Archive for the ‘bootleg’ Category

DVD Review: Happening ’68 Vols. 1-3 (Part Two)

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Continued from Part One

The aforementioned Aretha Franklin segment is of particular interest, as it shows the off-the-cuff nature of the program. As Lindsay is discussing the soul singer’s career with guest Jackie DeShannon, they note that Aretha was “on Columbia” (also Paul Revere and the Raiders‘ label) for five years, but “didn’t go anywhere.” The clear implication is that Columbia didn’t serve Franklin’s career well. An entire episode (aired March 15, 1969) is devoted to Wilson Pickett, who – unlike most musical guests – appears with his entire band. Pickett tears things up – even though he’s miming like everyone else (though some reports suggest the performance was live; you decide) — and gives a fun if brief interview.

A charming regular feature on Happening was the garage band contest. Local groups from around the country would mime to some or other cover version, and celebrity judges would pick the best. The list of prizes will boggle the minds of modern audiences (a Pontiac Firebird?! $2500 in Vox musical equipment?!) but the truly amazing part of all this is the tunes covered. One might hear a vocal version of Cannonball Adderley‘s 1966 hit “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” Spirit‘s “Got a Line on You,” a cover of Johnnie Taylor‘s “Who’s Makin’ Love,” and other left-field-for-daytime-TV tunes. Often the judges’ decisions are suspect, but it’s a hoot seeing these often pimply teenagers make their bids for the big time (grand prize included a “recording contract” with either ABC or A&M, but history does not record any great success visited upon whichever band won on Happening).

By 1968 an industry veteran, Mark Lindsay seems quite comfortable and natural in front of the camera. Lindsay comes off pretty well throughout, ad-libbing his way through brief, light interview segments with such stars of the days as Ross Martin (who surprises everyone by telling Lindsay that his show Wild Wild West is simultaneously “in great shape” and cancelled), Jay North (former Dennis the Menace, then star of the TV show Maya, with co-star – and Raider — Keith Allison), James Doohan (Star Trek‘s “Scotty”), Mission: Impossible‘s Greg Morris, and many others.

A “Happening News” segment featuring Teen magazine editor Sue Cameron offers up Hollywood gossip and so forth, presumably priming the teen audience for the adult versions to come in subsequent era in the form of Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and similar shows.

Paul Revere plays the irreverent fool throughout, mugging and offering up endearing slapstick. He often calls Lindsay “Bobo” (huh?) and “my pony-tailed nitwit” and engages in endless in-jokery. Happening seemingly went to production with the barest of scripts, instead preferring to riff on the undeniable chemistry between Revere, Lindsay and their guests.

A nice bonus on many of these episodes is the inclusion of the original commercials. These show – should there remain any doubt – that the program was aimed squarely at teenage girls. But some of the ABC-TV commercials promoting other programs such as The Mod Squad (“Cops: one black, one white, one blonde”) and The FBI are a time-capsule scream.

These DVDs are highly recommended, but be warned that since these transfers are sourced from various private collector caches, the video quality varies episode to episode. These are pretty rare; when I discussed Happening with Lindsay, he admitted that he had only a couple of the episodes in his own collection. (I dubbed copies of some that I had, including a few poorer-quality transfers not found here.) Until DCP sees fit to release legitimate archival copies (assuming they even exist), these DVDs from [redacted] are your only option.

UPDATE: I am told that it’s no longer available.

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DVD Review: Happening ’68 Vols. 1-3 (Part One)

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Though it’s often forgotten today, in the mid 1960s, Paul Revere and the Raiders were just about the most prominent rock’n'roll band in popular culture. Sure, The Beatles had their records all over the charts, and had films like A Hard Day’s Night and Help! And yes, The Monkees had their own weekly television show. But Pacific Northwest-relocated-to-L.A. legends Paul Revere and the Raiders got more screen exposure than The Beatles and The Monkees put together, thanks to their TV show Where the Action Is, televised Every. Single. Weekday. Just after school, Monday through Friday on ABC-TV, the Raiders served as the “house band” for this Dick Clark production. Featuring mimed performances from all manner of musical guests, plus goofy, vaudeville-styled skits, the show was a fixture of teenage viewers’ TV diet.

The show ran its course after a few seasons, but thanks to Raiders manager Roger Hart‘s idea about a vehicle for lead singer Mark Lindsay and bandleader Paul Revereone that, as he put it, took a look at what was happening on the pop scene – the duo scored their own variety show. A pair of shows, actually: Happening ’68 (shortened to Happening for its 1969 following season) was broadcast weekly, and a summer show called It’s Happening was televised daily throughout the summer of 1968.

