Melanie – Born To Be (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgBorn to Be is the singer Melanie’s debut album, released on Buddah Records in 1968.

Following Melanie’s success at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 Buddha repackaged and reissued the album as My First Album.

Born to Be, Melanie Safka’s 1969 debut, is an intriguing curate’s egg. Neither Melanie, nor her producer-husband Peter Schekeryk, seem sure exactly where her strengths lie, so she is cast in a number of roles: Piaf-imitating chanteuse (“In the Hour”), soul-searching, angst-heavy troubadour (“Momma Momma”), giggling novelty figure (“Animal Crackers”) and children’s entertainer (“Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers”). Stranger still, half the time the experiment works; the small ensemble, led by her own enthusiastic (if thoroughly inexpert) guitar playing creates an arty, coffeehouse ambience in which Melanie’s idiot-savant act flourishes. But the less said about her attack at “Merry Christmas” the better. (by Charles Donovan)

It’s hard to believe this album was released almost 37 years ago. Listening to it on today, I was struck by how fresh and challenging the performances are: “Born To Be” is really an inspired debut album. Those unfamiliar with Melanie’s work except for her hits are in for a real surprise with this album. Most of the arrangements are orchestral, and her youthful sounding voice paints a stark contrast with the complexity of her songwriting (as in “I Really Loved Harold,” “Momma Momma,” and “I’m Back In Town”).

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Significantly, Melanie delivers a definitive cover version of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Dylan wrote in the first installment of his autobiography, “Chronicles,” that seeing the Brecht/Weill show “The Threepenny Opera” (as presented by the Theatre de Lys in New York City) helped to bring about the expanded vision needed to write “Mr. Tambourine Man,” as well as other songs. Hearing Melanie’s rendition, I think that she unconsciously tapped into that same thought process that produced such a striking performance, which sounds as if it came out of “The Threepenny Opera.” For those of you who are lucky enough to find this disc, it is well worth buying. You get a glimpse of an artist introducing herself and her work to the world: “Born to Be…Melanie.” (by Charles)

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Personnel:
Melanie (guitar, vocals)
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a bunch of unknown studio musicians

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Tracklist:
01. In the Hour (Safka) 3.12
02. I’m Back in Town (Safka) 2.23
03. Bobo’s Party (Safka) 3.52
04. Mr. Tambourine Man (Dylan) 4.28
05. Momma, Momma (Safka) 3.48
06. I Really Loved Harold (Safka) 4.14
07. Animal Crackers (Safka) 2.17
08. Christopher Robin Is Saying His Prayers (Fraser/Milne/Safka) 2.37
09. Close To It All (Safka) 3.24
10. Merry Christmas (Traditional/Safka) 2.49

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More Melanie:

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Novi Singers – Novi In Wonderland (1968)

FrontCover1.jpgHere´s a real very rare album:

“NOVI” is actually an acronym for “New Original Vocal Instruments”. All group members were multi-instrumentalists who graduated from the Warsaw Advance Music School.

And here´s an album recorded for the legendary German jazz label MPS Records:

One of the earliest records by the legendary Novi Singers – and a rare MPS set that exposed the group to a larger European audience! Novi hail from Poland, but have a name that’s an condensation of the English phrase “new original vocal instruments” – a great summation of the way the quartet use their voices to recreate the feel of instruments in modern jazz – a mode first explored by the Lambert Hendricks & Ross group in the US, but taken to a much farther extreme on this set! The group are supported here by a border-crossing small combo of musicians that includes Zbigniew Namyslowski on alto sax, Idrees Sulieman on trumpet, Adam Makowicz on piano, and Billy Brooks on drums – and the sound is cool, laidback, and very groovy – extremely tight, almost even more so than some of the group’s Polish albums! Titles include “The Second Side”, “Secret Life”, “Kulfon”, and “Apartment Under The Roof” (by dusty groove)

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Sounds confusing but the album starts really at side one with a tune that’s called THE SECOND SIDE. The Novi Singers are backed by excellent Jazz musicians, blending together perfectly with the “New Vocal Instruments”. Essential recording from 1968, Villingen, SABA-Tonstudio with engineer Rolf Donner and producer Joachim E. Berendt. Sensational also at the time because it was one of the first recordings of a Polish Jazz ensemble made outside their country, across the Iron Curtain which was dividing the Europe of this time until the end of the Cold War in 1991.

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The second edition of this album was pressed directly for MPS Recods

Forward with the last tune on this exquisite album. SECRET LIFE, for sure also my long time favorite and of course also the most powerful song of this recording. In the middle of the 90s it was smartly sampled by United Future Organization. But that was not the only groovy sample the trio from Tokyo had used for their great tune UNITED FUTURE AIRLINES. (by whatiswrongwithgrooving.com)

This is not only a very rae album, but a fantast ablum, one of finest vocal jazz album I´v ever heard … sensational !

Recorded at SABA Tonstudio, Villingen/Black Forest, Germany
February 22nd, 23rd, 1968 – produced by Joachim E. Berendt

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Personnel:

vocals:
Bernard Kawka – Ewa Wanat – Janusz Mych – Waldemar Parzynski
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Billy Brooks (drums)
Roman Dylag (bass)
Adam Matyszkowicz (piano)
Zbigniew Namyslowski (saxophone)
Idrees Sulieman (trumpet)

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Tracklist:
01. The Second Side (Kawka) 5.47
02. Alice In Wonderland (Churchill) 2.47
03. Satin Doll (Ellington) 4.12
04. A Foggy Day In London Town (Gershwin) 3.45
05. Li’l Darling (Hefti) 4.15
06. Kulfon (Parzynski) 3.42
07. I Don’t Know (Kawka) 3.24
08. Apartment Under The Roof (Parzynski) 3.47
09. Secret Life (Kawka) 3.15

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Alexis Korner – A New Generation Of Blues (1968)

FrontCover1In 1968, Alexis Korner found himself in a strange position. What little commercial success he’d archived as a Blues musician seemed to be disappearing out of sight, as his album sold fewer and fewer copies. And as he’d taken Blues Incorporated into increasingly Jazzy areas, he’d been overtaken by the new British Blues boomers like John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack, who all majored on the sort of guitar pyrotechnics Alexis was never going to aspire to. Consequently, that year Alexis somehow found himself working the Folk circuit for the first time in many years, in addition to the traditional Jazz and Blues clubs.

