Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Elton John - BBC Sessions, Volume 3: Sounds for Saturday, BBC Studios, Elstree, Britain, 12-8-1971

Here's the third in my series of albums of Elton John at the BBC. This one is a lot easier to explain that the previous two, because all but the last song is from a single appearance, in the last month of 1971.

The main show here was called "Sounds for Saturday." It was performed in front of a small studio audience. Although the audio has never been released on album, you can find high quality videos of it on YouTube. The sound is great, and he talks some between most songs.

The last song, "All the Nasties," is from an appearance on the "Old Grey Whistle Test" BBC TV show, recorded just two days prior to the main show here. He also played "Tiny Dancer," but I didn't include it because a very similar version is included here from the main show.

This album is 51 minutes long.

01 Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
02 talk (Elton John)
03 Rotten Peaches (Elton John)
04 talk (Elton John)
05 Razor Face (Elton John)
06 talk (Elton John)
07 Holiday Inn (Elton John)
08 Indian Sunset (Elton John)
09 talk (Elton John)
10 Levon (Elton John)
11 talk (Elton John)
12 Madman Across the Water (Elton John)
13 Goodbye (Elton John)
14 All the Nasties (Elton John)

The cover art photo comes from the exact concert in question, thanks to the videos available from it.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Adele - Acoustic - Morning Becomes Eclectic, KCRW, Santa Monica, CA, 11-17-2008

There are a lot of so-called "divas" who can really belt out a song. But, in my opinion, Adele stands heads and shoulders above the typical diva by having lots more talent than just an impressive voice. A real test of musical talent is how you do in a solo acoustic format. Adele's music is more acoustic than most people realize, especially her first album, and she's capable playing the guitar. So she excels playing acoustic.

As far as I know, she's never played a full concert acoustically. The closest she's probably come that is publicly available and has great sound are two performances for the KCRW radio station in 2008. She was promoting the same album and played many of the same songs. So I used all the songs from the second appearance, and just the different ones for the first appearance. The four songs from the first appearance start this album.

The KCRW material is forty minutes long, and makes up the bulk of this album. She also has some entertaining talk between most of those songs, though she's usually brief. There was no crowd noise since it was all recorded live at the radio station studio. Sometimes, a guitar backs her so she can concentrate on singing (though she's fully capable of playing the guitar for all those songs, as you can see in some YouTube videos). Occasionally, the backing instrument is keyboards or piano, though it's usually guitar.

But I wanted to make this into the ultimate Adele acoustic album, as much as possible. So I've added five extra songs at the end. Four of those are from her second album, including the all-time classics "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone like You." There's also a cover of the Cure hit "Lovesong" to go with the earlier cover of "Make You Feel My Love" by Bob Dylan for the only two cover songs here.

Altogether, the album is an hour and two minutes long.

As you've probably noticed if you follow this blog, I'm not a fan of most of the musical mega-stars from the last couple of decades. But Adele is the real deal. If you're not that familiar with her, this is a good place to start.

01 Crazy for You (Adele)
02 talk (Adele)
03 Melt My Heart to Stone (Adele)
04 talk (Adele)
05 Make You Feel My Love (Adele)
06 talk (Adele)
07 That's It, I Quit, I'm Moving On (Adele)
08 Daydreamer (Adele)
09 talk (Adele)
10 Right as Rain (Adele)
11 talk (Adele)
12 Hometown Glory (Adele)
13 talk (Adele)
14 Fool that I Am (Adele)
15 First Love (Adele)
16 talk (Adele)
17 Cold Shoulder (Adele)
18 talk (Adele)
19 My Shame (Adele)
20 talk (Adele)
21 Chasing Pavements (Adele)
22 Lovesong (Adele)
23 Rolling in the Deep (Adele)
24 Turning Tables (Adele)
25 Don't You Remember (Adele)
26 Someone like You (Adele)

The cover art is a photo of Adele in concert in 2008. I don't know the exact date or location.

Liz Phair - XPNFEST Weekend, Manhattan Beach, CA, 7-26-2020

So far, I've only posted one Liz Phair album. I plan to continue moving forward through her career chronologically. But first, here's something relatively new, from July 2020.

What's Phair been up to doing the coronavirus pandemic? For a long time, there was no sign of any musical activity, She completely finished the recording of a new album, her first one in years, but its release has been postponed until 2021. She didn't do any home concerts at all that I could see, not even a single song.

Until this concert. She played a 22-minute set, just with her on acoustic guitar plus an extra guitarist. Most of the songs are originals from her earlier albums. However, she played "Good Side," a single release from last year that I think will be on her new album. She finished with "Soberish," a song she's never played in public before. It'll be the title cut of her new album. Both new songs sound quite good.

Because the show is so short, I've added two extra songs at the beginning. These actually come from very late 2019, before the pandemic. But you wouldn't know it wasn't from the same concert. They were recorded live for a radio station, with the exact same two guitar instrumentation.

I've also added an extra song at the end, from an even more recent single song home concert performance. It's a cover of the Tears for Fears hit "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." This has a full band backing, with the music sounding so much like the Tears for Fears version that it's a bit uncanny.

Even with the extra songs, this is still a short album, at 33 minutes. If she does one or two more short home concert performances, I'll add that to the end.

01 Divorce Song (Liz Phair)
02 Why Can't I (Liz Phair)
03 6'1 (Liz Phair)
04 talk (Liz Phair)
05 Mesmerizing (Liz Phair)
06 talk (Liz Phair)
07 Good Side (Liz Phair)
08 talk (Liz Phair)
09 Polyester Bride (Liz Phair)
10 talk (Liz Phair)
11 Explain It to Me (Liz Phair)
12 talk (Liz Phair)
13 Soberish (Liz Phair)
14 Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Liz Phair)

I could have used a pretty decent screenshot from the main concert included here. But I prefer a screenshot I took from the radio station appearance that makes up the first two songs.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Neil Finn - Home Concerts 7, Los Angeles, CA, 4-22-2020 to 4-27-2020

As a  reminder, Neil Finn is the main singer and songwriter for the band Crowded House, and now he's a part of Fleetwood Mac. For the first couple of months of the coronavirus pandemic, Finn was a home concert maniac. He played a home concert nearly every single day, and then made them available for free at his website:

I don't know what happened, but he began doing them less and less, and then seemingly stopped altogether. The last home concert he posted was in early June 2020. He mentioned working on a new album, so maybe that's still taking all his time.

I previously posted six albums of his home concert material. But I waited a long time before posting any more, because I wasn't sure how to organize it. If he did more home concerts, then I would have to shuffle things around. Since it's been so long since his last home concert, I'm going to post the rest of what I have. It happens to nicely fit on two albums. This one is 54 minutes long, and the one still to come is 45 minutes long.

As I've previously mentioned, Finn has played both acoustic and full band home concerts. I've focused entirely on the acoustic ones, because I find that more interesting. He also does a mix of originals from his Split Enz, Crowded House, and solo phases of his career, plus covers. This is more of that exact same good stuff.

The notable covers this time are "When Doves Cry" by Prince, "Here, There and Everywhere" by the Beatles, "Nobody's Fault but My Own" by Beck, "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke, and "Happy Together" by the Turtles. There are some other song snippets and repeats of songs he did in earlier home concerts and the like that I left out.

01 When Doves Cry (Neil Finn)
02 Fall at Your Feet (Neil Finn)
03 Here, There and Everywhere (Neil Finn)
04 Carried Away (Neil Finn)
05 True Colours (Neil Finn)
06 Pour le Monde (Neil Finn)
07 Nobody's Fault but My Own (Neil Finn)
08 Nobody Wants To (Neil Finn)
09 You Send Me (Neil Finn)
10 You Are the One to Make Me Cry (Neil Finn)
11 Happy Together (Neil Finn)
12 Lester (Neil Finn)
13 Pineapple Head (Neil Finn)
14 Distant Sun (Neil Finn)
15 Astro (Neil Finn)
16 Dirty Creature - You Sexy Thing (Neil Finn)
17 People Are like Suns (Neil Finn)
18 Recurring Dream (Neil Finn)

Finn posted a YouTube video of him playing the version of "When Doves Cry" that starts this album. So I took a screenshot from that video for the cover art photo.

Yet More on Vitamin D

I try to keep the focus here on music. But I've been posting from time to time about the coronavirus and vitamin D, since I see a baffling lack of attention from the media and politicians about it. Everybody's talking about a possible vaccine. But, in a sense, the vaccine is already here, and it's called vitamin D. 

