Back in the saddle!

Shoreham-By-Sea bathed in late winter sun

Shoreham-By-Sea bathed in late winter sun

Two weeks ago tomorrow the Doc said it was OK to get back to doing things normally – it was just what I wanted to hear- yippie.

Common sense prevailed and on Saturday afternoon I went out on bike –  I picked an easy sea-front ride from Hove Lagoon to Durrington and back (about 20 miles).

As I wheeled my bike out my garage hail stones fell but they had stopped by the time I started riding. And not a drop came out the sky ’till I finished, when the heavens opened in a cloud burst!

For the ride I chose to head into the wind on the way out and have it behind me on the way back – it worked a treat! And I had the added bonus of stopping for a cuppa and chat with Martin and Joy at the half way point and listening to a Tunisian Jazz singer.  20 miles without a twinge – so good so far.

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IMG_2403I am now looking forward to some muddy adventures and re-starting the year after one too many of lifes challenges been thrown our way.

To close today I would like to spare a thought for the person (assumed bike rider) we believed passed away  near the top of the Wrekin on Sunday – I was walking up the Wrekin with Charly and my 90-year-old Father in Law watching MTB’rs climbing up the hill and feeling a bit of envy, while Val followed behind on crutches while her ankle heals.  Near the top we had to stop to allow an Air Ambulance to land – it was a sad scene watching CPR from a distance even for a few seconds while you are working out what is going on. And I will also spare a thought for my dear SMiL who passed away yesterday morning.

 

 

 

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2, 2 and 2

An English Village Green in February

An English Village Green in February

This weekend has been somewhat dampened by a head lurgy –  with that comes a few hours of sitting doing not much and having time for introspection – nothing earthshattering – but the number 2 came up a lot – as did the challenges of keeping fit while ageing.

So why 2?

Well it is now only two weeks until I will be able to get back on my bike (yippeee) and it is two weeks post Op!

It is two months since I was able to ride my bike off-road in earnest, and

That when I will be able to ride my bike again it will be two years from when I went for my first post redundancy ride (a gap in a very cold cold windy Febrauary) where I  was so excited that I got ½ a mile down the road and headbutted the tarmac hard – thankfully my helmet did its job otherwise I am sure I would not be here – it took a long time to feel normal again – and this is a reminder to myself to be careful this time round.

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Let’s go surfin’ – Listening to the Analogue Productions Beach Boy vinyl reissues while it snows

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Judging by the hits on my blog, by far and away the most popular thing I have written  about (and I didn’t write that much) was about the upcoming vinyl record re-issues by Analogue Productions of some of the Beach Boys catalogue. AP  have picked 13 lp’s to re-issue with some being both issued in the stereo and mono versions.

Note: Since he announcement some of the remainder of the catalogue has been re-issued by Capitol Records.

First off the presses just before Christmas were the Boy’s first five lp’s in mono; Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA, Surfer Girl, Little Deuce Coupe and Shut Down Vol.2.

So far I have dipped my toe in the pool with Surfer Girl.

Before I get to how the lp looks and sounds I will ramble a bit about the Beach Boys…

Around the age of 11 I became aware of the Beach Boys records – I had bought singles by the Beatles and Hollies and others then POW I became aware of the Beach Boy’s. This is long before the days of internet and TV and Radio channels galore. Records were expensive and as a 11 year old I didn’t have a hope in Hell’s  chance of  affording an full-price lp.  Early in 1970 saw a couple of budget price Beach Boy compilations released (one on Star Line and one on MFP).  At last I had not one but two Beach Boy lp’s! And they got pretty well played on an old Dansette Record Player.  I still have the records – can’t quite bring myself to bin them.

Not long after, three things happened; I started a paper round (££££), the Beach Boys became rather un-hip and stereo had fully taken over from mono in the lp world.  The upside of this was I was able to pick up a number of their albums in mono at around half price (19/11 in old money) in Record Shop sales. Some I never saw,  but I picked up about half of them. The down side was I liked an un-hip band (not good at school for image!) but they just seemed so much better than most of the Prog Rock bands records classmates had under their arms.

As I went through my teens my taste developed and widened but even to this day I still love some of the old BB records.   As I came on to them later than many I didn’t struggle with how their music changed and actually prefer their post Pet Sounds output (up to and including Holland) to their earlier records, and while occasionally play their later recordings I rarely play the early stuff – and when I do it is in the car – just how they were made to be heard originally – mixed for the car radio.

So back to Surfer Girl – it was one of those I picked up half price – and is what appears to be an original UK mono pressing – I lost it to my big brother for a while (he liked the Surfin’ songs! but he did take me, as a 14 year old,  to see the Boy’s play the Brighton Dome on their Carl and the Passions tour) and I picked up a tatty but playable early US copy in my days of selling records at the Brighton Record Fair (where are you Mart?). So I was able to see how the AP Surfer Girl compares to two records made when the source tapes were still fresh!

