Underrated Albums Series: KISS “Unmasked” (Casablanca Records, 1980)

By Nick Arietano Jr The RecordLover

This is my favorite album of KISS, hands down. This is a collection full of great and catchy pop-rock songs. Session drummer Anton Fig took the reins at the drums as Peter Criss had left the band although he is credited in the cover’s liner notes. The group did have some outside collaborators on the songs (two out of the 3 Ace Frehley songs written by he alone), such as Vini Poncia and Bob Kulick. Like the rest of the KISS Army, I thought the poster inside was going to be the group literally unmasked, but during the last 40 years (can you believe it’s been THAT long), I’ve discovered the term “Unmasked” was metaphorical. This album proves that the group could write and sing great songs. They were more than a theatrical stage act. They were musicians and vocalists that could entertain on disc as well as in huge halls and arenas. Underneath all the glitz, glamor, and makeup were three human beings that could rock and roll sans the special effects.   


It’s really a pleasure to hear the songs in the original order listed above as I first owned this album on 8-Track in the Summer of 1980 (I won it on the one win choice album wheel at Point Pleasant Boardwalk for a few quarters!)and the songs were in a slightly different order and Ace Frehley’s “Talk To Me” was cut off in the middle of his guitar solo on “Program 1”. Then the tape did the “click” thing and the song continued on “Program 2”. Here’s my take on each song:

1.  “Is That You (written by Gerard McMahon)?” is a great rocker with really biting and snarky vocals by Paul Stanley about a young hussie who’s getting in way over her head sexually. Love the lead guitar and Paul’s vocals.

2. “Shandi”-A Lovely ballad written by Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. This song spotlights Paul Stanley’s talents as a lead guitarist (especially during the intro), rhythm guitarist and singer (the ending harmonies bring tears to my eyes every time I hear it).

3. “Talk To Me”-One of three Ace Frehley greats on the album . Great lyrics, great guitars and a killer chorus. Ace the Spaceman handles all of the heavy lifting on this track: the bass, lead guitars and rhythm guitars! Love how Ace and Paul harmonize on the chorus!

4. “Naked City”-Nice rock tune with Gene Simmons on lead vocal co-written with Vini Poncia, Pepe Castro, and Bob Kulick . Features a great Ace Frehley lead guitar solo, with Gene on bass.

5. “What Makes The World Go Round”-Another collaboration between Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. Easy going, and introspective song. Features Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley on lead guitar solos.

6. “Tomorrow”-God, I love this song. Paul and Vini’s best collaboration on the album. Love the chorus, “And Tomorrow…we’re gonna fall in love, fall in love,” and the final chorus when the harmonies blend together on two different sets of lyrics “fall in love with me/we got all the love we need” at the finale. Paul Stanley gives a tribute to Chuck Berry with his solo before the break.

7. “Two Sides of The Coin”-My favorite Ace song on the album. Hands down. Love singing along to this. It’s catchy, it’s Pop, it’s rock and roll, and can only have been written by Ace. Great chorus, great lyrics. One of the best songs written about meeting women and trying to settle down with the right one. Anton Fig shows his drumming chops on this one!

8. “She’s So European”-Gene Simmons second track on the LP, and a co-written with Vini Poncia about a European chick with whom he is infatuated. Gene gives his demonic “Yeah!” after singing the chorus toward the song’s fade. A nice song. Shows Gene’s depth as a songwriter and singer.

9. “Easy As It Seems”-A good pop rock song with a nice chorus. Written by Paul Stanley and Vini Poncia. Gentle lead vocals from Paul Stanley and backup singers.

10. “Torpedo Girl”-Ace Frehley’s final composition on the album co-written with Vini Poncia. A song about a guy just wanting to go for a swim and get away from the mundane. He thinks he spots a girl riding on a snake shaped submarine. Is he dreaming? Maybe. But the chorus “Let’s take a dive Torpedo Girl and Feel Alive..” says otherwise. Great guitar and vocals from Ace who also thrums the bass on this one.

10. “You’re All That I Want”-The Album finishes with a cool vibe and a great collaboration between Gene and Vini Poncia. Gene completely wears his heart on his sleeve in this song (the chorus is so beautiful). Showcases Gene’s songwriting and singing ability. This one could have been a great single.

