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Abbey Road
Abbey Road
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 29.95
24 used & new from CDN$ 3.38

5.0 out of 5 stars mystique preserved, Aug. 21 2001
This review is from: Abbey Road (Audio CD)
The '60s pretty much belonged to the Beatles. They took us by storm in '63 and by the end of the decade, they were finished as a working band. In retrospect, we know that trouble started in August '67 when Brian Epstein died; it just took some time to truly manifest. The White Album was carried by the strength of both their songwriting and their legacy. They stumbled and nearly fell with the Get Back project, but somehow came together to work on one more project. That project became Abbey Road. Abbey Road was more a compromise than a reconciliation. Lennon was still fighting heroin addiction, Yoko was still constantly at his side, he was still pulling out songs he had written a full year before. Harrison was still miffed at both Paul and John concerning their superior attitude towards him. Ringo was still....Ringo. But George Martin was back in the producer's chair, strongly asserting that he would work with them again only if it could be as it was....
That didn't quite happen, but it is evident that in some ways, the Beatles worked as before, at least, the way they had worked since Sergeant Pepper....lot's of overdubbing, McCartney leading the way musically and Martin having a lot of say in the arrangements. Their songwriting was still at a peak, each having learned something from the others. In that it features compositions from each of the Beatles, Abbey Road is amazing in its seamlessness. Harrison's and Starr's songs blend effortlessly with Lennon & McCartney's. Abbey Road was as unified as the White Album was diverse, which is each album's strength. Not that the songwriting on Abbey Road wasn't eclectic, just that the way it was sequenced and produced made it all stick together like glue, even the songs on 'side 1'.
A word about the production. From their first recordings, the Beatles were perhaps one of the most "musical" groups of the 20th century. And George Martin was the perfect producer for them. He brought the right combination of musical training, musical ear and sense of play to the sessions. But, until Abbey Road, he was always working with equipment that was not quite state of the art. Don't get me wrong, Abbey Road (the studio) had excellent equipment, it was just that it was always about 5 or 6 years behind time, and the Beatles were always wanting and trying things that were years ahead of their time. Many times the engineers were forced to innovate and experiment in order to placate Beatle whims. With Abbey Road (the album), Martin finally had the chance to work with a fine quality 8-track recorder and other updated equipment. Suddenly, he could record the Beatles as he always wanted to, preserving the fidelity and dynamic range while affording them seemingly unlimited overdubbing capabilities. The Beatles, for their part, took great advantage of this, and I think it probably stimulated them. Drums could now be recorded in stereo; the bass could be given an incredible bottom, guitars could ring with bell-like authority. The spaciousness and dynamic range of Abbey Road is unequalled in any other Beatle album, and I think it's reflected in the sublime arrangements that benefit each and every song. Whether you actually like Octopus' Garden or not, you have to admit that everything about the song is sublime - Ringo's matchless drumming, Lennon's fingerpicked electric rhythm guitar arrangement, Harrison's inspired lead playing, McCartney's incredible bass playing and the luscious background vocals. The Beatles turn a humble Ringo song into a beautifully constructed piece of music. And that's the truth.
Maybe they didn't have the close comradery that they had in the Rubber Soul/Revolver era, but they had an unerring sense of tasteful arranging on this album, each turning in some of the finest playing of their career. Just listen to John, Paul and George trade guitar riffs on The End tell me that they'd lost their passion for playing together. Also, a close listen will confirm that those glorious Beatle backround harmonies appear more often than any album since Sergeant Pepper, but now recorded in breathtakingly beautiful style.
Though each Beatle album has something special to offer, and their level of songwriting on Rubber Soul and, particularly, Revolver, remains unmatched, Abbey Road is my favorite Beatles album, and the reason is simple. It is their most Musical album. It is their best sounding album. It is a good thing they didn't have to follow it up, because I don't think they could have.

Box Set
Box Set
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 90.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 32.69

