Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Psychobabble’s Ten Greatest Albums of 1976!

By 1976, Rock & Roll was in dire shape. The best work of the genre’s old guard—The Who, The Stones, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, The ex-Beatles—was behind them. Pretentious prog rockers clogged arenas with their endless bluster. Crushingly dull soft poppers polluted the top twenty with “Dream Weaver” and “Let Your Love Flow”. The dull mechanism of disco had already begun to grind. Then up from the underground swooped a host of new artists intent on recapturing the vitality and brevity that made Rock & Roll so meaningful in the first place. Punk was still a year away from pervading, and the New Wave was even further off, but groups like The Ramones, The Damned, Blondie, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers provided the first flavors of a new movement devoted to good old Rock & Roll. A change had come, and whether young artists were raging away with refreshing vigor or old ones were winding down with their final major statements, 1976 was a time of revitalization. Here are ten of the most vital records released during that transitional year.

10. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap - AC/DC

The first half of the ‘70s was largely defined by post-Sgt. Pepper’s intellectualism, whether it was being played by the real deal (nerdy Genesis and King Crimson) or dumb guys posing (Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, who admittedly, both did a damn good job of it). Australia’s AC/DC were dumb guys rip-roaringly proud of being dumb guys. Their formula of sinewy power chords, metronomic drumming, lavatory-wall humor, and Bon Scott’s leering shrieks was the perfect soundtrack to tooling around in a muscle car with the wind blowing through your mullet while chucking empty cans of Bud out the window. And wasn’t this more the essence of Rock & Roll than eleven-minute odes to Tolkien? Legions of devoted fans who stuck with AC/DC through more than thirty years of releasing the same album over and over would certainly agree. But what an album it is! AC/DC’s third version of the AC/DC album is Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and it is as great as any other. Produced by former Easybeats Harry Vanda and George Young—older brother of Angus and Malcolm— Dirty Deeds is particularly pleasurable because it is raw (much more so than Mutt Lange’s more popular but overly polished productions), yet the band is totally tight and the songwriting is as diverse as anyone could expect from AC/DC. The title track is a fist pumper about a hit man who peddles his wares to high school kids! “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to Be a Millionaire)” is long but simple and quite intense: equal parts Chuck Berry boogie and Abbey Road jangle. “Big Balls” is an ultra-stupid and ultra-fun ode to, well, big balls (both the kind that take place in ballrooms and the kind that dangle down the side of Angus Young’s shorts). “Ride On” is that rarest of items: an AC/DC soul ballad. Maybe Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap isn’t your typical AC/DC record after all.

9. Blondie - Blondie

Because they were part of the NYC CBGB crowd, Blondie got lumped in with the punks. Their peers even criticized them as sell outs when they pumped some disco sass into 1979’s “Heart of Glass”. But that backlash wasn’t really fair since Debbie Harry and the boys wore their pop intentions on their well-tailored sleeves from the word “go.” As soon as Clem Burke kicks in the drum beat and Harry begins her ultra-cool recitation at the start of “X-Offender”, it’s unmistakable that Blondie’s reference points are The Shangri-La’s, Phil Spector, ‘60s garage rock, and B-movies. These were The Ramones’ reference points too, but that band squeezed their pop influences through a sieve of MC5 fuzz and Stooges speed. Even with Burke’s Keith Moon-inspired thunder, Blondie played sweet pop cleanly. The fastest thing here is “In the Sun”, which is more reminiscent of Dick Dale surf than Stooges terrorism. The meanest, “Rip Her to Shreds”, is an overt Aftermath pastiche. “Man Overboard” even bears traces of the disco that would cause Blondie so much grief and success a few years later. Blondie is certainly an eclectic affair, although that isn’t always a good thing. The record’s less successful stabs (“Man Overboard”, the noodly “Look Good in Blue”, the over-synthesized “A Shark in Jets Clothing”) expose a new group groping around for their sound. Fortunately, the vast majority of Blondie—“X-Offender”, “Rip Her to Shreds”, “In the Sun”, the swooning “In the Flesh”, “Little Girl Lies”, the tough “Kung Fu Girls”, the goofy conga line “The Attack of the Giant Ants”— shows they eventually found it.

8. Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: 'Some Girls: Deluxe Edition' by The Rolling Stones

As soon as The Rolling Stones moved beyond the rudimentary blues and Chuck Berry homages of their first couple of records, they became Rock & Roll’s greatest bandwagon jumpers. Whether the times were ruled by pop, psychedelia, or the Dylan-led roots revival of the late ‘60s, The Stones were always game and almost always did it better than anyone else. After the rough transition that saw them lose their most polished guitarist, Mick Taylor, and their most competent producer, Jimmy Miller, The Stones got straight on 1978’s Some Girls. Although they’d definitely lost a good deal of true grit in the years that saw them gain the gritty Ronnie Wood but slip into a jet set lifestyle more befitting decadent royalty than decadent Rock stars, Some Girls is a solid selection of ten tracks well steeped in the late ‘70s triumvirate of New York punk, disco, and Smokey and the Bandit-style hick country. This may not be The Stones at the peak of their powers, but it is further proof that they could casually dip into the zeitgeist and come up with a bona-fide winner. Some Girls became their biggest seller and is regularly cited as the band’s last great record.

The new deluxe edition of Some Girls is genuinely fascinating because it reveals that even with all the fashionable posturing entombed on that record, The Stones never lost their love for the earthy Rock & Roll and blues that defined them in their earliest years. Appended to the original album— which is presented as a louder, though not necessarily clearer or punchier, remaster than the 1994 CD—is a bonus disc of The Stones sounding looser and more sincere than they had since 1964. Between channeling Studio 54 on “Miss You” or Johnny Rotten on “Respectable”, The Stones were jamming away on Hank Williams and Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon classics just because they dug them. Along with the covers are untailored originals such as “Claudine”, a lively Rock-a-Billy jam, the pumping blues “So Young”, a close cousin to “Dead Fowers” called “Do You Think I Really Care”, a light-hearted, slightly Latin jaunt called “Don’t Be a Stranger”. Fresh stuff.

A few of these tracks—“No Spare Parts”, “Don’t Be a Stranger”, “You Win Again”—didn’t receive vocal overdubs during the original sessions, so Mick gave them a go in 2011. Because his vocal delivery had already gotten more affected in his current style by the Some Girls sessions, his new vocals don’t stick out as much as they did in the bonus tracks on last year’s deluxe Exile on Main Street. You’d be hard pressed to detect any significant difference between Mick’s delivery on “No Spare Parts” and his work on “Do You Think I Really Care”.