As Ace Frehley says in “Torpedo Girl”, “C’mon, get your feet wet!” and listen (really listen) to this disc.


The RecordLover

“Wish You Were Here” to enjoy this album by Badfinger

By Nick The RecordLover

Many fans of Badfinger are more than familiar with their biggest hits: The Paul McCartney penned “Come and Get It”, “No Matter What” and “Day After Day”.

Their 1974 LP “Wish You Were Here” is more proof that the group could create another album (their second for the Warner Brothers label, and the finale with all original members) chock-full of great rockers and beautiful melodic ballads.

It starts off with “Just a Chance” a rocking number written by Pete Ham and featuring great harmony vocals by Mike Gibbins and Joey Molland . “Your So Fine” has a country rock feel to it with slide guitar reminiscent of George Harrison and gorgeous melodic lead acoustic playing. “Got to Get out of Here” written by Joey Molland is a great ballad featuring a choir-like horn section by session players Average White Horns. “Know One Knows” is straightforward pop-rock by Pete Ham which had great single potential.

The album continues with “Dennis”, a song written by Pete Ham for his then girlfriend’s son Blair and is similar to Chicago’s style of rock ballad which made them famous circa 1974 (fun fact: some of “Wish You Were Here” was recorded at The Caribou Ranch in Colorado where Chicago recorded some of their albums). “In The Meantime/Some Other Time” is one of two medleys featured on the collection and heavily influenced by the “Golden Slumbers” one found on The Beatles “Abbey Road”, with extravagant orchestrations provided by Anne Odell, as well as the finale “Meanwhile Back At The Ranch/Should I Smoke”. In between are “Love Time”, another great heartfelt love ballad by Joey Molland, and “King of The Load” written by Tom Evans about the roadies and the loneliness of being on the road filled with groupies which comes with the territory of being a famous rock band.

To summarize, Badfinger and producer Chris Thomas put their heart and soul into the making of this album and despite it being lost in the shuffle during the era of mid 70s pop-rock, “Wish You Were Here” is a classic in its own right. Fans of this album will be happy with the generous amount of bonus tracks which feature the unreleased track “Queen of Darkness” followed by most of the album’s songs presented in alternate mixes.

Take a trip to “Venus” while you’re “At Home” with Shocking Blue

By Nick Arietano Jr The RecordLover

It’s amazing how this group flew under the radar in the United States save for their smash hit “Venus” in 1969. There was more than that for this Nederbeat band. Shocking Blue’s second album “At Home” was the debut album with Mariska Veres on lead vocals. It starts off with “Boll Weevil”-a great rocker which features Cor van der Beek just rocking out on the drums with Robbie van Leeuwen answering with his electric guitar jabs. Mariska wails on the choruses of “Just a lookin’ for a home, Just a lookin’ for a home!” Next is “I’ll Write Your Name Through The Fire” which finds Mariska Veres in effortless form on this country-rocker with Robbie van Leeuwen on backing vocals. It has a cha-cha type of feel with Klassje van der Wal groovin’ on the bass. “Acka Raga”, one of my favorite tracks on the album is more than a song. I’m all for 60s music which features the sitar and Robbie van Leeuwen more than gratifies with his flawless playing. The sitar playing engulfs me and enrapts me into another world. A Beautiful instrumental that does all the right things in just over 3 minutes. It rocks, it soothes, and makes you wanna let it all hang out!

“Love Machine” is a groovy tune with Mariska Veres singing her young beautiful heart out with the band jamming in sync with her. She just adds truth to the lyrics “The Love Machine…it makes the world go round.” “I’m A Woman” oozes with psychedelia…Robbie van Leeuwen on sitar again…picking away as Mariska Veres melts my heart with her “I’m A Woman, Yes I Am! Makes souls grow out!” She’s proud of her femininity and lets me know it when she sighs, “Look Here you can’t change me, even if you want to. Darlin’ I just know my way”. She’s a woman, yes she is…she’ll make my soul grow out!

