Neil Young’s best-selling #1 album, Harvest, was released as a 50th Anniversary box set on December 2nd, 2022.
This is not a remixed release like The Beatles have been doing, so what’s new?
Prior to the original release of the Harvest album, Neil Young performed many of the songs for a BBC-TV solo acoustic concert. It’s strange to hear the now famous guitar introduction of the #1 hit, “Heart Of Gold”, and no one applauds, because no one has ever heard the song before! Both the vinyl box set, and the CD box set include an audio version and a DVD version of that 8-song concert.
There are also three outtakes in each box set…. “Journey Through The Past”, “Bad Fog Of Loneliness”, and “Dance Dance Dance”. What’s sparked the most interest is that both sets include a DVD of a 2-hour documentary, Harvest Time. It was filmed in California, New York, and London during the recording of the 1972 album. A hard bound book with rare photos is also included.
Above is the vinyl box set. It has the original record, the BBC concert record, a 7-inch single that has the three outtakes, the concert DVD, the documentary DVD, a poster, and the book.
And here’s the CD version with the same line-up. By the way, the audio of the album, the concert, and the outtakes would easily fit on one CD.
The tracks on the two full albums:
CD1 / LP1 Harvest
Out On The Weekend
A Man Needs A Maid
Heart Of Gold
Are You Ready For The Country?
There’s A World
The Needle And The Damage Done
Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
CD2 / LP2 BBC Concert (All songs live)
Out On The Weekend
Old Man (with intro)
Journey Through The Past (with intro)
Heart Of Gold (with intro)
Don’t Let It Bring You Down (with intro)
A Man Needs A Maid (with intro)
Love In Mind (with intro)
Dance Dance Dance
Prices vary a bit on retail sites, but the vinyl box set is about $150, and the CD box set is about $50.
(Neil Young during BBC-TV concert in 1971)
Most hardcore Neil Young fans probably have all 21 music tracks, because the outtakes & concert have been bootlegged for years, but the book and the documentary are new.
An outtake of “Journey Through The Past” was on Neil Young’s Archive I release. It’s a country version with Neil’s back-up band, The Stray Gators, and it’s excellent. The outtake on this new set sounds very similar, but without the harmonica. It’s a shame “Journey Through The Past” wasn’t originally included on Harvest. “Bad Fog Of Loneliness” is a good but not great song, and “Dance Dance Dance” seems like a lesser version of “Love Is A Rose”.
The BBC concert has improved audio from any previously available version. About two-thirds of the way through the first song, “Out On The Weekend”, Neil forgets the lyrics and just fills in with some oohs. Overall, it’s an enjoyable half-hour set. What was unusual is that Neil performed the new songs he was developing for “Harvest”. At the time of the concert, he had already released three solo albums, and could have performed better known songs like “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down By The River”, “Cowgirl In The Sand”, “Tell Me Why”, and many others. But, Neil has always done things his way.
What’s missing from the box set are what had to be many more outtakes or alternate versions of songs that were included on Harvest. An album this good certainly wasn’t made up of miraculous single takes of each song. That quibble aside, Harvest (the top-selling album of 1972) deserves its 50th Anniversary celebration.
For some added details on the box set and a review of the fun-to-watch Harvest Time film, click here
Now that we’ve hit the 60th anniversary of the start of The Beatles’ recording career with EMI, some early photos of the group are circulating in the media. Rare photos have been released of a July, 1961 appearance of The Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. That’s more than a year before Ringo joined the band, and before they recorded their first single, “Love Me Do”.
This photo (from Tracks Ltd/PA) shows George Harrison (18 years old) Paul McCartney (19), and John Lennon (20). Drummer Pete Best (19) is behind Paul. The Beatles had recently returned from playing a marathon gig in Hamburg, Germany.
In the second photo, Paul is rocking a vocal. As you can see from George’s hairstyle, this was before they adopted their signature Beatle haircuts. These are the only photos with the group in these outfits, leather pants and cotton shirts.
Here’s a great shot of The Beatles returning to the Cavern Club after another stay in Hamburg. They added the leather jackets and their hair is on the way to the Beatlemania look…although Pete Best was nonconformist. As we learned, he didn’t quite fit in with the others, and his drumming was not up the the standards the group needed to record.