Multiple studies now show that it's effective against the vaccine. This new article I'm linking to describes research where having a sufficient level of vitamin D cuts the chance of getting the coronavirus by 54%, and then cuts the chance of dying if you get it by another 51%. A vaccine, if and when it comes, may not be much better than that. The FDA has already indicated they're willing to approve a vaccine that's only 50% effective.

Furthermore, a significant percentage of people have vitamin D deficiency, especially those who don't spend a lot of time in the sun. So I don't understand why medical professionals aren't pushing taking vitamin D regularly as much as they push social distancing and wearing masks. The virus is at a relative lull now in the US and many other countries, but it's very likely to surge back in the cold winter months, so it's more important than ever to take care. Oh, and vitamin D helps against other viruses too. Seems like taking it is a no-brainer to me.

Anyway, back to the music.

Sam Phillips - Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA, 7-25-1994

Have you even heard of Sam Phillips? Unfortunately, most people haven't. I think her music is really good, especially her poppy phase from the late 1980s through the 1990s. 

She's had a strange career. She started out as Leslie Phillips, doing Christian music. But after releasing a few albums like that, she changed her name to Sam and changed her musical style, almost entirely dropping the Christian aspect. Her new style was highly commercial, in my opinion, very catchy and Beatlesque, and with her writing all of it. But it didn't sell well at all, and she remained obscure. At the start of the 2000s, she switched styles again, going for a more sedate and stripped down sound.

Personally, her 1994 album "Martinis and Bikinis" is my favorite. It's a five-star album in my book, for sure. I would post that here, except I assume it's still in print. So instead I'm posting this concert. It's from the supporting tour for that album, and the vast majority of the songs from it are played, as well as some of the best songs from her previous album (though with the "Leslie Phillips" years forgotten). 

There are very few Sam Phillips bootlegs, since she'd never been that popular. But this is an excellent soundboard. I made a few minor fixes. For a couple of songs, such as "The Turning" and "Same Rain," the volume sometimes dropped down for no reason, so I balanced those spots to match the rest of the song. Also, because it's a soundboard with very little crowd noise, it sounded odd to me when each song ended and barely any audience reaction could be heard. So I boosted the volume of the clapping and cheering. It's still rather quiet, but at least now you don't have to strain to hear it.

This concert is an hour and two minutes long. Most of the songs are played with a full band. But a few, including the first one, are just done acoustically.

If you like this, definitely check "Martinis and Bikinis" too. Then also check out "The Turning," The Indescribable Wow," "Cruel Inventions," and her other albums.

Anyway, if you're looking for some lost gems, check this out.

01 talk (Sam Phillips)
02 The Turning (Sam Phillips)
03 Same Rain (Sam Phillips)
04 talk (Sam Phillips)
05 Signposts (Sam Phillips)
06 Circle of Fire (Sam Phillips)
07 talk (Sam Phillips)
08 Baby I Can't Please You (Sam Phillips)
09 Holding On to the Earth (Sam Phillips)
10 talk (Sam Phillips)
11 Strawberry Road (Sam Phillips)
12 talk (Sam Phillips)
13 Same Changes (Sam Phillips)
14 If I Fall (Sam Phillips)
15 Raised on Promises (Sam Phillips)
16 talk (Sam Phillips)
17 Fighting with Fire (Sam Phillips)
18 talk (Sam Phillips)
19 I Need Love (Sam Phillips)
20 Wheel of the Broken Voice (Sam Phillips)
21 Lying (Sam Phillips)
22 talk (Sam Phillips)
23 Private Storm (Sam Phillips)
24 Answers Don't Come Easy (Sam Phillips)

It's shocking to me how few photos I can find of Sam Phillips in the 1990s. I found a video of her playing on a song on TV in 1994, but it was rather low-res. So instead of using a screenshot from that, I prefer this photo of a concert from 1989. She's blonde, but I like how the red lighting makes it look like she has bright red hair and even reddish skin.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Duffy - Rain on Your Parade - Non-Album Tracks (2006)

Duffy has had a very strange musical career. She had a huge year in 2008. Her debut album "Rockferry" was the best selling album in Britain that year. But her next album, "Endlessly" in 2010, was a critical and commercial disappointment, and she hasn't released another album since then, apparently due to a sexual trauma in the early 2010s that totally derailed her career.

Personally, I really like the "Rockferry" album, but I think "Endlessly" is best forgotten. However, it turns out she has a de facto second album of all original material that's much, much better. Like Oasis with their first couple of albums, she blew lots of very good songs on B-sides that few people listened to. If one puts together all the "Rockferry" related B-sides, there's exactly enough songs for an album that's very much in the "Rockferry" style, and is nearly as good. This is that album.

The first song was a significant hit for her. It, plus the next three songs, were released as bonus tracks to a deluxe version of "Rockferry." All the other songs are B-sides, except for "Enough Love" and "Smoke without Fire," which were released first on movie soundtracks. 

In my opinion, "Endlessly" was a mistake, with terrible production that tried to make her sound like all the other generic pop crap on the radio, overwhelming the soulful singing that makes her special. It's much better to consider this her real second album. I think it is impressive that she wrote or co-wrote all the songs. Hopefully someday she'll fully reconnect with her musical mojo and put out more music like this and "Rockferry."

01 Rain on Your Parade (Duffy)
02 Fool for You (Duffy)
03 Stop (Duffy)
04 Breaking My Own Heart (Duffy)
05 Oh Boy (Duffy)
06 Save It for Your Prayers (Duffy)
07 Tomorrow (Duffy)
08 Loving You (Duffy)
09 Put It in Perspective (Duffy)
10 Big Flame (Duffy)
11 Enough Love (Duffy)
12 Frame Me (Duffy)
13 Smoke without Fire (Duffy)

The album cover photo is a promotional photo from 2008. For the next of both her name and the album title, I exactly imitated the text on the cover of the "Rain on Your Parade" single. I originally wanted to use that single cover for the cover here, but I could only find blurry, low quality versions. I prefer this photo anyway.

Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, plus the Grateful Dead with Stephen Stills - The Winterland, San Francisco, CA, 10-25-1969

This is a very curious bootleg. I only found out it existed today, and I was so psyched about it that I posted it straight away. I didn't know about it because it only emerged in the last year or so. It's an excellent soundboard of an excellent performance. The main downside is that it's rather short.

Crosby, Stills and Nash released their first album, simply called "Crosby, Stills and Nash," in May 1969. By October 1969, they were well into recording their second album with Neil Young, which would turn out to be called "Deja Vu." I'm sure, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young all either lived near San Francisco at the time or spent a lot of time there. On this night, October 25, 1969, both the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane were going to play at the Winterland. One or more of the opening bands had to cancel, and Stephen Stills and Graham Nash were there. So they got up and performed a short acoustic set just as a duo, without any preparation whatsoever.

This is virtually the only time Stills and Nash appeared on stage as a duo, without David Crosby. (They also did about three concerts together in the early 1980s, when Crosby was flirting with death due to his drug use.)

It's fascinating to hear what the two of them came up with on stage at the spur of the moment. As they stated at the outset, their intention was to try out some new songs, and that's just what they did. Nash wanted to start out with "Teach Your Children." This could well be the very first time that classic song was sung in public. ( claims it was played four times with CSNY in 1969, but all of them were after this.) However, after introducing the song, Nash briefly left the stage to get something to drink, so Stills filled the time with a cover of the blues classic "Crossroads." Only then did they get around to doing "Teach Your Children" together.

"How Have You Been," a song written by John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, followed. Given that Stills and Nash worked out harmonies for it, and there's a studio outtake version of it, it's likely this song was strongly considered to go on "Deja Vu." In fact, CSN briefly toyed with having Sebastian join their band before settling on Neil Young instead.

The next song, "Lonesome Valley," is a real treat, because no version of CSN or any variation thereof has ever known to have sung the song. It was originally done by Woody Guthrie.

The short Stills and Nash concert ended with "Black Queen." Like "Crossroads," it was an acoustic guitar showcase for Stills.

That's the end of the short set they did together, only 22 minutes long. (By the way, the man welcoming them on and off the stage is Bill Graham.)

But that's not the end of this album. It turns out that when the Grateful Dead played their set later that night, Stills joined them for one song, "Turn On Your Lovelight." When the Dead played that cover song, it was always was sung by Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, and that's the case here. But Stills added backing vocals as well as helping with lead guitar. If you listen carefully, you can definitely hear his voice at times.

