Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Bruce Springsteen: Piece De Resistance (1978)


As CD trading via mail started to build in the 90s, I suddenly had an additional outlet to feed my growing love for live shows. No longer did that require purchasing bootleg CDs from local and mail order retailers because I finally had the ability via the internet to find others that were fans of artists that I also loved. Thanks to early trading friends like John and Hal, I quickly got my hands on rarities from some of my favorites like Sammy Hagar, Eddie Money, Night Ranger, and also various Cleveland shows that I didn’t have.

And of course, as a mondo Springsteen fan, I also began to accumulate a lot of Springsteen bootlegs. In the midst of my ongoing search for a quality copy of the Agora show, I picked up copies of the classic shows – Live at the Roxy, Live at Winterland, etc. etc. etc.

My early exposure to live Springsteen came as a result of the Live/1975-1985 box set, and it was interesting to finally hear the full shows that the 70s live material on that set was sourced from.

I think that the three shows that I hear people talk about the most, are the Agora show, the Winterland show, and a show recorded at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ on September 19th, 1978 that circulated initially as a bootleg famously known as Piece De Resistance.

The Passaic show was the opening night of a full weekend’s worth of three consecutive shows at the Capitol Theater, and the September 19th show was broadcast live by WNEW-FM in New York. The 9/19 bootleg is the most well known of the three shows, but luckily for Bruce fans, soundboards exist for all three nights.

From Brucebase:

Great versions of “Because The Night” and “Fire,” and also includes what many consider to be the best examples of “Racing In The Street” and “Thunder Road” ever! – Essential.

I don’t completely agree with that – I was listening to Passaic Night this week prior to reading the above, and was surprised at how much better the Agora version of “Thunder Road” is in comparison with the version here. I’m sure there’s at least one person that might argue that point, and that’s fine! The Passaic show does have one of my favorite versions of “Point Blank,” and I love the back to back “Independence Day” and “The Promised Land.”

The 30th anniversary deluxe edition for Darkness on the Edge of Town is allegedly still in the pipeline, now set for 2009. With no shortage of recorded material from the 1978 tour to choose from, you can be sure that when/if it does come out, it will be great. And I’ll be waiting semi-patiently for it to come out!

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Bruce Springsteen Piece De Resistance | , | Leave a comment

Rolling Stones bootleg – Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be


It’s only a matter of time before new technologies filter into the bootleg market, and this disc was an early, illicit DVD-A version of one of the most famous of the first rock bootlegs.

The original Live’R Than You’ll Ever Be LP was taken from a tape of the Rolling Stones performing live in Oakland on November 9, 1969. This disc presents both the afternoon and evening shows they did on that date in their entirety or near-entirety, with 15 songs from the afternoon gig and 16 from the evening. Don’t get too excited about the visual component, which doesn’t offer actual film of the performances, but simply color, silent Mick Jagger-dominated slow-motion footage, and still photos of the band on-stage on their 1969 tour.

Since much of the appeal of the DVD-A is based around the enriched sound quality it’s designed to offer, you do have to wonder about the logic of doing a DVD-A version of a bootleg whose imperfect sound is never going to match official standards, no matter what format it inhabits. Ditto for matching the sound to related images, in the absence of actual sound footage from the concerts; it makes for visual backdrop that beats just staring into space while the music plays, perhaps, but it’s not that interesting, many of the scenes and images repeating themselves in order to fill out the lengthy program.

It’s better, then, to treat this as a bootleg with two albums’ worth of music that happens to have some incidental visuals than a DVD-A with full features. The music’s certainly of interest to Rolling Stones fans, capturing the band at their raunchiest and bluesiest during one of their most heralded tours (which was the first one that they did with Mick Taylor in the lineup). There’s not too much difference performance-wise between the two shows, though the sound (and to some extent the performance) has more life on the evening portion of the program. (There’s no difference between the song selection, either, except for a slightly different sequence in the early part, and the unexplained absence of “Gimme Shelter” from the afternoon concert, though it’s on the evening portion.) What’s most crucial to most Stones collectors, however, is that it offers much more material than the original bootleg LP (which had just ten tracks) — about twice as much material, in fact, as the expanded single-disc CD update of the original bootleg LP.

And it’s your chance to hear Jagger throw a new section into the middle of “I’m Free,” during which he sings at one point, “I won’t give you no bullsh*t!” Overall, it’s basically your chance to hear a rawer variation of the official live Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! album (also taken from the 1969 tour), with a number of songs that didn’t make it on to that release, such as “I’m Free” (done in a slower, far more hard rock-oriented version than it had been in its original 1965 incarnation), “Under My Thumb,” “Gimme Shelter,” and the traditional blues numbers “Prodigal Son” and “You Gotta Move.”

