Harrison-Shankar “Collaborations” – Unboxing

Our copy of the George Harrison/Ravi Shankar box set “Collaborations” has just arrived. The first thing to say about it is that it’s much bigger than we’d expected it to be from the photos and info on the web so far.

Here’s a shot of the box alongside the 1997 release of the standard “Chants of India” CD so that you can get an idea of the scale:

“Collaborations” box – size comparison

There’s a stick-on label on the plastic shrink-wrap which sums up what you will find inside:

After the plastic shrink wrap comes off you discover that this is a very solid, richly embossed green-coloured box. It’s a bit like the Beatles “Remastered” stereo box set in that it has a magnetic clasp on the right-hand side that allows the box “lid” to flip out and open:

Once you have the box open the first thing you see is your individually numbered “Certificate of Authenticity” and a white ribbon that helps lift out the contents below very neatly:

These box sets are Limited Editions and this one is number 13486. Here’s a close-up of the certificate:

Immediately underneath the certificate is a beautiful hardback book with a foreword written by composer Philip Glass; then George Harrison and Ravi Shankar talk about their collaborations together in a section called “In Their Own Words”.  This is followed by descriptions of the three CDs and the DVD; there’s some information about George’s Material World Charitable Foundation; an insight into Indian music by Ravi Shankar (along with drawings and descriptions of the Indian musical instruments used on the albums); information about and photographs of the individual artists who perform on each disc. Then there’s a glossary of terms, and finally the album and production credits.

This book is beautifully produced – clearly it has been put together with a great deal of care and there are many really special glossy photographs included throughout:

After the hardcover book come the albums themselves. And these are a surprise as they are each housed in over-sized cardboard covers that are about 8 1/2 inches (or 21 cms) square. They are “Chants of India”:

Then comes “Music Festival From India”:

Then “Shankar Family and Friends”:

And finally the concert DVD, “Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India”:

The CDs all replicate the original LP artwork faithfully. Again, here’s a comparison photograph with a cover from the box set alongside a standard CD so you can get an idea of the size of the box set covers:

That’s the standard “Chants of India” CD on the right, compared to the box set version behind. Each of the CDs in the 2010 box are held in special, thick cardboard inserts:

On the flip-side of each of these cardboard CD holders is a large Dark Horse Records logo:

And inside each CD cover there’s also an accompanying folded paper insert with information about the recording. This is the one for “Chants of India”:

The great part about this set is that both “Shankar Family and Friends” and  “Music Festival From India” are being released for the first time ever on CD, and the DVD “Music Festival From India” is previously unreleased.

In conclusion then, for me this is a very interesting, limited-edition box set. For many Beatle collectors George Harrison’s excursions into the exotic world of Indian music and culture lie on the outer edges of  their musical tastes, but for others this forms an essential part of their collections. We really enjoy Indian music and having a connection to it through George makes this set very special – just like this photograph [by Carolyn Jones] which appears on the final page of the book:

Ravi Shankar – “Raga” Reissue

Amidst all the anticipation around the huge Apple Records reissue program (scheduled for October 25), and the new George Harrison/Ravi Shankar “Collaborations” release (scheduled for October 19), there’s also further news about another previous Apple release called “Raga” (which is not part of the current official Apple Records reissue series).

Quite separately Ravi Shankar’s East Meets West company is re-issuing “Raga: A Film Journey Into the Soul of India”, a 1971 film about Shankar’s life and music, which features appearances by George Harrison.

The soundtrack is a former Apple vinyl title – but it won’t be part of the latest 16-title Apple CD reissues program.

The new artwork for "Raga", the soundtrack to the film of the same name - originally released by Apple Records

Both the DVD and a soundtrack (available as a digital download) are coming out on October 14, released on the East Meets West label:

Cover for the DVD release of the film

Further details about the DVD and the soundtrack (which will be available free via a digital download card with the purchase of the DVD, or which can be  downloaded separately at all digital retailers) can be found here. There’s also a high quality YouTube sample from the film as well:

New Lennon Film + Behind the Scenes Podcast Series

As part of an ever-growing number of events, books and CD re-issues to mark what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday, comes a new documentary film. In a couple of days (on September 25th) “LennoNYC” will make it’s premiere as part of the New York Film Festival. It will also be broadcast on PBS TV in the United States (on November 22nd), and released commercially as a DVD (on November 23).

