they've done some other home concert performances which they've freely posted on their Facebook page and elsewhere. So this is a collection of those. Note, by the way, that this does not include any of their "Tip O' the Hat" performances, which they continue to steadily do. I'll post another album of those when I have enough material.

This album starts with four cover songs. The first two were done as a special tribute to John Lee Hooker, and naturally are versions of his songs. The third one is a Reverend Gary Davis tribute, and is one of his songs. Then they did an Allman Brothers Band song, "Little Martha."

While all of those were recorded on separate occasions, the remainder of this album was recorded on May 22, 2020. Larkin Poe has a new album, "Self Made Man," coming out in June, so they did a home concert to help promote it. Two of the songs they played, "Holy Ghost Fire" and "Keep Diggin'," are from the upcoming album. The rest are originals, except for "Preachin' Blues" by the blues great Son House and "American Girl" by Tom Petty. (Technically, "American Girl" was from a different performance, but it was recorded on the same day, at the same location.)

I probably should mention that all the songs are acoustic performances, which isn't that surprising considering the two Larkin Poe sisters have been stuck in their house without the rest of their band. And it also goes without saying that it's great stuff. It's 41 minutes long. Let's hope they'll do more home concerts for the public domain, in which case I'll go back and rename this "Home Concert 1."

I've kept in their talking before each song. But I had to edit it down sometimes. For instance, because this is from several different dates, they introduced themselves several times, and I removed most of those intros.

On, by the way, while looking for songs to fill out this concert, I stumbled upon some older stuff I didn't have. I've added one song each to two earlier albums. You can re-download those here:

01. talk (Larkin Poe)
02. Crawling King Snake (Larkin Poe)
03. talk (Larkin Poe)
04. Boom Boom (Larkin Poe)
05. talk (Larkin Poe)
06. Say No to the Devil (Larkin Poe)
07. talk (Larkin Poe)
08. Little Martha [Instrumental] (Larkin Poe)
09. talk (Larkin Poe)
10. Trouble in Mind (Larkin Poe)
11. talk (Larkin Poe)
12. Holy Ghost Fire (Larkin Poe)
13. talk (Larkin Poe)
14. Bleach Blonde Bottle Blues (Larkin Poe)
15. talk (Larkin Poe)
16. Preachin' Blues (Larkin Poe)
17. talk (Larkin Poe)
18. Keep Diggin' (Larkin Poe)
19. talk (Larkin Poe)
20. Blue Ridge Mountains (Larkin Poe)
21. talk (Larkin Poe)
22. American Girl (Larkin Poe)

The cover art is a screenshot from the May 22, 2020 concert. I randomly clicked to the middle of the show and I liked the paused image of them happy and smiling, so I used that.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Pretty Things - BBC Sessions, 1968-1970

On May 15, 2020, Phil May, the long-time lead vocalist of the Pretty Things, died at the age of 75 due to complications from a cycling accident. May he rest in peace. His death reminded me that I'd lost track of my posting of Pretty Things albums. I posted the first of three BBC albums in November 2019. Here's the second one. Hopefully, the third one will follow soon.

This continues my long-standing ambition to erase the vocals of Brian Matthew and the other BBC DJs from whenever they'd talked over the music. For this album, out of the ten songs, four of them needed edits to erase or patch over such vocals.

It's actually more like four out of seven songs that needed fixing, because only those seven are actual BBC performances. Six of them come from an official BBC compilation for the band. The seventh is from a various artists compilation consisting entirely of BBC performances. The remaining three songs - "Alexander," "Renaissance Fair," and "Talkin' about the Good Times" - all come from a concert in Amsterdam in 1969. Two of those have been officially released on a rarities album. The third sounds just as good. For all the live tracks, I've removed the vocals. If you didn't read this paragraph, you'd assume they were more BBC performances, because the sound quality is just as good.

The Pretty Things existed from 1963 all the way until 2018. During their many years together, they often had a Spinal Tap-ian existence where they had to suffer indignities of unpopularity, despite being very talented. Even in the late 1960s, which was one of their more popular eras, they had to resort to performing songs under an assumed name (The Electric Banana), only to find those songs often added to porn film soundtracks.

That said, this was a very strong time for them musically. Their 1968 album "S.F. Sorrow" was a definite highlight. Even though it was complicated psychedelic music, four of the songs here are from that album. The rest generally have that psychedelic vibe.

