John Lennon The Ultimate Edition – Finally

Guess what landed on the front doorstep yesterday? Our Universal Music bundle of the John Lennon Ultimate Edition box set, Imagine 2 LP (on clear vinyl), Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and the Imagine movie poster!

Ordered 24 August, officially released 5 October………delivered 30 October: 

This order was placed directly with Universal’s uDiscover UK music store. Despite being the commercial arm of the actual publisher and distributor of these titles, it has to be said uDiscover don’t have a great track record for delivering items on time, nor keeping their customers up-to-date on what is going on. Usually it’s because they can’t get stock. Go figure. This time they ran out of the Imagine/Gimme Some Truth Blu-ray, and so had to hold back dispatch of the bundle until more copies came in.

One needs patience when dealing with uDiscover. Stuff usually does arrive, it’s just a matter of when.

Thankfully, everything (except the poster) arrived in very good shape – this is despite the four items being shoved into a plastic courier bag with no additional padding around them. Yes, they were each in individual cardboard mailers, but they’d been banging around together in that bag all the way from Europe to Australia, so it was with a sigh of relief that we opened each to find no dings, bent corners, rips or other damage.

There was however one casualty. They’d packed the rolled-up movie poster into a long triangular-shaped box that simply wasn’t up to the task. It had been bashed around and squashed along the way, putting deep creases into the good quality paper stock the poster is printed on. It’s a shame because it is an impressive piece, but sadly now far from mint condition.

We’re counting that as minor collateral damage, and just thankful the main content (i.e. box set, 2 LP and Blu-ray) is finally here and in pristine condition….

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Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album – First Look

Some reviewers are flouting the embargo on showing and reviewing The Beatles new 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album).

While it is not officially released until November 9, Michael Fremer – who is an equipment reviewer for the legendary Stereophile magazine, but who also runs his own YouTube channel and a blog called AnalogPlanet – has given fans a tasty preview of what to expect.

Fremer shows us not only the 4 LP set, but also the Deluxe 6 CD plus Blu-ray box containing Giles Martin’s new remix, the Esher Demos, and much much more in this YouTube clip:

He’s also published this lengthy review. In a nutshell – he really likes the vinyl:

“….the reissue does not sound like the original U.K. pressing nor was it intended to. Yet it remains true to the original’s intent, in part because there was less Mr. Martin could do to change it.

The new mix does sound more “modern” because modern techniques and gear were used, and the final source was a modern digital storage system, but this reissue does not sound “digital” as the pejorative use of the term has come to be used.

You’ll definitely be able to hear further into the reissue mix because it has greater transparency. And you can crank it up farther because it’s less harsh and somewhat smoother but not to where it’s soft.”

Mr Fremer also says that the Esher Demos LP is exceptional:

“…..they are truly wondrous. John brought 15 songs, Paul 7 and George 5. You are in the Kinfauns Bungalow as they strum, bang and shake and you’ll love every minute of it.”

So, how was the CD box set by comparison?

“When I played the CD version….all of that magic disappeared. I was hearing a plastic-sounding recording. Was it different EQ? Was it the downrez from 96/24 to 16/44.1? I don’t know and I don’t care. Am I prejudiced against CDs? Damn straight I am! Based on what I hear and nothing else.”

And how does he sum it all up?

“My conclusion about this remix is that if you have an original British pressing that you love, you will still love that. If you have an open mind you will also love this re-mix. You might be surprised which one you choose when you want to revisit this album. Yes, The Beatles has been “Martinized” but you won’t be left thinking you’ve been taken to the cleaners!”

