Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Elvis Costello & Paul McCartney: The McCartney/MacManus Collaboration

Another of my favorite cd bootleg releases of all time, on the classic Vigotone label, this is an unparalleled look at the raw creative processes of two true geniuses of popular music. Listening to Elvis and Paul excitedly demo a skiffle-y track like "Twenty-Five Fingers", if you squint and tilt your head just right, it's almost like listening to a writing demo of John and Paul working out "One After 909"! There are so many amazing songs here, some of which came out in overproduced versions on McCartney albums, one of which was one of the best singles of his later career, one of which became Elvis' biggest hit ever, one of which was a highlight on a pretty dire Elvis album, but couldn't match the drama of this demo version, and a couple which have never emerged except on this boot. And this is some of my favorite McCartney singing EVER -- why? Because he doesn't care about how he sounds! This is just him throwing around some ideas with a mate, and showing off the rawer side of his personality at that, to impress Elvis. The voice is rough but beautiful. And they sound like they were born to harmonize with each other.

None of this is more true than on what I feel is the true undiscovered gem of this collection, track 3, "Tommy's Coming Home". This keening melody, haunting harmony, and obscure but brilliant lyric combine into a song whose brilliance I can't begin to describe. The meter and tone of the lyrics put me somewhat in mind of "Band on the Run" -- especially on the line, "And a hawk hovered high above a skinny jackrabbit/ Pursued by a hungry fox". But this song is so much deeper, though the story it tells eludes literal sense in the same way that the earlier song does. It concerns a soldier who returns home, but in a coffin, apparently accompanied by his sweetheart, who is then flirted with by a man on the train... the story shifts in and out of focus in a fascinating way. Here is a best guess at the lyrics. I love that "Down, down, down" motif. And ohhh the harmony on the last word of the phrase "and it's almost April Fools' Day."

To me and most, the real meat of this release is the first eight selections; the other eleven basically amount to bonus tracks -- some really good bonus tracks, but nothing matches the brilliance and fascination of those amazing duo demos. Here's a rundown of the album. Unfortunately, I can't find scans of the whole package including the 24-page booklet. This CD isn't totally unheard of elsewhere online, but seems pretty hard to find, so I think it qualifies for The Rare Stuff. It's certainly a rare pleasure!

Elvis Costello Interview Trifecta

As an addendum to our Elvis Costello posts below and above, here are three different interviews with the man, one from a promo disc, one from a bonus disc, and one from a CD single.

The gem of the bunch is probably An Overview Disc, which was included with initial runs of the 1995 Rykodisc reissue of Blood & Chocolate. Since that album rounded out the series of reissues, the disc was a nice, yes, overview of his career up to that point. This epic session lasts almost the full length of a cd, some 78 minutes long!

Here's what it says on the back:
Elvis Costello * An Overview Disc
Occasion: Completion of Rykodisc's Elvis Costello re-issue programme
Artiste: Elvis Costello * Interviewer: Peter Doggett (Record Collector magazine)
Period discussed: 1977-1986 * Location: Dublin * Date: 21st July 1995

The next interview is actually from a year earlier, but serves as a nice follow-up to the above disc, as it concerns Brutal Youth, the album that reunited EC with his Attractions and old friend Nick Lowe, and harked back to that earlier period. It's from the Warner Brothers promo cd Elvis Costello: Words and Music (a series of promo interviews with WB artists on occasion of an album release; I'll post one with Paul Simon soon). The talk is interspersed with song clips. The interviewer this time is Bill Flanagan of Musician magazine(later to head VH1, and author of one of the best ever books of interviews with songwriters, Written in my Soul. If you can track down a copy, do. He's got a cool new novel out about rock 'n' roll history, too, by the way.) It's split into two segments of about 24 and 22 minutes.

Lastly, an interview from a year earlier still comes from the "Collector's Edition" UK cd single for the Juliet Letters track "Jacksons, Monk and Rowe". The 14 minute segment is drawn from the Juliet Letters video, and is also mixed with album samples. This is probably the least desirable of the bunch, especially if you have the video or DVD.

I know these will be of limited interest, but I hope those who are interested will enjoy.