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Here I may disappoint you – all three sounded pretty darn good – none got in the way of the listening pleasure – it is amazing how even a well played record can sound.  Nit picking, I could play the AP re-issue louder as it presented a clearer picture but wonder if they have cut the vocals too hot, or maybe I need to tweak my cartridge? Yes there were differences, but all have the same “sound” and  the vocals, and instruments weave their magic in the medium size mono soundstage – remember it is a 1963 acoustic – don’t expect miracles – and different systems may well bring out greater differences – but after a few seconds I just got dragged into enjoying the music and marvelling at the brilliance and artistry of Brian Wilson and the Boys – Brian  would have been 20 or 21 at the time of making this record – astounding.

The AP reissue sleeve is very high quality and picks up the essence of the original although I am not sure what happened to the colouring of the photo on the cover which – see above photos of the US and UK originals.

Well done to all those involved in the re-issue programme – I am struggling to remember the last time these were available on vinyl as the Surfer Girl lp.  There was the mo-fi issue in the late ’80’s and in ’94 in the US all the Capitol lp’s were re-issued but in the UK it must be 40 years ago and realistically the re-issue will be cheaper than a good original.

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John Coltrane’s – “Afr0 Blue Impressions” – the Vinyl reissue

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The “Teaser and the Firecat” episode earlier today  reminded me of this…

Afro Blue Impressions – 4 sides of the John Coltrane Quartet recorded live in Stockholm and Berlin in late 1963.    This is a solid recording of The Quartet during the Impulse years and near its peak – it was not released ’til the late ’70’s some 10 years after JC’s passing.

I like the Pablo Live JC albums – they capture the atmosphere and performance – maybe they are not the essential JC albums – but if you like JC then you should have them – the Quartet space out and are released to play.

Above left you have the cover of the original Pablo Issue –  it looks vibrant. On the right you have the 2014 re-issue – rather black and white, arty and sterile?  In this instance, for me, the covers quite nicely capture the difference in sound. I bought the reissue as I had not managed to find a good Pablo copy  – it sounded clear and crisp – but uninvolving and yes it was boring – for me the life had been drained from the performance – I took the record off after about a minute.  Later I looked and found a cheap secondhand original Pablo copy.  I played the original and it felt real and involving – like you are there.  Why did I feel like that? What is the difference?  I can only guess that the re-issue is from a CD equivalent resolution file that has lost the fine detail. Or maybe I am going mad.

 

 

 

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Remastered? Cat Stevens “Teaser and the Firecat” – The vinyl revival 2015

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Yesterday I commented on some of the excellent records issued or reissued over the last year.  Alas things are not always that straightforward.

I had seen an advert saying that Cat Stevens 1970 lp Teaser and the Firecat  was to be issued in the Back to Black/Sound of Vinyl series on the 12th Jan 2015. This is a really nice album of gentle songs – a classic of the genre.

It is out, and, as you might be able to see, it states 180 Gram Vinyl Remastered on the packaging.  I took that to mean that as it was a new reissue it had been freshly remastered.  Remastering is not always a good thing – it all depends who does it and what source they have. But based on recent experiences from Universal I had expected good things.

Mmmm this time I was wrong. It isn’t bad, but it is bass heavy and I am sure it could sound a lot better – it really looks and sounds as though the stampers from an earlier release c 2001 have been just dusted off and used again.  So if you have the 180gm release from c 2001 and wanted improved sound don’t bother.  I would have really hoped for better as I understood this was due for the High Quality Analogue Productions treatment until the money men or similar got involved and only Tea for the Tillerman was released.

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By co-incidence I just happen to be reading Mystery in White while the anesthetic from Monday finally works out of my system. It was written by Jefferson Farjeon – a major author between the two world wars – and whose sister wrote the words of Morning Has Broken (Track 2 Side 2 of Teaser and the Firecat).

 

 

 

 

 

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The vinyl revival – a quick look back at some of the highlights of 2014

The vinyl revival seems to be continuing at quite a pace if the number of new and re-releases are anything to go by – I am struggling to remember a year like it and can’t help wondering when the bubble will burst. Anyway I thought I would pick out  some of the highlights and pass on my observations in case you missed some of them.

Rock 

The how it should be done award for a major label goes to The Beatles LP’s in Mono cut from the Analogue Masters at Abbey Road – not the digital copies used for the mono CD issue of a few years ago or like used for the stereo releases – and with special care taken on the sleeves and labels –  what I have heard of them they sound great – 10 out 10.

Folk 

Another  award to Universal Music.  Back in the summer Island Records, in the Back to Black series did themselves proud with their re-release of 4 ” folk” albums from the late ’60’s and early ’70’s mastered from the Original Analogue Tapes,  and very nicely presented. I think they sound really good (but do not have originals to compare them to).  Even the 3rd re-release  in as many years of the brilliant solid gold classic I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight is welcome (the other two were by Simply Vinyl – presented with the back cover missing the credits and then a US RTI pressed Wax Cathedral issue).