At a non-sprawling twelve tracks, the Some Girls bonus disc creates the pleasing illusion of a long-lost Rolling Stones L.P. If it isn’t essential, it’s certainly a more respectable collection than Black and Blue or Dirty Work. Like Black and Blue, these numbers are more about performance than composition. Unlike Black and Blue, none of them are long-winded or half-hearted. Ultimately, the bonus disc is more of a contrast than a compliment to Some Girls, proof that real hearts still beat in the guys at a time when they seemed to be transforming into automated mimics for good.

Get the Some Girls: Deluxe Edition and the Some Girls box set
— which includes a bonus DVD, a 7”, a hardback book, and other goodies— at Amazon.com.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: 'Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut' by The Who

Like so many Who projects, Quadrophenia is an album universally regarded as a classic yet with some fairly common reservations. Vocalist Roger Daltrey was the first to balk about how his vocals were buried in the original 1973 mix, and others have griped about the balance in subsequence years. Some critics take issue with a song cycle about the R ‘n’ B and power-pop-obsessed Mod cult that bears no trace of those influences. Rather, Pete Townshend’s songs are epic, synthesizer laden, and more than a little proggy, a very ‘70s hard rock extension of his work on the Lifehouse/Who’s Next project. Still, Quadrophenia is a great album because its musical grandiosity is balanced with some of Townshend's most beautiful compositions: "5:15", "I'm One", "The Punk Meets the Godfather", "Love Reign O'er Me", "The Dirty Jobs", to name a few. All the synths and horn overdubs and rhythmic hubbub (which is incredibly impressive) and bellowing can’t trample the torment, regret, and longing that keeps the songs afloat across four sides of vinyl.

The new “Director’s Cut” of Quadrophenia expands that original double-album to five compact discs, including a selection of tracks mixed in 5.1 surround sound (not included in the review package I received from Universal Music Group), and a bonus 7” of “5:15” b/w “Water”. Has the expansion improved The Who’s magnificent mess-terpiece? Depends on Who you ask. Clearly Townshend, who oversaw this box set, was no fan of Bob Pridden’s original mix. This new set is basically Andy Macpherson and Jon Astley’s 1996 remix, which draws out the vocals, and features some minor differences, most notably a bit of feedback at the start of “5:15”. I personally prefer Pridden’s mix. Quadrophenia is the album on which Daltrey began inching toward the bluster that elicited more and more criticism as the ‘70s progressed. The original mix tempers this tendency. He’s too out front on this current mix, which also wipes one of my favorite details from the 1973 mix: the strange seagull-like noises that screech through the final verse of “The Dirty Jobs”.

Because the new mix and master of Quadrophenia is so similar to the one available since 1996, the Director’s Cut’s main selling point is two additional discs of Pete Townshend’s demos. Anyone familiar with the care the composer put into his home recordings knows this is no small thing. Keith Richards once famously said that Townshend’s demos are better than The Who’s final products. This is an exaggeration, and the guitarist’s stilted drumming is no match for Keith Moon’s cascading chaos, nor does his bass work—which is actually quite good—dazzle as John Entwistle’s does. Though a sweeter and more sensitive singer than Daltrey, he strains quite a bit in these recordings, particularly when songs such as “Love Reign O’er Me”, “The Punk Meets the Godfather” (titled “Punk” here), and “I’ve Had Enough” require the kind of climactic power that really was Daltrey’s forte. That being said, these recordings are well-worth hearing. Pete’s “Four Faces” and “Joker James” best the versions recorded by The Who and included on the 1979 Quadrophenia movie soundtrack. “Get Inside” is a poppy nod to The Who of 1966 that probably would have been too cute for the band in '73. “You Came Back” is one of Townshend’s loveliest demos, though it’s unclear how this tale of reincarnation would have fit into the life story of Jimmy the Mod. There’s nothing sketchy about these recordings. The ones that were a bit underdone when Townshend made them almost 40 years ago have been embellished with new drum tracks by Peter Huntington, who played on the “Who” reunion album Endless Wire. This irks some fans, but his work sounds good. Fussing with previously unavailable recordings is not nearly as problematic as remixing the beloved classics on the core album.

Pete Townshend has long had a troubled relationship with The Who, grumbling about how he isn’t a fan of the band while returning to it with the same obsession that seems to control every aspect of his career. It’s unfortunate that he is allowing The Who’s history to become a bit hazy. As of now, considerably altered mixes of My Generation and Who are You are the only ones in print on CD. Live at Leeds and Odds and Sods are more severely changed. Whether these versions improve on the originals is a total matter of preference. I admit I like the expanded Leeds a lot better than the six-track original. Quadrophenia is not as radically different from its first incarnation, but it is different. Pete prefers the remix. That’s all well and good, but there’s something to be said for preservation. As Roger, himself, said in a 2003 interview, “It’s like Picasso taking the painting off the wall of a museum and saying, ‘I think I’m gonna do this a bit better.’ It’s not better; it’ll just be a bit different.” Perhaps it’s time he passes that sound observation along to his bandmate.

Get the Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut at Amazon.com here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kongsgiving



Like all major American holidays, Thanksgiving hauls along a bevy of iconic images and events. Hand-traced turkeys. Black and white clad pilgrims. Nine-hour football games. Monster fanatics who lived in the New York area during the late ‘70s/early ‘80s may have a particularly peculiar association with Thanksgiving. Along with the turkeys and the pilgrims and the parades and the rest, Thanksgiving meant giant apes. That’s because WOR-TV hosted King Kong marathons on Thanksgiving from 1976 to 1985. Every fourth Thursday in November, New Yorkers switched to channel 9 to spend five hours with King Kong, Son of Kong, and honorary Kong flick Mighty Joe Young... not to mention a glut of Crazy Eddie commercials.



I could give you the whole run down of the history of King Kong and WOR-TV, but then I’d just be ripping off a web article about this phenomenon more than I already have. Those of you who still pine for those pre-turkey gorges of King Kong movies (and post-Thanksgiving marathons of Godzilla ones!) should check out Joe Cascio’s terrific piece “Holiday Film Festival…” here. Happy Kongsgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Psychobabble's Best of 2011

As another year approaches its end, let’s take a look back on Psychobabble’s top-reviewed books, CDs, and DVDs of 2011. Each item on each list links to the original review.

