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Friday, August 5, 2022

The Travel Agency - self-titled (1968) [US Original]

The Travel Agency - The Travel Agency

Original 1968 Monarch stereo LP
Viva V-36017  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

The Travel Agency album is relatively well-known amongst '60s guys, including those who aren't "psych" collectors; nonetheless, I'm ecstatic to read that my slow posting of the Travel Agency tracks to YouTube has triggered several people to get excited enough about this rip to pick up original copies themselves. Despite this not being a truly psychedelic album -- rather, it leans towards the pop-rock side of the spectrum -- it still maintains a wide appeal due to the catchy songwriting, addictive fuzz, and heady cover artwork. I mean, it's hard to see an album cover like this and not get interested. 

Many thanks to M.S. for his top contributions to this post!  :)

It was hard for me to chose a single song below to help you preview this post, since there are a few great contenders. The album starts off with the excellent "What's A Man," an anti-war political question whose organ-and-sound-effects-based introduction more closely resembles the '70s German krautrock scene than anything from California, where this group actually hailed from. This track has been compared by some listeners to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," though to my ears only the guitar tone is somewhat similar between the two. Despite the fact that the second half of the song does not really match with its haunting prelude, this track is still a good précis of the band's style, flaunting basic vocal harmonies, laid-back guitar fuzz, and a cyclic, almost Revolver-esque drum+bass style.

The fan-favorite on this album may in fact be the straight-ahead chugger "Cadillac George," a simple feel-good tune with meaningless words and a funky rhythm track that demands restless foot tapping. It is immediately followed by the smoothly flowing "Lonely Seabird," which is perhaps the group's one true claim to psychedelia. Listening to this song I am transported to a foggy day in Golden Gate Park, the salty air reverberating with sounds of some psychedelic band playing in the distance while all the hippies get stoned and dance around with flowers in their hair.

Nothing on side two really stands out to me as much as those three tracks, though "She Understands" -- which was chosen to be the B-side for the album's single -- is probably the effort which comes closest. The lyrics on this album range from great ("What's A Man") to cringe-worthy ("You Will Be There") and everywhere in between. The only song which, to steal a phrase from Brent Marley, really came across as "life-guiding" for me was "Sorry You Were Born," a surprisingly mature track about discovering your meaning in life, and encouraging you to pursue that path. And it's sung in plain English; there's no unnecessary keywords like "inner self" and "expand your mind," which probably made it sound exceptionally square in 1968, but has simultaneously allowed it to age without too much moral degradation.

While copies of this album are not particularly challenging to find, unearthing one that plays mint is not trivial. The Indianapolis pressings are much noisier than the Monarch ones, the latter of which seem to be slightly more rare, but some degree of non-fill on side two seems commonplace. I first ripped this album in 2019 from a previously-sealed Monarch copy in the possession of my friend M.S., but after switching out my over-worn AT150MLx for a new VMN40ML and seeing >10dB of harmonic distortion disappear, I wanted to rip another copy to see if the inner-groove distortion on this LP would improve. Unfortunately that distortion seems to be pressed into the disc itself; still, the sound of this rip is an insane improvement over the treble-boosted, horribly noisy (and NR'd) bootleg CD on Kismet. I hope someday that a properly-remastered reissue from the master tapes will come, but in the meantime, the original pressings are still creamy and clear enough to inspire my listening.

Some nice information about the band has been written on the Rockasteria site.


Vinyl Condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR 11

Track Listing:
Review from Cash Box magazine, 28 Dec 1968
1) What's A Man -- 5:07
2) Sorry You Were Born -- 3:07
3) Cadillac George -- 4:44
4) Lonely Seabird -- 3:24
5) So Much Love -- 3:03
6) Make Love -- 2:26
7) That's Good -- 7:06
8) I'm Not Dead -- 2:16
9) She Understands -- 3:21
10) Come To Me -- 3:16
11) You Will Be There -- 2:17
12) Old Man -- 2:12

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.11 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)
 
Full album also available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zz7KGOhY3k4
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA: https://mega.nz/folder/7k5T3L6R#KiH4BFYWc1Bu_Esh8-zKFg
 
Enjoy the music!  :) 

Concert poster for show with Canned Heat, Evergreen Blueshoes, and The Travel Agency
8-11 April 1968 (Easter) at The Kaleidoscope, Hollywood, California


Thursday, June 2, 2022

Eddy Detroit With King Heathen - The Philosopher's Journey (1987)

Eddy Detroit With King Heathen - The Philosopher's Journey

Original 1987 Private Pressing
Pan Records – ED 2  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

Although it was recorded and released in the late-1980s, this album by Eddy Detroit -- his second -- has sounds which are clearly derived from the 1970s UK folk scene. The first comparison that comes to mind is Comus, but "Early One Morning" has very pleasant Incredible String Band vibes and "How Could I?" gets freaky enough at the end to remind me of Oliver, which is awesome. Overall, though, the singing is a bit too nasally and the songs feel too sparse for me. Nonetheless, I figure that there are many who will disagree with my assessment, and given that this is a rare acoustic-experimental prog-folk album which has never been reissued, it fits right in on this blog.