Since this version of "Lovelight" is over 20 minutes long, it almost doubled the length of this album, all by itself. By the way, McKernan's voice was very low in the mix. It was mostly in one stereo channel, so I boosted the volume of that channel and lowered the volume of the other channel. That helps, but it's still somewhat low. I didn't want to overdo things by making one channel much louder than the other.

That's the end of the material from the Winterland show. But Stills made one more guest appearance with the Grateful Dead a couple of months later. That also is available on a soundboard bootleg, and it's a nice performance, so I've added it in as a quasi-bonus track. It's the song "Black Queen," which was played in the Winterland show. But that had been Stills alone on his acoustic guitar. This drastically different version was played by all of the Grateful Dead, yet with Stills singing lead vocals as well as playing more lead guitar. Apparently, Stills wrote the song with the intention of giving it to the Dead to record, but they never did. However, they learned it well enough to back him up. 

If you include that last song from a different concert, this album is 55 minutes long. It's kind of a strange beast, half acoustic with Stills and Nash, and half electric with Stills and the Dead. But I think it's an interesting album just the same that's a "must have" for any fan of CSN in their glory years.

01 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
02 Crossroads (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
03 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
04 Teach Your Children (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
05 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
06 How Have You Been (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
07 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
08 Lonesome Valley (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
09 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
10 Black Queen (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
11 talk (Stephen Stills & Graham Nash)
12 Turn On Your Love Light (Grateful Dead with Stephen Stills)
13 Black Queen (Grateful Dead with Stephen Stills)

I have no idea when or where the cover art photo of Stills and Nash was taken. But judging by their appearance, I think it's a safe bet it's from either 1969 or 1970. If anyone knows, please let me know. It might be from the famous Woodstock concert. I moved Stills a little bit closer to Nash so I could make their heads larger.

Elton John - BBC Sessions, Volume 2: 1970

I got some good comments in response to posting the first in my series of Elton John's albums of his BBC performances. So here's the second one already.

The album mostly consists of two BBC appearances, one from April 4, 1970 and the other from June 25, 1970. The April one actually comes one month before the BBC performance that makes up the vast majority of the first album in this series. But I wanted to keep each of the appearances together, and it worked out best if I arranged them this way.

The first four songs are from the April 4th appearance. The next song ("Border Song") is from a different appearance that took place just one day later. The three songs after that are from the June 25th appearance. The album then ends with one song from August 1970 and one from March 1971.

Once again, with these BBC performances, it's either feast or famine. Meaning we either have the song in great quality, or we don't have it publicly available at all. Six of the songs here have been released as bonus tracks to deluxe versions of his albums "Elton John" and "Tumbleweed Connection." The rest remain unreleased, but sound just as good, in my opinion. The April 4th and June 25th appearances are complete and in the correct order. But there were more songs played at the April 5th and August appearances that haven't even leaked to bootlegs.

I have two bonus tracks this time. Normally, I include a song as a bonus track due to borderline sound quality: it's not good enough as the rest, but it's not so bad to be totally discarded. In this case, both of the bonus tracks sound great. One, "Take Me to the Pilot," has even been officially released on one of those deluxe editions. The only reason they're bonus tracks is because they're other versions of the same songs elsewhere on the album. As I've mentioned before, I hate having two versions of the same song on one album, unless there's something drastically different about them.

I included the unreleased version of "Take Me to the Pilot" over the officially released bonus track one because I thought it's more different from the album version, and thus more interesting. It has more of a gospel feel, with a bigger role for the backing vocals.

01 Take Me to the Pilot (Elton John)
02 My Father's Gun (Elton John)
03 Your Song (Elton John)
04 Ballad of a Well-Known Gun (Elton John)
05 Border Song [Holy Moses] (Elton John with Hookfoot)
06 Country Comfort (Elton John)
07 Amoreena (Elton John)
08 Burn Down the Mission (Elton John)
09 Bad Side of the Moon (Elton John)
10 The King Must Die (Elton John)

Border Song [Holy Moses] (Elton John)
Take Me to the Pilot (Elton John)

The cover art photo comes from an appearance by Elton John at "Top of the Pops" in 1971. Although "Top of the Pops" was a BBC TV show, I haven't included any songs from his appearances on that show because they were always lip-synced. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Elton John - BBC Sessions, Volume 1: 1968-1970

There's some good news for Elton John fans. He's releasing an archival box set in November 2020 called "Elton: Jewel Box." This eight CD collection will include three CDs of previously unreleased early demos from 1967 to 1971, and two more CDs of hard-to-find B-sides. But unfortunately what won't be included at all is any of his BBC performances. 

So I'm going to try to make up for that by posting a series of BBC albums. I've found seven albums of BBC material just for the years 1968 to 1976, with four of them being full concerts. I have to admit I'm still not a huge Elton John fan, although I've been getting into his stuff more lately. But I'm particularly impressed by his BBC performances. I think they're often better than the studio versions.

John performed for the BBC twice in 1968 and three times in 1969, playing 18 songs (some of them repeats). This is surprising, because he wouldn't make it to any charts until 1970. Unfortunately, nearly all of these early performances are lost, or at least not currently publicly available. Only two songs are known, a version of "Lady Samantha" from 1968 and a version of "Sails" from 1969. I like both of these performances a lot more than the studio versions.

He played for the BBC even more in 1970, appearing six different times and playing multiple songs each time. Unfortunately, most of those performances are lost or unavailable too. But one show that exists in full is his appearance on May 22, 1970. I've included all of it, including the talking between songs.

With Elton John and his early BBC performances, it's either feast or famine. Meaning, either the recording isn't available at all, or it is available and sounds great. I think that's because these particular performances on this album were all replayed by the BBC many years later. So these aren't copies of copies of copies recorded off the radio back in 1970.

About 30 seconds of instrumental music at the start of "Lady Samantha" was missing due to a BBC DJ talking over it. But I was able to find that section from a podcast, with the rest of the song missing or talked over! I put the two parts together to have the full song. "Sails" also had DJ chatter over the intro, but I was able to wipe that out using X-Minus sound editing software.

This album is rather short, at only 34 minutes. But hopefully it'll grow longer if and when more of his early BBC appearances emerge.

01 Lady Samantha [Edit] (Elton John)
02 Sails [Edit] (Elton John)
03 Your Song (Elton John)
04 Border Song [Holy Moses] (Elton John)
05 talk (Elton John)
06 Sixty Years On (Elton John)
07 Take Me to the Pilot (Elton John)
08 talk (Elton John)
09 The Greatest Discovery (Elton John)
10 I Need You to Turn To (Elton John)
11 talk (Elton John)
12 Burn Down the Mission (Elton John)

Videos for all of the songs from the 1970 show here are available on YouTube. I took a screenshot from one of them for the cover art photo.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Norah Jones - Home Concerts 7, New York City, 6-25-2020 to 7-2-2020

Norah Jones is tireless. She's been holding her weekly home concerts once a week with the regularity of a Swiss watch. It's been about six months, and I don't think she's missed one yet. I've been falling behind in posting these. This is number seven, but I already have material for eleven. So here at least is a start in getting caught up.

The main reason I've delayed posting this is because on July 10, 2020, instead of posting her home concert on YouTube as usual, she only made it available through something called "Amazon Live." They posted it publicly, but only for a few days, and I missed it. I was hoping to add that to this. But I eventually realized that three of the songs she played then she'd played at other home concerts. So I'm really only missing the song "Flame Twin," and she'll probably play that one in a home concert eventually. Still, if anyone has that "Amazon Live" recording, please let me know. 

This album is a bit short, at only 37 minutes. But I'd prefer not to split up her weekly home concerts, and adding four or so songs would make it longer than usual. 

In terms of musical content and sound quality, this is more of the same good stuff, like the other albums in this home concerts series. The songs are all Norah Jones originals, or covers that she's done on album (such as "The Grass Is Blue," originally by Dolly Parton). Two of the songs, "Heaven Above" and "Say No More," are from her 2020 album, and have never been played live for the public before.