Interviews (Brutal Youth & Juliet Letters):

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach - Royal Festival Hall 10/29/98 EXPANDED EDITION

One of my favorite silver-CD boots I've ever owned is this beautiful concert by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. I've always known, though, that the dozen tracks on the disc didn't come close to presenting the night's entire performance. So I was glad to find, on the swell Mystic Chords of Memory blog, a download of the WDR German Radio broadcast of portions of the concert. The Elvis Costello Info wiki listing says portions were also broadcast on the BBC and Radio 1 Italy; I'm not sure which of those the CD is sourced from, but it seems that each broadcast featured different selections from the setlist. Neither my bootleg nor the Italian or BBC broadcasts, meanwhile, seem to be available online.

What you have here are the 12 tracks from the CD, with three additional tracks from the radio broadcast slotted into their proper running order in the set. While I transferred the CD tracks at 320, the radio broadcast is 256Kbps, so sharp ears may notice a slight difference in quality, or hear the "edit points" when a CD track ends and a radio track begins, but I think the whole thing still flows smoothly, and it's still an exquisite listen. For clarity's sake, though, I've kept the date legend [10.29.98] in the titles of the radio tracks to distinguish them. If anyone wants to better finesse those transitions, have at it, just repost it and let us know, 'kay? Or, if anyone knows where to find a recording of the complete performance -- 26 tracks, including 2 Elvis-free Bacharach medleys -- or any other tracks missing from this batch, please share! Meanwhile, enjoy the most thorough look at this classic concert currently available.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elvis Costello Trainspotter Gap-Plugger Bonanza, Part 1!

Despite the fact that Elvis Costello has reissued his catalog three times, heaping on bonus tracks with each successive version (though only on the first two albums in the latest batch), there are still those recordings which Costello nuts call "the gaps" -- b-sides, promo cuts, guest spots, compilation contributions, etc. that have not yet appeared on any official EC release. There's a lot of 'em -- see here -- and among them is some work as good as anything the man's done. Which is to say: really, really good.

So here are 20 tracks from among their number, with more to follow in the coming days. Included here are three demos of the songs Costello wrote for the Wendy James album, and one live version of perhaps the best of those songs, "Basement Kiss"; two live cuts with Richard Hell from a CBGB's show in 1978 (EC only sings and plays backup on "Shattered", however); covers of Paul Simon and Mose Allison; and collaborations with Elvis' great bands the Attractions, the Confederates, the Imposters, and the Sugarcanes, as well as Steve Nieve and the mighty Allen Toussaint. Full details in the comments. I'm afraid that since I just loaded 'em all into a folder and zipped 'em up, they won't be in any coherent order once you open 'em up, but you should be able to sort 'em out.

I think some people will be really excited about this post -- I know that if this weren't my blog, I'd be freakin' thrilled to find all these in one place! Believe me, since I had to hunt high and low to round 'em all up. Coming soon are more Costello/Nieve tracks from the Painted By Memory Australian bonus disc, the powerful Attractions version of "Many Rivers to Cross" from the Live for Ireland benefit, plus covers of Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell, and some stunning, though little-known Costello originals! I'll also be posting a collection of interviews with the always-erudite maestro.

Comments are appreciated, Paypal donations welcome at the address in "About Me" section -- I bought all these, yanno! (As are clicks on those lil' ol' commercial messages on the right, but you didn't hear that from me!)

PS EC's latest release, the legendary Live at Hollywood High show from 1978, is available here.

Richard and Linda Thompson LIVE 1973: "Once Brave Henry"

If you're a Richard and Linda Thompson fan and you've never heard this boot, make sure you're sitting down before you listen. This is one of the most stupendous ROIOs of all time, IMO. Recorded live at two British folk clubs in 1972 and 1973 (or rather, one club and one university, apparently), it features material from their first duo album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, a few tunes from RT's solo debut Henry the Human Fly, a Fairport classic, and some magical versions of country, R&B, and trad. folk songs. It's an audience recording, kind of trebly but considering age and rarity, literally music to my ears. And not readily available anywhere else online, methinks...

Tracks 1-17: Memphis Folk Club, Guildford, London, 1973
Tracks 18-23: Durham University, Durham, 16th November 1972
Tracklist in comments.

PS If you want to support the artists, and get another great live set from a few years later, check this out.

