Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Velvet Underground - Temptation Inside Your Heart - Various Songs (1967-1968)

Here's the second of my stray tracks collections for the Velvet Underground. This deals with the tail end of Nico's involvement in the band, as well as the remaining time for John Cale.

Nico is only on the first two songs. They're from her 1967 solo album "Chelsea Girls." About half of the songs on that album were actually performed with all of the Velvet Underground: these two songs, plus a few more that I put at the end of the previous stray tracks album.

A couple of songs here - "Stephanie Says" and "Temptation Inside Your Heart" - appeared on the acclaimed collection "VU." That collection is generally seen as the band's "lost 1969 album." But in fact, these two songs are from February 1968, before the "White Light/White Heat" album was released, so they belong here.

There are two officially released versions of the song "Hey Mr. Rain." But personally I don't see a big difference between the two songs, and I don't think it's a stellar song in the first place, so I've only included one version.

01. Chelsea Girls (Nico & the Velvet Underground)
02. It Was a Pleasure Then (Nico & the Velvet Underground)
03. Guess I'm Falling in Love [Edit] (Velvet Underground)
04. Booker T. [Instrumental] (Velvet Underground)
05. I'm Not a Young Man Anymore (Velvet Underground)
06. Stephanie Says (Velvet Underground)
07. Temptation Inside Your Heart (Velvet Underground)
08. Hey Mr. Rain [Version One] (Velvet Underground)

The album cover art comes from a 1968 concert poster. Or at least it might be. I'm not sure if it's a "real" poster from that year, or if it's something made years later. It has Andy Warhol in the photo, and of course he was only "producing" the band, not actually in it. And the photo also has Nico in it, and she was long gone by 1968. But in any case, I think it's really nice artwork. I changed the color of the band name to make it stick out.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Steve Miller Band - Acoustic (1972-1974)

Yesterday, I was listening to "Welcome to the Vault," the new box set by the Steve Miller Band. It's a mixed bad, like most box set, but it has some nice stuff on it. Anyway, I was particularly struck by two solo acoustic versions of songs, "Kow Kow Calculator" and "Seasons," both recorded in 1973. If you've been closely following this blog, you've probably noticed that I have a particular love of acoustic guitar music. So hearing those songs made me wonder if there was more acoustic goodness where that came from.

It turns out there was. Miller has never done a fully "unplugged" album or concert, at least as far as I know. But he has flirted with the format from time to time, especially in the early 1970s. I got lucky and found two soundboard bootlegs of Miller concerts, one from 1972 and the other from 1974. Both of them had acoustic sections, and I've used those for the majority of this album.

The 1972 concert makes up the first six tracks. On some of the songs, Miller is accompanied by bass, bongo drums, and/or backing vocals, but thing definitely stay acoustic. The first song probably has the worst sound quality of all the songs here, due to some wobbling in the volume. I tried to fix it as best I could. But even the "worst" still sounds very good.

The seventh song, a medley of "Blues with a Feeling" and "Call It Stormy Monday," needs some special explanation. Miller was doing some concerts in the Netherlands at the time, and a reporter found him at the bar of a hotel. The bar was still under construction, and from the recording, it appears the only people there were a handful of hotel employees and construction workers. The reporter had a tape recorder and recorded Miller singing a few songs with his acoustic guitar. I only included the one medley, because the others were mostly Miller talking and joking with the few other people there, while occasionally stopping and starting songs. Even on this medley, you'll notice him changing the lyrics and making comments in the middle of the song as part of his interaction with the extremely tiny audience.

After that comes the two "Welcome to the Vault" songs I mentioned above. They are the only officially released songs on the album.

The last six songs are from the 1974 concert I also mentioned above. As with the songs from the 1972 show, I removed the audience noise as much as possible, so they'd fit in with the studio tracks.

Miller is best known for his many hits in the mid-1970s. But while those are deservedly popular, I actually prefer his albums from the late 1960s and early 1970s. (Those years seem to be a common theme at this blog!) If you give this album a listen, maybe you'll see how good he was before all those hits. That said, one clear highlight here is the solo acoustic version of his number one hit, "The Joker."

