Let It Be 2021 Box Set…Review & Perspective

Wow, now we know why the original Glyn Johns mix of Get Back was not released.  It’s a mess!  Glyn Johns has produced a lot of good music, but none of the song versions he chose for the album are better than those on the released Let It Be album.  In the book with the box set, it says Glyn Johns purposely selected earlier takes to show The Beatles less polished.  Just three versions…”One After 909″, “Get Back” and “Let It Be” are worthy of being included on a Beatles album.  If you’re looking for the “just the band” style originally intended for the album, go with Let It Be Naked.

The only cool thing is that they included the cover that was planned…which has the photo that ended up being used for the Blue Album collection.

Here’s what the Super Deluxe CD set looks like.  The photos on the book normally show through the cutouts in the black cardboard sleeve.  The CD’s store in a trifold holder.  That trifold has black & white photos on the other side that align with those cutouts.

The 2021 remix of the Let It Be album sounds good, fuller and clearer, like the previously remixed albums.  Giles Martin was able to somewhat improve the most egregiously arranged Phil Spector production…”The Long And Winding Road”.  The remix does a better job of blending the background chorus into the orchestra to limit the “angel voices” Paul McCartney said he hates.  Despite some errors in judgement, Spector deserves credit for putting together a much improved version of the album.

The lead vocals on the remixed album stand out better than the somewhat buried ones on the original production.  George Harrison’s lead vocals sound especially clearer.  Update:  Having had time for multiple listens, the remix is definitely the best the original album has ever sounded.  It doesn’t lose the feel of the Let It Be we’ve always known, but it’s a better listening experience.

The book has excellent information on each of the songs on the original Let It Be album, giving details of how the recordings were developed.  Here’s a small sample of some black & white photos from the book.

(Click to enlarge)

As for the extra tracks of alternate takes and rehearsals…seeing what songs they worked on is more interesting than actually hearing them.  The box set has five songs that ended up on Abbey Road, but none of the versions even approach the completed songs that are on that album.

There are quality bootlegs that have been available for years that contain a lot more material.  There was plenty of room left empty on the CD’s, but the lack of space on vinyl probably limited the amount of music selected.  A couple of welcome cuts:  Take 28 of “Let It Be” seems to be the one used in the original Let It Be film.  It includes the line “There will be no sorrow”.  It’s good to have this version in such a quality mix.  The remix of the “Don’t Let Me Down” single sounds really good too.

Through the years, Let It Be has been overly criticized.  All of the breakup controversy, and even comments by The Beatles, have cast a shadow on the album.

The main problem was The Beatles weren’t sure they were making an album.  As funny as that sounds, the new Get Back book reveals the project was to make a film (originally a TV special) of The Beatles writing and polishing songs, and then have it all culminate with a live concert.  Maybe that would be the album, and The Beatles were just rehearsing.

The “live” concept is why they weren’t doing overdubs and perfecting the recordings as they normally did.  Considering how far The Beatles had come, and how they had mastered the recording studio, the “no overdubs” idea was too limiting.  The pressure that the film needed to end with a concert turned out to be problematic.  The Beatles spent a lot of time trying to figure out where the concert would be held, and whether they even wanted to do it.

If only The Beatles had simply had their sessions filmed, and had recorded the same way as their previous albums, Let It Be might have turned out to be among their best albums.  They only spent a total of 21 days writing, rehearsing, and recording.  Those sessions yielded some great songs…. “Get Back”, “Two Of Us”, “The Long & Winding Road”, and “Let It Be”…and those are just the songs by Paul McCartney”.

John Lennon’s best songs for this project were “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Across The Universe” (which had been recorded a year earlier, but was revisited during the Let It Be sessions).

George Harrison contributed “For You Blue” and “I Me Mine”.   The Beatles should also have finished “All Things Must Pass” and “Something” when he presented them, but it was thought no more slow songs were needed for the concert.  Unfortunately, The Beatles considered the project complete when filming ended on January 31st.  They wanted to move on.

There were some problems with the original Let It Be album.

John Lennon’s contributions included a couple weak songs…”Dig It” and “Dig A Pony”.  When he did have an excellent song, “Across The Universe”, it was over-produced by saddling it with poor instrumental accompaniment.  Probably the worst decision was producer Phil Spector inexplicably leaving  off “Don’t Let Me Down”!  It’s no wonder John Lennon made negative comments about the album.

Despite Paul McCartney’s songs being particularly strong, he also complained about the album.  That was because Phil Spector made major changes in the arrangements, (most especially to “The Long And Winding Road”) without getting McCartney’s approval.

