Monday, October 2, 2017

Pink Floyd - The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes (upgrade)

Pink Floyd – The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes
(soniclovenoize “The Man & The Journey” studio reconstruction)
September 2017 Upgrade

Side A:
1.  Daybreak, Pt 1
2.  Work
3.  Afternoon
4.  Doing It!
5.  Sleeping
6.  Nightmare
7.  Daybreak, Pt 2

Side B:
8.  The Beginning
9.  Beset By Creatures of the Deep
10.  The Narrow Way
11.  The Pink Jungle
12.  The Labyrinths of Auximenes
13.  Behold The Temple of Light
14.  The End of The Beginning

After the release of Pink Floyd’s The Early Years anthology—especially the Dramatis/ation volume—I reevaluated this previous reconstruction, contemplating if it could be improved upon.  And I found I could!  This is an upgrade to a studio reconstruction of the never-recorded experimental performance piece of “The Man and The Journey”, often titled The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes.  This reconstruction attempts to present a version of the performance that would have taken the place of the More soundtrack and Ummagumma album, only utilizing studio recordings and condensing the performance down to two sides of a vinyl album. 

The upgrades to this September 2017 edition are:
  • “Careful of that Axe Eugene” is used for “Beset by Creatures of the Deep” instead of “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up”
  • “Main Theme” is used for “The Pink Jungle” instead of the live version of “Syncopated Pandemonium”
  • “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party II” is used for “The Labyrinths of Auximenes” instead of the live version of “Interstellar Overdrive”
  • A new, longer edit of “Behold The Temple of Light was created.
  • “Cirrus Minor” is used for “The End of The Beginning” instead of the live version of “Celestial Voices”. 
Musical soul-searching was the predominant mindset in 1969 for Pink Floyd.  The previous year had seen the band attempt to mimic their former bandleader’s singles-oriented approach to psyche-pop with their second release A Saucerful of Secrets as well as the single releases “It Would Be So Nice” and “Point Me At the Sky”.  While both singles failed to make any significant chart impact, it was actually the latter’s instrumental b-side “Careful With That Axe Eugene” that garnished some underground FM-radio play, prompting the band to make it a live staple.  Following the cues of their audience’s reaction to the one-off track, Pink Floyd switched gears and focused on what the remaining four members could do the best without Syd Barrett: sprawling, experimental psychedelic jams. 

The perfect opportunity to test these waters came in February 1969, recording the soundtrack for the film More at Pyre Studios in London.  For several months, the band tracked a few songs and a number of musical themes for director Barbet Schroeder that ranged from Pink Floyd’s typical space rock to pastoral ballads, from exotic influences to even proto-metal hard rock.  The soundtrack album was released in June and while not a critical nor commercial success, several of the album’s highlights were added to their current set, including “Green is The Colour” and “Cymbaline”.  But More was not all; by then Pink Floyd had also been working on their own proper follow-up to A Saucerful of Secrets. 

That Spring, each member of Pink Floyd entered Abbey Road studios alone to record solo material, intended to be collected together as the next Pink Floyd album.  Although Nick Mason and Richard Wright’s material was largely instrumental and experimental, Roger Water’s and David Gilmour’s material each featured a song that had already been performed live with the full band, “Grantchester Meadows” and “The Narrow Way”.  Paired with exquisite live recordings from The Mothers Club on April 27th and the Manchester College of Commerce on May 2nd, Ummagumma was released in October and cemented Pink Floyd’s status as a cult band, prepared to push rock’s envelope, even without hit singles.

While both More and Ummagumma tell a story of Pink Floyd’s progress in 1969, it is not the complete story.  With new and original material spread across two separate albums essentially recorded simultaneously, as well as another two albums-worth of material in their back pocket, the band pondered how to present the material in a cohesive live setting beyond the typical rock band performance.  Choosing to cull the highlights from both projects as well as their favorite instrumental jams from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets (as well as the b-side that was the catalyst for it all), Pink Floyd designed a series of performances from April to June, sometimes entitled The Massed Gadgets of Auximenes but usually titled “The Man and The Journey”. 

“The Man & The Journey” was arranged as two 40-minute movements, and utilized the newly-built Azimuth Coordinator, a primitive incarnation of a surround sound system which played pre-recorded samples meant to fit into the performances itself.  The first set—called “The Man”—seemed to follow the events of a typical person throughout his mundane, British, post-Industrial life.  The set included the members of Pink Floyd actually building a table on-stage (to represent ‘Work’) and being served tea (to represent ‘Teatime’).  The concept, as explained by Gilmour, was inspired by graffiti near Paddington Station, which said “Get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, get up, go to work, come home, go to bed, [repeated]... How much longer can you keep this up?  How much longer before you crack?”