When I started looking for acoustic Miller songs yesterday, I didn't know how much I'd find. I ended up coming with 45 minutes of music, which makes for a nice album length.

01. Going to the Country (Steve Miller Band)
02. The Sun Is Going Down (Steve Miller Band)
03. Midnight Flyer (Steve Miller Band)
04. Motherless Children (Steve Miller Band)
05. Nothing Lasts (Steve Miller Band)
06. High On You Mama (Steve Miller Band)
07. Blues with a Feeling - Call It Stormy Monday (Steve Miller Band)
08. Kow Kow Calculator [Acoustic Version] (Steve Miller Band)
09. Seasons [Acoustic Version] (Steve Miller Band)
10. Rock Love (Steve Miller Band)
11. Come On in My Kitchen (Steve Miller Band)
12. Going to Mexico (Steve Miller Band)
13. I Love You (Steve Miller Band)
14. Dear Mary (Steve Miller Band)
15. The Joker (Steve Miller Band)

The cover art photo comes from a 1974 TV performance.

Ron Stewart with Ron Wood - MTV Unplugged, Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA, 2-5-1993 (Unplugged... and Seated)

First off, I have to say that it's very fashionable these days to knock Rod Stewart. For most of his career, there's been a conflict between his flamboyant showman side and his serious musical side. I'm not a huge Stewart fan, but I do enjoy his serious musical style, especially his heyday of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Even after that heyday, his long career has had a lot of highlights. It's just that you have to sort through the many lowlights, especially a lot of bad production choices. One definite highlight was his appearance on MTV's "Unplugged" TV show in 1993. He released an album of this show, which he called "Unplugged... and Seated." It was a big seller.

Normally, I don't want to release an album that's publicly available, so long as it's not in need of a lot of fixing, because I don't want to take royalty money away from the artists. But in this case, the album needed a heck of a lot of fixing. The problem is what was NOT included. Stewart played 21 songs in that concert, but the original CD only included 15. A later "collector's edition" included two more. A DVD version came out with 19.

I've managed to include all 21 of the songs here, including the two totally unreleased ones, "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" and "It's All Over Now." I found "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" from a bootleg. When I first posted this, I didn't have "It's All Over Now." But within 24 hours, a person named Will sent me the missing file (which was an obscure B-side). Thanks! I immediately updated things to include it. 

Putting this together has been a serious pain in the rear. It wasn't just a matter of finding the extra songs and adding them in, because it turns out the official CD also left out nearly all of the between song banter. I had to track down the DVD version, then convert that to an audio format I could tinker with. But I couldn't just use the DVD version of the audio as my main source, because they often made drastic cuts between songs, fading out and fading back in, and missing some things. So instead, I had to copy and paste out the between song banter and fit that into what was mainly the CD version.

But there turned out to be additional complications. Both the CD and DVD versions changed the song orders. I was able to find the correct set list and reorder the songs. However, it turned out that both the CD and DVD versions manipulated the audio between the songs too. So, for instance, there might be lots of audience clapping over the start of a particular song, when another version showed the audience actually was quiet when that song began. Or some between song banter was moved to another song, since the song order was all jumbled up anyway.

Putting this together in the right order was like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I'm glad to say that I think I've worked it all out, as best I could. I was able to use bootleg versions of portions of the concert to make sure of what went where, especially when it came to the dialogue. But there are some pieces that are still missing. For instance, It seems that Stewart talked between every song. But a few of those talking bits weren't included on the DVD, and I wasn't able to get them from bootleg versions either. Still, I'd guess I was able to restore at least 80 percent of the dialogue. I think it makes the concert more enjoyable, especially the warm banter between Stewart and Ron Wood.

The original CD was 70 minutes long. Between the extra songs and the talking, I increased the length of the album by another 35 minutes. That's why I think the difference is enough to warrant the album being posted here.

In terms of musical content, this is kind of an ideal Rod Stewart set list for me. Although the concert was far from a true simple acoustic performance, he basically ignored his cheesy late 1970s and 1980s hits and focused on his best songs. Even the newer songs he included are well chosen. And note that he's not just a talented raspy singer; he wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 20 songs here, including most of the big hits.