(Photo V&A Images, Getty Images)
Ringo’s first performance with The Beatles was on August 18th, 1962. Above is a backstage photo from that time. Ringo was on the first Beatles single, “Love Me Do”, which was released on October 5th, 1962 in England.
Here’s a photo of The Beatles’ last performance at the Cavern Club. It was on August 3rd, 1963, and it marked performance number 292 since The Beatles started playing there in 1961.
Paul’s brother, Michael McCartney, also released photos he took of John & Paul writing songs in 1963 at the McCartney home. Paul was quoted as saying his writing sessions with John were always successful. Michael said this session included “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Capitol Records was heavily criticized for their handling of Beatles albums, but let’s take a fresh look to see if it was actually bad for American Beatles fans. Five of The Beatles’ albums during the 1960’s were assembled by Capitol Records, and were not released in England. Those albums don’t match-up with the albums The Beatles themselves planned and recorded.
In January of 1964, Capitol released Meet The Beatles (With The Beatles in England), and VeeJay Records released Introducing The Beatles (Please Please Me in England). By March, the two albums were at #1 & #2 on the Billboard chart, and Beatlemania was raging. That month, Capitol executives figured out how to release a third album, even though The Beatles had only released two.
It was mostly possible because British albums normally had 14 songs, and American albums usually had 10 to 12. Plus, The Beatles didn’t put most of their singles on their albums. Capitol had added three singles to Meet The Beatles, but they also removed five songs. To start putting together The Beatles’ Second Album (second Capitol album), they used those five album tracks. Then, Capitol added four songs from non-album singles, and a couple of new recordings from a British EP (extended play 45 rpm record). The Beatles’ Second Album was released April 10th, 1964, and in two weeks it replaced Meet The Beatles at #1…at which point The Beatles had three of the top four albums.
Six of the tracks were songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and the songwriters from Motown. The Beatles really rocked these songs, and it’s a solid album even though it’s light on Lennon-McCartney originals. Of course Capitol was trying to increase their Capital, but if they hadn’t released albums like this, it could have been years before we heard these songs.
The next official Beatles album was A Hard Day’s Night in June of 1964. In the U.S., it was a soundtrack released by United Artists. They owned the film, and the right to release the seven songs featured in it. Not to be left out, Capitol came up with one of their least-needed albums, Something New.
This is an easy album to criticize. In England, the A Hard Day’s Night album had 13 Lennon-McCartney originals. Capitol could have put the six songs not on the U.S. soundtrack onto Something New. Instead, they only gave us three of those songs, and repeated five songs we had already gotten on the soundtrack. They filled out the album with the American single, “Matchbox/Slowdown”, and a German version of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. The album was a disappointment, but still made it to #2.
The next album of music by The Beatles was Beatles ‘65, which somewhat matched the British Beatles For Sale from late 1964. However, Capitol added the single “I Feel Fine/She’s A Woman”, plus “I’ll Be Back” from the British A Hard Day’s Night, and removed six songs they could save for another unique American album.
It was in June of 1965 that Capitol released Beatles VI. Six of the eleven songs are the ones held off of Beatles ‘65, including “Eight Days A Week”. The other five songs are “Yes It Is” (the B-side of “Ticket To Ride”), two Larry Williams rockers, “Bad Boy” & “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (Lizzy was misspelled on the cover), plus two songs from the not-yet-released British Help album… “What You’re Doing” & “You Like Me Too Much”. It’s a good album, and another #1. By the way, we finally know what The Beatles were holding in the cover photo, a knife to cut a cake.
The next releases were Help and Rubber Soul, and they were followed (in June of 1966) by the best, but most infamous, of the unique American albums.
Yesterday And Today has four hit singles…”Nowhere Man”, “We Can Work It Out” (#1), “Day Tripper”, and “Yesterday” (#1). It also has “Drive My Car”, “If I Needed Someone”, and three songs from the yet-to-be-released Revolver, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “And Your Bird Can Sing” & “Dr. Robert”. At the time, we in America didn’t know this album had taken songs from Help, Rubber Soul, and Revolver, but The Beatles did. They decided they didn’t want their albums cut up anymore, so they planned to have their future albums be the same in the U.K. and the U.S.
