Steely Dan: Fauxcho (essential Gaucho outtakes)

This is a narrow slice of the available “Gaucho” outtakes designed for daily listening purposes. It includes only the songs that did not make the album, and in four cases I have edited out lengthy stretches of the rhythm section treading water in places where solos/elaborations were supposed to go, but never did. This makes these songs flow much more like songs, rather than sounding like what they were/are – unfinished recordings. 

If you’re a Steely Dan fan and these titles are unfamiliar to you, your mind will be blown that they exist and are solid, real songs. If you do know these recordings, you probably understand why editing some of them down makes sense. Anyway, 29 minutes of seven, unfinished Steely Dan recordings certainly could have turned into 40-45 minutes of finished songs and turned "Gaucho" into a two-LP set, if Becker and Fagan hadn't been grinding to a halt at this point. This is as close as I can get to a credible expansion of the released album.

29-minute “Gaucho” outtakes companion here:

(Sorry about the copy-and-paste link, but this blog platform is malfunctioning.)

  • Kulee Baba (edit)
  • The Bear
  • Kind Spirit (edit)
  • The Second Arrangement (edit)
  • Talkin’ ‘Bout My Home (edit)
  • Were You Blind That Day? ("Third World Man" with different lyrics)
  • I Can’t Write Home About You 
  • The Second Arrangement (Disco Coda)

The Velvet Underground: Instant 1969 Bootleg Collection (Part 2)

If you think of the first half of my BOOTLEG1969 curation as the general release and of this sequel as the bonus material on “the deluxe edition,” you’ll have it about right.  

If you don’t have that first one, start there. It’s meant to be the one-stop companion to “The Complete Matrix Tapes.” 39 tracks; 36 different songs. 

In this three-part expansion pack, I’ve tried to capture everything else from the audience/bootleg tapes that I consider to be compelling listening. I count 18 hours of source tapes, which I’ve curated down to 6.75 hours with my two compilations.  

As with the main compilation, here I’ve endeavored to stack up performances in ways that push them as far out of the bootleg morass and as close to the old “1969 Live” album experience as possible. Nevertheless, the average fidelity of this second set is lower than the first one.

You can download the following three mixes here: 3h15m, 31 tracks, 440MB

Just Like Sister Ray Set (120 minutes)

Aside from “The Complete Matrix Tape” performance, 11 “Sister Rays” from the Reed/Morrison/Tucker/Yule period appear to have made it onto tape. I judge 5.3 of them to be essential. Two appeared on my initial mix, and these are the other 3.3.

Do you need this much Sister Ray? Yes, of course. I wish there were 50 soundboard recordings. 

  • The Story of Sister Ray (edit of 5-11-69 with 3-13-69 coda) (9:38)

This is a nearly all-vocal edit of the song that proceeds directly through the story of Duck and Sally, Rosie and Miss Rayon, Cecil and the sailor, the narrator and his ding-dong. It begins with Reed introducing the characters and their situation and concludes with a mutation into “The Murder Mystery,” in which “Sister Ray’s” murdered sailor gets moved from the carpet to the casket to the parapet, and so on. Two otherwise tedious/abrasive recordings of “Sister Ray” happened to contain the pieces to make this totally approachable version of the song – as a song

  • Sister Ray (12-12-68 Boston) (25:33)
  • Sister Ray (11-7-69 San Francisco – Quine) (24:03)
  • Sister Ray (1-10-69 Boston) (21:04)

Quiet Again (50 minutes)

In some cases, the audience recordings captured quieter songs quite beautifully, even though the same recordings might offer only terrible versions of loud songs. 

My initial curation included one version each of these songs; here are the other pleasing versions. You might like some of them better than the ones I initially picked.

Reed’s vocals on the 7-11-69 “Candy Says” and “Pale Blue Eyes” are fantastic. Both recordings begin rough, but they straighten out. 

  • Jesus (edit 10-68 Cleveland)
  • Candy Says (v. Reed 7-11-69 Boston)
  • Pale Blue Eyes (7-11-69 Boston)
  • Sunday Morning (11-9-69 San Francisco)
  • Jesus (3-13-69 Boston)
  • After Hours (11-8-69 San Francisco)
  • I’m Sticking with You (11-8-69 San Francisco)
  • PA: The texture of adultery (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Pale Blue Eyes (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • PA: One of our says songs (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Candy Says (v. Yule 10-18-69 Dallas)
  • I’m Set Free (1-10-69 Boston)
  • 3rd Album Radio Ad
  • Heroin (8-2-69 Rindge, NH)
  • Jesus (edit 3-15-69 Boston)

Underground: Lo-Fi Jams (72 minutes)

The Velvet Underground rocking out is one of the best sounds ever, but it’s also what typically threw audience tape recorders into the red, particularly during verses and choruses. As the “Rock Set” on my initial compilation sadly demonstrated, finding even one really good, end-to-end recording of a loud song on the audience tapes is sometimes a challenge. 