01 The Grass Is Blue (Norah Jones)
02 Something Is Calling You (Norah Jones)
03 talk (Norah Jones)
04 Heaven Above (Norah Jones)
05 I've Got to See You Again (Norah Jones)
06 Wintertime (Norah Jones)
07 Take It Back (Norah Jones)
08 Say No More (Norah Jones)
09 I'll Be Gone (Norah Jones)
10 talk (Norah Jones)

The cover art photo is a screenshot taken from the first of the two home concerts here.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

U2 - Pop - Alternate Version (1997)

Here's something that might be controversial, though I hope not. In short, I've made a lot of edits and changes to U2's "Pop" album. This is a pretty lengthy write-up explaining and justifying my changes. If you're interested in the details please read on, otherwise skip to the last two paragraphs.

I was a big U2 fan since their "War" album in 1983. I loved everything they did until their "Pop" album in 1997. That one left me feeling very disappointed. To this day, many U2 fans either love or hate "Pop." If you look at an average of fan ratings on, it gets a much lower rating than all the band's earlier albums. Even the members of U2 had issues with it. They felt they had to rush finishing it in order to start a tour on time. Several years later, they redid a few of the songs to try to improve on them.

The band tried to be experimental with the album, while attempting to explore current electronic dance sounds.  But I don't think that's why I had such issues with the album. I liked all of their experimental stuff from earlier in the 1990s, including their often overlooked "Original Soundtracks 1" album from 1995. I wasn't prone to like their electronic dance style, but to be frank there isn't that much of that on the album, and what was there wasn't a problem for me.

Instead, I think the album suffers from several problems. One is that some of the songs just aren't up to U2's previously high standards. But two, that's compounded by the fact that many of the songs are overly long. The 1990s were a time of what I call "album bloat." Albums had been limited to about 50 minutes due to limitations of vinyl records. But when CDs became the dominant format, albums could be 70 or even 80 minutes long. In my opinion, bands stopped editing themselves as much as before, because they didn't have to. "Pop" suffers from that, with most of the songs four or five minutes long, when they didn't always merit that length. Finally, the songs didn't fully jell in the recording studio. Once the band went on tour for a couple of months, many of the arrangements of the songs were changed and improved. 

So this is my attempt to improve "Pop." On this blog, I've sometimes posted my improvements of other albums by removing some songs and adding others. I did that with "Cahoots" by the Band, for example. But for this album, I decided I wanted to improve it as much as possible without changing what songs were on it, or even the song order. Instead, I've made changes to every song but one, and I often made drastic changes.

In my opinion, my "secret weapon" for overhauling this album is a bootleg of the band playing a concert in Miami in late 1997. I listened to all the most popular soundboard bootlegs from the "Pop" tour, as well as the official (but somewhat obscure) live album "Hasta la Vista Baby! U2 Live from Mexico City." The problem with all of those for my purposes is that they contain lots of audience noise. But the Miami soundboard bootleg is different, with almost no audience noise at all. So I could use performances from that essentially as studio versions, better than the official album versions since the songs were honed from playing them at many live concerts.

Thus, I completely replaced the album versions with the live Miami versions for "Mofo," "Miami," "If You Wear that Velvet Dress," and part of "Wake Up, Dead Man." I carefully edited the songs to make sure no crowd noise could be heard. By the way, the Miami version of "If You Wear that Velvet Dress" is half as long as the album version, two-and-a-half minutes instead of five. I think the song is much improved in that shorter format.

I would have used the Miami bootleg version of "Do You Feel Loved" as well, except for the fact that the song was dropped from their set list by the time the tour reached Miami. So instead I used the same approach with a bootleg from a show in Las Vegas near the start of the tour. The sound quality isn't as excellent as the Miami one, but it was close. 

For another song, "Please," I was able to use the version from the "Please: PopMart Live" EP. That one was recorded at a concert in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The sound quality on that version is great, and had virtually no crowd noise until the song was over, allowing me to easily edit that out.2

As the tour went on, the band kept releasing singles from the album. Sometimes, they recorded the songs for the single versions, using the new, superior arrangements they had honed in concert. That's why I've used the single version of "Last Night on Earth." I also used the single version of "If God Will Send His Angels." In my opinion, that was one of the weaker songs on the album. But one remixed single version, called the "Grand Jury Mix," changed the song significantly by fixing the plodding pace with a more lively drumbeat. 

Of the redone versions the band did a couple of years later, for their best of collection released in 2000, I only used two, for "Discotheque" and "Gone." Those versions also were very influenced by the way the songs evolved in concert. So it would be much like using the versions from the Miami bootleg, except with even better sound quality.

That leaves just two songs, "The Playboy Mansion" and "Staring at the Sun." "The Playboy Mansion" was never played in concert, and I couldn't find any alternate versions of it anywhere, so I was stuck with the album version. 

"Staring at the Sun" though is a complicated case. When the band tried playing it in concert, they soon discovered that the album version didn't go over well. The resorted to playing a very different acoustic version, with just Bono singing and The Edge on guitar. I like this version much better. But the problem is that because it's quiet and acoustic, the crowd noises could often be heard during the song, even with the relatively pristine Miami bootleg version. I realized the best acoustic version comes from a 2011 concert where just Bono and The Edge played. Unlike most U2 concerts, which are played in vast stadiums, this one was done for a very small audience, so the audience noise wasn't much of a problem. Also, there were some string instruments backing them up. Normally, I'm weary of orchestral arrangements, but this was subtle and well done. I consider it the best version of the song by far, so I've used it, even though it comes from 2011 much later than the others.

So that explains the sourcing of all the songs. But wait, there's more! Because in some cases, I edited the songs down. As I'd mentioned, I think maybe the biggest problem with the original album was the bloat. I've cut the run time from 60 minutes to 48 minutes mostly by making edits here and there. One example is "Discotheque." The original album version, the redone version, and the live versions all have the song start with a slow build up that goes on for over a minute before the main riff comes in. I think the songs works much better with the riff right at the very start, so I cut all the slow build-up.

I made another drastic edit for "Wake Up Dead Man." The album version is five minutes long. But in concert, the band played a version that's only two minutes long. I like that version much better. Obviously, the band realized the five-minute version was bloated and problematic, or they wouldn't have drastically cut it down in concert. So I wanted to use the live version. But, like "Staring at the Sun," because it's a quiet acoustic song, even a little bit of crowd noise can mar the sound quality. So I used the first minute and a half of the album version. Then I switched to the Miami bootleg version for the last 30 seconds, where the song winds down instead of going into a more rocking section. Luckily, that section had almost no crowd noise, and it fits in well with the studio album section.

I made other edits here and there. For instance, I lopped off about a minute from "Do You Feel Loved" that was just repetition of the chorus chords near the end of the song. On "Gone," although I used the redone version from 2000, I liked how Bono said "Going, going, gone" near the beginning of the song in the live version from Miami. So I added that in. By contrast, for the song "Mofo," the Miami version had a couple gratuitous crowd-pleasing mentions of the word "Miami" in the song, so I carefully edited those out. There are some other edits here and there, most of them trying to cut out bloat.

The bottom line is that, after all these changes, I think this is a much stronger album. For one thing, it's stream-lined, with 12 minutes of bloat removed without losing anything important. For another, these versions generally are less electronic and experimental and more in line with the classic U2 rocking sound. That's what worked best in concert, because that's the band is best at.

I won't be surprised if some U2 fans complain that I butchered and mutilated the album. If you're very familiar with it, these changes could sound jarring. But I made these changes primarily for me, and they work for me. Hopefully, they'll work for you as well. I put a lot of time and effort into these changes, as you can probably guess from my comments here. I felt the album had a lot of good things going for it, but was flawed. I now feel I'm removed most of the flaws, and the revised version of the album can now hold its own with the high standards of their previous albums.

01 Discotheque (U2)
02 Do You Feel Loved (U2)
03 Mofo (U2)
04 If God Will Send His Angels (U2)
05 Staring at the Sun (U2)
06 Last Night on Earth (U2)
07 Gone (U2)
08 Miami (U2)
09 The Playboy Mansion (U2)
10 If You Wear that Velvet Dress (U2)
11 Please (U2)
12 Wake Up Dead Man (U2)

For the album cover, I used the same cover as the official album, without any changes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Morgan James - Acoustic Cover Songs, Volume 2, 2015-2016

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the first album of Morgan James performing acoustic cover songs. Here's the second, with lots more to come. Please check out the write-up for that first album for information about who she is and her background. But the bottom line is she's a fantastic singer with an unusual penchant for performing acoustic versions of songs.

