reviews and rants
england 2006 ceedees emi / virgin
UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED cdvr 2015
LIVE london '74 cdvr 2238 full show with bonus track
BLUEJEANS AND MOONBEAMS cdvr 2023
SHINY BEAST (BAT CHAIN PULLER) cdvr 2149
DOC AT THE RADAR STATION cdvr 2172
ICE CREAM FOR CROW cdvr 2237 with bonus track
SAMPLER [no cat.no.] promo compilation
one day it happened that a big record label became even bigger. the emi conglomerate swallowed virgin records - and that's interesting because the smaller company owns half of the captain beefheart catalog. maybe the mother company suggested it, or maybe virgin came up with the idea itself, anyway: to celebrate their coalition they decided to remake the whole set.
which meant remastering the last five records beefheart made: both the albums from his 1974 'tragic' period, the 'come-back' release 'shiny beast' and the two elpees with which he ended his adventure in the world of music, 'doc at the radar station' ('80) and 'ice cream for crow' ('82).
to distinguish the reissues from the previous versions, emi - read: mike barnes (from the captain beefheart book) - wrote notes for newbies to them. and another change is that most of the fronts 'returned' to the elpee lay-outs.
at the time of the release of the oldest product, way back in 1974, recording facilities had reached a level at which it hardly was possible to spoil the sound quality. so, when all the analog vinyl albums got transformed into digital plates fifteen years later, it didn't bring that much improvement in sound (the new sort of disc just was less vulnerable to scratches, that's all).
but note that even the process of 'digital copying' could lead to terrible results - if a wrong source had been chosen. which applies to virgin's ceedee version of 'shiny beast (bat chain puller)': it sounds like dubbed from a quite worn elpee instead of some clean master tapes (unlike the versions warner bros made in the usa and japan).
later technological developments have offered record labels the chance to come up with sensational 're-mastered' versions, with the buddha reincarnations as the most stunning example. but, as you know, those albums were manufactured in the sixties, then....
THE REMASTERED SOUND
as the original quality of the virgin releases already was excellent, i doubt if any of the 'new sounds' are sensationally better. in the case of these re-worked material, i even think they are nót. for i had the opportunity to compare a few songs, and didn't get out of my mind.
of course, the improved technology makes the albums a bit clearer, but it isn't an essential change. actually, the whole revising mainly is just a kind of remix, with slight alternations in volume and tone range. and the bad thing is that to my ears the remastering of certain - not to say several - pieces of the music simply is a bit...: overdone.
no, one way or another i prefer the previous ceedee versions: they have a more 'natural' balance, and same compactness as a consequence....
i paid special attention to the different versions of 'shiny beast'. i must admit that the new virgin re-release doesn't sound as inferior as the original ceedee (no wonder), but it still is easily out-beaten by the quality of the 'old' cds from the other record company.
beside the hardly improved sound quality there is another reason to be cautious with buying any of these remastered artefacts. as a start, this series includes the two records from the tragic year 1974, 'unconditionally guaranteed' and 'bluejeans and moonbeams'. now, even the most brilliant re-shape of these albums would néver upgrade the low artistic level of the compositions. you simply should always stay away from these failures (and it's a shame they are re-released on end).
next, 'shiny beast (bat chain puller)' does have an improved sound but you'd better wait till you find a copy from the other label (second hand will do). and as 'doc at the radar station' and 'ice cream for crow', the last beefheart albums, are of a similar quality of the first releases in digital form, there is no real need to fill your record shelves with it.
a funny fact is that the b-side 'light reflected off the oceands of the moon' has been added to 'ice cream for crow' as a bonus. and although that can be seen as an extension, it's not really interesting: the track is only an instrumental version of one of the song on the album.
CONCLUSION unnecessarily reshaped sound
ADVICE you don't have to replace your old stuff
this series of rereleases contains a strange title, which at first looks like an únknówn record. indeed, you can't have ever spotted the front of
LIVE london '74but that doesn't mean you don't know (about) the music. for in a mysterious moment of confusion you once might have bought london 1974 , a ceedee release which turned out to be stuffed with terrible songs from one of captain beefheart's gigs to promote his 'unconditionally guaranteed' low point....
theatre royal, drury lane - london - 1974
england 2006 emi / virgin cdvr 2238
and yes, this 'new' ceedee in fact is a repeat of that obscure disc which for a long time was the only live performance available at the shops (not mentioning bootlegs). but, as with all of don van vliet's outings in that year, the rule goes: disastrous... - remastered or not! listening to concerts from that particular era is even more depressing than playing the albums.
however, to be correct, the 'live' album isn't a genuine copy: the new version contains the full show, while the earlier plate from portugal and france is a collection of 'highlights' from the concert. but the exact difference is two long dull jams of other people's compositions ('keep on rubbin' (aka 'it's mighty crazy')' and 'sweet georgia brown'). above that, there is a bonus track of a 'radio concert advert'.
emi and virgin wanted to make the world believe that the show 'has never before been officially released'. my ass, that's a lie! the true story is:
* when virgin released their first captain beefheart album [unconditionally guaranteed 1974] they expected a lot of profit of it, and wanted to follow up with a live elpee. to that purpose the company recorded the performance of the tragic band on sunday 9 june at the royal theatre in london.
* optimistically, the label pre-released two songs from the concert on a compilation of albums-to-come, basically titled v. but it had contracted a big name, but poor music (at that time). nobody was asking for such crap, so the intended album was abandoned.
* two decades later some less-known european ceedee companies showed interest in the tapes. virgin records allowed them to bring out 'london 1974' (if it really was a 'bootleg', why didn't it come to a law suit?).
* more than thirty years further the newly formed emi family remastered the complete show and brought it out like new. however, the music still is beefheart at his worst.
england 2006 promo ceedee SAMPLER emi / virgin [no cat.no.] 'abbey road' test pressing not for sale
before the emi / virgin joint venture went to provide the stores with stock copies of the renewed ceedees, it brought out promos of the albums, and an additional sampler. they were put in a simple plastic sleeve and a white wrap-around insert with basic data and a release note saying 'ownership and title remain vested in the emi catalogue'.
the promotional discs all got the same lay-out with the title and the label logos printed in black on a plain white background. close study of the plates learns us that they were manufactured at the 'abbey road' record studios.
unlike the other promos, the special compilation doesn't have any registration number. it is filled with two songs from each album:
upon the my o my / sugar bowl
bluejeans and moonbeams:
party of special things to do / bluejeans and moonbeams
the floppy boot stomp / bat chain puller
doc at the radar station:
hot head / ashtray heart
ice cream for crow:
ice cream for crow / (bonus track (with printing errors)) light reflects off the oceans of the moon
live (london '74):
mirror man / abba zaba
detail of centre of promo ceedee
click clack back to the records or return to the power station
captain beefheart electricity
as felt by teejo