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Music video of Todd Rundgren’s Fidelity from Nearly Human sessions

Ed Vigdor, Todd Rundgren’s videographer during the 1988-89 Nearly Human recording sessions, recently posted a rare video edit from the recording of the song “Fidelity”. It’s not an officially sanctioned music video but it’s fantastic nonetheless. Kudos to Ed for posting this. It’s pretty much a dream for any fan to witness their idol in action in the studio. And Vigdor’s videos from the sessions are as close as most of us will ever get to see this musical genius in this type of recording session.

Some of the musicians in the Live Jasmin video include: Todd Rundgren, Brent Bourgeois, Lyle Workman, Michael Urbano, Bobby Strickland and Michele Gray Hopefully more of Vigdor’s footage from the sessions will see the light of day in some form or another. From what I’ve been told, there are hours and hours of footage from the various jasminlive sessions that made up Nearly Human and it’s a matter of compiling all of the raw footage into some sort of presentable fashion. Unfortunately, no one has the time and/or resource to take on the project.

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Live in Boston – Keith Emerson – Robert Berry – Carl Palmer

Thanks to some dedicated Asia/ELP fans, there are still some live recordings of the short lived 80’s offshoot band 3 (Three) being circulated around. You may remember this little variation in the ELP timeline – it was when Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer teamed up with singer/guitarist Robert Berry to record the album “To the Power of Three” back in 1988. As you may have guessed, the album flopped and the supporting tour got cut short. I’m not totally certain how many gigs the group actually ended up doing but I recently received copies of two of their shows (Boston and NYC), both of which were simulcast live on the radio at the time.

I haven’t had a chance to listen to the NYC gig but after listening to the Boston show, it’s pretty obvious to me why the band didn’t last (..well, besides the lack of album sales). In a live setting, the band just didn’t gel. It sounded more like a showcase for Keith Emerson and a backing band. I can’t say if it was his ego or talent or a bit of both but Emerson pretty much overshadowed the rest of the group. And there’s no question about his ability on keys. Just listen to his jawdropping solo piece “Creole Dance”. amazing stuff. But it just seemed that Palmer and Berry weren’t up to the task of pulling their own weight in this setting. Berry’s bass work was simply buried by Emerson’s synthesizers and his vocal range had a lot to be desired. And don’t get me started on Palmer’s drumming. Granted, he’s a world famous rock drummer and does amazing drum solos but when playing with the rest of the band, he simply can’t stay “in the pocket”. his tempo is all over the place. I’m not sure if he was preoccuppied with his electronic drum setup but his playing was pretty subpar in my opinion.

The problem was compounded with lackluster material that just didn’t translate well onto the stage. Come on singing lyrics like: “Sangre de toro, drinking the wine, beneath la montana, the shadows of time” is just embarrassing. Oh, they also included a backing vocalist (Jennifer Steele) and a guitarist (Paul Keller) for these live gigs. I’m almost certain that they brought in Steele for “eye-candy” because from hearing her off key harmonies, she obviously can’t sing. If you’re interested in the group, I say stick with the studio album. Even though it has the typical 80’s production sheen, it’d a whole lot better than hearing them live.

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The Buggles – Adventures in Modern Recording

Even though I’m a long time fan of Trevor Horn’s work, I never took the time to seek out the second album by The Buggles, Adventures in Modern Recording. I guess I assumed that it was simply a throwaway album filled with leftover tracks after keyboardist Geoff Downes left the band in 1981. Well, recently I had the chance to listen to the new re-issue put out by Salvo/ZTT and I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised by the material on the album. It’s actually very good. In fact, I prefer this Buggles album over their more well known debut, Age of Plastic.

It’s got Trevor Horn’s signature production touches all over it. The sounds and production techniques that Horn achieved here on this album obviously carried over to his subsequent production work with ABC, Yes (90125) and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. There are also precursors to his work with the Art Of Noise in the song “Vermillion Sands”. Just listen for the samples of a car crashing and the car engine turning over. very AON. Horn also does a “left turn” at the end of “Vermillion Sands” with an upbeat pseudo-big-band like instrumental which would fit right in on an AON album. definitely fun to view all of this in hindsight knowing what he achieved as a producer after his start in the Buggles.

10 bonus tracks are also included here on this release. Notables include “We Can Fly From Here” (which was considered for Yes’ Drama album), the 12″ mix of “I Am a Camera” Yes, there isn’t another song as catchy as “Video Killed a Radio Star” here but taken as a whole, this album is far more satisfying than their first album. Definitely worth seeking out. Highlights include: Adventures in Modern Recording, Vermillion Sands, I Am A Camera, Lenny.

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The Doors – When You’re Strange DVD

I had a chance to watch the new Doors’ DVD When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors over the weekend and I have to say that I really enjoyed the Tom DiCillo-directed documentary. Like most music fans, I’m so accustomed to “VH1: Behind the Music”-style music documentaries that DiCillo’s choice of using only archival footage was a refreshing change of pace. “When You’re Strange” is essentially an overview of the band’s short time together with Johnny Depp doing the narrating. DiCillo assembled a great variety of riveting footage from Jim Morrison’s onstage antics to the surreal clips from the unreleased film “HWY”. The vintage clips have been cleaned up and restored for this release and the quality of the footage definitely adds to the enjoyment of this documentary. One of the more memorable scenes is when Morrison is simply hanging out in the crowd before.

“The Who” gig and fans are just in awe of his presence, some just wanting to touch his hair. Another great clip is of the band recording “Wild Child” in the studio with Morrison being a bit self-conscious with his vocals. As expected, Morrison gets the bulk of the screentime here but the other band members (Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore) make their mark by their notable instrumental performances.

