Saturday, October 2, 2010

Michael Fremer Album Review

Neil Young Official Release Series Discs 1-4 Box Set (new reissue)
Neil Young
Warner Brothers/Reprise 4 180g LP, numbered Box Set
Produced by: Neil Young, Jack Nitzsche, David Briggs, Elliot Mazer, others
Engineered by: various engineers
Mixed by: various mixers
Mastered by: Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman Mastering


Available Again For a Short Time!: Neil Young's Upcoming Four 180g LP Box Set!

by Michael Fremer

September 01, 2010
When Buffalo Springfield broke up, Neil Young set about building his solo career. The high-production work with Jack Nitzsche that had created classics like “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow” brought Neil back to the producer/keyboardist/orchestrator, who gained fame working with Phil Spector but the results on Young’s eponymous debut album were not as memorable. In fact, many critics and fans alike back in 1969 considered the album a disappointment and a misstep.

The “overproduction” charge was compounded by two issues: first was the original mix that buried Young’s voice, second was the label’s disastrous choice to master using the Haeco-CSG system. Invented by Howard Holzer, A&M’s chief engineer, Haeco-CSG was about cost cutting not sonic improvement.

By the late ‘60s, stereo had taken hold among album buying youngsters but most rock was still heard on AM radio or FM in the car, which was mostly monophonic. Stereo records played back monophonically usually produced terrible results: folding stereo down to mono upped common L/R information by 3 dB, which is major. That means vocals placed in both channels so they’d appear in the phantom center channel would be way too loud in mono. Not many rock singers of the era needed that kind of exposure, so Holzer invented a system to deal with the problem.

Unfortunately, his solution was to phase-shift common L/R right information so that it didn’t get the 3dB boost. Imagine, though, what happened to image focus and soundstage clarity! It produced a sonic mess that ruined many releases of the era, including Neil’s debut and Roots The Everly Brothers’ superb “comeback” album that inexplicably hasn’t been reissued yet on vinyl.

Neil remixed the first album, made sure it was mastered without Haeco-CSG and put a wide banner with his name on it at the top of the front cover in an effort to save the debut but it was too late. The album never recovered. Relatively rare original pressings with the first cover, mix and Haeco-CSG processing were quite collectible for a time, going for hundreds of dollars. I’m not sure what the going rate is today.

Time has actually been kind to Young’s debut. “The Loner” and “I’ve Been Waiting For You” are fuzz-tone laden standouts. “I’ve Loved Her Too Long” maintains its warm grip and even the surreal, Dylanesque overreach of “The Last Trip to Tulsa,” with Young’s acoustic guitar center stage and his voice off on the right channel, arrives nicely burnished through the time tunnel.

One could argue that the first album isn’t a high priority but no one would say that of the next three in this four, 180g LP box set: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Goldrush and Harvest.

With a set list that includes “Cinnamon Girl,” the title tune, “Round and Round,” “Down By The River,” and “Cowgirl In The Sand,” the second album with Crazy Horse is a hard-rocking, no-nonsense follow-up to the tentative debut and contains no filler. But surely you didn’t need to be told that.

Nor do you need to be told about the enduring folk/rock brilliance of After the Goldrush or Young’s greatest album chart success Harvest. If you do, you’re not forking over the big bucks for this 180g box set anyway. You’re more likely to opt for a 140g individual album or two.

What you’re really interested in hearing about is the sound quality of these reissues. But first a word about the packaging: Warner Brothers has gone to the trouble and expense of using deluxe paper over cardboard jackets that are authentic to the originals, though there are barcodes, new catalog numbers and updated mastering credits— all tastefully and respectfully done. All original posters and inserts are included. Pick up the new Harvest and you’ll be hard-pressed to tell it from the original, so perfectly does the new, thick outer paper stock match the original.

What’s very different about these reissues though, is the sound: I have multiple originals of all of them, including both the original Haeco-CSG version of the debut album and the re-do (obviously, though Warner Brothers and Young went with the original cover, the second mix was used) and I have to tell you, these reissues, mastered by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman and pressed at Pallas in Germany (buy a copy of my second DVD It’s a Vinyl World, After All and you can take a guided tour of Pallas, shot in high definition), sound far superior to the originals.