The other problem with Yesterday And Today was the cover. The original cover was meant to be an artsy shot of The Beatles in white coats with slabs of meat and pieces of dolls. It became known as the “Butcher Cover”.
When advanced copies were sent to radio stations, critics, and record stores, the negative feedback caused Capitol to recall the album, and change the cover to the steamer trunk pose.
In 1995, I got a Capitol promo CD with the above two covers on the CD booklet. It also included this brief “cover story”.
(Click or zoom to enlarge)
Those four albums are the main unique American releases, but in early 1970 (after Abbey Road but before Let It Be) Capitol decided there were just too many Beatles singles that hadn’t been released on any of their albums. So, the album Hey Jude was put together.
Can’t Buy Me Love (1964)
I Should Have Known Better (1964)
Paperback Writer (1966)
Lady Madonna (1968)
Hey Jude (1968)
Old Brown Shoe (1969)
Don’t Let Me Down (1969)
The Ballad Of John And Yoko (1969)
It’s a shame they included and started the album with “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “I Should Have Known Better”, because they were the only singles that had already been on an album (United Artists’ A Hard Day’s Night). There was also a big gap between the style of those early hits, and the remainder of the album’s songs. Better fitting songs would be the “Get Back” single and the B-side to “Lady Madonna”, “The Inner Light”. It seems like a small change, but look how more contemporary and unified the album becomes.
The Inner Light
Don’t Let Me Down
Old Brown Shoe
The Ballad Of John And Yoko
With this line-up of songs, Hey Jude might even have become an official British version the way America’s Magical Mystery Tour album did when all The Beatles’ CD’s came out in 1987. It seems better than just throwing the singles on Past Masters (17 years later). All of these singles deserved to be on an album, and most of them were in stereo for the first time. Hey Jude was a welcome addition when it was released in February of 1970. It made it to #2 and sold over 2-million copies in the U.S.
The two cover photos from Hey Jude were from the last photo shoot The Beatles ever did. There was one plan to have the front and back covers reversed, and the title was Beatles Again. That’s the title that was printed on the record label when I bought the album in 1970.
There were obviously some problems with the unique American albums created by Capitol, especially with them removing album tracks from the official Beatles albums. On the plus side, we didn’t know it was happening, and enjoyed having Beatles albums coming out more often. It also gave us stereo versions of singles that in England were only mono and not on albums. It could be argued that Americans actually got the better deal by having all those great stereo singles on albums.
And in the end…Americans still got to enjoy The Beatles albums as the group intended.
The long awaited remix of Revolver arrived October 28th!
The 5 CD Super Deluxe Box Set is $139. Disc 1 is the new stereo remix of the original album, discs 2 & 3 are alternate versions, disc 4 is the original mono mix, and disc 5 has the stereo remixes of “Paperback Writer” & “Rain”, along with the mono mixes. The track listings are below. There’s also a 100-page hardback book. Unlike previous box sets, there is no Blue-ray disc included.
The Super Deluxe vinyl box set has all the same songs on four albums and a 7-inch EP for the “Paperback Writer” & “Rain” singles. The price is $199.98. The box shows Klaus Voormann’s cover art without the album title.
The track list for the original album.
The track listings for the alternate versions.
(The same tracks are on the vinyl versions.)
Here are the remix versions available as shown on The Beatles’ North American website.
Not pictured is a single CD version for $18.90, but the best deal is the 2-CD version for $25. It includes a CD of selected alternate versions, plus the remixes of “Paperback Writer” & “Rain”. There’s also a 40-page booklet. Here are the tracks for disc two of that set.
Over the years, Revolver has become the Beatles album most often selected as their best. Unfortunately, the original mix was unable to do justice to the complex recordings, because only four recording tracks were available for multiple voices and instruments. The remixed separation of instruments and voices was accomplished using new technology developed by Peter Jackson’s team that worked on theGet Back film. The remix has breathed new life into all the great songs from this groundbreaking 1966 album. It’s amazing to hear Revolver in a wide-spectrum stereo for the first time. There’s a full review of the box set on this site. Here’s the link:
Extra news: Remix producer Giles Martin mentioned he’s also taken a look at Rubber Soul, and he says there are enough extra song takes for a box set. Unfortunately, it won’t happen quickly, because Giles Martin said in September 2022 that he’s tied up with other projects for at least six months. The Let It Be and Revolver remixes were one year apart. The original photo for the cover would look good on the front of the box:
Bonus Remix: Giles Martin said he recently finished a Dolby Atmos remix of The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.