I’m sure longtime fans will gripe about DiCillo not going into more detail about certain events or songs but my guess is that it would take a multi-volume set to get into the real “nitty-gritty” which simply can’t be accomplished in 86 minutes. The bonus material on the DVD features an interview with Morrison’s dad, Admiral George Stephen Morrison, before he passed away in 2008. From what I heard, it’s the only interview he has done on camera concerning his famous son.

OK, as for the DVD giveaway, here’s the scoop. One lucky retroblog reader will be receiving a new DVD of “When You’re Strange: A Film About the Doors”. To enter in the drawing all you have to do is post your favorite Doors’ album in the comment section of this blog post. This will count as ONE ENTRY in the drawing. Please be sure to leave a legitimate email address or else I won’t have a way of contacting you if you’re selected as the winner. For those that want a better chance of winning, you can also join the retroblog facebook page (which is essentially hitting the LIKE button on that page). And by “LIKING” us on facebook, you’ll get the equivalent of TWO ENTRIES in the DVD drawing. I hope that makes sense. Let me know if I’m confusing you.

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Eric Clapton – August Outtakes & Different Mixes

I’ve been meaning to post about this ol’ boot,August Outtakes & Different Mixes, for a while now. The amount of enjoyment one would get from this 2-disc set largely depends on how one feels about Eric Clapton’s August album from 1986. I personally have a soft spot for the Phil Collins produced album. But I can definitely see how someone would get bored to tears from these “alternate mixes” when not having a strong connection with the source material. Frankly there aren’t major revelations here in this bootleg. Mainly you’ll find early takes of songs from the album that aren’t all that much different from the final product. “Lady From Verona” is the only song that I wasn’t familiar with but it’s essentially a throwaway with cringeworthy lyrics. “Wanna Make Love to You” is another outtake but most fans are familiar with this one since it ended up on theCrossroads box set. The rest of the boot is made up of alternate takes. I don’t know about other fans but I get a kick out of hearing demos and work-in-progress versions of familiar songs. It sort of gives you a glimpse of the creative process that went into the final versions.

Two highlights for me are the guide vocals done by Nathan East and Greg Phillinganes on “Grand Illusion” and “Miss You”. I’m not exactly sure why their vocals were recorded other than for an early run-through of the songs. Nevertheless, it’s a hoot listening to them singing along (presumably without the lyric sheet) filling in nonsense words to fit the melody. fun stuff. The second disc ends with subpar audio from Clapton’s live appearance on the TV show NightLife. Those two tracks aren’t really necessary since there are superior sounding live boots from Clapton’s 1986/87 tour. So, is this an essential Clapton boot? not really. But if you’ve got a fondness for mid-80′s Clapton (plus the heavy-handed production style of Phil Collins), this boot is worth seeking out.

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Tom Petty – Classic Albums – Damn the Torpedoes

I think a lot of people take Tom Petty for granted so it’s nice to be reminded of how talented this guy really is. Petty is a bonafide American Rock icon, no doubt. He has recorded fifteen studio albums, most of which went either gold or platinum. And he has toured, along with the Heartbreakers, extensively over the last three decades. Watching the newly releasedDamn the Torpedoes documentary just reaffirms why Petty and the Heartbreakers have had such a long career in the music business.

First of all, Damn the Torpedoes is Petty’s breakthrough album. It sat at the number two spot for seven weeks on the Billboard album chart and went on to sell over two million copies. With classic songs like “Don’t Do Me Like That”, “There Goes My Girl” and “Refugee”, the album has stood the test of time. And with producer Jimmy Iovine and engineer Shelly Yakus behind the recording console, the record still sounds great even to this day.

If you’ve never seen a “Classic Albums DVD” before, it’s essentially a detailed look back on how a particular album was put together with all the major contributors interviewed on camera. For this Damn The Torpedoes DVD- Petty, Yakus, Iovine, Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench and Ron Blair were brought into a recording studio to go over the multi-tracks of this album. For a “music nut” like me, it’s a huge treat to see and hear what went on “behind the scenes” especially concerning the songwriting and recording of it all.

Petty and Campbell obviously got most of the screentime but it was nice hearing insight from producer Iovine and from keyboardist Tench. It was a bit of a surprise to hear that Iovine demanded full live performances from the band in the studio instead of building songs track by track. But the interplay among the musicians really made the songs come alive which you may not have gotten if they had decided to record the album piece by piece. Iovine also reveals the “secret” to the song “Refugee”. The key rhythmic ingredient, according to Iovine, is the *shaker* that was added by legendary musician Jim Keltner. Keltner just happened to be hanging out in the studio at the time and they got him to add a shaker to the track and it was like magical fairy dust sprinkled onto the song. heh. funny stuff.

Oh and speaking of “Refugee”, be sure to check the bonus material on the DVD. Studio engineer Yakus explains that the bass drum was intentionally recorded “out of phase” with the rest of the drums. And by doing so, the bass drum stood out in the overall mix, making it almost “pop out” from the speakers. Another nugget from the bonus material, is Petty’s Rickenbacker guitar that’s featured on the album cover. It turns out that the Rickenbacker is actually Campbell’s. And get this, Campbell bought it used for only $150!! And by the serial number, he found out that it was the next guitar the shop made after they made George Harrison’s famous Rickenbacker. Man, I wonder if the original seller of that guitar ever found out what the guitar was really worth??

Anyway, there’s tons of neat info like that about the band and the album. It’s definitely worth viewing especially nowadays where professional recording studios are going the way of the dinosaur. The classic album series highlights the achievements that were done in a real recording studio using analog multi-track tapes. In this day and age of ProTools and bedroom recordings, a lot of these techniques and methods will unfortunately be lost. Can you imagine 20 years from now when the Classic Albums series features an album from 2010? The documentary will probably feature just some dude in a bedroom looking at waveforms on a computer screen. yikes!