Many thanks to C.F. for supplying this rarity from his archives!

I did the raw transfer for this album in May 2020, before Eddy Detroit passed away on 15 June 2021. May the sound quality of this post do well for his memory. R.I.P.

Track listing:
1) "Ghost Dance" -- 3:44
2) "Time Alone" -- 2:07
3) "Madam Lenormond" -- 2:13
4) "Land Of Lepers" -- 5:41
5) "Early One Morning" -- 3:16
6) "Lot Of Wasteland" -- 2:45
7) "Flying Horses" -- 3:43
8) "Port Of Amsterdam" -- 3:19
9) "Philosopher's Journey" -- 1:52
10) "How Could I?" -- 4:57
11) "Door Mouse" -- 5:06
12) "Flashed On The Pavement" -- 2:37

Vinyl Condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR 14

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.9 (tagging, dynamic range analysis) 
 
Full album also available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxVtkWsjKXs

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA:
https://mega.nz/folder/zMEmURKB#PRYUzIUGXA0flQd_IeSqlg

Enjoy ... :)

 

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Strictly Personal (1968) [US Original]

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Strictly Personal

Original 1968 US Stereo Pressing
Blue Thumb – BTS 1 (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full hi-res scans!~

This sophomore effort by Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band is often overshadowed by the legendary albums that preceded and followed it, and its case has not been helped by the fact that it has never had a good CD reissue -- nor a good reissue of any sort, in fact, given that even the earliest reissues have vastly inferior sound quality. The sessions leading up to this album have gained notoriety among fans, and much of that material has been released several times, but Strictly Personal remains relatively unheard by many, including myself who for years argued that Mirror Man and its assorted outtakes provided an objectively better experience than the low sound quality on this LP. After hearing the original album, though, my head was completely inverted. I was quite wrong.

By far the band's most psychedelic outing, Strictly Personal was recorded as the debut album for Bob Krasnow's Blue Thumb imprint, apparently a name coined by Don Van Vliet himself. Loaded with trippy effects while also walking the boundaries of the avant-garde near-cacophony for which Trout Mask Replica would become infamous, Strictly Personal is an endearing forgotten treasure from the catalog of one of rock music's most creative and timeless bands.

Front cover artwork for Strictly Personal

Slide master Jeff Cotton
John French has written his recollections about this period in his phenomenal book Beefheart: Through The Eyes Of Magic. By this time Ry Cooder had long departed, and was replaced by the highly talented Jeff Cotton (a.k.a. Antennae Jimmy Semens). Under mounting peer pressure, members of the Magic Band began regularly taking acid, sometimes even surprising each other with dosed cups of tea, as well as smoking large quantities of marijuana, which had profound effects on the new compositions that the band began putting together. Musical influences were coming from all types of sounds that were played around the band's quarters, but tended to focus primarily on blues and jazz. Pop and rock music also had their place, though Van Vliet was increasingly hesitant to identify with anything deemed mainstream. On Strictly Personal we can hear a type of songwriting emerge that is unmistakably Beefheart, a unique and instantly-recognizable style that was mostly missing from (or covered up on) the first LP.

The design concept for this album was inherited from an abandoned double-album project following lengthy Buddah sessions for the group's follow-up to Safe As Milk. The original album was to be called It Comes To You In A Plain Brown Wrapper, but it was never finished. Van Vliet had planned Plain Brown Wrapper to be a concept album in two parts: one half would be a collection of songs by '25th Century Quaker,' a Sgt. Pepper-style identity change for the band's bluesier, open-ended material (e.g., "Mirror Man," "Tarotplane," ...), while 'Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band' would perform on the second half with more 'composed' pieces (e.g., "On Tomorrow," "Trust Us," ...). Photos were taken of the band sprouting apparel for both 'groups.' Listening to these sessions now, it's easy to understand why Kama Sutra was uncomfortable with the band's newer recordings: they were clearly not standard material. Long jams, complicated pieces with changing time signatures, meandering blues guitar, periods of pure noise, and Van Vliet's coarse Howlin' Wolf-esque vocal delivery -- the band was rapidly developing, this was quite obvious.

The band as '25th Century Quaker' (photo: Guy Webster, late '67)
The group as 'Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band' (Webster, late '67)















Due to a contractual technicality, producer Bob Krasnow was able to take the band out of their agreement with Kama Sutra and sign them to a brand new label (the second of their career), which was dubbed Blue Thumb. They were taken to Sunset Sound in Hollywood to re-record their songs for the new album. Having had more time and practice to get the tracks together than for the Plain Brown Wrapper sessions, the resulting recordings are much more polished and don't sound quite so much like demos as did the earlier stuff recorded for Buddah. The band had already booked a European tour following the recording sessions, so when the final tracks had been laid the group instantly took off, leaving Bob Krasnow alone to finish the album.

Correspondingly, Krasnow was faced with the task of turning these recordings into something that the public could consume. In the process, much of the noodles were dropped: for example, "Mirror Man" was cut from its 16-minute jam form (as heard on the earlier TTG Studios sessions) down to a compact five-and-a-half minutes. Krasnow also controversially added period 'psychedelic' effects, such as flanging and reverb, which has divided fans for years.