As I mentioned in the write-up to that first album in this series, one thing I like about James's covers is that her taste in music is somewhat different from mine. That means she does covers of songs that I don't know or wouldn't pay much attention to. For instance, I haven't been following D'Angelo, Chris Stapleton, Sia, or Ariana Grande. If I did, I usually would have issues with the slick, modern pop or soul production. But thanks to Morgan James stripping those songs down to their simplest acoustic forms, I can appreciate them as good songs.

If you look at the below song list, she does some songs like that, but mixes them in with classic songs from previous decades too. I enjoy how she often puts her own spin on some of those songs. For instance, she plays "Roxanne" at a much slower pace than the Police original. And when she does "Melissa," she's backed only by a piano. That's different from even the acoustic versions the Allman Brothers Band have done on guitar.

So, bottom line, if you haven't given Morgan James a listen, you're missing out.

Here a list of the original artists for each song:

01 The Charade - D'Angelo
02 Roxanne - Police
03 Cecilia - Simon & Garfunkel
04 Jolene - Dolly Parton
05 Melissa - Allman Brothers Band
06 Dirty Diana - Michael Jackson
07 Alive - Sia
08 You're All I Need to Get By - Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
09 Parachute - Chris Stapleton
10 If It's Magic - Stevie Wonder
11 Dangerous Woman - Ariana Grande
12 Shape of My Heart - Sting
13 Waiting on the World to Change - John Mayer

Here's the usual song list:

01 The Charade (Morgan James)
02 Roxanne (Morgan James)
03 Cecilia (Morgan James)
04 Jolene (Morgan James)
05 Melissa (Morgan James)
06 Dirty Diana (Morgan James)
07 Alive (Morgan James & Mykal Kilgore)
08 You're All I Need to Get By (Morgan James & Doug Wamble)
09 Parachute (Morgan James)
10 If It's Magic (Morgan James)
11 Dangerous Woman (Morgan James)
12 Shape of My Heart (Morgan James)
13 Waiting on the World to Change (Morgan James)

The cover art photo is from 2015.

Elton John - Hits '70 - Non-Album Cover Versions (1970)

Lately, I've been going through an Elton John phase, so I'll be posting more from him. Here's a very strange album that needs some explanation.

In 1969, Elton John was already starting to make it in the music business. He put out a single in 1968, and two more singles and an album in 1969. But none of them made the charts anywhere, and he needed money to live on while he waited for more success. He'd also been writing songs for other artists, but hadn't had much success with that either. 

At the time, it was very rare for record companies to put out compilations featuring recent hits from different artists, due to the difficulty of securing to rights from other companies and then splitting the profits. So instead, it was common practice to make compilation albums filled with nearly exact copies of hits done by anonymous musicians. Elton John made some extra money playing keyboards on some of these songs, and sometimes singing lead vocals on them. He did most of these in early to mid-1970, at a time when he was already starting to break out as a star. I guess the royalty checks for his own songs hadn't started coming in yet.

It was only after he became a superstar that some listeners realized that some of these anonymous copycat versions of hits were actually sung by him. Over the years, there have been various collections of these performances. But this generally has remained little more than a curiosity for his die-hard fans.

I think these recordings deserve more attention. Yeah, many of them just aren't good. Often they sound like the anonymous copies that they are. But on some of the songs, Elton John's talent and individual style shines through. So I've cut these songs about in half to the ones I think are the best. They're presented in the order they were recorded. He did a couple of lead vocals in late 1969, but those didn't make the cut. 

Generally speaking, I picked the songs where his lead vocals are the most clear and distinctive. (On many of the songs I rejected, he shared lead vocals with others, or double tracked himself to make his voice sound more generic.) I also rejected a few songs that were just weird. For instance, he sang a version of "Young, Gifted, and Black," which is silly when you know he isn't black. Also, some of his performances were more like parodies, and I wanted to keep this serious. Furthermore, I tried to avoid the versions that were too slavishly similar to the original hit versions.

The quality of this album is greatly helped by the fact that he didn't just sing copies of hit songs. In mid-1970, he also was asked to make demos for a handful of songs from lesser known artists in hopes that other artists would hear them and be more inclined to cover them. (Those are tracks 7 through 13.) Luckily, four of the seven songs from this batch were Nick Drake compositions. At the time, Drake was totally obscure, but he has risen in stature to become a music legend. So, ironically, you may find some of the Nick Drake songs here more familiar than some of the hits. 

The other three songs from that bunch were from an obscure folk duo, John and Beverley Martyn. Although the duo wouldn't last the year as a musical entity, John Martyn would go on to have a long and critically acclaimed career as a singer-songwriter. So it was a lucky thing that Elton John was assigned to record those songs too.

It wouldn't have been a smart thing for Elton John to release an all-covers album in 1970, the year he was hitting it big as a performer of the songs he co-wrote with Bernie Taupin. But in hindsight, this is a perfectly good album. By cutting out the lesser copycat songs, I think this goes from a marginal curiosity to an album that holds its own in his discography.

The album is 50 minutes long. That was on the long side for an album in that era, but some albums were that long or longer.

Here is a list of the artists who had the original and/or hit versions for each song:

01 Bridge Over Troubled Water - Simon and Garfunkel
02 I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top - Hollies
03 Question - Moody Blues
04 Yellow River - Christie
05 Lady D'Arbanville - Cat Stevens
06 Love of the Common People - Nicky Thomas
07 Saturday Sun - Nick Drake
08 Sweet Honesty - John and Beverley Martyn
09 Stormbringer - John and Beverley Martyn
10 Way to Blue - Nick Drake
11 Go Out and Get It - John and Beverley Martyn
12 Day Is Done - Nick Drake
13 Time Has Told Me - Nick Drake
14 Natural Sinner - Fair Weather
15 Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours - Stevie Wonder

Here's the usual song list:

01 Bridge Over Troubled Water (Elton John)
02 I Can't Tell the Bottom from the Top (Elton John)
03 Question (Elton John)
04 Yellow River (Elton John)
05 Lady D'Arbanville (Elton John)
06 Love of the Common People (Elton John)
07 Saturday Sun (Elton John)
08 Sweet Honesty (Elton John)
09 Stormbringer (Elton John)
10 Way to Blue (Elton John)
11 Go Out and Get It (Elton John)
12 Day Is Done (Elton John)
13 Time Has Told Me (Elton John)
14 Natural Sinner (Elton John)
15 Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours (Elton John)

While I was collecting songs and information to put this album together, I came across the cover art to the many cheapo cheapo hits collections that contained one or more of Elton John's vocals. I could have tried to make a serious and respectable album cover. But instead, I decided it would be more fun to lean into the cheesy fly-by-night nature of those albums by basing my cover on one of those. 

So that's what I did. The title "Hits '70" is unchanged. The left side of the original cover was a list of the songs it contained. I replaced that with a photo of Elton John in concert from that time period. The bottom left of the cover contained some more text and the record company logo. I replaced that with Elton John's name, done in the same font as the album title.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Allman Brothers Band - Unplugged - Radio and Records Convention, Los Angeles, CA, 6-11-1992

In the early 1990s, MTV's "Unplugged" series was a popular musical trend, a reaction to the overproduction excesses of the 1980s. The Allman Brothers Band had never really played in the acoustic musical format before, at least not more than for a song here and there. But they jumped on the "Unplugged" train in 1992. This presents the best of their acoustic phase.

The Allman Brothers Band never actually played for the MTV Unplugged TV show, as far as I know. But they put out an album called "IRSA Acoustic Set" based on this concert. Unfortunately, it was only released on a limited basis for a limited time, with the benefits going to charity. As a result, most fans of the band have never heard it.

I've supplemented it with two extra songs at the end. "Pony Boy" was played occasionally in concert in 1992, during short acoustic sets in the middle of longer electric concerts. The last song, "Steady Rollin' Man," was done in 1998. However, you wouldn't know it was six years later, since the acoustic sound is the same as the others. Both of these extra songs come from bootlegs, but the sound is pretty close to the main concert.

That main concert sounds fantastic. However, it had one problem that annoyed me: the audience applause at the end of each song faded out after just a few seconds. The fade-outs were so obvious that they ruined the impression of hearing one continuous concert. So I did two things to fix this. One, I unfaded the fade-outs as best I could, meaning I steadily increased the volume as it was dropping, until there was nothing left to increase. This typically restored a couple of seconds at the end of each song. Sometimes even that wasn't enough for the audience reaction to sound like it came to a natural conclusion. So I patched in bits of the applause from other sounds to extend the crowd response a couple more seconds. The final result still isn't great, but I think it's better than the fast fade-outs.

