Lee Speaks About Music…#224

Reaching For The Moon – Magenta


Rob Reed has been very busy lately working on other projects such as reviving his earlier project Cyan and even getting involved in the 50th Anniversary of Mike Oldfield’s iconic 1973 album Tubular Bells. It was only last October that we saw the release of Magenta’s 9th studio album The White Witch which saw the band go in a new orchestral direction that I have to confess was not my cup of tea and one I avoided and now they are back with a new live release.

To be honest I would not say I was a massive fan of this particular band and not all of their albums appeal to my taste, though they have made some GREAT! albums over the years and the albums Revelolutions, Seven, Metamorphosis and The Twenty Seven Club are the ones that rock my boat the most. I would also say that the band’s fifth studio album Chameleon is perhaps the only other album that is not my cup of tea. As a matter of fact, I recently sold it on eBay because it had been sitting on my shelf still wrapped in its cellophane since I brought it years ago.

Though it’s not like I completely got shot of the album and the reason why I never removed the cellophane in the first place or never bothered to play it was that it came with the 5.1 mix of the album on DVD in a separate sleeve (as seen below). To be honest I would have got a lot more money for the DVD because it is out of print and it sells on eBay from anywhere between £50 – £80 these days. However, my reason for parting with CD was simply because it was sitting there on my shelf doing nothing and could be put to better use by someone else.

Multichannel recordings are one of the main reasons I still buy music these days especially when it comes to buying the music you brought many moons ago all over again. It’s very rare I will ever play the CD’s that come in these types of packages that come with a surround mix and the only occasions I have done more recently was only ever for the purpose of my reviews. The other exception would be if the surround mix was disappointing.

Reaching For The Moon is the band’s 7th live concert DVD release and you could say that they have put out near enough as many live shows as their studio album discography. Though of course being a full-time musician you have to keep busy to keep the pennies coming in, it’s not like being in a regular job where you have a wage coming in every week to put food on the table. Rob very much has a good business head on his shoulders to prevent him and his musicians from starving.

I don’t have all of their live albums and this is only the second one I have brought besides Chaos From The Stage which was released back in 2015. I do however have one of their earlier concerts from 2005 The Gathering that came as a freebie in a plastic wallet (as seen above) when I brought Metamorphosis if I remember rightly. It may have been around the time I had just gotten into the band and was buying quite a few of their albums. I am pretty sure the DVD of Chameleon came free with the CD when I ordered it and it only cost me £10 for them both if I remember rightly as well.

What I will say about Rob Reed is that he does give you genuine value for the buck, sometimes you get even more for your money in many respects and can end up with a genuine bargain. Though of course these days we are living in harder times and the price of things has risen since them days. So let’s now dive in a take a look to see if there was a bargain with this new release.

Packaging & Artwork…

The package comes with four discs 2 CD’s and 2 DVD’s and as you can see they are neatly stored and presented in a 4-panel cardboard Digisleeve inside die-cut pockets to hold them in place. It is a quality made package although, for its price point, I do think it should have been made out of much thicker cardboard the same quality as the material that is used to make a hardback book.

I purchased my copy from Tigermoth Records for £25 plus £3 postage and packing and I do feel this package is overpriced. I also think that things could have been done differently to cut down the cost such as a single dual-layered DVD would have been easily sufficient to squeeze the video footage on instead of using two DVD’s as they have done. It would have also cut down the cost of the packaging by only needing a 3-panel Digisleeve. Even with how things have been done here I personally don’t think this package should have cost any more than £18.

Although it does not mention the cover designer in the liner notes I can only presume that it was done by Björn Gooßes who did the design for their 2020 album Masters Of Illusion amongst many of their albums. The new live album very much uses the same design and you could say the mirror has opened up to reveal a stage with how things have been noodled around with some of the live snaps from the show.

The live photographs were snapped up by photographer Chris Walkden who incidentally has been included in the liner notes unlike Gooßes, he also has a long-term relationship with the band and their album covers. Overall a neat and tidy job has been done here and the live snaps have been very well utilised to make good use of the Digisleeve as you can see above.

Reaching For The Moon In Review…

The latest live album Reaching For The Moon by Magenta was released on the 17th of March 2023 and as the album cover and title suggest it captures the band touring their 8th studio album Masters Of Illusion in the previous year. To be honest the word “Touring” might be inappropriate because this is a band that only plays a handful of gigs every now and then and it’s perhaps hardly surprising with the number of projects Rob Reed gets himself involved in.

My introduction to the band came via the release of Reed’s first solo album Sanctuary back in 2014. I had heard of the band prior to that but never had any real interest in them down to the fact that they had a female vocalist. To be honest I don’t have many female artists in my record collection and the only two I have ever taken more interest in come from the folk scene and they are Sandy Denny and Tracy Chapman.

The only other PROG! band I can think of that has one is the Italian band, Conqueror who I got into much later around 2018 having heard the band’s second album Storie Fuori Dal Tempo (Stories Out of Time). It’s an album I highly recommend though this is a band that only sings in their own native language so be warned.

What drew my attention to Magenta is perhaps more down to Reed’s compositional side of things and he very much has the ability to restructure music around existing themes and melody lines from other bands and artists and make it his own. There is a GENIUS! to this method of restructuring music in that way very much like the genius that I saw in Mike Oldfield when he restructured Tubular Bells II from the original masterpiece. Reed is very much a person that draws his creativity from many other influences and quite often from that early 70’s period when progrock was in true fruition in terms of what it actually is. That’s not to say that Magenta’s music sounds like it came from that decade though quite often his own solo works can and is perhaps more down to the heavy Oldfield influence and his particular guitar sound.

Magenta’s band lineup has been pretty much consistent from the offset when you look at the three main core musicians Robert Reed, Chris Fry and Christina Booth that make it up, and quite often it is referred to as a 3-piece outfit with how they present things despite having other musicians present with them such as Dan Nelson and Jiffy Griffiths who have been onboard with them over the more recent years. The signed photograph that came with this new release pretty much exemplifies that.

You will often find the occasional freebies given away with most things associated with Reed’s own record label Tigermoth Records as I already mentioned in my introduction. Although in the case of this release, I would hardly say they came free when you weigh up the cost and it’s most likely why this package is very much overpriced. It does appear that certain artists are using conniving tactics these days and I noticed this with Arjen Luccason’s latest new band project Supersonic Revolution. Though I will stress that he is hardly using this tactic for his new release.

Both of these artists used to offer you the choice of a signed and unsigned package and just like many other artists, you will wind up paying more just for them to scribble their name (usually on the cover of the package itself) as in Luccasen’s case. However, I have noticed that he is no longer giving you the choice and he is not charging for his signature either. The package we have here also offers you no choice, it also does not even mention anything about the signed photograph that comes with it either. However, I do feel that this particular package is overpriced and it does appear that this signed photo is not a freebie.

However, the other thing that comes with it is a freebie and it’s not unusual for Reed not to include a promotional CD of various artists tied to his record label (as in the example below) that also came with this new release. I have quite a few of these now and this one focuses more attention on the work in progress mainly the key members of the band though you do get the occasional one that features other bands besides.

It takes me back to when I used to buy the Classic Rock magazine that used to come accompanied with a CD in the late 90’s early 2000’s back then they only cost a couple of quid unlike many of the magazines today such as PROG! for example that charges around £8 and it comes with bugger all.

It does appear that you get bugger all for your money with magazines these days which is why I personally don’t bother with them and would rather put my money towards real musical content in the physical realm of things. The same could be said for the many artists that put out books at extortionate prices and I think it’s fair to say that they are not entirely enticing people to read their content by charging these prices. A fool and his money also spring to mind.

One of the things that caught my eye with this promo CD is that it appears that Chris Fry is working on a second solo album. I am certainly looking forward to that, especially as his debut album Composed certainly rocked my boat so to speak and is another album I would highly recommend.

It also appears that Christina Booth is working on her third solo album and I have to confess out of the three core members that make up Magenta she is the only member I have not brought into. That’s not to say that this fine lady does not come with a voice and there are times when her voice has literally brought tears of joy streaming down my face especially when she sings “Pearl” live on the band’s Chaos From The Stage live release. I think the reason why I do not have hardly any female vocalists in my record collection is most likely down to the lyrical subject matter that most women, in general, tend to sing about. There are many female singers I totally adore even though they are not in my record collection Shirley Bassey instantly springs to mind.

Who knows one day I may give her more of a whirl and her solo albums are certainly cheap enough to do so from the Tigermoth Record store. She is also accompanied by some GREAT! musicians which may well entice me to do so at some point, but for now let’s get back to the live album in question and dig a bit deeper into its contents.

The Package Contents In Review.

CD’s 1 & 2.
Just like the two DVD’s that come in the package the CD’s contain the full concert split into two parts. The first of the discs contains 8 tracks and comes with an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 27 seconds, whilst the second disc comes with 9 tracks and an overall playing time of just a tad over 62 minutes.

DVD’s 1 & 2.

The DVD’s come with a straightforward interface that has everything in one place and these types of menus are very much typically associated with Rob Reed these days and have been for a while now. The fact that he also included a picture with this one makes it look less box-standard in relation to the many other releases in the past.

Although the sound quality is quite good and reasonable it does come with the lowest of the low sound formats for both Stereo and Surround mixes in that it uses Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1 at 48K 192 & 448Kbps respectively. The word “Box-Standard” most certainly springs to mind and effectively the CD’s that come in this package will most likely give you better sound quality.

Picture & Sound Quality.
The video quality is very good and the live footage was shot using HD cameras by Andrew Lawson and his crew, he also did the film editing. Although I would not say the picture and editing quality captures the pristine job that was done with the Chaos From The Stage concert back in 2015. Nevertheless, there is nothing to really complain about here.

The 5.1 mix was done by Robert Reed and I have to say it’s very disappointing for his standards and practically none existent, especially on the first DVD which puts me in mind of the live concert DVD Audio release of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II & III that was released back in 1999 where ZILCH! was put into the rear channels.

You do get to hear a bit of something coming out of the rear channels on the second DVD however it’s nothing to write home about and as I mentioned very disappointing. To be honest, even though the Chaos From The Stage live DVD came with a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, the surround mix was not really that more impressive than what we get here if the truth be told.

Musicians & Credits…

Filmed & Edited by Andrew Lawson. Camera Operators Andrew Lawson, Adam Lyduch, Julian Broome and Rhys Davies. Filmed live at Arlington Arts Centre, Newbury, England, UK on May 21st, 2022. Lighting by Llwyd Daniel Herniman. Lasers by Oliver Davies. Live Sound by John Fraser. Stereo & Surround Audio Mixed by Robert Reed. Cover design by Björn Gooßes. Photography by Chris Walkden.

Christina Booth: Vocals.
Robert Reed: Keyboards.
Chris Fry: Guitars.
Dan Nelson: Bass.
Jiffy Griffiths: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Andy Foster: Lead Vocals & Saxophone.
Karla Powell: Clarinet.
Katie Axelsen: Flute.
Simon Brittlebank: Percussion.

The Live Concert In Review…

The concert captures the band live at the Arlington Arts Centre in Newbury, England on the 21st of May 2022. The Arts Centre itself opened up sometime around October 2006 and initially was intended as a school resource that could be hired to the local community. These days it’s considered one of the leading music venues in the South of England, though it is quite a small venue as you can see from the pictures below.

The venue itself can hold up to 252 people seated however, the first five rows of the seating area does have retractable seats and it is capable of allocating up to 380 people both seated and standing. It’s perhaps a venue for those who like more of an intermate relationship with their audience and is more popular with tribute bands and lesser-known acts. Although over the years hold hands such as Bernie Marsden, the Tom Robinson Band, the Groundhogs, and even the likes of Seasick Steve have played at the venue. Comedy acts such as Michael McIntyre and Adrian Edmondson have also been known to use the venue.

The setlist the band chose is one with quite a bit of variety and takes in single releases besides album tracks from six of the band’s studio albums including Masters Of Illusion which is the featured album at this particular show. Although the band’s debut album Revolutions also gets quite an airing in some respects even if the few numbers from it are edited down or more recent rearrangements. You do however tend to get less from some of my other particular favourite albums that I mentioned in my introduction such as Seven and The Twenty-Seven Club. Poor old Metamorphosis does not get a look in but there is plenty here to keep one attentive enough. 

On With The Show…

The concert is split into two parts to which the latter part is mostly utilised to showcase their new album at the time Masters Of Illusion. The concert itself is roughly an hour and 44 minutes with the first part being the shorter of the two weighing in at 41 minutes, 43 seconds. The band kick off the show in their usual style with “Glitterball” which happens to be one of the two tracks they play from their 5th studio album Chameleon. It also has the right kind of energy to set the show up and get the ball rolling so to speak.

Up next the band roll out a couple of EP releases the first of which is “Speechless” which was originally released back in 2007, like “I’m Alive” from the 2004 EP release this is sort of where the band were heading in more of a pop direction. They also roll out “King Of The Skies” from the same EP in this half of the set and I quite like how they add a bit more variety and diversity to the setlist. The same could be said for “Broken” which was also a 2004 EP release, it’s also the song they decide to end off this first set with and this setlist does focus on more of the single side of things.

Other songs played in this first half are “R.A.W.” which is another song from the Chameleon album that lifts things back up and help to raise the game so to speak. “Because” on the other hand is a song that really simmers things down a bit more and this song was one of their one-off newer numbers from 2021 and can be found on the Songs From The Big Room EP. However, it is “Anger” from the band’s second album Seven that steels the highlights of this first half and even though Christina announces it as a bit of it it’s actually a bit longer than the original.

To be honest I very much prefer the opening on this live version which is played by Chris on the nylon guitar it works much better than the harp played on the keyboard by Rob. Both Karla Powell (Clarinet) and Katie Axelsen (Flute) work some wonders into this live version as with “King Of The Skies” that follows it. I also think one of the things that also stands out with all these earlier songs is how well Christina’s voice has matured over the years and that also makes a big difference between many of these older songs. Personally, I feel her voice is much better today than it was years ago.

The second half of the set does focus on the band’s new album at the time as I already mentioned and they kick it off by playing four of the six tracks from the Masters Of Illusion album, the first of them “Bela” is another of the highlights of the show. This live performance as you can see by the promotional video that Rob released (above) was very much too much of a tempting turkey for me not to add this live album to my collection so to speak. The other three numbers from the album they roll out straight after it are as follows “A Gift From God“, “Snow” and “Reach For The Moon” and the band does a well-amicable job of them all. 

The next number they roll out “Demons” is perhaps the biggest highlight of the show and is where Chris really comes to life and steals the show with his awesome guitar solo. It’s very much a HACKETT-ESC! moment this song and one of the magic tracks from the band’s 2005 album Home. here there is perhaps a bit more magic thrown into the pot in relation to the original. 

The band then turn their attention to their debut album Revolutions and roll out three abstracts from it all with different arrangements namely the “Man Machine“, “The Warning” and “Sunshine Saviour“. The second of them you get to see Chris add a bit more fire on his guitar whilst the latter of them is a much more subdued version to which Christina is joined on vocal by saxophonist Andy Foster who also contributes sax to a couple of the numbers in this half of the set.  

The band finish off with “The Lizard King” and here it is perhaps a bit more subdued with Karla and Katie adding their orchestral additions to it but never less another fine arrangement, it also puts the show to an end very well leaving you wanting perhaps a bit more from this particular album of theirs.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of Reaching For The Moon by Magenta. I would say that this is a live show that is filled with plenty of variety with the old and new material from the band’s catalogue and it does much more than showcase the new material from Masters Of Illusion in many respects. I would also say that there are more highlights to this show than what I pointed out in my review and I would also include “I’m Alive” and “Broken” among the ones I mentioned. There is also no doubt that the band and the additional musicians are giving it their all and have really pulled off an excellent performance throughout the whole show.

Magenta are very much a band that likes to change things up that bit extra so it’s not as if you are getting the same thing regarding their live releases and each one does present you with something different in many respects. They are also a band that likes to keep things fresh by applying different arrangements to their songs and this concert is no exception to that and that is perhaps where this concert holds more value despite its high price point.

There are only a couple of drawbacks regarding this package, the first of which would most definitely be the 5.1 mix which is very disappointing so much so that poor old percussionist Simon Brittlebank could hardly be heard especially on the first DVD. However, the stereo mix is fine and that is the mix I would personally go with. To put it in a nutshell the surround mix is not worth bothering with and most certainly not for surround FREAKS! such as myself.

The second thing would be the price point which I do feel is overpriced and the fact that the 5.1 mix is disappointing may also reflect on that. As a rule, Rob is a very good 5.1 mixing engineer certainly on his studio albums and 5.1 mix he did for The Ringmaster (Parts One & Two) are to die for. Though I would also point out that the biggest majority of live surround mixes can be very disappointing and very few engineers have got it right in that respect.

To conclude my review I personally feel the live concert you get here is a very enjoyable one and one should put aside the couple of drawbacks I pointed out with this live release. I for one can still take plenty of pleasure from it and would still highly recommend it. I also dare say that the price point might come down in due time like many releases have done in the past from this band and that might be the best opportunity to dive in so to speak.

Reaching New Heights

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
1. Glitterball. 5:31.
2. Speechless. 4:48.
3. I’m Alive. 5:23.
4. Anger. 6:35.
5. King Of The Skies. 4:52.
6. R.A.W. 4:22.
7. Because. 6:32.
8. Broken. 4:14.

CD 2.
1. Bela. 11:22.
2. A Gift From God. 8:43.
3. Snow. 6:02.
4. Reach For The Moon. 8:44.
5. Demons. 5:13.
6. Man The Machine. 3:25.
7. The Warning. 4:16.
8. Sunshine Saviour. 6:42.
9. The Lizard King. 6:34.

Packaging Rating Score. 9/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.
Picture & Editing Quality Rating Score. 7/10.
Stereo Rating Score. 9/10.
5.1 Mix Rating Score. 3/10.
Overall Concert Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#223

Around The World Live – Jethro Tull


When it comes to Boxsets and the packages they arrive in I have always praised the Mediabooks that Jethro Tull’s back catalogue of albums was put out in, there are many reasons for this and the first one I can think of is its tremendous value you get for the money. These are packages that have been put out at what I would call an honest price point and give you a lot more than most expensive boxsets, not only do they arrive with an array of discs but they also contain superb informative content, and they are also easy to store along with your DVD or Blu Ray collection. To put it in a nutshell the presentation and the price point I personally don’t think can be beaten.

So far the first 13 studio albums from the Tull discography have been repackaged in this deluxe manner and it’s still very much ongoing and even though I pre-ordered the latest Tull album RökFlöte that arrived a day before its release on the 21st of April I was not eagerly awaiting for it to arrive as I am with the 14th Mediabook of The Broadsword and the Beast that is also due to be released at some point this year.

The Mediabook I am about to review is not a new release however it is one that eluded me and escaped my radar so to speak when it was released back in 2013. This whole Mediabook malarky thing started back in 2012 with the release of the 40th Anniversary Edition of Thick As A Brick.

The one thing I noted when I started collecting these Mediabooks was that they were not put out in chronological order and were issued in a willy-nilly way at first. The other thing I noted is that they very soon went out of print so you had to be on the ball at pre-ordering them like I was to obtain them all.

However, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Thick As A Brick last year they did reissue the Mediabook again and it does appear that many others will also get reissued again in time which is a good thing for those that missed out. The Mediabook of Around The World Live was reissued again at the end of January this year which is how I was able to get my hands on it. However, had I gotten my hands on it back in 2013 I dare say I would have picked it up for the same price of £14 I paid for the TAAB Mediabook and many others back then.

Unlike the studio albums Around The World Live is sourced from various live material of many incarnations of the band (much of which many would already have or seen) and documents Ian Anderson’s travels on the road across the world. The two-part question is does it match up to the same value as the other Mediabooks and would one really consider it a must in relation to the others in this collection? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

Well as you can see the Mediabook is made of the same high-quality material as the other Mediabooks in the Tull studio album editions and all the discs are stored in a well-made sturdy hardback book with plastic trays to hold them in place. It comes with 4 discs and a 36-page book that contains photos of the various lineups of the band and a well-detailed informative essay written by Joel Mclver.

I purchased my copy from the Burning Shed for £42 inclusive of p+p though it can be had cheaper on places like Amazon for around £35 these days. I’ve been using the shed quite a lot these days because you can take advantage of the 3 monthly interest-free easy payment scheme on Paypal which comes in handy for more expensive boxsets. As a rule, I would use Amazon for a smaller-priced item such as this but as I was a bit sceptical about buying this release I thought I would cushion the blow by paying for it in 3 easy instalments of £14 to lighten the burden on my bank account so to speak.

The artwork and package were put together by Claire Higgins, Rosie Holley & Ian Rowe who are the project coordinators for Eagle Rock Entertainment. It’s easy to see by the design and use of the Ian Anderson picture motif that this is a compilation release done in the same style as we got to see with Jethro Tull compilation albums such as Living In The Past and The Best Of along with others over the years.

The name of the company might also suggest that this is not an official Tull release however, it has been sanctioned by Ian Anderson and the photographs were provided as a courtesy from him. Though I should also stress that they are not part and parcel of the Warner Music Group that released the Tull discography in this fashion even though the package might look the same.

I am sure many of you at some point may have purchased live concert DVD’s of your favourite bands and artists by this company over the years and Eagle Rock Entertainment are a company that bought up all the rights to concerts that were filmed and shown on Television over the years so they could bring the entertainment to your home so to speak. The word “Eagle Vision” should ring a bell and they have done a good job as always here by all accounts.

Around The World Live In Review…

Around The World Live by Jethro Tull was originally released on the 25th of January 2013. This particular edition was reissued a decade later on the 31st of January 2023 and is effectively the same package in every detail just as well done as the reissue of the 40th Anniversary Mediabook Edition of Thick As A Brick. Although there are some differences and where this boxset differs is that it focuses on visual content only and is a compilation of live shows and the odd snippet from some of them that various incarnations of the band played between the years of 1970 right up to 2005.

Most of the live material you do get here is previously unreleased footage though there is the odd bit of snippets you may already have on DVD and Blu Ray such as the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival and from the Montreux Jazz Festival they played at in 2003. One of the main reasons why I was a bit sceptical about buying it was down to it having very little concert footage from the 70’s and most of the full or near enough full concert footage is from the years 1996 – 2005 which in all honesty makes me cringe watching Ian Anderson struggling to sing the songs.

To be honest, when it comes to live concerts I very much prefer to have the visual side of things in relation to audio-only that is stuck on a vinyl album or CD. However, since Anderson lost his voice in the mid 80’s I would much prefer to listen to his live concerts in audio only and to be honest there are some that were put out that I do really enjoy such as these three examples below.

The 1992 release of A Little Light Music is a compiled live album in that it captures the band playing at various venues across Europe in the same year. Whereas the 1995 release of In Concert was recorded by the BBC and it captures the band playing at the Hammersmith Odeon in London back in 1991. It was most likely broadcast on BBC Radio at the time. Aqualung Live was recorded for XM radio at the XM Performance Theater in Washington later in 2005. It captures the band playing the whole of the album live in front of around 40 invited guests.

There is no doubt that Anderson’s voice is shot even on these live concerts, the latter of those three is where it got even worse just as his voice is today. To be honest there is no way I could go and see Ian Anderson or Jethro Tull live today simply because the visual aspect of seeing him try and get the words out of his mouth really does make me cringe, though his music and the musicianship behind the players regardless of the incarnation of the band is still very much TOP NOTCH!

So you can pretty much see why this particular compiled live release was not really on my priority list and one of the main reasons I purchased it was to have it stacked next to my other Tull Mediabooks on the shelf. It’s not the first time I have thrown money at having something that looks good or the part and I spent around the same amount of money on the 50th Anniversary vinyl release of Thick As A Brick to put in a frame and hang on the wall. Though in the case of this release, I did actually play it, so let’s now dive into its contents to see if I got anything more than just a bit of BLING!

The Package Contents In Review…

Although you only get a 36-page book in relation to the 96 pages or more that come with the studio albums the book does provide some very well-put-together informative information and makes an inciteful read. The four DVD’s of visual content that comes inside the package provide a brief snapshot of the band being on the road in various parts of the world. Though I would hardly say it was around the world as the title of the package suggests simply because the concert footage you do get here captures the band in Europe more than anywhere else.

The DVD layout of the menus is the same for all 4 DVD’s and the only difference is the song selection and the audio playing in the background. The navigation is simple enough and offers you four options to choose from namely “Play”, “Song Selection”, “Subtitles” and “Audio Options” as you can see in the snapshot of it above.

Each DVD quickly spans its way through the years as you can see in the “Song Selection” section on the first disc. The concert set list is also spread over two menus and although the navigation is simple it uses an older menu interface where you have to wait for the page to load from one to another, though it’s only a matter of seconds.

The “Audio Options” menu gives the choice of three sound formats to choose from two of which are surround formats and are all 48K. It’s unfortunate that there are no lossless or uncompressed formats and both the Dolby Digital formats are the weaker source with the stereo format having a bit rate of 192Kbps and 448Kbps for the surround. The DTS 5.1 option provides a better sound quality source having a bit rate of 1.5Kbps though in some cases it can be irrelevant as you will see in the next section where I go through the sound and picture quality.

Picture & Sound  Quality…
The picture and sound quality very much varies throughout the years and as expected the older the footage it will have more effect on both of them. The surround sound can also be pointless in particular with the earlier footage even to the point where it was useless doing a 5.1 mix in the first place and I very much doubt they had access to any multitrack tapes either.

That’s not to say that the sound quality is entirely bad but effectively with the earlier footage you might be on to more of a winner having it on Vinyl or CD. The good thing, however, is that it does get a lot better over the latter years of the concert footage as to be expected with how technology has moved on. I shall go into more detail about the sound and picture quality in the following section.

On With The Shows…

As I have already mentioned the concert footage you get here soon spans through the years and it’s unfortunate that it focuses its attention more on the latter years in relation to the earlier years. Although in terms of the picture and sound quality being much more superior over those years it might just balance the books depending on how well you can stomach watching Anderson trying to get the words out of his mouth. To be honest, I felt that when he had Ryan O’Donnell with him taking care of the additional vocal side of things much later worked better, he also gave it more of a theatrical presentation on the Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 Tours in 2012/13.

The Around The World Live boxset or Mediabook certainly does not skimp on concert footage and over its four DVD’s you get approximately 6 hours and 36 minutes of it. You do get to see the many incarnations of the band though not all of them and in the latter stages in particular you get to see one of its longest incarnations throughout the years. There are eleven shows featured in total so let’s now dive in and get on with the shows so to speak.

DVD 1.
Isle Of Wight, England 1970.

The first of the discs presents you with three of the eleven shows, although you could hardly call a couple of them shows and the first of them is a mere snippet and takes us back to 1970 at the Isle Of Wight festival which is one of the isles of the south coast of England. Here you get 13 minutes and 44 seconds of the concert with a couple of songs taken from it namely “My Sunday Feeling” and “My God” played by the band’s second incarnation to which Anderson was accompanied by Martin Barre, Glen Cornick, Clive Bunker and John Evan.

I am fairly sure that Evan might not have been an official member of the band at the time they played this concert though it’s fair to say he was very much a part of this incarnation. I am also fairly sure that most would already have the concert DVD (as seen above) that was released back in 2005 by Eagle Rock Entertainment and these days you can pick it up brand new for as little as £3.99.

I should also add that it’s well worth it as well because both the picture and sound quality are quite reasonable and the only real negative thing about it is the surround mix. To be perfectly honest it is unfortunate that this short snippet from the show is the only bit of good quality that is on this first disc.

Tampa, USA 1976.
It’s off to the USA next and this live show that was captured on VHS videotape at the Tampa Stadium, Florida back in 1976 is quite rare though as this package was originally released back in 2013 it’s been plastered all over the Tube since then. Many bootlegs also existed well before then though it’s perhaps only really rare with how the video footage came about in the first place.

Tampa Stadium.

Like most football stadiums even as far back as this they used large screens at concerts for the benefit of those who were seated further back from the stage. The video footage we have here is not pro-shot and is merely a live feed to project to the screens hence the reason why most of the shots of the members of the band are closeups. The same process was done for many of the bigger shows the band put on and it was what they called Tullavision. How this particular footage got leaked out was by the camera director secretly recording a copy for himself and it’s believed that it was his son who later sold it onto the black market so to speak.

The concert footage captures the fifth incarnation of the band (Anderson, Barre, Evan, Glascock, Barlow) during the tour of the band’s ninth studio album Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! You do get a good 61 minutes and 40 seconds of the show however, the picture and sound quality are quite poor and even played through your hifi it sounds like listening to it through your TV (only) to some degree. To be honest it sounds as if it was recorded by a portable cassette deck with an inbuilt microphone and they were recording it from the TV. In some parts, you can even hear the tape winding down. The surround mix is non-existent and what I noticed via flicking through the sound formats on my remote is the stereo mix did give you a bit more bass though the sound is really how I described it.

It’s a shame really because this show could have easily been the highlight of this whole package but it’s nothing more than a piece of nostalgic history of the event. You can see why Anderson would not have included this footage in the Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die! Mediabook because effectively it is bootleg quality. One of my particular highlights from this show was seeing them perform “Crazed Institution” as it’s very rare that Anderson plays anything from this album apart from its self-titled track.

Munich, Germany 1980.
The final piece of footage on the first disc was captured in Munich, Germany in 1980 and is segmented with an interview with Anderson talking about the history of the band. It features mostly songs from the 1979 Stormwatch album amongst other classics and the band were still touring that album even after the death of John Glascock in the previous year. Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention was recruited to play bass who would become more of a permanent fixture of the band, whereas for the likes of John Evan, David Palmer and Barrymore Barlow it was soon to become curtains.

You get 45 minutes here and to be honest I found the interview more interesting than the performances simply because although the sound quality is not too bad (stereo only) the picture quality is very blurry and washed out in many places and hard to make out at times. You cannot even make out who is playing the drums and the video footage is very poor. The show was captured by a Bavarian TV Station on one or two cameras and has obviously deteriorated over the years.

DVD 2.
Dortmund and Loreley, Germany 1982 & 1986.
The second disc starts off with a couple of snippets both of which were filmed in Germany for the Jack In The Green event (an old  English folk custom associated with the celebration of Mayday) and broadcast as part of the Rockop TV Show. The 80’s very much saw musicians come and go in the band’s lineup in no time at all, particularly in the keyboard and drum department and by now Jethro Tull had become a three-band personal with Messrs Anderson, Barre and Pegg.

The first of the two snippets is the longer of the two and the 10 minutes and 43 seconds you get here captures the band in Dortmund touring one of their better albums of the 80’s Broadsword and the Beast with the same lineup that played on the studio album which features a relatively unknown Scottish keyboardist known as Peter-John Vettese who perhaps became better known for his short stint with the band. Pegg brought in one of his old Stapel friends Gerry Conway (Fotheringay) to take care of drum matters and here you get to see them do one of the songs from that album “Pussy Willow” and they also knock out “Heavy Horses“.

Four years on at Loreley with more or less the same band lineup (apart from Doanne Perry replacing Conway) you get to see them for six and half minutes performing Black Sunday” and to be honest I am surprised Anderson still had his voice at this time. Both the picture and sound quality are reasonable enough though it beats the life out of me why they included a surround mix when there’s bugger all coming out of the rear channels. Once again I doubt very much that multitrack tapes were used and they only had a stereo mix from the TV Station.

Santiago, Chile 1996.
It’s here where things start to leapfrog and this is the only other concert footage that captures the band outside of Europe. Maybe they should have titled it “The Two Times We Stepped Out Of Europe” in relation to Around The World Live. It’s also here that things start to pick up regarding the consistency of the band with its new lineup and with the picture and sound quality with it stepping into the digital realm of things.

Estadio Nacional

You get more or less an hour of the concert they played at the National Stadium (Estadio Nacional) on the 6th of March 1996 and here they are touring their latest album at the time Roots To Branches. The concert was filmed and broadcast live on Chilean National TV at the same time as the event hence the reason why this footage exists. The stadium hosted the Fifa World Cup Final back in 1962 and besides being used for other sporting events and rock concerts it was notoriously used as a mass imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial execution facility by the Pinochet dictatorship following the 1973 military coup.

There is no doubt that this lineup of the band was very tight and both keyboardist Andrew Giddings and bassist Jonathan Noyce gave strength to it particularly throughout the mid 90’s till the mid 2000’s. Even earlier in Giddings’s case as he joined the band in 1991 and played on all the studio albums from that time up until the Christmas album, whereas Noyce only got to play on two of them and although he had joined the band in late 1995 he never got to play on Roots To Branches.

To be honest Roots To Branches is quite a good album and certainly one of the best that was put out during that decade. I would also say that when it comes to watching Anderson sing the later material live I can perhaps accept it more simply because his voice had changed and he had to change the way he sang these particular songs. Though I will stress that his voice on the studio recordings sounds a lot better than seeing or hearing him trying to sing them live.

The biggest downfall regarding Anderson and watching a concert like the one we have here is when he sings the older classics and that is the only real thing that ruins a show like this and the many others that are to come on the other two discs in this package. As for the musical side of things, it’s OUTSTANDING!.

Though of course no Tull show would be complete or the same without those older classics and I doubt that many would turn up if he were to write them off the setlist so to speak and he certainly would not be able to put on a show at a stadium such as the one we have here. To be perfectly honest I was quite surprised that they could still afford to play at bigger venues like this at the time and at a guess I doubt very much they filled it. It was also quite hard to find out a lot of information about this particular gig to see whether they did.

The show opens up with the opening two tracks from the new album “Roots To Branches” and “Rare And Precious Chain” and its good to see the newer material is getting an airing. They also throw in “Dangerous Veils” later and they may very well have done more from the album on the night though you are not getting the full show here. To be honest it’s quite a mixed setlist and even includes a couple of instrumental tracks from Anderson’s second solo album Divinities: Twelve Dances with God namely “In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff” and “In The Moneylender’s Temple“. It was also a studio album that Noyce got to play bass on back in 1995. 

The staple classics that appear on the setlist of the biggest majority of Tull shows are still there and evidently present. However, it was good to see newly orchestrated arrangement introductions had been applied to songs such as “Aqualung“, “Thick As A Brick” and “Locomotive Breath. Though Anderson might very well be spitting out pieces of his own broken luck or voice for that matter when it comes around to singing them I’m afraid. “My God” and “Nothing Is Easy” are also featured here as well as the classic Bach instrumental piece “Bouree“.

To be honest it’s quite a good show and I feel the setlist is very well chosen in that it can relieve the pressure and tension of hearing Anderson’s voice all the time by breaking it up with instrumental pieces and orchestrated additives to many of the old classics. The picture quality is very good and although it sounds GREAT! with the DTS surround mix, it’s not exactly a 5.1 mix that will leap out at you and set your pants on fire. I do however believe multitrack tapes were used but unfortunately, the engineer had not got a clue what to do with them is what springs to mind here.

DVD 3.
The third disc is perhaps a bit of an oddball one in that it mostly consists of snippets of shows that have been previously released on DVD and Blu Ray, It’s also from here on that the band lineup of Anderson, Barre, Noyce, Giddings and Perry is the only lineup that plays on the rest of the live material in this package, although the book may very well give you the impression that is not entirely the case at least for one of the snippets. The other thing notable about this particular disc is that it is relatively shorter than the other three that come in this package.

Hilversum, Holland 1999.
The first bit of footage captures the band in a television studio in the Neverlands having just come back from a tour of North America. This particular footage was recorded without an audience and with minimal equipment as most of the band’s equipment was still on the road being shipped from the States and many of the songs are stripped back and played at a much lower level. It’s very much part of the 2 Meter Sessions which originally started out as a radio station in 1987 and by 1993 the show made a successful transition from radio to television.

You get a total of 32 minutes during which the band roll out 8 numbers consisting of older and more recent material such as the self-titled track from the band’s latest album at the time Dot Com along with the self-titled track of Anderson’s latest solo album The Secret Language Of Birds. It also includes what is perhaps the shortest version of “Thick As A Brick” I’ve ever heard, though the highlight for me here is “Fat Man” and I remember them doing this version of the song when I got to see them in the same year at the Birmingham Symphony Hall.