Yet as the ‘Blues guru’ of Britain, his star had never shone brighter. Guests at his 40th birthday party in April had included Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful, John Mayall and Ginger Baker had jammed together, Charlie Watts chatted with Alexis’ children, and Ornette Coleman drifted around talking with the many other celebrities who’d turned up. Alexis had also narrated a film about Jimi Hendrix, See My Music Talking, fronted a three part radio series about British Blues, kicked off a new R&B series on the BBC World Service, and began what became a very lucrative career in advertising, blessed, as he was, with a signature voice straight from three o’clock in the morning.

However, Alexis didn’t abandon his recording career – not least because a handy, if modest, Advance was always on offer, and he had a family to provide for. At the time, Alexis was associated with the Bryan Morrison Agency. As well as providing agent services, Morrison also shared management duties with Alexis to promote a new band whom Alexis had discovered, called Free. Within this arrangement, Alexis signed a production deal with Morrison for an album, called New Generation Of Blues – to be released on the Liberty label, which listed other Blues acts on its roster like The Groundhogs, the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation and Canned Heat.

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The big question for Alexis was, who could he get to play on his new record? Since the demise of Blues Inc, he was working without a regular band, whilst most of the musicians who’d started out with him were now in their own well-established bands. Moreover, the business had moved on. Unlike the Jazz world, it was very hard for what were now Rock musicians to just turn up on one another’s records without managers and record companies becoming extremely pissed off. So, once again, it was to Jazz that Alexis turned. But he had a problem here as well. The obvious choice would be the last rhythm section, who’d made up the final incarnation of Blues Incorporated; bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox. But that association had ended acrimoniously a year ago. The reason? Money. It was almost written into the contract that bandleaders would fall out with the other musicians over money. The employees would always gripe that the leader was taking too much of a share; the leader would complain that ‘they’ never understood that he had all the extras to pay – transport, PA and so on. Alexis, though, seemed especially difficult to deal with over money, and the big bust-up came when a cheque he gave to Danny Thompson bounced.

BroxIn truth, storm clouds had already been gathering. The band, plus saxophonist/flautist Ray Warleigh, had a reasonably full date sheet; but much of this was hardly more than cabaret work and when Alexis had refused to play the Hilton Hotel many months earlier, Blues Inc was no more. By 1968, both Thompson and Cox were spearheading the new phenomenon of Folk-Rock with Pentangle, but still Alexis managed to sweet talk them both – and Ray Warleigh, plus pianist Steve Miller – into interrupting their busy schedules to lay some tracks down intermittently over March-April at the Sound Techniques Studio, which in due course came together as A New Generation Of Blues.

The opening track, ‘Mary Open The Door’, was written by Duffy Power, arguably one of the most underrated Blues singers this country has ever produced. Born Ray Howard, Duffy became part of Larry Parnes’ Rock’n’Roll stable, which included Marty Wilde and Billy Fury. But after a series of failed singles, gruelling tours and disillusionment with Parnes’ questionable management tactics, Duffy quit Rock’n’Roll and moved into the Blues/Jazz scene. He recorded The Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ with Graham Bond, plus some remarkable Jazz/Blues material with the likes of John McLaughlin, Phil Seaman and the rhythm sections of Bruce/Baker and Thompson/Cox, all of which was criminally ignored and he slipped into bouts of despair and drug-driven mental illness. He played & sang with Alexis in Blues Incorporated – even appearing with them on their dreaded Five O’clock Club TV show residency (on which Duffy was famously once caught smoking a huge joint – he’d thought he was out of camera shot!). He was also heavily featured on Sky High (check out CMRCD 1416), on which he took lead vocals on several tracks, in addition to playing harp. But he had a strained relationship with Alexis who, according to Duffy, took one of his songs and credited himself with its composition – and call him ‘Duff’, which irritated Duffy considerably. Nor could Duffy understand why Alexis asked him to stand down for some songs during live performances. Yet they remained friends until Alexis’ death. Duffy recalls that ‘Mary Open The Door’ had been inspired by a relationship he had with a girl, whose boyfriend came round one day and hammered on the door yelling to be let in.

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A New Generation Of Blues has a production feel at once more subtle and more substantial than Alexis’ previous two albums, I Wonder Who and Sky High, with excellent support from his former band members – whatever their previous differences. Indeed, the stripped-down, off-stark production, with Ray Warleigh’s flute adding a light, airy feel (most notably on the first two tracks), lent the album a rather ethereal tone, something which was invariably observed in the album’s album’s reviews. But equally, there were timeless songs full of Blues passion, like ‘Go Down Sunshine’ and the achingly-beautiful ‘The Same For You’ (Alexis’ long recording career is dotted liberally with real gems like these – often a perfect synthesis of a man and his guitar – which, taken together, could perhaps yet make a creditable Alexis Unplugged album). He delivers a pair couple of fine, contemporary R&B covers in the shape of Freddie King’s ‘I’m Tore Down’ (which got Side Two off to a truly magnificent start) and Chris Kenner’s much-travelled ‘Something You Got’, although some reviewers identified Alexis’ ‘A Flower’ as the album’s outstanding track.