This collection includes all the additional minutes of fiercely-played material that I find exciting, even at low, or very low fidelity. 

A few tracks include the vocals; all the others are instrumental edits. Because of this, you can pretend that this is a lost jam session tape. 

I swear that this is the best remaining version of “Beginning to See the Light.” The song never (seems to have) had a jam, and there’s nothing in this performance that stands out, but somehow it seemed like the song/riff had to be on a low-fi jams mix.

  • I Can’t Stand It (edit 1-10-69 Boston)
  • What Goes On (edit 1-10-69 Boston)
  • Run Run Run (edit 1-10-69 Boston)
  • Foggy Notion (edit 10-68 Cleveland)
  • I Can’t Stand It (edit 10-18-69 Dallas)
  • What Goes On (8-2-69 Rindge, NH)
  • White Light White Heat (edit 3-15-69 Boston)
  • Ferryboat Bill (3-15-69 Boston)
  • I Can’t Stand It (edit 10-68 Cleveland)
  • What Goes On (11-69 San Francisco)
  • I Can’t Stand It (3-13-69 Boston)
  • Beginning to See the Light (1-10-69 Boston)

And that’s it. Everything from this period’s audience tapes that I recommend you take seriously and keep handy, polished and arranged to the best of my ability.  

The Velvet Underground: “Sister Ray” Single Edit (1967)

Given that The Velvet Underground were essentially a far-out R&B band, you can almost imagine “Sister Ray”as a single on Stax in 1968, the 17-minute album version cut down and split into Part 1 and Part 2. Instead, the single went out into instant oblivion on the Pickwick label, the organization Lou Reed was associated with before The Velvet Underground came to be. 

Of course, there was no “Sister Ray” single, but there could have been and maybe should have been. 

Here it is. 

Sister Ray (pt. 1): 3:04

Sister Ray (pt. 2): 3:21

The Velvet Underground: Instant 1969 Bootleg Collection

The first thing to say about this mix is that none of these performances appear on “The Complete Matrix Tapes” (November 26-27, 1969). 

This compilation is intended to be the second place to go for 1968-1969 live Velvet Underground, in the period when both Mo Tucker and Doug Yule were in the band. It contains a version of every composition that made it onto an audience tape, with one exception, and only three compositions are repeated: 39 tracks, 36 different songs.

Practically speaking, this compilation replaces “1969 Live,” the glorious, old, murky double-LP, which was whittled down to four unique tracks, when the release of “The Complete Matrix Tapes” provided upgrades of all the other performances. Likewise, it upgraded nearly a third of the performances on “The Quine Tapes.” 

So, the live VU universe lies in splinters around the amazing soundboard monolith of “The Complete Matrix Tapes.”

I’ve tried to fix that with these 3.5 hours of lovingly selected audience tape performances. The "Live 1969" leftovers are here in the context of their original show, some tracks are pulled from the Quine tapes, and all the rest are unreleased. 

Many of these selections are the only live recording of a song (at all), the only audience recording of it, or the only version in which the vocals are clear (enough) and the distortion low enough to deliver for real. That’s a sad truth about the poor quality of the few tapes that exist, but it’s also miraculous that so many songs actually exist in versions that you want to hear repeatedly. We got lucky in our unluckiness, I guess. 

I had good, known- or seemingly-uncompressed sources for most of this material, though some come from mp3s. I have applied no compression filters, and very, very little frequency-EQing. (i.e., No attempt has been make to make these diverse recordings "sound like" each other.) However, those who are familiar with VU recordings of this sort will find that I have significantly fixed the problem of wild volume variations between and within songs. It's nowhere near perfect, but it's not all over the place.

Corrected version: The three volumes outlined below are zipped up together here, as 320kbps mp3s - 500MB total.

