Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Band - "Once Upon a Time"


The usual story line with a band breaking up is a lot of acrimony and bitterness. That wasn't the case with The Band. Yes, there were some grumblings toward the end of the original lineup, but in general the members remained on good terms. They even threw a farewell concert bash in 1976 with a bunch of celebrity friends.

Eventually some of the band members would reunite, but I wanted to look at the possibility of what an album might have been had The Band not bid adieu.

SIDE A
1. Washer Woman
2. What a Town
3. New Mexicoe
4. Blues So Bad
5. Sing, Sing, Sing (Let's Make a Better World) 

SIDE B
1. Java Blues
2. Sip the Wine
3. Milk Cow Boogie
4. Shake It
5. Once Upon a Time


Rick Danko was the first Band member to issue a solo album (self titled), and each of his former band members performed on one song each. So I've included all four. Garth Hudson played accordion on "New Mexicoe," Robbie Robertson played lead guitar on "Java Blues," Richard Manuel played piano on "Shake It" and Levon Helm sang harmony on "Once Upon a Time."

Levon Helm's 1977 solo debut, Levon Helm and the RCO All-Stars, included the track "Sing, Sing, Sing (Let's Make a Better World)" which included Robertson on guitar and Hudson on accordion. So that's included. 

Robertson didn't record a solo album until 1987, Hudson didn't release a solo album until 2001, and Manuel never released a solo album while he was alive so we don't have anything from them other than the contributions they made to the above listed tracks. 

So to fill out the album, we need to use more Danko and Helm songs. Since both of their albums had 10 tracks, that's what I decided to keep this Band album.

From Helm's album I included "Washer Woman" because it was the opening track, "Blues So Bad" because it's the only song on the album that Helm co-wrote, and a cover of "Milk Cow Boogie," which Helm arranged and was issued as a single.

From Danko's album I also included "Sip the Wine," the only other tune he wrote alone; and "What a Town," which is the opening track.

This is a pretty good album, and I think it offers a little more variety than the two solo albums provide on their own. The only problem with it is the lack of writing credits from Robertson, who had written a bulk of the The Band's songs. But since Robertson was the lone hold out when the group reformed in 1983, maybe think of this as a prelude to The Band 2.0.

I named the album Once Upon a Time, the only track that has both Helm's and Danko's vocals. For a cover, I used a photo I found on the web of the Bodie ghost town and cropped it.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Jefferson Starship - "Freedom at Point Zero" (Balin/Slick version)



Jefferson Starship rose from the ashes of Jefferson Airplane in 1974. After substantial initial success, things came apart in 1978. Singer Grace Slick was battling alcoholism and eventually asked to leave the group. And singer Marty Balin had been reluctant to tour, and left the group later that year as well.

To replace the group's lead singers and front people, Mickey Thomas (formerly of the Elvin Bishop Group) was hired and the band issued the album Freedom at Point Zero in 1979. It was the first (and only) Jefferson Starship album that didn't include either Slick or Balin. But with the hit single "Jane," the album was a big success.

However, I wanted to see what a Jefferson Starship album could have been had Slick and Balin remained and Thomas not hired.

SIDE A
1. Freedom at Point Zero (Climbing Tiger Mountain through the Sky)
2. Hearts
3. Do It the Hard Way
4. Lightning Rose (Carry the Fire)
5. Lydia!

SIDE B
1. Seasons
2. Girl with the Hungry Eyes
3. Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)
4. Things to Come
5. Garden of Man

To recreate this album, I removed songs that prominently featured Thomas on lead vocals. I then looked to Slick's and Balin's solo albums for additional material.

Slick released her second solo album Dreams in 1980. From this I chose three songs (all written by her): "Seasons" (which was released as a single), "Do It the Hard Way" and "Garden of Man." "Seasons" has a kind of "Those were the Days" type chorus and certainly adds a bit more dimension to the album. "Do It the Hard Way" is a rock ballad and "Garden of Man" has a mystical quality.

Balin didn't release his first solo album until 1981, titled simply Balin. The material would have been recorded a little late for a 1979 Jefferson Starship album obviously, but maybe the band would have needed some time to get its act together had both Balin and Slick remained. Despite the fact that Balin had been a fairly prolific songwriter with both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, he only had one writing credit on this album: "Lydia!" (which he co-wrote), a relatively uptempo pop-rock song. I also included the two songs that were released as singles, "Hearts," a hit at the time; and "Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)," a fairly standard ballad. Both were written by Jesse Barrish, who also wrote "Count on Me," a hit song from Jefferson Starship's Earth album, so I figured they were good candidates for this.