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Rare single from France

While Alexis was always happy to nurture new talent – and those musicians owing him a debt is long and illustrious – he could demonstrate a parochial territorialism about The Blues itself, and especially in some of his journalism, could be quite vitriolic about those he saw not keeping the flame burning true and fierce. Yet on ‘What’s That Sound I Hear?’, you get a sense that Alexis knows well enough that he has been outgunned by the fastest guitarists in the West, name-checking Clapton, Hendrix and Peter Green (it’s a great track – EMI should perhaps have issued it as a single!). Blues Incorporated as an entity was by now long dead, and therefore this album can be regarded as Alexis’ pure Blues swansong, as he literally passes The Blues mantle over a new generation. As is well-documented, Alexis was never particularly comfortable in the recording studio – indeed, his son, Damian, has often said that much of the best of Alexis came during rehearsals, before the tapes were running. Here, though, as we have seen, he delivered some heart-felt performances accompanied by some deft acoustic Blues guitar.

The bonus tracks are largely taken from contemporaneous BBC sessions and reflect Alexis during a period, without a regular band, just playing with many of the new musicians who were shipping up on the London Blues scene. Multi-instrumentalist Victor Brox hailed from Manchester and came south, boasting a degree in philosophy and a stint as leader of the Victor Brox Blues Train. He teamed up with Alexis and they formed a duo lasting about nine months, during the course of which (on November 28th ’67) they recorded a great Rhythm & Blues BBC session, which yielded the first three of these bonus tracks, Muddy’s ‘Louisiana Blues’, the ubiquitous ‘Corrina Corrina’, and the mighty Joe Tex’s ‘The Love You Save’. While Alexis and Victor were working together, drummer Aynsley Dunbar brought Victor into his new Retaliation. Dunbar, too, had been helped out by Alexis when he came south from Liverpool; he sat in with Alexis on a night when John Mayall was in the audience who promptly signed the drummer for the Bluesbreakers.

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1968 was also a watershed period for a young Midlands singer Robert Plant. By the age of 15, he was a dedicated Blues fan, hanging out at all the local clubs, hair down his back with his parents dreams of young Robert becoming a chartered accountant fading into the distance. He scuffed around with long-forgotten bands, then made some progress with The Crawling King Snakes and the Band of Joy, both with John Bonham. But it still wasn’t happening. He’d set himself the target of making it by 20 or giving it up altogether. He’d been born in August 1948 – his birthday was looming. Alexis often played in Birmingham; one day he met up with Robert and the two went out as a duo, sharing brandy, wine and dope on the way. Alexis took Robert through his twentieth birthday, urging him all the time not to give up. Plant said later, “Alexis absorbed me in his large family .. helped me build my confidence and aided my schooling for what was to come”. Jimmy Page was looking for a singer for the New Yardbirds and had given Robert’s name by singer Terry Reid. Robert Plant got to the call, asked Alexis, who just said “Go!”.

But before then, they began to lay down tracks at De Lane Lea for what was intended to be an album, with pianist Steve Miller. They had just got through two songs, ‘Steal Away’ and ‘Operator’, when the session started for the first Led Zeppelin album – and Robert was gone for good. A snatch of ‘Steal Away’ can be heard on ‘How Many More Times’ – and while we are on matters Zeppelin, a version of ‘In The Evening’ appeared much later on In Through The Out Door.

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American soul singer PP Arnold sings with British blues musician Alexis Korner (1928 – 1984) at an anti H-Bomb demonstration near St Paul Cathedral, London,
UK, 15th April 1968.

And so to the last tracks on this expanded album, where Alexis dips into the gene pool of Blues standards, just one man alone with his guitar. Another superb Rhythm & Blues BBC session – recorded on March 19th ’69 – finds Alexis in fine form, as per usual (indeed, his live BBC sessions were uniformly excellent). He was no guitar virtuoso and he knew it, but what he lacked in technical fluidity, he made up for with passion and commitment – although actually he was a far better acoustic guitar player than most gave him credit for. It’s interesting to note that live, he performs ‘Go Down Sunshine’ in a lower key than the album version, and the four-song session wraps up with superlative performances of ‘Stump Blues’, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and ‘Just The Blues’.

Like all Alexis’ s albums thus far, A New Generation Of Blues failed to make much of a commercial impact. As we’ve discussed, this was doubtless due to its rather plaintive, stripped-down, largely acoustic feel, which was very much at odds with the sounds elsewhere of the late 60s Blues Boom. This becomes particularly apparent when comparing this album to those of other contemporary (essentially, guitar-driven) UK Blues bands, such as John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack, Cream, etc. Nonetheless it remains one of Alexis’s career milestones, and it certainly includes some of his finest solo performances. (Harry Shapiro)

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A basically competent, though hardly enthralling, effort from the British bluesman that alternates between minimal, acoustic-flavored production and fuller arrangements with jazzy touches of flute and upright bass. Korner wrote about half of the material, leaving the rest of the space open for R&B/blues covers and adaptations of traditional standards. “The Same for You” has a strange, ever-so-slight psychedelic influence, with its swirling flute, fake fadeout, and odd antiestablishment lyrics. Korner’s voice is (and always would be) a tuneless bark, but it sounds better here than it did on the first album to prominently feature his vocals (I Wonder Who, 1967). As such, this album is one of the best representations of Korner as a frontman. (by Richie Unterberger)

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Personnel:
Terry Cox (drums)
Alexis Korner (vocals, guitar)
Steve Miller (piano)
Danny Thompson (bass)
Ray Warleigh (flute, saxophone)
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Victor Brox (violin on 12., trumpet, vocals on 13., piano on 14.
Robert Plant (vocals, guitar on 15., 16.