3.0 out of 5 stars How can this be a disappointment?, July 25 2001
This review is from: Box Set (Audio CD)
Man, I love the Springfield. I love the Springfield more than CSN&Y, more than Poco, more than Loggins & Messina, more than Stills solo, and yes, even more than Young solo. They had a great sound, a sixties sound in the best sense of the term - great vocal and guitar arrangements, great rhythm section, great songwriting - they had it all...but not for long. So, was I excited when I heard that a four disc, that's right, FOUR DISC, box set was in the offing? You bet I was. Was I even more excited when I heard that the masters of the remasters and reissues, the great Rhino Records, was the label releasing it? Yes, yes, yes!!
So why am I SO disappointed? What could possibly be wrong with four discs of Buffalo Springfield?
Look closely, it's not really four discs of Springfield:
First of all, true fans of the Springfield, who are probably the only people who will buy this box set, already purchased the "deluxe" re-release of their first album in 1997. Released at a price of almost [...] bucks, the price was justified, I guess, by the fact that it included both the mono and stereo version of the album. Did that really justify the price? No production costs, very little in the way of promotional costs (they know fans will buy it, and that's who they're marketing to), probably not all that much paid out in royalties...think about it. It reeked of fan exploitation.
So then what happens? The box comes out and, you guessed it, you get their 1st album in mono and stereo, AGAIN! Of course, the stereo is piece-mealed over the first three discs, but the mono is there on disc 4...
...as is their classic, Again, in stereo which, you guessed it, also shows up, also in stereo, also in piece-mealed fashion, on the first three discs. Yes, that's right. On the same box, the same 12 songs are issued in the exact same versions twice! This is sounding like the Department of Rundancy Department!
Oh, don't get me wrong, the 22 demos are cool. They would have made great bonus tracks on a reasonably priced deluxe reissue of their three albums (are you listening, Rhino?). But where are the live tracks? Wasn't the Springfield the stuff of lengends on the stage?
I don't know, I just find this set very frustrating. If you are going to give a four disc restrospective to a band that was together less than two years, wouldn't you assume that it was going to be painstakingly comprehensive? This isn't. It's missing tracks from their last album, and inconceivably does not include the stunning extended version of Bluebird that has never been issued on CD. How could they have not included that?????
Finally, the price. How dare they state that the fourth disc is a "bonus disc"? At that price?
I've always championed Rhino Records, feeling that they were the undisputed kings of the reissue. This release, as exciting as it was, is, ultimately, [taking advantage] of Buffalo Springfield's loyal fans. They are, in essence, paying [...] bucks for 22 demos, 5 or 6 remixes, and a couple of "previously unreleased" tracks, as they will certainly have the three albums already, in sound quality not drastically different than what is heard here. This looks like a coporate "Maximize Profit, Minimize Expense, Who Will Notice or Care" project.
We Notice, We Care.

Anthology 1
Anthology 1
Price: CDN$ 34.38
65 used & new from CDN$ 8.61

4.0 out of 5 stars It is what it is, July 24 2001
This review is from: Anthology 1 (Audio CD)
High expectations have always followed any Beatle-related project, and disappointment always seem to follow high expectations. I think people expected the anthology series to somehow be more than what it was, and maybe that particularly applies to Anthology 1. There is a lot of speaking voices on disc 1, and the early recorded music history of the group was not the best in terms of audio fidelity. For this reason, Anthology 1 came under a lot of criticism.
But it is what it is - an early history of the group in sound. I wish there would have been better quality performances of their early years available, but that simply is not the case. It's fortunate that we have what we have - their first ever recording, the Cavern rehearsal tape, the Star Club tape, etc. Yes, the sound is crude, but offers a glimpse of the Beatles' formative years. We can't ask for anything more, because this is all that exists.
The Beatles made many appearances, on stage and on TV (and radio) during early Bealtemania. Again, some of this is somewhat crude sounding, but fascinating all the same. Their performance for Swedish radio in '63 is, I think, some of the most ferocious live playing I've ever heard, and gives us a taste of what it might have been like to catch them live in a club on a good night.
Finally, the studio outtakes from this early period are probably the least interesting outtakes of the groups career, but it is still fascinating to see how some of the songs evolved and changed. And I Love Her, for instance, quickly evolved from a beat ballad to the sublime and beatiful arrangement we hear on A Hard Day's Night. Not all outtakes are that revelatory, but are still a good listen.
Nope, this certainly isn't the polished product that we expected from the Beatles during their heyday. And it is true that George Martin and the group had the instinct to always select the right song and the right take. But, this release is a piece of history, an important piece of history. Considered in that context, it was, is and will remain an important and valid piece of the Beatles' cannon.

