As loyal Dangerous Minds readers have probably already figured out, I am both a “rock snob” and a bit of an audiophile. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that the 09/09/09 street date of the remastered Beatles albums—in both stereo and mono—has me counting the hours until I can get my hands on them.
What you might not know if you are of a certain age (or have forgotten if you are of another!) is that the Beatles albums sounded WAY better in mono than in stereo. Both the group and George Martin preferred mono and the stereo mixes back then were often afterthoughts with severely panned stereo mixes that had most of the instruments on one side and the vocals on the other! The stereo mixes always seemed very peculiar to me.
The 1987 CDs were the pits. Just awful, flat aural experiences. And nothing’s been done to rectify that situation until now. It always been ridiculous that the Beatles and the Stones had the worst sounding CDs. A lot of people don’t rate the Stones ABKCO reissues highly, but I thought they were (mostly) done pretty well and it was nice to be able to hear that material with fresh ears. Most of us who grew up with the Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin probably probably don’t listen to them all that much now, because it’s so easy to conjure their music up in our “mind’s ear,” but the Love mash-up album from the Circe du Soleil show helped me get back into the Beatles again and I’m really looking forward to hearing the remasters. If I can manage to score some promo copies of these sets, I’ll offer up reviews of stereo vs. mono daily on the site.
Meanwhile, here’s a song that sadly didn’t make it to any Beatles CD ever, their uniquely comic turn—it’s very Goon Show, isn’t it?—on Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture taken from the credits of Help!:
Lotus Esprit Turbo says, “The Lancia Stratos HF prototype was a styling exercise by Bertone, first show at the Turin Motor show in October 1970. It was a futuristic design with a wedge shaped profile and stood just 33 inches (84 cm) from the ground. It was so low, that conventional doors where not used. Instead, drivers had to flip up the windscreen and walk into the car, to gained entry. Visibility was restricted as the front windscreen was narrow, when inside. The car had a 1.6 litre V4 engine, taken from the Fulvia HF. To access the mid-mounted engine, a triangular shaped panel hinged upwards.”
It’s Doctor Who week here at Dangerous Minds! Feast your ears on one of the most iconic sci-fi theme tunes—not to mention opening credit sequences—in TV history. Composed by Ron Grainer, but actually “constructed” by BBC Radiophonic Workshop employee Delia Derbyshire (more on her later in the week), the Doctor Who theme music is considered a landmark in the development of electronic music. Its distinctly shimmering sonics, elevator cable bassline and crystalline melody were recorded many years before commercially available synthesizers were available. In this clip you can hear several permutations of the theme from throughout the years. Although I like all of them, I like the 80s themes the least. It just got over-embellished. When Russell T. Davies revived the Doctor from his long hibernation in 2005, he and composer Murray Gold wisely moved back towards the original 60s theme, but adding a nice modern orchestral twist. It’s like outer-space Wagner!
Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972 on Blu-ray is truly the most impressive hunk of pop culture multi-media I’ve ever seen. A massive and hefty THING, it forever raises the bar for rock gods with deep catalogs and treasure troves of unreleased rarities. Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin and Prince pay attention, because from now on Archives is the box set by which the others will be judged for some time. It’s an entirely new way of providing deep fan access to an important recording artist’s life’s work, more a multi-media autobiography than mere box set. The user interface forces you to really contemplate Neil Young as you poke around and you become deeply immersed in all things Neil as a result. Obviously that’s the goal and Archives absolutely succeeds on that level.
Young’s attention to audio fidelity is legendary—some of his classic 70s albums have never come out on CD due to his dislike of the way they sounded—and the 24bit/192 KHZ PCM audio possible with the BD format showcases his music as never before. There are some very, very high fidelity audio discs out there, but none of them sound as good as the material on Archives. It is as if one was present in the actual studio (or audience) when the performances were recorded. High quality transfers were made directly from the original analog tapes—or at least with the shortest signal path possible—and it shows. FM radio classics like Cinnamon Girl and The Loner have never sounded better, but on the more intimate folkie material covered in the set, the audiophile qualities of the BD format really shines. The size of the room the songs were recorded in, the space around the voice and guitar, the buzzing vibrations of a single guitar string—all of this is quite audible on Archives. The sound quality is magnificent. I’ll say it again, I’ve never heard better. For sound quality alone it would win the gold medal, but that’s not the half of it. There are a gazillion nooks and crannies on the set.