After its completion, Krasnow flew to London, England with an acetate of the album's final mix to play for the band. The group traveled to the Rolling Stones' business office to listen. Opinions within the group strongly varied that evening; Don and Alex were immediately livid about the added effects, while Jeff and John are told to have really liked the final mix. John French recounts in his book (buy it here):

"Since the one thing that bothered Van Vliet more than anything else was someone else who was linked to him or his art actually receiving credit for independent thinking, this led him into the frenzied reaction that followed. This included amusingly calling Bob's work 'psychedelic bromo seltzer' when describing the phasing used to create some of the effects. I tend to agree with Gary Marker that Krasnow's concept of the album is brilliant and timely for the [late sixties]. The editing makes the album more 'listenable' for the average short attention span. The effects were very contemporary, and the overall effect does little to detract from the actual music. It didn't bother me at all, in fact, I liked it at the time (making me Don's temporary enemy) and still enjoy it today for what it is. The fact is the album was 'psychedelic' in its own right."

Gatefold image for the album, featuring the band in outfits from Western Costume Company

Strictly Personal was released in the US market on 23 September 1968, along with two other independently-produced Blue Thumb releases. Its debut in the UK followed shortly that December. It didn't take long for Kama Sutra to catch wind of what happened, namely their collection of demos becoming obsolete with the release of the rerecorded album, and a lawsuit of over $1.2 million ensued against the band, with another $950k against the new label. What happened to this lawsuit is unclear, but it was probably altogether dismissed on lack of legal grounds or settled out of court, given that the band was far from getting rich off their musical ventures.

Article mentioning the album's release ("Personal") -- Cash Box, 21 Sep 1968 (source)

Billboard article regarding Kama Sutra lawsuit, 15 Mar 1969

The album starts off with Van Vliet's "Ah Feel Like Ahcid," the album's theme-of-sorts and a drastic shift from anything that was on the band's first LP. The opening lines are an obvious reference to Son House's "Death Letter" from Father Of Folk Blues (1965, Columbia CS 9217). The modified lyrics, though, tell a quite different story from Mr. House:

Gotta letter out this mornin', how do ya reckon it read?
Red, blue, an' green, 'n' woo, all through my head
Licked a stamp, saw a movie, dropped a stamp
Ooh, mm, I ain't got no blues no more, ah-cid
Put me up thinkin' a postman's groovy
I ain't, ooh I ain't got t' blues no more, ah-cid, mm...

Van Vliet had caught wind of the idea for sending acid through the mail via postage stamps, the methodology being that the stamps could be dipped in water dosed with LSD in order to activate the adhesive on the back. They could then simply be removed and consumed by the receiver. This idea is also reflected on the album cover, with one stamp for each band member from various Spanish-speaking countries (except for John's, curiously from Bulgaria = БЪЛГАРИЯ), with a dosage of 5,000 mgs being noted in the recipient address (mgs. being milligrams, a typo that should have instead been micrograms, unless someone was planning on dosing a few elephants). That's a healthy thousand mics for each of the five band members' unique stamps. The humor in these lines is unmistakably Beefheart: the old bluesman has dropped acid, and now he's lost his blues. He's watching a RGB movie, and thinks the postman's groovy. Van Vliet loved to play with words, and his final touch here is to turn the common blues adage "I said" into the drug reference "ahcid." This is followed by Van Vliet blowing into his harmonica, realizing it's upside down, flipping it over, and then the jam begins.

Two slide guitars come in, both overdubbed by Alex St. Claire. At first listen they seem to fit together, but not quite; there's some off-kilter tension to this psychedelic blues. That was obtained, surprisingly, by playing in two different keys simultaneously, off by a relative fourth (one guitar is tuned to open D vs. the other in G). This Stravinskian approach is totally unheard-of for 1968 rock music, and is a clear pointer for the direction that the band is headed, especially on the complicated experiments that would form Trout Mask Replica.

Group shot by Guy Webster: (L to R) John French, Alex St. Claire, Jeff Cotton, Don Van Vliet, Jerry Handley

The off-kilter blues fades with a heartbeat broken by the pulsating "Safe As Milk." The bass humps away octaves on the tonic, while the drums play a cyclical rhythm which together sounds like some sort of African tribal chant, surrounded by the dual guitars of Jeff and Alex and the sneer of the Captain. "Toaster cracklin'" sound effects are added (the sound of a cigarette wrapper being smashed) and the song ends in a flanged-out free-form section which is probably best compared to the middle of "Interstellar Overdrive." This fades into the next track, "Trust Us," where the heavy flanging is again present. The effect is, frankly, haunting. I love what John French wrote about this track: "this sounds like a bunch of hooded Satan worshipers candidly recorded after having eaten far too many green persimmons. If this doesn't sound religious, then I'm in an alternate universe."