It’s hard to believe, but the first hit by The Beatles is 60 years old! On August 18th, 1962, Ringo Starr played his first gig as a member of The Beatles. Then on September 4th, Ringo recorded “Love Me Do” with the band. The single was released October 5th, 1962 in England.
My 1964 copy of “Love Me Do” (American Version)
That first single didn’t set the world on fire, but it did make it to #17 in England. Importantly, it was a self-written song…credited to McCartney-Lennon (as you can see on the label). Producer George Martin had found the group a song he believed would be a big hit, “How Do You Do It”, but The Beatles insisted they wanted to do their own songs.
There are three released versions of ”Love Me Do”. The first was from when The Beatles auditioned for George Martin on June 6th, 1962. Pete Best was still the drummer (that version is on Anthology 1). Martin was not happy with Best’s drumming, and The Beatles replaced Best with Ringo Starr. Ringo recorded the song with The Beatles on September 4th, and that is the version that was eventually used for the British single (and can be found on the Past Masters collection). However, a week later, September 11th, a third version was done with session drummer Andy White. That’s the version released in America on the single and albums.
The first recording session by The Beatles…Sept. 4th, 1962.
It wasn’t just the choice of songs and drumming that had to be sorted out. John Lennon sang lead, and also played harmonica. Since the harmonica part overlapped the vocal at one point, George Martin had Paul McCartney sing the “love me do” at the end of the “ple-e-e-ease” so John could start the harmonica on time. Paul said he was nervous, and you can hear it in his voice on the first version. By the way, George Martin was right about “How Do You Do It”. He produced the song with Gerry and The Pacemakers, and they beat The Beatles to #1 with it. You can hear The Beatles’ version of the song on Anthology 1.
Starting with their first single, The Beatles included good songs on the flip sides. “P.S. I Love You” has an excellent Paul McCartney melody. It would have been considered for the “A-Side”, but the title was the same as a 1930’s song, so it got the “B-Side”.
The three major Beatles singles Capitol turned down in 1963 are “Love Me Do”, “Please Please Me” and “She Loves You”. The other two records, “Do You Want To Know A Secret” and “Twist And Shout”, were released after The Beatles broke in the U.S. in January of 1964. The original three Beatles singles also charted after “I Want To Hold Your Hand” ushered in Beatlemania in the states.
This mass release of singles resulted in The Beatles dominating the Billboard Hot 100, and having the top five hits in April of 1964.
“Love Me Do” was released in the U.S. in late April 1964, shortly after this record-setting week…and went to #1.
It’s not considered one of The Beatles’ best songs, but “Love Me Do” launched their historic recording career. The bluesy harmonica, and the fact that nothing else sounded like it on the radio at the time, served as a great introduction to the group. The most amazing part is that The Beatles’ songs have remained popular for so many decades.
The Byrds have gotten the coffee-table-book treatment.
The Byrds 1964-1967 was released September 20th, 2022 by BMG. It’s a large 400 page book, with 500 photos of The Byrds. It’s not cheap. It’s listed on Amazon for $149. But wait, you can spend a lot more! There’s a deluxe version with the signatures of Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman for $350. Spend $450, and you’ll also get David Crosby’s signature. If you really really love The Byrds, you could get the Super Deluxe version for $1,700! That version will let you choose one art print of one of the those three Byrds.
(Shots of McGuinn, Hillman, & Crosby. Only the top photo is one of the prints.)
I love The Byrds, but I know I’ll get by without the signatures and the art print. Along with all those photos, the three remaining original members provide commentary. Although The Byrds continued on past 1967 (and had some influential albums), their greatest popularity was over three years… ‘65, ‘66, & ‘67.