The box set book contains this letter to Apple that lays out exactly what Paul thinks of the Spector version.

Nothing was changed, because the album was already in production.  I love that last line.

Let’s look at the positive aspects of the Let It Be sessions.

How many sessions for a single album have produced three #1 songs?  The recordings from January of 1969  included “Get Back”, “Let It Be”, and “The Long And Winding Road”, which all topped the singles charts.  The quality of “Two Of Us” is right there too.  The movie showed Paul & John having a great time singing it together.  Here’s a page from the box set book:

The film also showed George Harrison’s “For You Blue” as a happy time of The Beatles playing together.  Paul is performing on a “prepared” piano (with paper placed between the piano’s hammers and strings to alter the sound), and John is providing a cool slide guitar part.  The lyrics are slight, but it’s a fun listen.  Harrison’s other track, “I Me Mine” is a clever rocker that uses a combination of a 4/4 rock beat, with a 3/4-time waltz tempo.  Sure, these songs don’t rise to the level of “Here Comes The Sun” or “Something”, but with the exception of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” they’re better than George’s songs from the previous year’s White Album.

As noted earlier, the album sessions included Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Across The Universe”  The album should have featured both, substituting one of the more stripped-down versions of “Across The Universe”…the way it was on Anthology 3, or Let It Be Naked.

The song Lennon & McCartney wrote in 1964, “The One After 909”, is an enjoyable old-fashioned rocker.

Any album that has that many good songs (with those three #1 singles) should not be looked at in any way as a bad or “lesser”album…as Let It Be is sometimes characterized.  All The Beatles probably needed was another week or two to finish up some other songs they had started to work on.  Let It Be would have been complete and improved.  But, The Beatles were anxious to leave the filming behind and get back to making albums the way they knew best.

The Beatles Get Back Book…Review

The large companion book for the new Beatles documentary, The Beatles: Get Back, is out now!

Above is the book I received on Tuesday, October 12th.  The cover photo is by Linda McCartney.  Below are photos and quotes from the book to give you an idea of what it’s like.

It’s a fairly large coffee table book, seen here with the very large Anthology book, and a couple of my other favorite Beatles books, for comparing the size.  The hard cover of the 240-page book has the picture printed on it, and there’s a small Let It Be jacket cover toward the bottom.

Get Back director Peter Jackson provides the foreword, and the book contains transcribed conversations from the film that was used to make the documentary.  It also has hundreds of photos by Ethan Russell and Linda McCartney, plus a lot of screen shots from the film.

The rehearsals and filming began on January 2nd, 1969 at Twickenham Film Studios.  It was a large, unusual place for The Beatles to be working, and that uncomfortable space, along with having cameras on them all the time, added to the pressure of having to write and learn songs.  Besides that, there was a plan to do a live performance as soon as January 18th.  The schedule was too ambitious, and the text in the book reveals The Beatles couldn’t come up with a good location for a concert.  They weren’t even sure they wanted to do it, with George the most opposed.

The book is generously filled with many previously unseen and cool photos of The Beatles as they were working on songs.  It was amazing to me how many songs they had started by January 6th.  Since they began on a Thursday, and took the weekend off, there were only three days of filming by Monday the 6th.  The songs they played parts of included “Get Back”, “One After 909”, “All Things Must Pass”, “The Long And Winding Road”, “Let It Be”, “Two Of Us”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “Across The Universe”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Oh Darling”, “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”,  and “Something”.  These were mostly just the early formative stages of those songs, rather than being complete, but that was quite a start for the 1969 albums that would become Let It Be and Abbey Road.

It was also on January 6th that the infamous disagreement happened between George and Paul.  As they were working on “Two Of Us”, Paul wanted to keep the arrangement simple, and then add to it later.  George thought it would be better to try guitar parts right away to see what worked. At one point, George said… “I’ll play, you know,  whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if you don’t want me to play.”  A few moments later, John said to Paul… “I think if it’s your song, you’ve got to do exactly like you want it.  You say, don’t play that.  Play that.  It’s up to you, you know…”

It was four days later, January 10th, when George said… “I think I’ll be…I’m leaving.”  John says…”What?”  George… “the band now.”  John…”When?”  George… “Now.”

The three Beatles worked for another six days at Twickenham.  They even discussed getting another lead guitarist if George didn’t return.  They decided to move the whole project to the much more comfortable studio they had installed at Apple.  After a six day break, The Beatles, including George, returned to recording.