Egypt Station – The Packaging

Now that the general public and the reviewers verdicts are in (all generally very positive btw), and now that Paul McCartney’s Egypt Station has entered the Billboard 200 at No.1, making it his first No.1 album on the US charts in over 36 years (the last time was Tug Of War in 1982), maybe it’s time to take a closer look at the cover art and design of the album – both in LP and CD form – because these too seem to have met with a very favourable reception from fans:

Explaining the album’s concept, Paul says, “I liked the words ‘Egypt Station.’… I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from.” The title is taken from the piece of art which is featured on the album cover. It’s a limited edition lithograph, the original of which Paul himself painted back in 1988:

“My original inspiration [for the painting] was….Egyptian symbols and shapes I got from looking at a reference book on Egypt. I was interested in the way they drew sunflowers, so two appear on the left and on the right. It was a nice shape, so I took that and then I also love the way they symbolize trees. I like the way they reduce a tree to just some very simple symbols.”  Paul McCartney

The art directors hired for the project are Ferry Gouw, an illustrator, graphic designer and video director based in London, and Gary Card, a set designer, illustrator and artist also based in London. They’ve taken McCartney’s original painting and extended out its themes and style across many panels (for both the CD and the LP) in a spectacular way.

At first the two seem an odd choice as on the surface they both appear to work in very different worlds to that of Paul McCartney. Gouw inhabits more of an out there, conceptual electronic dance music, skater/cartoon world. He’s also the in-house designer for James Blake’s record label, 1800-Dinosaur. This video is a little old, but it gives a taste of Gouw’s style:

So, you might wonder how Gouw got the McCartney gig. Then you discover that earlier this year Roxy Music hired him to produce a new video interpretation of their legendary song (from 1972), ‘Virginia Plain‘. Gouw says:

“I wanted it to feel like a kaleidoscopic holiday in glamorous, but surreal locations, that only exist in vintage posters and your imagination. The song is so dense – the imagery comes thick and fast, so they all have to pop up in a stream of consciousness. So I researched vintage holiday posters, Americana pin-up icons, art deco jazz posters, and re-drew all the elements to make up the video.”

It was Bryan Ferry who commissioned the piece after being impressed with Gouw’s work on a video for his solo album, Olympia. The result has been described as the creative rebirth of an iconic track in British musical lore:

On the other hand, Gary Card seems more into groovy and colourful pop sculpture of late. By way of example there’s this amazing eight foot high plasticine Christmas tree he made for a London hotel last holiday season:Both Gouw and Card have been on Instagram since the release of Egypt Station“After months of hard work this beauty is finally out in the world. So proud to see it everywhere, it’s a real privilege to be a part of this. Expect me and @garycard to be spamming Instagram with this for the next few years LoL” – Ferry Gouw

Woke up this morning to news that the Paul McCartney album we designed is number 1 in the U.S 👍🏻 here’s the full art work @ferry_gouw n me based around @paulmccartney‘s original painting #egyptstation” – Gary Card. He then posted this image of the  6-panel “concertina” style packaging they devised for the CD:

When folded up the CD cover is held in place with a bright red cloth fabric elastic band:

For the exclusive Target and HMV editions (which have two bonus songs) the elastic band is green in colour to help set it apart:

It’s not the first time that McCartney has employed elastic bands to hold together a cover. In 1999, under his The Fireman persona, he released a 12″ vinyl featuring remixes of a song called ‘Fluid’, taken from the Rushes album. That folded cover has a red rubber band to keep everything in place too:

The Egypt Station “concertina” idea for the CD is also used for the vinyl record, but only in the “Deluxe Edition” design. This is a three-panel gatefold and you can see Sir Paul holding an example of it here:The LP cover is quite spectacular in this larger format, with a beautifully textured feel to the paper used giving a high quality tactile feel. There’s also a tri-fold lyric sheet in a deep blue which fits within – also beautifully designed by Gouw and Card. Here’s one page from the lyric sheet:

You can see how the LP package folds compared to the CD version a little more clearly here:

The attention to detail extends further inside, with the labels on each side of the LP being individually custom designed as well. Another nice touch:

And that brings us to the vinyl colours. Egypt Station is offered in black vinyl (140 gram standard, and 180 gram deluxe); in blue and orange coloured vinyls for the deluxe version – only available via McCartney’s official site; in red vinyl as a Barnes & Noble store exclusive; and in green vinyl – offered to Spotify subscribers first, but for a period also available to all via the McCartney site as well.