After a short reprise of the "Ahcid" intro, side 1 finishes with the humorously re-titled "Mere Man." This trimmed-down version is perfectly-suited for the album, I think. Van Vliet's microphone and harmonica amp was put through a Leslie speaker, Krasnow's phasing is tastefully added, and the strange sound effects of an electric flour sifter were also included during the intro and outro.

By this point, anyone who expected Safe As Milk Part Deux may have already been hopelessly confused. Those who flipped to side 2, however, were instantly treated by one of the album's, and perhaps the band's, best two tracks, "On Tomorrow" and "Beatle Bones 'N' Smokin' Stones." The latter is a terrific 'homage'-of-sorts to the Beatles and the Stones, and Van Vliet's lyrics are perfect criticisms for the culture of the day. Listening to John's drumming, it's no surprise that John Coltrane and Yusef Lateef records provided some of his biggest influences; this is no simple metronome man, this guy is playing music. Backwards cymbals were added at his recommendation -- a very nice effect -- in addition to a crunchy sound attributed to a maraca with a transducer taped to its side. The song ends with a musical allusion that some non-Americans probably won't catch: it's the intro theme from The Three Stooges (here), a comedy trio that would've been immediately recognized by any teenager in those days.

American Halloween-style candy corn
The album ends with "Kandy Korn," which is in fact the very first Beefheart track that I ever heard. For those who don't know, candy corn is an American candy typically sold around the Halloween season, and is yellow, orange, and white -- somewhat resembling a kernel of corn. The name of this track comes from the way Beefheart thought of music, flowing like an infinite figure 8, but more "pointed" -- which John French pointed out as resembling a piece of candy corn. The lyrics are pure psychedelia, encouraging rebirth and reformation in this infinite psychle.

This version of the song, much shorter than the Mirror Man version, is more focused yet still totally tripped-out. John French writes that he laments his drums being put through a limiter, making them sound like "a giant tin-foil balloon," but I actually kinda like the effect. Jeff Cotton plays massively distorted power chords while Alex St. Claire hammers double-tracked melodic lines and the group harmonizes together at a massive climax that sounds like God is opening the heavens with a Biblical-level pillar of fire. The ending is orgasmic. Finally, the album concludes with a line you'd almost forgotten, or wished that you had:

"I ain't blue no more, ooh, it's like heaven I said, I said, mm-mm..."

Don Van Vliet a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, late '67 (photo: Webster)
John "Drumbo" French, late '67 (photo: Webster)

The first pressings of Strictly Personal were on a black Blue Thumb label with a Hollywood address, mastered at DCT Recorders in Hollywood, CA, and had spaces ("bands") between each individual track on both sides of the LP. The album was quickly repressed after its initial release, probably at the beginning of 1969, using some vastly inferior source, perhaps actually being a poor-quality dub of a first pressing. These reissues have unbanded tracks and lack any DCT marking in the runouts. The sound of these unbanded reissues is of AM-radio-quality, and is best avoided.

There appears to have been only one digital remaster released for this album, appearing on a 1994 CD on the Liberty / EMI label. While apparently using some tape source, this CD was so heavily noise-reduced that its anemic sound led me to incorrectly believe for years that this was just a bad-sounding album. And, of course, buying a '70s reissue did not correct that assumption. It was only upon hearing a genuine first pressing that I realized how this album was supposed to sound. Correspondingly, this rip assassinates any other version of this album which is currently available, and will likely remain the definitive listening experience for many years to come.

For the Plain Brown Wrapper sessions, I would like to recommend two different CDs. The first is the original, unremastered Mirror Man CD, 1988 Castle Communications CLACD 235. The other is appropriately titled I May Be Hungry But I Sure Ain't Weird (a line from "Safe As Milk"), released in 1992 on Sequel Records NEX CD 215. Both are UK releases, unfortunately, but these two discs have a much more "natural" sound than The Mirror Man Sessions or the bonus tracks on the 1999 CD reissue of Safe As Milk, which are more readily found in online searches these days.



Van Vliet dressed with mask from The Man From Planet X (1951)
and displaying his "simran horn" (shehnai) [photo: Webster]

Performers:
- Don Van Vliet: lead vocals, harmonica, electric flour sifter (tr. 4)
- Alex St. Claire: guitar, slide guitar
- Jeff Cotton: guitar, slide guitar
- Jerry Handley: bass guitar
- John French: drums, percussion

Join the official John "Drumbo" French fan group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/110161780727

Track listing:
1) "Ah Feel Like Ahcid" -- 3:05
2) "Safe As Milk" -- 5:27
3) "Trust Us" -- 8:09
4) "Son Of Mirror Man - Mere Man" -- 5:24
5) "On Tomorrow" -- 3:27
6) "Beatle Bones 'N' Smokin' Stones" -- 3:18
7) "Gimme Dat Harp Boy" -- 5:04
8) "Kandy Korn" -- 5:09

Vinyl Condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR 11

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.9 (tagging, dynamic range analysis) 
 
Full album also available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGfvhdCFI-U
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA:
https://mega.nz/folder/M1sjAIjR#gwajpatxvb6CtEJnUdQO3A

Enjoy ... :)

Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band backstage at the Rome Pop Festival, 4 May 1968
(L to R) Jerry Handley, Jeff Cotton, Don Van Vliet, Alex Clair Snouffer, John French

Blurb from the first issue of Creem magazine, March 1969 (edited to fit screen)

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Now (Tripsichord) - "I Want" / "Like A Flying Bird" (1967) [Mono 45]

The Now - "I Want" b/w "Like A Flying Bird"

Original 1967 Mono 45 RPM Single
Embassy Records – C-1968  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

Before the band was renamed to "Tripsichord Music Box" by San Francisco producer Matthew Katz, Tripsichord was previously known as "The Now", and in fact released a single 45 under that moniker on a tiny label out of Hollywood. The A-side of this disc is especially killer, and certainly rivals their later recordings, even as a garage-y band in-development.It's a pity that there are not more recordings of the band from this era. (There was also an even earlier 45 on the Brent label, released by an earlier incarnation of the band known as "The Ban". This is not something that I have found yet, so the search continues...)

Many thanks to C.F. for loaning out this 45 from his archives!

Track Listing:
1) "I Want" -- 2:21
2) "Like A Flying Bird" -- 2:21

Vinyl condition: VG+
Dynamic Range: DR 11

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.9 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

The B-side is also available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6T0A4IXFw4
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA: https://mega.nz/folder/E0hiEDwT#HthJM6TsT0tpbAeH66gHMg

Enjoy ... :)

The Now circa 1966/67: (L-R) Oliver McKinney, Randy Gordon, Frank Straight, David Zandonatti

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean (1967) [Mono Mix]

Blossom Toes - We Are Ever So Clean (1967)

Original 1967 UK Mono Pressing
Marmalade – 607001 (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

For some reason, those who regularly distribute praise of "underground" UK pop-psych gems such as the Small Faces' Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake or the Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow consistently let the Blossom Toes albums slip by unmentioned. The sound of the Blossom Toes debut, though unknown to most, is probably best compared to Magical Mystery Tour, which is a comparison that should be enough to make any '60s nut flip. For me, hearing "Look At Me I'm You" for the first time was absolutely like discovering an unknown (to me) jewel. With the George Martin-esque full-scale production and obvious major-label polish, it's a shame that this record has been overshadowed by the numerous timeless masterpieces released in the same year, the names of which even casual music fans are fondly aware.

Since the stereo version is the only variant commercially available these days, I was curious for several years what the original mono mix of this album might sound like. No transfer of the mono LP has ever been published online, making this post its public digital debut. After M.H. sent me a dub of his copy, and I realized that it featured a dedicated mix -- and indeed, quite different from the stereo one -- I became determined to track down a mint copy for the proper audio restoration project. After some searching, luck, and much labor, I've finally finished that task.

Apart from the opening track, truly mind-melting freak-psych is sadly not this record's forte. Perfect acid storms like "Look At Me I'm You" are strewn around next to dull British humor and boring, straight-ahead pop. Furthermore, this mono mix is much lower-fi than the stereo. While the latter mix of "Look At Me I'm You" (here) lunges out of the speakers to tickle your ears with unexpected dissonances, backwards guitar, vocal harmonies, strange structures, and unusual surprises of every sort, the mono mix just kinda rolls over and dies. The treble is nearly nonexistent, and there are phase cancellation issues in the percussion. It's disappointing as all hell, to be totally honest.

But this mono variant is not altogether disposable; side 2 in particular seems to boast the most improvement from that famously "punchy" mono sound. And it wasn't until I heard this mono disc that I realized what a cool song "What On Earth" is. While admittedly not as totally tripped-out as the side 1 opener, the extra overdubs and better balance on the mono version give that track a character at least as good as any song on the canonical records I mentioned in the header above. It's still unmistakably British, with horn overdubs and a lyrical style that tea-sippers of all ages could enjoy, but while maybe a bit flimsy, its altogether different ambience from the edgier, blues-oriented stuff that was beginning to appear around this time makes it quite its own worthwhile experience.

Decent reissues of this album (in stereo) can be found online without issue; in fact, a remastered 3CD box was released earlier this year. There's a nice review by Ian Canty, which I will point you to in lieu of a longer blog post: he sums up several points quite nicely. The lack of a mono disc on that deluxe set seems to suggest missing or destroyed master tapes. While the bonus tracks are interesting, unfortunately no one seems to have instructed engineer Ben Wiseman to keep his hands off the damn gain knob, which means that the (still cheap!) 1992 Japanese Polydor CD remains the best way to hear the stereo mix in the digital domain. If you somehow haven't heard this record in your thus-far pitiful life, you must cease your dilly-dallying and acquire a copy of that disc now!

For all the speedy freaks who don't have time to listen to the whole LP, it's worthwhile to denote some of the most significant differences between the two mixes. It's also useful to denote which mix, STEREO or MONO, that my brain prefers on a track-by-track basis, though of course your own ears should be the final judge... also note that my comparisons are from the mono LP to the 1992 stereo CD mentioned above, which isn't totally apples-to-apples.