The next track has one of the best acoustic guitar intros in Rock and History. I’m talking about “Venus”, the smash that hit the top of the charts in 1969 in the United States. This is another completely flawless song. Mariska Veres gives it all she’s got on vocals. Robbie’s lead guitar, priceless. The whole band plays so tight as they do on the whole album. “California Here I Come” is a great rockin’ R&B Tune. All of the songs featured have great jams in between the lyrics, and this is no exception. “Poor Boy” is the single version which is the first half of the track that is completely instrumental. It’s a driving tune with Robbie and Klassje asking and answering each other with great guitar licks and bass lines. Throughout the jam, Robbie hits the same mind bending note over and over which compliments Klassje’s bass lines perfectly. A side note for all fans :the complete version of “Poor Boy” is featured as a bonus track on the CD version of Shocking Blue’s “3rd Album”. The vocal track begins right after the instrumental fades.

“Long and Lonesome Road” is a heart pounding jam which spotlights Cory van der Beek’s terrific drumming. “Love Buzz” just oozes soul, rhythm and blues and psychedelia with Mariska Veres asking unrequitedly “Can’t You Feel My Love Buzz…Can’t You Feel my Love Buzz…Can’t You Hear my Love Buzz…? before the songs abrupt ending.

“The Butterfly and I” which completes the original 1969 album’s track listing, features more jangling sitar, and a blasting heart pounding brass section which takes up most of the tracks 3:50 time all the way to the fade. It shows off the group’s brilliant musicianship. Klassje van der Wal’s bass and Robbie van Leeuwen’s guitars jam along with the horns completely in sync.

The Red Bullet CD reissue of “At Home” also features 4 awesome bonus tracks which complete the trip to “Venus”

“Harley Davidson”, “Fireball of Love”, which completely rock out. “Hot Sand” was issued as the B-Side of “Venus”. I absolutely love B-Sides, and this one could have stood alone as a single in its own right. When Mariska sings, Robbie replies with sitar fills. Robbie van Leeuwen is such an underrated musician. He makes the sitar sound like Cathedral Church Bells. “Wild Wind” is the final track on the CD. It starts off with Klassje van der Wal’s bongo drums, and Mariska asking the “Wild Wind” why we were born…If you’re a 1960’s-1970s music fan who’s yet to hear this, you were born to.

“But it’s not ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ (or The Beatles didn’t do everything)”!

By Nick Arietano Jr The Record Lover

Let me tell you folks, I’m a big music connoisseur. There’s no getting around it. I find though, that when I look at forums on social media that discuss different groups I thoroughly enjoy listening to (i.e. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Association, The Beach Boys, etc.), it never fails that an album created by a different group of the 1960s gets compared to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Before you make statements like “Oh, I thought you were the biggest Beatles fan in the world”, or “Gee, you’re not yourself today…(or before you throw tomatoes, I should tell you I prefer Boston Cream Pies)…,” let me explain.

Yes, I love “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The Beatles version and ONLY the Beatles version. I’m a huge Bee Gees fan as well, but they broke the 11th Commandment when they made the album into a musical in 1978 and said (cringing as I write this and paraphrasing),”We’re Gonna make everyone forget about the Beatles version”.

Big mistake. You just don’t say that. “Sgt. Pepper’s” was ahead of its time. I agree. The music on it is tremendous. I also agree. It’s best to hear in mono. Yep. Very true. I can’t even tell you how many copies on LP I have of it in mono, stereo, 5.1 Surround sound, on the Apple Label, Capitol Lime Green, Capitol Rainbow, etc. I love the album. It’s one of my favorites, it’s great. But is it their best? Get those Boston Cream pies ready! No. It’s not their best. “Revolver” beats it by a long shot.

But, you object (and have every right to), “It’s nothing like Sgt. Pepper’s”. No shit Sherlock. That’s why “Revolver” is “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s” is “Sgt. Pepper’s.” 1966 is not 1967 and vice versa.

“Sgt. Pepper’s” is the biggest psychedelic album ever! No. It’s not. The Rolling Stones “Their Satanic Majesties Request” is so psychedelic and mind blowing that when the album is finished I have to make sure I’m still in the same house and the same century. It’s that good. “But it’s a rip-off of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’!” If it was a rip off, tell me how it was in the top five in December of 1967 second only to “Pepper’s”. It had to sell pretty well, and wound up at number 2, which is a damn good plumb position on the charts. “But dude, ‘Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds is about…” NO! It’s not about the dreaded LSD. It’s about a painting John’s son Julian brought home to…if you don’t know the story, don’t expect me to rehash it. Just to drive the point home further, “Lovely Rita” and “When I’m Sixty Four” are about as psychedelic as a vanilla coke combined with a Snickers bar.

