Friday, November 22, 2013

The Beatles - With The Beatles (Purple Chick) (3 Discs)

Well, here we are - November 22nd, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of one of the worst, most traumatic and far-reaching days in American history.  This is going to be a day full of stories, tributes and recollections, graveside homages and pilgrimages to sites associated with that fateful day.  I already provided my reflections on the Kennedy assassination, and my journeys to and observations of the various locations in assassination lore, years ago in a previous post; I don't see any value or worth in rehashing here what the crime has meant to me throughout my life - you're going to get more than enough of that today, from multiple sources.

The shock and horror of November 22nd, 1963 and its association as a timeline-changing moment has long overshadowed the fact that this date was also one of the most momentous in popular music history.  Not one, but two legendary albums were released on this day: one was the holiday compilation A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector, put out in the United States by Philles Records - the grandfather of all holiday records to come.  The other was the British debut of With The Beatles, the band's second long-player, released eight months to the day after their debut album Please Please Me, the Number One album on the UK charts since May of that year.

In addition to featuring an iconic and oft-copied/parodied album cover (taken by photographer Robert Freeman), With The Beatles is significant in that it includes the first George Harrison solo composition (the great "Don't Bother Me") on a Beatles record (not that his bandmates appreciated his efforts; it would be nearly two years before another Harrison song appeared on a Beatles album).  It was also the last time that cover songs would make up such a significant proportion of a Beatles album (in addition to George's song, the disc included seven Lennon-McCartney compositions and six covers, including tunes by Chuck Berry and Motown artists, among others).  Their next studio album, A Hard Day's Night, released in 1964, would be the band's first containing all original tunes.

This album was hugely popular in England, taking over the Number One Album spot from its predecessor Please Please Me the week after its release, and remaining on top for almost six months (all told, the first two Beatles albums controlled the top of the British charts for a remarkable fifty-one consecutive weeks).  With The Beatles was only the second album in the UK (after the South Pacific soundtrack album of 1958) to sell a million copies.  However, with all of its popularity overseas, it was literally decades before this album was properly released in the U.S.  With The Beatles was an early victim of EMI's American distributor Capitol Records' tendency to repackage and alter the song lists and running order of the British releases.  Nine of the original album's fourteen tracks would appear on Meet The Beatles!, their first U.S. release, in January 1964; the remaining five would be released in the States on their second Capitol LP, The Beatles' Second Album, that following April.  It wasn't until July 1987 that the original With The Beatles album would be properly released in the U.S.

As for what I'm offering here: these are the Purple Chick bootlegs of this great album, put out in 2004 and gathered up by yours truly in that legendary week-long downloading marathon way back when . . .  This set includes mono and stereo mixes of the original songs, along with a third disc full of rehearsals and aborted takes of some of these classics.  If you have any prior experience with Purple Chick product, then you'll know that the packaging and sound quality of this music will be impeccable, as always.

So, let me offer up to you all one of the few bright spots from that sad and shocking date back in 1963: The Beatles' three-disc With The Beatles compilation, released by the good people at Purple Chick in 2004.  This music is provided not to drown out the thoughts and feelings regarding JFK on this somber anniversary, but to remind us all that the world is never completely evil or tragic, and even in the worst of times, good things can still occur.  Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Various Artists - Tuatara: A Flying Nun Compilation

After their early wave of success producing and distributing the first records by The Clean, The Chills and Sneaky Feelings, New Zealand's Flying Nun Records released a couple of compilation albums in the early 1980s. These collections showcased the burgeoning underground/alternative sound emerging in various locations around the country, especially in the South Island cities of Dunedin and Christchurch.  These early comp
releases (which included the seminal Dunedin Double EP in 1982 and the live recording The Last Rumba in 1983) had fairly limited distribution - essentially only within New Zealand, where they both were popular and influential albums. But it was the 1985 release of the label's Tuatara compilation that gave the rest of the world the first real indication that there was something special happening musically in Aotearoa.

During 1984-85, Flying Nun entered into limited distribution deals with a number of small international labels, including Normal Records in Germany and Strange Weekend Records in North America.  They also established their own overseas subsidiary, Flying Nun Europe, for distribution on that continent. Tuatara was their first test of that international network, and for all intents and purposes it was a resounding success. By 'success', I don't mean that it was a huge seller. It was successful in that here in America, it was pushed along via college radio and word-of-mouth, and the 'right' people got exposed to it. I found a quote from Nils Bernstein, current Director of Publicity at Matador Records (who formerly owned Seattle store Rebellious Records in the '80s) which sums up the impact of Tuatara here in the States:
“People were really floored by songs like "Death and the Maiden" and "Pink Frost". It was an album that new-wave girls, brainy pop geeks and noise rock fans all loved. You know how they say about the first Velvet Underground album: it sold terribly, but everyone who bought a copy started a band. It’s kind of like that with the Tuatara comp.”
High praise indeed.

As mentioned above, this album contains "Pink Frost", probably The Chills' most famous song, along with cuts by Tall Dwarfs, The Clean and The Verlaines. But there is also gold here in the tracks by the more obscure, less heralded Kiwi bands, including Look Blue Go Purple and Marie & The Atom. Pretty much every song on here is a winner, and in total they provide a superb overview as to what sort of cool stuff was happening in the New Zealand music world of the early '80s.

This thing is hard as heck to find online, so here's a copy burned off of my meticulously maintained CD. For your throwback listening pleasure, here's Tuatara: A Flying Nun Compilation, released by said label on 1985. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

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