The Nine Rockingest Rock Books
9. Rockabilly: The Twang Heard 'Round the World by Michael Dregni
8. The Who By Numbers by Steve Grantley and Alan G. Parker
7. 33 1/3: Marquee Moon by Bryan Waterman
6. Led Zeppelin FAQ by George Case
5. Little Symphonies: A Phil Spector Reader by Kingsley Abbott
4. And on the Piano... Nicky Hopkins by Julian Dawson
3. Beatles for Sale on Parlophone Records by Bruce Spizer and Frank Daniels
2. Butterfly on a Wheel: The Great Rolling Stones Drugs Bust by Simon Wells
1. You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks by Nick Hasted

The Six Most Horrifying Horror Books
6. Boris Karloff as The Invisible Man by Philip J. Riley
5. Shock Value by Jason Zinoman
4. Alien Vault by Ian Nathan
3. Monsters in the Movies by John Landis
2. War Eagles: An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters by David Conover & Philip J. Riley
1. Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster by Stephen Jacobs



The Ten Roundest CDs
11. Flight Log (1966-1976) by Jefferson Airplane
10. Bus Stop/Stop Stop Stop by The Hollies
9. After School Session/Chuck Berry Is on Top by Chuck Berry
8. Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection by Various Artists
7. Quadrophenia: The Director's Cut by The Who
6. Some Girls: Deluxe Edition by The Rolling Stones
5. The Lovin’ Spoonful Reissues
4. Hidden Treasures by Dave Davies and The Kinks
3. The Left Banke Reissues
2. The Kinks Deluxe Editions (Face to Face, Something Else, Arthur)
1. The SMiLE Sessions by The Beach Boys

The Eight Most Videotastic DVDs

8.The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls Live in Texas ’78
7. Motown Gold from the Ed Sullivan Show
6. The Phantom Carriage
5. More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead
4. The Hollies: Look Through Any Window (1963-1975)
3. The Rolling Stones' Ed Sullivan Shows
2. Kuroneko
1. Island of Lost Souls

Monday, November 21, 2011

Psychobabble’s 80th Anniversary ‘Frankenstein’ Companion!

How do you do? I feel it would be a little unkind to present this article without just a word of friendly warning. We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a film that helped establish the horror genre in the earliest stage of sound cinema by introducing one of its keys creatures, one of its key directors, and its ultimate star. The iconic power of Boris Karloff’s performance as that sad, sometimes sadistic Monster attracted legions of steel-hearted viewers to cinemas and inspired the generations of monsters that followed. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation — life and death—and its historical significance, artistry, and… well… pure fun have inspired many an article here on Psychobabble. In celebration of the Monster’s 80th birthday, I have compiled a companion collection of the most substantial Frankenstein writing that has appeared on Psychobabble over this site’s three years. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now's your chance to… well, I warned you.


May 4, 2009: Frankenstein A - Z



Beginning with Dwight Frye’s chilling performance as the sadistic Fritz in James Whales’s Frankenstein, the hunchback assistant became as much of a mainstay of Universal Horror films as werewolves, vampires, and man-made behemoths. Less than a year before taking on Fritz, Frye played the similar role of Renfield in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931). With Frankenstein he got himself good and type cast as a blathering, half-witted sociopath. Although Frye longed to return to the kinds of musical-comedy roles he played prior to first taking on Renfield in Dracula, he will always be remembered as the single greatest player of blathering, half-witted sociopaths ever to limp across a crumbling, Gothic, Hollywood set.



There have been more than 70 Frankenstein and Frankenstein-themed films. There could be 70 more (not an unlikely prospect) and none will ever feature a monster more iconic than the one created by Boris Karloff in the 1931 version of Mary Shelley’s timeless tale. That is a fact you can staple to your back, brothers and sisters, and I’m not just talking about

Friday, November 18, 2011

Review: The Rolling Stones' 'Some Girls Live in Texas '78'

No offense to Ron Wood, but there’s little denying that The Rolling Stones crossed an unfortunate threshold when they lost Mick Taylor in 1974. Heavy drugs, superstardom, and a bloated reputation for hedonism started taking the place of genuine inspiration. If Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll displayed a definite decline in quality from the Exile on Main Street high-point, 1976’s Black and Blue was The Stones at their most desperate, flailing through boring jams and pathetic grasps at trendiness. The sloganeering “Hot Stuff” alone is evidence that the once threatening Rolling Stones had gotten kind of sad. The exploding punk movement of the following year (“No Beatles, Elvis, or The Rolling Stones in 1977!”) didn’t make them seem any more relevant, yet Jagger’s penchant for trend hopping meant his band was going to incorporate those now sounds into their music whether they liked it or not.

Surprisingly, the experiment wasn’t a total failure, and 1978’s Some Girls is regularly cited as The Stones’ last consistently great album of all-new material. After the directionless Black and Blue, Some Girls found them making a calculated effort to write well-realized songs and recapture the most celebrated and condemned aspects of the now-mythic Stones persona: their casual offensiveness and misogyny, their “fuck you” humor, their willingness to explore transgressive topics, as well as their soulfulness and lean muscle.

When The Stones toured Some Girls, that same attitude ruled their performances. The show captured by filmmaker Lynn Lenau Calmes at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, is a testament to this. The Stones work hard, delivering a clutch of classics and most of Some Girls with force and speed without slumping into the sloppiness that sometimes called their “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” status into question. Ronnie Wood has assimilated into the band nicely, recreating Mick Taylor’s slide lines on “All Down the Line” with uncanny ease. This is a professional band playing at the peak of its powers. So why does the guy out front keep drawing attention away from that serious Rock & Roll with his goofy jumping jacks?

As The Stones settled into their professional routine, Mick Jagger settled into his role as clown. At his most self-conscious, he’s absolutely ridiculous in the new DVD Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78, grabbing his and Ronnie’s cocks and mumbling about how the band is weary from fucking all night. Jagger’s attempts to give the people the shocks he thinks they want from the bad, bad Rolling Stones are as inauthentic as the “punk” swastika T-shirt he reveals toward the end of the set. Ooooh! Dangerous!

But amidst all his insufferable posing, Jagger can’t help allowing authenticity to peak through from time to time. Not when he has cats as genuine as Keith and Charlie powering away behind him. So we get moving versions of “Beast of Burden” and “Love in Vain”, even though it’s jarring to see a guy wearing garbage-bag trousers paying tribute to salt-of-the-earth Robert Johnson.

Jagger also deserves credit for the unexpected versatility he displays on this DVD, contributing extra guitar on several numbers and keyboard parts on “Far Away Eyes”. And if much of his stage shenanigans are ludicrous, it’s refreshing to see such a lack of spectacle at a show that took place after The Stones had become a splashy juggernaut. There are no inflatable boners. The stage is small and intimate. The supporting musicians are limited to official sixth-Stone Ian Stewart and Ronnie’s former bandmate Ian McLagan on keyboards. And let’s face it, even if this isn’t prime-era Stones when one could really be in awe of everything they ape here, it’s still the fucking Stones, which means the guys still put on a damn good concert.