The disc also includes a 14-minute interview that accompanies this session in which you get to see Anderson talk about why it’s going to be more stripped back with their equipment still being on the road from their previous tour amongst other things such as telling the band members to turn up with what they were able to carry to the studio. As Anderson explains in the book it was done as a promotional thing whilst they had a day off in between touring.

London, England 2001 / Leamington Spa, England 2001 / Montreux, Switzwerland 2003.
The rest of the live footage on the disc is all snippets which all but one of them were previously released on DVD & Blu Ray. There is obviously some confusion regarding this one bit of footage and it most certainly is not part of the material that was put on the Living With The Past DVD that was released in 2002 or the Live At Montreux Blu Ray that was released in 2003.

The first couple of songs “Crossed Eyed Mary” and “Hunt By Numbers” were indeed taken from the Living With The Past DVD and were captured at the Hammersmith Odeon in London if my memory serves me right. The other song “My Sunday Feeling” was supposedly taken from a gig they played at Leamington Spa and I even noticed that all 3 of these songs are tied together as if they all came from the same DVD and have an overall playing time of 11 minutes, 59 seconds.

It is true that one of the first incarnations of the band featured Anderson, Abrahams, Cornick and Bunker playing at Kelly’s bar in Leamington Spa back in 2001 and this bit of footage is also included on the Living With The Past DVD. Everything in the book that comes in this package also points to that as you can see below.

The same song was also played at the Hammersmith Odoen with the current lineup and is in fact the first song they play on the DVD. However, the performance of “My Sunday Feeling” you get here is not from any of these venues and, to be honest, I have no idea where they played it, but the notable thing is how the current lineup is dressed and how Giddings is set up on the right-hand side of the stage in relation to the left where he was positioned at the Hammersmith Odeon. I do believe this live performance was performed in the same year, however.

The final three songs “Someday The Sun Won’t Shine For You“, “Life Is A Long Song” and “Living In The Past” are all taken from the Live At Montreux Blu Ray. It’s here that the surround sound really kicks in for the first time and they did a very good job of it unlike the footage that came before it which is basically nothing to write home about and mostly pointless giving a surround mix in the first place.

DVD 4.
Lugano, Switzerland 2005.
The final disc presents us with only one show and is nearly complete with the hour and forty minutes you get here. It captures the band on the 9th of July 2005 at another jazz festival in Switzerland namely the Estival Jazz in Lugano which originally was a town in Northern Italy where most of the people there still speak the Italian language. It’s quite a strange place to play and basically, a festival stage and tent were set up in Reformation Square which is the main square in the centre of Lugano that is like a shopping present in a city centre filled with shops, cafes and restaurants.

Reformation Square

It’s very much a show that rolls out many of the older classics and perhaps rare in that “Thick As A Brick” which tends to get played at most shows is excluded from the setlist. The Aqualung album gets heavily featured most likely down to them recording the whole album live at the studios of XM Radio in November of the previous year and besides its self-titled track and “Locomotive Breath” that tend to pop out in every show, they also churn out “Up To Me“, “Mother Goose” and “Hymn 42“.

To be honest it’s more of a very well-chosen setlist that gives more variety and scope to many of the songs that very rarely get aired live in some cases and I would even go as far as to say that if you picked this up in a record store and seen the setlist the word WOW! might even spring to mind. Though of course, that particular word might have only really applied many moons ago in relation to how Anderson struggles to sing the songs here, nevertheless it certainly is a very interesting setlist and I would even go as far as choosing “Mother Goose” as the highlight of this particular show because there are times where his old voice magically comes back to life on this one.

There is no doubt that Anderson’s voice has deteriorated over the years since he lost it back in the mid-eighties and strangely enough the very first studio album the band put out in 1987 entitled Crest Of A Knave was the very album that brought me back to the fold so to speak having given up on them after being hugely disappointed with the 1979 album Stormwatch. It’s an album that perhaps had more of a Dire Straits feel to it due to Anderson having to change his voice, but his voice did work very well on it and I still to this day regard this album as the best Tull album that was put out since the 1978 album Heavy Horses.

Although Anderson’s voice is very much shot on this show it’s good to see him still knocking out a couple of the classics from the album “Farm On A Freeway” and “Budapest“. His choice of “Weathercock” is also a nice change in relation to seeing him do the self-titled track from that 78 album all the time.

There is a good few songs from the band’s first two albums that they roll out such as “Serenade To A Cuckoo“, Beggars Farm“, “Nothing Is Easy“, “A New Day Yesterday“, “For A Thousand Mothers” and “Bourée” along with other instrumental pieces “We Five Kings” from their Christmas album and even a couple of pieces from both Anderson and Barre’s solo albums “Boris Dancing” and “Empty Café” to relieve the tension on Anderson’s voice. Though overall there are more vocal tracks including “Jack In The Green” and Anderson may very well be pushing the boundaries regarding his voice at this particular concert in many respects.

The sound quality is very good as to be expected as it comes directly from the soundboard of the desk, although the surround mix is once again nothing really to write home about and only utilises the use of crowd noise and mainly reflections of the instrumentation that is from the front into the rear channels. However, musically the band are once again on fire.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Around The World Live by Jethro Tull. It’s perhaps a package that is aimed more at the completist who has to have everything and it does not in any way really contain the best visual live material that has been released by this band apart from the odd snippet here and there that is taken from the two DVD’s and Blu Ray I mentioned in my review. Personally, I think you would be better off buying those instead of this package and I dare say you could pick all three of them up for less than the price of this thing.

Although it comes packaged in a similar vane to the Mediabooks that the Warner Music Group released with the Tull discography. I don’t really see it as an addition to that series and neither do its contents really match up to the quality of the live material that is spread throughout that series of individual packages.

The biggest drawback is that most of the earlier footage is only really bootleg quality and I guess for many even so the 1976 show at Tampa USA would be the highlight of this package. Though personally for me it is exactly as Ian Anderson describes it in the book and only really represents part of the band’s history in nostalgic terms because of its poor quality. It’s unfortunate that the only real quality is of the latter years when Anderson had lost his voice which is a shame because I do genuinely love the guy even if I cannot stomach watching many of these more recent live shows.

I do think what you get with this package is more than a bit of BLING! Though in answer to my two-part question in my introduction I do not think it matches up to the same value as the other Mediabooks and is well overpriced and I certainly would not consider it a must for Tull fans.

Might Be One To Sit Out

The DVD Tracklisting is as follows:

DVD 1.
Isle of Wight, England 1970.
My Sunday Feeling
My God

Tampa, USA 1976.
Quartet (Intro)
Thick As A Brick
Wond’ring Aloud
Crazed Institution
Barre (Instrumental)
To Cry You A Song/A New Day Yesterday/Bourée/God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Living In The Past/Thick As A Brick/A New Day Yesterday (Reprise)
Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young To Die
Minstrel In The Gallery
Excerpt from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (Molto Vivace)

Munich, Germany 1980.
Dark Ages
Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young To Die
Cross-Eyed Mary
Minstrel In The Gallery
Locomotive Breath
Dambusters March

DVD 2.
Dortmund, Germany 1982.
Pussy Willow
Heavy Horses

Loreley, Germany 1986.
Black Sunday

Santiago, Chile 1996.
Roots To Branches
Rare And Precious Chain
Thick As A Brick
In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff
Dangerous Veils
Nothing Is Easy
In The Moneylenders’ Temple
My God
Locomotive Breath

DVD 3.
Hilversum, Holland 1999.
Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You
Thick As A Brick
Locomotive Breath
The Secret Language Of Birds
Dot Com
Fat Man
In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff

London, England 2001.
Cross-Eyed Mary
Hunt By Numbers

Leamington Spa, England 2001.
My Sunday Feeling

Montreux, Switzerland 2003.
Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You
Life Is A Long Song
Living In The Past

Interview 1999.

DVD 4.
Lugano, Switzerland 2005.
Aqualung (Intro)
For A Thousand Mothers
Nothing Is Easy
Jack In The Green
Serenade To A Cuckoo
Beggar’s Farm
Boris Dancing
We Five Kings
Up To Me
Mother Goose
Empty Café
Farm On The Freeway
Hymn 43
A New Day Yesterday
Locomotive Breath
Protect And Survive

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10
Price Point Rating Score. 5/10
Picture Quality Rating Score. 7/10
Sound Quality Rating Score. 8/10
5.1 Mix Rating Score. 1/10

Lee Speaks About Music…#222

Waka/Wazoo (Boxset) – Frank Zappa


When it comes to boxsets this was a must for me although as with any boxset, the price point has to fit in with my pocket and I am not one of those who would pay an extortionate price for such a thing and in general, I tend to stick to those that are under the hundred-pound mark and most importantly the boxset has to offer good value for the buck. I’ve been into the music of Frank Zappa ever since I heard Joe’s Garage around my friend’s house in the year of its release back in 1979, to be honest with the number of albums Zappa released over the years it would cost you a fortune to keep up with them and he even released five albums in that year alone counting Acts 2 & 3 of that so-called titled album I mentioned.

Since the following year of his death in 1994, Zappa’s discography has expanded even more so and the Zappa Family Trust has released a further 62 posthumous official releases of albums and boxsets to date. Though with what little multichannel content that’s been put out during this period, this particular boxset is the first of them to come at a more reasonable price point for me to actually obtain and get my hands on. It’s also what I consider to be the best of the bunch that has been put out so far.

Both the albums Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo come from a slightly earlier period and they display more of the musical side of Zappa’s career. Both albums were also originally written and released in the same year at a time when he was in convalescence after he was assaulted on stage in the previous year.

Frank very much surrounded himself with what he would often describe as “pretty good musicians” and worked with an array of well-gifted and talented musicians throughout his entire career, he would also push the envelope to get the best out of them. When it comes to music creativity Frank has the technical mind of a musical GENIUS! It’s something I noticed that he had instilled in him at a young age and is evident from this video of the 22-year-old genius in this video from 1963 where he was featured on The Steve Allen Show.

This particular boxset focuses on a time period in which I personally felt that Frank produced some of his best-ever musical works and both of these albums I personally rate very highly, that much so that my eyes lit up when I heard that they were to get the 5.1 treatment which is why this boxset was a must for me. 

The Wakka/Wazoo boxset is perhaps one of the most unusual packages that I have encountered particularly with the way things have been put together. I have to confess that when this boxset arrived even at its lower price point it gave me the impression that I had been ripped off. However, there is a lot more to this package than what meets the eye so to speak but before I go any further let’s dive in and take an in-depth look at how things have been presented.

Packaging & Artwork…

I have to confess that before I pre-ordered this boxset the way it was displayed made it look a lot bigger than the thing that arrived and I was not expecting it to come in a Clamshell Box, especially for the price I paid for it. As a rule, I generally pre-order such things from Amazon UK but the £72 pre-order price tag they were asking for it put me right off. I ended up pre-ordering it from the Burning Shed and managed to get it for £54.50 including p+p which is still cheaper than the £60 price tag that Amazon has it priced up at today.

Presentation wise there is no doubt that things have been done on the cheap here and to be perfectly honest I am hugely disappointed with how the Zappa Estate have treated these two remarkable albums and consider it an insult. The boxset itself contains 5 discs stored in single cardboard sleeves and the other disappointing thing is that none of the sleeves or the box itself has any of the great artwork that was done for these two albums.

It also comes with a 44-page booklet that includes all the usual liner notes and credits plus some very informative content with a short essay by Vaultmaster Joe Travers and more historical content with the essay written by Scott Parker. It also includes photos and the good thing is that it does give you a lot more informative information that I generally like to see.

Clamshell boxsets are generally aimed at the cheaper end of the market and genuinely offer good value for the money as in these two examples above. Both of these box sets come with 6 discs and cost £16.99 each. They are also constructed of better-quality material and are a lot thicker than this Zappa box set which is why I felt totally ripped off when this thing arrived.

Granted neither of those boxsets contains any multichannel content like the blu ray that comes with the Zappa boxset which will bump up the price. However, it’s still way overpriced in my book and no doubt this so-called lower price point will still put many off from buying it. Much more should have been done here regarding the presentation and both of these albums deserve a lot more respect. To put it in a nutshell the presentation totally SUCKS!

The original album cover designs for both Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo were done by Zappa’s longtime graphic designer Cal Schenkel who had worked with Frank since they met in 1967. He has pretty much done the album cover design work for all of Zappa’a albums up until 1976 which was the time when Frank’s output had slowed down whilst he was in dispute with Cohen and Warner Bros. Records. In the 1980s Schenkel resumed occasional work on Zappa projects.

Schenkel was also an animator and comic artist and the comic side of things was reflected in much of the artwork he designed for Zappa’s albums including these two great albums. I quite like his work and was very disappointed that none of it had been used in putting this box set together.

The design for the box set was done by Michael Mesker and is far from impressive in relation to Schenkel’s work and he has merely just used photographs of Frank to create it. You can very much see his idea by looking at the photographs of Frank that are put on all five disc jackets that come inside the box that he focused his attention on the time period Frank was in convalescence creating the albums after he was pushed off the stage in the previous year.

Whilst I think that Mesker’s conceptional idea was good it does not quite do it for me and unlike Schenkel’s artwork, it does not really tie in with the ZANY! side of things that were reflected in Frank’s music. Though all is not lost because at least they had the sense to include Schenkel’s artwork on the blu ray that you can see large as life on your TV screen whilst listening to the music.

New Release Editions.
Besides the box set to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of both albums’, they reissued them on black and coloured vinyl, the latter is more of an expensive Limited Edition. As far as I am aware no single CD editions were released to mark its 50th Anniversary though according to Discogs you can get a 30-File Flac Hi-Res download of the boxset though I am pretty sure this is an unofficial release.

All vinyl albums have been pressed onto 180-gram vinyl and the black vinyl can be obtained from Amazon UK for around £26.99. The limited coloured vinyl editions are around the £43 mark and some like the ones in the photo above come with a lithograph print bumping up the price to around £70. They are all still widely available most likely down to the expensive price tag.

Waka/Wazoo Boxset In Review…

The Waka/Wazoo Boxset by Frank Zappa was released on the 16th of December 2022 to mark the 50th Anniversary of the two truly GREAT! albums that originally surfaced way back in 1972. It was not only a time when Frank was recuperating from the aftermath of being pushed off stage at the Rainbow Theatre in London by a crazed attendee on December 10th 1971, but also a time when many more bands and artists were breaking into the world of Jazz-Fusion that first raised its head with Free Spirits 1967 debut album Out of Sight and Sound. The guitarist of that band Larry Coryell is often recited to as the godfather of that particular genre.

Since the birth of that album, many more jazz artists followed suit such as Miles Davis with the groundbreaking album Bitches Brew in 1970. Many of the same musicians who played on that particular album wound up in other bands doing the same thing such as Weather Report, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return to Forever and even Eumir Deadato dabbled with it with his 1972 debut album Prelude. The early part of the 70’s was thriving with the stuff and even Zappa joined in with these two albums, though I will say that each had its own unique way of going about things.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you many of these fusion bands do not appeal to my personal taste and I find them a bit too sporadic for my liking. When it comes to jazz-fusion I much prefer the slightly later bands that came out such as Brand X and the first two Bill Bruford solo albums, it might be down to the fact that they have more of a PROG! thing going on with them.

The material that Zappa penned for Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo incorporates straight jazz as well as jazz fusion similar to what Miles was doing with the material that found its way on Bitches Brew although it’s perhaps down to Zappa’s unique ZANY! way of going about things that appeal to me more so.

The musical content that is contained in the Waka/Wazoo box set documents both of these albums to the BRIM! The only real negative side of things here is the presentation which I have already pointed out, though of course not all will agree with my own viewpoint regarding the presentation and some might find it acceptable whereas I don’t. The look of this box set does not justify its price tag in my personal opinion and the word RIP-OFF! certainly springs to mind. However, the musical content that is contained within will give you an entirely different opinion about it and that is where it holds its value. So let’s now dive in a take a look.

The Package Contents In Review.

When I mentioned in my introduction that this is one of the most unusual packages that I have encountered with the way things have been put together and there is a lot more to this package than what meets the eye, I was not kidding. As many of you will know from my reviews my main interest in the biggest majority of the music I buy particularly with boxsets such as this is the multichannel content.

In general, with the many boxsets that have been put out that focus on albums like this you will end up with the same album two to four times over with the various formats they put inside them. This is where this boxset differs and in my book it’s a very good thing and on the bonus side of things you are onto a real WINNER! 

None of the four CD’s that come with this boxset contain the actual albums it’s all bonus content and the beauty of it is that the biggest majority of it has never seen the light of day before and is previously unreleased. The word KILLER! springs to mind with the bonus content you get here and for the life of me I cannot see why they never put out a Vinyl boxset for vinyl lovers because they are missing out here and you would have to be a complete “Dancin’ Fool” not to get your hands on this boxset.

To listen to the original albums you will have to use the blu ray and although this might not suit the majority of people it is the multichannel side of things that has my genuine interest. It’s also very rare I will even bother with most of the other content that comes inside boxsets like this apart from the bonus content if it’s not included on the blu ray for example. Though what I will say about this boxset is that CD’s hold just as much value to me as the blu ray and in some respects even more so. So let’s now dive in and take a look at the CD content first.

CD 1 (Alternatives & Outtakes).
The first couple of discs contains alternative takes and outtakes taken from the original recording sessions of the two albums most of which were taken from the original 2″ 16-track analogue master tapes. Though of course, these are all digital transfers nevertheless the sound quality is outstanding to the point that I would actually call these reference point recordings. The tracks from both albums run in no particular order and have been spread across the two discs, for example, it’s not as if the first disc contains alternative takes and outtakes from Waka Jawaka and the second disc the outtakes from The Grand Wazoo.

The first of the CD’s comes with a total of 7 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 74 minutes and 40 seconds, much of the material is quite lengthy and in some cases, some of the tracks are longer than the originals that were put on the original albums as in the case of the opening track “Your Mouth” which happens to be the very first take of the song. Though in the case of this one, the extra couple of minutes or so you get is mostly down to the extra introduction and the extended ending.

The introduction is very good and gives more of a warm feel to the song in particular with the laughter and different approach to the vocal side of things. The other interesting thing is that there is no brass at all on this take is much more humorous and soulful as you can hear for yourself on this official upload to the tube.

Up next is an alternative take of “Big Swifty” and this is a couple of minutes or so shorter than the original album track it has a bit of a broader sound and laidback feel to the approach and fewer elements in some regards to the original and does not feel so rushed. The next track “Minimal Art (Eat That Question – Version 1, Take 2)” was sourced from a half-inch 4-track reel that Frank had originally mixed down from 16 to 4-track to give it a vintage mix. It’s the only track on this disc that was not sourced from the original master tapes as they no longer exist. This version is a good 4 minutes longer and once again is a bit more laid back than the original.

An outtake version of the jazz classic “Blessed Relief” is up next and here we are treated to an extra couple of minutes of it though it is hardly noticeable perhaps down to the pleasure of hearing it makes this one flyby in no time at all. The outtake version of “The Grand Wazoo” is a couple of minutes shorter and is noticeable down to the fact that this version has vocals and lyrics sung by Sal Marquez and Janet Neville-Ferguson. It also has way fewer musical elements going on in relation to the original and includes a lengthy drum solo from Aynsley Dumbar.

The main noticeable thing about the outtake version of “For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)” is that it does not have vocals and although this version is a couple of minutes longer it’s only down to it having a couple of other takes at the end of it, effectively you get more than one outtake here.

The disc comes to a close with an outtake of “Waka/Jawaka” and once again this is a couple of minutes longer I am pretty sure Dunbar’s drum solo is slightly longer and once again like many of these outtakes they have more of a dry broader sound to them in relation to the polished versions on the original albums.

CD 2 (Alternatives & Outtakes Continued).
The second CD continues with more alternatives and outtakes and contains 8 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 64 minutes and 11 seconds. Actually, there are no outtakes on this disc and they are all either alternative mixes or takes many of which were recorded a month later. The first two alternative takes “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” and “Eat That Question” were recorded during the recording of the George Duke demo sessions that Zappa was producing for him at the time.

There are clearly distinguishable differences between the first of these takes for example, the first of them omits the brass, honky tonk piano and voices and also Frank’s guitar solo is entirely different. The second is version 2 and once again this is longer than the original and slightly longer than version 1 on the first disc to which the differences are not so much distinguishable.

A slightly shorter alternative mix of “Big Swifty” is up next and this version was found on a build reel entitled “Hot Rats I” and was created before the master version. Frank made razor-cut edits to create the ending. This alternate mix of “For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)” was also found on the same reel and unlike the version on the first disc, this one does have the vocals and also contains source material that was not found in the original. It’s quite an interesting mix of this one as you can hear on the official upload to the tube.

The alternative mix of “It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal” was found on a reel entitled “Hot Rats II” and is the same length as the original however it’s quite different in particular with how the vocals have been approached to the song. The alternate mix of “Waka/Jawaka” was also found on the same reel, this mix was also created before the master edit and overdubs. Not only is it a couple of minutes longer but it also contains a Moog drum solo that was eventually abandoned from the original.

The disc gets winded up as it started only these are two alternative mixes (not takes) of “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” and “Eat That Question“. Unlike the take done during the Duke sessions, the first of them does include the instrumentation and even though they have the same time slot it has a faster approach to it. The latter is a shorter version and comes from a reel entitled “Non-Masters” and was constructed before Frank tacked on the outro section.

CD 3 (Demos, Masters & Live Material).
The third disc is perhaps the oddball of the bunch and mostly features George Duke’s material to which Frank was working on the production side of things for him at the time. I suppose the reason why it was included is that it fits in with the time period in which Frank was making these two albums of his own. The disc itself contains 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 66 minutes and 37 seconds and contains rare material that has never seen the light of day before to some extent.

The first 4 tracks are extremely rare and are original master versions that Frank produced for Duke, the three that Duke wrote in particular I am pretty sure Duke released on various Albums, EP’s and Singles though none of them contained Frank’s guitar parts for example, For Love (I Come Your Friend) was released as the B-Side of “Fools” on a 7″ promo single back in 1975. It was also only ever released in America and like the other tracks you get here the versions that were released by Duke never had Frank’s guitar on them.

Both “Love” and “Psychosomatic Dung” appeared on the albums Feel and Faces In Reflection which both were released in 1974 though once again none of these versions ever had Frank’s guitar on. Also included is an instrumental version of “Uncle Remus” that was penned by Duke & Zappa and this is perhaps my favourite of the four here basically because the other Duke material is not really my bag, though of course for Duke fans these masters might have more validity for them than myself. 

Also included on the disc are the outtakes of “For Love (I Come Your Friend)”, “Psychosomatic Dung” and “Love” sourced from the original 2″ 16-Track analogue tape masters mixed by Craig Parker Adams at Winslow Ct. Studios in 2022.

The live material is definitely my bag and what’s contained here and on the following disc is a real treat in my opinion. Frank toured with a 20-piece and cut it down to a 10-piece band by the end of 1972. However, the only track you get here from the 20-piece outfit that played their final show at the Boston Music Hall on the 24th of September 1972 is “Approximate” and it’s one that Frank tweaked about with at his record plant in 1975. It is however previously unreleased and is a very good remix.

The rest of the live material is also unreleased and consists of a completely uncut concert from San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom that was played on the 15th of December 1972 and this box set presents it for the first time. The venue hosted many bands over the years including the like of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Queen, The Rolling Stones and many more The Grateful Dead was the last band to play at the venue right at the end of 1978 on New Year’s Eve. 

The building that was originally built in 1928 as an ice rink no longer exists and was demolished in late 1985. No doubt the place held a lot of history just like the concert we have here that was captured in 1972. This particular concert has been dubbed the “Petite Wazoo” basically because the musicians were stripped down from 20 to 10 though unlike the Grand Wazoo tour, it does not feature anything from the actual album or Waka/Jawaka come to think of it. Though I am sure many will be more aware of the songs played in this setlist and as the booklet states it brought a conclusion to Frank’s Wazoo era experiment and it all fits in around this time period.

The opening track is entitled “Winterland ’72 Opening And Band Introductions” and here we get to hear not only Frank introduce the band but also he has a go at getting the audience to participate with them before the shows even started. Once again the recording quality is outstanding and so too are the musicians. Jim Gordon on drums is spectacular throughout the entire show.

The first of the numbers they roll out is most likely an improvised lengthy 18-minute jam entitled “Little Dots” I am pretty sure that no studio version of this track exists though Frank did play this more than once at his shows in 1972 and some versions of it were even longer and split into two parts. The way it kicks off with Dave Parlato’s bass gives it a fusion feel though as soon as Frank’s guitar comes into play it gets more of a rocked-out feel to it. To be honest this jam is a bit too one-directional and does not really seem to go anywhere else which is most likely why he never bothered making a studio version of it. It does however have its moments.

CD 4 (Live Material Continued).
The fourth disc contains the rest of the live performance that was taken from the Winterland Ballroom and here you get a further 5 live tracks spread over an overall playing time of 55 minutes. The playing time is notably shorter than the other 3 discs and there was no reason why they could not have squeezed this concert onto a single disc seeing how with the two tracks that were placed at the end of the 3rd disc the playing time comes to just under 78 minutes.

The concert continues with “America Drinks” although Frank does announce its title as “America Drinks and Goes Home” and they have obviously made a misprint with the titles though it’s not the first one. It’s one of a couple of Frank’s earlier songs performed at the show as all the rest of the material is newly written and eventually found its way on later albums. The original studio version can be found on his second album Absolutely Free released back in 1967.

Montana” is a song that found its way on Frank’s next album Over-Nite Sensation released in 1973, unlike the studio version to which Frank paid an exuberant amount of money to Tina Turner and the Ikettes to do the backing vocals this live version is sung purely by Frank alone. I quite like how laidback this live version sounds and his expressive voice and guitar play their part in it as you can hear for yourself.

The next couple of numbers to get rolled out are “Father O’Blivion” (not “Farther O’Blivion” which is the other misprint with the titles) and “Cosmic Debris“. Both of these eventually wound up on the 1974 album Apostrophe (‘) as did “Uncle Remus” from the Duke sessions. The show gets wound up very well with the other of Frank’s earlier songs and here we get an 18-minute version of the 1970 album self-titled track “Chunga’s Revenge” and this is one truly great live concert that has been included in this boxset and sounds amazing.

The Blu Ray.
The blu ray contains the two 1972 studio albums Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo and no other bonus material. I must admit I came across quite a few complaints by many regarding the authoring of the blu ray in particular regarding its navigation and how the menu flickers, and also with how the albums had been mastered. Personally, regarding the authoring side of things and its navigation, I cannot see what all the fuss is about though I do feel the albums could have been mastered better.

The blu rays main menu is pristine and made up of three pictures and does not have anything else on it such as words, buttons and icons for “Play”, “Track Selection” and “Audio” etc. The very fact that it does not come with any is where the confusion most likely lies with many of the complaints regarding the navigation being tricky to find your way around and it does appear that some people are simply not getting the picture here so to speak. 

The pictures are fairly obvious and in the middle, we have the cover of the boxset itself and to both sides we have the two featured albums that relate to the boxsets title of Waka/Wazoo. It’s a simple case of moving the cursor on your remote to the left or right to make your choice of what album to play. The other thing that is not so visible in the picture above is the silvery grey border (as seen below) and by default, it’s set to the first of the two albums Waka/Jawaka.

The other complaints were about the flicker on the main menu and the album menus and this is purposely put there for effect to make both album covers look live or animated. It’s also notable that the flicker on the main menu is on the album covers to the left and the right only and not on the picture of the box set in the middle. Once you have made your choice of what album to play you simply hit the “OK” button in the middle of the cursor on the remote to play it.

The album menus (as seen above) are where you do have the choice to make a track selection and choose your preferred audio and by default, the audio is set to PCM Stereo 96khz 24-Bit. Surround FREAKS! will prefer to choose either the Dolby Atmos 48khz 24-Bit or Dolby True HD 5.1 48khz 24-Bit. If you do not have Atmos and choose that mix you will get a Dolby True HD 7.1 48khz 24-Bit instead.

The only real gripe I have regarding the menus is that when you have made your album choice from the main menu it automatically starts playing before you have had the chance to choose your desired audio. Apart from that, I have no other complaints here at all and overall a very good job has been done by the authorizer.

Stereo & Surround Mixes.

Both the stereo and surround mixes of the two albums were sourced from the original 1972 16-track analogue masters and different engineers were involved regarding the stereo and surround mixes. The Hi-Res Stereo mastering was done by Doug Sax & Robert Hadley and regarding the mastering side of things they have by far done a better job, and there are some issues regarding the levels of the stereo and surround mixes that have been put on this disc. 

The surround mixes were done by Erich Gobel & Karma Auger and are between 7-9 decibels lower than the stereo mix and you really have to WHACK! up the volume to get the real benefit out of these mixes. Let’s put it this way there is no danger of them being brick-walled and if anything they have not gotten any further than the foundations, you will also have to be extremely careful if you are one of those who like to switch between the stereo and surround mix to make comparisons.

The other thing I noticed is that the album Waka/Jawaka is around 2-3 decibels higher than The Grand Wazoo so you will have to WHACK! the volume up even louder to get the benefit out of the latter of the two albums. I am not really sure if this is a mastering issue or what but it does sound like one and certainly is not right, things could and should have been done better.

However, regarding the surround mixes themselves and the placement of the instrumentation they have done quite a very good job, so good that I may very well have given them 9 out of 10 had it not been for the level issues. I do however feel that Steve Wilson may have excelled in what these pair have done and albums that have this kind of calibre would be better off put in his capable hands.

Waka / Wazoo Boxset Credits…

Boxset Production by Ahmet Zappa & Joe Travers. 1972 original recordings produced by Frank Zappa. 2022 Mixes by Craig Parker Adams & John Polito. Mastered by John Polito. Dolby Atmos & 5.1 Surround Mixed by Erich Gobel & Karma Auger. Hi-Res Stereo Mastered by Doug Sax & Robert Hadley. Blu Ray Menu Design, Encoding & Authoring by Meedja Limited. Art Direction & Design by Michael Mesker. Original Type and Art Elements by Cal Schenkel. Liner Notes by Scott Parker & Joe Travers. Photography by Tony Espanza, Laurens Van Houten, Ed Caraeff, Phillip Schwartz and Michael Ochs.

The Albums In Review…

Despite being at home and convalescing in a wheelchair it never stopped Frank from working, he is very much a workaholic in every sense of the word and wrote a lot more material than what materialised on these two albums. He was also thoughtful towards his musicians too and one of the first things he did after his assault was put out a live album to provide support for The Mothers Of Invention who found themselves out of work after the incident.

Besides the live album Just Another Band From L.A. that contained live material from the previous year Frank also wrote plenty of other material in 1972 some of which never materialised until after his death such as the material that wound up on the album Finer Moments that was released in 2012. 

It does appear that the December of 1971 was a very bad month for Frank and prior to being thrown down an orchestra pit in London a fire broke out while playing a gig at the Montreux Casino in Switzerland on the 4th of December, during which he lost a lot of expensive equipment. The event was very well documented in Deep Purple’s classic rock hit “Smoke On The Water” as many will know. It could be that he wrote a lot of material in 1972 to compensate for some of the losses from the previous year.

1972 was indeed a highly productive and creative year for Frank and two cracking albums resulted from it all amongst an array of other really great material that would appear on other albums just around the corner. So let’s now dive into the first of the two albums and take a closer look.

Waka / Jawaka by Frank Zappa was released on the 5th of July 1972 and was the fourth studio album to be released under his own name, although by this time he also had done a further 7 studio albums under the name or with The Mothers Of Invention so technically you could say that this was Frank’s 11th studio album project. The album contains 4 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 36 minutes and was originally intended to be the sequel to Hot Rats and entitled Hot Rats II as the album cover suggests. However, the whacky title it eventually ended up with was derived from something that Frank had seen on an ouija board.

Unlike the 1969 album Hot Rats which became a Top Ten hit in Britain and the Netherlands, Waka / Jawaka was not so well received and was heavily criticised over its Miles Davis influence and likened second rate to his music. It did, however, peak at 152 on America’s Billboard album charts and these days it is perhaps more appreciated in Germany where the reissue of the album managed to break into the Top 30 of the official German album charts and peaked at number 24. 

Being stuck in a wheelchair and not being able to get out and play Frank pretty much decided to assemble a big band lineup and incorporate big band music for his next project. Despite putting out a live album to help pay the musicians that had worked on his previous albums and keep them in work it was obvious that many of them would go off and do something else including Ian and Ruth Underwood. Though both George Duke and Aynsley Dunbar hung around. Although the lineup that was assembled for this particular album was not so much of a big band in relation to the number of musicians that were assembled for The Grand Wazoo.

Having written and rehearsed the material Frank decamped to Hollywood’s Paramount Studios on the 10th of April 1972 with his newly formed arsenal of musicians and began recording what would become his jazz fusion. Within a mere 7 days between April 14th and the 21st, the biggest bulk of the material that wound up on both Waka / Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo was recorded. Kerry McNabb was at the helm of the recording and it was the first time he had worked with Frank, it was not the last time either and he engineered albums for Captain Beefheart, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and George Duke around this time. 

Although Paramount was primarily a film studio in the late 60’s they built a recording & soundtrack studio complex and many bands and artists have recorded their albums there ever since. It’s still very much going strong today and is still widely used by the stars of today to record their albums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Much of the ideas that went into the material that was written for Waka / Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo came from Frank wanting to write and play for an Electric Orchestra, Electric in the sense of the intensity and volume that was brought to the stage at modern pop/rock concerts. Though if the truth be told hardly any of this material got played live and what little that did back in 1972 was shelved by Frank due to the recordings being of inferior quality to put out.

Though of course over the years many bootlegs have materialised and even the Zappa Estate released a posthumous release of the complete concert played at the Music Hall in Boston, Massachusetts on the 24th of September 1972 which was of the 20-piece band Grand Wazoo tour. This was also the final concert that Frank played with the 20-piece big band. It was released on a double CD entitled Zappa Wazoo in 2007.

To be honest listening to this concert it’s very hard for me to see why Frank never released this concert himself because the recording is far from inferior and is very good even with the humming noise from the stage. Both Ian and Ruth Underwood had also returned to the fold at this point and Jim Gordon is on the drums. Although like I said not much of the material from these two albums got played live and only a couple of the tracks one from each to be precise were played at this concert.

Although Frank assembled quite a few musicians to work on the material that made up the album Waka / Jawaka some of it was put together in the way of a normal band process rather than a big band, especially in the case of the album’s opening track. So let’s now dive into the album tracks and take a closer look.

Track 1. Big Swifty.

The album kicks off with its longest track and one that effectively took up the whole of the first side of the vinyl album, in English the word “Swifty” is referred to an alcoholic drink that one has to drink quickly and as this track weighs in at over 17 minutes it must be one hell of a large drink. However, knowing Frank’s use of American slang and zany sense of humour he may very well have another meaning for the title. As long as this instrumental piece is it never started off that way and its opening themes can be heard in a much shorter composition that was entitled “The New Brown Clouds“.   

Although Frank is credited for the composition and arrangement the piece was made larger by adding around six improvisations to its opening theme using alternating time signatures of 7/8 and 3/4 soon settling on 4/4 swing for several extended solos. It’s also fair to say that Sal Marquez had a hand in the arrangement in particular in the final section where he had transcribed Frank’s guitar solo to create a trumpet solo and took care of all the overdubbed brass parts.

His contribution to the piece is quite vast and sounds like a brass orchestra was brought in making it sound like there are a lot more musicians involved in the piece, yet he’s the one playing all the parts, he also contributes chimes to the piece. Marquez’s role on the album extended to being a creative consultant, even the concept behind the album cover art with the sink and faucets labelled “Hot” and “Rats” was his idea.

In many respects, this is a piece that was put together like a band process in relation to a big band, Marquez is also one of the three musicians along with Frank that got to play on every track. The back line of Alex Dmochowski and Aynsley Dunbar also features on all four tracks and it was Dunbar who recommended the bass player Dmochowski having played with him in his own band Retaliation that he formed after his stint with the Jeff Beck (Group) previous to that he was a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers along with Peter Green & John McVie. It’s speculated that the pseudonym name of ‘Erroneous’ that Dmochowski used was because he was working in the states without a green card at the time.