The songs I kept from the original Freedom at Point Zero album are ones written by Paul Kantner ("Lightning Rose" was co-written with his and Slick's daughter, China). Besides "Lightning Rose" I also included the title song, "Girl with the Hungry Eyes" and "Things to Come." Kantner obviously likes three-part harmony lead vocals and all the tracks feature this. I think kicking off the album with the title song is an improvement overall. All are more rocking than Slick's or Balin's songs.

I think that this version offers a lot more variety than the actual album -- not just because there are three lead singers, but also because there's just more dimension in the songwriting.

Since I'm including the title song, I didn't see a reason for changing the title of the album. And if we're not changing the album title, I didn't see the need to change the album's artwork.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cream - "Goodbye" (double album version)


Hey, it's my birthday! Let's get through this quickly so I can get back to eating cake.

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Note: I had essentially completed this entry for the blog several months ago, and added it to the queue. In the meantime, The Reconstructor created his own version of this album. I only point this out to show that this is a case of "great minds...." rather than me just piggybacking on other people's work. Enjoy.

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Cream sort of stumbled to the finish line. The band's last tour had triumphs and pitfalls, and its last album was completed with live renditions as filler. In fact, the original plan for the band's final album, Goodbye, was to have it be a double album like its predecessor Wheels of Fire -- with one disc of studio tracks and one disc of live tracks. 

However, bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker often feuded, and guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton was ready to move on to something else. So to fulfill the band's contract, Goodbye featured just three studio tracks, and the rest was filled with tracks that had been recorded live in October 1968 at the L.A. Forum.

I decided to take a stab at creating a double album as originally envisioned.

SIDE A
1. The Clearout
2. Presence of the Lord
3. Anyone for Tennis
4. The Coffee Song
5. Lawdy Mama
6. Weird of Hermiston
7. What a Bringdown

SIDE B
1. Badge
2. Doing that Scrapyard Thing
3. Do What You Like

SIDE C
1. I'm So Glad
2. Politician
3. Rollin' and Tumblin'

SIDE D
1. N.S.U.
2. Sleepy Time Time
3. Sitting on Top of the World

Even when gathering the studio tracks from Goodbye, a non-album single track and a couple of outtakes, I found myself still not having enough songs for the studio sides. This is because despite Cream's live interpretations of songs that could run as long as 20 minutes or more, their studio tracks were often almost comically short. So to fill out Sides A and B, I decided to raid Blind Faith's and Bruce's debut albums.

Since Blind Faith included both Clapton and Baker, as well as Steve Winwood (who Clapton had earlier tried to bring into Cream to revitalize the band), the inclusion of a couple of their songs is not that far-fetched. The two songs I chose from Blind Faith were Clapton's "Presence of the Lord" and Baker's "Do What You Like." 

From Bruce's Songs of a Sailor solo album, I picked two tracks that had originally been intended for Cream's Disraeli Gears album: "The Clearout" and "Weird of Hermiston."

Besides "Badge," "Doing That Scrapyard Thing" and "What a Bringdown" from Goodbye, I also included "Anyone for Tennis" and "The Coffee Song," from non-album singles, and "Lawdy Mama," the one studio track on Live Cream. Tied together, these tracks make up the "studio sides" of the album.

Although a box set of live tracks recorded at four shows (Oakland, L.A., San Diego and London) during the 1968 tour was recently released, I decided to concentrate on only those tracks that were initially released from this tour. My reasoning is that the band, record company or both considered them the best of the bunch. About a year after Goodbye was released, an album with four live tracks (all recorded in March '68 in San Francisco) and one studio track (recorded in '67) was released called Live Cream.

For Sides C and D (the "live sides") of this album, I took all the live tracks from Goodbye and Live Cream, except one: "Sweet Wine." At 15:16, the song was simply too long to fit in if we're going to work within the time constraints of a vinyl album.

The final result is pretty good, I think. The Bruce and Blind Faith tracks don't jump out as being so completely different from Cream. And considering both albums came out about the same time and so very soon after Goodbye, it's reasonable to assume that they could have been included had the group lasted longer.

I kept the cover the same as the released version of the album.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Byrds - "Blackbyrd Pye"


Gram Parsons' time in The Byrds was short, and it's difficult to discern how much of an impact he really had on the band. He did convince the rest of the band, specifically Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman, to record a country album rather than McGuinn's idea of one that took on multiple music genres (see our earlier post: https://albumsbackfromthedead.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-byrds-20-c.html).

The result was Sweetheart of the Rodeo, and while that album is highly rated today, it was a commercial disappointment at the time. Byrds fans didn't want a country album, and country music fans didn't care for The Byrds. After Parsons refused to take part in the Byrds' tour of South Africa, McGuinn and Hillman fired him.