The above is a CORRECTED VERSION. Please tell the person who sent you here that they need to download this corrected track, if they already grabbed the whole file before 1/21/18. It'll drop in where it belongs and show  which song to delete from my original file. Sorry to the people who've already downloaded and will never know!

A Complete Show: October 19, 1969 Dallas – 83 minutes

The leftover songs from “1969 Live” (*) came from this show, including the album's opening address to the audience and first song. It’s a great performance, and it is absolutely the best audience recording of the band in this period. It's the one, complete (non-Matrix) show that everyone should have. (If you already possess it in full, you might still appreciate some of the refinements I’ve made.)

  • Good Evening *
  • Waiting for the Man *
  • It’s Just Too Much
  • Band Intro *
  • Some Kinda Love
  • I’ll be Your Mirror *
  • Femme Fatale *
  • Beginning to See the Light
  • I’m Set Free
  • After Hours
  • I’m Sticking with You
  • One of These Days
  • Pale Blue Eyes *
  • Ocean
  • What Goes On
  • Heroin
  • Sister Ray

A Quiet Set (composite) – 56 minutes

Low-key VU – concentrated. More from the October Dallas stand, Lou Reed singing “Candy Says,” Doug and Mo singing “Rock and Roll,” “Lisa Says" with four improvised verses, a fast live version of “I Found a Reason,” and – yes, truly – a “Sister Ray” that belongs in something called “a quiet set.” This is the only non-Matrix 1969 “Sweet Jane” (another fun variation) and the only live recording of “Ride into the Sun.” The “Ride into the Sun” demo is one of four tracks that were presumably an acetate at some point, two of the others having been officially released on archival sets (“Countess from Hong Kong,” and “I Found a Reason”). 

Caveat: I did my best to moderate the defects on “Jesus” and “That’s the Story of My Life,” which seem to be on all my VU fan friends’ versions as well.

  • Candy Says (12-12-68 Boston)
  • Jesus (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • That’s the Story of My Life (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • I Found a Reason (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Sunday Morning (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Ride into the Sun (unreleased demo)
  • Sweet Jane (11-69 San Francisco – Quine outtake)
  • Rock & Roll (10-69 Dallas – “after hours jam”)
  • Lisa Says (10-69 Dallas – “after hours jam”)
  • Over You (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Sister Ray (10-18-69 Dallas)
  • Ride into the Sun (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
A Loud Set (composite) – 65 minutes

This set leads with the other unreleased 1969 demo/acetate recording, then works its way through all the rockers not represented by the October 19th Dallas show. Sound quality gets a little rough as it proceeds, but in terms of a balance between exhilarating crunch and listenable songs, these are the ones. "Ferryboat Bill" is unlistenable, with only the delighted crowd response at the end to tell you how great it must have really been.

  • Real Good Time Together (unreleased demo)
  • It’s Just too Much (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Sweet Bonnie Brown (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • I Can’t Stand It (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Move Right In (1-10-69 Boston)
  • Foggy Notion (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • Run Run Run (8-2-69, Ringe, NH)
  • Follow the Leader (11-69 San Francisco – Quine Tapes)
  • White Light White Heat (12-12-68 Boston, MA)
  • Ferryboat Bill (3-13-69 Boston)

Follow-up to this compilation here.

Lost 4th album here. 

The Velvet Underground: Unloaded (1969-1970)

Cover photograph by Henry Chalfant.

This is my late entry into the “lost fourth album” competition. VU completed its eponymous third album at the end of 1968, and then, in 1970, released a very strange final (actual fourth) album, “Loaded.” 

In between these documents, the Velvet Underground were peaking live and writing and recording new songs for two different labels. But the closing of the fourth album gate was deferred and deferred, until Lou Reed had actually quit the band, and the final batch of released songs only slightly represented what had transpired since December 1968. 

So, this is the space-of-an-album that I wanted to fill:

  • Ignore the MGM/Atlantic label divide that has segregated releases of archival VU recordings from this period. Follow the continuous trail of the art.
  • Demonstrate that this was a staggering year in Lou Reed’s songwriting and singing history. A “Blonde on Blonde” year. And these are only 20 of the songs he wrote in this period.
  • Avoid the sudden, new moves presented on the released “Loaded,” and instead extend the vibe of the third album/1969 VU as far as possible. “Loaded” leans forward into the 1970s and a different VU that never happened; this leans backwards into one that did.
  • Capture the 1969 VU groove as far as possible. Quiet or loud, live or in the studio, they were a magical combo that only lasted a little while. Even the absence of Mo Tucker from most of the Atlantic sessions didn’t prevent Reed/Morrison/Yule from sustaining the 1969 band’s shimmery chug, much of the time. Amazing, definitive versions abound. 

