Monday, 12 December 2016

Play Something Else For Christmas

Play Something Else For Christmas

For sure, we all love Slade & Fairy-tale Of New York, the thousands of White Christmas versions that are lurking behind every advent door (even the Stiff Little Fingers version, I know!) and all of the other members of club “Now that’s what I call a festering Christmas”, but do we have to commit to the constant repeat button?

I say hell no, let’s get some alternatives on the yule turntable.

Bionic Santa – Chris Hill

 The 1976 follow up to “Renta Santa” was, like its novelty predecessor, cut from snippets of other hit songs. Thin Lizzy, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry and many other artists have their finest moments butchered for cheap laughs. That’s the Christmas spirit I remember.

I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas – The Goons

This classic Goon song was originally sung during an episode to fill time during a musicians strike in 1956 and released shortly after on a ten inch 78. Here it’s on a reissue DECCA 45 single, a Christmas song that will baffle most who were born after 1985, with the exception of the mentally incompetent. 


Happy Christmas From The Stars Flexi disc (free with Smash Hits 1982)

Yes, nothing says peace and good will quite like Paul Weller trying to get chummy with Nick Heywood, Martin Fry and Simon Lebon. 


Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me – The Goodies (album The Goodies Greatest)

Whilst the content of this song may have put it on the rear branches of the celebratory tree in recent decades, knowing what we know now about 70’s children’s celebrities, it’s looking like solid advice.


Finally here are some other considerations from last year’s blog entry -  FESTIVE ALTERNATIVES

And for those who are feeling decidedly uncomfortable, here is a picture of a Slade single to take you back to a happy place.


Finally I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, hopefully  Santa brings you all of the records you want and I’ll be back in January to review 2016. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Kinks Are The Analogue Mono Preservation Society

The Kinks Are The Analogue Mono Preservation Society

It's been two years since the Beatles Mono Boxset showed the value of going back to the original master tapes and just how superior the mono mixes of sixties pop were. However, as anyone who has listened to the UK Mono re-issue of the debut Jimi Hendrix lp "Are You Experienced", it does depend on what shape those old tapes are in. The tapes from this period are operating well beyond their expected lifespan of 20 to 30 years and bands such as The Doors, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin & Queen now have to rely on their high resolution digital masters for future releases. 

Here's the blurb about these new tranfers :-

All of the original albums in The Kinks in Mono vinyl LP box set were cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Mastering, supervised by Andrew Sandoval, direct from the original UK Pye NPL analog mono masters. Only analog EQ was used in the process. The 1970 compilation album, The Kinks (Black Album), was recompiled from flat digital transfers of original analog masters, and was cut to match the original LP. First UK Pye pressings of all of the albums were used in comparison to tapes to insure period accuracy with level, track spacing and artwork.
Andrew Sandoval (Box Set compiler)

The Mono Collection packages the first 8 albums in glorious mono, including ‘Live At Kelvin Hall’. The set also includes the bonus double LP compilation ‘The Kinks’ (aka ‘The Black Album’) PLUS a lavish hardcover 48-page book including never-before-seen photos and new interviews with Ray Davies, Dave Davies and Mick Avory.


So before we put the box to the test, let's see what they are up against.

Arthur - Stereo Reissue 2015 & Village Green Mono Reissue 2014

Kink Kontroversy - Mono Reissue 1980

Kinda Kinks - Mono First Pressing

The box itself is pretty sturdy and colorful, first out comes the hard back book exclusive to this box set with plenty of photos I've never seen before, along with interviews with Ray, Dave & Mick with their thoughts on the mono format. 

The album sleeves are well printed, although they lack the aesthetics of the originals that were resplendent with flipbacks and lined inner sleeves, these new re-issues come with plain paper inners. The discs are of high quality with no warping or pressing issues and the labels correspond to the pink & blue Pye eras. 

So how do these reissues sound?