Help
Help
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 21.24
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Caught in the middle, but..., July 18 2001
This review is from: Help (Audio CD)
Beatles for Sale and Help! are considered "holding pattern" works and are less revered by critics because they didn't introduce any great innovations or ground-breaking ideas. But I don't think that does these albums justice. Sure, most of the lyrical concerns are still love-oriented, but many of the lyrics are becoming increasing complex. Even a song like Yesterday shows a real maturity in the lyrics.
The songs offered here are the Beatles at the top of their game, in my opinion. Gorgeous melodies, catchy hooks, great harmony singing and sharp musicianship abound. The Beatles were becoming increasing facile in the studio, and it shows. The strength of songs like Help, Ticket to Ride and Yesterday are legend, but there are many other real gems on this album. You've Got to Hide Your Love Away, It's Only Love and Your Going to Lose That Girl are classic mid-period Lennon; McCartney answers with the rocking Another Girl and The Night Before, not to mention the beautiful, folky I've Just Seen a Face, all extremely underrated.
Harrison gets two songs on this album, and asserts himself well with the lovely pop of I Need You and You Like Me Too Much. Maybe not up to the dizzying heights of Lennon & McCartney songsmithing, but getter closer.
This leaves "filler" like Act Naturally, Tell Me What You See and Dizzy Miss Lizzy. Just listen to Lennon's vocal performance on Dizzy Miss Lizzy and try calling it filler...though admittedly, the guitar riff grates on one after a while. Ringo's "aw, shucks" reading of Act Naturally is PERFECT (and SO appropriate) and Lennon & McCartney's magical harmonies lift Tell Me What You See well above the pedestrian.
That's it. Overwhelming evidence, well presented, that this is not just a mediocre holding pattern album, but classic mid-period Beatles. It's now up to you, members of the juke-box jury.
I'll say no more.

That Thing You Do
That Thing You Do
VHS
12 used & new from CDN$ 2.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Talk about a sleeper!, July 9 2001
This review is from: That Thing You Do (VHS Tape)
I saw this movie at the theater when it came out in the late summer of '96. Maybe it was partly the company, but I found the movie enjoyable but not outstanding. In other words, I was disappointed. Maybe I was jaded, having just recently turned 40. Maybe it seemed silly to someone at that stage of life.
Then last winter, I caught just a bit of it on VH1, and it made me want to see it again. I saw it recently at my local grocery store for ($) and picked it up. Finally I had the chance to sit down and watch it in its entirety once again, and I cannot convey what an enjoyable experience it was! It totally recaptured what, for me, was great about growing up in the '60s...that feeling that anything could happen, that your radio could explode with another classic any second, that, if you were a musician, you could be on the radio yourself if you got a band together and wrote a good song. Well, I was just a kid then, but I believed.
This movie was obviously a labor of love for Tom Hanks - his attention to period detail is amazing. He puts you right in the middle of the early summer of '64 in every way. His soundtrack is just superb. Rather than use actual songs from that time period, he creates, with help from other songwriters, his own pastiche of the sounds of '64, with splendid and amusing results.
The movie bounced off of me the first time I saw it...and I'm not quite sure why. All the performances are sterling, and there is really so much to appreciate...the song (That Thing You Do) getting better and better as they gain popularity, the acquisition of 'professional instruments' as they go on tour; most of all, the pure joy that is conveyed the first time they hear their song on the radio. That moment, that magic moment, is conveyed with incredible excitement. You feel like you are inside the characters as they react to the giddy shock of hearing their song on the airwaves.
Like reality, the giddyness is bound to end and reality set in; hence the last third of the movie is a sober affair. It was a letdown when I saw it the first time, but now it is a brilliant resolution and, really, very believable. Here was a group with no foundation, no history, just a lucky happenstance. It simply couldn't last. The end was believable and, really, happy.
The performances and direction are subtle. The movie gets better with each subsequent viewing. For me, who rarely rewatches a movie, that is high praise, indeed.

1964-1977 Bbc Sessions
1964-1977 Bbc Sessions
Price: CDN$ 15.90
24 used & new from CDN$ 8.01

5.0 out of 5 stars the Kinetic Kinds at their blistering best, June 19 2001
This review is from: 1964-1977 Bbc Sessions (Audio CD)
This is a great collection. A generous two-disc set of the Kinks at the BEEB (BBC). Whether roaring through their early hits or rendering a rare Davies composition (the great Strange Effect, a British hit for Dave Berry), this is Killer Kinks! Many of these tracks are superior to there studio releases - the Kinks show that they were great live.
Overall, the sound quality is great, and the band gives uniformly fine, spriited performances. Not to be missed if your a Kinks fan, and, actually, not a bad place to start for the neophyte.

Flaming Pie
Flaming Pie
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 32.95
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.77