Strangely, a few months later Hillman quit The Byrds to join Parsons in a new band called The Flying Burrito Brothers. That band's debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, came out in February 1969. By the time a new Byrds album, Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, was released a month later, McGuinn was not only the last original member of the band, but the only one remaining from the lineup that recorded the previous album.

For this outing, I wanted to put together an album that might have come out had McGuinn, Hillman and Parsons remained together for another Byrds album.

SIDE A
1. Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man
2. Sin City
3. My Uncle
4. Child of the Universe
5. Bad Night at the Whiskey
6. Christine's Tune 

SIDE B
1. Wheels
2. King Apathy III
3. Old Blue
4. Juanita
5. Hippie Boy
6. Stanley’s Song

For material, I took songs from both The Gilded Palace of Sin and Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. I didn't include any tunes that were written by other members of the respective bands. I also didn't include any of the cover tunes, other than "Old Blue," a traditional song McGuinn arranged.

The album opens with "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," a Byrds song McGuinn and Parsons co-wrote before Parsons was shown the door. This is followed by two Parsons-Hillman songs from the Burritos' album: "Sin City" and "My Uncle." Two songs McGuinn co-wrote with friends come next ("Child of the Universe" and "Bad Night at the Whiskey"), and the first side closes with another Parsons-Hillman song, "Christine's Tune."

The second side opens with "Wheels," just as it does on The Gilded Palace of Sin. McGuinn's "King Apathy III" and the previously mentioned "Old Blue" follow. Two more Hillman-Parsons penned songs, "Juanita" and "Hippie Boy," come next before the album closes with "Stanley's Song," an outtake from Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.

Since neither The Gilded Palace of Sin and Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde sold very well, it's doubtful that this album would have made a bigger dent in the charts. However, it might have been welcomed by critics at the time, and might be well-regarded today.

All tracks are from either The Gilded Palace of Sin or the expanded version of  Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.

For a title to this album, I did a lot of pondering. I don't like the name Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde and I assume The Gilded Palace of Sin is related to the song "Sin City" and Vegas, but it doesn't really do anything for me. I started thinking about country music and that led me to think about comfort food, and for some reason I thought of the line "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" from the the nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence." So I titled this album Blackbyrd Pye.

While searching Google images I came across the one above for a San Clemente pie shop and used that with new titles, including using y's for i's as the Byrds often liked to do.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Fleetwood Mac - "The Challenge"


The 1980s weren't a good time for 1960s/1970s rock stars. Synthesizers and drum machines used on records, neon clothes and break dancing used in videos, and a lot of hair product just didn't fit most of them. They often sounded and looked ridiculous, and 30 or more years later the music and images can make you wince or laugh.

Fleetwood Mac struggled with hits and misses in the 1980s, both as a group and solo endeavors. Lindsey Buckingham tried to reinvent Fleetwood Mac for the 1980s beginning with the double album Tusk, which alienated a lot of fans at the time. And while the band had hits going forward, it never really recovered. The band has split up, changed lineups and recorded and toured sporadically, always with a lot of internal drama.

After 1982's Mirage, Fleetwood Mac didn't release another album until Tango in the Night in 1987.

In 1984, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham released solo albums. Stevie Nicks released ones in 1983 and 1985. I took on "the challenge" of choosing tracks from a solo album of each of them to create what could have been a 1984/1985 Fleetwood Mac album.

SIDE A
1. The Challenge
2. Go Insane
3. Rock a Little (Go Ahead Lily)
4. I Must Go
5. I Sing for Things
6. Got a Hold on Me

SIDE B
1. Who’s Dreaming the Dream
2. Bang the Drum
3. One More Big Time Rock and Roll Star
4. Slow Dancing
5. The Smile I Live For
6. No Spoken Word


It's interesting that on both Mirage and Tango of the Night, only three of Stevie's songs were included on each. In this case, I decided to go the democratic way and included four songs from each of the band's three primary songwriters.

Christine's self-titled solo album includes four tracks that feature Lindsey on either guitar, vocals or both. So those are the ones I chose for this album. The songs include "The Challenge," "Got a Hold on Me," "Who's Dreaming the Dream" and "The Smile I Live For." I was tempted to include also "Love will Show Us How" since it was one of the singles from the album, but then it throws things out of balance. I was also tempted to use the track "Ask Anybody" because it includes Mick Fleetwood on drums. But in the end, I felt that Lindsey's contributions were more recognizable than Mick's.

From Lindsey's Go Insane album I chose the title track, "I Must Go," "Bang the Drum" and "Slow Dancing." A lot of the Go Insane album includes musical experimentation, including a lack of drums (a drum machine was used throughout). These songs seemed to me to be the most commercial, which is why I chose them for this.