As far as the music goes, I much prefer the early 1970s version of the band to their later versions, with markedly different personnel. But the 1992 version still had the essential members Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts on lead vocals. (Betts was with the band until 2000, while Allman stayed until the end in 2014.) This version also features the excellent Warren Haynes on lead guitar.

If you're a fan of the Allman Brothers Band at all, you should listen to this. Sure, they were great at rocking, but they were just as good at playing on a porch with acoustic instruments. There's even a decent amount of jamming here.

The album is 56 minutes long.

01 Come On in My Kitchen (Allman Brothers Band)
02 talk (Allman Brothers Band)
03 Seven Turns (Allman Brothers Band)
04 Midnight Rider (Allman Brothers Band)
05 Southbound (Allman Brothers Band)
06 talk (Allman Brothers Band)
07 In Memory of Elizabeth Reed [Instrumental] (Allman Brothers Band)
08 talk (Allman Brothers Band)
09 Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad (Allman Brothers Band)
10 Melissa (Allman Brothers Band)
11 Midnight Blues (Allman Brothers Band)
12 talk (Allman Brothers Band)
13 Pony Boy (Allman Brothers Band)
14 talk (Allman Brothers Band)
15 Steady Rollin' Man (Allman Brothers Band)

The cover art photo doesn't come from the exact concert in question. But it's close. It's from an acoustic performance on TV just one month later. There were multiple photos from the same appearance. The photo I chose was good except for the fact that Warren Haynes (third from the left) had his face bent down so it was blocked by a microphone. So I used a different photo to patch in a better version of him from the waist on up.

For the band name, I used the artwork from the 1979 album "Enlightened Rogues" (a surprisingly good album for the year, by the way). I rearranged the wording and then inverted the colors.

Elton John - 11-17-70 (A&R Recording Studios, New York City, 11-17-1970) - Complete Version

There's surprisingly little officially released live music from Elton John's most acclaimed period, the early 1970s. The one that stands out as a classic, "11-17-70," is from very early in his music career, 1970. (It's named after the date it was recorded. In Britain, it's known as 17-11-70," because they have their dates and months backwards. ;) ) This album was released in early 1970, and was a critical and commercial success, helping to turn him into a superstar.

However, the original album is flawed. The concert, recorded in front of a crowd of only about 100 people in a New York City recording studio, was 80 minutes long. But the official record was only 48 minutes long, and the song order was jumbled. A more complete version was released for a limited time on Record Store Day in 2017. But this version was flawed too. While it had all the songs, the song order was still jumbled. So I set out to put them in the correct order.

I thought that would be an easy task, but boy, was I wrong. The record company doctored the recordings in order to make their jumbled song order not seem jumbled. They moved the between song banter around and manipulated the audience applause. For instance, they had the applause go over the start of a couple of songs when that hadn't happened in the actual concert.

I know this because the concert was broadcast live on the radio, and bootlegs of the full show in the correct order appeared almost immediately. But the sound quality on the 2017 official version was better than any of the bootlegs. So I kept that music, but used bits and pieces of the bootleg version to fix the banter and applause to how it actually sounded in the concert. The resulting combination is better than both versions, since there were some minor cuts and problems with the bootleg version too.

Here you can listen to the full concert, in the correct order, with the best sound. Elton John himself said this was the best concert he ever performed, so if you want a live album from him, it's hard to go wrong with this one. It's true that it doesn't have many of his huge hits, since most of them would come later. But I really like the sound. I'm not a fan of bombast and overproduction. Here, he keeps it simple, with just him on piano, plus a bassist and drummer. I much hearing him this way, when he was raw and hungry, than in later years when he sometimes played with a large band or even an orchestra.

01 talk (Elton John)
02 I Need You to Turn To (Elton John)
03 talk (Elton John)
04 Your Song (Elton John)
05 talk (Elton John)
06 Country Comfort (Elton John)
07 talk (Elton John)
08 Border Song (Elton John)
09 talk (Elton John)
10 Indian Sunset (Elton John)
11 Amoreena (Elton John)
12 Bad Side of the Moon (Elton John)
13 Take Me to the Pilot (Elton John)
14 Sixty Years On (Elton John)
15 Honky Tonk Women (Elton John)
16 Can I Put You On (Elton John)
17 Burn Down the Mission - My Baby Left Me - Get Back (Elton John)
18 talk (Elton John)
19 My Father's Gun (Elton John)

For the album cover, I considered just using the official cover. But I don't like that one. It's nearly entirely black, and not very fetching. Perhaps it was an attempt to look like the cheap bootlegs of that era. Instead, I went with a photo of Elton John playing on a German TV show in 1970. However, I took the exact same lettering from the official cover for his name and the album name.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Under the Covers, Volume 3.5 (2013)

Note that this isn't exactly an entirely new album. Back in 2018, I posted a "1.5" album to complement "Under the Covers, Volume 1" by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, and a "2.5" album to complement their "Under the Covers, Volume 2." But although they released a "Volume 3" in 2013, I've have more trouble making a "3.5."

The problem was that Sweet and Hoffs obviously are big fans of 1960s and 1970s music, but much less so for 1980s music. Their "Volume 3" was all 1980s music, and while that album was fine, they didn't have that many extra 1980s covers, either as a duo or done solo. However, I realized I'd missed three bonus tracks to the "Volume 3." I also discovered a 2017 version of a 1980s Prince song done by Hoffs. Plus, two more songs actually squeak into the 1980s, being released in the year 1980: "Teacher, Teacher" and "The Tide Is High."

Still, that wasn't enough material for all 1980s covers material. In order to make up for that, I've moved a bunch of songs from my previous 2.5 album here with originals that date from the late 1970s. Specifically, I moved everything from 1977 or after to here. 1977 was a pivotal year, with punk and new wave becoming new musical trends, while disco became super dominant that year as well.

I bunched the late 1970s at the start, before the 1980s ones. However, I end this album with "Marquee Moon," a late 1970s song, since it's a ten-minute long guitar workout, and that seems like a fitting closing song to me.

01 Dreaming (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
02 I Wanna Be Sedated (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
03 You Say You Don't Love Me (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
04 American Girl (Matthew Sweet)
05 Magnet and Steel (Matthew Sweet with Lindsey Buckingham)
06 Train in Vain [Stand by Me] (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
07 The Tide Is High (Matthew Sweet)
08 Teacher, Teacher (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
09 I Would Die 4 U (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
10 You're My Favorite Waste of Time (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)
11 Take Me with U (Susanna Hoffs)
12 Marquee Moon (Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs)

The cover art photo was taken backstage at a concert at the Roxy in Los Angeles in 2007. There were two photos, and one was good except Hoffs looked dead serious. In the other one, she was smiling. So I used Photoshop to add her smile to the other photo.

Emitt Rhodes - Just Me and You - Rarities, Volume 2: 1985-2015

I just posted an album of Emitt Rhodes rarities from the first half of his career. Here's the follow-up, rarities from the second half of his career.

As I mentioned in the write-up for that previous album, Rhodes had a strange career. He was very busy from the late 1960s until 1973. Then he didn't release another new album until 2015, 42 years later! During that time, he worked as a recording engineer and producer. From time to time, he made an occasional effort to record again, and very, very rarely made concert appearances. 

The first song is an extremely obscure unreleased version of the Beatles song "Things We Said Today" from the mid-1980s. (I'm guessing it's around 1985.) It definitely has the distinctive production of the era. The next five songs are from one of those very rare concert appearances, this one in 1997. Two of the songs are written and sung by Ray Paul, who put out a power pop album in 1980. A live acoustic medley from Rhodes in 2001 follows that.

Rhodes apparently completed a studio album in 2000, but nothing from it has ever come to light. He came close again in 2011, but ultimately only three songs were released on iTunes. Those three feature Vicki and Debbi Petersen from the Bangles on backing vocals, and Richard Thompson on lead guitar.

It seems very likely to me that there are a lot of Rhodes rarities still sitting in the vaults. Since he recorded all instruments by himself in his own studio, those recordings have generally stayed with him and haven't even been bootlegged. Hopefully those will be officially released someday. But in the meantime, these collections will have to suffice.