Look, I’ve been listening to these four albums for up to forty years now and I was not prepared for what I heard on all four of these albums. Grundman’s chain is sounding better than ever after what I hear are a series of upgrades.
Starting with the second album, Young arranged for multiple voices, often his own multi-tracked, but never before have the individual voices been so clearly locked in three dimensional space and timbrally distinct. The way the voices project into 3D space (including Young’s main centered one) is positively eerie (assuming your system can reproduced this, because trust me, it’s in the grooves in a way it’s not on the originals). Instrumental textures are far richer, fuller and better defined. Harmonics are fully fleshed out. Reverb trails extend to infinity before disappearing into background pitch blackness. There is so much more there there in every respect, it’s almost stupefying.

You can see Young before the microphone and experience every little vocal tick and breath pressurization. It’s not important because you can hear these details. It’s important because hearing them imparts greater meaning to the proceeding and certainly a greater appreciation of his singing and the deliberateness of his communications skills.

I wish I could tell you that the 140g versions, pressed, I assume, from the same stampers, sounded as good, but even correcting for the VTA/SRA differences, they don’t. They do sound plenty good, mind you, and better than the originals, but not quite as good as the 180g versions contained in the box set. And good as the Blu-ray versions are at 192k/24 bit, they don’t touch the vinyl.

So, my advice is: when the numbered, limited edition box is finally introduced shortly, if you’re as big a Neil fan as I am, don’t hesitate until it’s too late. Buy and enjoy this box set.

Warner Brothers, thanks to the tireless and meticulous efforts of Warner Brothers Senior Vice President and vinyl fanatic Tom Biery, demonstrates yet again, that it is possible for a major label to do vinyl correctly: cutting from analog masters, pressing at the best plants and packaging to provide fans with the genuine experience. It’s sad that the others don’t have the will to properly manage the task.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material.

Copyright © 2008 & Michael Fremer - All rights reserved Reprinted by Permission

Maxwell Smart Releases Full Length Debut Album

Maxwell Smart is a ska/punk band from California's San Fernando Valley. They have been steadily making danceable music since Jan. 2007. This record entitled "Infinite Appeal" has just that, a conscious effort to keep the genre of ska alive.


PRLog (Press Release) – Oct 01, 2010 – Do you get tired of hearing the same old songs on the radio? Are you looking for something fresh and new, but also tried and true? Look no further! Maxwell Smart are here to lift your spirits! The Band was formed in January of 2007 and released their first self titled EP in November of 2007. Coming from the ashes of a legendary SFV ska band "eleven penny life", Maxwell Smart made it their mission to enlighten and coerce EVERYONE into liking ska music.

Its members include Eduardo Lizarraga on drums, Tristan Garcia on bass guitar, Pedro Ramirez on Trombone, Eddie Martinez on Trumpet, Ian Anderson on Baritone Sax, and Brandon Maxwell on Lead Vocals and Guitar.

Maxwell Smart just recently played Pomona California's SKA IN THE PARK concert series, the Carson, CA stop of the VANS WARPED TOUR on the Kevin Says stage and have shared the stage with bands such as Big D and the Kids Table, Mustard Plug, Warsaw Poland Bros., Fishbone, and Suburban Legends, just to name a few.

The band has played such venues as The Glasshouse in Pomona, The Fox Theatre, The Home Depot Center, The Knitting Factory Hollywood, The Whiskey, The Roxy, The Cat Club, The Cobalt, Paladinos, The Little Rock, and many many more.

Maxwell Smart has become a prominent name in the Southern CA music scene, and will continue to make records for everyone's enjoyment well into the twilight of their lives.

# # #

About Maxwell Smart: A ska band coming from the San Fernando Valley. Dedicated to making great music for an energetic new audience.