After that change, the sessions became much happier. The Beatles helped each other with the songs as they were being created.  The transcripts show there was a lot of humor and cooperation during most of their time together.

Now at Apple, you can see there appear to be six Beatles.  Keyboardist Billy Preston was a welcome addition to the recording sessions.  Yoko Ono was at John’s side almost all of the time (as he wanted it), and the quotes in the book show the other Beatles grew to accept that.  Paul knew that John would choose Yoko over The Beatles if he had to.  In talking with the others when John wasn’t there, Paul said… “It’s going to be such an incredible sort of comical thing like, in 50 years’ time, you know: ‘They broke up ‘cause Yoko sat on an amp.’  (laughs).”  Paul also said… “It’s all right, let the young lovers stay together.”

In a total of just 21 days of recording from January 2nd through January 31st, the songs became more polished, and The Beatles pulled off their rooftop concert.

The rooftop performance was January 30th, and The Beatles returned to the studio on the 31st for one more day of filming. 

That’s when they nailed the film versions of “Two Of Us”, “The Long And Winding Road”, and the final song recorded, “Let It Be”.  Those performances were the highlights of the original movie.  Without them, they really wouldn’t have had enough good songs to put an album together.  Of course then they could have saved those songs for Abbey Road, and Paul could have given them the full production treatment any way he wished.

If you really want to know what The Beatles were thinking during the recording of Let It Be, this book will fill you in on all of it…plus you get the photos.

Having finished the filming and the live style of recording (without overdubs), The Beatles soon decided to convince George Martin to help them record an album the way they had in the past, and the result was Abbey Road which was completed in August of 1969.  At least eight of the songs on that album were introduced by the group during the Let It Be sessions.

The Let It Be box set is out, and the 6-hour Get Back documentary will air on Disney+ over three nights, November 25th, 26th, & 27th.

Here’s the link to my review of the new box set:  https://ontherecords.net/2021/10/let-it-be-2021-box-set-review/

Extra:  Here’s the 240-page Get Back book next to the 100-page book that comes in the box set.

The Beatles’ Breakup…Do You Remember?

It’s in the news that Paul McCartney mentioned in a recent interview that The Beatles broke up after John Lennon told them he was leaving the group.  McCartney had to say that because the interviewer didn’t know the story.

Beatles fans have long known the story, but The Guardian reported McCartney’s “revelation” this way:

I guess “rock history” wasn’t paying attention to all those books that have covered what happened with The Beatles.  TMZ got sucked-in too, and called McCartney’s comments a “bombshell claim”.  Almost every news outlet ran the story as if it was new information.  It’s been known for decades that John announced he was leaving the group (September, 1969), and manager Allen Klein asked the members to not say anything while legal matters were handled.

At that time, Paul McCartney went to Scotland with his family.  It’s well documented he became depressed, because he didn’t know what he would do without The Beatles.  His wife Linda pulled him through, and Paul recorded his McCartney album.  With the release of his album in April of 1970, Paul McCartney revealed that The Beatles were no longer together.

When that happened, John Lennon said he was upset that Paul announced the breakup, since John was the one who actually decided to end the band.  McCartney did have to sue the other Beatles in order to legally finalize things, and all four Beatles sued Klein.

Paul McCartney was quoted as saying he wanted the band to continue.

Ringo Starr walked away from the band for a short time in 1968 during the recording of the White Album.  George Harrison left for about a week in January of 1969 during the Let It Be/Get Back sessions.

History shows Paul McCartney is the only Beatle who never left the band.

Music…How We Buy It (2021)

How we consume music has changed significantly, with streaming now far and away the biggest way we pay for it.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has released the figures for the first half of 2021.   Streaming accounted for 84% of all music sales.  There are more than 80-million subscriptions to streaming.  Physical sales were only about 10% of revenues.  About two-thirds of that is vinyl records, which saw a 94% increase (skewed some by the pandemic, which hurt last year’s in-store sales).

The biggest album for physical sales was Taylor Swift’s Evermore, which sold over 100,000 vinyl copies in one week…more than any other album in the last 30-years.  Even with significant growth in vinyl sales, listening to records is mostly a hobby, and not the major way we consume most of our music.  Remember, artists used to sell millions of vinyl albums in the ‘70’s & ‘80’s.  Records and CD’s do make nice keepsakes of our favorite artists.

While vinyl continues to grow, CD purchases are still going down.  Box sets, like my George Harrison All Things Must Pass (shown above) are still money makers, but CD’s only accounted for one-third of physical sales.  To be fair, CD’s also cost much less than vinyl, so the number of units sold could actually be similar.