Surly the toughest shootout is for Kinda Kinks, going up against a PYE original pressing, there is a reason why mint copies go for three figure sums. However after listening to the PYE and thinking how great it sounds, the reissue is like removing some gauze from your eyes. It's clarity and transparency more than makes up for a virtually imperceptible loss of warmth in the bottom end. The 1980 Kink Controversy fares worse against the re-issue as does the 2014 Re-issue of Village Green. For the most part the mono Arthur from this boxset out performs the 2015 stereo reissue with only "Shangri-La" sounding better in stereo. Live At Kelvin Hall has always sounded better in Mono; the stereo buries the vocal, and here it sounds far more listenable than I remember it being. The final album, a double "best of" that was originally released in 1970 was cut from digital masters, don't be put off though as this album also sounds great. 

Most importantly, the music. You are getting 8 albums and a double best of from one of the finest bands in pop history at their zenith. From the initial LP that borrowed from their former "Ravens" set of rock and roll, through pop vignette masterclasses on Face To Face and through to proto futuristic folk nostalgia from one of the four great pillars of sixties british pop.

I can't recommend this enough, an essential purchase. 


· Kinks
· Kinda Kinks
· The Kink Kontroversy
· Face To Face
· Something Else By The Kinks
· Live at Kelvin Hall
· The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society
· Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire)
· Kinks (2 LP Black Album)

Newbies corner - Why Mono

Monday, 24 October 2016

John carpenter, the legend, the live show, the records.

John carpenter, the legend, the live show, the records.

It was in the murky days of the mid-eighties that I watched The Fog for the first time, a movie which still remains in my top 20 and my first encounter with what would become one of my favourite directors. A ghost story in a very raw sense, its spookiness is firmly instilled by the soundtrack created by John Carpenter. In late 87 I saw The Prince Of Darkness at the cinema; who again superbly augmented it with music along with frequent collaborator Alan Howarth, leaving my sleep pattern to be disturbed for several nights, something even the hurricane of that year failed to do. The following year saw John & Alan providing the sonic backdrop for “They Live”, somehow a commercial flop that has since gained a cult following, whatever that really means.  It’s not so subtle sub-text on advertising and government control is brilliantly woven into a science fiction narrative with the best fight scene I’ve ever seen thrown in for good measure. Around this time I started tracking down John Carpenter’s earlier works at the Blockbuster video store (pause for a nostalgic moment), Halloween, The Thing, Christine, Escape From New York, Assault On Precinct 13, Dark Star and Big Trouble In Little China are all highly recommended movies, all of which feature soundtracks that are either all or in part John Carpenter works.
Rather foolishly, I didn’t buy the original soundtrack albums at the time, knowing what I know now I would have bought armfuls of the things. Even some of the recent re-issues have alarmingly shot up in price and collectors are keen to pay well for good clean copies. So check your attics, just make sure it's not on Halloween. 

Dark Star – Extended Edition + Bonus Red Alien 7” – limited to 500 copies.
This 2001 spoof movie from 1974 didn’t have its soundtrack released until 1980; it featured music and dialogue from the film. This 2016 re-release comes with a red single with unreleased bonus material on the expertly named label - We Release Whatever The Fuck We Want Records.

The Fog – Limited double LP  1 - white  and 1 – green
The Fog only had to wait four years for its release after the movie and it was a stereo remix of the multitrack. Several versions have been released since, most notably on the Death Waltz label in gold, white/green haze and splatter versions. This 2015 release from Silva Screen Music features material sourced from the original cinema release tapes. 

Escape From New York – Expanded version double LP
Released this time along with the film in 1981, it too has seen a number of re-releases, with some funky coloured versions from Death Waltz. This Silva Screen version from 2016 has been recreated from the original analogue master tapes. 

Prince Of Darkness – Pale Blue Vinyl
Originally released to coincide with the film, this has been reissued several times; this 2013 version is from Death Waltz.

They Live – Clear Reissued.
“Put the glasses on! Put em on!” reads the cover spine of this 2014 reissue from Death Waltz. It contains an 8 page booklet featuring liner notes by Alan Howarth & Gary Pullin.

Halloween II - Clear Reissue
My latest John Carpenter acquisition (signed copy of Lost Themes aside), another Death Waltz reissue this one from 2014.

So I find myself at the Dome in Brighton on a Thursday evening, waiting for John Carpenter, his son Cody and band to perform songs from the aforementioned movies, along with the two recent “Lost Themes” albums. The stage lights up, first blue then red and they take the stage to a huge cheer which becomes even louder as they kick off with the “Escape From New York” theme. It’s a thoroughly entertaining show that will make a perfect Halloween night for those of you who are lucky enough to see the London appearance at the end of the month. 