None of these programs has ever gotten official/sanctioned release on any format; though a stunning-quality copy of the Where the Action Is pilot circulates among collectors, and scattered episodes of WTAI, Happening ’68/Happening and It’s Happening have been preserved in varying quality by fans, Dick Clark Productions has never seen fit to preserve – much less release – these exemplars of 60s mainstream pop culture. As Mark Lindsay told me in a 2010 interview, apparently Clark viewed WTAI in particular as a “red-headed stepchild” and had no interest in it once the show ended its run.

But thanks to those previously-mentioned collectors – and one specific intrepid collector – twelve episodes of Happening ’68/Happening are available on (unauthorized) DVD. Those twelve episodes – spread across three discs – build on the format of Where the Action Is, but put Revere and Lindsay out front as hosts.

The earlier episodes lean more on the duo kitsching around onstage in front of a studio audience; modern-day viewers will likely find those awful-pun-filled bits either charming or dreadful (or somewhere in between). There’s an innocent charm about them, which is not exactly the quality one might expect from pop culture product of 1968. (This was aimed at kids, however.) And the Raiders (with a band name shortened to nudge their hip-quotient back up) only occasionally appeared, miming to their latest single. And in general, said Raiders – especially short-timer bassist Charlie Coe – seemed to pretty well phone it in, barely making an effort at the choreography that had long been a group trademark.

Still, even semi-live-action clips of the Raiders performing “Let Me,” “Cinderella Sunshine” and other late-period singles is always a treat. And in one episode (originally aired May 25, 1968) the band tackles “Free,” a non-single, deep album cut from the band’s Something’s Happening LP. In that same episode – featuring the inimitable Lee Hazlewood doing his “Rainbow Woman” – the Raiders turn in a Spanish-language version of “Mo’reen.” To date, that track hasn’t surfaced on any of the Paul Revere and the Raiders CD reissues.

Other episodes – in mostly good quality black-and-white – feature an assortment of musical guests, ranging from Etta James, Aretha Franklin (on tape), Peter Lawford(!) doing a cheesy MOR tune, and more pop/rock acts that would appeal to most viewers. That last category includes Tommy Roe, The Grass Roots, The Cowsills, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart (in a youth voting-themed episode) and any others of note. The Friends of Distinction make their national television debut performing “Grazing in the Grass,” and a Peter Tork-less Monkees trio guests, taking part in an interview segment with Revere and Lindsay that ranks as the most revealing and intimate part of the entire series.

Available HERE. Aha…I am told that it’s no longer available.

The review is continued here…

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Album Review: Alex Chilton – Electricity by Candlelight

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Bootlegs or ROIOs* or fan recordings: however one wishes to label them, they play an often important and unappreciated part in documenting musical history. As Clinton Heylin explains in his excellent 1994 book Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry, surreptitious and/or unauthorized fan recordings have been responsible for capturing otherwise unheard performances of great historical import. Sidestepping his discussion of William Shakespeare‘s folios and moving to his focus on music, we learn that one Lionel Mapelson (the “Father of Bootlegging”) had recorded snippets of many operas staged at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House in the years 1901-03. Without his (admittedly crude) efforts, today we’d have no idea at all – beyond written accounts – of what those now century-old performances sounded like.

Thank goodness that this surreptitious practice continues to present day. Without it we might not have all manner of important music preserved in any manner. While The Beatles will soon see a second volume of BBC recordings officially released (On Air is slated for holiday season 2013), many collectors (cough cough) have long had a 13CD set of all extant Beatles BBC recordings.

And so it is with a one-off performance by the mercurial Alex Chilton, late of The Box Tops and Big Star. In 1997 he was booked to play a gig with his band at New York City’s Knitting Factory; he and band showed up on the evening of February 13, set up and readied themselves to play the second of a two-night stand.

Then the power went out. Club owners issued refunds to disappointed fans, most of whom left once it was clear the power wasn’t coming back on anytime soon.