When the images for Egypt Station first began to appear many likened the cover to George Harrison’s 1982 outing, Gone Troppo:

Yes, there are certain similarities in the colours and the pastiche style used, but Egypt Station‘s artwork goes far beyond. It harkens back to the days when albums really were works of art. They could be folded out and explored and enjoyed as an immersive experience in themselves, quite apart from the music contained within. We think Ferry Gouw and Gary Card should be congratulated.

Interesting peice of trivia: In 2004, when Paul headlined the Glastonbury Festival in England, the same Egypt Station artwork from his original painting adorned the pre-show curtain:

There is a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package of the year. In 2018 there was a tie for first place and so two winners were recognised (click here to see the list and scroll down to Award Number 65):

Above on the left is Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition) – Sasha Barr, Ed Steed and Josh Tillman, art directors.

On the right is Magin Díaz’s El Orisha De La Rosa – Carlos Dussan, Juliana Jaramillo, Juan Martinez and Claudio Roncoli, art directors.

There’s a good article about both albums and their cover art here. There’s further information on both here also.

I guess we’ll just have to wait until January, 2019 to see if: a) Egypt Station receives a Grammy nomination for its extraordinary packaging, and b) it wins!

Paul McCartney always puts a lot of effort into the design and presentation of his albums. Two excellent examples are the totally integrated concept for his Electric Arguments release as The Fireman in 2008/09, which saw the standard CD right through to an extraordinary limited edition deluxe box set executed with aplomb; and his album New from 2013. You can find the story behind the cover art for that one here.

FOR MORE ON EGYPT STATION SEE ALSO:

Record Store Day Double A Side to be released; a retro Egypt Station Cassette; some Egypt Station Reviews; the Spotify Egypt Station Green Vinyl; and Packaging Variations of Egypt Station.

‘Egypt Station’ – Available on Cassette

The Paul McCartney Official US Store is now offering McCartney’s new Egypt Station album on cassette:

You can buy it (with a digital download included) for US$9.98! It’s the sixteen track version – no bonus tracks.

This is not the first time McCartney has dabbled with what some might view as a redundant format. Last time was for Record Store Day 2017, when a 3-song cassette of Flowers In The Dirt demos with Elvis Costello was offered as a limited edition:

The cassette of Egypt Station takes the number of different variations of the album for collectors to seek out to eight. That’s five different vinyl editions, two different CDs, and now the cassette. And there is still a super deluxe edition in the pipeline. No details on what that will contain have been released to date.

Paul McCartney’s ‘Egypt Station’ – A Review

One of Australia’s leading music critics has given Paul McCartney a big thumbs up for Egypt Station, released last Friday.

Veteran music journalist Bernard Zuel writes:

“…this is what you get when a man who was brilliant in his 20s and 30s and stumbled into mediocrity a bit too often in his 40s and 50s, shows [that] the creative rejuvenation of his 60s continues at a fine pace….

It works. But then he’s Paul McCartney, we’re not, and that’s the deal…..”

You can read Bernard’s full, track-by-track review at bernardzuel.com

The respected UK newspaper The Times has also given the album high praise, with a four out of five star rating:

“…..here he is, aged 76, with his most emotionally satisfying work in decades….Egypt Station displays McCartney’s unique ability to write songs that are direct and sophisticated. Who else could construct the minor key piano melody of Hand In Hand from just a few notes nobody thought of arranging that way before, and then set it against words about sharing your life with someone, that are conversational yet poignant?

Likewise with Dominoes, which chugs along with the lighthearted rock’n’roll Wings did so well, but comes with a philosophical message about accepting the here and now. As with so much McCartney material, it is more profound than it seems.” 

Hey Jude/Revolution – If It’s Re-issued Should This Be The Look?

Loved this Tweet yesterday by Canadian Beatle aficionado and author, Piers Hemmingsen:  

It made us think that if (and it seems to be very likely) there are plans to re-issue a physical ‘HeyJude’/’Revolution’ single as part of the forthcoming Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary, then it really should come in a white sleeve like the 1968 Canadian issue.

What do you think? Does this…..

….look better (and more appropriate) than this…..

Piers Hemmingsen is the author of The Beatles In Canada – The Origin of Beatlemania!

John Lennon ‘Imagine’ – Film, Audio and DVD/BluRay On The Way?