Digital purchases, such as on iTunes, have fallen drastically in the past few years, and now provide around 5% of sales.

That leaves music licensing (such as for films, commercials, and venues), which accounted for less than 2% of music sales.

The way we get our music shifted amazingly fast once services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music gave us access to millions of songs for relatively low monthly fees.  For the price of one box set, you can have a year’s worth of music on streaming.

Fleetwood Mac Attack

Fleetwood Mac has broken up and gotten back together many times, but based on some nasty comments by Lindsey Buckingham, he seems to be guaranteeing he’s never going back again.

Lindsey Buckingham launched some missiles at Stevie Nicks, and she returned fire.  In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Lindsey Buckingham said he was fired from the band in 2018 because Stevie Nicks said the group had to choose either him or her.  He said… “I think she saw the possibility of remaking the band more in a Stevie Nicks vein.  More mellow and kind of down, giving her more chances to do the kind of talking she does on stage.”

Then Buckingham made it even more personal and mean by criticizing her creativity, energy, and life.  “Her creativity, at least for a while it seemed like she wasn’t in touch with that.  Same with the level of energy she once had on stage.  I think that was hard for her, seeing me jumping around in an age-inappropriate way.  Also, she’s lonely.  She’s alone.”

Stevie Nicks responded.  “To be exceedingly clear, I did not ask for him to be fired.  I did not demand he be fired.  Frankly, I fired myself.  I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic for my wellbeing.  I was done.  So if the band went on without me, so be it.  After many lengthy discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members.”  (Those being Mike Campbell and Neil Finn.  The concerts weren’t criticized as being “mellow”.)

Nicks also chided Buckingham for calling her “lonely” because of her choice of career over family.  She said… “I’m proud of the life choices I’ve made, and it seems a shame for him to pass judgement on anyone who chooses to live their life on their own terms.”

Lindsey Buckingham had more criticism, which he aimed at Fleetwood Mac manager Irving Azoff.  Buckingham said the decision to axe him was “driven by the money”.

Irving Azoff issued this statement.  “While I understand it’s challenging for Lindsey to accept his own role in these matters and far easier for him to blame a manager, the fact remains that his actions alone are responsible for what transpired.  Frankly, If I can be accused of anything, it’s perhaps holding things together longer than I should have.  After 2018 when Fleetwood Mac evolved with their new lineup, my continued work with the band was due entirely to the fact I’ve been aligned with Stevie Nicks in thought and purpose from the earliest of days.  While financial gain was not a motivator for me, it was a delightful bonus that the band scored their highest grossing tour ever, without Lindsey.”

(Stevie & Lindsey during Fleetwood Mac’s prime.)

So let’s take a look at what seems to be the end of Lindsey Buckingham’s chances of rejoining his band.

When the whole “firing” incident started in 2018, Lindsey wanted to do a solo tour and asked the band to delay the Fleetwood Mac tour.  Lindsey has always called Fleetwood Mac “The Big Machine”, and his solo work “The Small Machine”.  It looks like he lost sight of which one takes precedence, especially when some of the band’s tour dates had been booked.

Stevie Nicks was already upset with Buckingham, because she felt he had mocked her at a MusiCares event in January of 2018.  It seems likely, based on what she said about removing herself from a toxic situation, Stevie did force a him-or-me choice.  Even though she never asked the band to fire Lindsey, there’s no other way they could eliminate the situation that was causing her to fire herself from the band.  Despite Buckingham’s major production, writing, and guitar skills during their recording years, he was obviously more replaceable than Stevie Nicks, who had become the biggest star of the band.

The question to ask Nicks is if she would have toured with Mac if Lindsey had agreed to the timing of the tour.  If the answer is yes, then his request to delay the tour really was the last straw, and the true reason he was fired.

As the drama has unfolded over the past three years, it seems obvious Stevie Nicks’ and Lindsey Buckingham’s love and friendship has run its course.

Why did Lindsey decide to slam the door on Fleetwood Mac now?  The cynical answer might be that it’s because he has a new album that was released September 17th, and his attacks on Nicks and Azoff sure garnered attention.

J.D. Souther…Almost Famous

He was almost in the Eagles, and he was almost a solo star.  His friends became very famous…Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley.  John David Souther may have just missed stardom, but he was very successful.

(Photos from 1971 and 1972)

J.D. Souther was born in Detroit in 1945, and was raised in Texas.  When he moved to California in the late ‘60’s, he met another Detroit native, Glenn Frey, and they formed a Country Rock duo called Longbranch Pennywhistle.