But a hardy coterie of fans remained behind. And to appease them (or more likely, considering the man’s personality, to amuse himself) Alex Chilton came out and took an acoustic guitar offered him by an attendee who just happened to have one handy. (No, really.) Figuring he’d run through a few tunes and call it a night, Chilton steadied himself in the nearly totally dark room and launched into songs that were deeply embedded in his memory and/or psyche. These weren’t hits – not most of ‘em, anyway – they were songs that Chilton had lived, loved. A fan request to do Tammy Wynette‘s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” was granted, a relatively obscure Johnny Cash tune (“Step Right This Way”) unearthed.

But then a funny thing happened: Chilton got into it. So rather than quit, he kept going. In all, he turned in seventeen songs, solo save for a bit of snare and brushwork by drummer Richard Dworkin. The lyrics of an even spookier than usual run-through of a Chilton favorite, Loudon Wainwright‘s “Motel Blues,” elicited surprised and/or nervous chuckles from a female audience member who clearly hadn’t heard the tune before. “My Baby Just Cares For Me” was a relatively obvious choice, having featured prominently on Chilton’s bet-you-didn’t-see-this-coming album of standards, 1995′s Cliches.

Less obvious were a reading of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” and the Gershwins‘ “Someone to Watch Over Me.” And toward the end of this wholly impromptu set, Chilton reminded everyone of his abiding love of Brian Wilson (he’d covered Wilson’s tune for Jan and Dean, “The New Girl in School” on 1995′s A Man Called Destruction) with a three-song suite of Wilson originals: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Surfer Girl” and the left-field Beach Boys Love You oddity “Solar System.”

And it went on like that. Luckily a resourceful superfan named Jeff Vargon had thought to bring along a portable recording device; certainly he had no idea he’d be capturing for posterity one of the most singular concerts ever, something that couldn’t have come off nearly as well had it somehow been planned.

And while copies of unknown generation of this show have circulated among collectors for many years, it’s a delight to see official release of this set, perfectly titled Electricity by Candlelight, on Bar None Records. Sourced from Vargon’s master, this recording sounds as good as it possibly can. It’s certainly not studio quality, but then that sort of polish would have been anathema to the night’s vibe anyway. Listeners will likely settle quickly into the sonics of the recording; it’s not at all shrill or an unpleasant listening experience.

Now, if someone would engineer official release of that great one-off studio session Chilton did in 1992 with Teenage Fanclub, the world at large could thrill to hearing Alex take the lead vocal on the TFC arrangement of the Flying Burrito Brothers‘ “Older Guys,” and hear the Fannies back him up on a raucous reading of Bach’s Bottom‘s “Free Again.” But in the meantime, Electricity by Candlelight is a wonderful artifact of a once in a lifetime event that few had the honor of witnessing firsthand.

* Recordings of Indeterminate/Illegitimate Origin

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Bootleg Bin: Guided by Voices – 09-03-02 Case Western Reserve University

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Here’s a thick slab of irony. These kings of the lo-fi aesthetic have released a myriad collection of studio and live discs, and their general approach to recording betrays an interest in getting it down on tape and moving on. Oft-compared to The Who, GbV is one of those groups about whom it is said that it’s tough to pin down their sound on record; you gotta see them live (the Voices went silent with the dissolution of the band in December 2004, but in 2012 they’re baaaaack).

So how odd to spin a CDR of a bootleg soundboard from the group’s show at CWSU in 2002 and find excellent fidelity and thoughtful mixing! Lead singer/guitarist Bob Pollard rattles off the songs with the same on-to-the-next-one approach he’s brought to his whole career, but the songs hold up even under that assault. The set list is jam-packed full of songs from throughout the GbV canon. A few covers are even thrown in, including one from the aforementioned Who. Every song is played as if it were a hit. Which, in some fair and just alternate universe, it would be.

Difficulty to Locate: 6 out of 10
General Listenability: 9 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: Kirsty MacColl – 06-28-92 Glastonbury

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Kirsty MacColl was famous for a few things. One, her dad was famed folksinger Ewan MacColl. Two, she wrote and recorded the original version of the girl-group pastiche “They Don’t Know”, later covered by Tracey Ullman. Three, she was a writer and vocalist of some stylistic range, having worked with Johnny Marr, Shane McGowan, Evan Dando and many others. Four, she died tragically in the Gulf of Mexico.

But despite her fame (especially in the UK) there aren’t a lot of Kirsty MacColl bootlegs out there to begin with, so finding this one is a real prize. It’s a soundboard from the Glastonbury Festival. The band is tight and Kirsty sings the hits (some of ‘em, anyway), plus some unexpected covers. A short disc (under 40 min.) but worth it no matter what if you’re a fan.