01 Things We Said Today (Emitt Rhodes)
02 Live Till You Die (Emitt Rhodes & Ray Paul)
03 Love Will Stone You (Emitt Rhodes & Ray Paul)
04 Some Sing, Some Dance (Ray Paul & Emitt Rhodes)
05 Really Wanted You (Emitt Rhodes & Ray Paul)
06 How Do You Know (Ray Paul & Emitt Rhodes)
07 No Time at All - Isn't It So - Good Enough (Emitt Rhodes)
08 Time Will Show the Wiser (Nick Vernier Band with Emitt Rhodes & Iain Matthews)
09 This Wall Between Us (Emitt Rhodes)
10 Just Me and You (Emitt Rhodes)
11 What's a Man to Do (Emitt Rhodes)
12 How Can You Mend a Broken Heart [Acoustic Version] (Emitt Rhodes)

I'm not sure where or when the cover art photo is from, but judging by his appearance, it's a safe bet it's from around the time of his 2016 comeback album.

Emitt Rhodes - Tame the Lion - Rarities, Volume 1: 1970-1980

On July 19, 2020, Emitt Rhodes died in his sleep at the age of 70. If you don't know who he is, you should. He was the lead singer and songwriter for the band the Merry-Go-Round in the late 1960s, then had a series of excellent solo albums in the early 1970s. He then pretty much went musically silent from 1973 all the way until a comeback album in 2016. A documentary movie about him was titled "The One Man Beatles," and for good reason. He wrote and sang highly melodic songs that were often compared to Paul McCartney's, and generally played and recorded all the instruments himself.

To mark Rhodes' passing, I wanted to put together a rarities collection. But there's very little in terms of publicly available non-album material. It took me a while, but I've managed to scrape together two albums.

This album is essentially split into two parts. The first half is all live performances. Rhodes didn't like playing concerts, and did so only infrequently in his 1970 to 1973 prime. As far as I know, no concert bootlegs have ever emerged, and all the known live material from that time is here. It mostly consists of songs played on TV or radio shows. For a couple of them, he only sang live to a pre-recorded backing track. But if you listen closely, the backing track is slightly different than the studio version. The sound quality for these live versions is sometimes just okay, but we have to take what we can get given the limited amount of such recordings.

The second half consists of studio recordings. First, there's "Tame the Lion," which was only released as an A-side in 1973. In my opinion, this is one of his best songs, and one of the best anti-war songs of all time. Unfortunately, it was totally ignored when it came out.

The rest of the studio recordings are from a 1980 recording session. He attempted to complete an album, but apparently only got part of the way through it. The finished songs have remained unreleased, but bootlegged, except for "Isn't It So," which made it onto a best of collection.

01 Live Till You Die (Emitt Rhodes)
02 She's Such a Beauty (Emitt Rhodes)
03 Love Will Stone You (Emitt Rhodes)
04 Really Wanted You (Emitt Rhodes)
05 You Take the Dark Out of the Night (Emitt Rhodes)
06 Love Will Stone You (Emitt Rhodes)
07 Tame the Lion (Emitt Rhodes)
08 More than a Smile Will Do (Emitt Rhodes)
09 Isn't It So (Emitt Rhodes)
10 Good Enough (Emitt Rhodes)
11 Making Love (Emitt Rhodes)
12 I Can't Tell My Heart (Emitt Rhodes)

The cover art is a screenshot taken from one of his rare TV appearances in the early 1970s.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

U2 - Summer of Love (Acoustic Version) (Song Edit) (2018)

Here's a song edit I worked up today. I figure it's interesting and significant enough to merit a post on its own. I plan on putting this on a U2 album I'll post here eventually. But I'm slowly working my way through their career chronologically, so it'll be a while before I get to it. 

Some months ago, I came across a very nice acoustic version U2 did of their song "Summer of Love." It comes from a bootleg recording of their rehearsals for the 2018 tour. (I don't know the date or the location of the recording - if you do, please let me know.) 

Personally, I think this version is much better than the one that appeared on their 2017 album "Songs of Experience." I think this is an example of how the problems with U2's music in the last decade or so has more to do with production issues than a lack of quality material. If one strips a song all the way down to its acoustic base, there's no way to screw that up with bad production.

However, there was a very big problem with this recording that made it unusable for me. Because they were only rehearsing the song and didn't know it very well, some person shouted out the timing at key points in the song to make sure they'd stay on track. For instance, before each verse, a voice could be heard shouting, "Verse! Two, three, four." These instructions happened at other points in the song, including instrumental sections. The voice even counted out the ending. 

On top of that, the band screwed up at a couple of different points. For instance, they only played the main riff once in an instrumental section in the middle, and then lead singer Bono talked over more music, reminding the others that they should play that twice. Bono also flubbed the vocals at the beginning of the first verse, and had to try the first words a second time. These problems were too frequent and annoying for me to be able to enjoy the song. And there wasn't any clean material I could use to patch them over. 

Or so I thought. Today, I came across another acoustic version of the song on YouTube. This was played on someone's porch for a small audience in 2018. Unfortunately, it was recorded poorly, causing the vocals to be distorted, and one could hear people in the audience talking all through it. 

But I figured I could use little instrumental snippets of just three or four seconds each to patch over the problems with the rehearsal version. That's exactly what I did, and I think it worked out very well. I'll bet you won't be able to tell at which points the fixes were made. Once I had a better version without all the talking voices, I then was able to fix other problems with the instrumental sections and the intro, extending them as they intended. I even fixed some bum notes.

I dare say the end result is the best version of the song out there, in excellent sound quality. I hope you'll agree.

Joni Mitchell - Looking Out for Love - On TV and Radio (1969)

Woo-hoo! Boy, am I excited! I just found out that Joni Mitchell is going to release a box set called "Archives, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1963-1967." It's coming out next month, and it consists ENTIRELY of previously unreleased material. I think this is going to be the best archival release by anyone in many years! Most of it has never even been bootlegged before. You can read more about it here:

In celebration of that coming release, I want to post something else by her. I'd started out posting an "On TV and Radio" series of albums by her back in February 2020, but I got sidetracked and I haven't continued it. You can find the first volume of that here:

The thinking of this series is that it gathers stray songs here and there from TV or radio performances that don't fit anywhere else and are significant in some way. By significant, I mean otherwise unreleased originals or covers, or duets, or live versions of her songs that haven't been recorded well on concert bootlegs. The sound quality is variable. But hopefully this will tie people over for another year or more, when the next volume in her "Archives" box set series will be released. I'm optimistic most of this material will be released on that - maybe not the exact same performances in every case, but at least the songs.

The only otherwise unreleased original here is "Looking Out for Love." It's really more of a song snippet, just a minute and a half long, but hey, it's a Joni original from her most popular time period. It also contains some rare cover versions: "I Still Miss Someone," "Long Black Veil," "I Shall Be Released," and "Let's Get Together." The first two of those are duets with Johnny Cash from his TV show. I have a couple more performances and some banter from her two appearances on that show.

The rest of the songs are live versions of songs that generally didn't make it on any of the concert bootlegs I've posted at this site.

I have a couple more albums in this series. I'll try to get to posting them sooner rather than later.

Oh, one more thing. Back in 2018, I posted an album containing other musicians performing Mitchell's songs that not only have never been officially released, but have never even appeared on publicly available bootlegs. They were able to do this due to a music book that contains the sheet music to some of her ultra rare songs. I found two more such songs, "Daisy Summer Piper" and "Cara's Castle," that emerged on YouTube earlier in 2020. "Cara's Castle" is going to appear on the new archival box set, but "Daisy Summer Piper" and most of the other songs on this collection still won't. Hopefully, they'll make it on the next box set in the series. If this sounds interesting to you, here's the link:

01 talk (Joni Mitchell)
02 Both Sides Now (Joni Mitchell)
03 talk (Joni Mitchell)
04 I Still Miss Someone (Joni Mitchell & Johnny Cash)
05 I Shall Be Released (Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott & Mary Travers)
06 Looking Out for Love (Joni Mitchell)
07 Let's Get Together (Joni Mitchell)
08 talk (Joni Mitchell)
09 Rainy Night House - Blue Boy (Joni Mitchell)
10 talk (Joni Mitchell)
11 I Think I Understand (Joni Mitchell)
12 talk (Joni Mitchell)
13 The Fiddle and the Drum (Joni Mitchell)
14 talk (Joni Mitchell & Johnny Cash)
15 The Gallery (Joni Mitchell)
16 talk (Joni Mitchell & Johnny Cash)
17 Long Black Veil (Joni Mitchell & Johnny Cash)

The cover art photo comes from a TV show appearance she did in 1969. I believe it's the one where she played "I Shall Be Released."