What?  You don’t remember their 1969 album?  It would probably be completely forgotten if it weren’t for the historical perspective it provides.  As the Eagles formed in 1971, J.D. Souther was encouraged to join.  They even worked on one of his songs, “How Long”, but J.D. thought the band already had enough guitarists & singers, and decided solo was the way to go.

His self-titled album came out in 1972, just like the Eagles’ first album.  One of the albums was a hit, and one went to the cut-out bins.  Souther wouldn’t release another solo album for four years; however, he soon found great success…as a songwriter.

Let’s look at some of the songs J.D. Souther helped write for these albums.

Here are the songs J.D. co-wrote (mostly with Don Henley & Glenn Frey):

”Doolin’-Dalton”, “Best Of My Love” (#1), “You Never Cry Like A Lover”, “James Dean”, “New Kid In Town” (#1), “Heartache Tonight” (#1), and “The Sad Cafe”.  That’s three #1 singles, and they’re on some of the best-selling albums of all time.

Three decades later (2007), the Eagles released J.D. Souther’s “How Long” as a hit off their final studio album, Long Road Out Of Eden.  The song won the Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.  It also was a hit on the Adult Contemporary charts.

Besides the Eagles, J.D. Souther helped with the success of one-time girlfriend, and lifetime friend, Linda Ronstadt.

Here are the songs J.D. Souther wrote that Linda Ronstadt recorded (including duets on which he sang):

”I Can Almost See It”, “Don’t Cry Now”, “The Fast One”, “Faithless Love” (duet), “Prisoner In Disguise” (duet), “Silver Blue” (duet), “Simple Man, Simple Dream”, “White Rhythm And Blues”, and “Hearts Against The Wind” (duet on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack).

Obviously, with the extreme popularity of Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, J.D. Souther was earning an amazing living as a songwriter.  He would see limited success as a solo artist starting in 1976, but first…a band.

There was an attempt to form a “supergroup” by putting J.D. Souther, Chris Hillman (of The Byrds), and Richie Furay (of Poco) together as a band.  It resulted in two albums (I bought), and some success.  The albums reached #11 and #39 in 1974 & 1975, but the group split up after the second album.  It was partly because they were put together by their label, rather than having come together naturally.  Next were the solo albums.

I picked up the first three of these albums as they were released in 1976, 1979 and 1984, and then the fourth in 2011.  The Black Rose album included several songs Souther had written for Ronstadt, plus more originals.  As a young man, J.D. had been influenced by Jazz artists, so besides the Country Rock feel, there are touches of Jazz in some of the arrangements.  It’s a good album, but only made it to #85 on the Top 200 chart.

J.D. Souther’s greatest solo success was in 1979.  His single “You’re Only Lonely” went to #7 on the Top 100 chart, and spent multiple weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  The You’re Only Lonely album peaked at #41, his best solo showing.  It’s also his best album.

Between albums in 1981, James Taylor & J.D. Souther released the duet “Her Town Too”.  It went to #11 on the Top 100 chart, and hit #5 on the AC chart.  The song was written by the two singers, and guitarist Waddy Wachtel.

Neither of Souther’s next two albums, Home By Dawn and Natural History charted, but the latter one featured cool stripped-down versions of some of the songs he co-wrote with the Eagles.  At this point, Souther dropped the periods from his initials, and became JD Souther.

You might have caught JD on TV.  He had a significant role on season three of Thirty Something (1989-1990), and more recently was a recurring character in the country music show Nashville (2012-2017).

While not well known by the general pubic, JD Souther is famous with musicians and songwriters.  He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2013.  John David Souther has had an impressive career…with maybe just the right amount of fame.

Extra:  In case you’re not familiar with his recordings, here’s a recommended playlist of JD Souther songs you can stream.  The first six songs are from You’re Only Lonely, and the next six are from Black Rose.

  1. You’re Only Lonely
  2. The Last In Love
  3. If You Don’t Want My Love
  4. Songs Of Love
  5. White Rhythm & Blues (Phil Everly on Harmony)
  6. Til The Bars Burn Down
  7. Simple Man, Simple Dream
  8. Silver Blue
  9. Midnight Prowl
  10. I Can Almost See It (Demo)
  11. Faithless Love
  12. Doors Swing Open
  13. Go Ahead And Rain
  14. Hearts Against The Wind (with Linda Ronstadt)
  15. The Sad Cafe
  16. It Might Be Mine (with Linda Ronstadt)
  17. The Heartbreaker (with Souther-Hillman-Fury Band)
  18. New Kid In Town
  19. Something In The Dark
  20. I’ll Be Here At Closing Time

The Beatles…Let It Be Box Set (2021)

A 5-CD plus Blu-ray “Super Deluxe” box set of Let It  Be was released on October 15th (vinyl too).