This fake double album includes 20 songs, including three straight from “Loaded” and three live ones from “The Complete Matrix Tapes.” The other 14 are studio outtakes, demos, and alternate versions drawn from various vault releases. 

It’s a portrait of a band at its peak, happy to be here with you, appreciative of your ears – intimate, generous, unhurried. Do you want two short sets, or one long one? Anyone have a curfew? 

82-minute mp3 pseudo-album here

Side One:

  • Sweet Jane (live at the Matrix)
  • Sad Song (Atlantic demo)
  • Rock & Roll (Atlantic demo)
  • I Can’t Stand It (MGM, 2014 mix)
  • Foggy Notion (MGM, 1969 mix)

Side Two:

  • Andy’s Chest (MGM, 1969 mix)
  • Cool It Down (Atlantic, Loaded version)
  • Coney Island Steeplechase (MGM, 2014 mix)
  • Satellite of Love (Atlantic demo)
  • Countess from Hong Kong (late 1969, demo)
  • I’m Gonna Move Right In (MGM, 1969 mix)

Side Three:

  • Over You (live at the Matrix)
  • Lisa Says (live at the Matrix)
  • I’m Sticking with You (Atlantic version)
  • Walk & Talk (Atlantic demo)
  • Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ (Atlantic, Loaded version)

Side Four:

  • Ocean (Atlantic outtake)
  • New Age (Atlantic, Loaded version, full-length)
  • I Love You (Atlantic demo)
  • I Found a Reason (Atlantic demo)

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 3)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to finally give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 3: The Boxer

“Still a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest.”

“What is this crap?” a famous critic famously asked, after being exposed to “Self Portrait.” 

This third volume of my 1970 reconfiguration is a journey to the center of the crap. I’ve piled it up until there’s a whole statement’s worth of it. It’s delightful. It coheres. It’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s not a joke.

And it’s not crap at all, of course. Dylan’s not singing as Mr. Nashville, or taking on any fixed poses. He’s taking all of this seriously and covering a lot of ground. He’s putting quarters into his private jukebox. Next up, “Mr. Bojangles.” 

If he’d named these songs in an interview as what he was listening to, we’d find it fascinating, but his playing of them, and the way he played many of them, are often ridiculed: covers of contemporary songs, lightweight originals that sound like those contemporary songs, weird oldies, non-adversarial-Dylan approaches to interpreting it all, backup singers all over the place.

Yes, it is Dylan’s easy listening album from 1970, and aren’t you glad you can finally listen to it all the way through?

43-minute mp3 pseudo-album zipped up here

  • The Boxer (SP)
  • Early Mornin’ Rain (SP)
  • If Not for You (NM)
  • Can’t Help Falling in Love (D)
  • Gotta Travel On (SP)
  • Woogie Boogie (SP)
  • Bring Me a Little Water (ASP)
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue (b-side)
  • Mr. Bojangles (D)
  • Lily of the West/Flora (D)
  • Mary Ann (D)
  • Winterlude (NM)
  • Big Yellow Taxi (D)

Additional notes: 

  • As many before me have said, this b-side version of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue” is one of Dylan’s greatest performances. The fact that I would dare to place it in the midst of this other stuff reflects my confidence that I can serve you four stacks of 1970 Dylan, and make you like every song in each one of them… including three versions of “Spanish is the Loving Tongue,” a lyric and melody that Dylan obsessively explored in this period, beginning with The Basement Tapes. It’s a song about the borderlands between acceptance and regret, choice and fate, true love and inadequate love. It makes perfect sense that Dylan kept circling around it in this period, and that he also dug out and seriously recorded his old song “Tomorrow is a Long Time” and wrote “Watching the River Flow.” They’re all versions of the same separation narrative, questioning whether the narrator has irretrievably lost something, or is just too weak to pursue it. 
  • Dylan can’t be credited or blamed for some of the overdubbed arrangements here, but unfortunately the material originally released on the album “Dylan” (1973) seems to be so hated that the compilers of the archive box “Another Self Portrait,” didn’t consider including any of it in a purer form. For all I know, some of them began as amazing solo performances, later to be encrusted by others.  
  • I haven’t included anything from the widely-bootlegged June 1, 1970 screw-around recording session on my four compilations. It’s one of those Dylan documents best left to be enjoyed in isolation, IMO, like the ’66 hotel tapes, ’69 Dylan/Cash sessions, and ‘78 Rundown sessions. Lots of fun to be had, but no knockout performances of anything. However, one of the high points of the 6/1/70 recording is a rendition of “Matchbox,” which reveals exactly where “Woogie Boogie” came from.