Note that I've only included songs here that I didn't put on my stray tracks albums. There are three songs - "Send You with Loving," "Spring," and "Marilyn" - in which their BBC performances are the only decent surviving recording, or maybe the only recording at all. So all three of those have gone on the 1969 stray tracks album "Eagle's Son."

01. Balloon Burning [Edit] (Pretty Things)
02. S.F. Sorrow Is Born (Pretty Things)
03. She Says Good Morning [Edit] (Pretty Things)
04. Alexander (Pretty Things)
05. Renaissance Fair (Pretty Things)
06. Talkin' about the Good Times (Pretty Things)
07. Old Man Going (Pretty Things)
08. Sickle Clowns [Edit] (Pretty Things)
09. She's a Lover (Pretty Things)
10. Cries from the Midnight Circus [Edit] (Pretty Things)

I wish there were lots of good color photos of the band on stage in the late 1960s. If there were, I'd use one here. But since I couldn't find one, I've used a publicity photo. At least I'm glad they're wearing outlandish outfits that show them at the height of their psychedelic phase.

David Bowie - BBC Sessions, Volume 6: 1974-1980

I'm probably guilty of false advertising by calling this the sixth collection of David Bowie's BBC performances. In fact, while all the other albums in this series had all or most of their songs from actual BBC performances, this one has a grand total of one ("Heroes"). The rest are from other radio and TV appearances. But I'm calling it a BBC album because it finishes off the series. For whatever reason, Bowie didn't appear on the BBC much after 1973.

When it comes to Bowie appearing on TV - and most or all of these performances are from TV shows - the trick is finding versions that aren't lip-synced. The prevalence of that unfortunate technique has risen and fallen over the years, but it's never entirely gone away. For a few of these, I believe he was singing to a backing track for at least some of the instruments. But in all cases, his vocals were done live.

Absolutely none of the performances here have been officially released. But the sound is very good, because they all come from good recordings of TV shows.

Most of the songs are the hits you'd expect, although he performed live on TV so rarely for much of the 1970s that a lot of the hits don't appear here. However, there are a couple of unexpected choices. One, a cover medley of "Foot Stompin' - I Wish I Could Shimmy like My Sister Kate," wasn't released by him at time. It's clear why, since it obviously evolved into his original song "Fame."

It's also unexpected that he sang a duet with Cher on a lesser known song of his. They also did a duet of a long medley. I haven't included it because it's so painful and cheesy, in a 1970s variety show way. It started out with "Young Americans," but did snippets of many more songs, including "Do Do Run Run," "Day Tripper," "Blue Moon," "Young Blood," and more. Trust me, it's better to read about it than to actually hear it. But if you really want to, you can find it on YouTube.

This series comes to an end in 1980, because his radio and TV appearances seem to have dwindled down after that year. Even for 1983, which was his biggest year in terms of commercial success with the "Let's Dance" album and subsequent world tour, I couldn't find any good TV or radio appearances that weren't taken from his concert tour. Then things got weird for him for most of the rest of the 1980s and beyond. He only resumed performing for the BBC in the late 1990s, as far as I can tell. That's such a big gap in time that I think it makes sense to end the series here.

As an aside, I meant to post this months ago, not long after I posted Volume 5 in this series, but I got distracted and forgot. If there are other things like that where it seems like I've dropped the ball, don't be afraid to give me a reminder. I probably forgot some other stuff too!

01. 1984 (David Bowie)
02. Young Americans (David Bowie)
03. Foot Stompin' - I Wish I Could Shimmy like My Sister Kate (David Bowie)
04. Can You Hear Me (David Bowie & Cher)
05. Fame (David Bowie)
06. Heroes (David Bowie)
07. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie)
08. Stay (David Bowie)
09. Beauty and the Beast (David Bowie)
10. Alabama Song [Whisky Bar] (David Bowie)
11. TVC-15 (David Bowie)
12. The Man Who Sold the World (David Bowie)
13. Boys Keep Swinging (David Bowie)
14. Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)

In 1979, Bowie appeared on "Saturday Night Live" wearing some exceedingly strange outfits. (He changed outfits after each song to maximize the strangeness.) The cover art photo here comes from that performance. Unfortunately, I can't really capture the event with a single photo. It's worth tracking down on YouTube and watching.