Richard & Linda Thompson - Sunnyvista (1979)

... but what the heck, we're on a roll -- moody, wordy Brits it is! Here's a really hard-to-find R&LT album from 1979. It was their least successful album, I think, not least due to the tongue-in-cheek-but-not-to-the-untrained-eye cover, parodying a real estate brochure, and the photo on the back of a leering Richard and Linda in medical smocks. Throw in some slabs of beef and baby dolls and you've got a "butcher cover" cover version.

Another reason is its political message and fierce tone, in its overarching theme (and title song) mocking pre-fab middle-class domesticity, and, especially, in the daring militant anthem "Justice in the Streets," with its chanted chorus of "Allah, Allah". These days, putting the words "militant" and "Allah" in the same sentence carries unsavory implications, but this is a social-justice anthem, not a religious screed.

Despite that abrasiveness, this is also one of the most studio-slick albums in the duo's catalog, a state-of-the-art recording for '79. It balances the sharp wit and sound of the above songs with some beautiful ballads, including Lonely Hearts and Sisters, the latter featuring the appropriately sisterly harmonies of Kate [R.I.P.] and Anna McGarrigle (as do two other songs here). Backing vox on other tracks come courtesy of Gerry Rafferty and Squeeze's Glenn Tillbrook. The backups on the aforementioned "Justice", meanwhile, are by two folks named Hafsa Abdul Jabbas and Abdu Rahim.

This is a 320 rip of the 1992 cd on the Carthage label; it has not been reissued since, and I'm not holding my breath -- so here it is on The Rare Stuff!

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions - Easy Pieces (1985) with 3 bonus tracks

I swear, the real title of this blog should NOT be "The Rare Stuff Of Wordy English Singer-Songwriters", but for my next post I wanted to offer this rare-ish CD, the British release of the Commotions' second album, Easy Pieces. Though it doesn't have the reputation of their debut, Rattlesnakes, it actually was a higher-charting album in England at the time of its release, and probably in the US too, due to 2 videos being shown on MTV. I asked Lloyd on his website Q&A page whether there would be a deluxe reissue of this album as there was with Rattlesnakes, and he said he seriously doubted that would ever come to pass.

To the neurotic-folk-rock sound of the Commotions, this album added more elaborate production by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (who had recently worked with Elvis Costello after making their names producing Madness), including some not-obnoxious horns on the quasi-hit Lost Weekend, and some soul singers backing up the other single, Brand New Friend. I think my favorite is the atmospheric final cut of the original album, Perfect Blue.

The three bonus tracks are Her Last Fling, Big World, and Nevers End. Hope y'all enjoy.

And truth be told, this blog is gonna be kinda heavy on the singer-songwriters. Not just Brits, though!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Graham Parker, Live in London 1991 (Take 2 @ 320Kbps)

Hello again. As promised, here are the files for all 4 concerts at 320Kbps for your auditory pleasure. I'll post all 4 set lists in comments if that helps you choose which shows to download, though again, I recommend all 4! That way, even if you don't wanna keep 'em all, you can get at least one version of every song he did over these 4 shows.

More music on the way soon -- if not tonight, then tomorrow.

Acknowledgment again to Jeffen at Music Ruined My Life for finding the photo above, and for all the great GP posts he's put up in the past week. Check 'em out!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Graham Parker, Live in London 1991 (opening for the fella on the left)

I can't handle bittorrents. I don't know why, but I've always had really sketchy luck downloading 'em. I'd say my success rate has been something like 5% at getting the ones I've tried to. I don't wanna kick off the blog by outing myself as an internet nincompoop, but there ya go.

But thankfully, one -- or rather, four -- torrents that did work for me were these four great solo sets from Graham Parker, opening for Mr. Bob Dylan in February, 1991 at London's famous Hammersmith Odeon. To me, this period of GP's long career, at the cusp of the '90s, was very rewarding, even if it didn't always reach the stratospheric heights of those first three albums with The Rumor. This was where the angry young rocker transformed into an older, wiser singer-songwriter. And I love the Mona Lisa's Sister and Struck By Lightning albums as much as anything else in his catalog.