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 2)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to finally give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 2: To Woody

This is the sub-plot of 1970-ish Dylan studio recordings that I most wanted to pull together – the record I always wanted “Self-Portrait” to be. It’s something like the return of folk singer Dylan, but with the wider, weirder scope of traditional music opened up by The Basement Tapes. Covers and originals sit together comfortably. 

At the edge of the imaginary stage, alone in the spotlight, is Dylan, with microphone, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a nearby piano. He’s singing his heart out without raising his voice, inhabiting each song as though it’s the most important or delightful story he’s ever told. Additional musicians appear in various formations to provide reserved accompaniment for one song or another. 

If this had been the 1970 comeback concert or “Self Portrait," I think it would be revered. 

63 minute pseudo-album zipped up here

  • Alberta #3 (ASP)
  • Down in the Flood (GH2)
  • In Search of Little Sadie (ASP)
  • George Jackson (single, solo)
  • Song to Woody (bootleg)
  • Only a Hobo (ASP)
  • It Hurts Me Too (SP)
  • You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (GH2)
  • Copper Kettle (ASP)
  • Spanish is the Loving Tongue (ASP)
  • Thirsty Boots (ASP)
  • I Shall Be Released (GH2)
  • Days of ’49 (ASP)
  • Belle Isle (ASP)
  • Pretty Saro (ASP)
  • House Carpenter (ASP)
  • These Hands (ASP)
  • Tattle O’Day (ASP)

GH2 tracks and “George Jackson” were recorded in 1971. ASP songs are sometimes SP takes without the overdubs. 

Self-Impersonation: Bob Dylan 1970 Reconfigured (Vol. 1)

Let’s pretend that the music Bob Dylan recorded circa 1970 had resulted in a series of different albums than the ones we got. In the real world, those recordings are smeared all over the place: Self-Portrait, New Morning, Dylan, Greatest Hits Vol. 2, vault releases, and bootlegs. The point of this curation is not to include everything, but to give persuasive form to a period that remains blurry (based on commercial releases) and that is often derided as a low point. I consider it a high point, even at its weirdest points. This is my case, via four imaginary albums. 

Volume 1: The Morning After 

One reviewer called “New Morning” a mid-term report from a position of domestic tranquility. However, the final report card, based on original songs recorded in 1970 and 1971, is a much more unsettled communique.

The first volume of my 1970 reconfiguration attempts to turn “New Morning” into the most substantial possible album of originals recorded in this period. The result includes six songs from "New Morning," three alternate versions of "New Morning" songs, and four songs that weren't on the album. 

The object of thematic puzzling is time. Simplified into biography (which isn’t fair), the plot involves “Bob Dylan” fleeing himself and celebrity into domestic tranquility and artistic freedom in upstate New York, but ending up estranged from wife and self, that masterpiece he was going to paint colliding with not having much to say, the past a mixed-up confusion, the future a blank, the river of time continuing to flow by. The gypsy he goes to see in the end, and can't connect with, is the Bob Dylan he escaped from and now can’t find his way back to. He’s the restless wallflower in his own life. He’s half-inclined to consider religion. Or he's just a restless Bob Dylan, hanging out in the cafes and bars of upstate New York, taking notes. 

  • Act 1: Hopeful escape
  • Act 2: Bliss
  • Act 3: Ambivalence, boredom, regret, and resignation

It’s the mighty Bob Dylan album, hiding in plain sight, that marks the mid-point between the official mileposts planted by “John Wesley Harding” (1967) and “Planet Waves" (1973). This re-stacking should startle even those who are intimately familiar with this material in its original contexts, especially in the second half. 

42-minute pseudo-album zipped up here.