Speculation and rumours that there would be a number of additional elements accompanying the forthcoming Imagine John Yoko book (due on October 9) has had an on again/off again nature over the last few days.

The story so far…..

Officially, all we know is that the book is happening, as is a cinema release of the John Lennon and Yoko Ono film Imagine, announced this week: This is the 1972 film with each of the songs from Imagine portrayed (plus four songs from the Ono LP FLY, recorded at the same time) in between glimpses into the lives of John and Yoko, plus some fun sequences featuring the pair and a host of celebrity mates. It looks like it’s the original 70 minute cut of the film, plus an additional 15 minutes or so of bonus material.

If you’d like to go along and see the movie on the big screen there’s a special site set up find out where it is on near you and you can book tickets. Screenings start from September 17.

We also now know that there will be definitely be a DVD and Blu-ray release of the 1972 Imagine film, coupled on the one disc with Gimme Some Truth – The Making of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ Album which dates from 2000 and is directed by Andrew Solt:Gimme Some Truth is a surprisingly good examination of the recording process, a fly-on-the-wall window on Lennon in the studio creating the Imagine album that stands the test of time. The DVD and Blu-ray will be available from October 5, and Amazon is taking pre-orders now. There will be bonus material included, but it has not yet been revealed just what this will be. These two films will be great to have in remixed sound, 5.1 mixes (if that is your thing), and fully restored visual content.

And that leads us to what hasn’t been announced yet regarding the last piece in the puzzle: the audio from the Imagine sessions.

There’s been lots of talk about a super deluxe box set; a single CD; a double CD; and a double LP (with a limited edition in clear vinyl for collectors too). Depending on who you believe this is about to be officially announced (like in the next few days, with an October 9 release date), or this part of the Imagine re-issue project has been delayed and we won’t see it until at least February, 2019. (This courtesy of Lennon producer, Jack Douglas, who apparently stated at the Chicago Fest for Beatles last weekend that the project had been shelved to February next year).

Until something official comes out it all remains speculation, but the big box set (which will be audio only) will likely contain four CDs, plus two Blu-rays of material. On these will be some 140 tracks – which is HUGE!

In the box we’ll get the remixed stereo Imagine album, plus singles and extras; outtakes from the album, singles and extras; the Quadraphonic album remastered; raw studio mixes; plus a host of other audio content. For example, someone well-connected to the project has posted this as the content on CD2:

CD 2 – ELEMENTS & OUTTAKES
Elements Mixes and Album & Single Outtakes
ELEMENTS MIXES
Imagine (Strings only) 
Jealous Guy (Piano, bass & drums)
Oh My Love (Vocals only) 
How? (Strings only) 
ALBUM OUTTAKES
Imagine (Original demo recorded at Ascot) 
Imagine (Take 1) 
Crippled Inside (Take 3) 
Crippled Inside (Take 6 alternate guitar solo)
Jealous Guy (Take 9) 
It’s So Hard (Take 6) 
I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier (Take 25) 
Gimme Some Truth (Take 4)
Oh My Love (Take 6) 
How Do You Sleep? (Takes 1 & 2) 
How? (Take 31)

That’s just for one CD. Those two Blu-rays alone will contain a massive amount of additional audio and this release (if it comes about) will set a precedent for the Apple/Universal box set re-issue approach so far. There will be raw studio mixes; “elements” mixes with instruments and voices separated out; documentary content about the evolution of the songs; plus interview material from the time of Imagine with John and Yoko included. To date the breadth of material planned for release is unprecedented.

The promotional music site Ultimate Classic Rock jumped the gun today and published an article called “John Lennon’s Imagine Album Explored in a Six-Disc Box Set“. As you can see if you click through, they’ve subsequently taken that story down, possibly with a big rap across the knuckles form Apple/Universal….

We reckon this big release program WILL happen. It’s just a matter of when.

UPDATE: The official Lennon site has now uploaded a teaser Imagine the Music page and a video (a beautiful short extract of just the isolated vocals from ‘Oh My Love’). Looks like we’ll know exactly what is on offer on August 23, when The Ultimate Deep Listening Experience will be officially announced.