So many great albums came out in 1967. The Monkees had “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, LTD.” which also went to number one at the end of the year. The Beach Boys had “Smiley Smile” (which I would also pick over “Pepper’s in terms of psychedelia) which was ahead of it’s time in its own right. The Byrds had albums like “Younger Than Yesterday”, and were working on the forthcoming tour-de-force “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”. How about The Association’s album “Insight Out”, containing “Windy”, and “Never My Love”?

Yes, “Sgt . Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” made a big impact and influenced different bands to make better albums as a result. Simon and Garfunkel had “Bookends”, The Bee Gees had “Bee Gees 1st”, and The Lovin’ Spoonful had “Everything Playing”.

But they’re not “Sgt. Pepper’s.” And that’s a good thing.


Nick The Record Lover

The Creation’s “We are Paintermen” is a Mono Masterpiece!

The biggest benefit of being a music lover is how much there is to discover (or rediscover if you were there when it happened) about the great albums and singles of the 1960s by English artists which flew under the radar. One such group was The Creation (whose name was founded by lead singer Kenny Pickett when he looked through a book of Russian poems and noticed one titled “The Creation”), which featured Kenny Pickett on lead vocals, Eddie Phillips on lead guitar and vocals, Bob Garner on bass/vocals, and Jack Jones on drums/vocals. This lineup would be intact for one year before many personnel changes would be made through 1968.  The type of music The Creation performed was known as “Freakbeat” which was a cross between British Rock, R&B, Pop, and Psyche-delic. The group broke its chops in Germany, although some singles were released in the U.S. (“Making Time”/”Try and Stop Me”, and “Painter Man”/”Biff Bang Pow” On the US Planet Label (which was distributed by the Jay-Gee/Jubilee label). The photos below show a reissue of the group’s only official LP to be released in the German and European market.

Although the reissue cover reads “Stereo”, the songs (all recorded in 1966) are in mono (brilliantly remixed by the group’s producer Shel Talmy) and pressed on Pink Vinyl.

The LP kicks off with a rip-roarin’ cover of the Capitols hit “Cool Jerk” featuring great vocals by the group and a great lead guitar by Eddie Phillips. 

“Making Time” is just an all out rip-roaring rocker, featuring Eddie Phillips famous guitar playing with a violin bow! Kenny Pickett is an underrated vocalist, period! They pull out all the stops for this one. An intro to the group’s many original tracks!

The group showcases some wonderfully eerie psychedelia on the Bob Garner/ Eddie Phillips “Through My Eyes”. Fabulous lead guitar from Eddie during the instrumental bridge. Great harmony vocals featuring Bob Garner. The song just ends abruptly as if it was just a dream…

The group makes Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” their own laid-back “creation”. Once again some great harmonic backing vocals! It’s like they said to each other, “Hey man, let’s just do a Dylan cover and let it all hang out”. Bob Garner’s bass gives it its drive.

“Can I Join Your Band” is a great rocker written by Eddie Phillips with a nod to The Byrds with the lyrics, “Always stoned, eight miles high”, before going into the falsetto chorus of “Can I Join Your Band? Can I Join Your Band…?”

“Tom Tom” is a simple and heavy rocker. The percussion, the drums, and Eddie Phillips answering every “Tom Tom, the piper’s son…” with his heavy guitar riffs.

Side Two opens with “Try and Stop Me” an explosive original by Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips. The mono master sounds so great you can hear them draw breath before each verse!

The group proves they can rock softly with “If I Stay Too Long” written by Bob Garner and Eddie Phillips. The harmonies are back with this beautiful ballad!

Next, we have the exploding “Biff Bang Pow!” which showcases the group’s contribution to the British Invasion (Heck, this whole album is!) Great drumming by Jack Jones, and the band plays strong and tight throughout.