Like Dunbar, George Duke also played with Frank from around 1970 – 1975 and he gets to play on the first couple of tracks on this album, his keyboard work is also immense on this track. Tony Duran, the lead guitarist of the Zappa-produced band Ruben And The Jets also gets to play on three of the tracks though unlike Duke his slide guitar is very minimalistic on this opener. 

As I already mentioned earlier much of the material from both of these albums never got aired live and the few that did soon disappeared from Frank’s setlist by 1975. However “Big Swifty” is one of those that got to hang around longer and the only one that did. It’s very much a piece that meanders its way along fusing elements of jazz, rock and avant-garde into its path that is perhaps running in a straight line for most of its journey but nevertheless certainly contains enough to keep one intentive to wonderful goings on here. 

Track 2. Your Mouth.

The shortest track on the album is more of a structured composition in relation to being improvised and you might have thought being as it was done in this way it had more of a chance of being played live, the same could be said for the track that follows it but neither of them ever seen the light of day on the stage so to speak. “Your Mouth” is a song that has quite a gospel soul feel about it, unlike the jazz fusion that has been applied to the two instrumental tracks that bookend the album, in context the song would have perhaps fitted more in line with the material that written for his previous album Chunga’s Revenge, it even has me thinking if it was left over material that was written for that album.

Marquez takes on the vocal duties along with Chris Peterson, it’s very much a song about lies and deceit and has quite an interesting metaphor with its opening sentence of “your mouth is your religion” that sort of puts me in mind of other quotes from Frank such as “you are what you are” and “you is what you is”. To be honest Frank’s always had a good way with words and he wrote a fine set of lyrics for this song.

The song is pretty much polished in relation to the first take on the first CD that comes with the boxset, it also has a couple of extra musicians thrown into the pot as well as all of them who played on the opening track namely Mike Altschul on baritone sax & piccolo and  Joel Peskin on tenor sax. To be honest I prefer the first take over this take that made the album and I find the guitar work verging on the lines of overkill.

Track 3. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal.

Originally entitled the “Frog Song” and down to the fact that the frog in this particular song has a satchel the lyrical content does tend to point toward contraception though, of course, your guess is as good as mine so to speak. For this song, Marquez is accompanied by Janet Ferguson & Jeff Simmons on vocals the latter also contributes Hawaiian guitar, Frank’s vocals are also present even though just as the electric bed springs he also used are uncredited. There is however no mistaking Frank’s distinguishing voice.

Both Simmon’s Hawaiian guitar and in particular the lead solo played by Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel guitar add the sparkle to the song and I like how the song changes its direction when it comes to the solo part. Although Duran is once again on slide guitar (which he is credited for on the first three tracks of the album) it sounds to me as if this chap never had a slide on his fingers, sometimes it’s very hard to hear if he is actually on any of these tracks.  

Track 4. Waka / Jawaka.

It’s back to the jazz fusion next and the album’s self-titled track has more of a jazz flavour and the brass section is strengthened with trombones and baritone horns by Billy Byers & Ken Shroyer. Mike Altschul also adds tenor sax, bass flute and clarinet besides baritone sax and piccolo and Sal Marquez adds flugelhorn to his array of trumpets. It’s a piece that starts off like traditional or straight jazz with its main theme, a theme that would not be out of place in a 70’s TV series in some respects. It then diverts its attention into the rock world with the addition of lengthy keyboard and guitar solos and even throws a drum solo into the pot.

It’s very much a track where Frank gets to fly on his guitar and personally I feel he does so better on this track than anywhere else on the album. Though I will stress that this particular time period is not really noted for his guitar work and because of his injuries he focused his attention more on the other musicians. Don Preston takes care of the keyboard duties on this piece and his Moog synth solo is even more impressive than Frank’s solo, he gets sounds out of this instrument I have never heard anyone else do before and he also contributes piano to the track. 

Both the opening and closing tracks of the album are very much the big jams and standout tracks, I suppose in a way the album is bookended in terms of the jazz fusion side of things. Though I do feel this particular track is held together by a much tighter rhythm section with its backline and regarding its diversity and ability to go somewhere else it is much better structured which is why this particular track wins the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD! If I had one fault with this track it would most defiantly be the way it ends, the way the piece fades out leaves you thinking that there was a lot more to it and it could have gone on much longer.

Album Credits & Musicians…

Produced by Frank Zappa. Recorded between April & May 1972 at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California US. Recording Engineers Kerry McNabb & Marshall Brevitz. Mastering by Frank Zappa. Cover design by Cal Schenkel. Illustrations by Marvin Mattelson. Photography by Philip Schartz.


Frank Zappa: Electric Guitar (All Tracks) – Acoustic Guitar (Track 3) – Percussion (Track 1).
Sal Marquez: Trumpets (All Tracks) – Chimes (Tracks 1 & 4) – Flugelhorn (Track 4) – Vocals (Tracks 2 & 3).
Erroneous (Alex Dmochowski): Bass (All Tracks) – Vocals (Track 3).
Aynsley Dunbar: Drums (All Tracks) – Washboard & Tambourine (Track 3).
Tony Duran: Slide Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 3) – Vocals (Track 3).
George Duke: (ring-modulated & echoplexed) Electric Piano (Track 1) – Tack Piano (Track 2).
Mike Altschul: Baritone Saxophone & Piccolo (Tracks 2 & 4) – Tenor Sax, Bass Flute & Bass Clarinet (Track 4).
Don Preston: Piano & Mini Moog (Track 4).
Jeff Simmons: Hawaiian Guitar & Vocals (Track 3).
Sneaky Pete Kleinow: Pedal Steel Guitar Solo (Track 3).
Billy Byers & Ken Shroyer: Trombone & Baritone Horn (Track 4).
Joel Peskin: Tenor Sax (Track 2).
Chris Peterson: Vocals (Tracks 2).
Janet Ferguson: Vocals (Track 3).

Summary & Conclusion…

Waka / Jawaka is very much an album that often gets likened to his 1969 album Hot Rats most likely down to its instrumental jazz-influenced compositions. However, there is a different side towards the jazz side of things on this particular album and the one to follow. There is no doubt that Frank had listened to what many other bands were doing in the world of jazz funk and fusion around this time period and what he basically presented with both this album and The Grand Wazoo was his own interpretation of it. I think basically he was trying to show the world that I can do that and this is my own way of going about it. 

To say his way of going about it was actually better I could not put my hand on my heart and say that. However, the music he produced and presented on both of these albums is perhaps one of the most fascinating periods of his career, I also feel that the material on its opening and closing tracks in particular is a lot stronger than what we got on Hot Rats in terms of its jazz flavour and structure. Those two tracks I would also consider as the highlights of the album in relation to the typical Doo Wop, Country Pop and humour that was applied to the couple of shorter tracks on the album.

Nevertheless, both “Your Mouth” and “It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal” fit in quite well, especially with how they have been placed and sandwiched in between the broader scope and scale of things that the two epics present us with. Frank very much applied the same train of thought to the album that followed it. Overall Waka / Jawaka does not really have a bad track and is near enough quite a solid album, things got, even BOLDER! with the album that followed it up and so let’s now dive into that.

The Album tracklisting is as follows: Track 1. Big Swifty. 17:22. Track 2. Your Mouth 3:12″. Track 3. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal. 4:16. Track 4. Waka /Jawaka. 11:19.

Album Rating Score 7/10.

The Grand Wazoo was the 8th studio album to be released under the name of Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention it pretty much follows the same suit as its predecessor only on a GRANDER! or BOLDER! scale as more musicians were assembled to make the album. Even though the album was released towards the end of 1972 it was recorded in the same Hollywood studios and around the same timescale as the material that wound up on Waka / Jawaka.

Released on the 27th of November 1972 the album itself contains 5 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 37 minutes and unlike its predecessor, it failed to break into America’s Billboard charts and did not do any better in other countries either. It was the last album to be released on Frank’s own record label Bizzare Records and I guess Frank’s music was too bizarre for the general public to really notice it. Though it was not unusual around this time for many albums of this genre and that of progrock to make it in the album charts, these genres in particular were more of a niche market and aimed at those who had more of an eclectic listening taste.

Oddly enough although the album Waka / Jawaka gathered more attention on its release especially in other countries such as Germany for example, no tour was put on to promote the album. Though it was not until September of that year that Frank was able to get out and play live again due to the injuries that were sustained at the Rainbow Theatre in the previous year. 

According to the booklet Frank put on 8 shows in September 1972 that were part of The Grand Wazoo tour though I can only find 6 of them. The first one kicked off at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the 10th, he then travelled to Germany on the 15th and played in Berlin at the Deutschlandhalle. On the following day, he played at the Oval in London, England then returned to the States to play two concerts at the Felt Forum in New York on the 22nd and 23rd and the final show of this particular tour was at the Music Hall in Boston on the 24th which incidentally happens to be the only show out them all to be found in Frank’s vault and has subsequentially been released. 

I recently stumbled across a bootleg recording of the show he played at London’s cricket ground on the tube and although the poster to promote the concert displays Frank’s name as headlining the concert (as in the poster above) it was actually Hawkwind who headlined the show by insisting they went on last. Interesting to see that the recently departed Jeff Beck also played at the same venue another talented and gifted musician who will no doubt be sadly missed.  

As I touched on earlier a 20-piece orchestra was assembled for these shows and Frank certainly had the term BIG BAND ORCHESTRA! in mind which shows in the movements of “The Adventures of Gregory Peccary” that were played more so than most of the material that found it’s way on these two albums. That particular lengthy construction was also verging on classical structure and composition whereas the material that ended up on The Grand Wazoo Perhaps had a bit more straight jazz attributes to it in relation to the jazz fusion that we saw on Waka / Jawaka though both albums tie in very well with each other in many respects. 

There is no doubt that the material Frank wrote during his convalescence was way less accessible to be accepted by the majority and it’s not so surprising that these two particular albums did not do very well upon their release. To be honest most of the material that got played live on The Grand Wazoo and Petite Wazoo tours did not do a lot to promote the albums simply because hardly anything from these couple of albums was played at the shows.

The Petite Wazoo tour kicked off at the end of October 1972 and Frank put on a further 14 shows at 12 different venues across Northern America with a scaled-down band. This tour kicked off at the Onondaga War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse on the 28th of October and ended at the Winterland Arena in San Fransisco which is the show they have included in this boxset.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Like the previous album The Grand Wazoo is very much an album that was made at a time when Frank played more of a role as a conductor of an orchestra in relation to what he actually played or did on his guitar. His role as a conductor can be seen in the aforementioned 1972 tours I have just recently gone over, he also lost 2 grand from the 90 grand it cost him to put on those shows. His guitar work on these two albums is perhaps less irrelevant in comparison to the way he uses his guitar on other albums though his guitar style is still very much evidently present with the way he articulates his lead lines on the guitar. He’s pretty much always had his own unique way with his approach to the instrument and is easy to pick out from the crowd so to speak.

I think it’s fair to say that Frank was more focused on getting the best out of the musicians he hired to play his music as close as possible to how he actually visualised it in his own head. He was always striving for perfection even if it could not be achieved. It’s an album that allows space for the other musicians to breathe and play a part, it also focuses more on composition in relation to improvisation and the fusion here also has the ability to ROCK! in many respects, though it does also have some finer jazz moments thrown into the pot in particular with its closing track.

Over the years all vinyl releases of this album have contained the original track order and that even goes for the latest 50th Anniversary vinyl release. Though since the Ryko CD remastered release of the album in 1995 all subsequent CD reissues have switched the first two tracks around. I’ve also noted that the tracklisting on the blu ray that comes in this boxset uses the same tracklisting as the Ryko CD so for the purpose of this review I will stick with that order. So let’s now dive into the tracks.

Track 1. The Grand Wazoo.

The album’s self-titled track actually started its life in a science fiction opera or Broadway stage production that Frank wrote in the same year entitled “Hunchentoot“. Although it was never actually released or hit Broadway so to speak, certain parts of it such as the opening overture (that would have gone under the name of) “Regyptian Strut” and “Think It Over” were played at the shows on the short Grand Wazoo tour. The latter of the two originally came with lyrics and an outtake of it is included on the first CD in this boxset. Though at the shows “Think it Over” was only ever played as an instrumental piece and it is the main theme of “The Grand Wazoo“.

It was only during the later Petite Wazoo tour that it eventually got its title changed to what we now have on the actual album. The word “Wazoo” is a slang word for “Ass” as in big ass or arse most likely used in a sexual context in relation to the picture I chose here knowing Frank. Though he always tended to come out with things that were off the wall which was all part of his sense of humour.

Whereas tracks from their previous album contained many overdubs to make up the big band, no overdubs were necessary and each musician was assigned to his own instrument and section of the orchestra. Though I should also stress that it was only on this particular piece and the following track that more musicians were brought in and it took 19 of them to make them what they are. Some of them also appeared on the previous album and others on albums before that arrived.

Weighing in at 13 minutes and 20 seconds this instrumental piece is the longest track on the album and the way it’s all been structured allows space for various solos from some of the band members, I would also say that it is more of a composition with how everything was structured to allocate for the 5 solos and their parts were pretty much planned out. It’s very much a piece that puts me in mind of jazz-rock in relation to jazz fusion and even the two brass solos played by Billy Byers on trombone and Sal Marquez’s muted trumpet solo have to ability to rock just as much as the guitar solos played by Frank and Tony Duran whose work on this album is much more evident.

To be perfectly honest most brass orchestras tend to make me feel BRASSED OFF! and I have never really been partial to it being mixed with rock music. A perfect example would be with the brass orchestra Pink Floyd brought in to play on “Atom Heart Mother” which sounded to me like Pink Floyd meets the Salvation Army. The whole thing was totally pompous in my opinion whereas the brass musicians on this album have the ability to get way more out of their instruments even to the point of making them ROCK! as much as the guitars.

The fifth and final solo played by Don Preston comes in right at the end and once again he manages to execute some most intriguing sounds from the Mini Moog. To be honest you could even say that this piece had a 6th solo with how Aynsley Dunbar articulates his way on the drum kit in the middle section, his work is purely outstanding. People go on about how good drummers like John Bonham and Keith Moon were and, to be honest, they might stand out in the rock world, but they would not have a cat’s chance in hell of playing to this and this guy is a pure rhythm machine and pattern master.

“The Grand Wazoo” is a piece that comes across like a load of musicians battling it out with each other in a concrete jungle, its main theme that reoccurs throughout pretty much makes a statement and even though it’s as bold as brass and is more associated in the world of jazz it’s one hell of a composition that purely rocks it out.

It does not quite have the progression that is contained in many of the other tracks on this album or the self-titled track from the previous album for that matter. But where this wins for me over “Waka / Jawaka” is that it does not fall short of an ending and despite the lack of progression I simply cannot rule out giving this particular track the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. “For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers)”.

The idea for the title came from a story that Cal Schenkel told Frank about two hippie hitchhikers (most likely out of their heads on acid as he never invited them) that jumped into the back of his car whilst stuck at the traffic lights. It was during the time that he was working on the album cover for Uncle Meat. The lyrics that Frank wrote very much briefly depict the story down to the fact that neither of the hitchhikers spoke a word and Cal left them in the backseat of his car parked outside his studio. They even went off to buy lunch and came back to eat it in the back of the car before they eventually left and as the song suggests he had no idea where they went to.

Once again Marquez and Janet Neville-Ferguson take on the vocal duties and the two vocal tracks on this album tend to fit in with the format that we saw on the previous album. However, what sets this aside from other vocal tracks is that it contains more musicians and the same number that played on the opening track. One of the other added strengths I personally like about the material on this album is that it utilises more elements from the percussion department and the work of both Bob Zimmitti and Alan Estes plays a pivotal role on this particular track along with Dunbar’s drums.

Technically the kind of bizarre music fits in with the bizarre story about the car which incidentally was a Mark VIIII Jaguar that used to belong to Captain Beefheart. Some of the orchestral pieces are also not that far removed from some of the orchestral snippets that were used in the Radio comedy The Goon Show that was aired in the fifties and sixties. Just like the other vocal tracks that appear on both of these albums, they could easily have fitted in on earlier albums with its WHACKY! presentation.

Besides the album’s self-titled track, this was the only other number from the album to be played live and was played twice during The Grand Wazoo tour the first time was on the 10th of September at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles and on the 15th of the same month at the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin, Germany.

Track 3. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus.

Although this is classed as a vocal track the words are merely a selection of la de da’s so to speak done by “Chunky” Lauren Wood, Geroge Duke and Frank himself. It’s the shortest track on the album though Frank certainly had a lot more to say about it with the story he wrote that came in the liner notes of the album. To be honest the WHACKY! and BIZARRE! story Frank wrote is perhaps just as bizarre as the story that Peter Gabriel wrote for the Genesis album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and much of it does appear to be on the nonsensical side of things when it comes to getting your head around it. However, from what I can decipher from it, it does tend to tie the tracks on this album and its cover into some form of a concept. Though I have to admit I fail to see how the previous track ties in with it all.

According to the story Cletus Awreetus is an emperor and leader of an army of unemployed musicians, the story is also tied in with the album’s self-titled track and its cover, he can even be seen on the cover and he’s the chap who plays what is known to be the mystery horn. The so-called mystery horn happens to be a tenor sax played by Ernie Watts who was dubbed as the original “Cletus Awreetus” he plays the solo on this track and it’s the only track on the album he actually plays on.

The mystery horn is also described as an oversized megaphone and Cletus joins allegiance with another band known as the “Questions” although they do run into a battle with each other first, and I suppose in a way they have to EAT THAT QUESTION! before they join together to form the BIG BAND! Please bear in mind that this is my own theory of tying the album into some form of a concept and as the original story also mentions rival groups battling it out to get to the top of the charts the last track on the album could be seen as a BLESSED RELIEF! so to speak.

Oddly enough the so-called BIG BAND! is scaled down for this track and the final two tracks on the album though as ever the musicians do an incredible job and Duke’s work on the piano and clavinet, in particular, is outstanding on this track. A double-sided 7″ promo single containing the mono and stereo mix of the song was sent out to radio stations at the time of its release.

Track 4. Eat That Question.

This is very much a funky jazz fusion instrumental piece that gives both Frank and Duke the chance to fly and features some of Frank’s best guitar work on the album. He also contributes percussion to support Dunbar on the drums. Alex Dmochowski’s bass work is also very impressive whilst Lee Clement’s gets a very small part with his one and only contribution to the album by banging on the gong toward the end of it all.  

Unlike the promo of the previous track that was sent out to Radio stations, an edited-down version of “Eat That Question” was released as a 7″ single with “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” on the B-Side. It’s very much one of the highlights of the album and a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 5. Blessed Relief.

The album ends off with a touch of class and this is very much much more along the lines of straight jazz that were more associated with Miles Davis and something that is perhaps done in a similar vane to what the band Weather Report did later in 1977 with their release of “Birdland“. To be honest, the way it opens up with the keys and Duran’s rhythm guitar puts me in mind of “Outside Now” from Frank’s 1979 album Joe’s Garage. However, the main theme soon kicks in with Mike Altschul, Joel Peskin and Marquez’s contributions. Duke’s keys and Frank’s lead lines smooth the piece out even more and once again both Dmochowski and Dunbar are in the pocket with the backline and are really impeccable in holding it all together.

This could easily be my favourite track on the album it really is a superb composition that has a superb arrangement. It should by rights merit the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD! There are also times were I could easily give it to this track because of its outstanding compositional work and it just goes to show how Frank could easily compete with the rest in the jazz field. It’s one hell of a classy way to put the album to bed and is the perfect ending to one very satisfying album.

Album Credits & Musicians…

Produced & Arranged by Frank Zappa. Recorded between April & May 1972 at Paramount Studios, Los Angeles, California US. Recording Engineer Kerry McNabb. Mastering & Art Direction by Frank Zappa. Cover Design & Illustrations by Cal Schenkel. Photography by Ed Caraeff, Tony Esparza and Barry Feinstein.


Frank Zappa: Guitars- Percussion – Vocals.
Sal Marquez: Trumpets – Vocals.
Erroneous (Alex Dmochowski): Bass Guitar.
Aynsley Dunbar: Drums.
Mike Altschul: Woodwinds.
Tony Duran: Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 5).
George Duke: Keyboards (Tracks 3, 4, 5) – Vocals (Track 3).
Ken Shroyer: Trombones (Tracks 1, 2, 3).
Don Preston: Mini Moog (Tracks 1, 2).
Billy Byers: Trombones (Tracks 1, 2).
Malcolm McNab: Brass (Tracks 1, 2).
Ernie Tack: Brass (Tracks 1, 2).
Earl Dumler, Joanna Caldwell, Tony “Bat Man” Ortega, Fred Jackson, Johnny Rotella: Woodwinds (Tracks 1, 2).
Joel Peskin: Woodwinds (Tracks 4, 5).
Alan Estes & Bob Zimmitti: Percussion (Tracks 1, 2).
Ernie Watts: C Melody Saxophone (Track 3).
Lee Clement: Gong (Track 4).
Janet Ferguson: Vocals (Track 2).
Lauren Wood: Vocals (Track 3).

Summary & Conclusion…

The Grand Wazoo is an album where things not only got BIGGED UP! but perhaps broadened out a bit more especially in regard to the compositional side of things. Although the material for both Waka / Jawaka and this album were written around the same time I do feel the material that wound up on The Grand Wazoo was stronger in terms of its structure and composition. The extra musicians on the opening two tracks certainly went to town on them and some mind-blowing jazz fusion resulted from what was thrown into the pot in putting them together.

Near enough every track on this album is a highlight and the only track that would not feature in my highlights from it would be “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus“. However, that’s not to say it’s in any way a bad track and this is one album that provides satisfying entertainment throughout its entirety and an album one could easily stick on and enjoy from start to finish and enjoy the ride or get tremendous pleasure out of doing so. To be honest, every time I stick this album on I marvel in disbelief at how good these musicians are and this is one mother of an album that has never been far away from my turntable so to speak.

Overall, The Grand Wazoo is quite a solid album and one that I consider to be one of Frank’s finest works, it is up there with the very best of his output over all the years of his career. Every time I listen to this album the word GENIOUS! strikes to my mind and no doubt he was one. To be honest it’s probably worth more than the rating I gave it and more likely worthy of top marks.

The Album tracklisting is as follows: Track 1. The Grand Wazoo. 13:20. Track 2. For Calvin (and His Next Two Hitch-Hikers). 6:06″. Track 3. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus. 2:57. Track 4. Eat That Question. 6:42. Track 5. Blessed Relief. 8:00.

Album Rating Score 9/10.

Waka / Wazoo Boxset Final Conclusion.

The Waka / Wazoo Boxset may not look the part however its contents outweigh its presentation and the material that is presented on the four CD’s that comes in this package is mostly KILLER! material, that is so good that if they would have also released a standalone blu ray at a much cheaper price you would seriously be missing out on the wealth of goodies this boxset contains and has to offer. To be perfectly honest I don’t think I have come across a boxset where the stereo CD content holds as much value to me as the multichannel content. 

The music on both albums Waka / Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo from this time period is timeless and has never sounded outdated, it’s just as fresh today as it was back then. The extra bonus content on the CD’s opens up an even fresher insight into the material from these albums and to be perfectly honest I myself am not generally into outtakes and alternative takes. However. this content is as I described KILLER! and I would even consider this extra content a must for Zappa fans alike.

The only downfall apart from the presentation is the multichannel content of both albums on the blu ray having seriously low levels and you really do have to CRANK! up the volume to get the best out of them. Personally, I think the Zappa family trust should get in a better multichannel mixing engineer such as Steve Wilson or Elliot Scheiner who have more know-how of working in this field. I am pretty sure anyone of those two mixing engineers would have most likely given you more of a Definitive Edition and result with the mix which is something I personally do not feel you are getting here.

I suppose in a way big things come in smaller packages and that’s how I would sum up this boxset. It covers in-depth this particular period of Frank’s career very well and I feel its price point is about right if you can obtain for £50 or less. I only hope this sort of thing continues and who knows we might just get to see Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe (‘) released in a similar vane. I shall certainly have my eyes peeled.

A Grandeur Waka / Wazoo…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Your Mouth (Take 1). 5:27.
02. Big Swifty (Alternate Take). 15:10.
03. Minimal Art (Eat That Question – Version 1, Take 2). 10:28.
04. Blessed Relief (Outtake Version). 10:19.
05. Think It Over (The Grand Wazoo) (Outtake Version). 11:23.
06. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) (Outtake Version). 8:10.
07. Waka/Jawaka (Outtake Version). 13:41.

CD 2.
01. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus [Alternate Take]. 2:50.
02. Eat That Question [Version 2, Alternate Take]. 11:07.
03. Big Swifty [Alternate Mix]. 14:51.
04. For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) [Alternate Mix]. 6:29.
05. It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal [Alternate Mix]. 4:18.
06. Waka/Jawaka [Alternate Mix]. 15:53.
07. Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus [Alternate Mix]. 2:56.
08. Eat That Question [Alternate Mix]. 5:43.

CD 3.
01. For Love (I Come Your Friend). 4:55.
02. Psychosomatic Dung. 5:12.
03. Uncle Remus (Instrumental). 3:56.
04. Love. 3:31.
05. For Love (I Come Your Friend) (Basic Track, Take 1). 5:02.
06. Psychosomatic Dung (Basic Track, Take 2). 2:50.
07. Love (Basic Track, Take 1). 7:12.
08. Approximate (Live – FZ Record Plant Mix). 11:05.
09. Winterland ’72 Opening And Band Introductions. 4:46.
10. Little Dots (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 18:08.

CD 4.
01. America Drinks (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 6:47.
02. Montana (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 6:57.
03. Father O’Blivion (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 15:01.
04. Cosmic Debris (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 8:10.
05. Chunga’s Revenge (10-Piece/Petite Wazoo – Live). 18:04.

The Packaging Rating Score. 5/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 8/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 9/10.
The Bonus Content Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#221

Madman Across The Water (Super Deluxe Edition) – Elton John


It was back in April and May of last year that I reviewed both Davey Johnstone’s new album Deeper Than My Roots and the unofficial release of a double live album by Elton John entitled Tokyo 1971. I did mention in both of these reviews how it was strange that Elton’s 1971 album Madman Across The Water was the only one not to get a Deluxe Edition release like many of his earlier albums did a good while back. It was in June of last year that one finally arrived in the form of a Super Deluxe Edition to celebrate its 50th Anniversary which is perhaps a bit late but nevertheless, I suppose it was better late than never so to speak.

I am pretty sure it was only the four studio albums as seen above that were given Deluxe Editions and basically you got a new remaster of the album along with a bonus disc with some early demos of the album’s tracks. These were all released back in 2008 and they even put out a 4 CD box set for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

The term “Super Deluxe” really does apply to this new box set of Madman Across The Water in the way that it has been packaged and I have to say it really is an excellent presentation. So much so that I have noted many people suggesting that the other albums above and a few more besides should be given the same treatment.  I myself tend to go along with that though I will say it’s an expensive game and this particular box set is well overpriced by about 33.3% in my opinion and should retail for no more than 40 English Pounds, Sterling.

But even at the retail price, I purchased it for on its release I will say that this box set is way better packaged than Pink Floyd’s Immersion Boxes and those things cost a hell of a lot more than this. Like the Immersion Box of The Dark Side Of The Moon, I recently reviewed I also had to replace the Blu Ray that came with it. Though no nightmare was involved and I was not dealing with SNAILS & TORTOISES! or people that come from the planet IGNORAMUS! 😊😊😊.

What I will say is that you don’t have to be a MADMAN! to purchase a box set like this, especially with the high quality and thought that has been put into the packaging. Although from a surround FREAKS! point of view such as myself, you may feel a bit ripped off, especially if like myself you brought the SACD back in 2004 for £10. But before I go any further let’s take a look at how it is packaged.

Packaging & Artwork…

The contents are packaged in a 10-inch quality cardboard slipcase box and just like the original vinyl album the cover on the front has a rough texture and feel to it. It’s perhaps a bit of an oddball size in relation to the majority that are 12-inch and they have pretty much gone along with the way the John Lenon boxsets were made in particular with the portfolio that comes inside it.

It’s also like the Chris Squire Fish Out Of Water boxset in the way that the contents slide out of the side of the box rather than having to remove any lid. To be honest, things are a bit more compact in relation to the Squire boxset and there is less sliding about, it’s also made of thicker cardboard.

The other good thing is that the contents are printed on the back of the box, unlike Floyd’s Immersion boxsets that are printed onto a separate sheet of photo paper which can be a pain in the ass lining it up to put the lid back on at times. More thought and no flaws went into the design of this box set which is good to see and it really is a quality neatly done well made package.

The four-panel cardboard portfolio is also quality made and the four discs are stored in numbered single cardboard sleeves inside die-cut pockets. Unlike other box sets where they are stored inside just a die-cut pocket (as with the Squire package as an example), they do tend to slide about, whereas here the sleeves keep them firmly in place.

Also included in the box is a very large 1971 reproduction poster that was originally used to promote the album. Although these things are not that much use to me these days though at least it is the size of what a poster should be unlike some of the weedy ones that come in other boxsets.

The final item included in the box set is a 104-page hardback book. This is a quality item and not only includes the original booklet that was fixed inside the original vinyl album but also includes unseen photos, master tape boxes, other memorabilia photos and most of all some very good written informative content about the album in the form of an essay written by Daryl Easlea.

All in all, it’s a very well-put-together package though I do think it is overpriced and I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £62.45. I may have got it much cheaper had I noticed it up for pre-order a lot earlier and I was very late pre-ordering this box set and pre-ordered it 4 days before its release date.

The original album cover design was done by Janis Larkham who is credited on the album as Yanis which she chose as a pseudonym name herself. She used the back on an old Levi denim jacket which she embroidered over a couple of weeks and gifted the original to Elton. She was most likely inspired by the opening line “Blue jean baby” from the first track on the album entitled “Tiny Dancer” rather than the album’s self-titled track. You can also purchase a replica of the jacket from Elton’s store for £200, although you might have to be completely MAD! about the album to purchase that.

The original design was done by her husband David Larkham who was the art director. He also used a pseudonym name and his name appears as Gill in the album credits. The original liner notes were done by John Tobler. Darren Evans took care of the art direction and design for this particular box set with the use of memorabilia supplied by Brendan Glover, Peter Thomas and various other sources.

Release Editions.
The 50th Anniversary of the album was put out in various formats and the cheapest of the physical formats is the 2 CD Edition (as seen below). This can be had for as little as £9.99 on Amazon UK and I daresay there is also a Digital Download of the album though I doubt it will be cheaper so you are much better off with this CD package.

The 3 CD Blu Ray Super Deluxe boxset (as seen below) that I purchased I have seen more recently for a lot cheaper on Amazon UK for around £41 though prices can fluctuate from time to time and you may end up paying around the £50 mark. It is however a lot cheaper than buying it from Elton’s store where it’s priced at £73.94 with the postage and packaging.

For vinyl lovers, there are two options the cheapest being the Limited Coloured Vinyl 1 LP Edition (as seen below). Prices for this from other outlets can vary from £28 – £33 and there are some still around. Personally, I think it’s a bit disappointing because as you can see that it not only just comes in a polyurethane sleeve but the colour they have died it is not the same shade of blue that is on the album cover.

The final option is the 4 LP Boxset store in a 12-inch cardboard box which is currently priced on Amazon at around £100. All the LP’s are pressed onto 180gram vinyl as with the coloured vinyl above. The thing that disappoints me about this release is that the booklet is not hardback plus the fact that the original vinyl album had the booklet fixed inside the gatefold, unlike this release.

The Super Deluxe Boxset In Review…

The Super Deluxe Boxset Edition or 50th Anniversary Edition of Madman Across The Water by Elton John was released on the 10th of June 2022. The new re-release did better than the original album that was released on the 5th of November 1972 and managed to peak at number 5 on both the UK and American Billboard charts, although the album had already gone platinum in the US by March 1993 and two times platinum by August 1998 and sold over 2 million copies. I always considered the album to be Elton’s least commercial album basically because here in the UK there were no single releases from the album, though over here many would not have heard of Elton until the release of “Rocket Man” in the following year.

It was also that single that introduced me to Elton in 1972 as my older brother brought it and it was not long after that I myself got the Elton bug and started buying all his albums back then. Madman Across The Water is very much an album that I consider to be up there with the best of them.

It was Elton’s 4th studio album and like his previous albums his producer Gus Dudgeon brought in many session players and quite a few were brought in to make this album many of whom were regulars such as bassist Herbie Flowers, drummers Barry Morgan, Terry Cox and Roger Pope.  The guitarist Caleb Quaye handled most of the guitar work during this period though a few other session guitarists would also get to play on the odd track or two such as Chris Spedding. Rick Wakeman was also brought in to contribute keyboards on this particular album.

Although both former members of the Spencer Davis Group bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson were Elton’s live touring band since 1970. They very rarely got to play their instruments on his studio albums and contributed more backing vocals and harmonies than anything else. Though all that was about to change by the time Elton’s next studio album Honky Château was to get made in the following year and it was all down to a young Scotsman who was playing for the progressive folk-rock band Magna Carta at the time who went by the name of Davey Johnstone.

One of the main reasons why Johnstone was brought in was because they were having trouble with the album’s self-titled track which was one of the first tracks to be worked on for the album left over from the Tumbleweed Connection sessions in 1970. The guitarist Mick Ronson originally was brought in to work on the song in March of that same year. Although Ronson did an amicable job it was not what they were looking for and one of the key points that were missing was the introduction they felt the song needed. Elton performed the song many times live without an introduction back then and it was Johnstone’s vision that would eventually provide the answer and fit in with exactly what they were looking for.

Even at the age of 20 Davey Johnstone brought a lot more than his playing ability to Elton’s music just as much as Paul Buckmaster played a vital role in the orchestral arrangments Johnstone also had the right vision to be able to not only arrange songs but also write them. It was Johnstone’s work on this album that led to Elton forming his own permanent band that we got to see and hear on the subsequent albums that were to follow. This was also the first album that percussionist Ray Cooper also played on who also became one of the permanent members of the band along with Johnstone, Murray and Olsson.

Madman Across The Water like his previous other two albums was recorded at Trident Studios in London, England. It would be his final album to be recorded there although subsequent albums would be remixed or overdubbed at Trident. The album was recorded in 4 days on the 27th of February and the 9th, 11th and 14th of August 1971.

Trident Studios

The studio was put together by Norman Sheffield and his brother Barry in 1967, Norman was also the drummer in the band The Hunters. The studio was situated in the Soho district of London at 17 St Anne’s Court. It was the hit single “My Name is Jack” by Manfred Mann that was recorded at Trident in March 1968 that helped launch the studio’s reputation. In the following year, The Beatles recorded “Hey Jude” and part of their White album there.

Many other artists followed suit such as David Bowie, Genesis, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Thin Lizzy and just about everyone used the studio. Queen recorded their first 3 albums there and it functioned as a studio up until it was sold in December 1981. Though the new owners renamed it Trident 2 and it reopened in 1983. Though not long after it was sold on to further developers and ceased to exist as a recording studio in the same decade.

The Package Contents In Review.

As you may be well aware this Super Deluxe Edition of Elton’s 4th studio album Madman Across The Water comes with 3 CD’s and a Blu Ray and being the surround FREAK! that I am it is the blu ray that is the most important thing to me. The hardback book however is very good and not only does it come with loads of pictures and memorabilia but it also has a 17-page well in-depth essay written by Daryl Easlea.

This Deluxe Edition features quite an array of bonus material that comes with this box set especially when you consider that no other release of the album came with any at all including the SACD release back in 2004.

Though I should point out that the SACD does contain the extended version of “Razor Face” instead of the shorter version that was originally released on the album. Though you could hardly call that a bonus track especially in relation to how all the other SACD’s of his early albums came with them.

Granted the three earlier only came with a couple of bonus tracks on each album, but It’s also worth noting that the 2004 SACD release of Tumbleweed Connection contained Mick Ronson’s original version of “Madman Across The Water“. It was most likely that the song was recorded during the Tumbleweed sessions why they decided to include it on that release instead of the album Madman Across The Water.

