Listening as I write to the Best Years compilation. I passed the test CDs a few weeks ago, but the real thing is a pleasure to hold and play. It’s a sharp, bright, clean and sympathetic cut by one of Abbey Road’s master mastering engineers, Andy Pearce (Andy, it’s brilliant, flawless, thank you). Check the backing vocals and horns on Panorama. Sensational.
It will surely make a splendid project for next year: the entire album, in sequence as half of a Live show. But Make Me Smile coming in at number 6 on the set-list? Maybe I’ll play the slow blues version, the way I first aired it in the studio that winter’s morn in ’74. The real thing really ought to come a little later, didn’t it? We were so young. But those guys could play. And Yvonne with Liza Strike and Linda Lewis and Jim and George: that’s a backing vocal choir! Alan Parsons was (probably still is) a gifted studio engineer. Make Me Smile is one of his classic achievements. The whole album is. Listen to that guitar sound on Back To The Farm, Cregan and Parsons in inventive tandem. I can’t wait to hand one of our Promo copies to both Jim and Stuart at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday. They can be proud. Cregan and Mackay in harmony parts on that solo in 7/4 time. We were on fire with crazy, daring ideas. “We was angry – “ Bits of 9/4... “Putting new coaches on the train...” Slowed-down tape, sped up tape. Stuart on Chinese cymbals and cross-tempo snare fills that owed more to the playing of great jazz drummers (Buddy Rich et al) his dad, a pro drummer, would have fed him as a boy than to rock music.
And dear George’s voice, “And we mustn’t laugh at the end...” Bless his soul.
Another Journey: “Yes, I’d give everything to be free – (would) sit in (through) a million trials to be free; there’s motivation, obviously – it’s coming to nothing, nothing. You’ll see.” The harmonica is always a lonesome sound.
Rough voice track on Make Me Smile – well, now you know. It don’t come in an instant very often! Takes a few cracks at it. There were probably a dozen attempts after the one we’ve included here. Took a while to acquire the right attitude. But that guitar solo was sorted by then, and how good does that sound? Jim? Out there.
The Best Years Of Our Years acoustic demo (why do I allow this to reach your ears? WHY?) is proof if needed that all songs start and finish as just that, as a song– not productions, not records. The song comes first. On this original, I attempted to invert the “tragic” and “magic” or was I just tired? That demo was played just to Alan and our tape operator in the early hours when the long day and night had been wrapped. I just told Alan I had something new for tomorrow but didn’t fancy going home yet (I would have been alone at Landward Court, Marble Arch, and was slightly Martini-ed up).
I might watch the DVD tonight, Live at Hammersmith Odeon, April 1975. We exploded in musical mayhem. We were fearless. Many have been asking for this for a long time. Here it is. At Amazon. Hope you enjoy it, guys. More to come....
written by Bob , June 25, 2014
Thanks for the years of wonderful and interesting music been a fan since Human Menagerie. Your diary entries are interesting and insightful as to how your processes are to your craft.
Thanks again and don't stop...But please come to California...:-)
written by Stella Day , June 26, 2014
More to come..... Hurrah!! That's what I like to hear.x Stella
written by Cheri McGehee , June 27, 2014
I agree with both Bob and Stella. Come to California (or Montana), and MORE, please.
written by Stuart Benson , June 27, 2014
Brilliant read. Re- invigorating the moment.
First Album I bought was Best Years of Our Lives – Perfect Pop was Johnny Walkers description – sums up in Pop Press Words the polish and finesse of the Musicians and the Music. Verve and humour and depth, all in one - and invention.
Rushng off with Son to the Train for London and this Saturday night. Fasten the belts!
written by dianne van beek , June 29, 2014
Yesterday, Royal Albert hall: the best day of our live!!!
Martine and Dianne, your die hard fans from Beveren , Belgium.
We love you Steve!
written by Alan & Mary , June 30, 2014
Royal Albert Hall on Saturday was an amazing concert. The atmosphere was incredible and the music sublime. An event that will live in our memories for a long time. Thank you.
written by Robin Girdwood , June 30, 2014
I took my 10 year old to Gateshead, and my 54 year old sister, we had gone to see you in Glasgow in 1976/7, sister in tears at Sebastian and a 10 year old gob struck by Death Trip. I was at Birmingham on the first performance and Gateshead was more than perfect.
I have a daughter obsessed with Judy Teen and the first two albums, a new expanded version of the Best Years and please God you have something up your sleeve for Timeless Flight, my favourite album.
Emily, my daughter is learning guitar and we want to see you doing acoustic in Edinburgh, please add a date soon.
Thank you for continuing.
Still say you could play Kelso Tait Hall!
written by Andrew Gardner , July 07, 2014
I ran out and bought this 4 disc set, the day Steve's review was published.. I adore it on so many levels. Yes the album is beautifully mastered. Though personally the inclusion of the entire 'Hammersmith Odeon' Concert from April 75 is a joy to behold.. My first introduction to Steve and his music, was at the now famous 'Matinee' performance at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow, several days prior to this show.. It brought so many amazing memories rushing back..And it still sounds exactly as I remember it... I became a Harley fanatic overnight (still am). There's only two concerts I've ever attended that were truely life changing, Queen's first ever headline show at the Apollo and the Cockney Rebel matinee performance.. The inclusion of 'Between The Lines' on dvd is great, even though the wonderful concert was butchered in the editing suite. I seen this so many times in the late 70's early 80's as the support slot for 'Born To Boogie'... Steve's purple patch continues to gather momentum.... How marvelous.