The concept of the second set is less clearly defined and seemed to be largely instrumental and improvisational.  Called “The Journey”, sketches from the performances’ playbill—and even the songs themselves—seem to suggest the piece follows a pilgrim’s quest.  A member of Pink Floyd’s crew even appeared in a sea creature’s costume, moving through the audience and appearing on-stage near the end of the set.  Is there some greater meaning or metaphor beyond this?  Is this the Man’s own spiritual journey through existence?  Knowing Pink Floyd’s conceptual pretensions, that very well might be the case. But Pink Floyd has never given any hints of what the journey nor its prize was, the task apparently left to the imaginations of the listeners.  My own interpretation is that “The Journey” is the evolution of agricultural mankind into industrial mankind, the quest for knowledge and technology; while there isn’t an actual Greek name Auximines, it could be stemmed from the Latin auxiliāris (to help) and the first pharaoh of Egypt, Menes (whose name translates to “he who endures”), literally a metaphor for the king (of humanity) who is assisted by gadgets (our technology) as he endures (history). 

After two seasons of performances of “The Man & The Journey” which concluded with a penultimate performance in Amsterdam on September 17th professionally recorded by VPRO Radio, Pink Floyd retired the conceptual pieces in time for Ummagumma’s release in October.  Unfortunately, the music assembled as “The Man & The Journey” was never formally recorded in the studio, suggesting that it was simply a way for the band to present the disparaging More and Ummagumma material in a live setting, rather than “The Man & The Journey” being the true genesis of either albums.  But is there a way to construct a studio version of “The Man & The Journey”, to condense and create some sort of conceptual order to Pink Floyd’s 1969 output? 

My reconstruction of “The Man & The Journey” will have two rules.  The first (which I regretfully broke when I originally reconstructed this album a few years ago) is that only studio material recorded in this era will be allowed.  This will exclude both live material and anything after 1969.  The problem that arises from this rule is that some of these pieces (“Work” and “Behold The Temple of Light”, for example) were never properly recorded by Pink Floyd.  The solution to this is in the second rule: we will substitute some unavailable tracks for other similar ones, assuming they are still from this same era.  Likewise we will try to avoid using previously-released tracks (“Pow R Toc H” or any section of “A Saucerful of Secrets”, for example) so that this album reconstruction can fit into any continuity you desire.  The Azimuth Coordinator sound effects are also omitted, as I believe it fits better for a live performance rather than a studio album.  I also chose to condense each set to fit on its own side of an LP, limited to 24 minutes. 

Side A—The Man—remains unaltered from my previous version of this reconstruction.  The Man wakes at “Daybreak” (“Grantchester Meadows” from Ummagumma) and then goes to “Work (since this musical piece was never recorded by Pink Floyd, we will use a similar-sounding track, “Sysyphus Part III” from Ummagumma).  “Tea Time” is omitted from my reconstruction, as it seemed more of a performance piece and less effective as an album recording.  “Afternoon” follows (“Biding My Time” from Relics), as well as the track “Doing It!” meant to represent sexual intercourse (often a Nick Mason drum solo, Pink Floyd often used either “Up the Khyber”, “Syncopated Pandemonium” or “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party (Entertainment)” for this; here I use the later from Ummagumma).  Next the Man falls asleep (using an edited version of “Quicksilver” from More) and slips into a “Nightmare” (as represented by “Cymbaline” also from More).  The side concludes with the Man waking from his dream to the next day’s “Daybreak” (a short edit of "Grantchester Meadows"). 

Side B—The Journey—begins with the pilgrim leaving the British pastoral countryside (“Green is the Colour” from More) by sea, when they are soon “Beset By Creatures of The Deep” (depicted by “Careful With That Axe Eugene” from Relics).  The pilgrim’s ship plows through a 'horrid storm' (as depicted by “The Narrow Way III” from Ummagumma) and finally arrive on land, moving through a “Pink Jungle” (while Pink Floyd performed “Pow R Toc H” for this piece, here we will substitute a different ‘tribal’ track based around a rolling bass riff: an edit of “Main Theme” from More).  Our adventurers next creep through the “Labyrinth of Auximenes” (this piece often featured the bassline to the verses of “Let There Be More Light” juxtaposed with guitar effects and ominous drums; when stripped of the bass line, we are left with a track reminiscent of the first few minutes of “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party II” from Ummagumma, which I used here) and “Behold The Temple of Light” (looping the chord sequence from “The Narrow Way II” also from Ummagumma).  “The End of The Beginning” is a problematic conclusion to the album, as any use of “Celestial Voices” would be reusing an old track, not to mention an anticlimax if using the subdued studio version that lacks the bombast of how it was performed for “The Man and The Journey”.  Here, we will substitute a different song that features a very similar organ passage: “Cirrus Minor” from More.  Not only are we then concluding the album on an actual song, but also it references a journey and features bird sound effects, a reoccurring motif of the performance.  

Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2)

Sources Used:
Relics (1996 remaster)
Soundtrack to the Film ‘More’ (1987 remaster)
Ummagumma (1994 remaster)
 flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Who - Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock

The Who – Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Relay
2.  Long Live Rock
3.  Is It In My Head?
4.  Put The Money Down
5.  Join Together

Side B:
6.  Cut My Hair

This is the final entry in a series of alternate Who albums, a reconstruction of the unreleased album Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock, a project scrapped in 1972 for sounding too much like Who’s Next.  Intended as a concept album about The Who themselves, the idea was further developed the following year into their seminal double album Quadrophenia.  Rather than simply emulating Pete Townshend’s original demo sequence for Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock, this reconstruction attempts to replicate what The Who had intended for the album just before abandoning it during their European Tour in August 1972: standalone singles on Side A and a rock opera occupying all of Side B.  All the best and most dynamic masters were used and all tracks volume adjusted for continuity. 

1971 was a landmark year for The Who, releasing Who’s Next—born from the ashes of the aborted Lifehouse album—and achieving some of the band’s greatest hits throughout the year.  After a brief but much-deserved break after the Who’s Next Tour was completed, the band slowly began to regroup in the spring of 1972 to plot it’s follow-up.  Although creative mastermind Pete Townshend swore to the media that he would never tackle another long-form concept album after Tommy’s success and Lifehouse’s demise, he had a jumble of concepts bouncing around in his head, waiting for the opportunity to use them.  Drawing from several alleged unrecorded Lifehouse leftovers and additional newer compositions, Townshend recorded demos that charted out the entirety of this next Who album, provisionally titled Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock.  A final 40-minute compilation tape of Townshend's demos contained: “Relay”; “Get Inside”; “Love Rein O’er Me”; “Woman’s Liberation (Riot in the Femail Jail)”; “Long Live Rock”; “Is It In My head?”; “Put The Money Down”; “Can’t You See I’m Easy”; and “Join Together”.

Heading into Olympic Studios with Glyn Johns in May 1972 to properly record band versions of Pete’s Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock demo album, the band tracked suburb versions of “Join Together”, “Relay” and “Is It In My Head?”.  The following month, three more of the songs were tracked: “Long Live Rock”, “Put The Money Down” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”.  At this point in time, a conceptual theme emerged and was applied to the project: an autobiographical history of The Who themselves.  Early brainstorming included plans to musically represent the various eras of The Who: from early-60s Mod to late 60s neo-psyche to early 70s stadium rock.  This idea was quickly discarded and the band instead stuck with a jumble of songs vaguely about themselves or their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, particularly in “Join Together” and “Long Live Rock”. 

While The Who seemed to have a good start on a new album, the band themselves were not so sure.  Reviewing the six songs properly tracked—as well as the remaining songs from Townshend’s Rock is Dead demo that still needed to be recorded (the flimsy faux-Eastern “Can’t You See I’m Easy”, the meaningless whimsy of “Get Inside” and the abysmally dismal “Woman’s Liberation”)—the collection seemed as a pale imitation of Who’s Next.   Wanting an album of more substance, Townshend told Johns that he wished to write another rock opera to at least occupy one whole side of the album, with the best of the material from the Olympic sessions occupying the other.   Needing more time to write the opera, the album’s release date was postponed from August to December and “Join Together” was released as a single in June, an apparent preview of the upcoming album.   After tracking a throw-away Keith Moon original entitled “Wasp Man” for future B-side use, the band embarked on a brief tour of Europe in August, debuting both “Join Together” and “Relay” and touting them as a part of their upcoming album.  While promoting the tour, Townshend dropped hints of the rock opera he was in the process of composing, claiming it was about teenage adolescence and reminiscent of earlier mid-60s-era Who singles, and was to be called “Cut My Hair”. 