Both the SACD’s of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy come with slightly more bonus tracks four on the first of those albums and three on the latter to be precise. Still to this day the 5.1 mixes of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, Caribou, Rock Of The Westies and Blue Moves that the engineer Greg Penny mixed around the same time have not been released.

All of these SACD’s were no more than £10 – £12 each when I brought them a good while ago including GYBR to which I got the later release that came with 2 Hybrid SACD’s and a DVD with the making of the album documentary. Most are still widely available today though prices have doubled with most of them.

One of the first things I noted with the blu ray that comes in this box set is that instead of it including the bonus track of Mick Ronson’s original version of the album self-titled track, it had the cut that was put on the original album twice. My initial thought was that it was going to take another 3 months as it did with the Immersion Boxset of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon getting it replaced.

I was well-surprised that when I emailed them my proof of purchase that it arrived (as in the picture above in a blu ray case) only two days later. Universal are well on the ball and that really was an express delivery which is more than I can say for the snails who handled the blu ray replacement for Floyd. To get your disc replaced simply email your proof of purchase to operationssupport@umusic.com and don’t forget to include your name and postal address.

Both the Blu Ray and CD’s that come in this Boxset contain extra bonus content but before I go into the details of the blu ray content, let’s take a look at the 3 CD’s, it’s also on those where the biggest majority of the bonus content is placed.

CD 1.
The first CD contains the original 9 tracks of the album all of which were remastered by Bob Ludwig back in 2016. It also comes with five bonus tracks two of which are “Madman Across the Water (Original Version, featuring Mick Ronson)” and “Razor Face (Extended Version)” which were included on the 2004 SACD releases of Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across The Water respectively. The 14 tracks are spread over an overall playing time of 74 minutes and 4 seconds.

The first of these was also released on the 1992 compilation album Rare Masters whilst the latter of the two is perhaps a bit confusing because according to the liner notes in the book, it’s the first time it’s seen a stereo release as only the multichannel mix was ever reissued before. They obviously forgot to take into account that the 2004 Super Audio release of Madman Across The Water is a Hybrid SACD which can also be played in stereo on any CD Player. However, it is the first time it has been released on an actual CD in relation to an SACD.

Also included are “Indian Sunset (Live Radio Broadcast)” which was recorded at the A&R Studios in New York on the 17th of November 1970. It’s also the first time this has been released on CD and Streaming. The only other release this ever came on before was the special record store day release back in 2017 on a double vinyl album reissue of the live album 17-11-70.

The other couple of bonus tracks “Rock Me When He’s Gone” is a song that Elton wrote for his longtime friend Long John Baldry who did record it and released it as a single in the same year. This recording Elton did on the 27th of February 1971, and is Take 6 of the song and is one of his earlier recordings and is the same version that was released on the Rare Master’s compilation album in 1992. Also recorded on the same day was the mono mix of “Levon” this is actually a shorter version of the song that has never been released in any format before.

CD 2.
The second CD contains 12 tracks and comes with a total playing time of 59 minutes, 39 seconds and all bar one of the tracks are early piano demos (mono only) played and sung entirely by Elton himself. Basically what you get here is the bare bones of all the 9 tracks that made up the album most of which were recorded at Dick James Studios between the spring and summer of 1971. Also included is an earlier piano demo of the album’s self-titled track that was recorded at the same studio in April 1970.

You also get two versions of the song that never made the album “Rock Me When He’s Gone” the first of which is the piano demo that was also recorded at the same studios in 1971. The second version is the full version recorded at Trident Studios on the 22nd of August 1971. It’s the only stereo track on the disc and has never been issued in any format before as with most of the demos on this disc. Only tracks 1, 4, 7 & 9 were previously released on Elton’s Jewel Boxset which was released in 2020.

CD 3.
The third CD captures Elton playing 8 of the album tracks live back in 1971 five days after the release of the album. The 8 tracks are spread over an overall playing time of 44 minutes and 10 seconds and this particular performance was filmed at the BBC Television Centre in White City, London on the 11th of November. It was later broadcast on the 29th of April 1972 between 8:20 – 9:15pm and was the 6th episode in the series of Sounds For Saturday that was shown on BBC2.

Like many of Elton’s live concerts back then he had his regular touring band of Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson to accompany him on some of the songs, the only song that was not performed from the Madman album was “All The Nasties“. Though not to worry as there is a live version of it included on the blu ray so let’s now delve into that.

The Blu Ray.
The blu ray that comes in the boxset gives you much more than the SACD although from a surround FREAK! aspect it only really gives you the one extra track that had been previously released. The good thing is that track is now where it should have really been put in the first place, however, I do think they placed it in a silly place. The other extras that you get here are more or less the same as the CD content except here they are visual content.

The main menu is very bright and pristine and you get to see a slide show of pictures from the inside of the album cover with “Tiny Dancer” playing in the background. The navigation is fast, smooth and simple and comes with 3 options to choose from “Play All”, “Choose Video” and “Play Album”. The one thing I noticed about “Play All” is that it only plays the visual content and not the audio content.

By clicking on “Choose Video” a box pops up and displays the visual content which is the biggest majority of the bonus content that is included on the blu ray. As you can see it also includes the BBC Sounds For Saturday which is on the 3rd CD that comes in the package. The visual performance is slightly longer than the audio content on the CD and runs for 46 minutes and 32 seconds though the extra amount of time is really down to the ending credits and nothing more.

Also included in the visual extras is an earlier live performance of the songs “Tiny Dancer” and “All Our Nasties” which was screened on the Old Grey Whistle Test on the 7th of December 1971. It also includes an interview conducted by Richard Williams with Elton and Bernie. The total playing time of this extra feature is 17 minutes, 28 seconds and as with all the extra visual content you get here the audio is more or less in CD quality LPCM 48/16.

Clicking on the “Play Album” section a box pops up to display the audio content and this is also where you have the choice to listen to it in stereo or surround it’s also the highest quality content on the blu ray giving you the choice of either LPCM 96/24 Stereo or DTS 96/24 5.1 Surround.

The good thing about the menu is that you don’t have to load to another screen although I must admit it’s perhaps a bit unusual how they have done things here especially seeing how the album is the main feature yet they have placed it in the last section instead of the first. The other thing you will notice (via the playlist) is that they placed the bonus track at the beginning of the album instead of at the end, bonus material really should be placed at the end of the album.

The 5.1 Surround Mix.

The surround mix was done by Greg Penny and regardless of if you have the SACD or Blu Ray it is to die for. I love the way that Penny placed Paul Buckmaster’s strings in the rear channels and the sheer force that they hit you with. They are far more effective in the surround mix with the attack and how they strike out. There are quite a few good positives this mix brings to the table in relation to the stereo mix and he really has done a superior job with the mix that much so that I personally don’t think even Steve Wilson could have done things better here.

Sonically I do favour the Blu Ray over the SACD for some reason everything sounds a lot tighter and the attention to detail with the instrumentation tends to strike out more so. Though of course, all those things those details could be in my mind and after all, it’s not as if a new 5.1 mix has been done for this release. At the end end of the day, I would say the differences between both formats are only marginal and like I mentioned regardless of if you have the SACD or Blu Ray the 5.1 mix is to die for as with all of the albums Penny mixed back then.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Gus Dudgeon. All songs were written and composed by Elton John & Bernie Taupin. Recorded at Trident Studios in London, England between February – August 1971. Recording Engineer Robin Geoffrey Cable. Mastered by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios London, England. Art Direction & Design by Darren Evans. Original Art Direction & Design by David Larkham. Surround Mix by Greg Penny.

Elton John: Vocals – Acoustic Piano.

Additional Musicians.
Davey Johnstone: Acoustic Guitar (Tracks 1, 4, 7) – Mandolin & Sitar (Track 6).
Caleb Quaye: Electric Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 3) – Acoustic Guitar Track 6).
Chris Spedding: Electric Guitar (Track 4) – Slide Guitar (Track 7).
B. J. Cole: Steel Guitar (Track 1).
Les Thatcher: Acoustic Guitar (Track 2).
Herbie Flowers: Bass (Tracks 4, 5, 7).
David Glover: Bass (Tracks 1, 3, 6).
Dee Murray: Bass (Track 8) – Backing Vocals (Tracks 1, 6, 7).
Brian Odgers: Bass (Track 2).
Chris Laurence: Double Bass (Track 5).
Roger Pope: Drums (Tracks (1, 3, 6).
Terry Cox: Drums (Tracks 4, 5, 7).
Nigel Olsson: Drums (Track 8) – Backing Vocals (Tracks 1, 6, 7).
Barry Morgan: Drums (Track 2).
Ray Cooper: Percussion (Track 4) – Tambourine (Tracks 7, 8).
Rick Wakeman: Hammond Organ (Tracks 3, 4, 7).
Diana Lewis: ARP Synthesizer (Tracks 4, 7).
Brian Dee: Harmonium (Track 2).
Jack Emblow: Accordion (Track 3).
Paul Buckmaster: Orchestral Arrangments & Conductor (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9).
Cantores In Ecclesia Choir: (Track 8).
Lesley Duncan, Barry St. John, Liza Strike, Tony Burrows, Roger Cook, Terry Steele, Sue & Sunny: Backing Vocals (Tracks 1, 6, 7).

The Album Tracks In Review…

If anything Madman Across The Water is an album that still sits in with the darker side of folk music that was reflected on his first three albums, it very much comes from a period before Elton started to break out with the pop side of his career that perhaps gave him more international success. Much of the material on the album is on the lengthy side of things that would not have sat in well with popular radio stations at the time for it to be played enough to get more recognition. It’s also the reason why no subsequent singles were released from the album.

It’s perhaps easy to say that a STAR! was born when he played at the A&R Studios back in 1970 though in reality he certainly would not have been in the limelight like many popular artists were in the pop world at this point in his career. It was the albums that were to follow that brought him the most success and hits from them that were to make him a STAR! and stand out as one of the biggest in some respects. The album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road spawned four major hits and still to this day I regard that album as one of the best put-together double albums of all time.

Though personally for me it is the album tracks on his albums that appeal to me the most, basically because his hits have been perhaps played to death on the radio and live over the years. The very fact that Madman Across The Water did not spawn any hits appeals more to my personal taste and it does not contain any real commercial material. So let’s now dive in and take a closer look at the album.

Track 1. Tiny Dancer.

I suppose for many this would be their favourite track on the album and effectively could easily be the single of the album though due to its length of being over 6 minutes, it is easy to see why it was not released as a single here in the UK. Although in the following year of the album’s release in 1972, it did get released as a single in the US though it was never edited down which is why it most likely fell short of breaking into the Top 40 on their Billboard singles chart.

Tiny Dancer (1972 US Release)

There is no doubt in my mind that this is one of the standout tracks on this particular album but I will stress that it’s not the only track that stands out and there are a couple of other tracks on this album that could equally measure up to this fine song. Though if I had to pick a personal favourite from this album this song would be it and it’s why it merits my TOP SPOT AWARD!

Musically this is a very well-constructed song and like many of Elton’s songs, it consists of a lot more than the basics and many chords are used to create it. Although it appears to use the basic chords of C and F to construct its opening melody there is a lot more to it than meets the eye so to speak as you can see in this video showing you the construction of the song that Rick Beato put out last year.

It’s very much a song I love to play and sing myself on the piano and just recently I have also rearranged it for the guitar in F# though I could never really give it the justice that Elton does especially with the excellent musicians he has onboard with him on this song and the rest of the album.

B. J. Cole’s lap steel guitar playing on this song was the breakthrough moment that opened the door for him as a session player and was in demand thereafter including by the likes of Roger Daltrey, Humble Pie, T. Rex, Procul Harum, Andy Fairweather Low, Uriah Heep, Roy Harper just to name a few.

This is one of three tracks that bassist David Glover (not to be confused with Roger of Deep Purple) plays on, he also contributed to the same number of tracks on Elton’s previous album along with drummer Roger Pope. Both of these musicians played together in the mid-sixties band The Soul Agents. Davey Johnstone’s role on the acoustic guitar is quite minuscule on this track though it adds a nice touch and so does Caleb Quaye on the electric guitar.

Lyrically the song was inspired by Bernie Taupin’s first wife Maxine Feibelman who he met in California and married in the same year as the release of the song and album. It also contains references to her such as “Ballerina” which she used to do ballet when she was a child, she also used to sew the patches on Elton’s jacket hence the line “seamstress for the band”.

The lyrical content is perhaps too personal for it to have had the success of a hit in the singles charts which is why I’ve always seen it more of an album track, though as album tracks go I do personally think it is the hit on this particular album and it really is a song that I love to death and can never get tired of hearing it, unlike the biggest majority of Elton’s hits.

Track 2. Levon.

The next track on the album I personally could never consider a hit and it certainly does not have the potential to be one either in my book. That’s not to say that I dislike the song by any means but what surprises me more than anything is that it was released as a single in the US and it managed to break into the Billboard Top 30 and peaked at number 25 in the US charts. To even think that this managed to do better than “Tiny Dancer” puts me in somewhat disbelief. It was also the first single to be released from the album in November 1971.

Levon (1971 US Release)

Although the reason it may have managed to peak at 16 places higher is that it was the first single to be released from the album and many may have brought the album by the time “Tiny Dancer” got released. This was also a time when many artists were putting more consideration into the way an album flowed and were not that concerned with making singles because the album made more money for them.

To be perfectly honest I myself would have had to have heard a lot more than “Levon” from this album for it to entice me to buy the album whereas “Tiny Dancer” most likely would have made me rush out to buy the album. I am pretty sure the same would go for the biggest majority as well.

The lyrical content is purely fictional and even the name Alvin Tostig who was Levon’s father in the song was made up. The name of the song’s title was inspired by Levon Helm the drummer and singer of The Band who was both Elton and Bernie’s favourite band at the time. According to the Band’s guitarist Robbie Robertson, Helm didn’t like the song, and quoted him as saying “Englishmen shouldn’t fuck with Americanisms”.

Personally, I don’t think there is anything to dislike about the song and musically it does have a strong melodic structure which is very much down to Elton’s piano which is perhaps the centre focus point of this particular song. As with all the arrangments on this album, Buckmaster’s strings are striking and feature very well on the outro in particular. Barry Morgan of Blue Mink gets to play on this one track as to does session player bassist Brian Odgers. Quaye’s electric guitar is evident as ever and it also features session players Les Thatcher (acoustic guitar) and Brian Dee (harmonium).

Another fascinating fact about “Levon” is that it was also included in the American release of Elton John’s Greatest Hits Volume 2. I quite like the song myself though I could never see it as hit potential and one of the oddball things that surprised me is that when Elton remade the band version of “Skyline Pigeon” in 1972 that originally appeared on his debut album Empty Sky, they stuck it out as the B-Side of “Crocodile Rock“. That 1972 band version of the song certainly had more hit potential than the song we have here in my book though somehow they failed to notice it.

Track 3. Razor Face.

This is quite a raunchy hardened rock song and for many years I actually thought this song was loosely based around the American gangster Al Capone, and where the confusion lay with my way of thinking is that scarface and razor face could potentially derive from the same meaning. Though of course, I was totally wrong and way off the beaten track so to speak. Many of the interpretations of the song’s lyrics point to homosexuality, homeless, alcohol and even drugs as in a razor being used to cut cocaine, for example, it’s also easy to see how many may have derived towards that way of thinking when you look at the source where I think Taupin may have got the inspiration for the lyrics.

To be honest over the years Taupin has said very little regarding the lyrical content of this particular song almost to the point of practically nothing at all, although it is not unusual for much of his inspiration to come from books, films and travel as in the case of many of Elton’s songs. In the book that comes with this Deluxe Edition, you do get a bit of an idea of where he may have drawn some of his inspiration from and they do tend to point towards a film that was released in the same year.

There are a few key points in Taupin’s own words that point towards the 1971 film Two-Lane Blacktop (as seen in the picture above) though my own observation could still be very well off the beaten track as it was with me thinking it was about Capone. First and most is that he points out that it is a road song which suggests he wrote the words whilst he was on the road but one of the key points is that he states “it must have fallen out of my imagination somewhere along the southwest of Route 66,” which happens to be the route that is taken in this movie.

Although the major key point that led me to this movie in the first place is that he also goes on to say “that it makes him think of a character Warren Oates might have played in a Monte Hellman movie” and this has to be that very film. Many of the interpretations that people arrived at are in this film including homosexuality, though some thought it was about Elton’s own homosexuality. However, I should point out that Taupin also goes on to say “No real-life inspiration, just a dusty caricature from a dime novel”.

“Razor Face” is one of the two songs on the album that does not feature Buckmaster’s strings and it’s perhaps down to the lesser elements with it being more of a band process with its arrangement is what makes it rock out that bit more. Although in reality to say it has lesser elements making up the musical side of things might be a bit of a misconception especially when you consider you have 3 keys players on the track and one of those elements is perhaps more commonly associated with folk music.

I am of course speaking of Jack Emblow’s only contribution to the album with the accordion, an instrument that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull will quite often refer to as the German squeeze box from hell, although Emblow himself was more commonly associated with jazz music in relation to folk music. He was perhaps better known for his work accompanying the Cliff Adams Singers on BBC Radio although as a session player, he’s certainly been around the block and has played for the likes of Tom Jones, Grace Jones, Donovan, Elaine Paige, Sandie Shaw, Curved Air, Rolf Harris and many more. He even played  “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles at Abbey Road on the 25th of June 1967.

As ever Elton’s piano is at the very core of the song and by far the dominant force of the keys here however another of the session players who’s also been around the block a few times is Rick Wakeman who I am sure many would already know about and this is one of three tracks on the album that he contributes to with the Hammond organ. Both the Accordion and Hammond are more or less playing along the same lines which gives it quite a quirky sound that perhaps would not generally be associated with these instruments. The way they are combined also takes away any of the folk presence that the accordion in particular may very well have lent to it.

What rocks this song up more than anything is Elton’s voice and Quaye’s lead lines on the guitar those are the things that have the harder edge and Quaye’s guitar work on this track is formidable and is supported very well with the back line of once again Glover and Pope. “Razor Face” is a GREAT! song and one that I feel is almost up there with the three standout tracks on this album.

Track 4. Madman Across The Water.

The album’s self-titled track is quite a disturbing dramatic song I suppose in a way a bit like “Burn Down Down The Mission” from the Tumbleweed album only a bit more low-key sort of thing. It’s a song that very much has a dark disturbing presence about it to which the music as in all cases would have been inspired by Taupin’s lyrics that reflected on institutionalisation, isolation and mental instability. It’s also a song that was originally written and recorded for the Tumbleweed album but got shelved due to it sounding more like Led Zeppelin than Elton John.

I have to admit that the original version that features Mick Ronson on guitar is quite heavy and most certainly ROCKS! His guitar work is so effective that it makes it sound more like it was stepping on the boundaries of progrock to some extent. Just like “Razor Face” this is more of a rock song without Buckmaster’s strings and one that has a very hard edge. Listening to it in 5.1 surround makes it even more effective and it’s a killer of a bonus track to have and one I am glad to see get the 5.1 treatment.

Ronson was quite a regular at Trident Studio around the time which is how he got to play on the song. He was working on David Bowie’s third studio album The Man Who Sold The World which was titled Metrobolist at the time of this recording when producer Gus Dudgeon asked him to play on the track. Gudgeon first became aware of Ronson’s guitar skills when he produced Michael Chapman’s Fully Qualified Survivor album Chapman also got to play acoustic on this original version.

David Johnstone was eventually brought in because they felt the song needed an intro and it was his acoustic guitar that provided the answer although it was only down to Chapman being reluctant to play on the song again that he got the job. Chris Spedding was also brought in for the electric guitar duties and both Terry Cox (drums) and Ray Cooper (percussion) were brought in to provide a different beat. Besides Elton himself the bassist, Herbie Flowers was the only player to play on both versions and it was Barry Morgan who played the drums on the original version.

When comparing the two versions it’s easy to see that the original was more of a heavy rock band process with the basic elements of instrumentation that were utilised in the song and to a degree, it perhaps never sat in with drama that was presented in the lyrical content which is why they decided to go down an orchestral route.

Buckmaster’s strings not only provide the dramatics but also the dynamics that were required and Diana Lewis’s ARP Synthesizer was also added to lend extra support along with Wakeman’s organ contribution I like both versions myself and both are to die for with the surround treatment that Gregg Penny gave to them though as much as I love the song I don’t see it as one of the standout tracks on the album.

Track 5. Indian Sunset.

The drama continues with this next song which happens to be the longest track on the album, you could say that it’s like a just under 6-minute Movie with the lyrics Taupin wrote for it which were inspired by a visit to a Native American reservation. America the Wild West and cowboy films in particular had always fascinated him since he was a child and it’s no surprise to see many of Elton’s songs relating to America in one way or another, this whole album was very much inspired by the country.

Throughout history, the Native Red Indians have always been driven away from their land or their home so to speak and this is a song that chronicles that story. However, there are a few inaccuracies and one notable mistake that always played on the back of Taupin’s mind is how he wrote that Geronimo was shot by US soldiers when in reality he died from pneumonia. Though his version of how the Apache leader died ties in better methinks and it depicts how racism is still a major concern in that country even today, I often wonder what they mean by making America GREAT! again is to make it WHITE! It may very well be the most racist country in the world.

It’s a song that Elton very rarely plays live and when he does it’s either unaccompanied or he will have Ray Cooper with him on percussion. Although he did perform it live on the 5th of February 1972 at the Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paul Buckmaster. It’s also one of the earlier tracks that were written for the album and one that very much carries over the folk influence from his previous albums more so than most of the material on the album.

Buckmaster’s orchestral arrangement plays a pivotal role in the studio version of the song along with Elton’s piano and this song also has the same backline as the previous track with Flowers & Cox though Chris Laurence was also brought in to throw a bit of double bass into the equation.

“Indian Sunset” is a song that was perhaps relatively unknown to the biggest majority of people and people would have become more aware of it when the American rapper Tupac Shakur used a sample of the song on his number-one hit “Ghetto Gospel” back in 2004 that was produced by another rapper Eminem. Though personally for me this song has always been one of my personal favourites and another standout track that is very much a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Holiday Inn.

This is my other standout track on the album though in reality it’s perhaps more of a standout track for Davey Johnstone’s work on it with the mandolin and sitar and the song itself is more along the lines of other rock songs on the album such as “Razor Face” and “Rotton Peaches”. This is where Johnstone showed his real skill as an arranger and most likely why he became a permanent fixture in Elton’s music and is still part of it today. Producer Gus Dudgeon originally felt the song needed a banjo and although Johnstone is very much an accomplished player of most stringed instruments he had a lot more vision of what the song really needed to bring it out of its shell so to speak.

Johnstone contributes both sitar and mandolin to the track and both instruments fit in like a glove though I will say that the mandolin in particular is what makes this song stand out the most, just as much as Ray Jackson’s contribution of the mandolin to Rod Stewart’s big hit “Maggie May” to a certain degree. Come to think of it is at the end of both of these songs where the instrument really comes to fruition and plays its leading role. Although, in the case of this song, the mandolin is pretty much utilised throughout and it’s the interplay between the acoustic guitar, mandolin and piano and how they are placed in the mix that grabs my attention here the most.

Elton quite often performed the song live on his own and threw in an extra verse running down the hotel as with the performance of the song that is on the Songs For Saturday that comes with this box set for example. Taupin originally intended his lyrics to go down that route and originally wrote “Until you’ve been in a motel hell like the holiday inn” but the chain threatened to sue hence why “hell” got changed to “baby”.

Personally, for me, I much prefer the studio version and this song simply does not cut it without the mandolin for my ears, especially with how well the instrument is placed in the mix and with how it interacts with Elton’s piano and the acoustic guitar played by Quaye. That is where the real magic lies and that is why it makes this yet another contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 7. Rotten Peaches.

I suppose in a way you could say that this next song is the mother of all rock songs on the album and drives along that bit harder in relation to “Razor Face” and “Holiday Inn”. Chris Spedding’s slide guitar also makes it slide along smoothly even if the lyrical content is perhaps travelling down a rocky or bumpy road so to speak. Rotton peaches can often be referred to as a disconnection within a relationship as when a relationship turns sour between two people for example, although the disconnection, in this case, may very well be from society itself which is often brought on by drug addiction. Like many when they are down and out they are set in their ways and that is basically how I would interpret this set of lyrics that Taupin wrote.

As rock songs go it very much holds its ground with Elton’s vocals and piano at the core whilst both Flowers and Cox keep it ticking over very well. Wakeman’s Hammond organ also lends well to the backline and Lewis’s synth work also plays its part. I would expect for many this would also be another of the album’s standout tracks though I do think the ending is slightly overcooked.

Track 8. All The Nasties.

Speaking of overcooked endings I have to confess that this song never sat with me very well at all because the ending does drag on and on way too much. Elton did tend to overdo a lot of his songs back in them days and I could say the same thing about “My Father’s Gun” on the Tublewwed album, though I do like that song a lot more than this. To be perfectly honest I only really got to appreciate this song more when I heard the 5.1 mix in 2004 and for many moons, I never really liked this song at all. I would also say that one of the reasons for disliking it was that I never really understood it.

The lyrical content that Taupin wrote for the song deals with criticism from the press in a way that the public might think differently of you if they found out certain things about you so to speak. Although Elton had not quite openly come out of the closet about him being gay at the time they do tend to point towards that more so than the way Elton originally described it as being a dig at the music critics in the press. Though as Taupin pointed out in the book non of the songs on this album are really personal and he could not recall what he was thinking of at the time when he wrote them.

It’s quite an oddball track on the album and even musically it does not really tie in with the rest of the songs on the album sort of thing. It has more of a gospel soul feel to it and even Elton’s voice is that sweet you would not think it was him singing it to a certain degree. It’s also the first studio track that both Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson got to play on which seems very odd considering they were his touring band for the past couple of years. It also features the Cantores In Ecclesia Choir directed by Robert Kirby and this is the only track on the album the choir is on and they are not on “Indian Sunset” as the original credits suggest.

As oddball as “All The Nasties” does tend to come across the song is actually very well built up as it transcends along and the attention to detail in how some of the instrumentation stands out in the multichannel mix really makes this song more exciting for me to like it. Olsson’s bass drum kicks total ass in the middle section of this song and the way it’s been placed in the rear left channel hits you like a ton of bricks and literally shakes the room.

Track 9. Goodbye.

The album gets put to bed wonderfully with the shortest track on the album which only Buckmaster’s strings accompany Elton. The lyrics Taupin wrote are very poetic and are written in the way of a haunting mournful coda to the album. Effectively it works as an outro to the album and perhaps not far off being reminiscent of how Gilbert O’Sullivan would put an end to his early albums only Gilbert gave more of a humorous side to his intros and outros sort of thing.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up my review of the Super Deluxe Boxset Edition of Madman Across The Water by Elton John. I am going to first start by looking at the boxset and its contents in terms of value and to way up if it’s worth shelling out the extra cash for it. If I was going to go on presentation alone I would say its price point is about right and the quality and construction are quite lavish and flawless with its design. It’s easy to see why many others have opted to see more of the same being done with Elton’s albums.

The 104-page hardback book that comes with it is also very lavish in its presentation and nothing has been done on the cheap here. It also provides plenty of written informative content (not just photos) for you to get your teeth into. It’s got everything I personally like to see in a book or booklet and a great deal of thought and effort has been put into it.

It’s really the musical content that comes in the boxset where the value does not hold up as well and why I felt it was overpriced by about 33.3% and should retail for no more than 40 English Pounds, Sterling. As with many boxsets like this that focus on one particular album it’s very rare that there was a lot of extra material that was written at the time that was left off the original album. In the case of this album, the only extra song that was written at the same time period was “Rock Me When He’s Gone” and it’s not as if that song is special or rare because it’s surfaced on various other compiled albums over the years.

The fact that you are getting four discs in the box may very well look like you are getting an extra load of goodies but the only real rare content is the piano demos on the second CD and they are hardly the thing you are going to play all the time and will most likely only ever play them once or once in a blue moon so to speak. Most of the live content has been around for years even the Sounds For Saturday concert made for TV has been floating around Youtube for many years now and the only real advantage this boxset gives you is having it all in one place.

If you want my honest opinion the best extra content that has been included here is the original version of “Madman Across The Water” that features Mick Ronson on guitar and it’s not as if that has not surfaced on other compilation albums either. I know it was originally written and recorded during the Tumbleweed sessions but I do feel it’s in its rightful place and at home placed on this album. I also felt it should have been included on the 2004 SACD of the album and not the Tumbleweed Connection SACD.

From a surround FREAKS! perspective the Blu Ray offers very little over the SACD and the only real difference regarding the musical content is that the original version of “Madman Across The Water” has been included as a bonus track. Though to stick it at the beginning instead of the end of the album was an oddball thing to do. The other difference is that you get the original album-length version of “Razor Face” instead of the extended version which still remains exclusive to the SACD regarding the multichannel side of things that is.

The fact that there is very little difference over the SACD is why I pointed out in my introduction that it could be seen as a bit of a rip off especially if you are one of those like myself who mainly buys older recordings for the multichannel content. However, I did not buy this particular boxset for the surround content because I already knew what to expect and my main reason for getting this was really down to having all the Deluxe Editions.

Though to my surprise SONICALLY! the Blu Ray is superior to the SACD  and there is no way I would consider it a rip-off at all, in many respects I got more than I bargained for though that’s not to say that this boxset is worth any more than 40 English pounds sterling. I should also point out that those sonic differences are only marginal and I would not advise anybody to shell out 60 bucks if they already have the SACD to which no doubt they would already know they have a superior quality 5.1 mix in their hands.

Greg Penny is very much another of my favourite multichannel mixing engineers and is also up there with the likes of Steve Wilson, Elliot Scheiner, Chuck Ainlay and Bob Clearmountain. He very rarely gets a mention in my reviews which is perhaps down to me mostly reviewing progrock albums but his work on these Elton albums is quite exemplary and outstanding.

In conclusion, I am going to focus on the album itself and also point out a few goodies that we might get to see in the near future which is all really down to the release of this Deluxe boxset. Although there is still a tinge of the folk influences that exist somewhere along the lines of the album Madman Across The Water it’s also easy to see that most of the material is striving towards the pop and rock music scene where Elton would eventually break out and become way more popular.

Despite it being one of his least commercial albums Madman Across The Water like many of Elton’s earlier albums is still highly liked and regarded as one of his better albums. The very fact that this boxset (even at its much higher price point) sold more copies than the actual album on its original release back in 1971 is proof in the pudding. I can wholeheartedly understand why many would want this Deluxe treatment done to the other deluxe editions and in all honesty, you can count me in and sod the extra expense because I am well pleased with this boxset.

“take my word I’m a madman don’t you know”

The good news is even more exciting because at some point hopefully this year we will see a deluxe version of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player which is another album that never got the deluxe treatment like the others did. I am pretty sure it will also come lavishly packaged like this boxset in the form of a Super Deluxe Edition. To further the excitement it will also include Penny’s long-awaited 5.1 mix that many have been crying out for since he did it back in 2004.

At the end of the day, you really don’t have to be a MADMAN! to shell out the money for a boxset like this. It’s very much a lavish package that takes pride in sitting on my shelf more so than most. It’s also an album that has never been far away from my turntable so to speak and gets played regularly every year.

A Lot More Than A Blue Jean Baby…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Tiny Dancer. 6:16.
02. Levon. 5:21.
03. Razor Face. 4:44.
04. Madman Across The Water. 5:57.
05. Indian Sunset. 6:46.
06. Holiday Inn. 4:16.
07. Rotten Peaches. 4:57.
08. All The Nasties. 5:09.
09. Goodbye. 1:55.
10. Indian Sunset (Live Radio Broadcast). 5:19.
11. Madman Across The Water (Original Version, featuring Mick Ronson). 8:52.
12. Rock Me When He’s Gone. 5:03.
13. Levon (Mono Single Version). 4:46.
14. Razor Face (Extended Version). 6:43.

CD 2.
01. Madman Across The Water (Piano Demo 1970). 5:10.
02. Tiny Dancer (Piano Demo). 6:03.
03. Levon (Piano Demo). 5:05.
04. Razor Face (Piano Demo). 3:49.
05. Madman Across The Water (Piano Demo 1971). 5:11.
06. Indian Sunset (Piano Demo). 7:35.
07. Holiday Inn (Piano Demo). 4:35.
08. Rotten Peaches (Piano Demo). 4:08.
09. All The Nasties (Piano Demo). 4:49.
10. Goodbye (Piano Demo). 2:00.
11. Rock Me When He’s Gone (Piano Demo). 4:03.
12. Rock Me When He’s Gone (Full Version). 7:11.

CD 3.
01. Tiny Dancer (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 6:14.
02. Rotten Peaches (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 5:10.
03. Razor Face (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 4:21.
04. Holiday Inn (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 3:55.
05. Indian Sunset (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 6:59.
06. Levon (BBC Sounds For Saturday). 4:57.
07. Madman Across The Water [BBC Sounds For Saturday). 10:55.
08. Goodbye [BBC Sounds For Saturday). 1:39.

The Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 7/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#220

The Edge Of Times – Heartscore


For the past four years and around the last couple of months of the year, we have seen a new release from Dirk Radloff’s project Heartscore and sure enough, things followed suit at the end of last year. The Edge Of Times is the 9th studio album to appear in the Heartscore discography and the 4th album to feature Giacomo Rossi on vocals. It’s very much Rossi’s powerful voice that has very much put the harder edge into Radloff’s music and steered it along with more of a METAL! aspect in relation to the PROGMATIC! side of things that was applied to his earlier albums such as Straight To The Brain and Many Directions. Being more of a PROGHEAD! myself, those particular albums are the ones that still appeal to me the most though I’ve always been partial to rock and the heavier side of rock music.

Having Rossi onboard puts me in mind of when Ritchie Blackmore had Ronnie James Dio onboard with him for the first three Rainbow albums. It was also Dio’s voice that gave the harder edge to Blackmore’s music something that I felt that was truly missed when he left the band. The good thing is that Rossi is still around for a fourth Heartscore album and even though Radloff’s music is more influenced by Heavy and Thrash Metal these days his voice fits perfectly with his project.

Like the previous album, Medusas Head Radlloff chose to write his own lyrics for the new set of songs rather than go along with his previous format of using the words from latter-day American poets such as the likes of Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, E.A. Robinson, Stephen Crane for example. To be perfectly honest since having Rossi on board I would have expected it to attract more interest to the music of Heartscore and that album I certainly felt delivered the goods. Though I will say these days the popularity tends to be waning although it’s always going to be difficult to get your music about without going out there and performing it live. It’s also a challenge when you take in the vast amount of music that is out there.

The latest album The Edge Of Times has more of a straightforward heavy rock/metal approach however whether it will gather more attention and listeners to the Haertscore camp remains to be seen. But before I dig any deeper into the album let’s take a look at how it arrives.

The Packaging & Artwork…

The album is more or less geared up as a Digital Download however there is a physical CD release of the album though it is extremely LIMITED! and only 25 copies have been made available. As you can see by my copy above it comes very neatly presented in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve/Digifile with a Die-Cut pocket to hold the disc firmly in place. Although it does not come with a booklet or any informative information, the inside panels of the sleeve have been very well utilised to contain all the lyrics and the usual liner/credit notes are printed on the back. Both the CD and Digital Download can be obtained on Bandcamp priced at €12 (Euro) and €7 (Euro) respectively from the link right here: https://heartscore.bandcamp.com/album/the-edge-of-times

The artwork and design for the CD of the album were done by Radloff himself with the use of a photograph that was snapped through the use of a space telescope that was created by James Webb and launched into space via NASA. One of the galaxies Webb saw emerged from a fledgling universe, only 235 million years after the Big Bang, making it the oldest galaxy we’ve ever laid eyes on.

The background colouring of the image puts me in mind of John Martyn’s 7th studio album Inside Out, it also has me thinking along the lines of Deep Purple’s 5th studio album Fireball and there is obviously something explosive going on here. However, this was not the first idea that Radloff had in mind for the album’s title and artwork as you can see from the picture below.