This Date In Music History - October 2


David Sommerville - Diamonds (1933)

Lolly Vegas - Redbone (1939)

Ron Meagher - Beau Brummels (1941)

Don McLean (1945)

Richard Hell - Voidoids (1949)

Mike Rutherford, guitar, Genesis & Mike And The Mechanics (1950)

Gordon Sumner - Police, solo Due to a fondness for a black and yellow striped jersey he acquired the name Sting (1951)

Phil Oakey - Human League (1955)

Soul singer Freddie Jackson (1956)

Sigtryggur Baldursson - Sugarcubes (1962)

Bud Graugh - Sublime (1967)

Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough) (1969)

Mall queen Tiffany (1971)

LaTocha Scott - Xscape (1973)

They Are Missed:

America's singing cowboy Gene Autry died in 1998 (age 91). During his career he scored 25 successive Top 10 Country hits. In 1995 it was estimated he was worth $320 million.


DeFord Baily recorded eight masters in Nashville, TN in 1928. The songs that were issued were the first recording sessions to be made in what is now known as Music City, USA.

In 1954, Elvis Presley made his only appearance on Nashville's "Grand Ole Opry" (the Opry manager told him to stick to driving a truck).

US band vocalist from the 1940s, Don Cornell was at #1 on the UK singles chart in 1954 with "Hold My Hand." This song was banned by the BBC for the words 'kingdom of heaven'.

Connie Francis recorded her immortal cut "Who's Sorry Now" in 1957.

Phil Spector and partner Lester Sill released the first single in 1961 on their new label Philles, The Crystals’, "Oh Yeah Maybe Baby." A little over a year later, they had a #1 hit with "He’s a Rebel" and soon after, "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me."

'Banks of the Ohio' was released by Joan Baez in 1961.

The Who made their debut on US TV in 1965 on the show "Shindig!"

In 1965, the McCoys were at #1 on the US singles chart in 1965 with "Hang On Sloopy." The song was first released by The Vibrations and called "My Girl Sloopy."

In 1965, Manfred Mann became the first Western rock band to play behind the Iron Curtain, in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

The Grateful Dead (all six members), were arrested for possession of marijuana in 1967. They were released six hours later on bail.

Rod Stewart started a five week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1971 with "Maggie May / Reason To Believe," his first solo #1 hit. Stewarts album 'Every Picture Tells A Story' also started a four-week run on this day at #1 on the UK and US chart.

In 1975, a bomb scare canceled a Bruce Springsteen concert in Milwaukee. The show was re-scheduled for midnight. Meanwhile Springsteen has a few drinks at the hotel and rode on the hood of a car back to the concert hall. A journalist writes “I have seen the future of Rock & Roll and he’s on my windshield.”

In 1976, John Belushi came out on stage with Joe Cocker while he was performing on "Saturday Night Live."

"Tonight's The Night" by Rod Stewart was released in 1976.

In 1977, the body of Elvis Presley and his mother Gladys were moved from the cemetery where they were buried to Graceland's after an unsuccessful attempt was made to body snatch the coffin.

Also in 1977, Gene Simmons (KISS) received a platinum record for his solo album.

In 1980, Leaveil Degree from the soul group The Whispers started a two-year prison sentence in Boron California for his part in diamond robbery.

1982, John Cougar started a four week run at #1 on the US singles chart in 1982 with "Jack and Diane," his first US #1 hit.

Rush’s “Signals” entered the LP charts in 1982. In addition, The Clash’s “Rock The Casbah” hits the singles charts. And at a benefit concert in England, current members of Genesis (Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks) were joined by past members Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel.

Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler was at #1 on the US singles chart in 1983 with the Jim Steinman written and produced track "Total Eclipse Of The Heart." It made her the only Welsh artist to score a US #1.

Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." tour ended in 1985 in Los Angeles, CA .

The Prince single "America" was released in 1985.

In 1994, John Mellencamp announced that it was true - that he had suffered a mild heart attack.

Oasis released their second album '(What's The Story), Morning Glory' in 1995, which entered the UK chart at #1.