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Tracklist:
01. Mary Open The Door (Power) 3.30
02 Little Bitty Girl (Traditional) 6.29
03. Baby Don’t You Love Me (Traditional) 3.26
04. Go Down Sunshine (Korner) 4.06
05. The Same For You (Korner) 4.11
06. I’m Tore Down (King) 2.09
07. In The Evening (Traditional) 4.37
08. Somethin’ You Got (Kenner) 2.24
09. New Worried Blues (Korner) 2.37
10. What’s That Sound I Hear(Korner) 3.18
11. A Flower (Korner) 2.14
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Various BBC sessions:
12. Louisiana Blues (Morganfield) 3.14
13. Corrina Corrina (Traditional) 3.09
14. The Love You Save (Tex) 5.39
15. Operator (Korner/Plant/Miller) 4.39
16. Steal Away (Korner/Plant/Miller) 4.45
17. Go Down Sunshine. (Korner) 4.09
18. Stump Blues (Broonzy) 3.36
19. Sweet Home Chicago (Johnson) 3.18
20. Just The Blues (Korner) 2.53

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Alexis Korner (19 April 1928 – 1 January 1984)

Bobby Bare – Folsom Prison Blues (1968)

FrontCover1.JPGBobby Bare (born Robert Joseph Bare on April 7, 1935 in Ironton, Ohio) is an American country music singer and songwriter. He is the father of Bobby Bare, Jr., also a musician. Bare had many failed attempts to sell his songs in the 1950s. He finally signed with Capitol Records and recorded a few rock and roll songs without much chart success. Just before he was drafted into the Army, he wrote a song called “The All American Boy” and did a demo for his friend, Bill Parsons, to learn and record. Instead of using the version Bill Parsons did later, the record company, Fraternity Records, decided to use the original demo done by Bobby Bare. The record reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, but they made an error: the singles’ labels all credited the artist as being “Bill Parsons. From 1983 to 1988, Bobby hosted Bobby Bare and Friends on The Nashville Network which featured Bobby interviewing songwriters who sang their hit songs on the show.

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In 1985, Bobby signed with EMI America Records where he scored 3 charted singles, but none of these reached the upper regions of the charts. In 1998, he formed the band, Old Dogs, with his friends Jerry Reed, Mel Tillis and Waylon Jennings. In nearly 50 years of making music, Bobby has made many firsts in country music. Bare is credited for introducing Waylon Jennings to RCA. He is also one of the first to record from many well- known song writers such as Jack Clement, Harlan Howard, Billy Joe Shaver, Mickey Newbury, Tom T. Hall, Shel Silverstein, Baxter Taylor and Kris Kristofferson. In 2006, he recorded a new album after over 20 years, called The Moon Was Blue,produced by his son. He continues to tour today. (by tjscountry.forumotion.com)

This album,from ’68 reveal the restless creativity and refusal to walk the straight country-music line that defined the career of Bobby Bare. He puts his own touch on Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind ; Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues ; Bobby Goldsboro’s Autumn of My Life.

If you like this mellow country music … you should listen !

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Personnel:
Bobby Bare (vocals, huitar)
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a bunch of unknown studio musicians

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Tracklist:
01. Folsom Prison Blues (Cash) 2.50
02. Autumn Of My Life (Goldsboro) 3.30
03. Abilene (Gibson/Loudermilk/Brown) 2.13
04. Blowin’ In The Wind (Dylan) 2.57
05. Lemon Tree (Holt) 2.20
06. Try To Remember (Schmidt/Jones) 2.24
07. Silence Is Golden (Brown, Jr.) 2.28
08. Gotta Travel On (Lazar/Ehrlich/Clayton/Six) 2.13
09. When Am I Ever Gonna Settle Down (Large/Lomax) 2.41
10. No Sad Songs For Me (Springfield) 2.24

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The Other Half – Mr. Pharmacist (Same) (1968)

FrontCover1The Other Half was an American psychedelic garage rock band, based in San Francisco, and active in the mid-to-late 1960s. The band gained interest after one of the Nuggets compilations in the 1980s included their single, “Mr. Pharmacist”.

The Other Half formed in Los Angeles Southern California, but later moved to San Francisco. They played several shows at Chet Helms Family Dog shows at the Avalon Ballroom. Their music was strongly influenced by Yardbirds and Rolling Stones. Guitarist Randy Holden had been offered the chance to replace Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds before joining The Other Half. The Other Half were at their peak when the music scene was at its height in San Francisco and the Flower Power movement in full swing in Haight Ashbury. Their style changed from an earlier vocal based garage band, to the loudest big stage band sound of the time, taken in that direction by former Sons of Adam guitarist Randy Holden. Their sound has been compared to The Yardbirds, and contained elements of blues, hard rock, and Eastern melodic influences.[3] Holden left the band after their debut album was recorded, dissatisfied with the recording and the guitar he was playing at the time, later stating “I was trying to accommodate everyone else, at the expense of my own soul and happiness”. Despite Holden’s misgivings, the album has been described as “awesome incendiary rock”.

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Holden went on to join Blue Cheer before embarking on a solo career.