“Nightmares” written by Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips is another eerily psychedelic “creation” (there’s the cliche again!) with lyrics like: “Things are broken, you wish you were dead..” while the group sings “la-la-la-la-la-la” in an innocent falsetto tone. This is one bad dream worthy of keeping you up at night wanting more!

“Nightmares” leads into the group’s version of The Leaves “Hey Joe”. Another cover that The Creation make their own. Eddie Phillips shines with his lead guitar phrasing.

The Piece de resistance is “Painterman”. This is the single that should have broke the group in the U.S. in 1966. Kenny Pickett and Eddie Phillips are unsung heroes of singing and songwriting. Seriously folks, Eddie Phillips is a Guitar god. He plays the instrument with a vengeance using a bloody violin bow the entire song…scratching the strings….move over Jimmy Page. Consider yourself and Led Zeppelin lucky to have been associated with this type of music…but I digress. Who can relate to the lyrics “Went to College, studied art…to be an artist, make a start”/”Studied hard, gained my degree…But no one seemed to notice me…? ” Here, Here, my fellow liberal arts majors!

To sum it all up, buy this album. On Pink Vinyl. The original mono analogue master tapes were used, and they sound as fresh as they did when the group created them.

The Beach Boys “Ultimate Christmas”

Hello Fellow Fans of Yuletide Music!

I hope all of you are enjoying the Christmas Holiday Season! Many of us have our favorite songs and/or albums which celebrate St. Nick coming down the chimney and filling our young (or young at) hearts with happiness and joy.

As an ardent fan of Christmas music, I would like to take the time to share a story about my “Ultimate” favorite.

“The Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas” (1998)

I remember listening to “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” since I was 3 years old in December of 1973. My family and I lived in Jackson Heights, Queens New York. Oh the wonderful memories of singing along to “Little Saint Nick”, “The Man With All The Toys”, “Santa’s Beard”, “Merry Christmas, Baby” and one of my all time favorites, “Christmas Day” (which features member Al Jardine’s first lead vocal on a Beach Boys song). Whenever I heard “Christmas Day” come over the stereo hi-fi speakers (the first version I heard of this album was a Capitol Full Dimensional Stereo first press on LP catalog # ST-2164), my Dad and I waited for the keyboard part so we could “air-play” along with it. I would tap the coffee table like I was playing a real organ! Still do today in my Dad’s memory. Over the years I have heard many different incarnations of this classic (cassette tape, Mono and Stereo LPs-some copies still in the original shrink wrap, one stereo copy sealed!). I waited many years for it to come out on CD. Finally, it did in 1988. The sound quality was ok for the time. Capitol used the single version of “Little Saint Nick” (which includes glockenspiel and sleigh bells omitted on the original LP) which was in mono as was the rest of The Beach Boys original songs for the album. “Frosty The Snowman” and the rest of the traditional carols were featured in stereo. In 1991 Capitol re-released it on CD with all of the album tracks in true stereo, with a few bonuses (an alternate version of “Little Saint Nick”, the 1963 single version of “Little Saint Nick” and the a cappella “Auld Lang Syne” sans Dennis Wilson’s voice over wishing the fans a Merry Christmas, and a gorgeous a cappella rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer”). I purchased this version for the upgraded sound (as far as early 90s remastering goes), as well as the bonus tracks.

Flash forward to November of 1999. I had heard the Beach Boys Christmas Album was to be re-released on CD. I was living in Edison NJ and one of my favorite record store haunts was Vintage Vinyl in Fords, not too far from where I lived. When I searched the Christmas music section, I snarfed it up for $13.99!

Well, to say it was worth the wait would be a gross understatement. There are many reasons this collection is called “The Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas” . First off, it includes the entire 1964 album in beautiful remixed stereo. The harmonies sound as fresh as they did 55 (!) years ago! When I bought this CD I was a lad of 29 and the child in me sang along with “Little Saint Nick”, “The Man With All The Toys”, “Santa’s Beard” (you can hear Brian Wilson in prime falsetto voice singing “I hope he doesn’t pull Santa’s Beard” and later, “He shouldn’t have pulled Santa’s Beard”.