Along with embalming Jagger’s silliest tendencies and grabbing some genuinely mean music, Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78 also features a great selection of bonuses. There are vintage and new interviews in which Mick comes off as infinitely more authentic and charming than he does in the concert they accompany, further drawing attention to the fact that he was really just playing a role on stage. Even better is The Stones’ full appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in October 1978, both the 12-minute musical portion and the “Tomorrow” sketch in which Dan Aykroyd plays Tom Snyder interviewing Mick. The band is kind of sloppy and the singer sounds like he has laryngitis, but the sketch is still hilarious, with Mick holding his own nicely against Akyroyd’s rock-solid comic capering. An actor to the end.

Some Girls Live in Texas ‘78 is available in several formats. Get the one of your choice at Amazon.com with the following links:

Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas '78 [DVD]

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls - Live in Texas '78 [Blu-ray]

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls - Live In Texas '78 [DVD/CD Combo]

Some Girls - Live In Texas '78 [CD/Blu-Ray Combo]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: ‘Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection’

Phil Spector built a pop empire on the otherworldly singles he produced in the early ‘60s. His reputation at 33 1/3 rpms was less solid. The long player didn’t become a vital Rock & Roll conveyance until the British Invasion that ended Spector’s reign. So he didn’t always put a great deal of thought into the way his albums were presented. When he finally resolved to make a masterful L.P., he released it the same day JFK was assassinated. A mourning public didn’t feel much like jingling all the way, and A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records flopped. Justly, that album has gone on to achieve classic status with its numerous reissues over the decades. Philles Records’ other L.P.s were never afforded that same boost until now.

Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection collects all six non-holiday albums released on Spector’s label on CD for the very first time. This set is fascinating both for its pleasant surprises and its emphasis on just how cavalier Spector was about everything but his single A-sides. There is a large and disappointing amount of overlap between these discs. The Crystals’ first two records, Twist Uptown and He’s a Rebel, are nearly identical. More of the group’s songs are repeated on The Crystals Sing the Greatest Hits Vol. 1. One third of the tracks on that particular L.P. are tossed-off covers of creaky standards, such as “The Wah Watusi” and “The Twist”. And The Crystals aren’t even the artists on those tracks! The Ronettes are!


Yet Spector’s offhand approach to making albums could also be genuinely interesting. Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans’ Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah finds him experimenting with greater abandon than he usually dared on his hits. His use of cagey distortion, odd bits of discordance (the guttural, out-of-tune bass on “Baby, I Love You”), and tightly controlled tempos and dynamics make an already eccentric selection of songs—“The White Cliffs of Dover”, “This Land Is Your Land”, the title track, which was certainly Spector’s oddest hit— even odder. Even the Disney-esque cartoon on the front cover is kind of unusual. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah also provides the box set’s most concentrated dose of Darlene Love, whose magnificent solo material is sadly underrepresented here.

Even weirder is Phil’s Flipsides, a bonus compilation of the two-minute instrumental improvisations Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra recorded to fill the B-sides of his hit singles and discourage DJs from playing the wrong sides. By design this isn’t the producer’s most essential music, but the combination of wacky Rock & Roll instrumentals and pretty convincing straight jazz is refreshing. Half this disc would sound smashing on a John Waters soundtrack. The other half is great cocktail party mood music. The goofy titles further reveal how little Spector cared about his non-A-sides: “Flip and Nitty”, “Chubby Danny D.”, “Dr. Kaplan’s Office” (named for Spector’s psychiatrist, who was apparently pretty shitty at his job).

Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection will be most appealing to Spector completists, but there is a lot of amazing music here. Granted, those two debut Crystals records are pretty flimsy. The best of their tracks are collected on Sings the Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and the various-artists compilation Philles Records Presents Today’s Hits, which also features a handful of Darlene Love solo sides, including the transcendent “Wait Til’ My Bobby Gets Home”, and The Alley Cats’ fun novelty “Puddin’ N’ Tain”. Best of all is Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica, Spector’s first truly great album despite its failure to generate classic status. All of the group’s prime-era hits (“Be My Baby”, “Walking in the Rain”, “Baby, I Love You”, “I Wonder”—Yow!), classic oddities (“You Baby”, “So Young”), and some unexpected surprises (a raucous phony live version of Ray Charles’s “What’d I Say”) converge in a spectacular line up. Along with The Beach Boys, who it so inspired, this is the freshest pop that came out of America during the first year of the British Invasion.

Get Phil Spector Presents the Philles Album Collection at Amazon.com here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Review: Dave Davies's 'Hidden Treasures'



The Kinks were at a commercial low point but a creative high point in the late ‘60s. Ray Davies wrote an excess of songs during the sessions that would spawn his masterpiece. On their way to becoming The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, several of those tracks were considered for an alternate album titled Four More Well Respected Gentlemen. Ray pondered a solo album and schemed to make a full-length musical out of his Village Green concept (which he would realize less than spectacularly in the mid-‘70s). Amidst all this activity, Pye Records started pushing Dave Davies to make his own solo album to capitalize on the success of 1967’s “Death of a Clown”—a Dave and Ray-penned Kinks number released as a solo single under the younger Davies’s name. Despite his long history of begrudging his brother’s higher profile in The Kinks, Dave was not enthused about the project. He preferred placing his songs on proper Kinks albums.

The process of writing Dave’s solo record was a bit of a drudge, though the recording sessions with The Kinks as his backing band and Ray producing birthed a quantity of quality songs. Occasionally the chore-aspect was apparent in somewhat halfhearted, repetitive numbers, such as “Do You Wish to Be a Man” and “Are You Ready”. But the best of Dave’s solo material—the joyous “Lincoln County”, the desperate yet exhilarating “This Man He Weeps Tonight”, the Dylanesque “Susannah’s Still Alive”, the magnificently brooding “Mindless Child of Motherhood”—could go toe-to-toe with any of Ray’s songs of that same period. The Kinks were rarely more ferocious than they were on “Mindless Child” and the sinister rocker “Creeping Jean”.

Alas, Dave’s lack of enthusiasm and renewed commercial hopes for The Kinks following the release of Arthur: or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire in 1969 put the unnamed solo project to rest. Most of the tracks ended up on flop Dave Davies singles and Kinks B-sides. But fans have long wondered how that completed L.P. would have sounded.

As a sort of bonus companion to its recent wave of superb Kinks deluxe reissues, Universal/Sanctuary Music is finally giving us the best approximation of Dave Davies’s unfinished solo album with Hidden Treasures. Compilers Russell Smith and Andrew Sandoval based this new CD on a 1969 acetate of Dave’s sessions assembled by Warner Reprise. The thirteen tracks flow quite nicely, and though many of them were included as bonus tracks on those deluxe Kinks discs, it’s nice to hear them placed together. And there are quite a few rarities to uncover here. Though not Dave’s best songs, “Do You Wish to Be a Man” and the gospel-flavored “Are You Ready” have only previously been available as scratchy acetate copies on bootlegs. Much better is the newly unveiled “Crying”, a mournful but catchy track on which Dave gets off some rather Hendrixy rhythm licks. The B-side “There Is No Life Without Love” is presented in an unfamiliar stereo mix in which Dave’s vocal is pulled out of the mass of harmonies to the front line.