Look At Me I'm You: STEREO
Marginally longer (~2 seconds) fade-in on the mono mix, with drastically muted percussion and AM-radio-quality sound throughout. Volume of the vocal tracks is increased relative to the instrumental. The acoustic guitar fades in much later in the middle section, leaving several seconds of a capella vocals. Much slower fade-out at the end, leaving the final repetitions of "look at me, I'm you!" louder than on the stereo mix.

I'll Be Late For Tea: STEREO
Immediate and obvious improvement in fidelity from the mono opener. Vocals again louder on the mono mix, in addition to auxiliary percussion, and it sounds overall more balanced than a mono fold of the stereo mix. Unfolded, though, the stereo sounds fine, and still has marginally better sound quality.

The Remarkable Saga Of The Frozen Dog: MONO
Vocals are dramatically reduced compared to the stereo version, yielding a much more balanced sound. The louder instrumental track makes this song feel a little less silly than it is. The mono version fades out more than 15 seconds earlier than the stereo mix, and although it's obviously lower fidelity, it just seems to be a bit more well-rounded.

Telegram Tuesday: STEREO
No huge differences, apart from the major fidelity upgrade on the stereo mix. A mono fold can fix those drums in the right channel, if you're so inclined.

Love Is: STEREO
The mono has a slightly quieter flute on the intro, and more carefully blended vocals. For a cheesy track like this, though, the vocal boost on the stereo is more fitting, and the better treble makes this sound less like a lame '50s orchestral group's B-side (and more like a lame '60s B-side).

What's It For: MONO
Better balance on the mono mix, with lower vocals and none of the annoying, super-wide mixing choices (drums are all the way on the right on the stereo). The fidelity argument doesn't trump the superior mix on this one, for me. The vocals on the stereo mix are clearly double-tracked, whereas I can barely hear the second vocal on the mono.

People Of The Royal Parks: MONO
I don't like this song, but the mono seems to offer the best experience to those that do. The stereo feels echo-heavy and unbalanced, almost like the EQ is too bright, or like it's not even a true stereo mix (though it is). 

What On Earth: MONO
This is the highlight of the mono LP. This superior mix can also be found on the mono 45. It has much better balance, mostly attributed to quieter vocals, while the sound effects and orchestral flares really add to the potion instead of distracting from its crux. There's an extra scream after the washing machine line, some tambourine towards the end, and the fade-out starts a little later than on the stereo version. This track was meant to be heard in monaural sound!

Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar: MONO
The enhanced clarity of the stereo mix is a plus, but the wonky channel positioning of the lead vocals (in only the left channel for much of the song) ruins it for me. Fade-out again begins later on the mono.

I Will Bring You This And That: MONO
There's marginally better balance on the mono mix (quieter vocals) and the audio fidelity is surprisingly similar. Fade-out is more gradual on the mono.

Mister Watchmaker: MONO
A boring ballad, but the mono is a bit better-balanced and less "wonky" than the stereo.

When The Alarm Clock Rings: STEREO
Same story as "Telegram Tuesday."

The Intrepid Balloonist's Handbook, Volume One: MONO
This record would be better without this song on it, but the mono at least improves the instrument balance and removes the wide-channel mixing.

You: MONO
This is another track where the balance improvement on the mono is obvious, even though the percussion isn't quite as snappy as a mono fold-down of the stereo. The mono also fades out a bit later, revealing an extra 4 seconds of audio.

Track For Speedy Freaks (Or Instant LP Digest): STEREO
This track must've sounded pretty freaky indeed in the pre-Audacity days. (I wonder if these guys had ever heard of the Red Crayola?) It'd be quite interesting to see the multi-track layout for this song, as both mixes seem to feature the same track collage -- but with the added separation on the stereo, there's an extra dimension to the noise.


Blossom Toes promo photo, ca. 1968
Track Listing:
1) "Look At Me I'm You" -- 3:58
2) "I'll Be Late For Tea" -- 2:41
3) "The Remarkable Saga Of The Frozen Dog" -- 2:46
4) "Telegram Tuesday" -- 2:37
5) "Love Is" -- 2:40
6) "What's It For" -- 3:03
7) "People Of The Royal Parks" -- 2:24
8) "What On Earth" -- 2:54
9) "Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar" -- 2:39
10) "I Will Bring You This And That" -- 2:56
11) "Mister Watchmaker" -- 2:22
12) "When The Alarm Clock Rings" -- 2:27
13) "The Intrepid Balloonist's Handbook, Volume One" -- 2:12
14) "You" -- 2:50
15) "Track For Speedy Freaks (Or Instant LP Digest)" -- 1:26

Vinyl condition: M-

Dynamic Range: DR 11

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.9 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adCuPL9l-Qg
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA: https://mega.nz/folder/x8U00BYC#bqtfLvg6XD5F3v0QloreNg

Enjoy ... :)


Thursday, February 17, 2022

Krokodil - An Invisible World Revealed (1971) [German Original]

Krokodil - An Invisible World Revealed

Original 1971 German LP
United Artists Records UAS 29 250 I (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

The first Krokodil record to reach my turntable was the debut, and though I almost instantly loved it, C.F. did give me fair warning: "The Kroks get better. Swamp is twice as good as the 1st LP, and Invisible World is f*ckin' killer."