Now for the piece de resistance: The bonus tracks. First is the 1963 single version of “Little Saint Nick” in remixed true stereo! The sleigh bells and glockenspiel are much clearer and crisper, and it has a longer fade with Brian Wilson singing a note (that only HE could) on the “Oooooo.. Merry CHRISTMAS Saint Nick” chorus. What a treat! Next is an outtake of “Auld Lang Syne” in true stereo with a count off before the singing, sans Dennis Wilson’s message to the fans wishing a Merry Christmas. Beautiful harmonies! Then there is the alternate version of “Little Saint Nick” (the backing track would be used for the song “Drive-In” found on their 1964 album “All Summer Long”). It’s also remixed for stereo and it’s so much fun to hear Brian having a laugh towards the longer fadeout (includes more electric guitar and drums). It’s interesting that most of the original album was recorded in June 1964!

Tracks 16-26 are a Christmas Treasure! The group’s 1974 Christmas Single “Child of Winter (Christmas Song)” (aka “Child of Winter”/”Here Comes Santa Claus”) is heard here for the first time on CD. It flew under the radar due to the fact it was recorded on November 23 of 1974 and released on December 23 of 1974 so only hard-core fans most likely were able to get a copy in the stores. I was lucky to find a Mono/Stereo promo 45 of it !

The following songs were to be considered for another Christmas Album that the group submitted to Warner Brothers Records (to fulfill their contract), in 1977, but remained unreleased (due to rejection from the label. What were Warner Brothers thinking?) :

“Santa’s Got an Airplane”: A re-recording of the 1969 unreleased track “Loop de-Loop (Flyin’ in an Airplane)” describes Kris Kringle’s alternate method of transportation to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve. I love singing along with the great verses: “If you’re up a little late on Christmas Eve this year, and you’re waiting for that pudgy person to appear, instead of the patter of tiny feet you’ll hear…” and off they go into the “Loop De Loop” chorus!

“Christmas Time is Here Again”: A Rockin’ tune with an awesome lead vocal by Al Jardine with the classic Beach Boys harmonies. Love the lyric “Lots of mistletoe hangin’ everywhere, plenty of free kissin’ so don’t despair, cause Christmas, Christmas, Christmas Time is Hear Again!” I can always picture Christmas lights and snow falling whenever I hear this song.

“Winter Symphony” A Great Brian Wilson composition celebrating the changing of the Seasons. “Cuddle up in a cozy nook with a warm drink and a book” and listen to Brian’s great vocals and beautiful lyrics “Winter Symphony..Snowflake fantasy…warms my heart like a tropic sea, there the sun always shines…there you’ll always be mine…all in a Winter Symphony.” Thank you Brian.

“(I Saw Santa) Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” : A Cute little ditty featuring Al Jardine along with his sons Adam and Matt narrating along with Carney and Wendy Wilson singing (doo- wops in the background).

“Mele Kalikimaka” Another great rocker with Mike Love and The Boys singing and fantasizing about a Christmas Vacation in Hawaii. Listen for the reenactment of their 1963 song “Hawaii” chorus while Mike sings “Mele Kalikimaka is Christmas in Hawaii talk-a”!

“Bells of Christmas”-This is too beautiful for words. What I will say is the lyrics and the harmonies will bring peace to your soul and bring the realization of what the Season truly signifies.

“Morning Christmas” (aka “Holy Holy” and “Holy Evening”): One of Dennis Wilson’s best moments as a solo artist. Whenever I hear this I’m enrapt in meditation and achieving peace while Church Bells ring in the background. Rest in Peace Dennis. Thank you for this wonderful carol.

The final tracks on this collection feature The Beach Boys doing a special re-recording of “Little Saint Nick” urging the listeners to bring toys to the Crystal Ship store for underprivileged children, a voice over by Dennis Wilson asking us to donate an unwrapped toy to an underprivileged children’s organization so the kids could possibly share in a Happy Christmas while “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” plays in the background. The last one features a 1964 interview with Brian Wilson talking to Jack Wagner about the release of “The Beach Boys Christmas” album.

I hope all of my friends enjoyed this feature. I leave you with my favorite lyric on the song “Christmas Day”:

“It’s worth the wait the whole year through…just to make happy someone like you, and I’ll never outgrow the thrill of Christmas Day.” (Brian Wilson)



The Moody Blues “In Search of The Lost Chord” 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition delivers a sonic punch and much more!