The compilers include a wealth of bonus tracks, including most (but not all) of Dave’s Pye-era Kinks compositions, mono alternative mixes of several of the core album’s tracks, a brassier mix of “Mr. Reporter”, and a scratchy early take of “Hold My Hand”. A “rare” studio version of “Good Luck Charm” is pitched as an unreleased track, although it sounds suspiciously like the one on the Picture Book box set. Aside from the latter two bonus tracks, Hidden Treasures sounds fantastic, with dense bass and crisp acoustic details. Russell Smith’s liner notes, which detail the recording and writing of these tracks extensively, are as worthy as the music they annotate. But the greatest pleasure is the wonderful music, and Hidden Treasures is a concentrated testament to the often-overlooked songwriting talents of Dave Davies.

Get Dave Davies’s Hidden Treasures at Amazon.com here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

80 Artists Celebrate 80 Years of 'Frankenstein' with 80 Bizarro Busts

When Boris Karloff staggered backward through a doorway to reveal his horrifically pancaked cranium in Frankenstein, an icon that would last 80 years (and counting) was born. In celebration of the milestone anniversary of that visage crafted by Karloff, director James Whale, and make-up wiz Jack Pierce, 80 artists have contributed their own takes on the Frankenstein Monster for the "It's Alive" Project. Sculpted busts mash the Monster with such fellow icons as The Joker, Paul Stanley, Frankenberry, The Wolfman, and Abraham Lincoln and Dracula (fused in one particularly bizarro bust!). Others recast him in glitter or jigsaw puzzle pieces or as a cinema popcorn box or an etch-a-sketch. Amazing stuff, and sales of the busts benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to advance the cure and treatment of pediatric diseases.

Check out the stunning gallery of busts at the official "It's Alive" Project site here.


Thanks to Frankensteinia for this scoop.

Friday, November 11, 2011

'The Quatermass Xperiment' Slithers out on DVD-R

Despite being the watershed Hammer horror flick and a pioneer of graphic gore that reveled in its transgressions so proudly that its very title emphasized its X rating, Val Guest's The Quatermass Xperiment has always flown below the radar in the U.S. So it's fitting that news of its release is arriving a bit late to the Psychobabble news desk. It's also fitting that MGM has given this landmark of British horror a fairly cursory release as an on-demand DVD-R. Oh well. Better than nothing. The couple of customer reviews on Amazon.com indicate that the picture quality is strong and it may be time for the already-converted to ditch their bootlegs. The uninitiated should check it out or risk transforming into a giant space octopus draped over Westminster Abbey.

Get The Quatermass Xperiment at Amazon.com here.

As for the movie, here's what I had to say about The Quatermass Xperiment in Psychobabble’s 120 Essential Horror Movies Part 4: The 1950s:

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955- dir. Val Guest)

Great Britain would never be known as a major exporter of science fiction cinema, but BBC TV was a different story. Pioneering future favorites such as Dr. Who, The Prisoner, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Torchwood was The Quatermass Experiment. The six-episode serial used the British space programme as a launching pad for a tale of an alien that infiltrates a crashed rocket. Professor Bernard Quatermass leads the search for runaway astronaut Carroon, who is possessed by an alien bent on spewing spores into the atmosphere capable of exterminating all life on Earth. The show was a big hit in 1953, so two years later a British studio known for its cheap “quota quickies” brought the series to the big screen in a bid for quick cash. Hammer Studios took its first major step into the supernatural with The Quatermass Xperiment, so retitled to exploit the X-rating the film earned for its shocking level of gore. Indeed it is more gruesome than anything that would appear in America prior to splatter-king Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast in 1963. Carroon leaves a trail of mutilated corpses as he lumbers to Westminster Abbey where he will complete his transformation into a giant octopus monster and unleash his deadly spores. The Quatermass Xperiment is technically science fiction, with its rockets, astronauts, space programmes, and aliens. The E.C.-style gore, Carroon’s monstrous deeds, and his increasingly monstrous appearance are pure horror. His encounter with a girl played by a very young Jane Asher is an obvious nod to Frankenstein, as his ultimate destination of a major landmark is a cap-tip to King Kong. The Quatermass Xperiment is a thrilling and smart flick that should appeal to sci-fi and horror freaks alike, but its historical value is monumental, prepping Hammer’s coming domination of horror cinema, as well as bracing viewers for all the blood and entrails the studio would soon show them in ghastly full color.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Review: The Beach Boys' 'SMiLE Sessions'

In 1966, the burgeoning pop press became aware of a project promised to be unlike anything the world had ever heard. An avant garde comedy album. A “teenage symphony to God.” A record that would “make Pet Sounds stink.” The teasers were plentiful, but as we all know, The Beach Boys’ SMiLE never materialized. In its place was a thin interloper called Smiley Smile, which sounded more like a collection of hastily made demos than the operatic record on which Brian Wilson had been working for close to a year.

Over the next several years, bits of the original sessions started to leak out. “Cabin Essence” and “Our Prayer” appeared on 1969’s 20/20. The title track of 1971’s Surf’s Up. In the ‘80s, the bootlegs began bobbing to the surface. If The Beach Boys were never going to release the largely unfinished music Wilson recorded during the SMiLE sessions, fans were going to get their hands on it by other means and assemble their own versions of the album. This is the main reason SMiLE is so unique: it is the first album that forced fans to interact with it directly. They had to make their own edits and running orders on cassettes. They enjoyed debates on how it was supposed to be heard and what tracks were really intended to be included in the mythic “Elements” suite that (supposedly) would have climaxed the album.

Years before I became aware of the bootlegs and the cult and the myriad fan mixes, I first heard about SMiLE in The Beach Boys: An American Band. And what did I do as soon as I finished watching that 1985 documentary? I took my only two post-surf/hot rod Beach Boys records—20/20 and Good Vibrations: The Best of The Beach Boys—and made my own “SMiLE” tape. The result, which mostly consisted of non-SMiLE era stuff like “I Went to Sleep” and “Friends”, had little to do with The Beach Boys’ lost album, but it shows how hungry even new fans like myself were for that magical, spooky, thrillingly experimental album we’d never really get to hear.