By the end of the tour in September, Townshend began to have doubts about the intended Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock album.  Most of his thoughts centered on the rock opera provisionally titled “Cut My Hair”; as he added new sections to it, the piece began to outweigh the collection of songs recorded at Olympic in the spring.  It is at this point when Townshend’s plan changed: instead of having one side of standalone songs vaguely about the history of The Who with a mini rock opera about adolescence on the other side, Townshend combined the two concepts into one.  Going as far back as 1971, Townshend had always wanted to make a single album that embodied the character of each individual member of The Who, so this was woven into “Cut My Hair” and expounded into the length of one whole album.  Now, the adolescent protagonist of the rock opera became a schizophrenic, harboring the four personalities of  The Who: Townshend (the “good boy”), Daltrey (the “bad boy”), Entwhistle (the romantic) and Moon (the madman).  That autumn, Townshend continued writing new pieces for the opera, with Rock Is Dead – Long Live Rock’s own death signaled by the single release of “Relay” b/w “Wasp Man” in November 1972, a stopgap as Townshend bought time to polish off this song cycle. 

Early 1973  saw The Who build their own 16-track recording studio out of an old church, dubbed Ramport Studios.  By March Townshend had completed demoing his new song cycle and The Who convened at Ramport in June to record their opus.  Aside from “Is It In My Head?” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”, nothing from the previous year’s Olympic session was used.  The resulting album—now titled Quadrophenia—became what many hail as the band’s masterpiece, a seamless double album with a concept more comprehensible than Lifehouse but musically more impressive than Tommy.  While Quadrophenia is certainly the last great work of The Who, is it the real album it could have been?  Can we join together the castaway material and revive Rock is Dead? 

The most obvious way to reconstruct Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock is to simply gather the six songs from the 1972 Olympic sessions and pair them with Pete’s demos of “Get Inside” (found on the Quadrophenia box set), “Woman’s Liberation” and “Can’t You See I’m Easy” (found on bootlegs), and sequence them as per his demo reel—and possibly even throw on “Wasp Man” for good measure!  The problem is that this assemblage becomes a very weak album and one can understand why The Who scrapped it.  As a more interesting and musically fulfilling experiment, we will instead attempt to construct Townshend’s August concept of having the “Cut My Hair” rock opera filling an entire side of the album and leaving the best of the Olympic sessions to their own side.  But what exactly would have the mini rock opera “Cut My Hair” consisted of? 

Luckily, recording dates for Pete Townshend’s demos are stated in the Quadrophenia box set.  Plowing through the data, Townshend had essentially demoed the album over two distinct periods, separated by The Who’s August 1972 Tour (roughly spanning April-July 1972 and October 1972-March 1973).  Based on this, it is reasonable to believe that any material demoed during that first period was meant for the “Cut My Hair” mini-rock opera, since it occurred before Rock Is Dead’s death in September.  These would include: “Drowned”, “Anymore”, “Joker James”, “Cut My Hair”, “Four Faces”, “We Close Tonight”, “You Came Back”, “Dirty Jobs” and “Doctor Jimmy”.  Using a supposed imaginary timeline, this reconstruction assumes The Who wrapped Side A of Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock before the tour, but required additional time to properly record Side B’s mini rock opera; thus any material recorded the following year in the Quadrophenia sessions proper is fair game. 

Side A (the standalone singles half) begins as Townshend’s demo of Rock is Dead does, with “Relay”, here the full-length version taken from The Who Hit 50.  This is followed by the title track, “Long Live Rock”, taken from the 2011 SACD remaster of Odds & Sodds.  “Is It In My Head?”—here considered its own song separate from any concept, as was originally intended in 1972—follows, taken from the 2012 SACD remaster of Quadrophenia, the original 1973 mix of the song.  “Put The Money Down” from Odds & Sodds is next, with Side A concluding with “Join Together” from The Who Hit 50.   

Side B (the rock opera half) consists of an edit of “Dirty Jobs”, “Cut My Hair”, “Doctor Jimmy” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”, all taken from the 2012 remaster of the original mix of Quadrophenia.  Much like “A Quick One While He’s Away”, all four tracks are crossfaded into one 20-minute continuous piece, more or less about adolescence.  We will hope for a suspension of disbelief from the listener and request to set aside the knowledge of Quadrophenia's plot.  Here, the "Cut My Hair" mini opera describes a teenage protagonist who works a dead-end job and receives guff about his hair and clothes from his elders.  He laments his self-destructive nature and at it's conclusion, has an epiphany that only love can save him.   

This resultant Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock becomes a midpoint between Pete’s scrapped nine-song demo reel and the eventual Quadrophenia album.  It becomes a much better listen minus the atrocious “Women’s Liberation/Riot In The Female Jail”, and including what could be thought of as a condensed Quadrophenia itself on Side B.  And with that, let love reign o'er you.  Special thanks to Jon Hunt for his original artwork, found on his blog. 

Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2)

Sources used:
The Who - Quadrophenia (2012 SACD remaster – original mix)
The Who - Odds & Sods (2011 SHM remaster)
The Who – Hits 50! (2014 Geffen Records)