Difficulty to Locate: 8 out of 10
General Listenability: 10 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: Love – 10-24-93 North Hampton MA

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Having paid his debt to society, convicted felon Arthur Lee surprised all interested parties by returning to the music scene in the 90s more musically focused than he’d ever been. Having led the critical darlings Love in mid 60s Los Angeles, Lee had established a mystique around the band. Their music ran the gamut from punky anthems to airy psychedelia. “7 and 7 Is” was an assault on the senses, yet the tracks on the legendary Forever Changes LP evoked the sound of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass tour bus colliding with a Buffalo Springfield. Yet the mercurial Lee refused to tour, even to play outside of L.A. in the group’s heyday. His erratic personality, coupled with the unbending “three-strikes and you’re out” laws meant a prison sentence for him, and most onlookers figured that would be that.

But Lee discovered LA popsters Baby Lemonade, a group with two parallels to Love: the group was multiracial, and they played muscular hooky pop with an arty bent. The BL duo signed on as, essentially, the new Love, thus assuming a role quite similar to another 90s LA pop group backing another troubled 60s legend from LA (Wondermints, Brian Wilson respectively). This collaboration has endured into the 21st century: the reinvigorated Love has toured Europe and the USA, performing Forever Changes in its entirety (the parallels continue: Brian Wilson wheeled out the complete Pet Sounds LP, and more recently the great lost 60s masterwork, SMiLE). But this set, a good-to-very-good audience recording from 1993, shows what can only be called an embryonic version of the new Love, running through their material. There’s a good selection from the first four Love albums (the ones that matter) plus a bit of new material that fits in well. The band is in top form, albeit without the later embellishments of strings and horns; this North Hampton show is more of a “club date” sort of gig. Well worth checking out.

Difficulty to Locate: 7 out of 10
General Listenability: 8 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: New Cars — Road Rage Tour, June 6 2006 – Wolf Trap, Vienna VA

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

By 2006, everything seemed to get recorded. From every single date of David Gilmour‘s solo tour, to a Peter Tork set with his blues group in a Dallas bar, tapers are there, and generally with ace equipment to capture the night for posterity.

So it was that an intrepid taper captured this set, days before the temporary suspension of the tour (due to guitarist Elliot Easton‘s broken clavicle). And while some true believers took issue with the Todd-Rundgren-fronted version of the New Cars (founder Ric Ocasek was not involved in the project) viewed on their own merits, the New Cars could deliver the goods, and help listeners relive the 80s for an hour or two.

The set list offers up most of the expected vintage material, along with a few surprises from Todd that work well recast in a Cars mold (especially Todd’s “Black Maria”). The new New Cars track “Not Tonight” blends in seamlessly, and is among Rundgren’s more memorable compositions of late.

Easton and keyboardist Greg Hawkes (the man arguably most responsible for the distinctive Cars sound) are joined by Rundgren and two of his pals, bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton (Utopia) and drummer Prairie Prince (Tubes, several Todd projects). The players get their parts right, and seem to be having a great time to boot. Other shows on the tour — at least two others have been booted — sometimes included Nazz‘s minor hit “Open My Eyes,” but the Wolf Trap curfew kept the band from playing that encore number.

The audience recording is of average overall quality. The sound is clear, but guitars are bit distant, keyboards sometimes disappear in the mix, and vocals are a bit on the boomy side.

Difficulty to Locate: 3 out of 10
General Listenability: 7 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: Procol Harum — April 1969: Los Angeles and San Francisco CA

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

The most soulful of the so-called “progressive” groups, Procol Harum is best known for the mega-hit “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” Yet fans know that the group produced many songs that equaled (or arguably surpassed) the quality of that song. Most of the few live Procol Harum bootlegs are either of abysmal audio quality, or FM broadcasts (great quality) of their later years, which aren’t as compelling as the early stuff.

Now comes this disc, a compendium of two shows from their Spring 1969 USA tour. Five tracks from LA’s Troubadour plus eight tracks from the Fillmore West (San Francisco) that same month. Soundboards both. Now one can hear “Conquistador” in its original form, and the majestic instrumental “Repent Walpurgis” in all its glory. This lineup of the group featured the contrasting keyboard sounds of leader Gary Brooker (piano) with the classical touches of Matthew Fisher (gospel-inflected organ), topped off with the fretwork of Robin Trower (heard here in his pre-Hendrix-fixation stage).