May 18, 2010 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Live'r Than You'll Ever Be | , | Leave a comment

Rolling Stones bootleg – Welcome To New York (1972)


So many Rolling Stones bootlegs have come out over the years that unless you’re a completist and have an unlimited budget, you have some picking and choosing to do.

One of the Stones bootlegs that deserves a five-star rating is Welcome to New York, which boasts an excellent soundboard recording of a July 1972 show at Madison Square Garden. In the 1970s, Welcome to New York was first released on LP by Trademark of Quality, one of the decade’s top bootleg labels.

Then, in 1989, a bootlegger calling itself Swingin’ Pig reissued Welcome to New York on this great-sounding CD. The name Swingin’ Pig was clearly inspired by Trademark’s famous logo, which depicted the side of a pig. (A 1970s bootlegger pretending to be Trademark had a logo that depicted a pig smoking a cigar.)

This CD reminds you of just how great a period the early ’70s were for the Stones — from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Sweet Virginia” to “Rip This Joint,” “Midnight Rambler,” and Robert Johnson‘s “Love in Vain,” there isn’t a dull moment on Welcome to New York. While other Stones bootlegs that originally surfaced in the 1970s had impressive performances but inferior sound quality, Welcome to New York offers both excellent performances and excellent sound.

This reissue is highly recommended to Stones fans and is well worth hunting for.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | The Rolling Stones Welcome To New York | , | Leave a comment

Neil Young – Mirrorball (1995)


Yikes!! What an album! As far as Neil’s ’90s grunge outings go, give me Mirror Ball over anything else. As a matter of fact, you can give me Mirror Ball over any grunge album on the Planet Earth! (OK, I’m ignorant. I need to listen to more grunge albums. And I guess Nevermind is probably better anyway.) But seriously. After giving this album four full listens, I’ve come to the conclusion that Mr. Neil Young is one bad-ass mofo.

Before I can truly get to heart of discussing the awesomeness of Mirror Ball, I first must discuss one of its primary shortcomings. I’m pretty sure I complained in earlier Neil Young reviews that his songs have an awful tendency to repeat the same hook over and over again approximately eight billion times. Believe me, that’s more true about the songs on Mirror Ball than it was on anything. The good news is that these hooks are generally quite compelling, and they all seem to put me in a trance.

While the hypnotizing attributes of these melodies are an integral part of Mirror Ball, the true star of the album is of course the electric guitar. Considering I still get pretty violent Arc flashbacks, it took quite a lot out of me to listen another one of his grungy guitar albums. But, here, he seemed to get the sound of those guitars just right. They’re very deep and very dark, but they also don’t sound so much like the Devil’s helicopter. …I don’t know how I can praise these guitars more: Everything about them are positively awesome. I read all the time that Neil Young is one of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest electric guitar soloists. After listening to Mirror Ball, I can do nothing but agree with this assessment 100 percent. They not only sound cool, but they have their very own personalities. I know I’m listening to a good solo whenever I can imagine its personality!

My only complaint about the guitars is that some of the tracks have those overextended, distorted codas that plagued a bunch of his early ’90s albums as well as the entirety of Arc. Luckily there are only a few of them, but as you can tell in the track reviews, I complained whenever they popped up! What can I say? I quit reviewing Neil Young albums for an entire year because of those distorted codas, and hearing them again was like picking at my scabs!! (…Oooo, I’m being melodramatic!)

Oh god, I haven’t even mentioned a single song yet. Let’s start at the beginning. “Song X” is by far the most distinctive song of the album, sounding like a grungified version of a sea shanty. Without even listening to that song, I would think that was a novel concept. When you think about it, some of the grungiest people in the world are, literally, sailors! They are out there in the high seas with nothing but the sea air and their own stench. And, once you take a listen to that song, you can tell right away that it was nothing less than a stroke of genius. The guitar is rough, wind-worn and disturbed. Neil Young’s lead vocals even fit the material perfectly. Come to think of it, Young has always sounded like he was some sort of pirate! Oh and the band members joining in the chorus, singing “Heigh ho, away we go/we’re on the road to never” fit the spirit just perfectly. I could go on about that song forever. And I almost have.