01. Hot Legs (Rod Stewart)
02. talk (Rod Stewart)
03. Tonight's the Night (Rod Stewart)
04. talk (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
05. Cut Across Shorty (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
06. talk (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
07. Reason to Believe (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
08. It's All Over Now (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
09. talk (Rod Stewart with Rod Wood)
10. Every Picture Tells a Story (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
11. talk (Rod Stewart with Rod Wood)
12. Maggie May (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
13. People Get Ready (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
14. talk (Rod Stewart)
15. Handbags and Gladrags (Rod Stewart)
16. talk (Rod Stewart)
17. The Killing of Georgie (Rod Stewart)
18. talk (Rod Stewart)
19. Have I Told You Lately (Rod Stewart)
20. talk (Rod Stewart)
21. Tom Traubert's Blues [Waltzing Matilda] (Rod Stewart)
22. Forever Young (Rod Stewart)
23. The First Cut Is the Deepest (Rod Stewart)
24. talk (Rod Stewart)
25. I Was Only Joking (Rod Stewart)
26. talk (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
27. Gasoline Alley (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
28. Highgate Shuffle (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
29. talk (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
30. Sweet Little Rock and Roller (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
31. talk (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
32. Mandolin Wind (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
33. talk (Rod Stewart with Rod Wood)
34. Stay with Me (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
35. talk (Rod Stewart with Rod Wood)
36. Having a Party (Rod Stewart with Ron Wood)
37. talk (Rod Stewart with Rod Wood)

For the album cover art, I used the exact same photo as on the cover of the "Unplugged... and Seated" CD and DVD. I also used the same font, and text colors, and all lower case style. But I made some changes too, such as enlarging the photo, writing my own text, and changing the text placement.

Various Artists - Covered: Chuck Berry, Alternates, 1963-1999

Here's something that's a fun extra. I highly doubt I'm going to do this for any other artist in my "Covered" series, but it somehow seems fitting here.

In putting together my three albums of songs written by Chuck Berry, I searched the Internet and found a surprising number of "best Chuck Berry covers of all time" lists, and I used those to point me to the best versions. The only problem is, there are simply too many excellent versions of the same songs. In my cases, it was a flip of a coin type thing to decide which version to use. Over time, I developed a folder of "almosts." When I was all done, I took another look at that folder, and realized those songs would make for a very good album all by itself. So here it is.

Even with this album, I tried to stick to my general rule of not including more than one song by the same artist. Most of these artists had a song on the other three Berry albums, but in this case I mean not putting more than one song by the same artist on this album. I was able to stick to that for every artist except one: the Rolling Stones.

Some artists are so heavily influenced by Berry that you could put together an entire album just of that one band doing covers of his songs. The Stones are one such band. I think they've done about 15 of his songs, if you include unreleased live performances and the like. There's a similar number for the Beatles. Pretty much all the Stones and Beatles versions are great, as you'd expect by such great bands. So my apologies for not including more by both bands.

Oh, one last point I forgot to mention on my posts for any of the other albums. A few songs people closely associate with Berry weren't actually written by him. Probably the most obvious case of this is "Run Rudolph Run." Berry was the first to record it, but it wasn't written by him, so it doesn't fit into this series. There are a couple other cases like that, such as "Don't You Lie to Me" and "My Ding-a-Ling."

By the way, the Georgia Satellites and Tom Petty versions here are officially unreleased, I believe, but their sound quality is still high.

If you know of any really great Berry covers that I missed, please let me know. If they're really great, I could always update the song list, at least for this album.

01. Come On (Rolling Stones)
02. Roll Over Beethoven (Beatles)
03. Around and Around (Animals)
04. Too Much Monkey Business (Elvis Presley)
05. You Can't Catch Me (Love Sculpture)
06. Little Queenie (Rolling Stones)
07. Carol (Doors)
08. Johnny B. Goode (Johnny Winter)
09. Promised Land (Grateful Dead)
10. Maybelline (Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes)
11. You Never Can Tell (Ronnie Lane)
12. Sweet Little Sixteen (John Lennon)
13. Nadine [Is It You] (Stan Ridgway)
14. School Day [Ring Ring Goes the Bell] (Georgia Satellites)
15. Bye Bye Johnny (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)
16. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Paul McCartney)
17. Hellbound Train [Downbound Train] (George Thorogood)

The cover art photo comes from 1989. Berry is doing his classic "duck walk."