Yes, we will never hear a completed album by The Beach Boys called SMiLE. There are the bootlegs, the 30 minutes of SMiLE tracks on 1993’s Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys box set, the 2004 solo album Brian Wilson Presents Smile. All consolation prizes. The newly released five-CD, two-L.P., two-45 box set called The SMiLE Sessions is really another consolation prize. Although the producers offer their own high-tech SMiLE mix on disc one, it isn’t what The Beach Boys would have released in ’67 had Brian Wilson been able to complete his vision. But as consolation prizes go, it is beyond anything we SMiLE obsessives could have ever expected. I certainly never counted on this release. Even as the other SMiLE Sessions reviews started flowing in, I wasn’t convinced of its existence until I actually held its magnificently designed box in my hands. Content-wise, it is more than we could have ever hoped. This set contains some of the most dazzlingly imaginative music ever made, and it sounds better than it ever did in its previous official and unofficial incarnations. When the “Bicycle Rider” section of “Do You Like Worms?” kicks in, the bass will throw you up against the wall. More poignantly, The SMiLE Sessions is evidence that the men who made it 45 years ago have finally made their peace with its weirdness, its brilliance, its divergence from the surf/hot rod formula Mike Love so valued, its power to disturb chief-creator Brian Wilson.

There are revelations in every crevice of The SMiLE Sessions. Take the “Heroes and Villains” 45. In most deluxe sets, the single is a neat little bonus not much more integral to the overall content than a fold-out poster or lapel button. However, this single provides further proof of how The Beach Boys could be just as innovative at 45 RPMs as they were at 33 1/3. Side A: the relatively radio-friendly—but still pretty weird (that cantina section!)—pop version. Side B: an extended series of variations on the “Heroes and Villains” refrain, edited together in pleasing but decidedly avant garde fashion. No other pop single from a major act was structured like this in 1967. Had it been released during its own time, the “Heroes and Villains” single may have revolutionized the 45 in the same way SMiLE probably would have revolutionized the L.P. Those familiar with the “Heroes and Villains (Sections)” piece from Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys will immediately recognize the Side B edit. But halfway through it diverges from the box-set track, introducing new splices and unfamiliar snatches of music. The piecemeal track on the Good Vibrations box is transformed into a fully realized piece of music. And that’s just the “bonus” single!

The disc-one approximation of the unfinished album is pieced together similarly to the famed “Purple Chick” bootleg, which used Brian Wilson Presents Smile as a blueprint to fashion a SMiLE out of The Beach Boys’ original recordings. This new one does not follow Wilson’s solo album as slavishly. It revises the running order slightly and uses sections of music very different from the ones Wilson and his backing band mimicked. The “Twelfth Street Rag” quote is restored in “Look”. “I’m in Great Shape” is totally unique from the solo and “Purple Chick” versions. “Vega-Tables” utilizes some funky percussion and mallets. An unexpected melody appears in “Love to Say Dada”.

That first disc will likely be the one to earn the most repeat spins from listeners, but the deep sessions discs that follow are also rewarding and surprising. Despite the titles on disc two, it isn’t quite 78 minutes of “Heroes and Villains” sessions. The tracks we now know as “Barnyard”, “I’m in Great Shape”, “Fire”, “Vega-Tables”, “Wind Chimes”, and “Love to Say Dada” are listed as “Heroes and Villains” sessions, probably because that is how Brian labeled the original tape boxes since he hadn’t figured out where these pieces of music would end up in his opus.

There is a certain downside to peeking behind the curtains and listening to how all this mystical music was made, but it also allows us to better hear the magical details muted or lost in the completed mixes on disc one: the sparkling pizzicato string runs on “The Old Master Painter”, the above-neck dobro plucks in “Cabin Essence”, the discordantly buzzing slide guitar in “Do You Like Worms?” We can hear the tack piano hammers clicking against strings in “Wonderful”, which is also presented with odd doo-woo harmonies. We can hear the jangling jewelry in “Surf’s Up”. The vibes and scraps of percussion reach out of “Child Is the Father of Man”. It’s amazing how beautiful and strange this music remains even when broken down into its most basic elements.

In a reissue-crazy environment that sees new “deluxe editions” and “director’s cuts” appear on a weekly basis, the release of The SMiLE Sessions is something else. It is not merely an opportunity to hear some amazing music for the first time. As noted above, a lot of fans have been listening to a lot of this stuff on bootlegs for decades. Receiving the official The SMiLE Sessions is more like meeting an estranged sibling for the very first time. For those of us who’ve accepted Rock & Roll as a more meaningful religion than any supernatural one, this is our holy grail, our shroud of Turin unearthed. It’s the discovery that the Loch Ness Monster exists, proof that whirring UFOs actually do abduct yokels and spirit them into the sky. The SMiLE Sessions is mythology made real.

The SMiLE Sessions is available in a number of formats. Get the one of your choice at Amazon.com with the links below:

The Smile Sessions Box Set

The Smile Sessions (2CD)

The Smile Sessions Vinyl (2LP)

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Evening with the Karloffs in California


Those in the Idyllwild, California, area... beware! Saturday, November 5th, Sara Karloff will be presenting a screening of her daddy's watershed horror flick Frankenstein at the Caine Learning Center. Karloff will then take part in a discussion about papa Boris and present some home movies the official event announcement ensures will be "startling." Of course, it's hard to imagine they'll be more startling than this:


The event begins at 6PM and is totally free.

Caine Learning Center
54385 Pine Crest Ave.
Idyllwild
951-659-6000

Stay tuned for more Frankenstein business here at Psychobabble as the movie celebrates its 80th anniversary this month!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: ‘Clapton: The Ultimate Illustrated History’

Clapton: The Ultimate Illustrated History is to a sufficient biography of Eric Clapton what “Wonderful Tonight” is to “Layla”: a bland gesture rather than a work of insight and passion. Author Chris Welch is a friend of Clapton and goes much too far out of his way to avoid stepping on Slowhand’s toes. Even the most forgiving fans will recognize the multitudinous oversights in this book. They may not want to dwell on Clapton’s most painful moments—his unrequited obsession with Patti Boyd, his heroin addiction of the early ‘70s, the tragic death of his son Conor—but these were major events in his life that did impact his music, and Welch only gives them the most cursory attention. The guitarist’s most pitiful moments—the ramifications of wooing his best friend’s wife, his infamous racist tirade at a 1976 concert—aren’t mentioned at all. A biography shouldn’t be the sum of its subject’s greatest controversies, but to fail to acknowledge them at all is shabby journalism at best and irresponsible whitewashing of history at worst. Granted, this is an “illustrated history,” and such image-centric books are rarely substitutes for in-depth biographies, but Clapton is little more than a dry recitation of facts and dates only enlivened by occasional quotes from outside sources. And since Clapton was never as visually arresting as, say, Jimi Hendrix or The Who, the necessity for a visual history of his life is questionable to begin with. As is the case with its subject’s music career, Clapton is liveliest during the Cream years. Welch is bright enough to recognize this, devoting a full quarter of his 250-page book to Clapton’s mere four years in the super group. Cream’s psychedelic album covers and poster art and the guys’ far-out wardrobes are awesome eye candy. The rest of the book isn’t even deep enough to earn that distinction.