In terms of the extras, a mass-produced facsimile of a hand-carved leather-covered 237 page color scrapbook is loaded with such amusing ephemera as one of his sports writer father’s columns about then 11-year old Neil’s “chicken business” and contracts Young’s mother signed on behalf of her minor son so he would be paid BMI royalties on his Buffalo Springfield compositions. The cover letter tells Mrs. Young that she should “be very proud of your son. He is not only talented but a young gentleman.” Young’s parents must have kept every notebook and scrap of paper he ever wrote on. Young’s father was convinced of his son’s genius at a young age. I loved reading his account of seeing his son perform in Carnegie Hall in the early 70s and how proud he was. (Hell, I’d be proud if I was Neil Young’s father, wouldn’t you be?). There are scads of handwritten lyrics and reviews cut from endless magazines and newspapers. In terms of the books one usually finds in a major artist box set, this one also goes right to the head of the class. I’ve never seen another even half as good. All in all the packaging is attractive (if not necessarily that durable) and it’s a gorgeous thing to unwrap. It’s a shoe-in for several Grammy awards (not that anyone cares, but still…)
There are 128 tracks, nearly 60 of them never heard before spread across the ten discs. The old metal file cabinet user interface is nothing that innovative, but it’s probably the most appropriate considering the depth and archival purpose of the set. There is a nice looking “timeline” that displays photos, video clips and hidden tracks along the way. The set contains the first release of Young’s 1973 documentary Journey Through The Past and twenty video clips. Some of them are totally wonderful (like Young walking out of a record store with bootlegs of his music, the mind-blowing CSNY live performance, an appearance on The Johnny Cash Show and a 1970 performance at the Finjan Folk Cafe) but this is where my first problem with Archives comes in. The video content, whilst containing several gems, isn’t nearly enough. Not enough to justify the price, the fan expectations and not nearly enough to satisfy the wide open spaces of the storage available on Blu-ray (couldn’t most of this material fit on like TWO Blu-ray disc?). Where, for instance is the amazing BBC “In Concert” performance from 1971 or more of the CSNY performance?
My biggest problem with Archives, though, is not what is or isn’t on the set (Blu-ray owners will get updates from Blue-ray Live as long as their players are hooked up to the Internet, so Young could always add things later as he pleases) rather it’s the list price. This is where I become deeply ambivalent about Archives.
A sampling of work here from Israeli artist, Boaz Arad. According to Arad, the above rug represents (for better or worse), what a Nazi hunter might do if he/she were able to capture the ultimate prize. The video below Cuisinarts a number of speeches to the point where Hitler’s forced to say, in Hebrew no less, “Greetings, Jerusalem. I am deeply sorry.”
Phil Cirocco is fascinated by vintage analog synthesizers and cheesy soundtracks from vintage sci-fi films. His website, the Novachord Restoration Project details how he lovingly refurbished a 1938 polyphonic synthesizer from Hammond:
The first commercially available synthesizer was designed by the Hammond Organ Company in 1938 and put into full production from 1938 to 1942. The Novachord is a gargantuan, all tube, 72 note polyphonic synthesizer with oscillators, filters, VCAs, envelope generators and even frequency dividers.
I bought my Hammond Novachord around 10/2004 in Connecticut. After chatting with the few brave souls who tried to repair these beasts, I soon realized that replacement of all the passive components was necessary for reliable and stable operation of any Novachord. However, the sheer number of components and it’s complexity, make properly restoring a Novachord a Herculean task.
After escaping from prison in 1970, Leary found refuge in Algeria with the Panthers’ Eldridge Cleaver, who was himself on the lam for attempted murder. But rather than receiving Leary as a kindred spirit—and displeased with his drug-touting ways—Eldridge kidnapped Tim and his wife, Rosemary Woodruff…er, placed them under “revolutionary arrest.” Eldridge eventually freed the pair, but, in the clip above, you can still get a sense of their uneasy Algerian alliance.