The Moody Blues “In Search of The Lost Chord” 50th Anniversary Deluxe Boxed Set gets its proper acknowledgement!

Although The Moody Blues first progressive effort “Days of Future Passed” broke new musical ground by combining Classical interludes with Rock and pop sounds (and still blows my mind!), their 1968 tour de force “In Search of The Lost Chord” album will always be my favorite (and arguably their creative best) to this day. First off, they are playing each and every instrument themselves, including (but not limited to) cello, timpani, mellotron, and harpsichord. In three years, The Moody Blues went from a rock/blues band with their 1965 hit “Go Now” to songwriters, musicians, and geniuses of the recording studio.

Now the moment all you fans are waiting for: the music!

The first disc of the set contains the original stereo mix released in 1968 on Deram Records DES 18017 in the U.S. and Deram SML 711 in the UK. It’s quite beautiful. There are some nuances especially on the tracks”Legend of a Mind” (Graeme Edge’s rim shots on the drums sound more clear and upfront), and lead singer Justin Hayward’s vocals sound angelic as always. The bonus tracks on Disc One feature the original mono single masters of “Voices in The Sky”, “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume”, “Ride My See Saw (which includes the “1-2-3-4″ count in)” and “Legend of A Mind” which all sound amazing (these are taken from the direct masters rather than clean copies of the original 45s)! The single master of “A Simple Game” which includes Mike Pinder’s vocal is featured in stereo.

The new 2018 Stereo Remix of the album does sound similar -but also refreshingly different from the original in some places. For instance, the intro to the first track “Departure” has the first two notes in both speakers (one in the left, the other on the right, which was a pleasant surprise). Caught that immediately! The percussion and guitars on “Dr. Livingston, I Presume” sound more intense and “out there” in the new versions. On “Voices in The Sky” you can hear Justin Hayward draw a breath before he sings the first “Bluebird flying high, tell me what you see..” verse. The biggest surprise was the intro to “The Actor”. This includes about a 30 second instrumental intro before the “The Curtain rises on the scene..” passage. I thought I was listening to a bonus track version of the song ! The new remix of “The Word” features string passages heard distinctly in the background during Graeme Edge’s poetry. The Justin Hayward vocal version of “A Simple Game” is included as a bonus track in remixed stereo.

Disc Three contains “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume”, “Voices in The Sky”, “The Best Way to Travel”, and “Ride My See Saw” in mono on the BBC One John Peel “Top Gear” program broadcast on July 16th 1968. It’s refreshing to hear alternate versions of the album tracks performed in such a relaxing manner. The group let themselves go on these sessions, especially on “Voices In The Sky” and “The Best Way To Travel”. The group rocks out on the BBC Version of “Ride My See Saw”. “Tuesday Afternoon” is performed in such an explosive psychedelic manner on the BBC Radio One “Afternoon Pop Show” (broadcast October 7th 1968), it sounds as though the group was headed for another universe and about to take the studio with them to boot!

Also included on the third disc are alternate versions of “Departure” (which has such eerie vocals it made my heart skip a beat (cliché, I know, but wait until you hear it…!), “The Best Way To Travel”, “Legend of A Mind”, a gorgeous instrumental mix of “Visions of Paradise” (which demonstrates how great a sitarist Justin Hayward is), a version of “The Word” featuring the mellotron, and an extended mix of “OM” which comes to a complete end. “King and Queen” and “Gimme a Little Somethin'” are terrific bonus tracks recorded during the “In Search of The Lost Chord” sessions between February and March of 1968 as well as “What am I Doing Here?” (Full Version) recorded in January and November of 1968. The Justin Hayward vocal version of “A Simple Game” Recorded in September of 1968 is featured here in stereo.

Disc 4 Features both original and remixes of the stereo version and a 5.1 Surround Sound mix. The 5.1 Surround mix sounds very nice. The vocals and instruments are all spread around each channel. It’s more of an otherworldly experience than a Moody Blues album (and that’s a great thing)!