The band’s “Mr. Pharmacist” was included on one of the Nuggets compilations in the early 1980s, Volume 12: Punk Part Three, and was later covered by The Fall, becoming a number 75 UK chart hit. A collection of their recordings, titled Mr. Pharmacist was issued in 1982. This included their entire 1968 album and several tracks from singles. Two songs, “Bad Day” and “Oz Lee Eaves Drops” appear in the 1968 pilot episode of The Mod Squad. (by wikipedia)

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This obscure San Francisco (by way of L.A.) ’60s band gained a degree of notoriety in the ’80s when their punk-garage single “Mr. Pharmacist” was included on one of Rhino’s Nuggets compilations and covered by the Fall. Actually, most of the Other Half’s material was far less garage than psychedelic, featuring the sustain-laden guitar of Randy Holden, one of the best Jeff Beck-inspired axemen of the ’60s. Boasting a just-out-of-the-garage approach to Haight-Ashbury psychedelia, the group cut a little-heard, fairly strong album, as well as a few rare singles, in 1967 and 1968. Holden, who had previously played in the L.A. psychedelic garage band Sons of Adam, went on to join Blue Cheer and record on his own. (by Richie Unterberger)

This album has been kicking around for ages, first in cut-out bins in the 1970s and subsequently on want lists, ever since “Mr. Pharmacist” (which was not on this long-player) turned up on Rhino’s Nuggets, Vol. 12. It turns out to be not at all bad, if not exactly distinguished — the Other Half were a much better garage band than they were a psychedelic outfit, their frantic, crunchy rockers (which dominate this record) being far more memorable and impressive than their efforts at trippy, spaced out, languid psych (“Wonderful Day”). “I Need You,” and “Feathered Fish” give lead guitarist Randy Holden the opportunity to stretch out in the best Jeff Beck manner (circa the Yardbirds’ Roger the Engineer), and even their more primitive numbers, such as “Oz Lee Eaves Drops,” are good showcases for the group.

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Holden and rhythm guitarist Geoff Westen also get into some entertaining faux mandolin sounds on “Morning Fire,” but when the band tries to get too serious, as on the two-part “What Can I Do for You,” the results are fairly dire, which makes the last ten minutes of the original LP (which didn’t even run 30 minutes) easily dispensable. (by by Bruce Eder)

Randy Holden sure was an underrated guitarist. He had a good power tone, a sense of raw energy just like the vocalist goes for. “Introduction” feels like a warm-up to an actual song, and the audience overdubs derogate. Their cover of “Feathered Fish” is nearly as good as the original; actually it has a more lively vocal than the original. “Flight Of the Dragon Lady” could have been a Yardbirds number, but probably wouldn’t have been as heavy. The vocalist puts in a spirited performance for “Wonderful Day” but his voice just isn’t good enough for it, more so during the verses.

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“I Need You” is tough-riffed rocker with a blistering bridge; a better sound mix could help clean up some of the guitar’s crude roughness. “Oz Lee Eaves Drops” is a fine rocker and one of two songs, along with the other standard blues-rocker “Bad Day”, to be be featured in the pilot episode of The Mod Squad, where you also see the band perform them. “Morning Fire” is unfortunately marred by the vocalist, seeing as the Arabian guitar riff is really cool. I don’t like the jagged groove of “What Can I Do For You, The First Half”. Randy runs wild on the closer, going through a turbulent pattern of licks in his rich timbre. I only wish the rhythm section could’ve kept up with him like Mitchell did with Hendrix. A faster pace overall would’ve been better too. (z-Man)

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Personnel:
Larry Brown (bass)
Randy Holden (guitar, vocals)
Jeff Nowlen (vocals)
Geoff Westen (guitar, vocals)
Danny Woody (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Introduction (Nowlen/Westen) 1.53
02. Feathered Fish (McDonald) 2.31
03. Flight Of The Dragon Lady (Holden/Westen/Nowlen/Blown/Woody) 2.29
04. Wonderful Day (Holden) 2.17
05. I Need You (Port/Holden) 2.41
06. Oz Lee Eaves Drop (Nowlen/Westen) 2.28
07. Bad Day (Holden/Bowlen) 2.15
08. Morning Fire (Nowlen) 2.33
09. What Can I Do For You, First Half (Nowlen/Westen) 2.43
10. What Can I Do For You, The Other Half (Nowlen/Westen) 6.49
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11. I’ve Come So Far (Nowlen) 2.22
12. Mr Pharmacist (Nowlen) 2.30
13. No Doubt About It (Nowlen) 2.37
14. It´s Too Hard (Without You) (Nowlen) 2.14
15. I Know (Nowlen) 2.42

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Electric Flag – A Long Time Comin’ (1968)

LPFrontCover1A Long Time Comin’ is the first album by American rock band the Electric Flag, released in 1968. The album has a mix of musical styles, including soul along with blues and rock, with a horn section.

It opens with an updated take on the Howlin’ Wolf blues classic “Killing Floor” and includes an adaptation of Sticks McGhee’s “Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee” titled “Wine”. The album also contains “Groovin’ Is Easy” and “Over-Lovin’ You”, which had been released as a single in 1967.

 

It is widely seen as an ambitious debut album by music critics. The album was somewhat of a failure in the charts, much to the disappointment of Bloomfield, who had worked hard on the album.[citation needed] His disappointment was worsened by the success of the Al Kooper directed Super Session, which, featuring Bloomfield, charted much higher than A Long Time Comin’ despite only being recorded over a period of two days.