The film, which looks to be well-researched and gets access to a number of the main players in John Lennon’s life, traces his love affair with the city of New York and how, with the city’s help, he was able to reinvent himself both artistically and in his private life. It also delves into how he worked as a composer and recording artist.

In the lead up to the television premiere the makers of the film – Susan Lacy, Series Creator and Executive Producer of the American Masters series and a producer of “LennoNYC”, and Director/Writer Michael Epstein – are making ten, hour-long, exclusive podcasts freely available. These all contain extended and largely uncut versions of the interviews that were recorded for the film with those who knew and worked with Lennon intimately during his time living in the city.

The first is with Jack Douglas, co-producer (with Lennon and Yoko Ono) of the “Double Fantasy” LP, released just prior to Lennon’s death in 1980. Its timely because he’s just been involved in preparing the special “stripped down” edition of the album which will be released the week after next.

Here is Jack Douglas from the PBS podcast talking about his work on the new stripped down version:

In the hour-long podcast interview Douglas also reveals how “Double Fantasy” was made in top secret – and surprisingly – much of it in John Lennon’s bed:

There are many other great insights and stories from Douglas. He’s particularly poignant about John’s death and its impact on him and others who knew him closely. You can download the full podcasts here, or go to the iTunes store and subscribe there. New episodes will be posted weekly every Thursday until the Thursday after the TV broadcast on November 22.  The final podcast will be a question and answer session using the best questions submitted by users via email.

The “Imagine Peace” website has extensive coverage, information and articles about the film “LennoNYC” (scroll down the page), and there’s also been a trailer for the documentary uploaded to YouTube:

Band On The Run – Dates Confirmed + Free Download

I got an email today from paulmccartney.com confirming the info in my previous post that the “Band on the Run” remastered release will definitely come out on November 1 in the UK and November 2 in the US.  

The website’s News section has all the info – it pretty much says what we already knew about the different formats that will be available (1 CD; 2 CD + DVD; 3 CD + DVD deluxe; and vinyl 2 LP), but goes into more detail about the deluxe version – which comes with a lavish book:

Collectors will be especially thrilled by the 4 disc (3CD, 1 DVD) deluxe edition which adds an extraordinary 120-page hard bound book containing many unseen and unpublished photos by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith, album and single artwork, downloadable hi-res audio versions of the remastered album and bonus audio tracks, a full history of the album complete with a new interview with Paul and expanded track by track information for all four discs. The deluxe edition also includes a special Band on the Run audio documentary (originally produced for the 25th Anniversary edition.)

The email sent to me also has a link to download an HD version of the one of the videos that will be on the DVD disc that comes with the Special and Deluxe editions. Its a big file but if you’d like to see it click on the image below:

Download "A Trip to Lagos"

Its a short little film with a very home-made feel – but worth it for the soundtrack which is a trance-like version of “Band on the Run” from Paul that I’d not heard before….

Harrison/Shankar – “Collaborations” Announced

And so, the ever-growing list of forthcoming releases swells with yet another interesting title….

George Harrison’s Dark Horse Records has just announced a new box-set package called “Collaborations”. And yes, it too is coming in October.

From the official press release:

Dark Horse Records announced today the October 19th release of a limited edition deluxe box set, entitled “RAVI SHANKAR GEORGE HARRISON – COLLABORATIONS“. The release honors the sitar master’s 90th birthday.

“Collaborations” is a 3 CD and 1 DVD uniquely numbered limited edition box set. All compositions were composed by Ravi Shankar and produced by George Harrison over a period of 20 years.

The DVD is a rare concert performance of the Ravi Shankar’s “Music Festival From India”, recorded at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1974. The albums include the acclaimed “Chants Of India” (1997), “The Ravi Shankar Music Festival From India” (studio version 1976), and “Shankar Family & Friends” (1974). The 56-page book includes a foreword by Philip Glass, a history of George and Ravi “in their own words”, and rare photographs from both family archives.

"Chants of India" - original cover (1997)

"Music Festival from India" - original cover (1976)

"Shankar Family and Friends" - original cover (1974)

The official website has the full press release. Steve Marinucci has details in his Examiner column, and Wog Blog also has information on his site.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time that “The Ravi Shankar Music Festival From India” and “Shankar Family & Friends” have been issued on CD.

Speaking of Ravi Shankar, the master sitar player (who had such an influence on George Harrison and the Beatles) has embarked on a huge archival project of his own – with a series of discs being released on his East Meets West label.

The first in the series is a single disc CD titled “Nine Decades, Vol. 1: 1967-1968”:

"Nine Decades" - out now

The next release in the series will be the soundtrack to the movie “Raga” – which was originally issued on Apple Records in 1971 and features George Harrison. Details about the release schedule so far is here, and it looks like the “Raga” release will be a CD and DVD double which is good.

"Raga" - original cover (1971)

“Raga” is due in the “American fall” – which is a bit vague but I guess that could mean yet another October release?

October is going to be one very expensive month for us die-hard, complete-ist collectors. We’ll have to put out hands in pockets for the 70th birthdate Lennon “Gimme Some Truth” material; the remastered Apple Records catalogue; the Shankar/Harrison “Collaborations”, and “Raga” now as well. That’s not to mention “Band on the Run”, the first of the Paul McCartney re-issues on Concord Records that is due sometime in August…..

Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items….Part One

OK. I’m going to preface this first post on some unusual CD and DVD items I acquired in a South East Asian country with a statement that I don’t collect Beatles bootlegs and I don’t support or promote piracy in the music business. All my collection to date has been made up of legitimate, officially released discs – that’s CDs, LPs, singles, books, DVDs, magazines and other printed items.

Recently I was able to spend some time on holiday in Vietnam. Like most Asian and developing countries there are many opportunities to buy fakes – everything from Louis Vuitton luggage and Gucci handbags to Ray Ban sunglasses and Tag Heuer watches. Of course there are lots of stores, markets and street vendors selling illegally copied DVD films as well. There are not so many places to buy music – but they’re there if you seek them out. In the central Vietnamese city of Hue I walked into a store selling mostly fake DVDs and a bit of music on the side and saw a copy of Paul McCartney’s latest 2 CD release “Good Evening New York City”. It was easy to tell it was a fake. It came (like all the cheaply copied DVDs do) in a flimsy clear plastic bag (i.e. no hard jewel case or Digipac cardboard). The artwork was all there ready to put it into a CD jewel case, but it looked like a cheap photocopy. The discs had rudimentary labels printed on them but clearly looked fake. No catalogue numbers, copyright info, not even the title of the disc. One disc had the words “Paul 1” printed roughly on it, the other “Paul 2” and that was it. It was selling (in the local currency) for 20,000 Vietnamese Dong – that’s US$1.03, or $1.17 Australian. And that’s even before any bargaining over the price. I decided I really didn’t want to buy a copy – even for the novelty value.

At the other end of the scale are those CDs and DVDs where its obvious that a lot of time and effort has gone into producing what looks to be an absolutely legitimate release. Standing in a shop in Hanoi (which I did last week) it becomes really hard to tell. Is what I’m looking at the version sanctioned by the artist and record company as the official release for China and South East Asia?

Take this example of the Beatles “Anthology” 5 DVD box set. I got it from a shop in Hanoi that was filled with what looked like official releases. All movie stock was in standard DVD packaging with proper labels. It was not one of the shops dealing in fakes.

It looked like this. Here’s the front of the box:

Chinese Beatles Anthology - front

This copy still has the shrink-wrap around the sturdy cardboard box, though the opening has been cut by me so that the DVDs can be removed. The sticker is attached to the shrink-wrap.

Compare this to this official release purchased in Australia:

Official Beatles Antholgy DVD - front

Again, the shrink-wrap is still around the box. The sticker is also on the shrink-wrap.

