Summer lull, what summer lull?
Led Zeppelin was the first big news. Exciting though the Complete BBC Sessions may be, you do roll your eyes slightly at Warner’s ability to take an original 2CD set and turn it into a £100 box, even though they’re only adding 8 unreleased tracks! I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised, it follows exactly the same pattern as all the album box sets which duplicated audio across CD and vinyl, failed to offer physical hi-res and delivered books which, photos aside, had no real content.
With The Beatles release, the recurring complaint from many (including SDE) is to do with how bad the cover of the new version of The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl is. Actually, it’s not called that anymore, it’s now called LIVE at the Hollywood Bowl, which is fine, but the cover art, which is a variation on the poster for Ron Howard’s documentary Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years, is awful. Typographically, it’s a mess, with far too much text. ‘The Beatles’ is too big and the whole thing is as subtle as a brick.
The album feels like a promotional device to advertise the film, rather than a reissue of a long-out-of-print live album. Tail wagging dog. George Martin worked on the original release back in 1977, trying to knock everything into shape as best he could and it’s obviously very positive that his son Giles has worked on the new version. But with no official soundtrack album to go with the film, Apple have pushed a square through a round hole and dressed up At The Hollywood Bowl as if it was the soundtrack. Well it’s not. It’s a near 40-year old live album. The four Beatles may well have not liked or even approved the original cover (or album?), but that’s how it was released and it has historical significance. These things shouldn’t be casually discarded at the whim of some marketing executive to help promote a movie. I mean, what exactly is Ron Howard’s name doing on the front of a Beatles album. Anyone?
What’s worse, is that fans have craved an official CD edition of this album (and compilations like Love Songs) for decades. It feels like Apple have put it out to solve a problem (“we need an album to go with the movie”) rather than as a wholehearted celebration of those Hollywood Bowl concerts. If the documentary hadn’t been released, would they have still issued this set?
For some reason there has been a two year gap between Oasis reissuing (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and Be Here Now. Unfortunately this hasn’t prompted a value-for-money rethink and the super deluxe box (like the Led Zeppelin sets) is massively overpriced.
The good news is that the vinyl, and in particular the 3CD deluxe edition, are great value. Although if you’ve bought the other boxes, it will take a will of iron *not* to buy this one. Bonus audio is great too, with tons of unreleased material including a whole disc of demos.
Finally David Bowie. If you saw SDE yesterday you’ll have noted that a previously unreleased album will be part of the next box. It’s called The Gouster, but what exactly is all this ‘Gouster’ business? What does the word mean? Over to Tony Visconti to explain…
“Gouster was a word unfamiliar to me but David knew it as a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60’s, in Chicago. But in the context of the album its meaning was attitude, an attitude of pride and hipness. Of all the songs we cut we were enamoured of the ones we chose for the album that portrayed this attitude“.
So now you know. We will have more details on The Gouster and the new box set very soon, but suffice to say that the ‘unreleased’ album is an early version of Young Americans. How the long-player may have sounded if Bowie and Lennon hadn’t hooked up to record Fame.