Iron Maiden's tenth album "The X Factor" was released in 1995. It was the first album to include Blaze Bayley as vocalist.

In 1996, a Pearl Jam show in Hartford Connecticut ended in a riot when mass fighting broke out among the 30,000 strong crowds.

In 1997, Juanita L. Evans filed suit against Wu-Tang members RZA and Method Man, rapper Redman, and a Pennsylvania university and its student government. Evans claimed that she was distracted by Redman and therefore did not see Method Man when he leapt off stage and landed on her. Evans was knocked unconscious.

Radiohead's fourth album, "Kid A", was released in 2000.

Come Together: A Night For John Lennon’s Words and Music was held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 2001. Dave Matthews and the Stone Temple Pilots are among the performers.

In 2002, Adam Ant (yes, that Adam Ant!) escaped a prison sentence after a judge ruled that an incident in which he threatened drinkers with a replica pistol in a London pub was a result of mental illness. The 1980's pop star had been voluntarily having psychiatric treatment since the incident.

Robbie Williams signed the most lucrative British record deal in history in 2002 when he signed with EMI records for £80m (over 125 million). Asked what he was going to do with money Robbie said, "I'm going to count it all." Can I help?

In 2003, police were called to a suspected burglary at the Los Angeles house of Courtney Love's former boyfriend and ex-manager Jim Barber in the early hours. Love was picked up in the street outside and detained - with officers noting "Miss Love's behaviour was consistent with being under the influence of a controlled substance." Shortly after her arrest, Love was taken to hospital with a suspected drug overdose. Real smart.......

In 2006, the second leg of the Rolling Rock and Roll Show cranks up with The Romantics and Shadows Of Knight. The Garage Rock-themed tour featuring ‘60s bands was organized by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt. The first stop was San Diego.

Matchbox 20 released 'Exile On Mainstream' in 2007.

John Fogerty's LP 'Revival,' with the single, "Don't You Wish It Was True," was released in 2007. Recorded in L.A., the disc's title references the singer-guitarist’s former band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, as does the track, "Creedence Song." Fogerty also appears on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman to promote the album.

Bruce Springsteen released 'Magic' in 2007. The 11-track album was his first in five years (since '02's 'The Rising') with the E Street Band. "You could say that it's a little more sonically guitar-driven than any past Bruce album," says Jon Landau, Springsteen's long-time manager. A single, "Radio Nowhere," was initially available as a free download exclusively at iTunes. Springsteen and Co. also kicked off a North American tour in Hartford, CT.

Songs by Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan were free at Starbucks locations in 2007 via "Song of the Day" cards that are redeemable at iTunes. During the month-long promotion Starbucks issued 1.5 million free downloads per day.

In 2007, Britney Spears was ordered to hand over her two young children to her former husband Kevin Federline by a judge in Los Angeles. The court ruled that Federline would be given custody of Sean Preston, two, and one-year-old Jayden James, until further notice. Last month Judge Scott Gordon had said Ms Spears showed "a habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol." The singer was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol tests twice a week as part of her child custody dispute with Mr Federline. Idiot......

The Unseen Beatles, a DVD with rare footage of the lads from Liverpool, was in stores in 2007. The 65-minute documentary has interviews and personal home movies of the band shot in the '50s and '60s.

Elton 60: Live at Madison Square Garden, a two-DVD set documenting John's 60th birthday concert (earlier in the year) in New York was released in 2007.

"The Best Of Steely Dan: The Millennium Collection" was also released in 2007.

An eBay auction to help pay the medical bills of founding Poco drummer George Grantham, who suffered a debilitating stroke in '04, got underway in 2007. Items for sale during the weeklong auction were contributed by ex-Poco/Buffalo Springfield member Richie Furay, Graham Nash and the Eagles' Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmit.

Mott The Hoople's five original members reunited in 2009 for the first of two London concerts to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary. "Why are we doing it? I can't speak for the others, but I'm doing it just to see what it's like," writes frontman Ian Hunter. A second show is the following day. Cool......