For tickets and shows, put on the dam glasses and head to 

Monday, 26 September 2016

No human being would stack records like this.

No human being would stack records like this.

 For those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, my almost too sick to survive devotion to Venkman, Stanz, Spengler & Zeddemore will come as no surprise. So along with spores, moulds and fungus, I’ve got a reasonable though not a biblical proportion of Ghostbusters vinyl records.

Ray Parker Junior’s hit song "Ghostbusters" came in various guises in the UK, silver & blue injection mold labels along with several 12” extended versions. 

My favourite is the 7” with a pop up sleeve, along with two picture discs, one shaped and one luminous. 

A 10” record store day release from 2014 also glows in the dark. 

For the American, Canadian and Australian markets, a second single was culled from the soundtrack LP, The Bus Boys “Cleanin’ Up The Town”. This is the Australian release.

The original soundtrack LP was released on Arista for most of the world, an eclectic mix of songs that all make an appearance at some point in the film.

1.    Ray Parker Jr. “Ghostbusters” –first head after the librarian gets scared in the library      

2.    The Bus Boys “Cleanin' Up The Town” – first heard after the Ghostbusters approach the library ghost 

3.    Alessi  Brothers “Savin' The Day” – heard after the Ghostbusters leave the Mayor’s office (“Lets run some red lights”)          

4.    Thompson Twins “In The Name Of Love” – heard on the radio while the Ghostbusters  enjoy their final petty cash Chinese meal

5.    Air Supply “I Can Wait Forever”    - heard on a passing workman’s Sony Walkman headphones as the Ghostbusters get thrown off campus.

6.    Laura Branigan        “Hot Night” -played at Louis Tully’s 4th anniversary of being an accountant party. Also The Trammps “Disco Inferno” is played, this would appear on the 2006 CD re-issue)           

7.    Mick Smiley “Magic” – heard after Walter Peck shuts off the Ecto Containment Unit        

8.    Elmer Bernstein  -“Main Title Theme” (Ghostbusters)   

9.    Elmer Bernstein  - “Dana's Theme“

10. Ray Parker Jr.  - Ghostbusters (Instrumental Version)

30 years down the line and the original soundtrack was re-mastered and released. Now for whatever reason, call it fate, call it luck, call it karma, some of the tracks (most notably The Bus Boys song) sound like the original tape masters have been damaged, which is apparent on all of these vinyl re-issues.
30th Anniversary issue (below) Slime version (left) Newbury Comics Limited 1000 (Right)

For Ghostbusters II there was less on offer outside of the soundtrack album. The title track “On Our Own” by Bobby Brown in 7 & 12” format, Run DMC’s take on the Ray Parker song (the single has a different mix to the lp) and a 12” version of “Spirit” from Doug E. Fresh And The Get Fresh Crew.

2014 saw one of my favourite Ghostbusters vinyl releases with the Run DMC version backing the original. A 12” marshmallow scented Puffy gatefold jacket which simulates the feel and texture of a marshmallow along with lenticular 3D prints; it’s the sort of record that just popped in there.

2006 saw the release of Elmer Bernstein’s wonderful score for the first movie. Limited to 3000 CD copies released by the Varèse Sarabande CD Club, this sometimes pops up on eBay for the price of a third mortgage. You can currently stream this on You Tube, but this really deserves to be given a proper vinyl reissue.

 When I heard about the new 2016 film in production and being called a re-boot, I was sceptical to say the least. I’m struggling to think of a previous re-make (call it what you will) that I’ve enjoyed, let alone surpasses the original. Robocop, The Fog, The Omen, Godzilla, Total Recall, Arthur and of course the noxious, possibly hazardous waste chemical that is The Italian Job has taught me to not look directly at the latest Hollywood trap. However, the incessant barrage of sexist and racist trolling from certain quarters (some call them fans, I call them Wally Wicks) made me put all of my prejudices aside and view the film with an open mind. I’m glad I did, it’s a very funny and an excellent romp that I felt compelled to go back and watch again (in 3D the second time). I’d urge everyone to view it in the same way, just make sure you stay to the very end, past the ending credits.