To be perfectly honest I actually prefer his original idea and the title of Highway Killer and the artwork puts me more in mind with Judas Priest. Though it may have been too close on that score which is most likely why he decided to change it. It may also have been down to the chap on the bike having more of a Godly characteristic about his face and being more like a gentle giant in relation to somebody who is going to mow you down, so I guess he made the right decision in the end.

The Album In Review…

The Edge Of Times by Heartscore was released on the 15th of December 2022. The album comes with a total of 10 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 34 minutes and 44 seconds which is perhaps more fitting for vinyl purposes and also a very comfortable timeslot for one to easily digest. Though I do have to admit that much of the material on the album took me a couple of spins to get more accustomed to it and for it to sink in a bit more. To be honest I was quite surprised, especially seeing how the material is made up of short tracks with not even one of the songs on the album clocking in at 5 minutes so to speak.

All the material Radloff wrote this year and as with all material he writes, it’s very much written on the musical staff first before he’s played a note hence the name of his project being called Heartscore. I guess he started work on the material more or less in the spring of this year and it was in May that he released this single release from the album to perhaps showcase or give you an example of what was to come.

Looking at the cover art that final hug was some hug and perhaps squeezed the life out of that person though he’s a bit like myself on that score and likes the dark sinister or the shock horror side of things and it fits in well with the metal genre that is associated with his music. There is actually a lot more to the lyrical content behind “The Final Hug” which I will reveal later on in the track section of my review.

For the latter part of the year, he must have been extremely busy with other things and working on the rest of the album as his Youtube channel does appear to have taken a back seat more recently. As a norm, he generally liked to keep it flowing with some of the other projects he works on such as Led Zeppelin covers and other sorts. Speaking of sorts it appears that “Shorts” are becoming the IN-THING! on the Tube these days and it was indeed a short clip that he put out last back in August.

As a musician, Radloff is quite an accomplished violinist and guitarist and has studied music right from the offset in that it is written first on the musical stave. He is also a very good arranger as you can hear for yourself in this string quartet arrangement of “Voice Of The Soul” by the death metal band Death that featured on the bands 1998 final album The Sound of Perseverance.

Things are not moving that much quicker with the other band Rossi is part of either and since the release of Philosophy Of Evil’s debut album Of Humanity And Other Odd Things back in 2019, no new material has surfaced. Granted they have released an acoustic version of one of the album tracks from their debut album and a cover song was put out last year. This year they are back with another cover song and what’s even more confusing is that Rossi is not even on it.

The bands latest video premiered on the 23rd of December and is a cover of “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from the Tim Burton movie The Nightmare Before Christmas which was penned by Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Paul Reubens. Taking care of the lead vocal duties is Vanessa Saliman and the bands bass player Francis Gebirge also contributes vocals to the song.

As you can see they have totally ROCKED! up their version of the song and not only did a TOP JOB! on the song but also with the video, it also fits in with the name of the band as well. I am pretty sure that it might be the case that Rossi was not required for this particular song rather than him no longer being part of the band.  However, I do think it’s about time they wrote some new material of their own and put out another album.

Just as much as Rossi’s voice fits in with P.O.E. it also does the same job for Radloff’s music and musically they both have that metallic structure that provides the right amount of power for Rossi’s voice to fit in comfortably.

Musicians & Credits…

All songs and lyrics were written, composed and arranged by Dirk Radloff. Recorded in Germany and Italy sometime between March – November 2022. Mixed & Mastered by Dirk Radloff. Cover Design & layout by Dirk Radloff. Space Telescope Photograph by James Webb.

Dirk Radloff: All Instruments.
Giacomo Rossi: Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The Edge Of Times is very much an album that is stripped back musically to the basic elements that are required for rock music such as guitar, bass and drums and no other instrumentation has been used. Although it mentions in the credits that all instruments are credited to Radloff the drums are pretty much programmed. I expect some of the bass lines may also be programmed and even though he does play drums and bass he’s perhaps not an accomplished player of those particular instruments as he is with the guitar and violin. To be perfectly honest I am pretty sure the bass was hardly utilised at all on this album and to what extent it has been used I certainly don’t hear any bass lines that stand out as I have done with previous albums of his in the past.

If anything the album is more metal guitar riff based with the odd burst of lead guitar now and then and is more like a collection of rock songs in relation to there being any concept behind it and it tackles different subject matter regarding the lyrical content. It’s perhaps more along the lines of commercial 80’s rock music so let’s now dive into it and take a closer look and see how it all pans out.

Track 1. The Final Hug.

The album kicks off in GREAT! style and this song pretty much follows the same suit as the previous album in that musically it is not only power chord driven but contains a bit of a blistering lead break on the guitar. One of the key points I picked up regarding the subject matter behind the lyrical content is that although Radloff wrote the lyrics he’s still gone back to latter-day American history to source the material only instead of the poet society he’s now turned his attention to serial killers. To be honest I am not sure he is actually aware of it but it does look as if this period of American history fascinates him enough to take a particular interest in it.

The serial killer in question here is Jane Toppan perhaps better known by her nickname of “Jolly Jane” who used to give her victims a final hug before administering them a lethal injection. She worked as a nurse from around 1885 to 1902 and her victims consisted of her patients and their family members. Although she confessed to 31 murders only 12 were ever confirmed and she spent the rest of he life in a lunatic asylum even though she claimed she knew what she was doing she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

To coincide with the single release back in May Radloff also made an animated video presentation of the song that was released at the same time. I personally feel that “The Final Hug” is the standout track on the album and should appeal to most listeners’ tastes, it’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Highway Killer.

This is a track that really motors along at a heavy speed much faster than the robber of the highway Dick Turpin and more like the killing machine that Judas Priest would have preferred to use along the highway. There have been many serial killers on the highways and freeways over the years and I am not really sure if Radloff’s inspiration for the lyrics came from one of those. They may have been inspired by a movie or even a song and there have been enough of them put out over the years too.

It’s a song that is straight to the point and wastes no time in putting it all across with its blistering pace. In some respects, it is perhaps too familiar with the commercial rock/metal that Priest was churning out in the early 80’s or even late 70’s for that matter with that particular band. As with most songs Giacomo Rossi handles the vocal side of things with ease and I quite like the way his voice ends off this song which has me thinking more along the lines of the opening of “Highway Star” by Deep Purple.

Track 3. The Coastline.

This next song actually starts off with the bass and is perhaps one of the songs where the bass is actually utilised to my ears I would also say that it is not programmed either and played though I could be wrong. Musically the song is driven along like a march into battle sort of thing only instead of marching into battle they are fleeing from it though quite often is the case that their road to freedom can also be their demise as far as the subject matter behind the lyrical content is concerned.

“The Coastline” is a song that tackles or criticises the refugees-policy of the European Union and even right now in this very day in my own country, it is being closely watched to control the number of illegal immigrants and refugees that flee countries to their so-called promised land so to speak. Radloff’s lyrics are quite often short but always straight to the point as they are here, I think he may have also given a little nod to Brian May with the TASTY! lead break too.

Track 4. Spit It Out.

Next up we have the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes and 37 seconds, there are hardly any lyrics at all to this song and they are perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, though Rossi has no problem spitting the words out so to speak. The song is upbeat from the off and has quite a bounce to it, musically it perhaps says more than the actual words though you can’t help but notice them, it also contains another short BLISTERING! lead break and it sort of puts me in mind of something Alice Cooper would do though I am sure he would have written more lyrics.

Track 5. My Name Is Nobody.

It’s time to get on your Trojan horse and ROCK! things out a bit more and musically this song has a Rainbow feel about it and has the same sort of drive and adrenalin as songs such as “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Kill The King“. The title of the song put me in mind of the spaghetti western film of the same title starring Terence Hill and Henry Fonda, the music to that film was also scored by Ennio Morricone who Radloff has been inspired by in the past although it does appear that he’s gone down the road of Greek Mythology to come up with the subject matter behind the lyrical content we have here.

Like Ronnie James Dio and other rock singers who can belt it out, Rossi’s voice has all the right attributes and requirements to deliver the goods here and this song has to be a very strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. Stay In The Dark.

The metal engine is still well-oiled and firing on all cylinders for this song and the crunching metallic grinding riff we have here puts me in mind of the Jake E Lee period when he played for Ozzy Osbourne on albums such as Bark At The Moon and Ultimate Sin albums. To be honest I am not sure what the inspiration was behind the lyrical content but it has the same dark evil presence that fits in with Osbourne’s music and could pertain to vampires, or some evil crime along the lines of Jack The Ripper, Jekyll & Hyde sort of thing and this is another of the better songs on the album and another strong contender for the albums TOP SPOT!

Track 7. Expendable Civilians.

This is perhaps the KILLER! track on the album and the lyrical content spares no mercy in that regard as often in war everyone is expendable including your grandmother and although “The Evil That Men Do” by Iron Maiden springs to mind it is only the evil pretence that bares any relation and not that particular song. The lyrical content we have here is perhaps more common with Rap and the way the words are delivered is perhaps something more along the lines of the Beastie Boys or rap artists in the way that the words are answering back. To put it in a nutshell the words are some serious well offensive heavy shit that would not sit very well with your grandmother so to speak.

Musically this song has a very powerful solid technical structure, that much so that it might even make that Iron Maiden song seems like a doddle to play in some respects. It’s also another song where the bass is utilised and it perhaps plays more of a role in this song however it is the guitar structure that impresses me the most particularly with how the chords change shape the lead lines are quite TASTY!

This could easily be my favourite track on the album down to how it is structured you really do get the sense of war here and not only is it marching along but the guitars are like heavy machine guns pumping out bullets. It has to be another strong contender for the album’s TOP SPOT! and is well worthy of giving it a BLAST!

Track 8. It’s Raining Insects.

Another song that motors its way along and this is like an express train, it also must have been extremely difficult and quite a challenge to get all of the words out properly with how it is sung at this high speed, I have to say that Rossi does exceptionally well and does not miss a single word. The song’s title could easily be associated with climate change however the subject matter behind these lyrics is a product known as Glyphosate that the chemist Monsanto brought to market for agricultural use back in the early seventies that farmers quickly adopted for agricultural weed control.

Monsanto’s product “Roundup” was widely used in the United States and was sold in boxes that look like washing powder only it’s a weed killer and like all herbicides and insecticides, there is a certain amount of risk and effectively can be harmful to not only animals but humans. In 2018 the German company Bayer acquired the product which is now mostly sold in the form of a spray. Glyphosate is still used worldwide today even though it was meant to be phased out, in some countries such as France it’s banned because of its high risk of cancer.

As with many products that are put onto the market safety measures are not always met and the dollar will always take preference before life itself, especially in the pharmaceutical industry where there is a killer of a profit to be made. This is another of the shorter tracks on the album and the use of illicit words fits the bill here for sure.

Track 9. Daily Heroes.

The longest track on the album weighing in at just under 5 minutes and like many songs on the album they tend to fly straight into the action, it’s very much a song that gives praise to the emergency services such as firemen, nurses, doctors and policemen who are underpaid and those are the heroes in question here. It’s very much a song that has a strong chorus like the first track on the album and in a way the musical direction is perhaps like a cross between Iron Maiden and Rainbow.

Track 10. The Edge Of Times.

The pace is brought down a few notches for the closing track on the album which happens to be the album’s self-titled track, it drives itself along at a steady pace that has more of a dramatic approach which was most likely done in this way to tie in with the subject matter of the lyrical content. The way the song opens up puts me in the mind of “In The Flesh” by Pink Floyd though it’s nothing like that song and I only get that from the very first chord which is also how that song of theirs opens up. The bass also supports this song very well even if it does not really stand out, I am pretty sure it’s not programmed either.

The lyrical content could pertain to a dozen or more things though they all tend to point to one direction so to speak and the word “Oblivian” certainly springs to mind. In this present day with how things are with the rise of food and energy prices many could be living on the edge of times and it would not surprise me if suicide has also risen, wars and even climate change could easily apply just as those who gaze into space through telescopes to what other threats can bring an end to it all as the album cover suggests. It might lack the adrenalin in relation to the other tracks on the album but nevertheless puts the album to bed very well.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Edge Of Times by Heartscore. I would say that the album is very much on par with the previous album Medusas Head and if anything it is driven along with more power and at high speed, especially how the first 9 tracks run along. The tracks on this album really fly out of the gate with no real time-to-stop sort of thing, it’s very much an album that continuously ROCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF! in particular with the placement of the tracks which has been very well thought out. Both musically and lyrically it’s quite a strong body of work and for those who like their music to rock hard, I can see no reason why this album would not appeal to them.

Like most albums, you are bound to hear many influences fly out of the woodwork and this album has no exception on that score. However, what makes Dirk Radloff’s music stand out differently from the rest is the way he can be quite articulate with his lead lines and even though the solos on a rock/metal album such as this are only really short bursts in relation to his previous work in the PROGMATIC! field they still provide the dividing line in many respects.

The production standards are as good as ever though you will hear a humming noise throughout most of the tracks caused by a new plugin that Radloff had used. However, it does not impede or hinder enough to take away ones listening pleasure or enjoyment of the album. I did confront him over this issue and he did explain to me why he left it in, he actually quite liked that bit of noise being there and I suppose with him being more of a vinyl collector and down to the fact that he is used to surface noise that comes with vinyl records it was not really an issue.

However, the humming noise even though it was nowhere near the intensity took me back to my very first HiFi stereo amplifier made by Wharfedale back in the seventies which would produce a far greater humming noise when the two phono cables plugged into the back of the amp touched each other. To be honest it was the only amp I ever had that issue with and it was most likely down to the company not putting the inputs on the back of the amp far enough apart from each other. I had to roll up a piece of cardboard to wedge in between the two phono cables to prevent it from happening.

Those were the days and I do have some fond memories of that particular amplifier, one would be that I have still to this day never heard the triple live album YESSONGS by Yes sound as good. The reason for that is over the years amplification has been cleaned up like the rest of technology and the fact that live concert was never very well recorded in the first place the cleansing process has not really done it any favours over the years and it shows that concert really needed a better production.

It was the noise on this album that took me down memory lane and that is a good thing in my book although The Edge Of Times is perhaps an album that will musically take you down that route in a good way too. It is an album I would personally highly recommend and well worth giving it the time of day so to speak. My personal highlights are as follows: “The Final Hug“, “My Name Is Nobody“, “Stay In The Dark” and “Expendable Civilians“.

As to if the popularity of the Heartscore camp does pick back up still remains to be seen though I certainly do not see it being put down to the change of musical direction and in many respects, Radloff & Rossi are quite a dynamic duo and everything they have thrown into this project I personally feel works 100%.

After the release of this album, it is good to see Radloff continuing on with his other projects as well and I can see why much of his time was taken up with what has been put into this new album. My advice is to SUCK IT AND SEE! You never know like myself, it might have you coming back for more.

Something To Rock Your Sock Off Too…

The album tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Final Hug. 4:14.
02. Highway Killer. 2:46.
03. The Coastline. 3:26.
04. Spit It Out. 2:47.
05. My Name Is Nobody. 3:36.
06. Stay In The Dark. 3:52.
07. Expendable Civilians. 3:41.
08. It’s Raining Insects. 2:37.
09. Daily Heroes. 4:53.
10. The Edge Of Times. 3:02.

Package Rating 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
Album Rating Score. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#219

Live From The Astroturf (CD/Blu Ray Edition) – Alice Cooper


This is not, in particular, a new release but an updated re-release and another I was not aware of and thanks to Phil Ashton of the Now Spinning Magazine for putting me in the picture so to speak. It was via watching Phil’s Youtube channel that I learned of the new release of Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9 and I have to admit that since losing my wife to cancer at the end of last year I have been out of touch with a lot of things that are out there of late.

To be honest, I’ve always relied on the regular emails I get from the Burning Shed along with the odd recommendations I get now and then from Amazon. Another useful source to get information on new releases is Facebook though just lately I am hardly on it these days. Phil’s Youtube channel is a viable source of information on not only new but also older releases, what I like about it the most is that he also reviews the products he buys.

It was his review of Ozzy’s latest album that got me wondering if Alice Cooper had a new release out to which I did pose the question to him in my reply. Although I perhaps should have been a bit more specific in my reply because this release was not exactly what I was looking for or what I would call a new album in that it was not a studio album. But as Amazon had just sent me an offer of £7 off to try their Click & Collect service I took advantage of it and picked up both for 20 bucks.

It’s perhaps strange to me reviewing this live release before doing a review for his last studio album Detroit Stories, especially as that came out over a year ago and this new updated release of Live From The Astroturf that now comes with a Blu Ray was released this year. Although looking at this release it is perhaps right to do this review first simply because this was the beginning of what was to come from Alice getting back together with the original band which was originally called Alice Cooper.

One of the reasons why I have not yet reviewed Detroit Stories is because (as you can see above) it’s still in its unopened box that I have had since the day of its release back in early 2021. There are quite a few reasons that put me off opening up this box set all of which I reveal why when I finally get around to it. However, the only reason that is holding me back right now from opening it is that I want to make a special video about box sets and I shall do an unboxing of this Boxset and a review of it at some point.

I do have the download of this album and have played it to death, and in all honesty, in my personal opinion, it blows the live album I am about to review here out of water. However, there is something about this release that does not sit very well with me and that might be the very reason why I feel that way about it. But before I go any further let’s take a look at the artwork and packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

The discs are stored very neatly in a 3-panel Digipak and comes with a 20-page booklet that is stored on the left-hand side in a slipcase on the side of the panel rather than in a die-cut pocket. The booklet not only contains the usual liner notes and credits but also a coupled of informative essays written by the band’s original bass player Dennis Dunaway and the producer Chris Penn.

Overall the package is very well made and with the discount I managed to pick up my copy from Amazon UK for £12. It does however retail for around £16 and even though it comes with a CD & Blu Ray I personally think it’s well overpriced and this release should have really been put out as a CHEAPO! release.

The new design and layout for the new reissue were done by Alexander Mertsch and Corey Booth which mainly uses photographs like most live album covers. The photos were provided by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson. I quite like the design though the colour pink might be on the feminine side of things though it might tie in with the band’s debut album thinking of it.

Live From The Astroturf In Review…

This particular new edition of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band was released on the 30th of September 2022 and is known as the Worldwide release that was put out by Ear-Music. Prior to this release, the album was originally released on vinyl through Good Records on record store day on the 23rd of November 2018. A two-track vinyl single was also released on record store day a couple of years earlier in 2016 all of which were Limited Editions. Though considering the vinyl album was reissued 26 times in 2018 alone they might not be as LIMITED! as one might think.

The 2018 vinyl releases were in fact limited to around 3,000 copies each but there were a good few reissues as I mentioned and not only was there an array of different coloured vinyl but the labels had different pictures of the individual members of the band. For serious vinyl collectors who like to have everything, it would have cost a small fortune to collect all 26 issues.

Oddly enough the 2022 vinyl release also came with choices to choose from though they did cut these issues down to 4 as you can see below. Unlike the CD release, they are all accompanied with a DVD instead of a Blu Ray which might seem like a bit of cheek when you consider that vinyl is more expensive though personally, I don’t think you are missing out regarding the audio and film footage quality.

I should also stress that it is perhaps the film footage that might be the enticing factor to buy this release again unless like myself you never brought it back then. The live album was also released on Cassette and 8-Track Cartridge back in 2018 and these are perhaps amongst the rarest as only 100 copies of each were ever released.

According to Wikipedia Live from the Astroturf is the 12th live album by the rock group that used to be known as Alice Cooper. I have no idea how they arrived at this conclusion and they obviously never did their research very well because, in reality, this is the second live album that has ever been officially released to feature the Alice Cooper Band and even one of those was unauthorized and did not surface much later till 1982. Even the man himself Vincent Furnier who took on the band’s name back in 1975 has only ever released 6 live albums including the one we have here.

What you do get with this release is Alice reuniting with the original band minus guitarist Glen Buxton who sadly passed away back in 1997. Over the past decade, Cooper has worked on and off with his old band as well as his touring band and it was most likely getting back together that may have sparked or ignited the flame for him to use them on his last studio album Detroit Stories, though I should also point out that the band were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame back in 2011.

Although the members of the band were born in Detroit it was in Phoenix, Arizona where the band originated and where they originally took off so to speak. The concert we have in question here was also recorded there, it’s perhaps a little confusing however at least what is left of the original band is in a good STATE! pardon my pun.

One of the things that sparked off this one-off event was down to the band’s bass player Dennis Dunnaway who had written a book (as seen above) about his adventures in the Alice Cooper band which he titled Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! Although it was Chris Penn a lifetime superfan who happened to own a record store by the name of Good Records who was the guy that managed to reunite the band, his store not only provided Dunnaway with a Q&A/book signing at his store but the venue to stage the event. No expense was spared by Penn making his dream come true including making alterations to his record store, he also managed to get the band to play their longest set since their last ever show in Brazil in 1974.

To be honest the set that is included on both the CD and Blu Ray is not very long and perhaps one of the reasons why I suggested that this release should have been put out as a CHEAPO! So let’s now dive into the package and take a closer look.

The CD.
One of the surprising things about the CD that comes in this package is that I actually prefer it in relation to the Blu Ray and that is most unusual because in general live concerts that come with a CD/DVD or CD/Blu Ray I would never bother playing the CD at all. Basically, this is because I prefer to watch the concert rather than just listen to it in audio only. It’s also worth noting that this is the first time this particular concert has been released on CD.

The disc comes with a total of 17 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 38 minutes, and 43 seconds which appears to be a very reasonable time slot, however, 8 of the tracks are merely the bantering that went on between the songs and in reality, the song setlist is only 29 minutes, 55 seconds so you basically have a half-hour show. It’s actually less than that because it includes an instrumental bonus track that came from the rehearsal the night before.

The Blu Ray.
The video footage of the live concert is done in the way of a documentary film where it goes off in between the songs showing various clips of the band members talking about certain songs, some of the footage is also taken from the Questions & Answers Featurette that is included in the extras menu. The concert documentary footage does run longer and has an overall playing time of 57 minutes, 19 seconds, it obviously includes a lot more banter than the content on the CD and I guess that’s the reason why I prefer the CD in relation to the Blu Ray.

The other drawback is that the audio content is only LPCM 48/16 and is more or less CD quality and not uncompressed audio that is more fitting to Blu Ray. You could have put the content you get here on a DVD and still got the same quality which makes the blu ray a bit of a waste, it’s as if they have used it to squeeze more money out of you.

The main menu of the blu ray is very simple to navigate and there are only two options here to choose from, by default it’s set to the man feature and the pink highlighted colour is what confirms your choice. It displays a series of old and new pictures of the band set to the background music of “Desperado”.

The extras menu (as seen above) is a pop-up one making the navigation fast and smooth without having to load to a different menu. The couple of music videos are taken from the actual concert so it’s not as if they are really extras at all, however it does look like they have been shot from a different camera angle though I could be wrong with my observation.

The Q&A Featurette is perhaps the more interesting bonus feature and here you get 45 minutes with three of the original band members namely Dennis Dunaway, Michael Bruce and Neal Smith talking about their old days with the band and comparing notes with one another about the stories that Dunnaway wrote in his book. The audience also gets the chance to throw in a few questions.

Picture & Sound Quality.

The music side of things I’ve already touched on how it does not really measure up to the quality purposes for blu ray, however, the concert has been very well recorded and the recording engineer David R. Wilson had the sense to do a multitrack recording. It was also mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin and they have really captured the live sound true to life here and it sounds excellent.

The picture quality is also very good and no doubt has been captured by the use of HD video cameras by a team that Chris Penn assembled at the time to record the whole event that was originally intended for his own purpose. The film content had been lying dormant for a couple of years and when he showed it to Steven Gaddis he felt it was good enough to make a movie with and did the editing to shape it into the documentary film we have here. Patrick Cone was also involved in filming some of the interview footage both of which fail to get a mention in the credits in this package.

The film premiered at the Phoenix Film Festival between the 4th – 14th of April back in 2019 and picked up an award for the best short documentary. It was also a winner at both the Dallas International Film and Northeast Mountain Film Festivals in the same year and picked up other accolades along the way.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Chris Penn. Executive Producers Chris Penn & Shep Gordon. Recorded at Good Records, Dallas, TX on the 6th of October 2015. Recording Engineer David R. Wilson. Mixed by Justin Cortelyou & Bob Ezrin at Anarchy Studios Nashville, TN. Mastered by Joe LaPorta at Sterling Sound New York. Original Design by Jonathon Kimbrell. Reissue Design by Alexander Mertsch & Corey Booth. Photography by Allison V. Smith, Carl Dunn, Daniel Akers, David Wilson, Karlo X. Ramos, Kyler Clark, Len DeLessio, Mark Bowman, Patrick Brzezinski and Phillip Solomonson.

Alice Cooper: Lead Vocals.
Michael Bruce: Guitar – Backing Vocals – Lead Vocals (Caught In A Dream).
Dennis Dunnaway: Bass – Backing Vocals.
Neal Smith: Drums.

Additional Musicians.
Ryan Roxie: Guitar – Background Vocals.
Chuck Garric: Harmonica (Schools Out).

The Concert In Review…

The short concert you get here was recorded on the 6th of October 2015, at Good Records in Dallas, Texas. As for the name they gave to the venue it was a pink-coloured piece of Astroturf they had used to cover the stage. So if like myself you were wondering where the hell is ASTROTURF?! they were standing on it. I have to admit looking at the record store it’s hardly the place one would expect to put on a concert though solo artists such as Richard Thompson and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) have performed in a bookstore before now.

It’s also not unusual for certain artists to hire themselves out for private gigs in your own house providing you have the money to pay for it of course, though you would have to have a big house and a lot more dosh to hire a band. Being the proprietor of a record store Chris Penn is very business minded and has his own record label under the same name as the store so he was able to recuperate some of the losses staging an event such as the one we have here.

As with any event it also has to be planned and a lot went into the preparation to put on the show including knowing when Alice was going to be touring in the state with his own band and knowing what days he had off to be able to put in an appearance. His appearance was also going to be a surprise for the fans and to make that happen he had to knock down part of the building to get him in there without being seen.

As with any band that gets back together for a one-off event such as this you can expect nothing but hits so the band’s first two albums Pretties For You and Easy Action were never gonna get a look in so to speak. After a short introduction, three of the band members take to the stage (excluding Alice) and roll out “Caught in a Dream” which was the opening song on the band’s third album Love It To Death. It was also penned solely by Michael Bruce who gets to take on the lead vocals this time and does a really good job of it.

They then turn their attention to the band’s 4th album Killer and this is where Alice makes his entrance along with his longtime lead guitarist from his own band Ryan Roxie who is standing in for the late Glen Buxton and they roll out “Be My Lover“. It’s pretty much this 5 piece lineup that rolls out the rest of the hits including their number #1 hit single “I’m Eighteen” that got the ball rolling for the band and established them.

They then proceed to roll out “Is It My Body“, “No More Mr. Nice Guy“, “Under My Wheels” and “School’s Out” to which the latter of those Chuck Garric contribute a bit of harmonica too. The only other album that does not get a look in that came out of the original Alice Cooper Band discography is the band’s 7th studio album Muscle of Love. The band then exit the stage and return for an encore and rock out “Elected” which ends off the show in fine style and puts an end to it all. Although the CD is not quite over as it also includes an instrumental version of “Desperado” which was recorded the night before as a soundcheck by the original three band members which was not included in the 2018 release.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Live From The Astroturf by the Alice Cooper Band. What you are getting here is a short or mini concert of the original lineup’s greatest hits performed more or less by the original Alice Cooper band and I feel that would be enough alone to entice many to buy this package. However, I personally feel that the package is more grandeur than it appears to be and the Blu Ray that comes accompanied with the CD should have come free. I do however feel it’s a very well-put-together package but I cannot help feeling that it’s well overpriced and should have been put out as a CHEAPO!

That’s not to say that the concert has not been well recorded and produced because I feel they have not only captured the true sound of the live performance but the venue itself and it is without a doubt a very good recording and the production is fine. The CD is the winner in this package and given the fact that you are getting less than half an hour of real music content is what defines why it should have been put out as CHEAPO! I do feel the inclusion of blu ray is what has bumped up the price and if it was to be released on CD alone it should have retailed around £8 in relation to the price of a conventional album that sells at £12.

Although the main and extra features on the blu ray have been very well filmed, all the video content looks like it was made for Television in relation to a live concert filmed at a larger venue with all the lighting and stage props. However one must remember that what you are really getting here is a documented event which is why it would not make a blind bit of difference if you have this on Blu Ray or DVD regarding the quality of the content. This is also the reason why I feel that this package is overpriced and it should have retailed for £12 and not £16.99 or more in places.

I guess at the end of the day in relation to anything really new the package we have here takes you more or less on a trip down memory lane. It’s a very good one I might add but down to its pricing structure, I could not really recommend it.


The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

01. The Eighth Wonder of the World… (Intro). 0:59.
02. Caught in a Dream. 3:19.
03. Be My Lover. 3:30.
04. Whatever He’s Doing It’s Illegal (Banter). 0:27.
05. I’m Eighteen. 3:33.
06. We Haven’t Done This One in About, What, 40 Years? (Banter). 0:25.
07. Is It My Body. 2:40.
08. Threatened for a Month (Banter). 0:39.
09. No More Mr. Nice Guy. 3:08.
10. I Guess Things Are Getting Better for You (Banter). 0:59.
11. Under My Wheels. 3:00.
12. It’s a Dangerous Place to Be (Banter). 1:15.
13. School’s Out. 3:19.
14. More Fun Than It’s Supposed to Be (Banter). 3:17.
15. Elected. 3:59.
16. School’s Not over Until You Vote (Outro). 0:53.
17. Desperado (Instrumental Bonus-Track). 3:37.

Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.
Price Point Rating Score. 5/10.
Picture & Sound Quality Rating Score. 8/10.
Bonus Material Rating Score. 5/10.
Overall Concert Rating. 6/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#218

Patient Number 9 – Ozzy Osbourne


Well, it was only a couple of years ago that Ozzy Osbourne made quite a stir with the release of his 12th studio album Ordinary Man which was his first studio album release in a decade. Given his age and in particular his health condition I personally thought that it might just be his last studio album. However, it appears that the prince of darkness is not ready to bow out on us just yet and he’s back with yet another studio album and one that is just as promising. Even at the age of 73, Ozzy can still deliver the goods and sounds as well as he did back in his heyday in some respects.

To be honest the same could be said for Alice Cooper who is a year older and although both singers were never in the same league as Robert Plant and Ian Gillan when it comes to the greatest voices of rock music, both Ozzy and Alice have come out of the ageing process with their voices unscathed and still intact in their ripe old age which is more than I could ever say about the other two whose voices have dropped a few notes over the years. The ageing process affects the biggest majority of singers over the years and there are not many singers who can still sound like they did back in their heyday especially as well as these two.

Although both Plant and Gillan can still very much perform today like Elton John, they have had to adapt their voices by transposing the music to be able to carry on as well as they do. Though none of them could sing their older songs and make them sound as well as they were in their heyday so to speak. However, they are still worth seeing which is more than I could say for Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull who perhaps should have given up years ago.

Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album Patient Number 9 comes across as even more powerful and is steered once again by his collaboration with the young producer Andrew Watt. His work with Ozzy more or less continues from where they left off with the previous album and much of the same crew is still very much on board. Although they also threw in a couple of legendary guitarists and two guitarists from Ozzy’s longtime career into the melting pot and there can be no doubt this album certainly delivers the goods.

Packaging & Artwork…

The disc comes in a plastic jewel case and the fact that it does is a bit disappointing especially as his last release came in a 3-panel cardboard Digisleeve (Digifile). There is however another alternative Limited Edition package that the CD was also released in which I will go into more detail about in the Release Edition section of my review. It was however good to see that the jewel case came with only two placeholders to hold the booklet instead of three which can make it a nightmare to retrieve the booklet.

Speaking of the booklet this one comes with 16-pages and although there is no formative content it does come with the lyrics and the usual production liner notes. I managed to pick up my copy for £9 from Amazon UK by taking advantage of a one-off Click & Collect promotion they were offering at the time.

The artwork, design and layout were done by Jeff Schulz who also was the same chap who did the design for Ordinary Man. The cover art was done by I Love Dust who are based in the UK and also do work for Sony Music Entertainment. Taking care of the photography was Ross Halfin whose photos have appeared in countless magazines, posters, tour programs and just about anything you could name.

Release Editions…

As with many new releases, there is always an array of various physical formats to suit your pocket, it’s also good to see that the physical format is on the up in relation to download and streaming these days. I personally think it makes sense especially when you can pick up the CD for more or less the same price as a Digital Download, and the CD package below is the cheapest way of obtaining the album. It’s also my preferred choice and can be had for around £12.

There is also an alternative CD Edition that is limited and comes in a 3-panel cardboard Oversized Softpack (as seen below) and there were a couple of things that put me off this release the first of which is that it is oversized. Honestly designers these days must come with the brains of a rocking horse and the flaw with this design being oversized is that in most media storage cabinets there is no way you will be able to store it along with your other Ozzy albums.

The second thing that put me off was its ridiculous price point and the cheapest I saw this for was £16 and in most places, you can pay anywhere from £18 – £22. The booklet even has fewer pages and you only get 12-pages with this release. It does however come with a poster which might come in handy should you run out of toilet paper 😊😊😊.

One of the other older formats that is making a comeback these days is the Cassette and the very fact that it is gives the music industry another opportunity to rip you off. In all honesty, I consider the price of vinyl these days a rip-off but this really takes the biscuit or in plain English terms the piss.

I’ve always seen the Cassette as the lowest of the low when it comes to physical formats and these things can easily get mangled no matter how well you maintain your Cassette player. Speaking of players or decks you really need an older one in relation to the ones that are sold new on the market today. The fact that they stopped making them for a long period of time very much reflects how poorly built they are these days. The other thing that is missing from Cassettes you buy these days is Dolby Noise Reduction so you will have to make do with all the hiss.

Back in the days when Cassettes were more popular, the pre-recorded album sold slightly cheaper than a vinyl album and I was absolutely both shocked and stunned to see that these days they are selling between £18 – £28. These are absolutely rip-off prices in my book and the recording company is taking people for a right MUG! They must think we are all LOONIES! 😊😊😊.

For vinyl lovers, there is a wide choice of colours to choose from most of which are limited to around 500 copies. There are actually more colours than I have on display here and some even come with a comic book. Unlike the previous release of Ordinary Man, it has been pressed onto 2 X 180gram LP’s.

There is also a picture disc and prices range from around £28 – £32 for the coloured vinyl and around £38 for the picture disc. Surprisingly the 2 LP’s come in a single sleeve instead of a Gatefold and they really are cutting corners with this release.

The Album In Review…

Ozzy Osbourne’s 13th studio album Patient Number 9 was released on the 9th of September 2022. To tie in with the number of the release it comes with 13 tracks spread over an overall playing time of 61 minutes, 10 seconds. It is perhaps on the lengthy side and quite a bit to digest, though not really a double album’s worth of material and the fact that they have had to use two LP’s to squeeze it on makes it even more expensive for vinyl lovers.

The album was received very well upon its release and did better than his previous album reaching number 1′ on the US Billboard charts and number 2′ on the UK’s official album charts. It also hit the number-one spot in Canada, Sweden and Czechoslovakia and the music press had plenty of good things to say about it. Metal Hammer gave it a raving review stating the following:

“Despite everything you may have heard about Ozzy being on his last legs, Patient Number 9 unequivocally does not sound like the work of a man living on borrowed time. Instead, it sounds like the Prince of fucking Darkness having an absolutely smashing time, with a bunch of his mates and, weirdly, a newfound sense of artistic ambition”.

Speaking of mates both guitarists Zakk Wylde and his former bandmate Tony Iommi appear on the album. The latter of the two also appeared with him on stage in August this year performing “Paranoid” at the closing of the Commonwealth Games which was held n my home town of Birmingham.

It was Ozzy’s first live performance in nearly three years and his first since undergoing a major operation on his neck in the summer of this year. Ozzy has certainly been in the wars over the years regarding his health and is still fighting an ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease. He has also scheduled a tour for next year and so far has announced 19 dates between May and June across Europe and the UK.

More recently on the 8th of September Ozzy put in another short live performance at the SoFi Stadium in California for the opening of the match between the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills. In both of these live performances, you can clearly see and hear that Ozzy has not lost one single shred of his voice.