Various Artists - Covered: Chuck Berry, Volume 3, 1977-2017

This is the third and last of my "Covered" albums highlighting the songwriting of Chuck Berry.

I've said pretty much all I wanted to say with my post for the first album. I'll just add some comments relevant to this album.

One problem with Berry's own recordings is that there isn't a lot of variety from song to song. He had a successful formula and he stuck with it. It was rare when he would vary things up with a slow blues or a country song or the like. But one nice thing about listening to covers of his songs is that you naturally get more variety.

That's especially true on this album. It seems that as the years passed and straight rock and roll fractured into more sub-varieties, covers of Berry songs became less common, but also more adventurous.

Perhaps the best song to exemplify this is Peter Tosh's reggae version of "Johnny B. Goode." This is one of my favorite cover versions of all time. It takes the song to a totally different place, yet remains true to the spirit of the original. I said in a previous post that the only song I included two versions of was "Johnny B. Goode," mostly because this version is so very different. (I also included Jimi Hendrix's version on the second album.)

By the way, the Joe Jackson and Larkin Poe versions are officially unreleased. But in terms of sound quality, I think they sound as good as the rest.

01. [You Can Never Tell] C'Est La Vie (Emmylou Harris)
02. Tulane (Steve Gibbons Band)
03. It's My Own Business (Dave Edmunds)
04. Back in the U.S.A. (Linda Ronstadt)
05. Come On (Joe Jackson)
06. Oh What a Thrill (Rockpile)
07. Johnny B. Goode (Peter Tosh)
08. Havana Moon (Santana)
09. Wee Wee Hours (Eric Clapton)
10. 13 Question Method (Ry Cooder)
11. Move It (George Thorogood)
12. Little Queenie (Bruce Springsteen)
13. No Particular Place to Go (Larkin Poe)

The cover art photo dates to 1984.

Various Artists - Covered: Chuck Berry, Volume 2, 1970-1976

Here's the second of three albums in the "Covered" series celebrating the songwriting of Chuck Berry.

I said most of what I wanted to say in my last post, for the first album of the three. I'll only add what's particular to this album.

Berry started having lots of hits in 1955, the year rock and roll went mainstream. But his songs didn't get covered that much until about 1963 and 1964, which was the start of the British Invasion. I think it's safe to say the number of Berry covers peaked in the first half of the 1970s, as the rockers who grew up on Berry's music were their most popular, and before disco and punk shifted musical directions later in the 1970s.

Thus, I had way too many songs to choose from to make this particular album. I tried to include at least one song from each artist who were heavily influenced by Berry. For instance, I'm not much of a Status Quo fan, but they covered Berry as much or more than anybody, so I included a song by them.

Other versions were included many to make sure I had a cover for each of Berry's thirty of song best known and most frequently covered songs. For example, I'm not a big fan of AC/DC's version of "School Day," but the song was too important not to include, and I liked that version better than any other I could find.

Stephen Stills' version of "You Can't Catch Me" comes from his 1975 live album. It actually is part of a medley with the song "Crossroads." But I edited it out of the medley so the focus would remain on nothing but Berry songs.

01. Johnny B. Goode (Jimi Hendrix)
02. Memphis (Faces)
03. Around and Around (David Bowie)
04. I'm Talking about You (Rick Nelson)
05. Let It Rock (Bob Seger)
06. Roll Over Beethoven (Electric Light Orchestra)
07. Promised Land (Elvis Presley)
08. Back to Memphis (Band)
09. Sweet Little Rock and Roller (Rod Stewart)
10. You Can't Catch Me (Stephen Stills)
11. Bye Bye Johnny (Status Quo)
12. School Day [Ring Ring Goes the Bell] (AC-DC)
13. Jaguar and Thunderbird (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)

I don't know where or when the photo I chose for the cover art comes from exactly. But the source where I found it claims it's from some time in the 1970s.