  • Three Angels (NM)
  • Day of the Locusts (NM)
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece (ASP)
  • If Dogs Run Free (ASP)
  • New Morning (NM)
  • The Man in Me (NM)
  • Watching the River Flow (single)
  • One More Weekend (NM)
  • Time Passes Slowly #2 (ASP)
  • Tomorrow is a Long Time (bootleg 6/4/70)
  • Wallflower (ASP)
  • Went to See the Gypsy (ASP)
  • Father of Night (NM)

Sidetrips: Elvis Costello – “Favorite Hour” (1994-2004 mix)

Born four years apart and releasing their first albums one year apart, Prince and Elvis Costello are artists that I also associate as eventually becoming capable of writing and singing nearly any kind of song exceptionally well.  

This mix is not intended to represent everything fantastic about EC 1994-2006 – not by a long shot.

It specifically curates the Costello development that proceeded from such early indicators as “Alison,” “Hoover Factory,” “Almost Blue,” “Boy With a Problem,” “Shipbuilding,” etc., and from Costello’s abiding interest in what can loosely be called American Popular Song. These are songs that might have originated in a musical, sung by a character, later to be picked up by others as a standard. 

This mix is also a celebration of the dynamic duo of Elvis Costello and pianist Steve Nieve, collaborators for nearly two decades by the time of the earliest recordings on this mix. Nieve appears on every, or nearly every song here. 

The selections come from the albums of the period (including expanded edition material), a series of EC & Steve E.P.s, and a little bit from bootlegs. The cover photo is from some years later, but I couldn’t find one that I liked better.

66-minute mp3 mix here

  • All This Useless Beauty
  • Still
  • Favorite Hour (Church Studios version)
  • Poor Fractured Atlas
  • Still Too Soon to Know
  • Just a Memory (live 1996)
  • When Did I Stop Dreaming?
  • That Day is Done
  • When It Sings
  • Let Me Tell You About Her
  • I Want to Vanish
  • World’s Great Optimist (demo)
  • All the Rage (live 1996)
  • Black Sails in the Sunset (live 1996)
  • Can You Be True? (live 2004)
  • Almost Blue (live 2004)
  • Baby Plays Around (live 1999)

Side Trips: A Certain Ratio (1979-1980 mix)

This post presents a very small slice of the earliest output of the band A Certain Ratio. It's intended for people who don't already know them well and who are generally into 1978-1982 postpunk, who like Gang of Four, Joy Division, or Public Image Limited, and/or who are interested in the Manchester, UK scene, 1977-1986. 

A Certain Ratio (ACR) was a Factory Records band-mate of Joy Division and others, produced (in their early years) by JD’s producer/studio-translator, Martin Hannett, for better and for worse.

ACR was and was not conducive to the Joy Division treatment. They were a postpunk funk band that was also very gloomy in their early years. Balancing the funk and the gloom was the challenge, and I judge the official results to be extremely mixed. The band complained that Hannett often took the sound too far from the live band’s ethos, and I’d say that they were correct. 

After/during the period documented here, ACR went to NYC on tour, inspired Talking Heads to funk it up, soaked up a ton of influences and percussion instruments – and leapt forward with their next LP, the postpunk masterpiece “Sextet,” in 1981, which is now available as a perfectly-executed double-CD. After “Sextet,” ACR would continue to evolve into a more mainstream funk band, sliding successfully into the “Madchester” scene. There is no release that documents their 1984-1986, 12-inch/EP output, but they gave New Order and Primal Scream worthy competition. They still exist, with their three essential/unchanging original members, releasing challenging music sometimes, and playing live sometimes. 

Despite being an ACR super-fan, who collected and later meticulously ripped all of the original vinyl and cassette releases, I can’t fully endorse their earliest output. The vibe is consistent, if you’re in the mood for it, but the songwriting and the groove are inconsistent. One song, or version of a song, will lock into a great place, while another will be a cold fish. They were a young, experimental band, and they got it exactly right sometimes.

With today's single, LP, Peel Session, and live options, you can play to the strong points. The only reason I'm posting this mix is that I've been trying to find it since the early '80s, and I think I'm very happy with this "less is more than more" approach.

If you're into it, ACR is re-releasing (in late 2017) their two major, early documents, “The Graveyard & The Ballroom,” and “…to Each," which contributed songs to this mix. 

32-minute zipped mp3 file here

  • Flight (The Graveyard, cassette rip)
  • Loss (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
  • Oceans (To Each vinyl rip)
  • Choir (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)
  • Forced Laugh (live 10/80, Groningen CD)
  • My Spirit (To Each vinyl rip)
  • The Fox (single, Early CD)
  • Shack Up (single, Early CD)
  • All Night Party (Peel Session 1979, Early CD)