He still even looks the part though no doubt the makeup contributes a lot to that, even so I very much doubt that no makeup artist could make Keith Richards look any younger he may even be proof of the living dead 😊😊😊. Joking apart I do think as well as Ozzy looks in these live performances they are only short appearances in relation to going out and touring and playing a whole show. It would not surprise me if many of the scheduled tour dates get cancelled due to his health issues.

Speaking of other guitarists the other two legendary guitar players that make a contribution to the album are Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready also so gets to feature on a track and just like his last album, there are an array of musicians that have been brought in. No expense has been spared and fingers crossed that he is able to fulfil these tour dates to pay for it all.

As with the previous album, most of the material was recorded at Andrew Watt’s own studios Gold Tooth Music in Beverly Hills. He along with Osbourne contributed to most of the writing along with the other musicians who make up the main core of the band such as Metalica’s bassist Robert Trujillo and drummer Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan and the Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins also get writing credits and it appears that almost everyone who played on the album got a writing credit. Although the singer-songwriter Ali Tamposi does not appear on the album, she also contributes to the writing of most of the songs and even Iommi is credited to one of them.

Various other studios were also utilised and used by some of the guest guitarists such as Beck, Clapton and Iommi who would have recorded their parts at their own studios and sent the stems to Watt to be mixed into the final mixing process by mixing engineer Alan Moulder. The album was mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis studios in London, England where even that can be done online these days.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Andrew Watt. Recorded at Gold Tooth Music Studios Beverly Hills, US. Additional Studio’s Mill House, The Black Vatican & Tone Hall. Engineered by Paul LaMalfa. Additional Engineering by Marco Sonzini & Mike Exeter. Mixing Engineer Alan Moulder. Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis, London. Artwork Design by Jeff Schulz. Cover Art by iLove Dust. Photography by Ross Halfin.

Ozzy Osbourne: Lead Vocals – Harmonica (Tracks 10 & 13).
Andrew Watt: Guitar (Tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12) – Bass Guitar (Tracks 4, 6, 7, 9, 12) – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12) – Piano (Tracks 3, 6, 12) – Drums (Tracks 11,& 12) – Backing Vocals.
Zakk Wylde: Guitar (Tracks 1, 3, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12) – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5, 7, 8, 9).
Robert Trujillo: Bass (Tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Chad Smith: Drums (Tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).

Additional Musicians.
Jeff Beck: Guitar (Tracks 1 & 6).
Tony Iommi: Guitar (Tracks 4 & 10).
Eric Clapton: Guitar (Track 5).
Mike McCready: Guitar (Track 2)
Josh Homme: Guitar (Track 12).
Robert Trujillo: Bass (Tracks 1, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12).
Duff McKagan: Bass (Tracks 2 & 5).
Chris Chaney: Bass (Track 8).
Taylor Hawkins: Drums (Tracks 3, 7, 12).
James Poyser: Organ (Track 5).

String Arrangments by David Campbell. Violin Players: Charlie Bisharat, Roberto Cani, Mario DeLeon, Nina Evtuhov, Songa Lee, Natalie Leggett, Philipp Levy, Alyssa Park, Michele Richards, Neil Samples, Jennifer Takamatsu, Kerenza Peackock & Sara Parkins. Viola Players: Andrew Duckles, Zachary Dellinger & David Walther. Cello Players: Jacob Braun, Paula Hochhalter & Ross Gasworth.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Ozzy’s new album Patient Number 9 has received so many favourable reviews that it has been nominated for Best Rock Album at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards. It’s a very powerful album and so heavy that it’s verging more towards heavy metal than rock in parts, though that particular genre has always played a part in his career since his days with Black Sabbath which many have cited as the band that started it all off. I would personally go along with that myself simply because when Sabbath released their debut album back in 1970 I cannot recall any other band sounding as heavy as they were.

Over the years many other forms or genres of metal have appeared including thrash, grunge and all sorts many of which are not to my personal taste especially those with singers that growl in relation to singing. Over the years Ozzy’s style of music has never really changed and I have yet to hear a really bad album amongst the twelve that were put out before the one we have here. Granted some are better than others and no doubt everyone will have their GOTO! albums that they will more often go to out of the dozen albums that have surfaced since his solo career took off back in 1980.

When you look at the biggest majority of artists, you will find most classic songs come from their earlier albums in relation to the many that come along after. Personally, I’ve never found that to be the case with Ozzy and over the years many of his albums have churned out some really GREAT! classic songs. I could also say the same for the time he spent with Sabbath and that band churned out many classics between 1970 – 1976. So let’s now delve into his latest album and see if we can find any more.

Track 1. Patient Number 9.

The album kicks off in fine style and speaking of styles the intro in particular borders around Alice Cooper’s style, so too does the lyrical content that evolves around the subject matter of being locked up in a loony bin so to speak. Even the BEATLE-ESC! come-down section that comes into play around the 4-minute and 35-second mark has a resemblance musically to Cooper’s 1975 album Welcome To My Nightmare. Though regardless of the similarities and comparisons there can be no doubt that this is 100% Ozzy Osbourne and he is back to his very best.

“Patient Number 9” is a song that’s fueled on heavy distortion and I must admit when I first heard this particular track Ozzy’s voice was not exactly projecting to me as I have come to know it over all these years. However, on the second listen it soon became quite apparent that this is the voice of Ozzy back in his heyday and his voice has never changed over all those years. The way his voice cuts through all the distortion tells me that this is a very good mix even if the distortion does make it feel like there is a lot of mud flying around.

It’s the longest track on the album weighing in at 7-minutes, 22-seconds and the way the song diverts its direction could be seen as verging on the PROGMATIC! side of things, though perhaps not as much as “Revelation (Mother Earth)” from his debut album. It’s also one of two tracks on the album to feature Jeff Beck on guitar, although his distinguishing guitar style does not resonate with me here and if somebody had told me that Beck was playing the guitar on this track I would most likely say “you’ve got to be kidding me”.

The more I got to hear this song, the more I got to like it and it has a very catchy chorus that is that strong it will have you singing along with it in no time at all. It takes a good song to do that and it’s easy to see how the album’s self-titled track (which was the first single release) reached number one on the American Billboard Hot Hard Rock Songs chart on the 22nd of June. It is without a doubt one of the many standout tracks on this album and could even be seen as a classic. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and picks up the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 2. Immortal.

One of the shorter songs on the album and this is a song about vampires and not Keith Richards to which some would presume he is immortal. The song features Pearl Jam’s guitarist Mike McCready and is driven along by a simple riff that makes the song very familiar with some of Ozzy’s earlier songs from his first 4 albums. You could say that Ozzy is barking at the moon once again and once again this is like hearing the man himself back in his heyday.

Track 3. Parasite.

One of the four songs on the album to feature Ozzy’s longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde who does some blistering lead work on this one. It’s a very hard-driven song where the riff is verging towards a Sabbath riff and oddly enough Ozzy’s vocal line in the verse sections as me thinking of “Gypsies Tramps & Thieves” by Sonny & Cher, although the grinding metal and lyrical content are completely different. Apparently, Ozzy likes worms and the ones eating him inside in this haunting tale is that of his father who appears to be clinging to him like a leech so to speak.

Track 4. No Escape from Now.

There are no escaping Tony Iommi’s guitar riffs just as sure as there is no escaping the absurdity in the world and the lyrical content we have here could easily be referring to the political madness that exists in the world today along with all the other mayhem that goes with it. With Iommi’s presence, we are instantly reminded of Sabbath with the musical side of things and the intro and outro will have you thinking along the lines of “Planet Caravan” from the band’s second studio album Paranoid in particular with the Leslie speaker that Ozzy used to create the vocal effect.

Like the opening track, this is a song that goes through some diverse changes and even Iommi’s lead break that comes into play at the 4:46 mark will put you in mind of Sabbath. It perhaps is not as catchy as the opening track but I personally think the lyrical side of things we have here is very cleverly written and they hold this song up as much as the musical side of things.

Track 5. One Of Those Days. 

Anger and depression spring to mind with the subject matter behind the lyrical content of this song and I’m sure we hall have had one of those days when we don’t believe in Jesus or God for that matter, especially when one loses a loved one. Although these days with all the corruption, insanity and mayhem that is going on throughout the world that also could equate to having one of these days. Unlike the previous song, I personally think the lyrical side of things could have been done better and even though they do get to the point one could perhaps derive something else from them than how I see it.

It’s a song that features yet another legendary guitarist Eric Clapton and unlike the albums self-titled track that features Jeff Beck, you can instantly identify Clapton’s formidable style. Ozzy specifically pointed out that he wanted Clapton to play WAH! on the track as he recalled from his days with Cream all those years ago, there is no denying that Clapton did precisely what was required and his playing on this instantly reminds me of “White Room” from all those years ago as you will hear in the official video release of the song.

Despite the weak lyrics, I do feel the musical side of things holds this song up very well and along with the opening track, it’s very much another one of the stand-out tracks on the album and in contention for the album’s TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 6. A Thousand Shades.

The second of the two tracks to feature Jeff Beck and this one is perhaps more suited for his particular style to resonate more than the albums opening track. Oddly enough it also has a BEATLE-ESC! feel about it and Beck does an excellent job to make his presence known on the solo. The subject matter behind the lyrics may very well be pointing out how nothing ever really changes and the more they do they remain the same.

It’s very much another quality well-written song that utilises a strong string section conducted and arranged by David Campbell. It is also another of the album’s stand-out tracks and one I am sure will be a firm favourite with many.

Track 7. Mr. Darkness.

It appears that the prince of darkness is either writing letters to the devil or somebody is writing to the man himself. However, the lyrical content could also be pointing to a desperate cry for help and the fact that no reply is coming is a means to end it all. Whatever the lyrical side of things is related to in this song there is a sense of desperation, loss and loneliness. Musically the song has some powerful transitions that raise the game to rock it out a bit more and give it a bit more edge, and Wylde’s lead lines are quite blistering.

Track 8. Nothing Feels Right.

Like the previous song, the lyrical content is derived around wanting to put an end to it all perhaps a bit like “Suicide Solution” in this case as far as the lyrics are concerned. It also features some fine lead work by Zakk Wylde as with the previous song and has perhaps a bit more melodic structure to it. There are some GREAT! melodies that pop out on quite a few tracks on the album and this is easily another stand-out track on the album and one that should sit with many methinks.

Track 9. Evil Shuffle.

The heavy tones are back and this is Wylde’s final contribution to the album to which he is supported very well by Robert Trujillo’s bass. Although it’s not “Evil Woman” or even “Dirty Women” for that matter, there is a Sabbath vibe with the weight of the metal on this song. One could also say that darkness looms into the realms of madness regarding the lyrical content here and one could say that Ozzy is dancing with the devil.

Track 10. Degradation Rules.

The second of the tracks to feature Tony Iommi and he also gets a writing credit on this one. Ozzy’s harmonica may have you thinking along the lines of “The Wizard” though it’s far removed from that Sabbath song and drives along at a faster pace. It’s a song about masturbation and there are not a lot of lyrics in the song though what makes it work more than anything is how Ozzy phrases the words.

Track 11. Dead and Gone.

There is no doubt that Andrew Watt had listened to Ozzy’s back catalogue when putting some of these songs together and the bass line on this particular song harks back to the self-titled track from Ozzy’s fourth album Ultimate Sin. This song also sounds like it had a different production in relation to the rest of the songs on the album and it also makes use of Campbell’s section to drive it along in parts.

Track 12. God Only Knows.

This is another song that harks back to Ozzy’s past and this song has an even stronger resemblance to his earlier material and is like a cross between “I Don’t Know” and “No More Tears” to some degree, especially with how Ozzy phrases his words. I am sure there are other things thrown in the pot here that hark back to his earlier days. This could easily be seen as another stand-out track on the album and the chorus line is so strong it will have you singing along to it. However, the similarities are perhaps a bit too obvious for my liking.

Track 13. Darkside Blues.

The album ends off with a bit of blues and this short little ditty of a song was most likely left over from the previous album and was used as a bonus track on the Japanese release of Ordinary Man. It was written by Osbourne and Watt and it is only the two of them who are playing on this one and both are having a good bit of fun with the blues by the sound of things. It’s perhaps unusual for Ozzy to play the blues and it puts the album to bed quite well methinks.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Patient Number 9 by Ozzy Osbourne, I very much think that this is very much an album that is up there with the best of them and in terms of ranking Ozzy’s studio albums, this would easily sit in my top five of his albums along with Blizzard Of Ozz, Diary Of A Madman, No More Tears and Ozzmosis. Although the album is on the lengthy side and may have worked better by trimming it down by 10 or 15 minutes, I do feel there are quite a good few standout tracks to keep one more attentive towards the album.

I would not say that it’s a solid album by any means but then again I don’t personally think there is a bad track among the 13 you get here it is quite a strong body of work and the material holds up very well. I would also say considering Ozzy’s age and his recent health issues this is quite a remarkable achievement. Although I am not into the musician side of Andrew Watt I have to give praise to his production skills and his attention to detail towards Osbourne’s music in particular plays a pivotal point in how well the material on this album stands out so well.

From recent interviews, I have seen of Ozzy a lot of how his voice still sounds like it did back in his heyday comes from the way he double-tracks his vocals though it would not surprise me if some tweaking as been done in the studio process. But then again his voice has never really changed over the years and even when I saw him live with Black Sabbath back in 1999 he sang those songs like he did on the studio albums and never struggled with a single note and sang them with ease.

Listening to Ozzy on this album there is no way you could call him an old fart and he is without a doubt back to his very best. Patient Numer 9 is an album that will rock your socks off in a good way and an album I would consider a must for all Ozzy fans and rockers alike. This could very well be Ozzy’s final album but if it is I certainly think he’s gone out on a high and an album I would highly recommend. It has so many stand-out tracks it’s almost like a Greatist Hits album my personal highlights are as follows: “Patient Number 9“, “No Escape From Now“, “One Of Those Days“, “A Thousand Shades“, “Nothing Feels Right” and “God Only Knows“.

A Positive Album To Go Out On…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:
01. Patient Number 9. 7:22.
02. Immortal. 3:03.
03. Parasite.4:05.
04. No Escape From Now. 6:46.
05. One Of Those Days. 4:40.
06. A Thousand Shades. 4:26.
07. Mr. Darkness. 5:35.
08. Nothing Feels Right. 5:35.
09. Evil Shuffle. 4:10.
10. Degradation Rules. 4:10.
11. Dead And Gone. 4:32.
12. God Only Knows. 5:00.
13. Darkside Blues. 1:49.

The Packaging Rating Score. 8/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Album Rating Score. 8/10.


Lee Speaks About Music…#217

Seconds Out & More – Steve Hackett


Another live release by Steve Hackett and I guess many will be left thinking just how many live albums does one really need? Over the past decade, Hackett does tend to put out more than other artists and his live releases are more or less being put out at the same rate as his studio albums. I have to admit that even I was a bit susceptible to getting this one and I never pre-ordered it and brought it after its release. A couple of things spurred me on in the end to purchase it, the first of which would have been the review on the Classic Album Review on the Tube a month ago and the final temptation was via many of the recommendations that pop up in my email from Amazon.

One of the things I took note of in particular about Barry’s review was really how well he described the sound and recording of the live show, he even went on to say that it sounded better than the original double live album that Genesis had put out themselves all those years ago down to today’s technology. Though I have to admit I took that with a pinch of salt simply because the double live album Seconds Out that was released back in 1977 was a very good recording so too was the bands Live album that was put out in 1973. The latter of those two live albums still gets more spins even today than any of these Genesis Revisited tribute albums that Hackett is churning out.

To be perfectly honest there are many reasons I could think of not to purchase yet another live album from Hackett many of which I described in my review of his 2020 live release of Selling England By The Pound & Spectral Mornings Live At Hammersmith found here: https://leespeaksoutaboutmusic.wordpress.com/2020/10/17/lee-speaks-about-music-165/ The question is am I really getting anything different and was it worth it? Before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging.

Packaging & Artwork…

The discs come in a cardboard 3-panel Digipak much like the usual way Hackett puts out his live albums though I will say the cardboard this time around is a bit on the thinner side. Unlike most of the packages, he puts out this one comes in a cardboard slipcase that is normally described as a hardshell case when used with standard jewel cases. Although with the material being on the thinner side I would hardly describe it like that at all and they have cut down on cost a bit here by the looks of things.

It does not come with a booklet and all the liner, production notes and photos are printed on the inside of the packaging itself and you will have to remove the discs to get at them. It also has a brief write-up about the album by Hackett himself printed on one of the outer panels and I suppose in a way that it’s a blessing to see more information in relation to photographs that can tend to be the norm with how his albums are packaged.

Overall the packaging is well neat and tidy and does the job. I purchased my copy from Amazon UK for £17.99 which I consider a respectable enough price point considering you are getting two CD’s and a Blu Ray and I have no real complaints here.

The package design was done by Thomas Ewerhard and like many live concerts was done with the use of photographs taken at the concert that were provided and taken by Lee Millward, David Clay, Chris Simmons and Jason Gilchrist.

Release Editions.
As far as I am aware Hackett’s latest live album was released in the form of three physical formats with both the 2 CD/DVD and 2 CD/Blu Ray packages around the same price and there may only be a couple of pounds difference between the both. I do believe both of these packages are also Limited Editions.

It’s also released on Vinyl for all those that prefer that format. It’s priced at around £40 on Amazon UK which is not too bad at all considering you get 4 X 180gram LP’s plus a couple of CD’s thrown in to boot. Makes you wonder how some artists charge between £20 – £30 for a single LP and there certainly cannot be a shortage of vinyl especially when the biggest majority of PROG! albums are put out on more than one LP.

Seconds Out & More In Review…

Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out & More by Steve Hackett was released on the 2nd of September 2022. It’s very much a concert that captures Hackett and his band performing the whole of the original setlist from that live album that he played many moons ago with his former band Genesis. The “More” side of things consists of some of his own solo material both new and old. Regarding the band lineup, it’s pretty much the same band that featured with him on his last tour minus his brother John Hackett.

In many ways going to see Steve Hackett live these days is a bit like going to see Roger Waters in that both artists tend to play more of the music from their former bands than their own solo material. Though I will say the ticket prices to see Waters live will cost a lot more than an arm and a leg though he does tend to put on the bigger shows and they cost a hell of a lot more to put them on which is why they can run into hundreds of pounds. I would also say that it is very much the music from their former bands that is the main attraction and bring in the crowds at their concerts.

To be honest I have no idea how much it was to see Hackett last year but looking at the price of the tickets for the same venue he is playing again this year they are quite reasonable and range from around £45 – £65. Though of course, the size of the venue will also reflect in the price of the ticket. These days I tend to stick with the price of the blu ray and I remember seeing him back in his heyday for not much more than the price of an album. Some artists I got to see for less than that price which would have cost around £3 back then unlike the price of vinyl today.

The one thing I will say about both of these artists is that as old as they are in their ripe old age, both are still able and capable of giving you your money’s worth at their shows and are still worthy of going to see live unlike some who should have perhaps retired years ago. They both appear to have weathered well in their old age as well. I would also suspect that if both were to play just their own solo material live ticket prices would be a lot cheaper and even I could afford to go and see them these days 😊😊😊.

To be honest, you would think as one gets older they might take things a bit easier but Hackett put on quite an extensive world tour for this event touring all over the world travelling to places as far as New Zealand and Australia. Right off the back of it, he’s even put on another tour to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Genesis album Foxtrot and still has some rescheduled dates from the Seconds Out tour to do at the same time. How he’s going to work both sets I have no idea and by the looks of things this guy won’t stop til he drops 😊😊😊.

I daresay there will be another live release next year and I will most likely end up buying and reviewing that, though I will say these things are very reasonably priced and are not going to break your bank account or even empty your wallet. You do get quality for the buck with these live releases and I like the fact that Hackett puts out his concerts on Blu Ray offering you the highest quality. So let’s now take a look at what you get for your money with package contents.

CD’s 1 & 2.

The couple of CD’s that come in the package contains the concert audio. The first disc comes with a total playing time of 70 minutes, 21 seconds and the second disc is slightly shorter at 68 minutes, 4 seconds. It’s over a two-hour show and I’m pretty sure that all of the songs that are on the setlist of the blu ray are here and the only thing missing is some of the talking in between the songs.

To be honest as a rule I don’t bother with the CD’s and I don’t see the point especially as the package comes with a DVD or Blu Ray so you can actually watch the show. It’s not as if Blu Ray Players are expensive to buy these days and there are some excellent budget players that are more than capable of giving you high-end quality, Sony makes some very good ones. I did however pop one of the CD’s into my player just to check that the sound quality was OK and it’s very good. 

Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray that comes in these packages is where my money is spent and this one comes with a straightforward main menu where you can easily pick your preference of watching the concert with Stereo or Surround without having to go into an Audio Setup menu. Both are 48K/24Bit and it’s good to see that no Dolby Digital low-end formats have been used here. The Stereo mix is in LPCM and you also get a DTS-HD Master 5.1 mix for the surround.

The “Song Menu” (as you can see above) is split over two screens and from here you can simply select any of the 18 tracks in the setlist. It does not take long for each screen to load either unlike some menus and you get to see and hear different segments of the live concert on each menu.  

The Final “Bonus Menus” contains the extra content and here you get a 26-minute documentary with all the band members speaking about the live tour and how it’s going sort of thing. It’s very much like the short documentaries that have come with his previous live releases.

You also get four promo videos and I am pretty sure you will find these on various other albums that Hackett has put out in the past and there is nothing really new here. To be honest these are not the best of quality either in comparison to the ones I already have and the audio jumps on all four of them at the beginning of each one. Apart from the documentary, there is very little to take from the extras here. 

Picture, Editing & Audio.

As with the previous concert, the concert footage was directed and produced by Paul M Green of Film 24 Productions he also did the film editing. The concert itself was captured by a 10-man crew of camera operators and was captured with HD cameras. The picture quality is quite sharp and pristine as expected although I did notice a few camera shakes during some parts of the show and somebody obviously had the jitters 😊😊😊. However, overall there is nothing to really complain about here regarding the picture and the editing.

Both stereo and surround mixes were done by Roger King and when it comes to the 5.1 mix he’s perhaps not in the same league as Steve Wilson however as I have mentioned many times he is getting better and improving all the time. I think with most of King’s live surround mixes it’s only certain instruments that will fly out of the woodwork every now and then rather than completely utilise the 5 channels all of the time. The biggest majority of the time he tends to utilise the rear channels for crowd noise and his keyboards.

One of the notable things with this surround mix is that he’s also utilised some of the percussion played by Rob Townsend on electric drum pads in the rear channels. Though he has placed them in the centre whereas I personally think they would have been better placed to one of the sides to give them that bit more of an effect as you will hear on Fleetwood Mac’s live concert The Dance and Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles that were both mixed by Elliot Scheiner.

It would have also been nice to have placed Townsend’s sax in the rear to give the sound more of a piercing effect as this instrument can project. Though overall King has done quite a very good job here and the only thing I could really criticise is that the volume needed to be turned up where Hackett is speaking to the audience and this is a bit annoying having to do that yourself to hear what the hell he is saying. However, regardless of that, the sound quality of both stereo and surround mixes are very good and the 5.1 mix is perhaps worthy of an 8 out of 10. 

Musicians & Credits…

Directed & Produced by Paul M Green of Film 24 Productions. Concert Sound Recording by Will Shapland & James Deacon. Recording Engineer Benedict Fenner of Front House Sound. Editing & Authoring by Paul M Green. Camera Operators Chris Flemming, Anthony Graham, James Fox, Stephen Lay, Gwyn Hemmings, Zak Laflamme, Claudia Moss, Kate Harvest, Gareth Taylor & Alfie Warnham. Camera Assistant Paul Pentland. Behind the scenes filmed by James Fox. Stereo & Surround Mixes by Roger King. Cover Design by Thomas Ewerhard. Photography by Lee Millward, David Clay, Chris Simmons and Jason Gilchrist.

Steve Hackett: Guitar/Vocals.
Roger King: Keyboards.
Rob Townsend: Saxophone/Woodwind/Percussion/Vocals/Keyboards/Bass Pedals.
Jonas Reingold: Bass/Bass Pedals/Variax/Twelve String Guitar/Vocals.
Craig Blundell: Drums/Percussion/Vocals.
Nad Sylvan: Vocals/Tambourine.

Special Guest.
Amanda Lehmann: Vocals/Guitar.

The Concert In Review…

Steve Hackett kicked off his Seconds Out & More world tour on the 10th of September 2021 in the UK playing 31 shows at 28 different venues. He then played a further 20 shows in the rest of Europe before heading off to America to play a further 32 shows before playing a one-off show in New Zealand, 5 shows in Australia and 3 shows in Japan before heading back to Europe to play a further 11 shows finishing it off at the Cropredy Festival back in the UK on the 12th of August 2022.  

He’s back out on the road now doing the Foxtrot At 50 + Hackett Highlights tour and for the last couple of months of this year, he will be jetting back off to the US and Canada to complete some of the cancellations from his previous tour. I daresay next he will be doing a Hackett In His 70’s tour and a Don’t Stop Til You Drop tour. However, all jokes aside it’s good to see that he is very sensible in planning out his tours by scheduling breaks at certain points to take a well-earned rest.

The show that was captured on film here is from the first leg of the UK Tour at the O2 Manchester Apollo on 24th September 2021. To be honest you would have thought they would have filmed the show at the London Palladium because that was the only venue they played at more than once and played 3 nights there. Though I daresay if they had done the concert footage would be stitched together like most live concerts and the good thing here is that at least you are getting an honest performance with warts and all filmed on the night.

Like many venues in the UK, the name attached to them these days such as the O2 Apollo was given to them around 2010 basically because they are sponsored by the UK mobile network company O2. Although this particular venue has always had the name Apollo attached to it and was originally opened by the actress Margret Lockwood on the 29th of August 1938. Like many old buildings, it was originally a cinema and variety theatre and was called the Manchester Apollo.

The art deco-style building was designed by three architects Peter Cummings, Alex Irvine, and R. Gillespie Williams and in the 70’s it stopped functioning as a cinema house and was used solely for music. It originally had a seating capacity of 1,750 people these days it has doubled that and now holds around 3,500.

Many bands and artists have played at the venues such as ACDC, Queen, Genesis, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, U2, The Who, The Arctic Monkeys, Johnny Marr and Morrissey just to name a few. The Beatles even played there back in the ’60’s so to did the Stones.

It’s a very popular venue to play at in Manchester and besides musical acts, many comedians have also used the venue. It’s smaller venues like this that also help to keep down ticket prices and it’s good to see that they are still being utilised.

On With The Show…

The show is split into two sets and has an overall playing time of 2 hours and 27 minutes. The first set consists of Hackett’s solo material both old and new and is relatively short and lasts around 40 minutes, this is down to the Genesis Seconds Out setlist being quite a long set to perform. I personally do not think there are any real highlights in this first set and that would be down to the familiar ground in particular with the older songs he chose to do.

Though that’s not to take anything away from the performance but apart from “Clocks” which they kick off the show with, there is not a lot of any real difference in relation to other performances and it’s only really the odd cuckoo and chimes on the intro of this instrumental piece that adds something different to it. I would have liked to have seen a bit more improvisation thrown in, especially with these older numbers that appear to pop up at more or less every Hackett concert.

Up next we have one of two tracks that he chose to play from his latest studio album Surrender Of Silence. It’s also on this song “Held In The Shadows” that we get our first glimpse of Nad Sylvan who lends a hand with some backing vocals and shakes the tambourine now and then. With what little he has to do on this song I am not really sure he was needed. However, as another song from his third album, Spectral Mornings follows “Every Day” is perhaps a song with a band chorus where all hands are needed on deck so to speak.

It’s back to the new album once again and “The Devil’s Cathedral” is where Sylvan’s voice is more utilised as he sings the lead vocals on this song though I will stress that the newer material does not exactly light my fire in relation to the old classics he chose for this opening set. But once again the band pull off another fine performance and Sylvan exits the stage after it and does only appear on three of the five songs in this opening set. The final song in the first setlist “Shadow of the Hierophant” comes as no surprise and this song from Hackett’s debut album Voyage of the Acolyte does tend to get played to death with this lineup.

I expect the reason for that is that it gives Amanda Lehmann the chance to sing lead vocals and she does play on all five songs in this opening setlist. It is without a doubt a classic song but it’s about time Hackett got her to sing something else perhaps “Hoping Love Will Last” from his second album to give us something different for a change. It is perhaps understandable for wanting to play the new songs but I do feel it’s about time he mixed things up a bit more with the older material and something from Highly Strung and Till We Have Faces would not have gone amiss here.

The second set will be for many the attraction here in that the band (excluding Amanda Lehmann) perform the whole of the setlist that Genesis played back in 1976 and 1977 that went to make up the double live album Seconds Out that was released back in 1977. They also roll out all the numbers that made up that album in the same order. The good thing about this concert is that all the songs are performances from one show, unlike the original album which consisted of songs played at various live performances from two different venues.

The show gets off to a flying start with “Squonk” and this is one of three numbers from the band’s 1976 album Trick Of The Tail which they would have been promoting at the time. There is no doubt Hackett and his band are in fine form as seen by the official video release that was put out by the record label. Though it’s hardly surprising seeing as he and his band have performed 99.9% of the songs in this setlist before, the very fact that they have might also be one of the drawbacks of this particular live concert especially if you have the many live releases that Hackett has released. Though to be fair it is a very strong setlist and no performance is ever really the same.

One of the things notable from this opening song is that the bassist Jonas Reingold is also playing the guitar which he does quite often for quite a few of the songs in this setlist. It’s also notable that the biggest majority of the bass pedals are actually played by the band’s woodwind player Rob Townsend who incidentally plays a variety of instruments in this setlist including keyboards and percussion.

Another fine job is done with the lovely “Carpet Crawlers” and following this, we have “Robbery Assault and Battery” which is the only song in the entire set that Hackett and his band have never performed live before. I suppose in a way it could be seen as one of the highlights of the show and they really do pull this song off well with another excellent performance. To be honest I quite like this song unlike some who tend to write it off when speaking about the Trick Of The Tail album.

Although much of the material for the album Wind and Wuthering was written around the same time as the Trick Of The Tail album it took a while to develop it hence perhaps the reason why only one of the songs got to be played in this setlist. Personally, I think “Afterglow” is one of a couple of weaker songs on that album though they do a good convincing job of it here. It’s also the first song where you get to see that they have replicated more or less the original white lighting that was used on the original shows that genesis played back in 1976/77.

A song that is played at many of their shows “Firth of Fifth” will always be considered one of the highlights of the show and it is, without doubt, one of the finest songs the band ever wrote and one that Hackett himself has more of a role in with his guitar solo. When you look back at the older Genesis material Tony Banks never left enough space for guitar solos and many of the solos were played by himself on the keyboards, though the guitars did play an integral role to some degree.

One of the other drawbacks to this show is the lack of improvisation and even though no live performance is ever the same the very fact that this lineup has played these songs that many times before you do get a certain sense of it becoming a groundhog day sort of thing. “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” is one of the two songs in this set where they do tend to do things a bit differently, though I will say it’s not the first time I have seen them do something like this with it by adding a bit of fun in the middle section. Here they also start the song off differently and effectively I suppose how it is done is like participating with the audience and it gives Townsend in particular a chance to party with the audience on his sax.

If I had one gripe with this concert it would be on the next couple of songs that follow and although the performance of “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” is certainly very well executed (as you can see in the other official release from the concert) the very fact that they play it out with an ending before going into the closing section of “The Musical Box” is where this does not really GEL! at all.

Genesis was very much a band that knew precisely how to make a medley out of their songs and on the original Seconds Out live album the way they transcend the Lamb into the closing section of Musical Box is to perfection and if you are only going to do part of a song it needs to be done this way for it to work. Bringing the lamb to an end as they did was entirely the wrong thing to do because the only way you would ever make it work would be to play the whole of the Musical Box and not just the closing section as they did here. Doing what they did here makes the Musical Box totally out of context and I’m afraid it does not work at all for me.

No matter how you look at “Suppers Ready” it has to be another highlight and even though this long epic gets featured at many of Hackett’s more recent shows I cannot say I am tired of hearing them do it here either. Just like “Firth of Fifth” it’s very much the creme de la creme of all Genesis songs. Sadly it’s also the only time Hackett gets to play on the acoustic guitar which is really a feature that is missing from many of his more recent live shows. He’s also playing a most beautiful looking 12 string guitar too.

Another sure-fire classic is “The Cinema Show” and they play it in its entirety by including “Aisle of Plenty” I must say that Nad Sylvan handles the closing stages of the song very well and the words are a lot harder to fit in than you think. The musicians Hackett has onboard are all very well capable of pulling off these GREAT! songs and Roger King as a keyboardist is very much a perfectionist with all of Banks’s intricate keyboard work that he put into the original songs.

The band then exits the stage and comes back to play the final two songs which are both from the trick Of The Tail album to which they do a very fine job of “Dance On A Volcano” and the show gets closed off in fine style and this is once again where the white lighting returns and we also get a bit more improvisation with how “Slogans” from Hackett’s 4th album solo album Defector gets blended in very nicely into “Los Endos“. We also get a nice drum solo from Craig Blundell sandwiched in between these final two numbers who really has come on a lot since playing these old Genesis classics.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of Genesis Revisited: Seconds Out & More by Steve Hackett. It is one of the better recent concert shows and I think what holds this together more than anything is the Genesis setlist rather than the short span of time that was given to Hackett’s solo material. Seconds Out was always a strong double live album when it was released all those years ago it also showed that Phil Collins could not only cope with the newer material but the older material that was originally sung by Peter Gabriel. It comes from an era when Genesis was still Genesis in the PROG! sense of the word before they went off into the land of confusion and became more of a pop band sort of thing.

Regarding my original two-part question in my introduction, I would not personally say you were getting anything that much different in relation to many of the recent live concerts Hackett has put out. I think a lot of Hackett’s recent shows lack the right amount of improvisation to make them any different, the other factor is that he tends to stay away from acoustic sets in his more recent shows and that is perhaps why his older concerts are more of my GOTO! ones.

However, I do feel that this particular concert is worth it because of its strong Genesis setlist and this is perhaps more of a Genesis concert in relation to his own solo material. Even though it’s not what I would call a GOTO! concert I do feel I could play this one more than many of his other recent live concerts. It’s been very well produced and comes with excellent picture and sound quality. The bonus material is not up to much but at its price point, I do think it holds good value for the money even if the bonus material is not up to much.


The CD Tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1.
01. Apollo Intro. 1:02.
02. Clocks (The Angel Of Mons). 4:17.
03. Held In The Shadows. 7:09.
04. Every Day. 6:12.
05. The Devil’s Cathedral. 5:56.
06. Shadow Of The Hierophant. 10:49.
07. Squonk. 6:29.
08. The Carpet Crawlers. 5:50.
09. Robbery, Assault And Battery. 5:57.
10. Afterglow. 3:51.
11. Firth Of Fifth. 9:58.

CD 2.
01. I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe). 8:20.
02. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. 5:10.
03. The Musical Box (Closing Section). 2:51.
04. Supper’s Ready. 24:49.
05. The Cinema Show. 10:35.
06. Aisle Of Plenty. 2:03.
07. Dance On A Volcano. 04:24.
08. Los Endos. 06:35.

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Picture Quality Rating Score. 9/10.
The Stereo Mix rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Bonus Material Rating Score. 2/10.
The Overall Concert Rating. 8/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#216

Animals 2018 Remix (Blu Ray Edition) – Pink Floyd


Animals by Pink Floyd has always been amongst my personal favourites of Floyd albums along with Meddle, The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here. I would also say that Animals is most likely the bands most PROGIEST! album (if there is such a word) and basically it came out of a time when the band had found their feet and were on a roll. If there ever was a downside to the album it was only ever down to its mix and production which is why like many I have had my eagers eyes on this new release since it was mentioned it was coming out back in 2018.

