A happening: Nash, Shaw, Supremes, Cure look to the past

By Tom Von Malder | Jul 13, 2018
Photo by: Atlantic/Rhino Records The cover of the new Graham Nash collection, "Over the Years."

Owls Head — Graham Nash: Over the Years (Atlantic/Rhino, 2 CDs, 1:33:15). Curated by Nash himself and longtime associate Joel Bernstein, this 2-CD set contains 15 classic Nash songs and a bonus disc of 15 demos and unreleased mixes -- 12 previously unreleased -- with eight of the demos being of songs on disc one, so the listener can get a sense of how the songs were developed. There are extensive credit notes on each recording and a nice background essay by Arthur Levy.

A two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Nash burst on to the scene during the British Invasion with The Hollies, but he famously left The Hollies when they rejected a recording of his "Marrakesh Express. " Nash also was tired of the constant touring and The Hollies' habit of releasing two albums a year. Moving to California, he helped form the supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1968 with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. His new group recorded "Marrakesh Express," and it proved the hit Nash expected it to be.

In a press release, Nash said, "It does my heart good to present my songs this way. I hope that listeners will enjoy hearing the demos of my songs -- how my demos of 'Our House,' 'Teach Your Children' and others turned into the records that have endured 'Over The Years,' how I started writing them, and how they became the now familiar recordings when they were released."

Disc one highlights songs from the iconic CSN debut album ("Marrakesh Express") and its successor album, "Déjà Vu," for which Neil Young joined forces with CSN ("Our House," "Teach Your Children"), as well as songs from subsequent CSN albums ("Just A Song Before I Go," "Wasted On The Way"). In addition, the collection highlights songs that Nash recorded for his 1971 solo debut, "Songs For Beginners," including "Military Madness" and "Simple Man," and includes unreleased mixes for two other songs from that album, "Better Days" and "I Used To Be King." "Military Madness," along with "Immigration Man" and "Chicago/We Can Change the World," are examples of Nash's political songs, while several of the love songs, including "Our House," were inspired by his then-relationship with Joni Mitchell.

The most recent recording is "Myself At Last" from Nash's 2016 solo album, "This Path Tonight." There also are two tracks from his duo albums with Crosby ("Immigration Man" and "Wind On The Water").

The second disc includes the 1968 London demo of "Marrakesh Express," which The Hollies rejected. There are early versions of CSN classics like "Our House," "Wasted On The Way," "Pre-Road Downs" and "Teach Your Children." 'Wasted On the Way" features co-writers Stills and Timothy B. Schmit (post-Eagles breakup) on vocals. (Schmit also sings on CSN's "Southern Cross," not included here.) "I Miss You" and "You'll Never Be The Same" are both from Nash's 1974 solo album, "Wild Tales," while "Horses Through A Rainstorm" was originally intended for "Déjà Vu."

A 15 track, double-LP version, featuring an etching on "Side Four," will be released on Aug. 31. In addition to his July U.K. and European tour, Nash will continue to support this release with a Fall U.S. tour, beginning Sept. 21 in Arlington, Texas. Grade: A-

Sing for the Day! by Tommy Shaw & Contemporary Youth Orchestra (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or CD, NR, 81 min.). This is a 2016 concert with Shaw performing songs from Styx, Damn Yankees and his solo career with the Cleveland-based Contemporary Youth Orchestra, a collection of top high school musicians from all over Ohio. Recorded at the intimate Waetjen Auditorium, with the group's chorus singing from a balcony, above and next to the stage, the show marked the 10-year anniversary of Styx's original 2006 performance with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra, previously released by Eagle Rock Entertainment as "One With Everything."

The orchestra is conducted by Liza Grossman, who founded the CYO, while Shaw is joined on stage by frequent collaborator Will Evankovich, who has performed with The Guess Who and performed, produced and written with Styx ("The Mission," which will be reissued in 5.1 Surround Sound with exclusive video content July 27) and Shaw/Blades. Shaw and Evankovich occasionally talk in recorded bits between the songs, of which there are 12, plus an overture, in the video, plus four bonus songs in audio-only format, but accompanied with stills from both on stage and backstage.

In a press release, Shaw states that this is "a retrospective look at some of my favorite songs I've written and co-written, performed with Contemporary Youth Orchestra, now remixed in glorious 5.1, takes them all to a higher place I'd never imagined."

Highlights include "Too Much Time on My Hands," with a Shaw guitar solo, fine singing by the chorus and the crowd handclapping; "Fooling Yourself," with two violin solos by Alex Ikezawa; "Crystal Ball," with nice singing by the chorus, a Shaw solo, a trumpet solo and the inclusion of a final verse that never made the Styx recording; and "Renegade," with the orchestra beginning by thumping on their chests. Lavinia Pavlish, a former student who performed in the Styx concert and now is a professional violinist, joins Shaw for a "duel" during "Renegade." Shaw plays mandolin on "Boat on the River," while the three percussionist make rowing motions with their arms. Shaw switches from acoustic guitar to electric for a solo midway through "Man in the Wilderness." Ikezawa has another violin solo to open "Come Again" and he and a cellist open "High Enough."

The four audio bonus songs (14:59) are "the Night Goes On," "Down the Highway," "I'll Be Coming Home" (with a long instrumental intro) and "The Great Divide." Grade: A-

The Supremes: The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland (Motown, 2 CDs, 2:34:15). This expanded version of the classic album, released Jan. 23, 1967 and reaching No. 6 on the Billboard Pop charts and No. 1 on the R&B charts, includes both remixed mono and stereo versions of the original album, five bonus 2018 mixes, seven bonus alternate versions and a complete, previously unreleased May 1967 live show at New York's Copacabana. This Copa show is the last live recording of the original trio of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. Ballard soon was replaced by Cindy Birdsong.

Holland-Dozier-Holland was a songwriting and production team for Motown that created all of The Supremes' big hits, at least through 1967, with many more to come. It consisted of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. Their songs helped create the Motown Sound of the mid-Sixties, 1962-1967. Dozier and Brian Holland were the composers and producers, while Eddie Holland wrote the lyrics and arranged the vocals. They ultimately wrote 10 of The Supremes' 12 chart-toppers, and also had success with The Four Tops.

The original album includes the classics "You Keep Me Hangin' On" and "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone," as well as the very memorable "It's the Same Old Song" and "There's No Stopping Us Now." The album also includes The Supremes' cover of "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave," a hit for Martha and the Vandellas. They also do "I'll Turn To Stone," which became a hit for The Four Tops. One of the five bonus tracks on disc one is their theme for "The Happening," a big hit that The Supremes performed on the film's score. Four of the bonus tracks are extended mixes, with "We Couldn't Get Along Without You" being a new-lyric tribute to label head Berry Gordy Jr., set to the tune of "My World Is Empty Without You." Also note that both "The Happening" and its single B-side, "All I Know About You," were written with film score composer Frank De Vol, two of the rare times Holland-Dozier-Holland shared a songwriting credit. Dozier talks about each track on disc one in the extensive liner notes, contained in one of the two booklets that come with this release. The song booklet is 36 pages, while the other, 24-page booklet is a photo-filled look at the original trio on stage, at play and touring the Far East, including Japan and China.

The five bonus tracks are previously unreleased, as are all the tracks on disc 2, which starts with seven extended or alternate mixes, including a track with both versions of "The Happening" from the film soundtrack. There also is a string version of "You're Gone But Always in My Heart."

The live show covers 15 tracks, including two medleys and a merging of two songs, namely "The Lady Is a Tramp" and "Let's Get Away From It All," one of the concert's many highlights. The concert is Broadway heavy, as evidenced by the wonderful medley of "Thoroughly Modern Milly," "Second Hand Rose" and "Mame," plus their only existing concert performance of "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music." The other medley is of four of their hits -- "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Come See About Me," "My World Is Empty Without You" and "Baby Love" -- recorded live for the first time. The show opens with a much faster tempo on "Put On a Happy Face," a number they shortly retired from performing. The Supremes also have fun with "Queen of the House," a parody of Roger Miller's "King of the Road." The show ends with "The Happening" and this is the only live version with all the song's verses. Remarkably, Ross performed with a cold, but still is in great form. Grade: A+

The Cure: Mixed Up + Extra Remixes 1982-1990 + Torn Down (Rhino/Elektra/Fiction, 3 CDs, 3:37:55). All the tracks are newly remastered, done under the supervision of singer/songwriter Robert Smith, as well as a third disc, "Torn Down," with 16 brand new remixes by Smith himself.

The history behind the original "Mixed Up" album was that The Cure was starting to break up in 1990, despite 1989's success with the "Disintegration" album and the "Global Prayer" tour. Smith knew he had to handle dissension within the group before recording a new album, so instead he addressed the fan issue of the band's vinyl 12-inch remixes having become rare and expensive. Thus, he created the original 11-track remix album. Highlights include the languorous beginning to "Lullaby," the danceable break in "Fascination Street," the bright "Lovesong," the more Joy Division-sounding "Pictures of You" (an extended dub mix) and the bouncy Hot Hot Hot!!!" with its disco sounds and horns. Both "A Forest" and "The Walk" had to be recreated, using the original instruments, as the original tapes were missing.

Disc two collects 11 remixes from 1982 to 1990, again with all remastered this year. Highlights include "Let's Go To Bed," "Close To Me," "Just One Kiss" (with metal railings percussion), "Boys Don't Cry," "Why Can't I Be You," "Pictures of You" and the percussive "Primary." Most are extended versions.

For the new third disc, Smith chose his favorite songs rather than hits in order to illustrate the variety of The Cure's catalog. In the booklet, Smith says, "Compared to most of the 'Mixed Up' remixes, my versions tend to work with the existing song structure; they're pretty much the same length and tempo as the original ... for whatever reason, I found myself happier working within those structural restraints."

The best tracks on disc three are "Three Imaginary Boys," "Just One Kiss, "Never Enough" (with more bite) and "The Last Day of Summer."  Many are dreamlike, such as "Like Cockatoos." There is a 24-page booklet. Grade; disc 1 B+, disc 2 A-, disc 3 B-

Various: Extend the 80s Alternative (Great Britain, BMG, 3 CDs, 2:56:35). While the cover brags "Essential 12" and extended mixes of 80s alternative tracks," the 30-song collection actually contains very few real hits and ends with Kirsty Maccoll, whom I hardly call alternative. The bona fide hits are Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science," here extended; Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "Love Missile," here an "ultraviolence mix" with lots of echoing; The Buggles' "I Am a Camera"; and After the Fire's "Der Kommissar" (extended).

The set opens with a remix of Art of Noise's "Close To the Edit," which does absolutely nothing for me as it is too random sounding, but it is the only real misfire here. Disc one emphasizes  very distinctive singers, with tracks by Japan, The Undertones" ("Love Parade") and The Associates (the only act to get two tracks). The longest track is Toyah's "Ieya," while there are nice horns on Au Pairs' "Inconvenience" and a long instrumental beginning to A Flock of Seagulls' "The More You Live, The More You Love" (it includes some industrial sounds as well). There is a reggae version of "Can't Get Used To Losing You" by The Beat.

On the other discs, Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Rage Hard" is a thriller, while Shooting Party's "Safe in the Arms of Love" is nice in an extra beat boys alternate mix. Annie Lennox, then of The Eurythmics, is paired with Robert Görl of D.A.F. (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft) for "Darling Don't Leave Me" from his first solo album. A blues mix of The Silencers' "Painted Moon" is good and bright. An oddity is The Damned's "Lovely Money," which seems a tour of the Tower of London and a history of torture. It has a disco-style drum beat and voice over by former Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band frontman  Viv Stanshall that criticized the then-nationalism in Great Britain that arose after the Falklands War in 1982.

Other tracks are by Passion Puppets, The Stranglers, Flash and the Pan, The Blow Monkeys, Fad Gadget and The Belle Stars. Grade: B

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