4.0 out of 5 stars simple charms, June 15 2001
This review is from: Flaming Pie (Audio CD)
After the excitement (and hype) of the Beatles' Anthology series, there was great expectation for this new McCartney release. Rumours of the involvement of George Martin and Ringo Starr added to that expectation. High expectations are always a set-up for a letdown, and I was let down initially with this release.
I've never been a fan of Jeff Lynn's muddy, midrange heavy production style. Also, I couldn't help but note that the rockers If You Wanna, I Really Love You, and I Used to Be Bad sounded tired, using well-worn riffs and, particularly on the last two, cliche ridden lyrics. The ballads were stronger, but did not have the rich melodicism and sparkle of Macca's best ballad work.
The album's best numbers were its two singles, the mid-tempo pop-rock of Young Boy and The World Tonight. The World Tonight is based around a durable riff, a la Let Me Roll It. Though I don't like the production style (Jeff Lynn), this song's simple hooks make it one of Macca's best songs of the 90s.
My opinion of this album has mellowed with the passage of time. With Lennon long gone and Harrison pretty much retired, a lot of pressure gets put on Macca. We now realize that he will never again reach the Herculean heights that created his legacy, and at this point has no desire to. We now realize that we will most likely never hear a new McCartney song on the radio. So, I now have a keener appreciation of what we have. This album has its simple charms. It is McCartney writing, singing, playing. For that alone, we should be thankful.

Wingspan Hits And History
Wingspan Hits And History
14 used & new from CDN$ 11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Well-done, but could have shown more imagination, May 15 2001
Not really a Wings retrospective, but that's OK, since Wings was really a backing band for Paul. I do agree that Denny Laine had some memorable contributions, particularly on At the Speed of Sound and London Town, and it would have been nice to include one (also would have been good for his bank account). Also, some of Paul's most interesting work showed up on b-sides (The Mess, Oh Woman, Oh Why, two great rockers) or one-off projects (his touching tribute to his father, Walking in the Park With Eloise). I really think Paul could have shown a little more imagination with this collection. Do we really need the run-out version of No More Lonely Nights?
I keep reading these rumours about a boxed set at the end of the year. If that's the case, maybe that's why Sir Paul played it so "safe" with this collection.
At any rate, what's here is really nice. The Hits CD is, well, the hits, and it's been done before, but never has it sounded so good! The remastering is exemplary; even the songs from the dismally produced Venus & Mars sound markedly better (though Rock Show still sounds like it was recorded in someone's bathroom).
I feel ripped off that I spent extra to get the limited edition, and really got nothing extra...just a cloth bound case instead of a jewel case...that's worth extra
I have a feeling this package was designed to appeal to the neophyte who picked up "1", liked it, and is interested in "the rest of the story". The timing is right, and, let's face it, Sir Paul was the most commercially sucessful of the solo Beatles.
I'm not sure why, really, but, for me, Paul's "hits" just don't bear up to repeated listenings like the Beatles hits do. So it's the History package that I really enjoy listening to. That disc really shows the full range of Paul's talent's.
So, docked a star for playing it safe and not giving anything special on the "limited edition."

Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions [Remastered]
Tell Mama - The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions [Remastered]
Price: CDN$ 17.67
29 used & new from CDN$ 8.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Still a classic, May 9 2001
I was introduced to Etta James with Tell Mama, which I've always thought was a fantastic song. In 1984, I picked up a French pressing of "Peaches", a double LP of her best Chess material. I can still remember listening to that album for the first time. I was absolutely blown away! Not just with her voice, but with the quality of the songs, arrangements and sound. It became one of my most treasured albums, and there it stayed until I picked up the original Tell Mama CD in '90. Though it was in mono (I was at that time a snooty stereo guy), I thoroughly loved it. I was aware of how great Rick Hall, Fame and the whole Muscle Shoals scene was; how they turned out so many great records.
This is an essential reissue, as it includes all of the songs that Etta cut there. The unreleased stuff is nearly as good as the original album. I now find out that most of the original masters were mono only, for some reason. At least we get the stereo masters that exist. It is evident from the pictures and the quotes included in this package that there was a ton of mutual respect between the Muscle Shoals folks and Etta, and it shows in the music. As it turned out, these sessions gave Etta her last big hit, unfortunately. But it certainly wasn't the end of her producing great music; her ongoing career is a testament to that.
I've grown to love almost everything that Etta did for Chess, particularly the earlier stuff, when crossover was the primary aim. Her treatment of standards and ballads was exquisite. But when she came to Alabama, it was to cut Southern-fried soul, and she nailed it!
An essential Etta record, an essential soul record, an essential '60s record. 'Nuff said.

Riding With the King
Riding With the King
Price: CDN$ 11.99
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars too many cooks..., May 4 2001
This review is from: Riding With the King (Audio CD)
Hey, this album was a great idea, even at this relatively late stage of the game. Eric and B.B. - two of the all-time greats, with styles that could easily complement each other. So why don't I feel more excited after listening to this?
Hey with 2 guitar greats, why add two and three other guitarists? Why not just add some appropriate keys (and maybe horns!!) and let these guys build the arrangements from the ground up? As it is, it almost sounds like these guys came in and overdubbed their guitar and voice after the basic tracks were laid down. Hell, they are both great rhythm as well as lead guitarists.
So, I say more organic, less produced.
Sometimes, less is more.

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