Sources report that this disc is NOT a copy of the relatively well-traveled Easter Island bootleg disc, but rather sourced from the master tapes. Apparently somebody knows somebody.

Difficulty to Locate: 8 out of 10
General Listenability: 9 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: The Long Ryders – State of Our Union Outtakes

Friday, June 15th, 2012

The Long Ryders were twenty years ahead of their time. With their defiantly countrified rock and roll, they embodied the alt-country ethos long before that term would be coined. At the peak of their powers, they released their 1985 LP The State of Our Union.

That album’s populist political messages were in sharp contrast to the prevailing winds. The Long Ryders’ songs dealt with themes at once personal and universal. The lyrics could look back one moment (“WDIA,”) and offer a glimmer of hope the next (“Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today”). Yet most of the songs dealt with the here-and-now. There was melodrama, wistfulness and optimism within the album’s forty-odd minutes.

In advance of the album sessions, demos were cut in June 1985. Those demos comprise the bulk of the State of Our Union Demos bootleg disc. These versions offer valuable insight into the development of the songs’ arrangements. Of even greater interest are the two songs left in the can, “Southside of the Story” and “Child Bride.”

Bonus materials flesh out the disc’s running time. Two demos for the group’s “10-5-60″ LP are included, as is an ultra-rare cut by The Unclaimed, Sid Griffin‘s pre-Long Ryders group. In addition, two excellent demos are lifted from bassist Tom Stevens‘ legit solo demo compilation, “Points Revisited.”

For country aficionados, both the legit b-side and a hissy demo of “If I Was a Bramble And You Were a Rose” are included. The demo version features scenesters Debbie Peterson and Will Glenn.

Sound quality is good-not-great, suggesting that this collection made its way through the hardcore collector circuit of tape traders in the pre-CDR days, finding new life — as are the populist messages of “State of Our Union” — in the 21st century. It’s not a moment too soon for either.

Difficulty to Locate: 7 out of 10
General Listenability: 8 out of 10

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Bootleg Bin: Spooky Sings the Hits

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Here’s a little gem that has been tucked away in my collection for more than two decades. About ten years ago or so, I was cleaning out some old files when I came across a long-forgotten cassette tape. I received it from my kid sister circa 1988; she got it from a friend who — as the story went – worked in a recording studio. The actual tape is of unknown generation, but I can safely assume it’s no more than two or three generations from the studio master. Most of the hiss present was, I believe, due to the fact that my tape was a Type I with no Dolby® noise reduction applied.

But what to say of the music? It is definitely for fans of the incredibly strange. If you like Hasil Adkins, Jandek, Skip Spence’s Oar or perhaps the brief mid-70s Syd Barrett session(!) then you may find this recording of an anonymous singer/guitarist (both terms used in their loosest sense) compelling. If not, you will in all likelihood find it excruciatingly awful. You have been warned.

There’s some degree of technical proficiency here, though filtered through a warped sensibility beyond description. The slide guitar work is especially, um, interesting. The lyrical subject matter may offer some clue to the subject’s state of mind (especially tracks #4 and 5) but then again, perhaps not. He certainly has a good memory for the words to these songs.

I can only speculate as to the circumstances leading up to this recording session. My memory fails me; I don’t now recall if the story that comes to mind was of my own imagining, or if the story came (verbally) with the tape. But such as it is, our hero had a few bucks, and booked time at a local (Atlanta) studio. The engineer set up mics and levels, and let the tape roll. That sounds about right to me; this does not sound like a mid-80s home recording job. Sadly, there’s no real interaction between artist and engineer, so the circumstances will never be proven one way or another.

As far as changes to the source recording, I set the noise floor at 8dB and rolled off some tape hiss; this did not appreciably reduce the high end. Also the source tape’s balance was off (likely a result of the tape dub) so I boosted the right channel approximately 200%. Then I boosted the entire signal an additional 300% and trimmed one or two millisecond-long sections of oversaturation. There are a couple places on the tape where one channel seems to drop out completely; my best guess is that the engineer was amusing himself.

The entire session (or what circulates of it) is a mere 11:30 in duration; I’ve divided it into tracks and identified the songs where I could. This gent (whom I’ve nicknamed “Spooky” for reasons that will be become clear upon listening) covers Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Doors and more. I defy anyone to correctly name the last track*.

* Late update: My friend Jerry says it’s Cream‘s “White Room.” Me, I don’t hear it.

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Disclosure of Material Connection:
I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein.