Buffalo Springfield, Flaming Lips boxed

By Tom Von Malder | Jul 29, 2018
Photo by: Atco/Rhino Records The cover of the Buffalo Springfield box, with front from left, Neil Young and Dewey Martin; and back from left, Stephen Stills, Bruce Palmer and Richie Furay.

Owls Head — Buffalo Springfield: What's That Sound? Complete Albums Collection (Atco/Rhino, 5 CDs, 2:50:29). Formed in 1966, Buffalo Springfield only made two proper albums, while a third was mostly solo efforts cobbled together, as the band already had broken up. Their music combined elements of folk and country and, with their second album, psychedelic music. The three key members were Stephen Stills and Neil Young, who wrote most of the songs individually, and Richie Furay.

Named after a brand of steamroller, the members were Stills (guitar, keyboards vocals), Young (guitar, vocals, piano, harmonica), Furay (guitar vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals) and Bruce Palmer (bass).

Palmer, like Young, a Canadian, had been in an early version of Steppenwolf, called Jack London & the Sparrows. In early 1965, he joined The Mynah Birds, fronted by future funk legend Rick James, and met Young. After the band broke up, the two left Canada in Young's hearse, hoping to hook up with Stills, whom Young had played with briefly two years earlier. Furay had performed with Stills in the nine-member Au Go Go Singers, the house band at the Cafe Au Go Go in New York City. Martin, also born in Canada, worked as a session drummer in Nashville, before moving to Los Angeles. He played short stints with the Standells, The Modern Folk Quartet and The Dillards. When Doug Dillard let him go, he told Martin that Buffalo Springfield was looking for a drummer. Martin also did session work for The Monkees while in the band.

This box set, re-mastered from the original analog tapes by producer John Hanlon under the auspices of Young and mastered by Chris Bellman, contains both the mono and stereo versions of "Buffalo Springfield" (1966) and "Buffalo Springfield Again" (1967), as well as the stereo "Last Time Around" (1968), the latter produced by Jim Messina, who would go on to form Poco with Furay. Stills, of course, teamed up with David Crosby and Graham Nash to form Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Young joined them during recording of their first album.

Highlights of the debut album include Stills' countrified "Go and Say Goodbye," his slight "Sit Down/I Think I Love You," with a jazz guitar break, and Young's playful "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," which was the band's first single. Young also is responsible for the melodic "Flying on the Ground is Wrong," and plays piano on both "Burned" and "Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It." Stills also penned "Pay the Price" and the classic "For What It's Worth." In the box notes, which are very brief, Young says the bass has been boosted during the re-mastering.

The second album yielded three classic songs by Young: "Mr. Soul," with some psychedelic guitar; the uplifting "Expecting To Fly"; and the narrative "Broken Arrow," with its dramatic arrangement. Stills' two classic compositions are "Bluebird" and "Rock & Roll Woman." Furay wrote three songs, including the country song, "A Child's Claim to Fame." It is the best of the three albums, closely followed by the first.

Album three has another Young classic in "I am a Child," very simple and with harmonica, plus his "On the Way Home." Stills has nice harmonies with Furay on his "Pretty Girl Why," rocks out on "Special Care" and goes partially Latin on "Carefree Country Boy," a foreshadowing of his first solo album. Furay's best is "Kind Woman," later recorded by Poco.

There are no bonus tracks. Palmer died in 2004 and Martin in 2009. Thankfully, the other three are still with us and performed as a rejuvenated Buffalo Springfield in 2010 through 2012. Grade box set A-

The Flaming Lips: Seeing the Unseeable, The Complete Studio Recordings 1986-1990 (Restless/Rhino, 6 CDs, 5:08:35). This collection contains the four albums the band recorded for Restless Records, as well as a disc of demos for the fourth album and a disc of rarities, b-sides and flexi disc recordings. This is the work that helped the band get signed to Warner Bros. Records, when their music was much more familiar to me. The Oklahoma band of "freaks" constantly pushed musical boundaries, resulting in a lot of sonic weirdness. The music here has been re-mastered from original sources by the band's longtime musical foil and producer, David Fridmann, with help by band members Wayne Coyne and Michael Ivins. The four albums are: "Hear It Is" (1986); "Oh My Gawd!!! ... The Flaming Lips" (1987); "Telepathic Surgery" (1989); and "In a Priest Driven Ambulance (With Silver Sunshine Stares)" (1990).

The band was formed in 1983 in Norman, with Coyne on guitar, his brother Mark on lead vocals, Ivins on bass and Dave Kotska on drums. Mark left and Wayne took over lead vocals, starting with their debut album, "Hear It Is." The album features speed rock in "Unplugged" and "Trains, Brains and Rain," as well as the rocker "Just Like Before" and "Jesus Shootin' Heroin," which has a spare start then smashes on the chorus. "Charlie Manson Blues" has a silly "ugh" chorus and sounds like a wild, uncontrollable party. Sticking with names that shock or bring up their own imagery, "Godzilla Flick" has a softer vocal.

Album two features the punkish "Everything's Explodin'," as well as the 9:21-long, mostly instrumental "One Million Billionth of a Millisecond on a Sunday Morning," which is more melodic and grows from spare to stormy. Psychedelia comes to play in the mid-album trio of "Ode to C.C. (Part 1)" (the song refers to C.C. DeVille of the band Poison), "The Ceiling Is Bendin'" (on which the percussion "travels") and "Prescription Love," with the latter two quite weird. There is another shout-out in "Maximum Dream for Evil Knievel," while "Can't Exist" is acoustic.

"Telepathic Surgery" was originally conceived as a 30-minute sound collage, an idea that was abandoned. However, this release contains the full "Hell's Angel's Cracker Factory," which runs 23:05 and first was released in 2005. The other late addition to the album was "Fryin' Up." Another highlight is "Chrome Plated Suicide," which is based on "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. Solid are the opener, "Drug Machine in Heaven," and the closer, "Begs and Achin'," with its chug beat. The latter mentions a UFO, as does "U.F.O. Story," which begins as a spoken story about seeing six UFOs.

Album four, "In a Priest Driven Ambulance," is a concept album of sorts, reflecting on Wayne Coyne's fascination with religion. The album also marked the debut of two new band members: drummer Nathan Roberts and guitarist Jonathan Donahue (of Mercury Rev). The album includes three "Jesus Songs," the best of which is the opening "Shine On Sweet Jesus." There are massed noises on "Unconsciously Screamin'," while "Five Stop Mother Superior Rain," which mentions the deaths of John F. Kennedy and John Lennon, is acoustic. "God Walks Among Us Now" is loud and noisy, while "Mountain Side" is lengthy and noisy. The album ends with an unexpected cover of "What a Wonderful World."

Disc six, "The Mushroom Tapes," is made up of demo tapes for "In a Priest Driven Ambulance" -- mostly acoustic -- plus a closing jam track. These demos were previously issued on the Rykodisc compilation CD, "The Day They Shot a Hole in the Jesus Egg."

The rarities disc contains 15 tracks, opening with live covers of Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69" and Led Zeppelin's "Thank You." ("Telepathic Surgery" contains a "kiss off" song for Led Zeppelin.) There also is a fine cover of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" (done for a tribute album) and a striking combination of The Sonics' "Strychnine" with Nick Lowe's "Peace, Love and Understanding" (the latter a hit for Elvis Costello). "Death Trippin' at Sunrise" is an ambient, repetitive piece of 4:32 length. The other rarity highlight is "She's Gone Mad Again." Grade: set B

Chicago: Chicago II Live on Soundstage (Rhino, CD + DVD, 62 min.). In 1970, Chicago, the band that helped bring horns to rock and roll, along with Blood, Sweat & Tears, issued arguably its best and certainly most famous album, the double-vinyl "Chicago," later to be called "Chicago II." Their first album had been issued under a longer band name, Chicago Transit Authority. The album yielded three Top Ten singles in "25 or 6 to 4," "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World," and earned Grammy nominations for Album of the Year, Contemporary Vocal Group and Best Album Cover.

The concert was recorded in Chicago, at the historic WTTW-TV studios. The band performs every song from the classic album, including several that have not been played live since the 1970s. The show clocks in around 61 minutes, while the original album was 67 minutes long. Only three of the original members of Chicago are still with the band, namely Robert Lamm (lead vocals, keyboards, guitar), James Pankow (trombone, background vocals) and Lee Loughnane (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals). The stage band here consists of nine members, the others being Ray Herrmann on saxophone and woodwinds, Lou Pardini on lead vocals and keyboards, Keith Howland on guitar and vocals, Wally Reyes on lead percussion, Tris Imboden on drums and Jeff Coffey on vocals and bass. Coffey is both a good singer and guitarist, and Herrmann' sax playing is excellent on "Better End Soon."

The album includes two long suites, "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon," which Pankow talks about prior to its performance, and "It Better End Soon." "Ballet" contains "Make Me Smile," "Colour My World" and "Now More Than Ever." The band moved "25 or 6 to 4" out of order, so it could finish the show on a high note.

There also is a CD-only version and a collector's edition that includes the CD, DVD and the original album, remixed by Steven Wilson (the Jethro Tull catalog among others) on both CD and double-vinyl. Grade: A

David Shephard: Into the Badlands, music from the AMC original series (Varese Sarabande CD, 50:57). The show is a futuristic epic, set in a dystopian, feudal world with master sword wielders and supernatural forces.  It is about 500 years after war destroyed civilization. Several Barons rule the Badlands, using their expert swordsmen/assassins, called Clippers to control the workers, or Clogs. Each Clipper force is commanded by a Regent. The show, which debuted in 2015 and currently  is in mid-season hiatus of its third season, revolves around a soon-to-be former Regent (Daniel Wu as Sonny) and new protégé M.K. (Aramis Knight), who has a dark power that is triggered when he is in danger. It is a character drama with high caliber martial arts fights. Season one was filmed in New Orleans, before production moved to Ireland.

Composer Shephard uses taiko drums, distorted guitars and strings, dark moody pads, ethnic instruments from around the globe and obscure, native wind instruments, along with modern recording studio effects, to create an excellent, quite effective score. A good example is "Abbot Fight," with both metallic and wooden sounds to mimic the clash of fists and blades. The percussive main theme, written by Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda, is performed by Warrior Blade. The disc comes with an 8-page booklet. Grade: A

Robert Duncan: Timeless, original television soundtrack (Varese Sarabande CD, 66:40). The twice-cancelled "Timeless" -- there is hope for a 2-hour wrap-up film in the future -- stars Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett and Matt Lanter as a team of time travelers, tasked to stop the mysterious Rittenhouse organization from changing the past. Lucy Preston (Spencer) is especially motivated, as one of the time alterations has wiped her sister out of existence.

Time travel means lots of visitors to other eras, but Duncan does not go for a diverse score that uses the flavor of other eras' music. In fact, the disc contains 51 different cues in its 66-minute length, meaning one hardly gets into the flow of a track before it is over. Yet, the score remains effective. The cues are arranged by location and year. The best are the exciting "Might Want To Hold On," the pretty "Wyatt and Lucy" and "Over the Hump," and the punchy "Vegas Chase" and "Hand-in-Hand Liftoff." There is dialogue from the Hollywood 1942 episode, leading into Spencer singing  "You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)," with help from Lanter. It is a treat for fans. The disc comes with an 8-page booklet. Grade: B+

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