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Writer Jeff Tamarkin says “ex Butterfield Band guitarist Mike Bloomfield, drummer Buddy Miles, and others put this soul-rock band together in 1967. This debut is a testament to their ability to catch fire and keep on burnin’.” That The Electric Flag do so well — they appeared at the Monterey International Pop Festival with the Blues Project, Paul Butterfield, and Janis Joplin, and all these groups had some musical connection to each other beyond that pivotal festival. A Long Time Comin’ is the “new soul” described appropriately enough by the late critic Lillian Roxon, and tunes like “She Should Have Just” and “Over-Lovin’ You” lean more towards the soul side than the pop so many radio listeners were attuned to back then. Nick Gravenites was too much of a purist to ride his blues on the Top 40 the way Felix Cavaliere gave us “Groovin’,” so Janis Joplin’s eventual replacement in Big Brother & the Holding Company, Gravenites, and this crew pour out “Groovin’ Is Easy” on this disc. It’s a classy production, intellectual ideas with lots of musical changes, a subdued version of what Joplin herself would give us on I Got Dem Ole Kozmic Blues Again, Mama two years later, with some of that album written by vocalist Gravenites.

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Though launched after Al Kooper’s the Blues Project, A Long Time Comin’ itself influenced bands who would go on to sell more records. In the traditional “Wine,” it is proclaimed “you know Janis Joplin, she’ll tell you all about that wine, baby.” As good as the album is, though, the material is pretty much composed by Mike Bloomfield and Barry Goldberg, when they’re not covering Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and adding spoken-word news broadcasts to the mix. More contributions by Buddy Miles and Gravenites in the songwriting department would have been welcome here. The extended CD version has four additional tracks, Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” and “Mystery,” both which appear on the self-titled Electric Flag outing which followed this LP, as well as other material which shows up on Old Glory: The Best of Electric Flag, released in 2000. “Sittin’ in Circles” opens like the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm,” the keyboards as well as the sound effects, and a hook of “hey little girl” which would resurface as the title of a Nick Gravenites tune on the aforementioned follow-up disc, where Gravenites and Miles did pick up the songwriting slack, Bloomfield having wandered off to Super Session with the Blues Project’s Al Kooper. Amazing stuff all in all, which could eventually comprise a boxed set of experimental blues rock from the mid- to late sixties. Either version of this recording, original vinyl or extended CD, is fun listening and a revelation. (by Joe Viglione)

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Tracklist:
Mike Bloomfield (guitar, vocals)
Barry Goldberg (keyboards)
Harvey Brooks (bass)
Marcus Doubleday (trumpet)
Michael Fonfara (keyboards)
Stemsy Hunter (saxophone)
Nick Gravenites (vocals, guitar)

Buddy Miles (drums, vocals)
Herb Rich (organ, vocals, saxophone, guitar)
Peter Strazza (saxophone)
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Paul Beaver (keyboards, synthesizer)
John Court (percussion, vocals)
Joe Church (Percussion)
Cass Elliot (vocals on 02.)
Richie Havens (percussion, sitar)
Sivuca – guitar, percussion
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strings:
Leo Daruczek – Charles McCracken – Bobby Notkoff – Julius Held

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Tracklist;
01. Killing Floor (Burnett) 4.11
02. Groovin’ Is Easy (Gravenites) 3.06
03. Over-Lovin’ You (Bloomfield/Goldberg) 2.21
04. Should Have Just (Polte) 5.03
05. Wine (Traditional) 3.15
06. Texas (Bloomfield/Miles) 4.49
07. Sittin´ In Circles (Goldberg) 3.54
08. You Don’t Realize (Bloomfield) 4.56
09. Another Country (Polte) 8.47
10. Easy Rider (Bloomfield) 0.53
+
11. Sunny (Hebb) 4.02
12. Mystery (Miles) 2.56
13. Look Into My Eyes (Brooks/Miles) 3.07

 

 

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**

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The Who – My Generation (Deluxe Edition) (1969/2005)

FrontCover1.JPGTommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band The Who, a double album first released in May 1969. The album was mostly composed by guitarist Pete Townshend as a rock opera that tells the story about a “deaf, dumb and blind” boy, including his experiences with life and his relationship with his family.

Townshend came up with the concept of Tommy after being introduced to the work of Meher Baba, and attempted to translate Baba’s teachings into music. Recording on the album began in September 1968, but took six months to complete as material needed to be arranged and re-recorded in the studio. Tommy was acclaimed upon its release by critics, who hailed it as the Who’s breakthrough. Its critical standing diminished slightly in later years; nonetheless, several writers view it as an important and influential album in the history of rock music. The Who promoted the album’s release with an extensive tour, including a live version of Tommy, which lasted throughout 1969 and 1970. Key gigs from the tour included appearances at Woodstock, the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, the University of Leeds, the Metropolitan Opera House and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. The live performances of Tommy drew critical praise and rejuvenated the band’s career.

Subsequently, the rock opera developed into other media, including a Seattle Opera production in 1971, an orchestral version by Lou Reizner in 1972, a film in 1975, and a Broadway musical in 1992. The original album has sold 20 million copies and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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Tommy has never had a definitive plot, but the following synopsis was published following the original album’s release.

British Army Captain Walker goes missing during an expedition and is believed dead (“Overture”). His widow, Mrs. Walker, gives birth to their son, Tommy (“It’s a Boy”). Years later, Captain Walker returns home and discovers that his wife has found a new lover. The Captain murders this man in an altercation as Tommy watches. Tommy’s mother convinces him that he did not see or hear the incident and must never tell anyone about it; as a result, he becomes deaf, dumb, and blind to the outside world (“1921”). Tommy now relies on his sense of touch and imagination, developing a fascinating inner psyche (“Amazing Journey/Sparks”).

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A quack claims his wife can cure Tommy (“The Hawker”), while Tommy’s parents are increasingly frustrated that he will never find religion in the midst of his isolation (“Christmas”). They begin to neglect him, leaving him to be tortured by his sadistic “Cousin Kevin” and molested by his uncle Ernie (“Fiddle About”). The Hawker’s drug addicted wife, “The Acid Queen”, gives Tommy a dose of LSD, causing a hallucinogenic experience that is expressed musically (“Underture”).