Get Clapton: The Ultimate Illustrated History at Amazon.com here.

Review: 'Peter Gabriel: New Blood Live in London'

On March 23rd and 24th of 2011, Peter Gabriel appeared at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London and performed a selection of covers and his own classics with the New Blood Orchestra. This is the kind of thing that would be nothing more than a pretentious folly if mounted by most artists (case in point: “I've always wanted to do a collection of my acoustic numbers with the London Philharmonic, as you know.”—David St. Hubbins). But Gabriel—a guy once known to take the stage in a giant fox helmet— tends to welcome pretentious folly with disarming frankness, so the orchestral setting captured on the New Blood Live in London DVD suits him. John Metcalfe’s arrangements are consistently atmospheric, although the concert is front-loaded with dirgy tempos that can be monotonous. At times, this tendency can be fascinating. Gabriel and his orchestra transform Paul Simon’s effervescent “The Boy in the Bubble” into a stark nocturne and it works. But arrangements of songs by Regina Spektor and The Magnetic Fields are as perfunctory as Gabriel’s performances. When given inspired backing, his old penchant for dynamic drama resurfaces, as it does with refreshing regularity in the second half of the show.

Beginning with an intense, “Bolero”-like arrangement of “Biko”, New Blood gets considerably stronger and more varied. Again, these tracks don’t always work. Metcalfe’s attempt to bring a funky vibe to “Digging in the Dirt” fails to ignite; Gabriel and his co-singers seem restrained by the arrangement. But a version of “Downside Up” gets that more rhythmic feel right. The strings do an uncanny job of mimicking the acoustic guitars that introduce the studio version of “Solsbury Hill”, but a strategically placed kettle drum roll and some emphatic brass could have helped the number to achieve the climactic transcendence of the original. It’s all simmer and no boil. Otherwise, there’s little to gripe about in the second-half of New Blood. “San Jacinto” receives a shimmering arrangement. Emphasis on percussion and pizzicato strings helps “Mercy Street” to stand out from the pack. Metcalfe’s tasteful restraint suits “In Your Eyes” quite beautifully.

Even when he sounds less than fully engaged in the material, Gabriel is in strong voice throughout. His calculated use of his instrument’s rasp lends a raw undercurrent to the sometimes overly polite orchestrations. The film itself would have benefitted from richer photography. Flat video fails to convey the moodiness of the music and the shadowy, sometimes psychedelic stage lighting. A fox helmet or two wouldn’t have hurt either.


Get Peter Gabriel: New Blood Live in London on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon.com. The disc is also available as a DVD/Blu-ray combo in 3D here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: ‘More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead’

George Romero revolutionized the zombie flick with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. While transplanting zombies from Caribbean voodoo rituals to Middle America and transforming them from the brain-dead pawns of some nefarious witch doctor into a relentless mob of cannibals, Romero’s film also helped build the Midnight Movie phenomenon of the ‘70s. With 1978’s Dawn of the Dead he sharpened the political implications of his first film, almost making the zombie movie a respectable form of social satire. By the time he made the righteously anti-military Day of the Dead in 1985, finger waving threatened to devour the essential purpose of all zombie movies: a fun, scary time watching zombies eat people.

Almost exactly a month after the release of Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead co-screenwriter John Russo and Alien-writer Dan O’Bannon launched their own mutant sequel to Romero’s 1968 film. With its gore, comic booky zombie effects and color palette, groovy cast of misfits, ripping punk soundtrack, and wacko jokes (“Send more paramedics!”), The Return of the Living Dead set the zombie movie back to rights. Although it still secreted the anti-military, anti-chemical waste messages we’d come to expect from post-voodoo zombie movies, The Return of the Living Dead is above all else a chum-bucket overflowing with fun. A frothing cult following was inevitable, and 26 years down the road, fans are still rabid enough over The Return to warrant Bill Philputt’s new feature-length documentary, More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead.

All major surviving personnel are on board to talk honesty and affectionately about a film shoot that could be grueling helmed by a director who hadn’t quite refined his bedside manner yet. Beverly Randolph (Tina) recalls her first meeting with O’Bannon amidst his collection of handguns and porno and making a quick getaway. She discusses a cruel stunt in which the director did not warn her of a broken step in order to get a genuine reaction when she fell through it and was genuinely injured. Clu Gulager (Burt) talks about how he regularly clashed with O’Bannon, although he denies chasing the director with a bat even though every other cast member recalls seeing him do it. Everyone has fairly unkind things to say about the work of special effects artist William Munns, a good sport who appears in this doc even though he probably knew he wouldn’t exactly be praised in it. But for the most part, everyone seems to really love each other (well, except for Jewel “Casey” Shepard, who seems to revel in her outsider status). The cast and crew even have nice things to say about the late-O’Bannon despite his sadistic rep. The director’s final interview is included as an extra on this DVD, and his sweetness, honesty, and genuine affection for the movie’s fans is completely disarming.

Philputt made More Brains! with just as much love as O’Bannon’s cast and crew made The Return of the Living Dead. Crash Cunningham’s amazing E.C.-style artwork illustrates the more fanciful comments hilariously. Brian Peck (Scuz) does a terrific job as narrator. The DVD’s extras are all top-notch, including the aforementioned interview with O’Bannon, which rounds out the main documentary with greater details about the film’s soundtrack and a different perspective of all the rumors to which he’s been subjected since ‘85. There are also excellent featurettes on the two Return of the Living Dead sequels and some fascinating deleted scenes from the main documentary. Production designer William Stout’s disturbing story about researching crematoriums with O’Bannon is worth the price of admission alone!

Get More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead at Amazon.com here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Review: ‘You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks’

Power chord cro-magnons who grind out scrap-metal like “You Really Got Me” and “Destroyer” or sensitive fops who float out autumnal delicacies like “Days” and “Waterloo Sunset”? The Kinks’ career is a heap of contradictions both fascinating and disheartening. How could the soft-voiced soul famous for his empathy and his loyalty to tradition be so callous to his own brother? How could that beatific brother devoted to matters spiritual be so free with his fists? Listen closely to even the most fragile Kinks songs. Undercurrents of rage, regret, envy, and deep sadness are usually detectable. Perhaps that complexity is what so fascinates we Kinks fans.