John Martyn london conversation Liege & Lief Sandy Denny North Star       Richard and Linda IWTSTBLT

Classical

Well Analogue Productions are revamping some of the RCA Living Stereo titles previously issued by Classic Records, Hi-Q are still issuing records and then there have been some UM Box Sets, but the releases that caught my eye have been;  the Berliner Philharmoniker and London Philharmonic ventures into vinyl with a box set apiece,  Deutsche Gramophone have released some new recordings on vinyl. And the Electric Recording Company have released 5 more of their stunning lp’s.

And then there is Isang Enders recording of the Bach Cello Concertos for Berlin Classics – OK, OK, it is a digital recording but I just like the way this young man  plays the concertos – so full of life – quite a comparison to the highly rated Janos Starker set on Speakers Corner/Mercury Living Presence which I found a bit drab and cloying.

Isang enders

 

Jazz

Well my main Jazz focus in 2014 was John Coltrane’s Impulse years and so my pick of the year is the Resonance Records release of JC recorded on 11th November 1966 and issued as Offering: Live at  Temple University (recorded not a week before  Joni Mitchell played at Temple and captured as Live at the 2nd Fret –  and just 6 weeks after JC’s 40th birthday). Please note the sound quality is limited – don’t expect HiQ Audio – but it succeeds where some of the Dylan 50th 1964 box didn’t – is it the cleverness in mastering?

But for re-releases Music Matters have completed their first run of titles at 33.3rpm to much acclaim; AP continue their trawl of the Prestige catalogue while ECM have also been delving into the back catalogue and issuing new vinyl editions.

Blue Note have been very impressive celebrating 75 years by digitally archiving and making countless vinyl re-issues at reasonable cost from the new masters (untried).

Similarily Back to Black  have also been delving back to their 50’s and 60’s catalogues.

The archive delving award 

This must go to the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series Volume 11; The Basement Tapes. Frustrating if you want the the vinyl edition  and the complete Basement Tape recordings.  As essential as the Smile set from a couple of years ago.  And much better than the disappointing copyright saving 1964 50th Anniversary Set.

The mail order only award

This has to be the glorious Vault release from Third Man Records of the manic Jack White, Live at Bonnaroo (2014) – still can’t quite work out why I like him…..

Other notables

Asylum/Warner Brothers/Sire are still sneaking out some re-issue gems, cut by Chris Bellman, and issued at a reasonable price while you are not looking – I noticed them filling gaps in their Talking Heads vinyl catalogue, an Otis Redding release, the two Reprise Gram Parson’s  albums as well as Joni Mitchell’s Hejira and 5 or 6 Eagles albums recently. Oh and the second Neil Young studio archive box appeared – lp’s 5 to 8 - Time Fades Away, On The Beach, Tonights The Night and Zuma. And I almost forgot a rather fine Captain Beefheart Box – Sun Zoom Spark 1970-1972  to sit alongside the reissued Apostrophe (Zappa).

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Parlophone sneaked out the 3 Harvest label Syd Barret lp’s – Barrett,  The Madcap Laughs and Opel and they sound really good to my ears!

Early in the year there was the lovely lp by the Haden Triplets – daughters of jazz bassist Charlie Haden (who sadly passed away in 2014) – produced by Ry Cooder – and issued on Third Man Records.

And the list goes on and on……

  • the expanded versions of the first 5 Led Zeppelin lp’s
  • an 8 lp box set of Deep Purple’s Made in Japan
  • a 4 lp box set of Queen at the Rainbow
  • a box of the the first 7 Springsteen lp’s
  • 2 more Grateful Dead Live RSD Releases and Two from the Vault (a Kevin Gray cut)
  • Miles Davis Bootleg Series 3 – Live at the Fillmore
  • Mo-Fi continue their 3D programme (Dylan, Davis  and Dead)
  • a Cream box set……….

And this is not to mention current music, soul, reggae and other genres I know little about……

Nor the impending Beach Boys Analogue Productions collection hitting this side of the Atlantic.

 

 

 

 

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Saying goodbye to Henry

Really this is silly – I chose to give my Hernia a name – how mad is that?

Anyway, as many will know, injury and body failure can cause quite a shift in what you can and can’t do – it has been a massive reminder how tough it can be especially when you get old and frail.

For me walking has become troublesome, cycling on road just about manageable and cycling off road is a complete no no -?but I am grateful it is curable. I have massive admiration for those who have to live with the incurable.

So today I am sitting waiting for an Op to repair it – I have an hour to go before they trolley me off – and the anxiety is building.

It will be probably 4 weeks before I can cycle again and some parts of me might turn black and blue pretty soon.

Plenty of time for reflection.

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