Finally, after four years and all the bickering and squabbling between David Gilmour and Roger Waters, it has finally arrived in the shape of various formats. Although for some even that is not enough and one of the many complaints is that it never got the same treatment as the TDSOTM and WYWH by releasing them in an Immersion Box Set. Having just reviewed the Immersion Box of TDSOTM all I have to say to that is thank GOD! are you people out of your mind 😊😊😊.

To be perfectly honest this is the first time Pink Floyd has finally seen sense by releasing the Blu Ray in a standalone package outside of the box giving surround FREAKS! like myself the chance of getting our hands on the 5.1 mix without having to sell a kidney. I have the most utter respect for them doing this and I certainly don’t see any real value in all the SWAG! that comes in those things that are only put there to bump up the cost and look like you are getting something extra for your money.

Even though I don’t collect vinyl I did pre-order the Deluxe Boxset on Amazon a good while back, the reason for this was to fill up some of the empty space I have in the new media cabinet I brought. Unlike most Floyd box sets it was more reasonably priced at £57. However, as it was being released a month later than the blu ray I could not wait to get my hands on the new mix.

Having done so I cancelled my pre-order for the Deluxe Boxset even though I was deeply disappointed with how they packaged the blu ray. But in Roger Waters’s own words from one of the songs on his 1992 album Amused To Death, you could say that it all made “Perfect Sense”. To be perfectly honest the way things were done for this release nothing seems to make sense but before I go any further let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork.

Packaging & Artwork…

When it comes down to the packaging of the various release editions for the new mix of the album I can honestly say that the blu ray drew the short straw and lacks the presentation that the other packages got. It’s as if they said OK! we will put out an individual release but we’re going to make it look SHIT! 😊😊😊.

I am of course being a bit too harsh and it’s not the first time I have seen this type of packaging and to be honest, the presentation is quite good. However, in relation to the new artwork that has been used for all the other releases, I was disappointed that it was not used for this release.

The biggest gripe I have with this release is the flaw in the design of the package itself (as seen above) and if you can retrieve the disc with your mitts without getting any fingerprints on it you will be doing exceptionally well. Perhaps the designer intended it to come with some soft padded tweezers 😊😊😊.

All jokes aside the disc that does come in this package will certainly give you a lot more than any of the other releases and at its much cheaper price point of £16.94 I paid for it, I would consider it a steal. It also comes with a 16-page booklet that contains the liner notes, credits plus lyrics and as usual, comes with an array of photos instead of more useful informative information.

The very fact that all Floyd releases come with no informative information was also one of the killing factors for me not to purchase the Deluxe Boxset Edition and had Gilmour not been pigheaded about including the informative liner notes that Waters wanted to be included I may have had second thoughts regarding cancelling my pre-order of it. Though in all honesty being the surround FREAK! that I am the blu ray would have been the only thing that would have interested me in that package.

The original concept design for the album cover was done by Roger Waters with coordination and photography done by the team at Hipgnosis. Just like the new remix of the album things have been reworked and reimagined and many things have changed since Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson tried to capture an inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power Station back in 1977.

The new artwork was photographed by Rupert Truman and Powell and basically, they took snaps from different locations around the power station to get the new artwork. The photo that was shot across the railway lines (as seen above) was used on all releases except the blu ray to which they used a colour photo that was taken across the river Thames. No pigs were inflated or harmed for the snap this time around and were put into the photo afterwards.

Being in colour the photo that was used for the blu ray looks more like the original album cover and I must admit that I originally thought that the water had been superimposed like they did with the new artwork for the standalone blu ray edition of Pulse that was released earlier this year. The pig however had to be superimposed on the original album cover in the end due to it escaping on the day of the first photo shoot and they did not like the lighting on the day of the second photo shoot.

I do prefer the photo of the view across the railway lines and the fact that they made it Monochrome (or Greyscale if you like) brings out much more detail. Although I was disappointed that the blu ray never got this photo all is not lost as you will later see when I go into the blu ray section of my review.

Release Editions…

All editions apart from the Deluxe Edition Boxset were released in September and the new remix of Animals gives you plenty of options to choose from to suit your pocket. I daresay there is also a Digital Download of the album though I doubt you will be saving any money in relation to the cheapest physical format option so why even bother especially as you can pick up the CD (as seen below) on Amazon for as little as £10.99.

The standalone Blu Ray (as seen below) is Amazon’s best seller out of all the physical formats and it’s not surprising with not only its high-end quality but also down to the fact that it gives you a lot more than any of the other formats when it comes to the musical side of things. It can also still be picked up from Amazon for the same price I paid for it £16.94.

For Vinyl lovers, the new remix of the album has been pressed onto 180gram vinyl and considering the price of vinyl these days it’s also sold at a reasonable price and can still be picked up for around £22.99 on places like Amazon.

The Deluxe Boxset was released almost a month later on the 7th of October and with this release, you get all four physical formats CD, LP, DVD and Blu Ray hence its higher price tag of £57.95. To be honest, the boxset does offer value and is priced a lot cheaper than I expected it, but this is only really for those who want all formats and the question is does one really need the same thing four times over?

The very fact that I personally DON’T! is another reason why I opted in the end not to go with this package and even though it is much better packaged those things should not be put before the musical content and I suppose in a way it’s a bit like vanity. Though I will stress that when you weigh up the prices of each format that comes in this box set you are not being ripped off like most packages like this.

Speaking of being ripped off, there is also another format the new remix was released on done by another company. When it comes to vanity I personally think they packaged it better than any of these formats. However, it does come at a PRICE! That much more that I decided to write my own personal opinion about this so-called company in the section that is coming up next.

The Audiophile Rip-Off…

Prior to the release of the new 2018 remix of Animals, I was looking at the various packages it came in and noticed that there was also an SACD release. The reason why I never included it in the “Release Edition” section was that it was made by another company and you will not find it being sold in the store on Pink Floyd’s official website. I first clapped my eyes on this release in this video on Youtube (as seen below) and it was actually this video that opened up to me a completely new can of worms with what is going on in the audiophile world today.

The company involved in the release of the SACD Edition of Animals is Acoustic Sounds which makes Analogue Productions yet here they are advertising a Digital release. How much analogue actually goes into their productions even has me wondering, though I am not going to go into a war over the difference between analogue and digital, it would also be pointless for me to do so simply because you are always going to get two sides of the coin. However, in this section, I will point out some of the ripoff products that have been put on the market in both worlds.

Now I am not suggesting that the package we have here in question is a ripoff or that it’s an unofficial release because it has been sanctioned by the bands record company EMI, though it is not endorsed by Pink Floyd which is why it does not appear in their record store. However, the product is well overpriced and here in the UK, it can cost you as much as the Deluxe Edition Boxset and the cheapest I saw it for was £48.

That is more than twice the price one would expect to pay for an SACD here in the UK and is more like the price you would pay for one that has gone out of print and sold second-hand on the black market. Granted the package is made of quality material in that they have used thick cardboard, I also personally believe it is better packaged than the Blu Ray and all the other packages.

The thing I like the most about it is that the booklet has been fixed inside, this is where I personally think this package wins over all other releases. This is by far not the first time I have come across this quality packaging and no way on this earth does it cost that much more to make it in relation to other packages that use thinner material. I have several of them by other artists made of exactly the same quality and not one of them cost me more than £20. Some I even got for as little as £12.

As much as I like the SACD format there is no way I would throw my money at this thing with its extortionate price tag. They say a fool and his money are soon departed and in this case, I honestly believe that only fools would buy it simply because the Blu Ray will give a lot more than the SACD has to offer and at its price of just under £17 it has to be the real winner of them all in my book.

Acoustic Sounds is a company that believes everything that they are selling to you is of the highest standards and best quality, that is why their price point for their products is much higher than everyone else. In the case of the SACD, I certainly do not think that is the case and one would be fooled to fall into their trap.

It was through watching this video that led me onto some of the other products they sell and in the case of vinyl this is where things got even more shocking and here I honestly do believe you are being totally ripped off. As I already mentioned I am not going to into a war between analogue and digital however I will point out the way things have changed over the years especially when it comes down to the actual price of Vinyl and CD’s in particular and a few other things.

When I first started collecting vinyl back in the early seventies here in the UK the price of an album was around £3. As we moved into the early eighties the price had gone up to £5 and by the mid-eighties with the birth of the CD Player and the Compact Disc, it rose again to £8 then after a short while to £10.

Back in those days, the CD was the most expensive format of the two and cost £12. The increasing popularity of the CD eventually caused vinyl to go out of circulation and by the late nineties, it was practically nonexistent. By then I had given up on vinyl and I had my reasons for it. One of the major reasons back then was not just because vinyl had gone out of circulation but because I had got into multichannel recordings although I do not need to go into that to explain why I had given up on vinyl.

Believe it or not vinyl has always been an inferior format (not in its sound quality) but in that, it has its limitations of what you can squeeze onto it. The very fact that technology had moved on in the digital realm meant that recording studios had more tracks to play with and other formats such as CD’s, DVD-Audio, SACD & Blu Ray had more capacity to squeeze the information onto. This enabled less mud and far more clarity in a recording.

Though of course, many analogue purists and audiophiles would argue that this took away the bass response or the warmth of a recording which I personally feel is complete nonsense. Over the years I have played on analogue and digital keyboards and many will argue that a digital keyboard cannot produce the same bass or in keyboard terms FAT! as an old analogue synth. All I have to say to that is BOLLOX! because it really is not the case at all.

Speaking of mud that can be found in many older recordings the original recording of Animals was wallowing in the stuff. Although in the case of that album I personally do not see it as a bad thing and some albums are better off with it than without it. Sometimes it does serve as a purpose and is there for a reason and I truly do believe that to be the case with this particular album.

One of the things I find hard to comprehend is that ever since the resurgence of vinyl that was starting to flood the market once again from 2017 onwards is how much more expensive it is. The vinyl album these days has shot way up in price and they expect you to pay anywhere from £18 – £30 whilst the CD has never changed its price and in most cases can be had for less at £10.

I know there are way fewer printing presses than what we had years ago but that should only reflect on how much longer it takes to get your album pressed and not the price. The stories floating around about how there is a shortage of vinyl I honestly find ridiculous especially when they are using more of the stuff these days on one album by making 45rpm albums and having to use two or more vinyl albums just to fit what an artist put out as one album on a CD.

The biggest majority of recordings that are put onto vinyl these days and for many years are digital so I would like to know where these analogue purists and audiophiles are coming from. In my personal opinion, there is no way on this earth that a vinyl album should cost any more than a CD. But now thanks to Acoustic Sounds you can pay a lot more than the price of a box set for one vinyl album or two LP’s in some cases where they have been pressed at the speed of 45rpm and by the looks of things you are paying even more money for the packaging.

Yes, today folks, we have what’s known as (UHQR) which stands for Ultra High-Quality Records and by the looks of things in this video I stumbled upon, this guy is spinning you a right yarn and web of deceit.

This set of Steeley Dan albums comes at the price of £220 a pop for each album here in the UK and has to be one of the biggest ripoffs I have ever come across regarding the price of an album. The album even comes boxed like a box set and will take up a lot more storage space. CAN’T Buy A THRILL! I’m not surprised at these prices and when it comes to THE ROYAL SCAM! This is a complete SCAM! and this guy is taking you for a right MUG!

At the end of the day, he is a businessman and I am not saying he is there to rip you off because he believes in what he is doing and has put a lot of time and investment to try and give you the best possible quality. But at the price, he is selling these records I don’t see the logic never mind the PRETZEL LOGIC! and when it comes to diminishing returns I fail to see any here at all especially how well the original albums had such a good quality sound and production in the first place.

Having just done a bit of research to see what Acoustic Sounds are all about and the way they are doing things with their plant it looks very impressive however certain things don’t add up. For example, the way the guy talks about his company gives me the impression that he likes to reproduce good-quality and even reference point recordings and make the albums that had exceptional quality in the first place sound better. If this is the case why on earth did he choose to do Jethro Tull’s Aqualung which was never very well produced or did it have a real quality recording in the first place.

That album needed a remix and thanks to Steven Wilson it got a very good one, in many ways he resurrected that album and brought it back to life. If you want to throw your bucks away on the UHQR Vinyl release of that album you have to be a fool because I guarantee you that no way will it beat Wilson’s remix. You would get a much better result by spending £10 on the CD of Wilson’s remix you don’t even need vinyl to be onto a winner in the case of that album. But at the end of the day, I suppose you will never stop people from throwing their money away, especially those who have it.

Though I am used to it in the audiophile community and nothing surprises me anymore, scams such as this have always been around especially when it comes to accessories. They don’t just exist in the analogue audiophile world either and this next video shows you how they can also appear in the digital realm of things.

I have always found this guy’s Youtube channel very interesting and when it comes to logic he tends to make a lot of sense of it, he also has an honest point of view and will give you his honest opinion of the products he reviews. The device he is reviewing here is clearly a SCAM! and one that most likely will give you the same result as UHQR Vinyl when it comes down to diminishing returns.

The Album In Review…

The 2018 remix of Animals by Pink Floyd was released on the 16th of September 2022, just like the original version of the album that was released on the 27th of January 1977 it comes with 5 tracks spread over and an overall playing time of 41 minutes and 40 seconds. No matter what edition (including the Deluxe Boxset) you decide to purchase it does not come with any bonus material. The album comes from a time when the band were doing very little apart from touring at bigger stadiums and due to most of their audience not paying attention to their music they even got sick of that. Even to the point that Roger Waters eventually spat at one over-excited fan on the final night of their live tour.

The biggest majority of the material that made up Animals was written back in 1974 and the early live versions of songs such as “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” were included in the Wish You Were Here Immersion Boxset. Those songs were originally intended to be for that album but Waters had other ideas for them and held them back. You could say by this point that Waters was “Pink” and had taken over not only the lion’s share of the writing but the control of the band and the only other member to get a co-credit to one of the tracks on this album was David Gilmour.

Animals was the first Floyd album to leave Richard Wright out of the writing credits which very much caused conflict between band members whose royalties were earned on a per-song basis and not equally divided by all four members. The conflict between Wright and Waters was only to get worse and came to a head-on collision a couple of years later when Waters presented The Wall to the band which was another album that left very little for the other members to contribute any writing to.

Animals would be the final album (of this four-piece band lineup) that Wright played on as an official band member and by 1979 he had enough of Waters’s ego trips of how he was keeping the band going which eventually led to him being fired. You could say that the album Animals was the starting point of where much of the cohesion and collaboration side of things regarding the writing had gone out of the window and Waters was not only doing the lion’s share of the writing but was also taking the lion’s share of the profits regarding royalties.

There is no doubt that Waters was the ideas man behind the band and when you look back at how the album cover and stage props (such as all the inflatables) that were made for the following live tour to promote the album, they were all his ideas. The control he had over the band was the very thing that forced him out of it in the end.

Besides the pig designed by Gerald Scarfe, Waters had designed a nuclear family to which other inflatables such as a car and fridge were added for their North American leg of the tour. These were designed by Mark Fisher and Jonathan Park and pretty much all of these designers were used for the album that was to follow it The Wall. It was the sense of alienation that Waters had on the tour with the audience that inspired him to write that album.

With no single release from the album, the Animals Tour (or In The Flesh Tour as it was later called) more or less went on the road to promote the album in the same week it was released. It was during this period that things were not going that well with the band and Waters isolated himself from the other members at the shows by turning up alone and leaving immediately after each performance. At one stage during the tour Wright jumped on a plane back to England threatening to leave.

However, things were not quite as patchy in making the band’s 10th studio album though there were some teething problems. In 1975 the band purchased a three-storey building at 35 Britannia Row in Islington, London and set up their own recording studio on the ground floor. The second floor was used to store all their stage equipment which (like the ground floor studio) they hired out to other bands and made another business out of it to keep the skills of their road crew together. The third floor was used for their offices.

Much of that year and into the following year was spent on constructing everything and between April to December of 1976, the band got down to recording the material that was to make up the album Animals. It was also in the same year that the band took a break from touring.

Much of the material for the album had already been written (as I mentioned earlier) but by now the concept idea that was loosely adapted to George Orwell’s Animal Farm had come to Waters so he reworked the lyrics and titles to fit in with the concept. The only new material that was written for the album “Pigs On The Wing” and “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” was also written by him to tie in with the rest of the theme.

The band decided to use recording engineer Brian Humphries who had worked on their previous album (WYWH) and as with most new built studios that are built with state-of-the-art new technology teething problems were bound to arise such as things breaking down and not going to plan. Things even got erased as we will later learn in the album tracks section of my review.

Part of their next album The Wall was also recorded at 35 Britannia Row. Nick Mason eventually assumed full ownership of the studio and in the 90’s he sold the business to Kate Koumi, who had been managing it since the mid-1980s. Mason retained the original building in 2012 and in 2016 it was converted into flats.

Upon its release, even though the album peaked at number 2 in the UK and 3 in the US it did not do as well as their previous couple of albums and took much longer to circulate its way around most likely down to its lack of promotion. It’s perhaps an album that sits well with the US market where it eventually went on to go 4 X Platinum selling over 4 million copies in relation to the Gold status of a hundred thousand copies it sold in the UK.

The Blu Ray…

The standalone Blu Ray is effectively like the Deluxe Edition Boxset in that it gives you the album a good few times over only not in different formats but in the way of mixes. This is where this format wins by a huge margin and the fact that it can do this at a much lower price point literally blows that well-overpriced Analogue Productions SACD out of the water. The blu ray is without a shred of a doubt the king of all formats down to its capacity and the amount of high-end quality information you can squeeze onto it and you could say it reigns in SUPREMACY!

The blu ray’s main menu is crisp, sharp and pristine as to be expected and here you get to see the new artwork in its full glory and as large as life on your TV. The very fact that the image can be displayed in high-quality HD resolution will even make the artwork on the vinyl album look inferior to this and that is down to the fact that it is practically near enough impossible to print HD without degradation.

Its navigation is nice and simple giving you the choice of three options “Play The Album”, “Song Selection” and “Audio Selection” to choose from. The other advantage is that the interface is most likely made with Flash making it smoother and faster to work your way around as we can see in the next menu.

Clicking on the “Song Selection” menu the album’s tracklist simply pops up rather than having to load to another menu cutting out a lot of time and making it fast and efficient. Here you can see there is no bonus material and all you get is the album’s five tracks which might be a bit disappointing. However, there are multiple ways you can listen to them as we can see in the next set of menus.

The “Audio Selection” menu offers you an array of options to listen to the album (as you can see in the screenshots above) and they are all high-end hi-resolution audio formats. It’s also good to see that once again the inferior Dolby Digital format has been thrown out of the window. You have the choice of “Uncompressed Audio” (LPCM) or “DTS Master Audio” both come with 24/96 5.1 mixes and 24/192 Stereo mixes.

The other good thing is that they have not only included the new surround and stereo mixes but also the original album which is something you do not get with the SACD. They really have gone to town with this release.

Also included in the audio section is a surround setup guide which provides some useful information over several screens to help calibrate your 5.1 setup. You used to get these guides on many music and film releases on DVD back in the 90’s when AV Systems first hit the market and is very rare to see them included these days. Pink Floyd always include them with their releases and even though they are useful I prefer to set up my system via the operating manual that comes with your AV Reciever.

One of the good things that have been included with this release is that you get something to look at whilst listening to the album and these are just a few examples as it literally goes through night and day with the snaps that were taken for the new album’s artwork. The authorising was done by Joel Plante and overall even though it comes with no extra bonus content least they had the sense to include some photos, unlike the Immersion Boxsets which I found very disappointing for not doing so, especially with all the artwork that was done for TDSOTM and WYWH.

The Stereo & Surround Mixes.
As I already mentioned earlier there is no doubt that the original mix done by Brian Humphries back in 1977 was murky and muddy and in many respects, it could easily have been seen as the worst mix any Floyd album got back then. Both the new stereo and surround mixes were done by James Guthrie and you could say that he has done a very good job of cleaning things up here. If anything the new mix of Animals makes it sound like it was mixed today and not all those years ago and for those like myself who brought the album on its release some may very well prefer the original mix.

You will get to hear more things pop out of the woodwork with the 5.1 mix in relation to the stereo mix though I would not say that this is an exciting surround mix in relation to others I have or would it rank as high as those either.

What we have here is perhaps best described as a clinical mix in that it brings out far more detail in the instrumentation making the instruments more true to life and defined. Even though the surround mix is not an exciting one it will give you a very good immersive experience and with the outstanding work Guthrie has done here I am left with no other alternative but to give it top marks and it is well worthy of 10 out of 10.

Musicians & Credits…

Produced by Pink Floyd. All Music & Lyrics by Roger Waters except track 2 Music by David Gilmour & Roger Waters. Recorded & Mixed at Britannia Row Studios, London between April – December 1976. Engineered by Brian Humphries. 2018 Stereo & 5.1 Remix by James Guthrie. Assistant Engineer Joel Plante. Mastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante at das boot recording. Blu Ray Authored by Joel Plante. 1977 & 2022 Front Cover Design by Roger Waters. Album Cover Coordination by Aubrey Powell. Graphic Design by Peter Curzon. Photography by Rupert Truman & Aubrey Powell.

David Gilmour: Lead Vocals (Track 2) – Guitars – Bass (Tracks 2, 3 & 4) – Keyboards.
Roger Waters: Lead Vocals – Bass – Guitar – Harmony Vocals (Tracks 2 & 3)
Richard Wright: Keyboards – Harmony Vocals (Track2).
Nick Mason: Drums.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Although the ideas are loosely based around Orwell’s Animal Farm the concept behind the bands 10th studio album Animals very much sat in with the times back here in England in the late seventies with the country going through a recession. The very fact that the country is going through one right now, you could say that it makes it the perfect time to put out this new remix of the album. Although the political side of things has never really changed which is why Waters has played many of these tracks live at his shows over the years.

The darker density and weight of the atmosphere are much heavier on this album than any other Floyd album also reflects upon the things that were going on at the time. It’s also most likely why Humphries’s original mix contained a murky muddiness to it and it does seem to fit in with those times.

The album was recorded at a time when Richard Wright was dealing with divorce proceedings and David Gilmore was having to deal with the birth of his first child which is most likely why most of the written material was left to Roger Waters. Although it was made at a time when Waters was more or less taking control of everything at this stage of the band’s career.

Ever since Waters left the band Animals is very much an album that Gilmour shunned away from and none of its material was ever played at post-Waters Pink Floyd concerts or his own solo concerts which is a real shame because it’s such a good album. However, if like myself you are still in both camps you are not really missing out. So let’s now delve into the album a bit deeper and for the purpose of this review, I shall also make comparisons between the original and new mixes of the album.

Track 1. Pigs On The Wing (Part One).

The album’s opening track is the first of two parts that work as bookends for the beginning and end of the album. Though it was never intended to be that way in the first place and it was originally recorded as one song and contained a lead solo played by David Gilmour sandwiched in between the two parts. However, Gilmour’s original solo got accidentally erased in the studio and in the end, Snowy White got to play the lead solo who had happened to turn up at the studio to discuss playing with the band on their live tour at the time.

The original version also got released but only on 8-Track Cartridge at the time (as seen below) White also got to play it at their live shows in the same year of its release. Pink Floyd has never released the song in any other format although White did include the full version on his 1995 Goldtop compilation album.

As you can see by the 8-Track Cartridge the original version of the album only intended to have 4 tracks. I guess it was down to Gilmour’s solo being erased that they only felt it right to leave it off the main release and make the song into two parts to work as bookends.  For the purpose of this review, I have included the original song.

The song is potentially a love song that he wrote for his wife although the words can also pertain to caring for one another and equality in the terms of political, social and economic values. The version that made the original album features solely Roger Waters on guitar and vocals and the only thing that has changed regarding the new mix is really the vocals.

All James Gutrhie has done here regarding the mix is remove the reverb from the vocals and by doing so it sounds more intimate as if Waters is in the room with you rather than in a studio singing the song through a microphone. In many ways, it sounds more flat or dull in comparison to the original mix and it takes a bit of getting used to.

Track 2. Dogs.

Weighing in at just over 17 minutes “Dogs” is my personal favourite track on the album though I will say out of the three major tracks on the album it is really hard to pick a real winner. The dogs in this case are high-powered businessmen and it’s the only track on the album that was co-written by Gilmour & Waters. Oddly enough it’s also the only track on the album that Waters plays bass on as Gilmour plays the bass on the other two main album tracks and perhaps even more surprising is that it’s the only song on the album where you get to hear Gilmour’s voice and even the vocal duties on this song are shared with Waters. It’s also the only song on the album where you will get to hear Richard Wright’s voice harmonising with Waters in places.

I must admit that the murkiness and muddiness that was in the original mix does sound like it was there for a reason and the fog-like density of it very much reflected the weight that was put on the shoulders of the businessman. However, this is far from lost in the new mix even though there is much more clarity in the mix the bass and the weight of the kick drum in particular in the middle come-down section still very much reflect the weight that was put on the businessman’s shoulders.

All the instrumentation is clearly much more defined in the surround mix and even the way they have placed the Rhodes in the rear channels really makes this instrument true to life which it was never on the original mix. But even more impressive is how they placed the kick drum in the rear in that middle come-down section and it literally pounds above your head and it just goes to show that one does not need Dolby Atmos to hear things above their head.

The one thing I am glad they never did on the new mix is to take away the reverb and echo that was applied to the vocals and there is much more detail to everything in this new mix. The sound of the dogs was fed through a vocoder and played like an instrument and the moaning dog that sounds like a wolf came from an earlier recording of the dog “Seamus” that was on the 1971 album Meddle.

Track 3. Pigs (Three Different Ones).

This is a song that could equally be my favourite track on the album along with “Dogs” the lyrical content also continues to pertain to the high-powered businessman and those who are at the top of the social ladder such as the ones with wealth and power. The other couple of different pigs Waters was referring to in the song at the time were Margaret Thatcher and the morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse and with the surname of the latter of those two, it’s easy to see how it would fit in with the powermongers in America today.

With the new mix you can clearly hear the excellent work Gilmour did on the bass guitar in this song in which he used a fretless bass with a pick. He also makes use of the Heil talkbox on his guitar solo to mimic the sound of the pigs. The song was extended for the live tour and Gilmour got to play two guitar solos though he never used the talkbox and it was substituted with Wright’s Minimoog.

Bob Heil invented the first high-powered talkbox back in 1973 for Joe Walsh who put it to good use on his song “Rocky Mountain Way” in the same year. It is perhaps one of the finest examples along with “Show Me The Way” by Peter Frampton in 1976. Another fine example of it being put to good use is Dean Parks solo on “Haitian Divorce” by Steely Dan also in 1976. A year earlier in 1975, Davey Johnstone made excellent use of it on “Dan Dare (Pilot Of The Future)” which can be found on the Elton John album Rock of The Westies.

Although no singles were released from the album to promote it, an edited-down 4-minute version of the song was released in Brazil (as seen above). It was pressed onto 7″ vinyl running at a speed of 33 1/3 rpm the same song was pressed on both sides of the record. It was most likely a promotional single that was sent to radio stations to gain further airplay in the country.

Track 4. Sheep.

The sheep can be seen as the mindless herd that follows what they are being told and this is another really good song that starts off with some wonderful playing by Wright on the Fender Rhodes. When it comes down to the mixes I still prefer the original over the new stereo mix and my reasons for this are mainly to do with the Rhodes on the intro of the song. On the original stereo mix, the Rhodes presents itself to you like a surround mix in the way it reflects across the room from the front to the rear. I often wonder at times if my rear speakers are turned on. The new mix tries to do this and sort of gets there and drops out every now and then.

However, when it comes to the surround mix this is where the Rhodes really comes to life because it’s been placed in the rear speakers and it really brings out the full glory of this instrument. It’s perhaps one of Wright’s finest examples of playing the Rhodes and I’m surprised he never got a writing credit because there is no way I can see Waters playing this intro and I would suspect that it was Wright who composed the intro.

After the intro, the song really rocks itself out and like all major songs on the album, they have the tendency to come down in the middle. It’s also in this come-down section that you get brief glimpses of “One Of These Days” and the “Doctor Who Theme)” with the bassline and sound effects. Although the song is solely sung by Waters you will also get to hear Gilmour’s voice echoing the word “Stone” which is taken from “Dogs” and placed into the track most likely to work as a recurring theme as done with most concept albums. It does also work to good effect.

Track 5. Pigs On The Wing (Part Two).

The album ends off calmly as it opened up with the second part and bookend of “Pigs On The Wing” and the words Waters wrote for this part are there as a reminder that no matter what humans find ways to stick together amidst all the turmoil that gets thrown at us in this capitalist world. The difference with the new mix is the same as the first part where the reverb has been lifted from the vocals. It puts an end to what can only be described as another promising Pink Floyd album that is up there with the best of them.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of the new 2018 remix of Animals by Pink Floyd. I would say that what we have here is a new mix in every sense of the word with how the original album has been cleaned up and in many ways it makes this album sound new and more up-to-date, especially regarding how technology has moved on. In many respects listening to the new remix is literally like the album was made today and not all those years ago and in some aspects, it has sort of lost that magic feel of an album that came out of that golden decade of the 70’s which is where I mostly live regarding the music I listen to.

I think many who like myself who brought this album on its original release back in 1977 might very well prefer the original mix having been used to it for all these years. I am sort of in two camps here regarding the new mix of liking it and not liking it if that makes any sense. Personally, I would have prefered it if Steve Wilson had done the mix because he would not have deviated too far away from how the original album sounded and still brought everything out of the woodwork so to speak.

Though in all fairness I certainly cannot take anything away from James Guthrie’s remix of the album and no way could I give his remix anything less than top marks. Simply because he has done quite an outstanding job of cleaning up the album and bringing out things that could not only never be heard before but the detail of the instrumentation is more true to life.

This new mix is perhaps something you have to get accustomed to and the more times I played it the more I got to like it, there can be no doubt that some major improvements have been done here over Brian Humphries’s original mix. I also think the album sounds much better for the new mix and even though the surround mix is not what I would call an exciting one it is really good and should sit well with the biggest majority of surround FREAKS!

It would have been nice if the band had documented the album with some film footage when they made it or even made an up-to-date documentary with the surviving members of the band and included it. Oddly enough the band’s Youtube channel has been showing various clips of film footage (new and old) since its release. Though I certainly do not think they have enough of it for them to have made an Immersion Boxset out of the album. However, I am sure they could have squeezed this 11-minute bit of footage onto the blu ray.

No matter how you look and listen to Animals for me personally it’s always been one of the band’s better albums, not only is it a very strong body of work but the material holds up well even today regardless of what mix you are listening to. I would not say the new mix is a must for Floyd fans simply because there are those who will still prefer the original mix. However, what the blu ray gives you is the best of the old and new mixes which is why I would still highly recommend this package. Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong at its cheap price point and it really is a STEAL!

An Excellent Cleaning Up Job…

The Blu Ray Tracklisting is as follows:

1. Pigs on the Wing (Part One)
2. Dogs
3. Pigs (Three Different Ones)
4. Sheep
5. Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)

Blu-Ray Audio Mixes
2018 Remix – Stereo: 24-bit/192kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.
2018 Remix – 5.1 Surround: 24-bit/96kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.
1977 Original Stereo: 24-bit/192kHz Uncompressed LPCM + DTS-HD MASTER AUDIO.

The Packaging Rating Score. 7/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.
The Original Stereo Mix Rating Score. 6/10.
The New Stereo Mix
Rating Score. 8/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

Lee Speaks About Music…#215

The Dark Side Of The Moon (Immersion Box Set) – Pink Floyd


When it comes to Box Sets I generally stay well clear of the more expensive ones and in general stick to below the £100 price point. When it comes to value for money regarding any of these kinds of packages, I personally do not think the Jethro Tull Mediabook box sets can be beaten and they are sold at an honest price point and give you much more informative information and in some cases a lot more discs than what comes in box sets like the one I am about to review.

Not only that these Tull packages (as seen above) are a lot easier to store along with your DVD’s and Blu-Rays and you could most likely buy five of these packages for the original retail price of the package we have here.

When it comes to the big guns Pink Floyd has always been up there with the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and their box sets in general can cost you a lot more than an arm and a leg when it comes to the extortionate prices they can charge for them. Some of you would most likely have to sell a kidney to obtain them and they can run into the hundreds of pounds.

Back in 2020, I got lucky with the Wish You Were Here Immersion box set and managed to pick it up brand new on Amazon UK for £48. That’s around the same price the SACD of that album is selling for on the black market second hand and I saved over a hundred pounds on its original retail price tag. Since then I have had my eyes peeled on The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion box set waiting for what I would call the right price or at least a more respectable price point.

It was back at the beginning of April this year that I noticed Amazon UK were still wanting £137 for the box set and I also came across another online store selling it for £99. Though that was still more than I was willing to pay for it and slightly more than what I thought it was actually worth.

Being a surround FREAK! my main interest in this box set is the blu ray not for the 5.1 mix either because I already have that on SACD. The Quadrophonic mix is the most important thing to me as for most of the extra SWAG! that comes with these things it is only put in there to bump up the price of the box set and nothing more. I will however say that the booklets that come with them are quite good but as in most cases lack any real informative information.

It was on the 8th of April that I noticed the box set on another online retailer called Fishpond priced at £76.96. It’s very much an online store I have never used before I do believe their main base is in New Zealand and as with any store I have never used before I always check out reviews on places like Trust Pilot for safety purposes. The shipping price of £2.99 was very reasonable too and still to this day I have never seen this box set any cheaper so I took the plunge and purchased it.

At its price of £79.95 including shipping, it is the most expensive box set I have ever brought. It is also more than what I wanted to pay for it but personally for me this is the bands most iconic album and one that I would place in one of the four corners of the universe. It is most likely one of the most perfect albums that has ever been made which is why I shelled out the extra bucks for it.

However, having shelled out the bucks for it I was not expecting the nightmare that came along with it. If you’ve ever seen the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit you may be aware of the saying “this is pissing me off roger“. That literally was the case with this box set and I shall reveal more later in my review of it. But first, let’s take a look at how it comes.

Packaging & Artwork…

The actual packaging for The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion boxset is the same as how they later went on to do the Wish You Were Here boxset in that it’s made of cardboard, the size of a 12-inch vinyl album and very chunky. If you read my review of that Immersion box set you would have noticed how much more difficult it is to find the space to store them, especially if like myself you are not a vinyl collector.

I was left with no alternative but to get another media cabinet to accommodate them. As you can see I don’t have that many but at least now I have plenty of space to add more to it when the time comes, plus I have freed up more space for the more regular media items I buy. I also have another box set on pre-order that will be arriving in October. You could say it’s a bit of an Animal 😊😊😊.

The new design and artwork for the Immersion box were done at StormStudios with photography by Tony May, Storm Thorgerson & Rupert Truman. The graphics were done by Peter Curzon and the retouching up was done by Lee Baker. Personally, for me the new design they did for the front cover of the box set is not as impressive as what they did with the Wish You Were Here Immersion box and it looks as if they have been juggling around with spectrums and triangles. However, I do like some of the designs they have done in the booklet that comes with the package.

The Packaging Contents…

As with the Wish You Were Here Immersion Box this thing comes with pretty much the same items of swag ranging from scarfs, coasters, posters, memorabilia items and a bag of marbles. Many of these items are not really fit for the purpose they were made for such as the coasters and the scarf for example. I do however quite like the marbles and at least they printed the album’s artwork onto them, unlike the clear glass marbles that came with the WYWH Immersion Box.

You also get three booklets with this box set, a small 12-page credit one that gives you all the information that’s on the 6 discs. A quality 36-page booklet designed by Storm Thorgerson that contains the album liner production notes and lyrics. It also comes with some high-quality photos of various memorabilia and is very impressive. Plus you get a 20-page photo booklet which is also of very good quality.

One of the major flaws regarding the design of a box set like this is that not all the discs are stored in the same place or way. For example four of the discs are stored in the base of the box itself which means that you have to go through all that palaver of removing all the other content to get at them.

The other two discs come in single sleeves like a mini replica of a single-sleeved vinyl album. I suppose you could take them out and store them with your other media on a shelf, though unlike DigiPaks and DigiSleeves they are way too thin and you would have trouble finding them. Besides that, if you going to make a box set you really need everything to be in one place.