For Stevie's contributions from Rock a Little, I picked three songs that she wrote alone: "Rock a Little (Go Ahead Lily)," "I Sing for Things" and "No Spoken Word." That means not including the big hit from her album, "I Can't Wait." This song was co-written by Jimmy Iovine and Rick Nowells and just feels like it was written very separate from something she would have done for Fleetwood Mac -- in my opinion anyway. In addition, I included the song "One More Big Time Rock and Roll Star" that was issued as a non-album B-side of a single.

For a cover, it would be nice to have a group shot from 1984 or 1985, but there are none that I know of. I decided to use something that fit with the title of The Challenge, which I took from Christine's song and seems symbolic of the band itself. After searching around the web for far too long, I eventually chose a a background of hearts and used a 1982 photo of the band and did a little Photoshopping.


Sunday, May 3, 2020

Uncle Tupelo - "Sinko"



Yet another "What if the band had stayed together" album. This time around I looked at what could have been Uncle Tupelo's fifth album had the main songwriters Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy managed to keep it together for one more recording.

In the real world, Jeff and Jay couldn't stand each other by the end of the promotional tour for Uncle Tupelo's final album, Anodyne. Jay formed a new band called Son Volt, and Jeff and the rest of Uncle Tupelo reformed as Wilco.

In creating a new Uncle Tupelo album, I used six tunes each from Son Volt's and Wilco's debut albums, Trace and A.M.

1. Windfall
2. I Must Be High
3. Casino Queen
4. Tear Stained Eye
5. Box Full of Letters
6. Route
7. Shouldn’t Be Ashamed
8. Pick Up the Change
9. Drown
10. Loose String
11. Out of the Picture
12. Passenger Side

From Trace I included "Windfall," "Tear Stained Eye," "Route," "Drown," "Loose String" and "Out of the Picture" (all written by Farrar). And from A.M. I included "I Must be High," "Casino Queen," "Box Full of Letters," "Shouldn't be Ashamed," "Pick Up the Change" and "Passenger Side" (all written by Tweedy).

I think this actually flows together fairly well. Could this have been Uncle Tupelo's big breakthrough? We'll never know of course, but it's interesting to speculate. Trace charted higher than any Uncle Tupelo album, and A.M., while not selling as well when it was released, was received highly by critics and fans.

I titled the album Sinko as a play on "cinco" and this being what could have been the band's fifth album, and the fact that the band was falling apart.

For an album cover, I found this picture online of the old clock in the town square of Bellesville, Ill., where Uncle Tupelo was formed. Unfortunately, the photo was a bit small. Maybe I'll try to replace it later with something better.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Veruca Salt - "Rub Her Soul"




Veruca Salt seemed to have a lot going for it. Fronted by Louise Post and Nina Gordon, the group alternated from catchy power pop to grunge, perfect for the '90s. But since Gordon's more pop-oriented music was what ended up on the radio and MTV, it may have been inevitable that friction would develop. 

Gordon left the group in 1998 for a solo career, and Post continued with Veruca Salt with all new members other than herself. And both released new albums in 2000. It occurred to me that if you took the best of both albums, you could have something that might resemble what a third album by the group could have been had the split not have happened.
  1. Same Person
  2. Alone With You
  3. Wet Suit
  4. Like It Happens Everyday
  5. Yeah Man
  6. Unsafe at Any Speed
  7. Imperfectly
  8. Number One Camera
  9. Officially Dead
  10. Badway
  11. Hellraiser
  12. Tonight and the Rest of My Life
To narrow down the choices, I decided against Post's "Born Entertainer" and "Only You Know" and Gordon's "Black and Blonde" as they seem to be angry bashes of each other.

I think it's interesting that Gordon seems to have shied away from the pop-rock that had been successful with Veruca Salt, and instead focused on ballads. Three of her more rock-oriented songs didn't make the cut for her solo debut. But I've included two -- "Alone with You" and "Unsafe at Any Speed" -- here as they both would have made good Veruca Salt songs, I think. I also took the two most rocking songs from the solo album -- "Badway" and "Number One Camera." Finally, I also added "Tonight and the Rest of My Life" since it was the album's title cut.

From Resolver, the Veruca Salt album that Post released on her own, I chose "Same Person," "Wet Suit," "Yeah Man," "Imperfectly," "Officially Dead" and "Hellraiser" as I think they are the best of the bunch. 

And then it was simply a matter of weaving the songs together to make a nice 12-track album. To my ears, this is a better result than the two albums that were released. I like the alternating of lead vocalists and the combination of hard rock and power pop that was Veruca Salt's signature.

Since Veruca Salt used plays on Beatles titles as well as some song references, I did the same here by titling it Rub Her Soul. For a cover, I found this image of boot prints by Gavin Turk and added the titles.