Here’s a shot of an early ‘60’s folk group…at least that’s what it looks like. David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Jim McGuinn (who changed his name to Roger in 1967, because a guru told him it would vibrate better with the universe) were all involved with folk music before they got together. This photo is from 1964. All three were singers, songwriters and guitarists. By the time they released their first hit, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, as The Byrds in 1965, they had added Chris Hillman on bass and Michael Clarke on drums. By then, they also looked a lot more like The Beatles. It’s also true that Michael Clarke was chosen because he looked like Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones.
Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, & Michael Clarke. This lineup was responsible for “Mr. Tambourine Man” (#1), “Turn Turn Turn” (#1), “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, and “All I Really Want To Do”.
By the third album, singer-songwriter Gene Clark had left the group, partly because of a fear of flying. Ironically, their next hit was “Eight Miles High”, which McGuinn says was inspired by a ride in a Learjet.
The Byrds’ last album under the time frame of the new book was 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday.
Among the photos BMG sent out to promote the new book is a photo used for the album cover, as shown above. It was superimposed with another pose and given a psychedelic treatment to complete the cover. The hit songs from this album were “So You Wanna Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”, and “My Back Pages”, which includes the line “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.
The Byrds in 1967 performing “So You Wanna Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” with trumpeter Hugh Masekela.
Byrds fans can now put on their Byrds albums, while they enjoy all the old photos and first-hand stories by Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, and David Crosby.
Extra: Wanted to add this photo of Roger McGuinn & David Crosby in harmony, plus a couple group shots.
The most famous musician in the world turned 80-years-old on June 18th, 2022. Fans are happy for Paul McCartney, and are also celebrating all the excellent songs he has given us. Personally, no artist has had a greater effect on my love of music. He may even have had something to do with our son being named Paul.
Here’s a quick summary of what the above photos represent. In 1957 Paul McCartney joined John Lennon in The Quarrymen. They added George Harrison to the band, and eventually changed their name to The Beatles. In 1962 The Beatles’ classic lineup became complete with Ringo Starr, and the music they made in the 1960’s still resonates with audiences.
In 1970, McCartney started his solo career, and then he added various musicians under the band name Wings throughout the decade. From 1980 on, Paul McCartney has been solo, although he has worked with other artists from time to time.
McCartney might be the richest musician in the world, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to create more music and to tour. Most people his age have retired.
The 80 milestone for Paul McCartney generated quite a bit of attention, and one article with an interesting angle was published by Stereogum.
They asked 80 musicians to each select their favorite song from any part of Paul McCartney’s career. Since the question asked for their “favorite”, and not “the best”, there was a wide range of songs. The article included comments from the artists explaining their selections. It’s worth checking out. There was no ranking of the songs, but here’s an analysis.
The most selected song was chosen by five of the artists. That song is “Blackbird”, and we can all agree that it’s great. I don’t think anyone could have guessed the song that came in second. It was selected by four of the artists…“Martha My Dear”. Singer-songwriter Michael McDonald said “I always loved the melodic structure and the chord progression, the overall harmonic sensibility.”
Since McCartney’s sheep dog was named Martha, the lyrics are considered light, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the melody and the performance. The 2018 remix of “Martha My Dear” sounds fantastic, especially the brass arrangement.
The songs that were the third most mentioned (by three artists each) were also surprises… “You Won’t See Me” from 1965’s Rubber Soul album, and “Waterfalls” from the 1980 solo album McCartney II. The songs that were selected by two artists included “Let It Be”, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Junk”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “Temporary Secretary”, “Let Me Roll It”, “Arrow Through Me”, and “The Long And Winding Road”.
The two parts of McCartney’s Beatles career that had the most songs selected were the Revolver sessions from 1966, and The White Album sessions from 1968.. Those songs are “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here There And Everywhere”, “For No One”, “Paperback Writer”, “Hey Jude”, “Blackbird”, “Martha My Dear”, “I Will”, “Rocky Raccoon”, and even “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”. It was also interesting that the choices were fairly equally divided between Paul’s Beatles career and his solo career…43 selected Beatles songs and 37 chose solo songs.
Paul McCartney has been making music for over 65 years. His career is unequalled. He wrote four of the Top-10 most recorded songs of all time (and more that have at one time been in the Top-10). He was a key part of the world’s most popular band. According to Billboard Magazine, he was the top artist of the 1970’s, and has had #1 albums spread over six decades. Impressively, he is still doing 2-and-a-half-hour shows to packed arenas. And, it’s his birthday too!