Another major highlight is “I’m the Ocean,” a terribly engaging song with, I think, the coolest bass-line ever to be featured in a Neil Young album. (Excuse me if I don’t re-listen to every single song of his to make sure that statement is true.) It goes on for seven minutes repeating the same old things and, amazingly, I never grow tired of it. “Big Green Country” is a similarly awe-inspiring song with a catchy hook, incredible guitar and incredible drive!

OK, now I’m going to tell you why I’m only giving this album a 12 even though I’ve done little else than praise it with my praisiest words: It’s just so gosh-durn samey! I get a tad tired of this album by the very end… And, even in the songs I singled out as the “highlights,” they do seem a little bit like one huge blur. That’s not a particular problem if you’re really big into grunge music… You’d think of that as a bonus more than anything else. But it’s the slightest problem for me. At the same time, I think it’s pretty amazing feat that I enjoyed such a heavy guitar centered album this much. Remember, I’m a pretty big Elton John fan! …At any rate, this is a great Neil Young album, and it’s a close 13. Perhaps the most amazing thing of them all is that he was freaking 50 when he recorded this! Neil Young wasn’t going to fade away anytime soon!

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Neil Young Mirrorball | | Leave a comment

Neil Young – Sleeps With Angels (1994)


Respect! That’s what this Neil Young dude deserves for releasing this album. It’s filled to the brim with mid-tempo ballads, sort of similar to Harvest Moon, but that Crazy Horse band came back, so you can expect it to be more electric guitar centered. Yup, remember that crazy distorted guitar that characterized his early ’90s releases? You can hear a lot of that in this album. Fortunately, that guitar doesn’t seem to completely steal the spotlight like it did so frequently on previous albums, so we can concentrate exclusively on Neil Young’s songwriting!

But Neil Young has always been a fairly limited songwriter, and that’s very evident in this release. He comes up with good melodies, but he also frequently comes up with boring and indistinguishable ones. I know that melodies aren’t the only thing to songwriting, but great melodies only help matters! I really adore that rugged piano sound he came up with in the album opener, “My Heart” and the closer “A Dream that Can Last.” That piano sound was unusual and engaging enough for both of those songs to earn A-minuses in the track reviews. The melodies are OK, but they’re not exactly anything I’ll find myself humming under my breath after I’m finished with this review.

The best melody of this album probably occurs in “Change Your Mind.” If Young was going to put an engaging melody anywhere in this album, then it’s a good thing he picked that one, because it’s 14-minutes long! That running length is probably overkill, but it is engaging enough that I hardly notice the time pass. You see, that’s the power of a good melody! As you would expect from 14-minute songs, it is filled to the brim with some more of Young’s wonky guitar solos. I almost don’t even think the wonky guitar style was very appropriate for a song like that, which seemed as though it would be better off as a jangle-pop thing. But it’s impossible to deny that the guitar noodling is 100 percent cool!

I’m also a fan of “Prime of Life,” which gets a very good groove going. It also has a lot of interesting guitar tones and patterns throughout and it has a mightily good melody too. But my favorite thing about it is that ultra high-pitched recorder that whistles around occasionally! If Neil Young would come up with more cool ideas like that recorder, then I think more of his songs would be memorable. I mean, most of these songs are slowly-paced ballads, but I remember “Prime of Life” specifically because of that recorder.

That brings me to discussing this album’s primary weakness: The saminess. Midway through the album, I start to get awfully tired of all these mid-tempo ballads coming on top of one another. …They’re all very nice ballads and they’re great to listen to if you want a low-key though dark album to sit back and soak up, but it would have been nice if this album had a little more diversity in it. There is one quickly paced song in here, called “Piece of Crap,” and I always seem to get incredibly excited whenever it pops up! Not to say that these slowly paced songs are terrible or anything. Songs like “Western Hero” and “Blue Eden” make excellent listens. There’s absolutely nothing cheapish about them. As I said earlier, they’re 100 percent respectable.

Though some of these ballads are clearly better than others. “Safeway Cart” is one of the most brilliant and engaging things the man has ever written. It’s intimate atmosphere immediately draws me in! I also approve of his use of his ultra-distorted guitar in that one… Instead of noodling around constantly like he has done many times before, the guitar only comes in occasionally. It’s more effective that way, methinks. One of the more notable songs on the album is the title track, which hints at Kurt Cobain and his suicide. Certainly, that was a matter that disturbed Young greatly. (I mean, if Kurt Cobain quoted something I had written in his suicide note, I would have gotten terribly depressed to say the least.) That’s a pretty scary song, too, with its strange electric guitar tone.

I gotta say, this is a very, very strong 11. I very nearly gave it a 12, but that was only because it seems like it should have a higher rating than Ragged Glory. But this really is quite a bit weaker than Harvest Moon in my book, so I’ll keep it at an 11. I think if Neil Young would have diversified this album up a bit, it would have been better for all of us! … It’s a very good album, though, and I heartily recommend it to casual fans.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Neil Young Sleeps With Angels | | Leave a comment

Neil Young: Rock ‘n’ Roll Cowboy (1994)


In the late ’80s, Neil Young casually mentioned in an interview that he was planning a box set of rarities and outtakes (entitled The Neil Young Archives), which would be ready for release shortly.

It never appeared, even though it’s supposedly still being assembled and finalized to this day. To alleviate the fans’ frustration, this bootleg four-CD Italian box set appeared, and it covers all the phases of Young’s lengthy concert career. The first disc (1966-1973) proves to be the best. It’s here that you’ll find an early barnstorming guitar version of “Cowgirl in the Sand” (clocking in at 14-and-a-half minutes) and a harmonious Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young take of “Tell Me Why.”

A piano-laden medley of “A Man Needs a Maid/Heart of Gold” follows, and the beautiful unreleased acoustic nuggets “Everybody’s Alone” and “Dance Dance Dance” comfort the listener. Disc two (1974-1978) contains material from Young’s dark period, including unplugged versions of “Pardon My Heart” and “On the Beach,” recorded at New York’s Bottom Line. Disc three proves to be the weakest since it covers what is widely regarded as Young’s unfocused years (1982-1985). “Touch the Night” is essentially a rewrite of “Like a Hurricane,” and there is a reason why “Let Your Fingers Do the Talking” was never released.

The countrified “Down by the River” and a banjo version of the reflective “My Boy” save the disc from being a total washout, however. And the final disc (1986-1994) shows Young regaining his strength and focus with the definitive “Rockin’ in the Free World” (from Saturday Night Live) and “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” where he is joined by friends Simon & Garfunkel.

The set of four may be a bit too costly and intimidating for more casual fans, but the sound quality is consistent, and it proves to be the ultimate showcase of Young in concert.

Also included is a 45-page booklet packed with pictures, song notes, quotes, and a list of every live date played by Young from 1968 to 1993.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Neil Young Rock n Roll Cowboy | , | Leave a comment

The Who – Tales From The Who


One of the most famous bootlegs in recorded history, Tales from the Who came from the King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast of a Long Beach concert taped following the release of Quadrophenia.

The Who, as usual, rely on taped backup for all keyboards and any other instruments except guitar, bass, and drums. Roger Daltrey is in great voice as the band revisits “Can’t Explain,” “Summertime Blues,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Pinball Wizard,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “My Generation.” Likewise, Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon are in good form and please the crowd with their performances.

Over half of this two-record set is devoted to selections from the then-new Quadrophenia, and there’s an amusing story about this recording. Normally when the King Biscuit producers put out live concerts for commercial broadcasts, they carefully bleeped out any obscenities, but in this case they overlooked some.

The New Orleans radio station that aired this program was unaware, like the show’s producers, that “Dr. Jimmy” contained a four-letter word, and it was duly broadcast. However, whichever station provided the broadcast that served as the source material for this bootleg had a station manager or program director familiar with the song, so they duly dubbed the KBFH disc to reel-to-reel tape and spliced out the offending word prior to airing the program (producing the bizarre line “Her fella’s gonna kill me/Aww, f-ill he”), but even they missed another one slipped into “My Generation.”

The bootleg label’s claim that this is a quadraphonic release was a bit laughable, because it couldn’t been taped off the radio in quadraphonic, and trying to convert it after the fact would have had all the success of the pseudo-stereo records of the 1960s. According to William Stout, who designed the colorful cover that was a knockoff of classic horror comic book covers, only 120 copies of this two-record set were released, as the operators of TMOQ knew that the FBI was on their trail and, in a fit of panic, they destroyed all other copies of the release (as quoted in Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry by Clinton Heylin).

Like most King Biscuit broadcasts, the sound isn’t quite as good as typical commercial live rock records, but this collectable is far better-sounding than any other bootlegs featuring the Who, and its extreme rarity makes it a very valuable recording to own, superseded only by the original King Biscuit Flower Hour LPs distributed to the network radio stations for the broadcast.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | The Who Tales From The Who | , | Leave a comment

Paul McCartney – Memory Almost Full (2007)


Allusion to the digital world though it may be, there’s a sweet, elegiac undercurrent to the title of Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full, an acknowledgement that it was written and recorded when McCartney was 64, the age he mythologized on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, released almost exactly 40 years before Memory.