As Tommy grows older, he discovers that he can feel vibrations sufficiently well to become an expert pinball player (“Pinball Wizard”). His parents take him to a respected doctor (“There’s a Doctor”), who determines that the boy’s disabilities are psychosomatic rather than physical. Tommy is told by the Doctor to “Go to the Mirror!”, and his parents notice he can stare at his reflection. After seeing Tommy spend extended periods staring at a mirror in the house, his mother smashes it out of frustration (“Smash the Mirror”). This removes Tommy’s mental block, and he recovers his senses, realising he can become a powerful leader (“Sensation”). He starts a religious movement (“I’m Free”), which generates fervor among its adherents (“Sally Simpson”) and expands into a holiday camp (“Welcome” / “Tommy’s Holiday Camp”). However, Tommy’s followers ultimately reject his teachings and leave the camp (“We’re Not Gonna Take It”). Tommy retreats inward again (“See Me, Feel Me”) with his “continuing statement of wonder at that which encompasses him”.

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Townshend had been looking at ways of progressing beyond the standard three minute pop single format since 1966. Co-manager Kit Lambert shared Townshend’s views and encouraged him to develop musical ideas coming up with the term “rock opera”. The first use of the term was applied to a suite called “Quads”, set in a future where parents could choose the sex of their children. A couple want four girls but instead receive three girls and a boy, raising him as a girl anyway. The opera was abandoned after writing a single song, the hit single, “I’m a Boy”. When the Who’s second album, A Quick One ran short of material during recording, Lambert suggested that Townshend should write a “mini-opera” to fill the gap. Townshend initially objected, but eventually agreed to do so, coming up with “A Quick One, While He’s Away”, which joined short pieces of music together into a continuous narrative.[6] During 1967, Townshend learned how to play the piano and began writing songs on it, taking his work more seriously.[7] That year’s The Who Sell Out included a mini-opera in the last track, “Rael”, which like “A Quick One…” was a suite of musical segments joined together.[8] A portion of “Rael” is the basis of the Tommy instrumental track “Sparks”.

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By 1968, Townshend was unsure about how the Who should progress musically. The group were no longer teenagers, but he wanted their music to remain relevant. His friend, International Times art director Mike McInnerney, told him about the Indian spiritual mentor Meher Baba, and Townshend became fascinated with Baba’s values of compassion, love and introspection. The Who’s commercial success was on the wane after the single “Dogs” failed to make the top 20, and there was a genuine risk of the band breaking up. Live performances remained strong, and the group spent most of the spring and summer touring the US and Canada but their stage act relied on Townshend smashing his guitar or Moon demolishing his drums, which kept the group in debt. Townshend and Lambert realised they needed a larger vehicle for their music than hit singles, and a new stage show, and Townshend hoped to incorporate his love of Baba into this concept. He decided that the Who should record a series of songs that stood well in isolation, but formed a cohesive whole on the album. He also wanted the material performed in concert, to counteract the trend of bands like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, whose studio output was not designed for live performance.

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In August 1968, in an interview to Rolling Stone, Townsend talked about a new rock opera, which had the working title of Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy, and described the entire plot in great detail, which ran to 11 pages. Who biographer Dave Marsh subsequently said the interview described the narrative better than the finished album. Townshend later regretted publishing so much detail, as he felt it forced him to write the album according to that blueprint. The rest of the Who, however, were enthusiastic about the idea, and let him have artistic control over the Project.

The Who started recording the album at IBC Studios on 19 September 1968. There was no firm title at this point, which was variously referred to as Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy, Amazing Journey, Journey into Space, The Brain Opera and Omnibus. Townshend eventually settled on Tommy because it was a common British name, and a nickname for soldiers in World War I. Lambert took charge of the production, with Damon Lyon-Shaw as engineer. Sessions were block booked from 2pm – 10pm, but recording often spilled over into the early morning.

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The album was recorded onto eight track tape, which allowed various instruments to be overdubbed. Townshend used several guitars in the studio, but made particular use of the Gibson J-200 acoustic and the Gibson SG.[24] As well as their usual instruments, Townshend played piano and organ and bassist John Entwistle doubled on french horn. Keith Moon used a new double bass drum kit owned by roadie Tony Haslam, after Premier had refused to loan him any more equipment due to continual abuse.[22] Though Townshend wrote the majority of the material, the arrangements came from the entire band. Singer Roger Daltrey later said that Townshend often came in with a half-finished demo recording, adding “we probably did as much talking as we did recording, sorting out arrangements and things.” Townshend asked Entwistle to write two songs (“Cousin Kevin” and “Fiddle About”) that covered the darker themes of bullying and abuse. “Tommy’s Holiday Camp” was Moon’s suggestion of what religious movement Tommy could lead. Moon got the songwriting credit for suggesting the idea, though the music was composed and played by Townshend. A significant amount of material had a lighter style than earlier recordings, with greater prominence put on the vocals. Moon later said, “It was, at the time, very un-Wholike. A lot of the songs were soft. We never played like that.”

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Some of the material had already been written for other projects. “Sensation” was written about a girl Townshend had met on the Who’s tour of Australia in early 1968, “Welcome” and “I’m Free” were about peace found through Meher Baba and “Sally Simpson” was based on a gig with the Doors which was marred by violence.[28] Other songs had been previously recorded by the Who and were recycled; “It’s A Boy” was derived from “Glow Girl”, an out-take from The Who Sell Out, while “Sparks” and “Underture” re-used and expanded one of the instrumental themes in “Rael”. “Amazing Journey” was, according to Townshend, “the absolute beginning” of the opera and summarised the entire plot. “The Hawker” was a cover of Mose Allison’s “Eyesight to the Blind” (written by Sonny Boy Williamson). A cover of Mercy Dee Walton’s “One Room Country Shack” was also recorded but was scrapped from the final track listing as Townshend could not figure out a way to incorporate it in the plot.