The discs include the new remix the Let It Be album, the original unreleased 1969 Get Back album, plus songs from sessions and rehearsals.  You can see a hardback book of photos and information is included.  It’s a 100 page book, as compared with the 240 page The Beatles: Get Back book that came out October 12th.  The book in the box set has information on the recordings, and comments from Paul McCartney, Glyn Johns and more, whereas the other book has dialogue from the film.  Both have previously unreleased photos.   The list price for this Super Deluxe set is $139.98.  (The vinyl version is $199.98.)

Here are the track listings from the back of the box (click to enlarge & make clearer):

Each of these playlists is short enough to fit on a vinyl record, so the Super Deluxe vinyl box set is 5-discs too (4 LP’s and an EP).  The list price is $199.98.

A 2-CD Deluxe set (below) contains the new remix, plus a disc of selected highlights from the rest of the box set.  The list price is $24.98.  The remixed album is also available as a single disc or record.

The never-released Get Back album (with no overdubs) that was assembled by Glyn Johns comes with a nice touch.  Both the CD & Vinyl sets include the cover that was planned for that 1969 album.  Here’s a shot of it from my box set.

The Super Deluxe sets also include two discs of recordings from sessions and rehearsals, and a 4-track EP that includes remixes of the “Let It Be” & “Don’t Let Me Down” singles.  The CD set also has a Blu-ray audio disc of the new remix album with 5.1/Dolby Atmos.  

Some fans were disappointed the full rooftop concert isn’t included.  When asked about it, Giles Martin said the rooftop versions are best when watching the film of The Beatles perform them, and the whole concert is in the new film.  Of course the five songs from the rooftop concert are in the box set.  “I’ve Got A Feeling”, “Dig A Pony”, and “One After 909” are the rooftop recordings.  The first rooftop take of “Don’t Let Me Down” is also included, and “Get Back” is made to sound like it’s the rooftop version, with comments from the concert edited on at the beginning and end of the song.

The cover of the box set is very similar to the original Let It Be album cover.

There’s even a vinyl picture disc!  $35.98 ($10 more than the standard vinyl.)

A lot of the material from the sessions, rehearsals, and jams has been available in various versions from Anthology 3 and bootlegs.  Now they’re in the best possible audio, along with the remix of the original Let It Be album.

Here’s the link to my review of the new box set:  https://ontherecords.net/2021/10/let-it-be-2021-box-set-review/ 

Poco…The Country Rock Band That Kept On Tryin’

The Country Rock band Poco released their first album in 1969, but it wasn’t until a decade later that they finally had a hit.

(Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, George Grantham, Richie Furay, Rusty Young)

When their band, Buffalo Springfield, broke up in 1968, Jim Messina and Richie Furay (guitarists, vocalists, & songwriters) started the band Poco.  They added Randy Meisner on bass & vocals, George Grantham on drums & vocals, and Rusty Young on steel guitar, banjo, guitar & vocals.  Country Rock was just heating up, and with this talented line-up, Poco was sure to be a big success, even though their name means “little” in Spanish.

Unfortunately, their first two albums in 1969 & 1970 only made it to #63 and #58 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.  Bassist Randy Meisner left the band as the first album was being released.  He went on to play in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, and then become a founding member of the Eagles.  He stayed with them through the album Hotel California.

Poco’s singles weren’t hits either….including “You Better Think Twice” #72 and “Just For Me And You” #110.

I started buying Poco albums when they released the live album Deliverin’ (#26) in 1971.  Timothy B. Schmidt had replaced Randy Meisner on bass, and he would replace him in the Eagles years later.  When I bought the studio album From The Inside, (#52) also in 1971, I found out Jim Messina had left (to get together with Kenny Loggins), and he was replaced by Paul Cotton.  Cotton became the lead guitarist, one of the lead vocalists, and one of the songwriters for the band.

(This is probably the most classic line-up of Poco.  Timothy B. Schmidt. Richie Furay, George Grantham, Rusty Young, and Paul Cotton.)

Paul Cotton was a little familiar to me, because I had purchased an album by The Illinois Speed Press from a cut-out bin in 1970.  The album had one song I loved, “Bad Weather”, which Paul Cotton also did with Poco on From The Inside.

(Poco’s best studio album, Crazy Eyes.)