Certainly, McCartney has mortality on the mind, but this isn’t an entirely unusual occurrence for him in this third act of his solo career. Ever since his wife Linda‘s death from cancer in 1998, he’s been dancing around the subject, peppering Flaming Pie with longing looks back, grieving by throwing himself into the past on the covers album Run Devil Run, slowly coming to terms with his status as the old guard on the carefully ruminative Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.

But if that previous record was precise, bearing all the hallmarks of meticulous producer Nigel Godrich, Memory Almost Full is startlingly bright and frequently lively, an album that embraces McCartney’s unerring gift for melody. Yet for as pop as it is, this is not an album made with any illusion that Paul will soon have a succession of hit singles: it’s an art-pop album, not unlike either of the McCartney albums. Sometimes this is reflected in the construction — the quick succession of short songs at the end, uncannily (and quite deliberately) sounding like a suite — sometimes in the lyrics, but the remarkable thing is that McCartney never sounds self-consciously pretentious here, as if he’s striving to make a major statement. Rather, he’s quietly taking stock of his life and loves, his work and achievements.

Unlike latter-day efforts by Johnny Cash or the murky Daniel Lanois-produced albums by Bob Dylan, mortality haunts the album, but there’s no fetishization of death. Instead, McCartney marvels at his life — explicitly so in the disarmingly guileless “That Was Me,” where he enthuses about his role in a stage play in grammar school with the same vigor as he boasts about playing the Cavern Club with the Beatles — and realizes that when he reaches “The End of the End,” he doesn’t want anything more than the fond old stories of his life to be told.

This matter-of-fact acknowledgement that he’s in the last act of his life hangs over this album, but his penchant for nostalgia — this is the man who wrote the sepia-toned music hall shuffle “Your Mother Should Know” before he was 30, after all — has lost its rose-tinted streak. Where he once romanticized days gone by, McCartney now admits that we’re merely living with “The Ever Present Past,” just like how although we live in the present, we still wear “Vintage Clothes.” He’s no longer pining for the past, since he knows where the present is heading, yet he seems disarmingly grateful for where his journey has taken him and what it has meant for him, to the extent that he slings no arrows at his second wife, Heather Mills, he only offers her “Gratitude.” Given the nastiness of the coverage of his recent divorce, Paul might be spinning his eternal optimism a bit hard on this song, but it isn’t forced or saccharine — it fits alongside the clear-eyed sentiment of the rest of Memory Almost Full. It rings true to the open-heartedness of his music, and the album delivers some of McCartney’s best latter-day music. Memory Almost Full is so melodic and memorable, it’s easy to take for granted his skill as a craftsman, particularly here when it feels so natural and unforced, even when it takes left turns, which it thankfully does more than once. Best of all, this is the rare pop meditation on mortality that doesn’t present itself as a major statement, yet it is thematically and musically coherent, slowly working its way under your skin and lodging its way into your cluttered memory.

On the surface, it’s bright and accessible, as easy to enjoy as the best of Paul’s solo albums, but it lingers in the heart and mind in a way uncommon to the rest of his work, and to many other latter-day albums from his peers as well.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Paul McCartney Memory Almost Full | | Leave a comment

Paul McCartney – Amoeba’s Secret (2007)


As part of the heavy promotion for his 2007 album Memory Almost Full, Paul McCartney played an intimate set at Amoeba Records’ Hollywood branch — well, as intimate as a jam-packed set at a cavernous two-story store could possibly be.

Ex-Beatles always tend to cause a commotion and this event was no exception, with fans waiting outside for days to get a spot for the June 27 concert — a day that just happened to coincide with Paris Hilton‘s first post-jail interview with Larry King at CNN’s L.A. studios, thereby making the corner of Cahuenga and Sunset the epicenter of pop culture for a brief moment in addition to being sheer traffic hell for Los Angelinos thinking they might get a chance to rub elbows with Ringo in the audience.

For those who weren’t lucky or patient enough to get inside — or happened to not live in L.A. — the show was excerpted, not released in full, as the four-song EP Amoeba’s Secret in 2009. Sadly, this is just a taste of the full 20-song set, but it’s a good one, containing two songs from Memory (the best being “That Was Me,” sounding randy and funny in a way it wasn’t on LP), a giddy run through “C Moon,” and an energetic closer of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

It’s a little of everything from Sir Paul, all of it good, all enough to make you wish you were there, or at least that the whole thing came out on CD.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Paul McCartney Amoeba's Secret | | Leave a comment