Though The Kinks were one of the top four bands to emerge from the most thoroughly chronicled environment during the most thoroughly chronicled period in Rock & Roll history, their story is elusive because its two chief narrators are highly unreliable. The two most important books on the band were written by the brothers Davies. Ray’s X-Ray is a marvelous “unauthorized” autobiography that secrets The Kinks’ story (though only their 60s heyday) under a protective layer of science fiction. After revealing his life with greater forthrightness than he ever had before or since, the author refused to even admit that the “R.D.” in his book was even Ray Davies! Because Dave’s Kink is more traditionally told, the reader can assume that it is the more reliable story. But wait. The narrative veers off course with weird encounters with aliens. The timeline becomes jumbled. Tangents about Hollywood newsstands and Quentin Tarantino dance off topic with little purpose or sense. Can we rely on a writer with such a disarranged attention span to tell us the truth? Or one who is so bitter about his brother’s genius reputation?

Nick Hasted’s new biography You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks does not definitively answer all lingering questions about those inscrutable Kinks. Such a book will never exist. But by stringing together all the information available on the band, he comes as close as anyone ever will. Hasted conducted extensive interviews with Ray and Dave Davies, and their contributions are typical. Dave is angry. Ray— a man so repelled by truths he’d rather forget that he has raged against photography in song more than once— chooses to remold the past into a more pleasant portrait. Hasted sifts through the brothers’ recollections and augments them with possibly revelatory insights from drummers Mick Avory and Bob Henrit, the brother of deceased bassist Pete Quaife, filmmaker Julien Temple, and many others who’ve survived The Kinks’ tumultuous inner circle. Chrissie Hynde is more reticent about the disturbing nature of her and Ray’s short-lived relationship.

So what do we learn in You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks? We probably learn the real and deeply saddening reason Quaife left the band in 1969. Probably. Maybe we learn how Hynde factors into the Davies brothers’ beyond-repair relationship. Maybe. We possibly finally find out why The Kinks were really banned from America in the mid-‘60s. Possibly. Hasted’s book may raise as many new questions as the ones it may answer, but its quality is considerably less slippery. You Really Got Me is an impeccably researched, lovingly written, respectful yet honest attempt to make sense of decades of lies, spite, violence, and unequivocally beautiful music. It reads like a smashing mystery that evades definitive solving. It’s the Citizen Kane of Rock biographies, and like the title character of that film, the Davies brothers are defined by their evasiveness. In that sense, You Really Got Me may tell us everything we’ll ever need to know about The Kinks.

Get You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks at Amazon.com here.

Rock & Roll Round-Up: Beatles, Damned, Costello, Peel, Monkees, etc.

Halloween season is over, which means it’s time to start rolling the rock back into Psychobabble. Here’s a quick rundown of Rock & Roll news items that didn’t make the cut last month:

Magical Mystery Tour and Let It Be DVDs may be in the works:
According to the KSHE95 web site, Let It Be-director Michael Lindsey Hogg says The Beatles final film may finally see release in 2013, while their T.V. movie “Magical Mystery Tour” will be arriving sometime in 2012. In a radio interview with WNYC-FM, Hogg said, “(Let It Be will come) after they release Magical Mystery Tour as a special DVD release. And it'll be the film itself, the original film -- the color's great, the soundtrack is perfect -- with a (second) DVD which will be a documentary about the making of the documentary (Let It Be)." Hogg also says the film will include several outtakes.

More Beatles news for Record Store Day:
While we wait to see whether or not those DVDs materialize, Capitol has some Beatles product in the works for sooner release. A limited edition Fab Four box set containing the original “Ticket to Ride”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Hey Jude”, and “Something” singles (one lead vocal per Beatle!) will be arriving on Record Store Day/Black Friday (November 25th). Other artists with special singles boxes set for release that day include Bob Dylan, The Byrds, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Pink Floyd, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Pete Townshend will release exclusive E.P.s of his Quadrophenia demos, which might be a nice way for those who don’t want to spring for the pricey Super-Deluxe Director’s-Cut box set to snag these tracks. Check out the track lists of these and other Record Store Day releases on The Second Disc.

Damned to finally get their Due in Doc:
Exciting news for long-suffering fans of Punk’s most unfairly underrated band. Filmmaker Wes Orshoski (Lemmy) is working on a feature documentary about The Damned. According to Official Damned.com, the movie “will combine new footage captured on and off the road with the current band members—including Damned founders David Vanian (vocals) and guitarist Captain Sensible—with archival clips and new interviews with many of the band’s famous friends and peers.” I saw them perform Damned, Damned, Damned and The Black Album in their entireties in New York last week, and they’re still incredible. The Damned's decision to play all 17 minutes of their brilliant psychedelic opus "Curtain Call" to a bunch of baffled, fairly annoyed, mowhawked punks was the punkest thing ever.

Elvis Costello's Spinning Songbook in a Box:

Another exceptional concert I attended this year was Elvis Costello's Beacon Theater show featuring his Spectacular Spinning Songbook. On November 21st, Hip-O Select will be issuing a box set devoted to Elvis's May 11-12 stint at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. It consists of a CD, a DVD, and a 10" E.P. featuring "Pump It Up", "Busted", "Brilliant Mistake", and "Strict Time". Peruse the complete setlist and preorder the set at Amazon.com here.

Peel Slowly and See:
EMI is preparing a double-disc compilation of performances from John Peel's famed BBC radio show. Movement: BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions 1977-1979 is jammed with punk and new wave era nuggets from the fab likes of The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Adverts, XTC, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits, Monochrome Set, Stiff Little Fingers, Wire, Peel favorites The Undertones, and many, many other greats. For those who don't like the greats, the compilers also thoughtfully tossed in a track by UB40! See the full track list at EMI Sessions.com.




Rhino to Release Deluxe Edition of The Monkees Instant Replay:
Back to the ‘60s, Rhino Records will be following up on their triple-disc handmade editions of The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees and Head with a similar set devoted to Instant Replay. The group’s first release after Peter Tork quit is an uneven collection of new and old tracks, but much of it is excellent (“You and I”, “I Won’t Be the Same Without Her”, “Through the Looking Glass”, etc.). The set contains 87 tracks, 58 of which are previously unreleased, and a bonus 7” of the acetate versions of "I Go Ape" and “(I Prithee) Do Not Ask For Love” from the “33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee” T.V. special. Pre-order Instant Replay (Deluxe Edition) and check out the full track list at Rhino.com.



More for November:
So what can you expect from Psychobabble this November? Lots and lots of reviews of new releases related to The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Kinks, Phil Spector, Peter Gabriel, Eric Clapton, and others. Keep checking in all month long. And then when this month is over, keep checking in all the other months.
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