The 5th and final disc-how should I describe this? Fan-bloody-tastic!! It features visual “Live” Performances. The first being an entire concert on ORTF French TV: “Ce Soire on Danse: The Moody Blues” from July 1968. Songs include “Tuesday Afternoon”, “Nights in White Satin”, the Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon blues number “Bye Bye Bird” featuring Ray Thomas on vocal and blues harp (wow!), the single “Fly Me High, a great cover of The Animals hit “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Peak Hour” from “Days of Future Passed”. This concert footage shows just how tight of a band The Moody Blues were “Live”. The Audience were swinging and dancing and grooving throughout (as I was while watching)! The finale features a Reprise of “Nights In White Satin”. This concert was shown in black and white and the sound is in mono, but crystal clear! You can hear every beat of Graeme Edge’s drums (this man should be on the list of elite drummers), Justin Hayward’s awesome lead and rhythm guitar, John Lodge’s terrific bass, Mike Pinder’s psychedelic mellotron and Ray Thomas’s beautiful flute playing.

Next we have a performance of “In Search of The Lost Chord” on The BBC Program “Colour Me Pop” broadcast in September 1968. The group is singing and playing along with the original pre-recorded album tracks. The footage is in gorgeous color !

The final two “Live” performances are featured on “Carte d’Or”, a French TV broadcast (previously unreleased) from October 1968 showing the group playing “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume”, and “Ride My See Saw”.

The Deluxe version has some materialistic goodies to complement the music. A Gorgeous booklet with many black and white and color photographs showing Coca-Cola ads, 45s and picture sleeves of “Ride My See Saw, “Nights in White Satin” and “Fly Me High” along with the lyrics to the entire “In Search of The Lost Chord” album,”King and Queen” “A Simple Game” and “Gimme Little Somethin”. A replica of some of the sheet music to “Ride My See Saw” is included as well.

If you’re a die-hard Moody Blues fan, and you love “In Search of The Lost Chord” this is the ultimate version to experience. You get a TON of music, great concert performances and detailed liner notes about the recording of the album. Great content for a more than reasonable cost!


Nick Arietano Jr. (recordlover)

“Beatles VI” has ‘Every Little Thing’ to Love!


“Beatles VI” has always been a favorite Capitol Records release. I can remember when I received my first copy of it on Christmas Day 1984. It was a Purple Label reissue, and I played the heck out of it. All the songs fit together perfectly. Some of these songs were previously released in England (“Eight Days A Week”, “What You’re Doing”, “I Don’t Want to Spoil The Party”, et. al.) Some were heard in America before being released in England (“You Like Me Too Much”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”, “Tell Me What You See”).

The LP was released in the U.S. June 14 1965 and hit the top of the Billboard charts in July of that year. The album cover is one of my favorite shots of the Fab Four. I had originally thought they were all holding a microphone, when actually they are holding a knife cutting a cake (the complete photo can be seen online). The LP was released in both mono and stereo (although “Yes it Is”, the B Side of “Ticket to Ride” is in duophonic or “fake stereo” as it was called). The versions released on the Capitol “Rainbow” Label had back covers with “See Label For Correct Playing Order” of songs while later pressings listed the songs in order. The “See Label for Correct Playing order” copies were released as late as 1968 (the label itself reads, “Mfd. By Capitol Records, Inc. A Subsidiary of Capitol Industries”.) I have both Mono and Stereo copies with both variations of the back covers. (See the images below). The title “Beatles VI” refers to the LP being the sixth release on Capitol records (although “The Beatles Story” came before it, Capitol claimed it to be the sixth Beatles album with songs, where “Story” was an audio documentary).

So why do I love “Beatles VI”? Well, it includes the group’s beautiful version of “Words of Love” (originally by Buddy Holly), and two Larry Williams’ compositions “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” and “Bad Boy” which contain gut wrenching vocals by John Lennon. Always loved trying to match John’s vocals when singing along! “Tell Me What You See”, “You Like Me Too Much” and “Every Little Thing” are some of the most wonderful love songs ever written by  Lennon/McCartney and George Harrison, respectively. What makes this album all the more special is when John Lennon referred to the LP title in “The Beatles At Shea Stadium” Concert before breaking into “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”! 

Check out the back photo variations of the album covers: The top one contains the correct listing of songs while the one underneath has the “See Label For Correct Playing Order”.