Most collectors seem to agree that this is band's strongest LP. It certainly is an evolution from the previous two; for example, while the blues harp that featured prominently on the previous albums is still here, you'll be surprised to find that it's now been run through analog delay and reverb... it's hard to classify this record's sound, as it's pretty unique; Krokodil usually gets grouped with the early-'70s "krautrock" scene -- which I'm not sure is fair, given that the band is Swiss, not German, and the (admittedly broad) electronic-based exploratory style which spans from Neu! to Kraftwerk to Can to Faust to Agitation Free, for me, doesn't seem to capture what's happening in the grooves on this tremendous psychedelic, progressive, experimental rock LP. Okay, I could see an argument for Guru Guru, but this is way better...

It goes without saying this post wouldn't have been possible without C.F. -- major thanks, man!

The cover for the third Krokodil album again features the beautiful artwork of the multi-talented Düde Dürst, also the band's percussionist

Psychedelic influence immediately makes its presence known: the spacey "Odyssey In Om" gives a mood not dissimilar to the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "1983"; the sound collage towards the end of "Looking At Time" reminds me of similar moments on Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing At Baxter's; and I can almost feel the grade-A Swiss Sandoz kicking in as ground begins to swell with the vocal harmonies of "With Little Miss Trimmings." I think it's fair to simultaneously call this "progressive" as well, given that two of its tracks are over 14 minutes long, but it's not at all prog like Tull or ELP or Yes. The compositions are much more tastefully heady and experimental, rather than being noodling and show-offy. Even the relatively proggy "Green Fly" (later retitled "The Morning Sun") reminds me more of The Moody Blues or Spring than of King Crimson or Pink Floyd.

The album lifts off with "Lady Of Attraction," one of the band's strongest tracks. The accompaniment is acoustic guitar and a simple mellotron bass line, but Walty Anselmo's vocal deliverance is haunting, sounding like it's been double-tracked through a Leslie. There are accents from a tabla through a phaser, a flute, and a trippy harmonica solo though the same vocal effect, which sounds like an instrument from another planet. I wonder if the lady on the cover -- complete with fangs and blood dripping out of her mouth -- is the embodiment of Walty's "trap." This eerie mood reflected in the artwork also extends to the off-color, ritualistic image that graces the gatefold.

Gatefold design, with a red-tinted photo of the band in a graveyard surrounded by candles

Like the other Krok LPs, this album was reissued on CD on the Second Battle label in 1999, but unfortunately the mastering suffered extreme levels of gain and peak limiting. The difference between this master and the CD remaster is nearly 7 dB! The speed is also marginally different, and "Lady Of Attraction" has an added fade-out, whereas the original audio seamlessly streams into the second track. Luckily these original German pressings have unbelievably great sound quality, and this copy in possession of C.F. had only been spun once or twice before, originally coming from a cache of unplayed copies that turned up in Australia, of all places.

The original master tape has some static here and there, for example during the reverb-drenched flute intro to "Odyssey In Om," which seem to be from tape saturation. I did remove some non-musical clicks in other places, such as the car-screeching intro to track 2, where they really distracted from the album's gentle flow, along with carefully mitigating the 50 Hz AC hum where it was noticeably audible. I also experimented with rotating the phase to bring up the album's levels a little closer to its reissue, but I decided to leave it as-is, so that the grandiose dynamics can come through unhindered by limited headroom. The channel separation isn't quite as good as the CD, but it's damn close, and given the flatter mastering, this new digital master sounds much more natural than the old.

And so, I hope you will grab a Rivella and enjoy the band's third album as it was meant to be heard in 1971...

Mojo enlisting some chemical assistance
while recording at Dierks Studio

Track Listing:
1) "Lady Of Attraction" -- 4:22
2) "With Little Miss Trimmings" -- 1:46
3) "Odyssey In Om" -- 15:26
4) "Green Fly" -- 4:22
5) "Looking At Time" -- 14:08
6) "Last Doors" -- 3:58

Vinyl condition: M-

Dynamic Range: DR 11

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 9 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.9 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFfkQQQHaOU
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA: https://mega.nz/folder/XhJzhYxD#RtBKrlIvJMf-o_8CqIOa8Q

Enjoy, and keep on krockin'!  :)

Walty Anselmo with sitar

I again highly recommend checking out Klemen Breznikar's interview with Düde Dürst: https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2019/07/krokodil-interview-with-dude-durst.html

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Part One (1967) [Mono Mix]

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Part One

Original 1967 Mono Promo LP
Reprise Records R 6247 (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit + full high-res scans!~

"Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1965, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band created music
that possesses an eerily atmospheric and at times sinister quality that is bluntly political, childlike, and bizarre."
~Jackpot Records reissue sticker

The major-label debut from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (what a mouthful!) is probably one of the strongest contenders for the band's best LP output. Fittingly matching with the band's title, the album is basically a '60s pop LP comprising, yes, some experimental moments, along with the more mainstream-sounding tracks. A long-time favorite for many collectors, many of the band's most well-remembered recordings fill these grooves. The trippy painting which envelops the sleeve has undoubtedly only contributed to its allure. While not quite attaining "masterpiece" status for me, this record is certainly still a cool and unique part of California hippie-rock history and remains very enjoyable from beginning to end, even 55 years after its release.