These four consecutive shows (there was no performance on the 11th) draw heavily from the two albums above, especially the then-new Lightning, and pick a few choice morsels from Parker's earlier career. He really rises to the occasion of opening for a legend, and performing for a discerning and respectful audience. Dylan did a further four dates of this residency (2/13, 15, 16, 17), but I don't know if GP opened those or not, or if so, if there are tapes of those shows, too. Apparently, GP did play support for the Dylan show on 2/5 at the Point Depot in Dublin, too. There was a show at Belfast the following night but, again, no info on GP. If anyone has any insight -- or recordings! -- please let me know.

I love these songs so much that listening to these shows was like a dream come true for me. The sound's a bit trebly, but a little fiddling with EQ should help with that. They are audience recordings, and there is some audible background conversation at some points, which is mildly distracting but never comes close to overpowering the music in volume. I can't really say which show is best; I'd get all four of 'em and assemble your own highlight playlist if you don't think you'll wanna keep all four. Thanks a million to the folks who originally taped, transferred, and posted these files, which I got from those torrents but have never seen anywhere on a music blog. Sorry I went against someone's wishes and made mp3s from the FLAC files, but, yanno... see the prior post for my position on that. Thanks to Jeffen of musicruinedmylife.blogspot.com for finding the great Bob 'n' Graham photo! Bobwatchers will note it's from the legendary Picnic at Blackbushe concert in 1978, not these '91 shows.

Unfortunately, The Mona Lisa's Sister is currently not in print, though it is widely available used, but if you want to pay something for this great music that will actually get back to Graham -- not to mention score yourself an amazing disc, whose studio versions of these songs are downright wonderful, featuring players like John Sebastian and Garth Hudson, and one of my favorite violin parts ever, by Jay Ungar on The Kid with the Butterfly Net -- go buy Struck By Lightning here.

P.S. If there's serious demand, I'll post the original FLAC files too. And this is my first post on my first music blog, so please let me know if there's any problems with downloading, decompressing or playing the files.

NOTE: I realized after posting that these were the 192Kbps transfers I did, not the 320K ones. I might not get to it today (Valentine's) but in the next couple days I will post the higher-res files too. Thanks!

Rare AND well done!

Hi, and welcome to my new blog -- my first ever music sharing site! I've been collecting music for decades, and now own at least 5,000 each of LPs and CDs. And I have an external hard drive just bursting with bootlegs I've acquired online in the last three years or so.

In browsing for stuff online, I'm sure you know, you see the same recordings show up over and over again on multiple blogs and sites. Not that that's a bad thing, since it gives more people a better chance to stumble across a great recording. But at the same time, there are a few albums or shows that you search for forever and never find, and others that require so much searching ingenuity and luck on your part that you don't think anyone else could ever find 'em. There are albums that you (well, I) would gladly pay for if they were in print or affordable, but whose used copies sell for dozens or hundreds of dollars on Amazon and eBay. And you might also have a few old cassettes with rare boots you've never gotten around to digitizing and sharing, or videotapes with rare TV appearances that haven't yet been seen on YouTube; I sure do.

So I'm going to post some rare stuff here which I have, but haven't seen widely available online, and some rare stuff I've found online that isn't out there to be found too easily. I hope it finds an appreciate audience. Comments are always welcome, but I know I've downloaded from plenty of blogs that I never bothered to comment on, so I'll forgive you if you don't!

[A note to anyone who may get upset if I re-post files or album rips you've done and originally posted: Seriously? Give me a break. You're helping yourself to the labor and artistry of countless musicians, engineers, producers, etc. without remunerating them, and now you're going to turn around and act all proprietary about what you've copied? Sorry, but that is such a height of hypocrisy it's dizzying to look down from. I'll give credit where I'm able to sources where I found something, but if it was originally "yours", I hope you'll kindly allow it to be shared again -- that's why it's called "sharing". And the same goes for telling me not to convert your precious FLAC files to mp3. This music is not your property. If it's anyone's, it's the artist's and THEY probably wouldn't even want you to convert it into FLAC files in the first place! This is not to say I don't greatly appreciate those whose efforts have enabled the sharing of so much great music. You just have to know when to let it go.]

OK, now that that's out of the way, let's open up the vault and dig in to... The Rare Stuff!