When Paul headlined the Glastonbury Festival on June 25th, 2022, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
Happy Birthday Paul McCartney, and thank you for all the great music! And Happy Birthday Ringo Starr, who turned 82 on July 7th, 2022.
Bonus: On August 5th, 2022 a new box set was released with the three solo albums McCartney I, II & III.
The set is available in Vinyl & CD formats. Apple provided this triple photo of Paul McCartney from the years the albums were released…1970, 1980, and 2020:
The first two photos were taken by Linda McCartney, and the third by Paul & Linda’s daughter, Mary.
Stephen Stills wrote an excellent song in the early ‘70’s, but it didn’t get put on any CSN, CSN&Y, or Stephen Stills albums until two decades later.
The song is “Treetop Flyer”. It captures the sad time in America when the Vietnam war was so hated that returning veterans were looked down upon and had trouble finding jobs. In the case of the song’s title character, he had to use the skill he was taught in the war…flying under radar…and he became a smuggler.
Stephen Stills fans know it’s a hard song to acquire. I first heard “Treetop Flyer” when he recorded it live for a 1976 radio concert. That version is probably the best. It has impressive guitar playing, and builds to an energy that gets the crowd into it. This live recording has been in my music collection ever since, but is not available to the public, except on bootlegs. Here it is:
It wasn’t until 1991 that Stills finally did a studio version for his album Stills Alone. I bought the CD, but it was on a small label, and not very many copies were made. Slowly, people found out about the cool song, but couldn’t find a copy. If you did find the CD, it was very expensive. Here’s that studio version. It’s a little more laidback.
Then in 2007, Stills released the album Just Roll Tape. It was from a studio session in 1968 when Stills, with just his acoustic guitar, recorded songs he’d been writing. On the album as a bonus track is a demo of “Treetop Flyer”. The song was not part of that 1968 demo session, but no date is given. We do know Stills recorded the song during sessions for the unreleased CSNY album Human Highway, which was supposed to be the follow-up to Deja Vu. The demo recording became the best selling cut of all of Stills’ songs on iTunes. There’s a problem though, because if Stephen wasn’t happy with a verse, he immediately re-sang it. Basically, this rough (though good sounding) demo needs the poorer quality duplicate verses edited out of it, like this:
Finally, in 2013, the 1991 studio version of “Treetop Flyer” was included in the Carry On box set…only trouble was, you had to buy it…the whole box set! The song is not sold as an individual digital download. So if that’s the only song you need, it’s still $40. Evil marketers!
P.S. It was cool that “Treetop Flyer” was used for the long first scenes in 2018’s season premiere of “This Is Us”.
This site also has a career-spanning article on Stephen Stills…here’s the link:
There’s a band that has two songwriters who graduated with honors from Harvard. They perform songs in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and multiple other languages. Their music combines Pop, Classical, Jazz, and more, which makes it impossible to categorize. They are unique. Their first album sold over a million copies, and about half of the sales were in Europe.
Not your average American Band.
Our first exposure to Pink Martini came about through good luck. In the fall of 2005, we were living in Lincoln, Nebraska, and our son and daughter-in-law (Paul & Shawnde) were visiting from Corvallis, Oregon. As the four of us were walking along a street in Lincoln, they spotted a poster for a Portland band, Pink Martini, that was set to perform at Omaha’s Orpheum Theatre. Paul & Shawnde said Pink Martini’s shows in Oregon were always sold out, but we were able to get four tickets to the show in Omaha.
What we witnessed that night was what founder, pianist and songwriter Thomas Lauderdale calls “The Little Orchestra”. There were eleven members, and as they played the first song, we could see that each musician appeared to be a virtuoso.
The vocalist with the wonderfully clear soprano voice was the other songwriter, China Forbes.
(Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes)
We were extremely impressed that night and purchased the two CD’s they had produced for their own label, Heinz Records. Many of the songs they record are originals written by Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes, sometimes using co-writers to help with the many languages they use for their World Music. Here’s one of their English language Pop songs with a brief Classical intro. It’s called “Let’s Never Stop Falling In Love”. It was featured in the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith.