Poco kept almost making it big.  By 1973, the Eagles were taking Country Rock into the upper portion of both the album and singles charts.  Poco’s label, Epic, brought in Guess Who producer, Jack Richardson, who helped create a really solid album, Crazy Eyes.  Some of the songs featured extensive orchestration like the Eagles would come to use on some of their songs.

Tracks on Crazy Eyes included a beautiful rendition of “Magnolia” which is one of J.J. Cale’s best songs.  It also had the first recording of “Brass Buttons” written by Gram Parsons.   He had been a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.  The centerpiece of the album is “Crazy Eyes” (by Richie Furay) which is over nine-and-a-half minutes long, and is brilliantly arranged.  The song is in reference to Gram Parsons, who died at the age of 26 from a drug and alcohol overdose that year.

Crazy Eyes was the highest charting of Poco’s first ten studio albums, but at #38, it still wasn’t the level of success they had hoped for.  Richie Furay left to join The Souther-Hillman-Furay band with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther.  Instead of replacing Furay, Rusty Young stepped up his songwriting and vocal work.  Poco followed the advice of their 1975 song “Keep On Tryin’” (#50), as they moved to the ABC label.

Finally, in 1979 a song written and sung by Rusty Young, “Crazy Love”, made it to #17 on the Top 40 chart, and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  Just a reminder, the song starts off…. “Tonight I’m gonna break away…”  and the chorus has… “It happens all the time, this crazy love of mine.”  The album, Legend, climbed to #14, their best showing ever.  It also contained the hit “Heart Of The Night” (#20), written and sung by Paul Cotton.

The album’s cover drawing of a horse was by Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live.  You can see the artwork was incorporated into multiple Poco album covers.  Hartman was a graphic artist before he became an actor and comedian.  His brother, John, was the manager for Poco and the band America.  Phil Hartman also did the excellent cover art for the album History: America’s Greatest Hits.

After 1979, Poco released another seven studio albums, and lots of various “Best Of” collections.  I particularly liked the 2 CD set shown above.  It contained the songs recorded while they were with the Epic label.

In 1989, the original members of Poco got together for the album Legacy which made it to #40, and had their third and final Top 40 hit, “Call It Love” (#18).

The truth is, no other Country Rock bands ever came close to the popularity of the Eagles, and few even equaled Poco’s popularity.  It seemed like the acts were too Country for Rock radio stations, and too Rock for Country stations.

This year, we lost two of Poco’s most important members.

Rusty Young, shown above on banjo & steel guitar, passed away of a heart attack on April 14h at his home in Missouri at the age of 75.  Lead guitarist Paul Cotton passed away August 1st.  He was at his Summer home near Eugene, Oregon.  His wife said he died suddenly, but no cause was given.  He was 78.

Even though Poco never became immensely popular, they still attracted a large following of devoted fans who attended their live shows for decades.  The musicians of Poco were respected professionals who made a great living doing the thing they loved.  Almost everyone would call that a big success.

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant…Raise The Roof (New Album)

Most artist don’t wait 14 years to follow up a big Grammy winning album, but Alison Krauss and Robert Plant did.

Raise The Roof is being released on November 19th, 2021.  The first single is “Can’t Let Go”, which sounds like a long lost hit by the Everly Brothers.  You may remember that the Everly’s “Gone Gone Gone” was the first hit from their previous album.  Here’s the link to “Can’t Let Go”:


Of course their 2007 album Raising Sand won five Grammy awards, including Album Of The Year.  Once again, T Bone Burnett is the producer, and he used top session players.  Burnett wrote one song with Robert Plant, “High And Lonesome”, and the other eleven songs are by outside writers.  Here’s the track list:

Krauss and Plant are planning a 2022 tour.

Can those two recapture the magic of their first collaboration?  We’ll find out November 19th.

Extra:  For a career-spanning article on Alison Krauss, and exclusive concert photos, here’s the link:  https://ontherecords.net/2020/02/alison-krauss/

George Harrison…All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary Remix (Review)

All Things Must Pass…but apparently not this great album.  It’s been 51 years since George Harrison’s best post-Beatles album was released, and now it sounds better than ever!

George Harrison said he was tempted to remix the album to lose some of the reverb and “wall of sound” production techniques used by Phil Spector.  George’s son Dhani and mixer/engineer Paul Hicks have made that happen. The 50th Anniversary remix of All Things Must Pass lets us hear George Harrison’s vocals much better than previously, yet the the songs retain the feel of the original arrangements.  Paul Hicks was able to do the same thing for John Lennon’s best songs with last year’s collection Gimme Some Truth.