Front cover illustration on the first mono pressing of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Part One

Perhaps most importantly, the band's main detractor, the controversial lyrics of Bob Markley, seem to make little appearance here, apart from perhaps the tracks "I Won't Hurt You" and "Leiyla". But being pinched between the heavily-stoned compositions like "Shifting Sands" and "1906", and even being heavily stoned-out themselves, it's pretty hard to notice. Other highlights include the great psych-rocker "Transparent Day" and the garagey mushroom-eater "'Scuse Me, Miss Rose". The song credited solely to Dan Harris, "Will You Walk With Me", is actually a cover of the classic Bonnie Dobson track "Morning Dew", though it is so different from the Tim Rose and Grateful Dead versions that you may not recognize it at first. (Unfortunately I've heard so many versions of that song now that it's hard not to liken it to the "Louie, Louie" of psych-folk.)

A cover of Frank Zappa's "Help, I'm A Rock" is attempted as well, and although it's a nice tribute, it's still a far cry from the freakiness of the Mothers' original. Being from L.A., though, it's understandable why these guys had to try. One of the more interesting numbers is a rendition of P.F. Sloan's composition "Here's Where You Belong", which was apparently influential enough that the Grassroots also took a crack at cutting it the following year (but WCPAEB did it much better!). The album is closed out with an instrumental version of Van Dyke Parks' "High Coin", which may be more familiar to some from the Charlatans' version, later released on their LP on Philips in 1969.

Back cover artwork, featuring psychedelicized photos from a live performance of the band

The stereo mix of this album has been available on CD since Sundazed reissued it from the tapes in 2001. While not a totally perfect remaster (it is a bit too loud in some places), it is generally a quite nice-sounding CD; nonetheless, since this album was also treated to both mono and stereo variants upon initial release, many still have rightly wondered what the original album sounded like in its rarer monaural form. In 2017, Jackpot Records finally reissued the first three WCPAEB records in mono, using high-resolution transfers from the original tapes. However, for Part One, there seems to have been some problem with the analog transfer; "choppiness" of the tape noise suggests that the mono tape may have suffered some age-related degradation, or that it was simply transferred using a stereo tape head, producing two channels ever-so-slightly out-of-phase which, when collapsed to mono, caused partial cancellation of the audio during some parts of the recording. 

After hearing this problem on the 2017 reissue, I decided to invest in this clean original white-label promotional copy in order to share it here. I was delighted to find that the disc played flawlessly, making this one of the quickest clean-up jobs I've had for a used LP in recent memory. The sound quality is excellent as well: while there's a low-pass filter applied at about 17 kHz, this exactly matches the stereo mix and the mono Jackpot reissue, so it was apparently baked into the master itself.

After recovering from the initial shock of the wide stereo mix disappearing, I became curious about how this mix actually compared to a stereo fold-down. Indeed, while this does appear to be a dedicated mono mix, don't expect any extraordinary missing elements to suddenly appear here: from my comparisons, which I've noted below, it seems that most of that changes between the two are rather small, and were probably intended to "balance out" the sound in mono as opposed to the wide stereo version. I also noted that folding the stereo version sometimes resulted in phase cancellation issues similar to those described above, whereas the original mono LP plays perfectly with no such problems.

Tr. 1-2: Guitar marginally louder, more balanced in the mix
Tr. 3: Lead vocal marginally louder, can be heard above background "ahh" vocals
Tr. 4: Softer vocals. Less loud mix in first half of the song, crescendos more in second half
Tr. 5: Much more balanced mix: louder guitar & xylophone, quieter vocals. Less reverb
Tr. 6: Guitar marginally louder, entire track more dynamic
Tr. 7: Percussion marginally louder, very similar otherwise
Tr. 8: Quieter drums (almost buried) & louder guitars
Tr. 9: Better balance between instrumental track (louder) and vocals (quieter)
Tr. 10: Clearer (louder?) drums, especially the snare
Tr. 11: Drums quieter in intro, but slightly louder & clearer in the "main" part of the song

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band performing live
Track Listing:
1) Shifting Sands – 3:56
2) I Won't Hurt You – 2:27
3) 1906 – 2:21
4) Help, I'm A Rock – 4:28
5) Will You Walk With Me – 3:02
6) Transparent Day – 2:19
7) Leiyla – 2:56
8) Here's Where You Belong – 2:51
9) If You Want This Love – 2:52
10) 'Scuse Me, Miss Rose – 3:03
11) High Coin – 2:02

Vinyl Condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR 12

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96 kHz / 24 bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 8 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.6 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)
 
 
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
MEGA: https://mega.nz/folder/Ns5gQSBa#eGSp6QKsa-gub6gLQrbRHA

And as usual, enjoy!  :)