The Immersion Media In Review…

Pink Floyd’s Immersion Box Set of The Dark Side Of The Moon was released on the 27th of September 2011. The music media content that comes in the box set is spread over 6 discs 3 CDs, 2 DVDs and a Blu-Ray which very much makes this a box set where you are getting the same thing two or three times over. It’s also quite strange how they have actually numbered the discs for example you would expect the 3 CDs to be numbered from one to three but that is not the case here.

However, things like that are perhaps minuscule in relation to the nightmare that this box set presented to me when it arrived. To be honest, I never did my research very well when I reviewed the Wish You Were Here Immersion Box and I was under the impression that seeing how these box sets are still widely available they were still reissuing them, unlike a limited edition release.

It is however quite clear that is not the case and I perhaps should have taken the advice that my good friend Dirk Radloff mentioned about them being mostly aimed at serious record collectors and the biggest majority would not shell out the money for such an item which is perhaps why many of them are still around til this day.

I have no idea how many box sets were made back in 2011 but for those who live in Europe like myself, this box set comes with a major problem, especially for surround FREAKS! like myself. Simply because all the box sets that were made in Europe come with a faulty Blu-Ray that will not play at all. I was absolutely livid when I found this out and immediately repackaged the box set up to send it back to Fishpond for a refund and went to their website to file the return.

As I was not sending it back until the next day I spent a bit of time doing a bit of research, it was then that I discovered that it was only box sets that were made in Europe that had the faulty disc and they all displayed the word “False” (as seen above) when inserting them into your player. I also discovered that you could get the disc replaced and this is where the nightmare really began.

Originally you had to send the disc back to get it replaced but as time went by you could get it replaced by sending in proof of your purchase. To get your disc replaced you had to send in your proof via email to mail@aecreate.com to which you instantly get an automatic reply as seen below.

“The email account is only for issues relating to The Dark Side of The Moon Blu-ray contained within the Immersion Box Set, released in 2011. We can confirm new stock is in transit and will send out replacement Blu-ray’s within the next 2 weeks. Please provide evidence of proof of purchase and a post address”.

A month had passed by and I had not heard a dickie bird from them so I sent them a reminder and all I got was the same auto reply as above. So I decided to do a bit more research and found the company’s Facebook page and messaged them there. All I got back was “Thanks”. After 6 weeks this was really pissing me off and it was then I received an email from Fishpond wanting to know what was going on with my return to which I emailed them and explained the situation.

It was also at this point that I also sent in some pictures of me holding the box set beside the proof of purchase I had sent at the beginning. I not only emailed them but also sent them via Facebook Messenger. I was beginning to think that AeCreate.com was Snail.com and the person behind the company who is one Andy Evans came from the planet IGNORAMUS! 😊😊😊.

As to if Fishpond got in touch with them I could not tell you but about a week afterwards I finally received an email from them saying that they had sent out the replacement disc and I should get it in the next few days. Another 2 weeks went by and I still had not received it so I emailed them again. It finally arrived after some 3 months of complaining to them so you can imagine why it pissed me off so much.

Having to wait all that time also held back my review here although I do still have a few box sets that I purchased well over a year ago now that I still have not gotten round to reviewing. One of them still sits on my shelf unopened which arrived on the day of its release back in March last year.

I also have another box set that I purchased a month earlier in February 2021 and one more recently this year although this Alice Cooper box set of Detroit Stories is the only one that remains unopened. Hopefully, I shall get around to opening and reviewing it later this year but for now, let’s take a look at the content that comes with this box set starting with the CD’s.

The CD Content

CD 1. The first disc contains the original 10 album tracks remastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante back in 2011. The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that has been reissued near enough 1,200 times over the years since its release, I dare say the original master tapes have also gone through a few generations as well. However, considering the album has been reissued up to the hilt it has only been remastered 8 times and this is actually the second time that Guthrie and Plante had remastered the album which the first time was back in 2003 on its 30th Anniversary.

I do believe the reason why they decided to remaster the album again was that some people were complaining about the compression that was used on the 2003 remaster though, to be honest, there was no sign of brick walling on that edition. I also think they may have used the 20th Anniversary Edition remaster done by Doug Sax to work with as that was regarded as one of the best-sounding remasters which is why he also gets thanks in the credits.

To be honest, being the surround FREAK! that I am it’s very rare I will play the stereo mix and even though I purchased the 2003 SACD near enough some two decades ago I have never once played the stereo remaster. However, for this review, I played the 2003 and 2011 remasters back to back and I can honestly say that 2003 remaster in my opinion is absolute SHITE! in comparison to this 2011 remaster.

The 2011 remaster speaks to me more like I remember the vinyl album from the 70’s though regarding most remasters you are perhaps better off sticking with the original album. No remaster in my opinion will ever be as good as a remix simply because all you can really do is try and enhance a two-channel stereo recording. Whereas with a remix you have access to all the multi-tracks of the recording giving you much more to play with to achieve a better mix or result.

This is really why I am a surround FREAK! and I prefer a multichannel mix or remix in relation to any remaster. In most cases, multichannel recordings will offer you the best results including the 2003 5.1 mix which is an entirely different kettle of fish in relation to how bad that 2003 stereo remaster turned out.

CD 2. The second disc contains the albums 10 tracks live and these live recordings were taken from two of the three nights they played at the Londons Empire Pool during their British winter tour back in 1974. The band played at the venue from the 14th – 16th of November that year and was recorded by the BBC on the 15th & 16th. These live recordings of the album only were later broadcast on the Alan Freeman Show on BBC Radio 1 on the 11th of January 1975.

Other numbers that were played at these shows were an early version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” as well as very early versions of “Sheep” and “Dogs” under different titles of “Raving and Drooling” and “You’ve Got to Be Crazy” which were used for the Wish You Were Here Immersion box set. They also ended off these shows with an encore of “Echoes” which was released later in 2016 on the 7th Volume entitled Continu/ation of the Early Years box set.

These recordings are all previously unreleased and are of excellent sound quality and are most welcome to find in the box set. Though of course they also released a 2 CD Experience Edition (as seen below) which also comes with these recordings on the second disc at a more respectable price. Pretty sure no double vinyl Experience Edition was released due to vinyl being out of circulation at the time.

No doubt since these live recordings were finally put out unofficial releases were bound to fly out of the woodwork such as this 3 LP vinyl set released in 2019 by Jules Records. You also get the whole of the set with this release although the recordings like we have here were taken from two of the three nights they played at the venue. 

One of the things I like about these live recordings that come on the second disc is that many of the album tracks have been extended and this live version of The Dark Side Of The Moon runs for 55 minutes and you can literally hear every word. The mix was done by Andy Jackson & Damon Iddins and they really have done a GRAND! job here.

The other thing is that the band are only accompanied by Dick Parry’s saxophone and a couple of backing singers Vanetta Fields and Carlena Williams unlike the array of other musicians they had with them later on to perform their songs. In many respects, this sounds more like a proper live performance unlike later on where they polished things up. It just goes to show how well the band could perform without all those other musicians on the stage with them as well.

CD 3. The final CD is actually numbered Disc 6 and comes in a cardboard slipcase instead of with the other two CD’s that are stored in the base of the box. I did mention that it is a bit strange as to why they did this and the only reason that I can see is perhaps down to the fact that they could only fit four discs in the base of the box and kept things in unison by the putting the first two CD’s with the two DVD’s.

This disc contains 16 previously unreleased tracks spread over a playing time of 67 minutes, 17 seconds. The first 9 tracks contain the early 1972 mix of The Dark Side Of The Moon which is quite interesting in parts simply because various things had not been put into the final mix of the album at this stage. For example, the heartbeat on the intro written by Nick Mason entitled “Speak” was not written at this stage hence why the album only has 9 tracks instead of 10.

“The Great Gig In The Sky” is perhaps the most interesting track here has it does not contain the magic voice of Clare Torry, instead we get the words that were spoken by Gene Cernan who was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon.

The remaining 7 tracks you get are early studio demos and live recordings and once again the live recordings were mixed by Andy Jackson & Damon Iddins in 2010. The first of these extras “The Hard Way (From ‘Household Objects’)” is perhaps the odd one out simply because it was part of the Wish You Were Here album so I am not really sure why this was included here. Although down to the fact that it does have footsteps in it like “The Travel Sequence” (which is also included here) it could be seen as a precursor to “On The Run”.

You also get a longer live version of “The Travel Sequence” along with “The Mortality Sequence” and “Any Colour You Like” which were recorded live in Brighton back in 1972. “The Mortality Sequence” is “The Great Gig In The Sky” and in this version, it contains snippets of speeches by Malcolm Muggeridge, a British writer known for his conservative religious views reciting words from the bible.

Also included amongst the extra tracks are a Richard Wright piano demo of “Us And Them” and an acoustic demo of “Money” played and sung by Roger Waters. Overall this is another worthy inclusion to the box set and you had to buy the box set to get your hands on it as there was no individual release. Though I dare say it s plastered all over Youtube these days.

The DVD Content.

DVD 1. The first of the two DVD’s contains Audio content only and includes the 5.1 mix of the album tracks only that was done back in 2003 by James Guthrie with the assistant engineer Joel Plante. It also offers you the choice of 448kbps and 640kbps to choose from although the downside is that they are in Dolby Digital only. You also get the same choices for the original Quadrophonic mix which was done by Alan Parsons back in 1973 also included here is the original stereo mix from the same year which does offer you a better quality of LPCM 48KHz/24 bit.

DVD 2. The second DVD contains the bonus content which is mostly visual content and first up you get a couple of songs the band performed live at the Brighton Dome in England back on the 29th of June 1972. Both of these songs have no relevance to the album in question and it’s no surprise to see they are “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” and “Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun” which they literally played to death back then 😊😊😊. The audio was remastered by Andy Jackson in 2011 and sounds quite good even though it comes with a lower format of LPCM Stereo 48KHz/16 bit.

Also included is the 2003 25-minute documentary of the making of The Dark Side Of The Moon that was made for the 30th Anniversary of the album. I quite like this feature and remember seeing it on the TV around the time it came out too. The only real drawback to this documentary is that it’s relatively a lot shorter than the biggest majority of the same making of album documentaries that many other artists have put out. Once again the audio has been remastered in 2011 by Jackson and as with most of the bonus features, they are presented with the same audio format.

The final of the extra features you get here is the concert screen films from the British and French tours in 1974 and the North American tour in 1975. This is the longest feature and runs for approximately 59 minutes, 14 seconds and the visual content improves as it runs along. You also get the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 48K/24 and LPCM Stereo 48KHz/16 bit.  

The Blu Ray.

The Blu Ray contains the same content that is on the two DVD’s though in terms of picture and sound quality I consider this to be the most important item that comes in the whole of this box set. To be perfectly honest there is no way I would have even considered buying this box set unless it came with a Blu Ray, the DVD’s are way inferior in comparison to it. Although I am of course mainly speaking in terms of the audio and not so much the picture quality as most of the visual content apart from the main menu is much older footage and is not in HD.

Blu Ray Main Menu

DVD Main Menu

Although it’s perhaps not as noticeable here with the snaps I took with my phone of both menus there is actually a major difference between the image quality of these menus. For example, the Blu Ray is very much sharp and pristine whereas the DVD is a bit like comparing a JPEG to GIF and looks blotchy sometimes it’s that blotchy that the yellow triangle looks like a square.

Both menus however are animated and various particles float around the screen and the white triangle circles its way around the blu triangle in the middle of the screen. They also have slightly different layouts in the way the material is presented. The DVD also uses an older navigation system where you have to wait for the next page to load when you click on the options on the menu.

The blu ray interface and layout as a much faster navigation system and rather than having to load to another page the option choices simply drop down and appear as you click on them. The Audio side of the menu (as seen in the screenshots above) contains the main feature which is the album and from here you can play the album, select a track to play and set up your choice of audio.

The audio side of things is really where the Blu Ray has the biggest advantage over the DVD and it offers uncompressed LPCM 24/96Khz across the board for the 5.1, Stereo and Quadrophonic mixes. In my opinion, the blu ray is very much the king of all audio and visual formats and it is the media that will give you the best result out of them all. Though I will say the SACD is about the closest audio format to it. 

The final option in the Audio menu is the system setup and both the Blu-Ray and DVD come with a surround setup. Although you can just as easily do that on your AV Reciever and I myself prefer to do so and often find the ones put onto discs like this are only there to make it look like you got another added bonus.

The Visual content is where all the bonus material is kept and even though it’s on blu ray here it’s perhaps not really going to give you any better quality than the DVD and the audio quality is the same as that on the DVD which is to be expected for the type of footage you get here.

The only real downside regarding the blu ray is that just like they did with the WYWH Immersion box all you get is a blank screen when playing back the audio content. When you consider all of the different artwork Storm & Co had done for the album you would have thought they would have utilised it here and put it to good use.

Stereo & Surround Mixes.

When it comes to the advantages that the blu ray will give you in this box set I personally think that both the Stereo and Quad mixes are the key points and not so much the 5.1 mix because that was released on SACD back in 2003. Many will say that the 5.1 mix on the blu ray will give you a better result than the SACD and I have found in some cases that to be the case. Though I personally don’t think there is any real sonic difference between the both here and if there is I certainly cannot hear it.

Back in 2003 James Guthrie’s 5.1 mix, in my opinion, was the best way you could ever hear this album and I personally don’t think that has changed. However, what this box set gives you is also Alan Parsons original Quadrophonic mix that gives you another alternative way to listen to the album in surround and it was this mix that tempted me to get this box set in the first place.

I can honestly say I am not disappointed either and even though Persons stated in an interview that he rushed the Quad mix I personally think it is much better than Guthrie’s 5.1 mix. The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that I have always considered to have a muddy mix in parts no matter what version you have and it is mainly on the vocals on the chorus sections of “Brain Damage” which have never been very clear. The only way you could ever understand what the hell they are saying in this chorus is to read the lyric sheet.

Although Parson’s quad mix is not gonna entirely gonna clear things up on the chorus sections of that song, it is however much better and not only that I can hear more things in his quad mix than Guthries 5.1 mix. The way that Parsons placed the instrumentation in his quad mix is also much better than Guthrie and he’s paid a lot more attention to how the instruments can be separated even down to how more effective they can work.

The chimes of the bells and everything about “Time” sounds a hundred times better on the quad mix in my opinion. Not only that the voices can be heard much more clearly, especially at the beginning and end of the album whereas Guthrie for some reason has turned them down which in my opinion was a stupid thing to do. 

At the end of the day, both the 5.1 and Quad mixes will give you a very good immersive experience. You will also hear more things in both of these mixes in relation to any stereo mix. The Quad mix is well worthy of 10 out of 10 in my book whereas for the 5.1 mix I would give 8 out of 10.

The other good thing is that you do get Parsons original stereo mix and the mix you get here I personally think is better than Guthrie’s 2011 stereo remaster, although it is high res and uncompressed in relation to the CD. As I mentioned the Stereo and Quad mixes that come on the blu ray are the key points in relation to the 2003 SACD and are the only real reason to get this box set. Though I will stress it is an expensive price to pay to get your hands on them and there is no real reason why one should not be happy enough with the 5.1 mix that came on that SACD back in 2003.

The Album In Review…

Released on the 1st of March 1973 Pink Floyd’s eighth studio album The Dark Side Of The Moon is the very album that launched the band into an international success that much so that they could have easily retired with the wealth of money it made them. It is without a doubt in my opinion their most iconic album and the result came from the back of a lot of hard work from touring prior to the making and release of the album. Much of its idea came from the fact that the band had already worked on and made a longer piece with “Echoes” from their 1971 album Meddle which was an album you could say where the band had started to find their feet.

Due to its sales of more than 95 million copies worldwide, it is the bands most commercial-selling album reaching platinum status 15 times in both the UK and the US yet in reality it had way less promotion than their 1979 double album The Wall. Although the album hit the number 1 spot in many other countries on its release it failed to do that in the UK where it peaked at number 2. It did however hit number 1 in the US but only held that position for one week and it was due to the record company releasing “Money” as a single (in the US only) that it managed to do so.

In the UK it took two decades for the album to drop out of the top 100 albums chart and in the US it remained on the Billboard 200 albums chart for 736 nonconsecutive weeks (from 17 March 1973 to 16 July 1988). With its many reissues and remasters it has even managed to climb back into the top 100 and in some countries hit number one again. In 2012, the album was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. 

There can be no doubt that The Dark Side Of The Moon is an album that not only made a mark but a statement and that was partially down to the conceptional ideas and lyrics that Roger Waters wrote for it. It is one of the greatest albums of all time and its themes embark on life itself and the day-to-day pressures that are thrown upon us as we go through it. It deals with conflict, greed, time, death and even mental illness it’s no wonder the album appeals to so many.

The 10 tracks that make up the album have been skillfully stitched together to weave their way along its journey and are spread over an overall playing time of 42 minutes, 50 seconds which may not be perfect for vinyl due to restrictions. Though I will say the way things have been done here makes this one of the most perfect and not just one of the best-selling albums of all time.

Recorded mostly in Abbey Roads Studio 3 between June 1972 and January 1973 like The Beatles the band had always been into experimentation even to the point of using household objects. You could say that the money that Roger Waters had flipped into a ceramic bowl in his garden shed went on to make all four members of the band shed loads of the stuff. Though of course a lot more than that went into the development of this album and not only included the input from the other three members of the band but also the road crew and engineers.

We must also not forget Alan Parsons who incidentally started his career as a tape operator at Abbey Road Studios and worked on the Beatles albums Abbey Road and Let It Be. It was working on The Dark Side Of The Moon that also inspired him to make a successful career as an artist in his own right and that may have been down to see the members of the band become instant millionaires whereas he and the others involved in the making of the record got paid the standard rate for their services.

Besides the household objects, the band had started to experiment with loops and the use of the EMS Synthi AKS and EMS VC3 played quite a major role in putting the album together and was utilised by Waters, Gilmour and Wright. They also continued to use the analogue synth sequencer on the album that followed it Wish You Were Here.


The AKS Synthi and VCS3 was created by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company back in 1969 and was very popular with progressive rock bands back in its day Parsons himself even used it on his project album I Robot later in 1977. Even rock bands such as The Who used it and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin used it on “Four Sticks” on the bands fourth untitled studio album back in 1971.

Like much of the bands music it was often aired and performed live under a different title well before the album release. In the case of the material that was written for The Dark Side Of The Moon they performed all 10 tracks in the same order under the title of “A Piece for Assorted Lunatics” at London’s Rainbow Theatre on the 17th of February 1972 a good year before it was released.

Though of course, the album was nowhere near as developed as we know it and differences included the lack of synthesisers in tracks such as “On the Run” and Clare Torry’s vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky” being replaced by readings from the Bible. I do believe that they even named the tour they did back then The Eclipse Tour. Many bootlegs of the recording are still widely available today though I am sure if they were of reasonable enough quality the band would have included them in this box set.

To be honest it is amazing just how many things get leaked out and bootlegged and some people even go to the extremes of obtaining all sorts of information including this interview that Waters conducted with Roger “The Hat” one of the bands roadies.

Many of the bands road crew and engineers were interviewed and recorded on tape by Waters during the making of the album and asked all sorts of questions, he even interviewed Paul McCartney who was working in the studio on the Wings album Red Rose Speedway at the time. By the sound of this interview, he may have even provided the weed 😊😊😊. To be honest I don’t like publishing bootlegged material but I found this extremely funny.

Musicians & Credits…

All Tracks Written & Produced by Pink Floyd. All Lyrics by Roger Waters. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios London, England between June 1972 – January 1973. Engineered by Alan Parsons. Assistant Engineer Peter James. Quadrophonic Mix by Alan Parsons. 5.1 Mix by James Guthrie. Mastered by James Guthrie & Joel Plante at Das Boot Recording 2011. Graphics & Artwork by George Hardie. Pyramid Photography by Hipgnosis. Immersion Design by StormStudios.

David Gilmour: Vocals – Guitars – EMS Synthi AKS.
Roger Waters: Vocals – Bass Guitar – EMS VCS 3 – Tape Effects.
Richard Wright: Vocals – Hammond & Farfisa Organs – Piano & Electric Piano (Wurlitzer/Rhodes) – EMS VCS 3 – EMS Synthi AKS.
Nick Mason: Drums – Percussion – Tape Effects.

Additional Musicians.
Dick Parry: Saxophone (Us and Them and “Money”).
Clare Torry: Vocals (The Great Gig in the Sky).
Leslie Duncan, Liza Strike, Barry St. John & Doris Troy: Backing Vocals.

The Album Tracks In Review…

The material that makes up The Dark Side Of The Moon was put together as two sides of a continuous piece of music that reflects upon the various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat. Roger Waters sums it up with one word “empathy” and no doubt it’s very fitting to the “BRILLIANT! lyrics and the subject matter they are pertaining to that he wrote for this album. The very fact that the band had already worked on longer pieces such as “Echoes” and the concept album appeared to be the IN-THING! around the time would have certainly provided the inspiration for this masterpiece of work.

Although I would not say that the collection of songs that were written for the album was one continuous song as “Echoes” was. However, they are very well amalgamated with how they have been skillfully woven together. So let’s now dive in a take a closer look as I go through the album tracks.

Track 1. Speak To Me.

The opening track and short introduction to the album is credited to Nick Mason though I am not entirely sure Mason composed everything you are hearing here or even if his bass drum provides the beating of the heart. I am not entirely sure it’s his voice we are hearing here either however it was not unusual for Mason to do voices for the band to which he also provided the voice on “One Of These Days”.

The instrumental piece is very much constructed with a collage of sound effects much of which is taken from various other tracks throughout the album including Clair Torry’s scream (Great Gig in the Sky). The manic laughter of the bands English road manager Peter Watts (Brain Damage) and various other sounds such as clicking clocks and helicopters (On The Run) down to the cash register (Money).

According to both Wright and Waters, the credit was a gift to him to give him some publishing income and I am pretty sure they also would have been involved with the EMS VCS 3 you are hearing here too. If anything “Speak To Me” is a short glimpse into the events that are about to unfold and even the reversed piano chord that was thrown in takes us nicely into the first song on the album.

Track 2. Breathe (In The Air). 

The musical side of this song was penned by Gilmore & Wright and I love the way this song smoothly glides its way along to which Gilmore’s job on the lap steel coupled with Wright’s keyboards very much play a major role in making that happen. As with much of the vocal duties on this album they are handled by Gilmore and his voice on this song also works smoothly and has a certain amount of calmness which is well apt for the GREAT! words Waters penned for it.

The lyrical content embarks on the importance of living one’s own life and the short amount of time we have to live it so to speak. “Breath” is very much a thematic piece and its strong theme evokes it enough for it to reappear later on, even with its slower pace it is one of the stronger songs on the album. It’s also my personal favourite track on the album and merits the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!

Track 3. On The Run.

The second of three instrumental tracks on the album and quite an effective piece that was constructed and put together by Gilmour and Waters. Both the EMS Synthi AKS and EMS VCS 3 were put to very good use and most of its sequence was created on the EMS Synthi whilst the VCS 3 was used to make the sounds of a vehicle passing by and an aeroplane exploding.  David Gilmour gives a good demonstration of how the original Synthi sequence was punched in and speeded up in the documentary of the making of the album.

Other things such as airport announcements, reversed guitar effects and even footsteps from the assistant engineer Peter James were utilised which most likely inspired the title. Roger “The Hat” is in here too and when you look at how everything has been shaped for the album to continuously flow and run into the following track it’s perhaps like an album that has two parts one on each side rather than an album with 10 tracks.

Track 4. Time.

At just under 7 minutes “Time” is the longest track on the first side of the album and even though it’s titled as one track or song it is actually made up of three tracks or parts. Its rather long 2 minute and 18 second intro is perhaps the most effective piece on the entire album and is made up of ticking clocks, alarm clocks and chimes from Grandfather and Godfather clocks all of which were originally recorded in an antique store and made as a quadrophonic test by engineer Alan Parsons. They were also not specifically meant for the album but having heard the tape of them Gilmore suggested they should use them though the initial idea was Parsons and no doubt they were well apt for the title of the track.

Running through all the bells and chimes Waters adds to the ticking sound via the use of a couple of muted strings on his bass guitar and we get a SUPERB! drum solo by Mason played on rototoms and his solo very well makes up the musical side of things here. This whole introduction is purely MAGICAL! and it’s brought even more to life with Alan Parsons original Quad mix. 

Then we get the song itself which is more uptempo with its raunchy rock style and in terms of pace it is most likely the fastest track on the album. It also contains a fine set of lyrics that tie in and continue on from the previous song. The lyrics to this particular song sum up how short our lifespan on earth really is with what little time we have to get things done and how some of it is wasted. These are just some of the sentences I picked out from the song that pertains to what I said about it.

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

Shorter of breath and on day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time

The lyrics that Waters wrote for this song are most likely my favourite set of lyrics on the whole album. The last sentence of the song really does show how life can be all over before we know it and I have to say that Waters did exceptionally well with all the lyrics he wrote for the whole of the album. The other good thing about this song is that the vocal duties are shared by Gilmour and Wright a combination that has always worked very well in the past.

The song also does have something more to say as it blends in very nicely with a reprise of the albums second song “Breathe” with more comforting lyrics to suit its relaxed style. “Breathe (Reprise)” works very much as a recurring theme and apart from the heartbeat that starts and ends the album, it is the only theme on the album to reoccur which is most likely why it’s my favourite track.

Track 5. The Great Gig In The Sky.

This next track is most likely as popular as any song on the album and it originally started out as “The Mortality Sequence” or “The Religion Song” accompanied by spoken-word samples from the Bible and snippets of speeches by Malcolm Muggeridge. It was also first developed by Richard Wright on organ and played on the organ with the sound of Muggeridge’s voice accompanying it at some of the bands live shows in 1972. He later then switched from organ to piano and it was really the magic vocal cords of Clare Torry that really brought it to life and made it more popular. Although it was never released as a single it got plenty of airplay not only on the radio but found its way into films and even TV Commercials.

Having previously worked with Torry it was Parsons who recommended her and she very much started her career as a vocalist and backing vocalist doing covers of well-known chart hits by various artists. If you are as old as I am and from the UK I am sure many will remember the series of Top of the Pops albums that run between 1968 – 1982. Basically, these were CHEAPO! vinyl albums where the songs were performed by other musicians and singers and sold at a lot cheaper price.

Even after the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, she went on to do covers and it’s her voice that you can hear singing Dolly Parton’s single “Love Is Like a Butterfly” on the BBC TV Series Butterflies that starred Wendy Craig that ran on British television between 1978 – 1983. Although her voice on “The Great Gig In The Sky” is used more like an instrument which is very much why it’s still classed as an instrumental piece.

It was also down to the fact that her voice worked like an instrument that led to a lawsuit being filed against Wright who up until 2005 the piece was solely credited to him. To be honest, having done the session, Torry did not think they would use it and was surprised herself when she saw her name on the album credits. I guess it was down to seeing how popular it had become that later on, she felt her contribution was worth more than the £30 she had been paid for the session and quite rightly so. None of the band members made a fuss and settled up out of court.

However, you look at “The Great Gig In The Sky” it does sound more like a song than an instrumental piece and that is down to Torry’s voice. In reality, the whole of this first side of the album could easily contend for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! especially when you can come up with something as GREAT! as this masterpiece.

Track 6. Money.

Even more popular than the previous song “Money” became the bands most commercially successful track, and has been covered by several artists over the years. The lyrical content can be seen as a mockery against greed although when you look at half of the materialistic items that are mentioned in the song many of the band members certainly had enough of the stuff to buy such items afterwards. Nick Mason and his collection of sports cars is perhaps a prime example of having too much of the stuff. Though it also pertains to politics, in particular, how when it comes to seeing it as the root of all evil. My favourite line in the song is “but if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away” it’s also very true.

The effective loop that Waters made for the intro with the use of clinking coins, a ringing cash register and tearing paper tells you what it’s all about and is well fitting to the piece. It’s even more effective on the quad mix and creates a walk-around room effect. Gilmore’s guitar solos along with the sax solos played by Dick Parry are also very impressive and to achieve the high piercing notes on the final chorus with the guitar he used a custom-made Lewis guitar with twenty-four frets that allowed a full four-octave range.

Like many of the songs on this album “Money” is an absolute classic and its single release in America broke them into the American market. I would suspect that it’s also most people’s favourite track on the album and it is, without doubt, a very high contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD! 

Track 7. Us and Them.

Besides conflict, the word segregation springs to mind with the lyrics that Waters wrote for this song and this is another one of the albums smoother tracks. Like the previous song, it was also released as a single in America though it peaked much lower at 72 on the Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart most likely because it was released a year after the release of the album. It’s the longest track on the album and the musical side of things was written by Wright on the piano back in 1969. Back then it went under the title of “The Violent Sequence” and was one of the many pieces that got rejected by the film director Michelangelo Antonioni that were originally intended for the film Zabriskie Point.

It’s another GREAT! song and one that is easily in contention with the best tracks on the album it could also be a personal favourite for many as well. The song itself has quite a jazzy flavour to it which is once again well suited for Parry’s sax to which he gets the opportunity to play a couple of solos on this one. The harmonies of Wright’s voice fit in well with Gilmour’s lead vocals and as with many of the songs the backing singers do a fine job. Roger “The Hats” manifold can also be heard in the song just before the second of the sax solos.

Track 8. Any Colour You Like. 

The final of the instrumental tracks on the album could be seen as a funked-up version of “Breathe Reprise” in particular with its backline of bass and drums. It also uses the same chord structure and could be seen as where the theme reoccurs yet again. It is however more synthesized but also features some fine lead work from Gilmour who used a couple of guitars to create the Uni-Vibe guitar effect. It’s very much a piece that keeps the album continuously flowing and its ending makes way for it to flow into the next track perfectly and effortlessly.

Track 9. Brain Damage.

The lyrics that Waters wrote for this song are very much tongue in cheek and were inspired by his former bandmate Syd Barrett who very much suffered from mental illness though most likely self-inflicted. Once again the band’s road manager back then Peter Watts’s manic laughter can be heard and it’s thanks to the multitrack recordings that you can also hear the tubular bells that Mason played in the song. The lunatics in this song could also apply to those in power and there are enough of them.

Track 10. Eclipse.

The final track on the album transcends from the previous track and being as they are both relatively short tracks they are quite often played together. Both tracks were also penned and sung by Waters, although on this final track everyone joins in. Within the context of the lyrics, he uses the sun and moon as symbols of dark and light, good and bad and that is what everything under the sun is pertaining to.

The final words at the end “There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun” were spoken by the doorman of Abbey Road Studios at the time Gerry O’Driscoll. You can also hear faintly in the background an orchestral version of The Beatles smash hit song “Ticket To Ride” that was being recorded in the next studio at the time by Hollybridge Strings.

If anything “Eclipse” puts the album to bed very well and summarises very much of the concept behind it all perfectly even if for some it’s quite puzzling. Once again the way the second side of the album has been stitched together is very much like one continuous piece with how it all flows.

Summary & Conclusion…

To sum up and conclude my review of The Dark Side Of The Moon Immersion Box by Pink Floyd. Firstly I would like to point out that no matter how much you love this iconic album there is no way I could ever consider this box set as a must for Floyd fans, especially at its original retail price point of over a hundred English pounds sterling. In reality, a box set like this is worth no more than £60 and even that is a considerably high price point to pay for the small amount of music media content it has to offer that you cannot get your hands on a lot cheaper outside of the box.

My only genuine interest in getting this box set was for the blu ray because it contained Alan Parsons original Quadrophonic mix. That and the music media content that is on CD 6 are the only things in this box that you cannot lay your hands on (though of course the Quad mix can be obtained easily enough on vinyl). However, setting up a system like that is gonna cost you a lot more than an arm and a leg to play it and getting a copy still in mint condition today is highly unlikely.

Regarding the content that comes on the 6th disc. Although it is interesting it’s only really demo content and this is the sort of material you used to get for free as bonus tracks on reissues of albums years ago some even give you an extra disc for free. Even though it is unreleased content it does not have any real genuine value and is certainly not enough to entice one to spend money like this on a box set.

The Dark Side Of The Moon may very well be a perfect album but unfortunately, its recording was far away from that and even though first-generation original master tapes were used on the content that is contained in this box set the album never had what one would call a reference point recording. The downside is that the album was only ever recorded on 16 tracks to which they shoved way too much information onto them to make the album what it is.

No matter what pressing or version you have of the album it will always sound like mud in parts such as I mentioned on “Brain Damage” in the stereo & surround mixes of my review. There are of course other parts on the album that are not so clear as well and no matter how good the mixing engineer is it is impossible to clean those parts up.

However, the album contains nowhere near the muddy mix that Brian Humphries gave to the bands 1977 album Animals which was recorded on 24 tracks. You could say that James Guthrie had a much easier task of cleaning up that album up, not only was it recorded with 8 extra tracks it also had less information shoved onto them.

I am sure many of you will already know that Guthrie’s 2018 mix of Animals finally got released this month. It’s also quite an interesting mix but I shall leave that for another day and another review.

I personally don’t think there will ever be a definitive version of TDSOTM unlike the Definitive Editions of the Yes albums that Steve Wilson mixed. I certainly don’t think Guthrie has Wilson’s ears either but for my ears, the best mixes of this album were done by Parsons and as I mentioned both the Stereo and Quad mixes are the real key points of this release.

In my own opinion, the best possible way to listen to the album is with the Quad mix it is, without doubt, more definitive and defines more than the 2003 5.1 mix that Gutrhie did. Though as I mentioned there is no real reason why any surround FREAK! should not be content and happy enough with that 5.1 mix and I certainly would not recommend laying out 80 bucks or more to get your hands on the quad mix as I did.

Box sets like this are really more of a vanity item that one can look at and put on display, they are a million miles away from an honest package that costs less and offers you more for your money (as the Jethro Tull packages do), especially regarding the actual music content that comes inside them. Here you are paying more for the SWAG! that comes in them more than anything else to which the biggest majority of it is not fit for the purpose it was made for in the first place.

That is my genuine honest viewpoint regarding both Immersion box sets that have been released so far of Pink Floyd. It’s also the reason why I could never recommend them though I dare say others might not quite see it like I do. However, if for some reason you feel the need to obtain this box set and come across it cheap enough brand new. I certainly would try and avoid the European releases of it unless you want to go through the same rigmarole as I did getting the blu ray replaced 😊😊😊.

Quad Mix Heaven For A High Price…

The CD tracklisting is as follows:

CD 1. (2011 Remaster)
01. Speak To Me. 1:07.
02. Breathe. 2:49.
03. On The Run. 3:45.
04. Time. 6:53.
05. The Great Gig In The Sky. 4:44.
06. Money. 6:23.
07. Us And Them. 7:49.
08. Any Colour You Like. 3:26.
09. Brain Damage. 3:46.
10. Eclipse. 2:12.

CD 2. (Live At Wembley 1974)
01. Speak To Me. 2:45.
02. Breathe. 2:50.
03. On The Run. 5:08.
04. Time. 6:31.
05. The Great Gig In The Sky. 6:50.
06. Money. 8:40.
07. Us And Them. 8:09.
08. Any Colour You Like. 8:10.
09. Brain Damage. 3:43.
10. Eclipse. 2:18.

CD 6. (1972 Mix & Previously Unreleased Tracks)
01. Breathe. 3:10.
02. On The Run. 3:30.
03. Time. 6:56.
04. The Great Gig In The Sky. 4:11.
05. Money. 6:52.
06. Us And Them. 7:15.
07. Any Colour You Like. 3:25.
08. Brain Damage. 3:50.
09. Eclipse. 1:36.
10. The Hard Way (from the ‘Household Objects’ project). 3:09.
11. Us And Them (Richard Wright demo). 5:39.
12. The Travel Sequence (Live In Brighton 1972). 4:36.
13. The Mortality Sequence (Live In Brighton 1972). 3:24.
14. Any Colour You Like (Live In Brighton 1972). 4:44.
15. The Travel Sequence (previously unreleased studio recording). 2:21.
16. Money (Roger Waters demo). 2:37.

The Packaging Rating Score. 5/10.
The Price Point Rating Score. 5/10.
The Quad Mix Rating Score. 10/10.
The 5.1 Mix Rating Score. 8/10.
The Album Rating Score. 10/10.