Here are the Chinese DVD spines:

The five Chinese DVDs

Compared to the official release:

The official release

The number “12” in the pink circle on each refers to the censorship rating in Australia. Apart from that, not a lot of difference….Here is the sticker on the base of the Chinese version:

Sticker on base of Anthology DVD box - Chinese

As you can see, the Apple word is written but the Apple logo itself is missing. Also, apparently common with cheap copies, there are small spelling mistakes. Notice in the centre box of the sticker the words “Doldy Digital 5.1 surround sound”. It should be Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. This sticker appears to be stuck over the printed label actually on the box. You can faintly see the bar code, etc. underneath. Otherwise the Capital, Abbey Road, DVD Video, Dolby Digital and DTS logos on the right-hand side all look legit. Compare it to the Australian official release, where the label is printed onto the box:

Official Anthology DVD box - sticker on box base

Notice the official release has a Parlophone logo instead of Capitol which is just a territory thing (Parlophone seems to get half the world, and Capitol the other half!). There’s also a Region 1 DVD symbol, and a bar code.

Inside the individual DVD containers the story is similar. The actual discs in the Chinese version are very well-printed and look very official:

Chinese DVD disc

They even say “Printed in the USA”. Compare this to the official release:

Anthology DVD - official release

However, the Chinese stuff up the sequencing of labels on the DVD discs.

Disc One, as you can see above, has Episodes 1 & 2 on it and correctly contains those episodes. Sadly, Disc Two is also labeled Episodes 1 & 2, but actually has Episodes 3 & 4.

Disc Three is incorrectly labeled Episodes 3 & 4, but contains Episodes 5 & 6. And Disc Four is incorrectly labeled Episodes 3 & 4, but correctly contains Episodes 7 & 8.  The “Special Features” 5th disc is incorrectly labeled Episodes 5 & 6 but contains the correct Special Features material…….so, all the contents is there across the five discs. Just a severe lack of attention to detail on the part of the counterfeiters. However, they all play well and the quality of the video looks perfect.

The other noticeable difference to the official release is that the Chinese versions don’t have the small booklets inside each DVD box outlining the contents of each episode. These are in official release and look like this:

DVD Booklet - front - from episodes 1 & 2 in official release

Anthology booklet (rear) - inside each DVD box of the official release

So, you can see that standing in a shop in Hanoi, deciding if this is official or not (especially while it’s still sealed up in its shrink-wrap) is very tricky. The price might have been a give-away: this 5 DVD box set cost 250,000 Vietnamese Dong. That’s around US$12.80 or AUS$14.80. Very cheap. It also doesn’t help if you don’t read Chinese. Here’s a close-up of the sticker on the front:

Sticker on the front of the Anthology DVD box set

Vietnam is actively cracking down on pirate or illegal copies of DVDs, CDs, clothing and watches. While there I read an article in one of the national papers that police are actively trying to break up the flow of counterfeit goods from across the border in China. When departing the country via Ho Chi Minh City airport all travelers bags are X-Rayed separately to the usual security check specifically to identify and confiscate goods, or to fine travelers for having fake DVDs. A New Zealand family in front of us were caught. They had in their bags over 60 copied DVDs they’d bought on the street. They were given the option of handing them over, or keeping them and paying a fine of US$50.00 (at first they were asked to pay a US$100.00 fine, but talked the official down…interesting). They decided the pay the fine and keep their DVDs. All the CDs I had purchased, plus the Beatles “Anthology” 5 DVD box above were in our suitcases and were also X-Rayed. We were not stopped by the airport officials. I’ll detail some of the Beatles compact discs I purchased in the next posts. Again it was confusing and difficult to pick the real from the fake.

See also Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Two and Some Unusual Asian Beatles Items – Part Three

Composing Outside the Beatles – DVD

Despite the somewhat literal and unimaginative title, this recent release is a really a very interesting documentary study of John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s careers immediately following the break-up of the Beatles.

I’d read about this DVD by chance and had been looking around on Ebay for a copy. I dropped in to my favourite shop – Red Eye Records – and there it was on the shelf for a reasonable price. Well, reasonable compared to the prices I’d seen for British or US copies on Ebay, plus postage, plus the uncertainty of “will it ever arrive?”….a bird in the bush as they say.

So, I got it at Red Eye, and watched it last weekend – which was a wet weekend and perfect for being a couch potato and settling in in front of the TV for a couple of hours.

Nicely put together, it traces the first few years of Lennon and McCartney trying to make their ways as solo entities outside the protective shell that used to be the Beatles. It compares them as composers and performers, examining their early singles and album releases. There is much more time and effort during the documentary placed on John Lennon’s output than that of Paul – but this is probably because the overall theory of the documentary is that Lennon was by far doing more serious and worthy work, and being more commercially successful than his former band-mate and co-writer.

There are nice shots of original album covers and single releases as the discussion panel (which includes Klaus Voorman, Paul Gambaccini, drummers Alan White and Denny Seiwell, and writers Johnny Rogan, John Blaney and Steve Turner amongst others) commenting on and appraising the relative strengths and weaknesses of each solo release between 1967 and 1972.

The front cover of "Composing Outside the Beatles"

The packaging of the DVD is impressive. It’s in the digi-pack style with opening “pages” revealing the DVD disc inside. It is glossy and has good production values with great photos and printed information.

The DVD cover open to the first of the tri-folds

Its a tri-fold digi-pack that finally opens out like this:

The tri-fold inner fully open

As you can see they have really taken some care with the presentation, including printing the DVD disc itself so that it matches the printing of the inner cover exactly. Here’s the rear cover:

The rear cover of "Composing Outside the Beatles"

So, “Composing Outside the Beatles” really has a strong slant towards John – both in the comments by the interviewees and the ratio of time spent on each. But maybe this is just a reflection on the times where Paul was struggling to be a musician outside the Beatles while John appeared to leap into it with a bit more style (as well as critical and commercial success). If you are interested there’s a further review here.

Good Evening New York City (Deluxe Ed) – Unboxing Pics

OK. I know this Paul McCartney release has been out a while now….but there’s a story behind why I am so late in showing you some un-boxing pics of my copy of the Deluxe Edition.

I ordered this online via Paul McCartney’s very own website pretty much the day it came out. It was released in the US on November 17 and in the UK on November 23. However, my copy didn’t make it into my mailbox until mid-January. I had a lot of correspondence with the McCartney organisation, plus the company they hired to carry out online distribution of the disc, trying to find out what the delay was and where my order had got to. It really was a lot of hassle over what I thought should have been a quick and easy transaction – especially since I’d ordered it directly from the official site….

I have to say though that it was worth the wait. For US$23.99 it is a fair bit of product for your money. Now that I actually have Good Evening New York City I’m very impressed with the packaging, plus you get 2 CDs and 2 DVDs of content. It comes in a thick hardback book-style that is taller than a standard CD:

Carefully cutting open the plastic cover

I always like to cut around and keep any stickers on the outside packaging:

GENYC Sticker

As you can see in the photo below the Deluxe version is in a hardback format and the spine is quite thick:

The "spine" of the CD/DVD package

Inside the plastic on the rear is a cardboard insert listing all the songs featured in the two concert CDs and DVD. A lot of people would just throw this insert away but I’ll be hanging onto it (for more reasons than that I just like to keep this sort of stuff – see below). I’ll just slip it in amongst the pages inside:

The loose rear card

If you look really closely you’ll see a little surprise I got when opening this one up. Despite this package taking ages to get to me, and after many complaint letters, they’ve actually sent me  (I guess accidentally) a PROMO copy of the disc! Go figure. Check out the close-up of the sticker on the rear card:

The sticker saying "Promo Only - Not For Sale"

Inside the hardback Deluxe version is a 40-page book with lots of great photos and an essay by Michael Azerrad:

Book open to pages 12 and 13

There is a re-worked shorter version of this essay in the Standard edition. The Deluxe version also has some amazing fold-out double pages with photo montages and historic shots of the Beatles at the old Shea Stadium, and McCartney playing the brand new Citi Field stadium – which is practically on the same site:

The Deluxe version gets some double fold-out pages in the book

Each CD gets a baseball image and signature in different colours:

Sticking with the Citi Field theme - baseball CD's

The DVD’s also get the baseball look (these all slip into the cardboard pockets you can see inside the front and rear covers):

The two DVDs

One DVD is the entire concert filmed live over two nights. The other is a bonus DVD featuring Paul McCartney and band’s appearance live on the Late Show with David Letterman where they played out in the open before a huge crowd, perched on an awning above the street outside the Ed Sullivan Theatre TV studios. The performance is an echo of the famous Beatles final roof-top concert of 1969…. If you’d like a peak at some of the Letterman material have look here.

Finally, a comparison photo of the Deluxe Edition (2 CDs and 2 DVDs) alongside the Standard Edition (2 CDs and 1 DVD):

Deluxe alongside Standard

Beatles “All Together Now” DVD Wins Grammy

Just a quick (and belated) follow-up to my earlier post.

The Beatles/Cirque du Soleil “making of” DVD “All Together Now” actually took out the Grammy for Best Long Form Music Video. (You’ll need to scroll to the very bottom of the Grammy page to see it listed!)

EMI sent me this flier via email.

And just for good measure here’s a set of four cool publicity images for the Beatles “Love”:

“All Together Now” nominated for a Grammy

From the Beatles official news site:

“All Together Now”, the documentary about the making of  the Beatles and Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles: LOVE”, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Long Form Music Video category (Adrian Wills, video director; Martin Bolduc & Jonathan Clyde, video producers).

“All Together Now” details the story behind the unique partnership between The Beatles and Cirque du Soleil that resulted in the creation and 2006 launch of “LOVE”, the stage production still playing to packed houses at The Mirage in Las Vegas. The film also documents the creation of the show’s music, the experimental Beatles soundscape album of the same name which garnered two Grammy Awards for producers Sir George Martin and Giles Martin in the categories of Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or other Visual Medium and Surround Sound Album.

You can see two short trailers from “All Together Now” here.

The 52nd Annual Grammies will be presented Sunday, January 31, 2010 in Los Angeles.

The Film
“All Together Now” is a feature-Length documentary chronicles the making of “The Beatles’ LOVE” by Cirque du Soleil. The film details the story behind the unique partnership between The Beatles and Cirque du Soleil that resulted in the creation and launch of “LOVE” and the double Grammy-winning album of the same name. The film is dedicated to the memory of Neil Aspinall, an Executive Producer.

“All Together Now” faithfully recounts how the “LOVE” project came into being, borne from the personal friendship between George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte. George saw how the twin talents of Cirque’s artistry and The Beatles’ music could be fused into something new and totally original.

The director, Adrian Wills, records early meetings between the Cirque & Apple Corps Ltd. creative teams, as well as contributions from Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison discussing how The Beatles’ music can be used in a different way. We hear about the decision to utilize the combined talents of Sir George Martin and his son Giles Martin to produce what became a 90-minute soundscape created from The Beatles’ multi-track recordings and how this new audio adventure was being quietly worked on in the famous Abbey Road Studios in London, England whilst the first creative ideas for the show were being formulated in Montreal, Canada.

These early stages of the project were all filmed, as were the first rehearsals at the Mirage Hotel theatre in Las Vegas, which was completely rebuilt with a one-of-a-kind sound system and complex round staging to house the “LOVE” show. George and Giles Martin, the show’s Musical Directors, were involved every step of the way with the remarkable Cirque du Soleil creative team, performers and backroom staff.

It wasn’t all “plain-sailing” and there has been no attempt to disguise some of the disagreements that took place along the way regarding how some of the songs would be portrayed visually. These creative differences, a necessary part of the overall process of bringing “LOVE” to its most vibrant life, illustrate the participants’ love and respect for the music and vision of The Beatles.

The “All Together Now” documentary provides fascinating insight into the creative skills and passion that went into making this project a groundbreaking critical and commercial success.

UPDATE: It won!