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Recording at IBC was slow, due to a lack of a full plot and a full selection of songs. The group hoped that the album would be ready by Christmas, but sessions dragged on. Melody Maker’s Chris Welch visited IBC studios in November and while he was impressed with the working environment and the material,  the project still did not have a title and there was no coherent plotline. The Who’s US record company got so impatient waiting for new product that they released the compilation album Magic Bus: The Who on Tour which received a scathing review from Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone over its poor selection of material and misleading name (as the album contained studio recordings and was not live).

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The Who took a break from recording at the end of 1968 to tour, including a well received appearance at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus on 10 December.[33] They resumed sessions at IBC in January 1969, block booking Monday to Thursday, but had to do gigs every weekend to stop going further into debt. A major tour was booked for the end of April, and the group’s management insisted that the album would have to be finished by then, as it had been well over a year since The Who Sell Out. Lambert wrote a script, Tommy (1914–1984) which he professionally printed, and gave copies to the band, which helped them focus the storyline, and also decide to make the album a double. The group were still coming up with new material; Lambert insisted that the piece should have a proper overtur,  while Townshend wrote “Pinball Wizard” so that Nik Cohn, a pinball fan, would give the album a favourable review in the New York Times. Lambert wanted an orchestra to appear on the album, but Townshend was strongly against the idea, and time and budget constraints meant it could not happen anyway.

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By March 1969, some songs had been recorded several times, yet Townshend still thought there were missing pieces. Entwistle had become fed up with recording, later saying “we had to keep going back and rejuvenating the numbers … it just started to drive us mad.” The final recording session took place on 7 March, the same day that “Pinball Wizard” was released as a single. The group started tour rehearsals and promotional activities for the single and Lambert went on holiday in Cairo. The mixing was left to Lyon-Shaw and assistant engineer Ted Sharp, who did not think IBC was well suited for the Task. The album overshot its April deadline, as stereo mastering continued into the end of the month. (by wikipedia)

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The full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend. Hailed as a breakthrough upon its release, its critical standing has diminished somewhat in the ensuing decades because of the occasional pretensions of the concept and because of the insubstantial nature of some of the songs that functioned as little more than devices to advance the rather sketchy plot. Nonetheless, the double album has many excellent songs, including “I’m Free,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Sensation,” “Christmas,” “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and the dramatic ten-minute instrumental “Underture.” Though the album was slightly flawed, Townshend’s ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music. Despite the complexity of the project, he and the Who never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies, and forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace. (by Richie Unterberger)

This is a great example of a most imperfect 5 star album. Find all the flaws you can and it remains one of the most impressive rock albums ever made. (Howard Sauertieg)

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Personnel:
Roger Daltrey (vocals, harmonica)
John Entwistle (bass, french horn, vocals)
Keith Moon (drums, Percussion)

Pete Townshend (vocals, guitar, Keyboards, banjo)

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Tracklist:
01. Overture (Townshend) 3.50
02. It’s a Boy (Townshend) 2.07
03. 1921 (Townshend) 3.14
04. Amazing Journey (Townshend) 3.025
05. Sparks (Townshend) 3.45
06. The Hawker (Williamson) 2.15
07. Christmas (Townshend) 5.30
08. Cousin Kevin (Entwistle) 4.03
09. The Acid Queen (Townshend) 3.34
10. Underture (Townshend) 10.04
11. Do You Think It’s Alright? (Townshend) 0.25
12. Fiddle About (Entwistle) 1.31
13. Pinball Wizard (Townshend) 3.01
14. There’s A Doctor (Townshend) 0.24
15, Go To The Mirror! (Townshend) 3.38
16. Tommy Can You Hear Me? (Townshend) 1.36
17. Smash the Mirror (Townshend) 1.35
18. Sensation (Townshend) 2.29
19. Miracle Cure (Townshend) 0.13
20. Sally Simpson (Townshend) 4.11
21. I’m Free (Townshend) 2.39
22. Welcome (Townshend) 4.33
23. Tommy’s Holiday Camp (Moon) 0.57
24. We’re Not Gonna Take It (Townshend) 3.28
25. See Me, Feel Me (Townshend) 3.42

(Though later released as a single, “See Me, Feel Me” was not a track in its own right on the original album, and is included as the latter half of “We’re not Gonna Take It”.)

+ the bonus disc (The first twelve tracks are out-takes and demos and the last five are stereo-only demos.)
01. I Was (Townshend) 0.17
02. Christmas (Outtake 3) (Townshend) 4.43
03. Cousin Kevin Model Child (Townshend) 1.25
04. Young Man Blues (Version one) (Allison) 2.51
05. Tommy Can You Hear Me? (Alternate version) (Townshend)  1.59
06. Trying To Get Through (Townshend) 2.51
07. Sally Simpson (Outtake) 4.09
08. Miss Simpson (Townshend) 4.18
09. Welcome (Take two) (Townshend) 3.44
10, Tommy’s Holiday Camp (Band’s version) (Townshend) 1.07
11. We’re Not Gonna Take It (Alternate version) (Townshend) 6.08
12, Dogs (Part Two) (Moon) 2.26
13. It’s a Boy (Townshend) 0.43
14. Amazing Journey (Townshend) 3.41
15. Christmas (Townshend) 1.55
16. Do You Think It’s Alright (Townshend) 0.28
17. Pinball Wizard (Townshend) 3.46

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**

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