Despite all the extra demos and outtakes, the most important recordings are the ones on the original album that we’ve known for over 50 years.  The improvement in those recordings is impressive.  From the first track, the Harrison/Dylan song “I’d Have You Anytime”, the depth and clarity of the voices and instruments are so much better.  “My Sweet Lord” let’s you hear George’s voice and the background chorus like never before.

The new remix of “Isn’t It A Pity” is especially revealing.  Now we can hear the individual instruments, and how brilliantly they were used to build up the song as it progresses.  We’re fully hearing the song for the first time.  By the way, like many of these songs, “Isn’t It A Pity” was written during The Beatles’ time together, but wasn’t seriously worked on by the band.  It may be better that George was able to keep these songs for his personal vision.

Following “Isn’t It A Pity” are three more of the album’s best songs… “What Is Life”, “If Not For You”, and “Behind That Locked Door”.  They all sound great, especially the last one.  The remix sounds like George and the band are in the room with you.  A surprise for me was “Let It Down”.  The remix sounds so much better that it elevates my opinion of the song.  “Run Of The Mill” (which every common sense person knows should have been titled “It’s You That Decides”) is perfection.  On the outtakes CD, there’s an alternate version with dual guitars that are a bit reminiscent of the style used by The Allman Brothers Band.

The third side of the original album started with one of the album’s very best tracks, “Beware Of Darkness”, and that side’s lineup is strong all the way through to the excellent title track “All Things Must Pass”.  The point is, if you liked the songs before, you’re going to enjoy them even more with the greatly improved mixes.  Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks deserve high praise for their years of work on this project.  Their goal was to improve the sound of these recordings so they will be enjoyed for another 50 years and beyond.  Mission accomplished.

There are a bunch of different CD and vinyl versions available.  This is my three CD version.  It includes the remixes of the original three record set, plus a full CD of outtakes and alternate versions.  You can click and zoom the photo to see the songs on each CD sleeve.  The set also has a nice colorful 20-page booklet, and a folded poster with the lyrics on the back.  There’s a five CD version that has two discs of demos, which I listened to on streaming.  A complete list of the songs and the descriptions of the various CD & Vinyl versions (with prices) are available in an earlier article on this site.

(A quote from George Harrison at the front of the booklet)

The outtakes disc starts with a short verse that shows George’s sense of humor about how long it takes to get a song right.  He sings… “Isn’t it so shitty, isn’t it a shame.  How we do so many takes, and we’re doing it again.”  The outtakes are interesting, but like nearly every box set, you’ll hear why the versions ultimately chosen are better.  There’s a new track on the disc that’s an enjoyable eight-and-a-half-minute blues jam, “Almost 12-Bar Honky Tonk”.  George recruited top musicians for this album, and they played great together.

The two demo CD’s are divided into Day 1 and Day 2.  It’s striking how many songs George Harrison had available to record just six months after The Beatles broke up.  He had obviously been writing the songs for years, and now he could bring them to life for the public.  Even though the produced versions are better than the demos, you may enjoy hearing how the songs began.

(My 30th & 50th Anniversary CD box sets)

Additional test:  After loading the CD’s into my computer at the highest quality possible, I made a playlist of the songs from the 2001 remaster.  Then immediately followed each song with the same song from the 2021 remix…in order to get a good comparison.  The audio was played on a high-quality stereo system.  The simplest explanation of the result is that the 2001 remaster sounded like it was playing on smaller speakers than the 2021 remix.  Even though the volume levels were the same, the new remix definitely lets you hear the bass and drums more like the instruments really sound (full & clear).  Besides the clarity of all the instruments, the biggest improvement is that the remix sounds more like George is right there with you.

There are always some people who are going to prefer the version they’ve known for 50 years, and that’s okay.  But I can only imagine the screams that would have happened if this new remix had been the original version, and Apple later released that thinner sounding version with vocals more buried, and an over abundance of reverb.

I bought the original 3-record set on sale for $6.50 the week it came out in 1970.  The album was extremely popular.  It went to #1 for seven weeks, and by some counts is the biggest selling solo album by any of The Beatles.  Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run may have actually sold more copies, but a 3-record set counts as three sales.

It’s obvious George Harrison would have loved the new mix of All Things Must Pass, and would have been proud of his son for making his wish come true.  There’s no other solo album by an ex-Beatle that contains so many great songs.  The new remix deserves as many stars as reviewers are allowed to give.

Extra:  Wanted to share this photo from the booklet.