Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Who - Lifehouse (2 CD)

It occurred to me as I was getting ready to put this post together that 2011 is the 40th anniversary of Who's Next, surely as timeless an album as you'll find from the "classic rock era". Yet while even the doltish teens of today must begrudgingly recognize such songs as "Teenage Wasteland", "Yeeeaaaaahhhhh" or "That One Limp Bizkit Covered", I wonder how much anyone outside of the devout Who fanbase (a.k.a. a bunch of deaf geezers) really knows about the concept that spawned this almighty warhorse: Lifehouse.
If you're confused about what Lifehouse was supposed to be or ever was to begin with, you're not alone. I've been following The Who for going on twenty years now, and I still don't understand the plot any better than I did when I first read about it in Richard Barnes' Maximum R&B book back in my early teenage-hood. And for once this isn't just a case of me being retarded. None of my other Pals In Whodom can extract anything other than the basic premise that there's a guy living in some sort of future dystopia where everybody is plugged into a giant grid, and who loses his daughter and goes looking for her at a rock concert where a band is playing a show striving to achieve the universal note that will unite society, and... Yeah, do I really have to go any further here?

Cover to the Lifehouse lyrics booklet, included with the LP

Okay, so what if Lifehouse's plot makes Tommy look like the world's most concise narrative by comparison? The music is still amazing, and that's all I'm after really. THE POINT BEING: If Who's Next is a perfect album, and Lifehouse is a double album containing almost every song off of Who's Next plus a bunch of other great shit, then isn't Lifehouse really the greatest album ever? That's called math, people!
Anyway the decision is yours, mister listener guy. I will just lay down a few of the basic parameters of track selection that I used, and then you can be on your merry way. All songs were recorded at or around the initial 1971 sessions for Lifehouse, with a few being tracked as late as 1972. The sequencing is supposed to be that of a double LP, with five songs per side on disc one and four a side on disc two.
As you will see, side three is comprised of live performances from the Young Vic and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. This is the "concert" part of the story. Also, please note that we do not consider this a replacement for Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles set, but rather a companion release that should be made available to the public someday. Okay then?

What else to add? Can't think of anything really. Just listen to the dang thing and let me know what you think of it. Did I come close to what your estimation was of what Lifehouse should be? How would you have done it differently? Is Donald Trump really a viable candidate for the Tea Party in 2012?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fleetwood Mac - They Play On (4 CD)

Deluxe Reissue

Fleetwood Mac's Then Play On is an album that I consider to be one of Britain's finest exports of the late sixties, on par with The Who Sell Out, Led Zeppelin II, Beggar's Banquet or any other record you'd care to name. This version of the group (nearly unrecognizable when compared to the later Buckingham/ Nicks era) reached their pinnacle here as their leader, the visionary guitarist Peter Green, was joined by an 18-year old phenom by the name of Danny Kirwan. Though the pairing only existed for this album and a handful of singles, it was an explosive combination that burned bright and then faded away just as quickly.

The addition of Danny Kirwan pushed Fleetwood Mac beyond the limitations of the strict blues structure heard on their earlier releases, as Kirwan brought along a soft, melodic sensibility to his songwriting. Likewise, he was nearly an equal to Green as a guitarist, and the two summarily pushed each other to lofty heights that may have never been equaled during the British blues boom.

So why is it so hard to get a decent sounding copy of Then Play On on CD? It was only ever issued once digitally in 1990, and it was a botched release at that. The sound was sub-murky, and the tracks weren't even sequenced in the proper order (a problem that had hampered U.S. releases of the album since it was first released over here back in '69).

The problem could only be solved by procuring a great sounding copy of the original U.K. vinyl, which is exactly what we did to start off this collection. Now American audiences can finally enjoy Then Play On the way it was meant to be heard, in its proper running order. Next we added two discs worth of vital 1969/70 Mac singles and outtakes, including the long lost Milton Schlitz Show EP, which was originally supposed to accompany the album when it was released but was pulled at the last minute. Disc four contains a live concert from Stockholm recorded in March of '69 that shows the Green/ Kirwan line-up in all its glory.

If you've never heard this album or don't know much about the early Fleetwood Mac, prepare to be blown away! 1 | 2 | 3 | 4