Various Artists - Covered: Chuck Berry, Volume 1, 1959-1969

Here's the next in my "Covered" series, focusing on the most successful songwriters of all time. This time, I'm looking at Chuck Berry.

Berry's influence can't be overstated. Here's a couple of telling quotes. John Lennon once said, "If you had to give rock and roll another name, you might call it 'Chuck Berry.'" And Stevie Wonder said, "There's only one true king of rock and roll. His name is Chuck Berry."

Berry had a long successful career as a performer, scoring many hits on his own. But his role as a songwriter was arguably more important. Starting in 1955, the same year rock and roll broke big, he specialized in wordy, literate, and clever lyrics. He raised the bar for rock and roll songwriting,  and served a model as one of the few major stars of the time who wrote their own songs.

If you want to know more about Berry and his life, here's his Wikipedia entry:

Not a lot of other artists had big hits with Berry's songs, relatively speaking, probably because Berry almost always had his own hits with them. But it seems that any musician who ever got into rock and roll covered Berry's songs. So my challenge this time around wasn't to compile lots of hit versions (as I did some other artists in the "Covered" series) so much as it was to compile the best and most interesting versions out of hundreds and hundreds of covers by well known artists. I've found enough material to make three albums.

As usual with this "Covered" series, I've forced myself to only include one version of each song. However, I've made an exception this time by including two very different versions of "Johnny B. Goode," as you'll see with later albums.

I've also tried hard to limit each artist to only one song, to spread the musical wealth around. But, I made two exceptions, both on this album: the Beatles and the Yardbirds. For the Beatles, I considered it a must to include their version of "Rock and Roll Music," which they nailed. But I also included their version of "I Got to Find My Baby," since they're pretty much the only artist to ever cover that rare but good Berry song. With the Yardbirds, their version of "Too Much Monkey Business" is widely seen as a classic, and it's my favorite for that song. But I felt I couldn't miss "Jeff's Boogie" as well. This later instrumental is supposedly a Yardbirds original, but in fact it's a note for note copy of a song by Berry called "Guitar Boogie."So I've added "Guitar Boogie" to the song subtitle.

Speaking of stealing songwriting credits, the first song here, "Forty Days" by Ronnie Hawkins, needs some explanation. This very clearly is a version of Berry's song "Thirty Days," with only the title changed. So why 40 days instead of 30?! It seems that Hawkins thought he could claim the songwriting credit simply by changing the title. But that didn't work and he ended up having to pay royalties to Berry. I've put "Thirty Days" in as a subtitle to make clear what the song title really should have been.

But that's not the last songwriting credit controversy here. I've included the Beach Boys' "Surfin' U.S.A." That may seem strange to you unless you know that song is just Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen" with new lyrics. At first, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys tried to take full credit for writing the song, but a deal was made to give half the credit to Berry. Wilson later freely admitted that he just rewrote the Berry song.

I listened to a ton of Berry covers in putting these albums together. That enabled me to select some obscure covers, as well as choosing some obscure Berry songs. For this album in particular, some garage bands did some lively, punky versions that deserve more attention.

By the way, each of the three Berry albums I've put together are about 50 minutes long.

01. Forty Days [Thirty Days] (Ronnie Hawkins)
02. Sweet Little Sixteen (Jerry Lee Lewis)
03. I Got to Find My Baby (Beatles)
04. Brown Eyed Handsome Man (Buddy Holly)
05. Downbound Train (Hoyt Axton)
06. Surfin' U.S.A. (Beach Boys)
07. Too Much Monkey Business (Yardbirds)
08. Maybellene (Johnny Rivers)
09. Beautiful Delilah (Kinks)
10. Carol (Rolling Stones)
11. Rock and Roll Music (Beatles)
12. Oh Baby Doll (Pretty Things)
13. How You've Changed (Animals)
14. Reelin' and Rockin' (Dave Clark Five)
15. I Want to Be Your Driver (Blues Project)
16. Almost Grown (Lovin' Spoonful)
17. Jeff's Boogie [Guitar Boogie] (Yardbirds)
18. Nadine [Is That You] (Smokestack Lightnin')
19. No Money Down (Duane Allman)

For the album cover, I went with a photo of Berry from 1964.