For the new movie two vinyl LP’s have been released, one with songs from the film and the other being the soundtrack score. The new album is well packaged, just a shame the art department didn’t get together with the disc cutting department as the final song on side one is shown on the sleeve as the first song on side two, also the download code that should be printed on the inner sleeve is missing. The songs feature some fairly good remakes of Ray Parker’s original, along with tracks from Ellie King, 5 Seconds of Summer and Mark Ronson, plus some DaBarge and the Ray Parker’s Ghostbusters that go to make this an album that is worth burying the needle on. 

 The quality of the new soundtrack score is stunning, whilst the score itself is way short of Bernstein’s original (as is the GBII soundtrack, which is as yet unreleased) the beautiful slime vinyl and stylish packaging is supreme. This limited package of 500 (you are looking at number 6) from Sony's “At The Movies” series will serve all your supernatural needs.

Finally, if you want to hear the original album at its very best, (bearing in mind the re-mastering issues I mentioned earlier) I’d recommend this 1984 version from Japan which can really bust some heads, in a spiritual sense.

 12” Bonus – touching the etheric plane.

No this isn’t a very shiny space record, it’s a laserdisc.

The forerunner to DVD.

Never ever put one of these on your turntable.

“Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.”

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Groundbreaking Singles – Dr Who by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop


Groundbreaking Singles – Dr Who by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

My last blog entry (possibly the nerdiest on yet) focussed on the tape loops and sound manipulation of The Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows. However the manipulation of sound goes all the way back to the beginning of recorded music. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph, wrote in 1878 that when his cylinders were played backwards "the song is still melodious in many cases, and some of the strains are sweet and novel, but altogether different from the song reproduced in the right way". In the mid 1940’s Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh used a wire recorder, reverb chambers and voltage control to produce his sound manipulated composition The Expression of Zaar.

                Wire Recorder 1922

With the use of tape, French composer Pierre Schaeffer was able to take this process even further and create an art form known as Musique Concrete. The use and manipulation of instrument, voice, natural or electronically generated sounds were mixed together to create sound collages.

Dr Who was originally intended as a time traveling show to shed light on historical events, something quickly usurped by the time of the second serial "The Daleks".  Using Musique Concrete techniques with Ron Grainer’s theme, Delia Derbyshire started work on recording the music for the new show.

First broadcast on the 23rd of November, Dr Who would become a global phenomenon that is still going strong today. The theme would be released as a mono single in Feb 1964 that failed to chart, however it is the use of sound manipulation and tape editing to create a melodic song that puts this single years ahead of its time. My version is a later one (1972), the original being on an unboxed Decca label; my later reissue is still the original mono mix that was submitted by Delia Derbyshire for the show. The version aired on the first episode was a slightly changed version to fit in with the graphics.

Original Decca releases with both label variations - Dr & Doctor Who

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was formed in the late 1950's, primarily to create sound effects and later theme tunes and incidental music for radio and TV. Shortly before Dr Who, Ron Grainer had worked with the Radiophonic Workshop for a BBC documentary "Giants Of Steam", the music of which would be released on a Decca EP of the same name in 1963. The Radiophonic Workshop would inspire musicians for decades to come, Pink Floyd visited the Workshop studio in 1967 and albums like Dark Side Of The Moon would embrace many of the tape techniques used by the team.

The fake stereo version - 1973
In 1973 the Dr Who single was reissued with the fake stereo treatment, along with some extra sonic embellishments. A new version was made in 1980 with synthesizers in real time, compared to the original 64 version it’s a vile stain on the TARDIS floor.  For those with some time on your hands, here’s a journey through the 50 years of Dr Who themes.

For my money I believe that the original theme has never been bettered. It's difficult to imagine just how strange the original theme must have sounded coming through the TV, the chart hits of November 1963 "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Gerry & The Pacemakers and "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes must have made it sound like something from a distant time. Given that real-time instruments that were capable of recreating this theme were over 20 years away made that a correct assumption. Add in the general feeling of public unease just a day after the assassination of President JF Kennedy and it's no wonder people wrote in to the BBC to complain that the theme scared their children. When it comes to feedback it doesn't get any better than that.

 My version from 1972 that has the original mono mix