Thomas Lauderdale started Pink Martini in the ‘90’s, mostly to play at local events in Portland, Oregon. When he needed a vocalist, he called his good friend from Harvard, China Forbes. She had been performing off Broadway, but decided to fly to Portland for a couple of weeks. Lauderdale convinced her to stay (in 1998), and Pink Martini progressed into a group that performs at sold out shows in Europe and America.
Here are their first two albums. They’re filled with songs that have melodies that are so well written they’ll stay with you after just a few listens. Most of the songs are vocals, but there are also instrumentals that highlight the talents of the players. Here’s their arrangement of “Andalucia”:
And, here’s an example of a song they wrote in Italian, “Una Notte A Napoli” (One Night In Naples). It starts slowly, but then the rhythm kicks in.
My wife and I moved to Oregon in 2008, and have seen Pink Martini perform at an outdoor concert in Bend, and with the symphony here in Eugene. We also saw Thomas Lauderdale in a knockout performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” in Salem.
There can’t be another group that wrote a song based on a Hunt’s Catsup ad. The ad said “Hang on little tomato” until you’re ready to become Hunt’s Catsup. The beautiful little song by Pink Martini is not about tomatoes, but presents the idea that people in a dark time of their lives, should hang on until sunny days return. Here’s “Hang On Little Tomato” (the vocal comes in after the melody is established for nearly half of the 3:16 song):
If you’re interested in hearing more of Pink Martini, you can stream their first two albums, or try their compilation album “A Retrospective”. Getting to know them will give you a unique listening experience.
The first and only single I ever bought by The Who was also their only Top 10 hit…”I Can See For Miles”…#9 in 1967.
The band was not especially successful with singles. They only had seven other Top 20 hits, and another 8 singles that reached the bottom half of the Top 40. Where The Who shined was creating two of the most iconic albums of the Rock era…and those I bought.
It was in 1969 that The Who released what was called the first “Rock Opera”, Tommy.
Almost entirely written by Pete Townshend, Tommy was a two-record set that details the mostly tragic life of a boy who was shocked into being deaf, dumb, and blind. There are a lot of characters in the story, but The Who sang all of the parts. To clarify who was singing what part of the drama, the lyrics and character names were in a booklet included with the album.
The Who consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon, lead guitarist Pete Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle.
Tommy is one of the first concept albums. Townshend’s term of “Rock Opera” may seem a bit fanciful, but it is a groundbreaking work. The album has several well known songs, including “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “See Me, Feel Me”, and “The Overture From Tommy”. “Overture” is the instrumental that opened the record, and introduced us to the major melodies we were about to hear throughout the album.
When I put together a playlist of The Who’s Best, I chose enough of Tommy to tell the basic story. The mix even incorporates the lyric-appropriate songs “I Can See For Miles” and “Behind Blue Eyes (alternate version)” into a 39-minute Tommy mix:
Although it was their fourth album, Tommy was their breakthrough achievement, and the album that solidified their position as Rock stars. Surprisingly, The Who’s next studio album would be considered even greater.
The Who’s Next album cover gave us the sci-fi cool of a monolith, with the crass demeanor often associated with Rock stars at that time. The music on the album was progressive in 1971.
Synthesizers were still fairly new, but Pete Townshend kicked off the album with a synthesizer part on “Baba O’Riley” that is timeless. The song’s original title was “Teenage Wasteland”, and it was part of a planned concept album called Lifehouse. The Who had trouble pulling together that project, so instead released Who’s Next, which contained a large portion of those songs.
The other popular tracks from the album are “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. That song was 8:33, but a shorter edit was released as a single to get airplay on AM radio. Album Oriented Rock FM radio stations also played a lot of the album’s other songs.
Over the years, more songs from the Lifehouse project were released. Here’s my playlist, which has the best of those songs, and in the order originally planned in 1971.
Pete Townshend is a multi-instrumentalist, and two of these cuts are from his Who Came First solo album…”Pure & Easy” and “Let’s See Action”.
Here’s his version of “Pure & Easy”:
And here’s a clever fan-made cover for the album that utilizes an alternate shot from The Who’s Next photo shoot.
It seems like The Who have had an endless number of “Greatest Hits” collections (and “Farewell Tours”), but two albums represent the height of their career, Tommy and Who’s Next.