Lulu - BBC Sessions, Volume 2: 1966-1968

My first Lulu BBC album has been surprisingly well received, considering how "uncool" she is regarded these days, so I'm going to post another one sooner rather than later. This is the second of three BBC albums from her.

One of the people commenting on the first Lulu BBC album I posted called it "revelatory." I agree with that. What I said with that one I'll also say with this one: I prefer most of her BBC performances over her studio material. Like that one, about half of the songs here were never recorded by her for any official studio release. A lot of those are the best songs. Many are covers of the hits of the day, such as "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by Jackie Wilson and "I Love My Dog" by Cat Stevens. These have well through out arrangements, which makes me wonder why the heck they only were ever done for the BBC.

Also like the previous album in this series, there was a problem with BBC DJs talking over the starts of some songs (the ones with "[Edit]" in their names). I fixed that using a sound editing program that wiped out the talking but kept the underlying music. 

Everything here remains officially unreleased, as far as I can tell. Usually though, the sound quality is excellent. Although the BBC foolishly didn't systematically preserve their master tapes, many pristine copies of the original BBC recordings, usually those sent overseas to radio shows across the British empire.

Unfortunately, this album also contains the start of Lulu's decline. In my opinion, she was at her best when she used her gruff voice to put a British spin on American soul music. But around 1968, she got her own BBC TV show, and the show positioned her as an all-around entertainer, capable of singing any song in any style. That watered down what made her most appealing to me, and she fell into more of a cheesy show-biz mode with each passing year. You start to see this with the last six songs on this album, which all come from her TV show.

This album is 48 minutes long.

UPDATE: On October 28, I updated the mp3 download file. I removed the song "The Letter." That's because I found a different version, with the same arrangement, for Volume 3 that has much better sound quality. To make up for it, when I revamped Volume 3 at the same time, I moved one song, "Morning Dew," from there to here.

01 You'll Never Leave Him [Edit] (Lulu)
02 Leave a Little Love (Lulu)
03 What a Wonderful Feeling (Lulu with Alan Price)
04 I Do [Edit] (Lulu)
05 Blowin' in the Wind (Lulu)
06 I Love My Dog (Lulu)
07 Dreary Days and Nights [Edit] (Lulu)
08 The Boat that I Row (Lulu)
09 A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You [Edit] (Lulu)
10 Let's Pretend (Lulu)
11 To Sir with Love [Edit] (Lulu)
12 Love Loves to Love, Love (Lulu)
13 [Your Love Keeps Lifting Me] Higher and Higher [Edit] (Lulu)
14 Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Lulu)
15 The Trolley Song (Lulu)
16 Put on a Happy Face (Lulu)
17 Running Wild (Lulu)
18 Suddenly (Lulu)
19 Morning Dew (Lulu)

The cover art uses a 1979 promotional photo of Lulu holding an umbrella with a British flag design.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Duffy - Cover Versions, Volume 2: 2009-2017

I just posted an album of Duffy's cover versions from 2004 to 2009. Here's the rest of her cover songs that are known so far, from 2009 to 2017.

Only four of the songs here have been officially released. Although that depends on what "officially released" means, because three more of the songs have been posted by Duffy on her Instagram Internet account ("Trust in Me," "Love Me Tender," and "What a Wonderful World"). Unfortunately, those three sound a little worse than the rest, especially "Trust in Me." Each of them appears to have been recorded solo in her house, and it seems they were done under less than ideal perfect conditions. They still sound pretty good though.

The other songs come from a variety of sources, including radio shows, TV shows, and concert bootlegs. The last song, "I Put a Spell on You," actually is a full song done for a TV commercial.

On a different note, Duffy is a very capable songwriter. It turns out she released an album's worth of non-album tracks in 2008, mostly B-sides. I'll post an album I've made of that at a later date.

By the way, there's one cover she's done that I can't find. She performed "No Frontiers" in 2014. If anyone has it, please let me know and I'll add it to this album.

If you're interested in Duffy's music at all, I suggest you give this and the other covers album a listen. In my opinion, both albums are better than her second album, "Endlessly," which was a disappointment.

Here's a list of the original artists that made each song famous:

01 Stay with Me - Lorraine Ellison
02 You Do Something to Me - Paul Weller
03 Band of Gold - Freda Payne
04 All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
05 The Christmas Song - Mel Torme / Nat King Cole
06 When I Need You - Leo Sayer
07 Ar Lan Y Mor - traditional
08 Trust in Me - Mildred Bailey / Etta James
09 Hymn to Love [Hymnes a la Mome] - Edith Piaf
10 Love Me Tender - Elvis Presley
11 What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
12 Are You Sure - Timi Yuro
13 Make the World Go Away - Ray Price / Timi Yuro
14 I Put a Spell on You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Here's the usual song list:

01 Stay with Me (Duffy)
02 You Do Something to Me (Duffy)
03 Band of Gold (Duffy)
04 All I Want for Christmas Is You (Duffy)
05 The Christmas Song (Duffy)
06 When I Need You (Duffy)
07 Ar Lan Y Mor (Duffy)
08 Trust in Me (Duffy)
09 Hymn to Love [Hymnes a la Mome] (Duffy)
10 Love Me Tender (Duffy)
11 What a Wonderful World (Duffy)
12 Are You Sure (Duffy)
13 Make the World Go Away (Duffy)
14 I Put a Spell on You (Duffy)

For the cover art, I used a promotional photo from 2011.

Duffy - Cover Versions, Volume 1: 2004-2009

A couple of days ago, I posted two albums of Adele rarities, most of them covers. Now I'm going to do exactly the same for Duffy, with two albums of rarities from her, except they're all covers.

The similarities between Adele and Duffy are many. They're both British female soul sing-songwriters who hit it big with debut albums in 2008. Neither of them have released much music since their debut albums, with Adele releasing two more studio albums since and Duffy only one. Both of them have put out almost no new music in the last five years in particular. 

But while Adele has gone on to sell over 100 million copies of her three albums, Duffy has pretty much disappeared. It seems that at some point in the early 2010s, Duffy was kidnapped and sexually abused for about a month, leaving her psychologically scarred. Yet it also seems both singers may be making comebacks soon. Adele apparently was going to release a new album in late 2020, but it's been pushed back to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. And Duffy has released two new original songs on-line in 2020, a promising sign that she may be close to restarting her music career.

All but two of the songs here are officially unreleased ("Please Stay" and "Live and Let Die"). But the sound quality is consistently high throughout. The first two songs are unreleased studio recordings from 2004, way before the rest. The other unreleased songs all come from radio or TV shows. Four of those were recorded in front of studio audiences, but the clapping noise is minimal.

Since Duffy is a soul singer, it makes sense that most of the songs she covers here are soul classics. But she has a few surprise choices as well. I particularly like her version of "Borderline," even though I'm not much of a fan of the original by Madonna.

Here's a list of the original artists for each song:

01 I Melt - Lucia Cordaro
02 I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again - Eva Cassidy
03 Cry to Me - Solomon Burke
04 The First Cut Is the Deepest - Cat Stevens / Rod Stewart
05 Bring It on Home to Me - Sam Cooke
06 Please Stay - Burt Bacharach / Drifters
07 These Arms of Mine - Otis Redding
08 Ready for the Floor - Hot Chip
09 Tainted Love - Gloria Jones / Soft Cell
10 Borderline - Madonna
11 Wonderwall - Oasis
12 Live and Let Die - Paul McCartney

Here's the usual song list:

01 I Melt (Duffy with the Invisible Wires)
02 I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again (Duffy with the Invisible Wires)
03 Cry to Me (Duffy)
04 The First Cut Is the Deepest (Duffy)
05 Bring It on Home to Me (Eddie Floyd & Duffy)
06 Please Stay (Duffy)
07 These Arms of Mine (Duffy)
08 Ready for the Floor (Duffy)
09 Tainted Love (Duffy)
10 Borderline (Duffy)
11 Wonderwall (Duffy)
12 Live and Let Die (Duffy)

I chose this 2008 photo of Duffy in concert for the cover art because I like the way a pink light frames her like a halo. I didn't alter that original in any way. Also, she's used the same cursive writing of her name on all her material, so I used that too.