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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "...Baby You Gotta Rock..." THEN PLAY ON Remastered & Expanded, 19 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Then Play On (Extended Edition) (Audio CD)
*** THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE 2013 CD REMASTER ***

OK - here goes.

THE LP: When "Then Play On" was first released on vinyl in the UK and USA in September 1969 - fans found that the album differed on both sides of the pond. The British LP had 14 tracks while the USA issue had only 12 - and a slightly different track running order. To add further confusion to the album's history - the split 7" single "Oh Well" became a sizeable chart hit in the UK in September and radio presence in the USA in November 1969 - so Reprise USA decided to relaunch the US album that November with 11-tracks - this time incorporated the hugely popular "When I Talk To God..." song. But instead of including "Oh Well" split into Part 1 and Part 2 (like the UK single) they edited it together as one long song with a small amount of repetition added on in error (the American album version runs to just over 9 minutes). The two Danny Kirwan tracks "Without You" and "One Sunny Day" that appeared on the original UK LP were dropped from the US variant because they'd already appeared on the band's 2nd US album "English Rose" in February of that year. There are also giggles and huffs and puffs at the end and beginning of certain tracks that got messed around with too. What this all means is that 1969 effectively saw the release of three "Then Play On" LPs.

THE CD: The dull-as-dishwater basic CD on Reprise that we've had to live with all these decades (released in November 1988) is an un-remastered mishmash of all those line-ups (13 tracks, 54:14 minutes). So for the sake of clarity I'm going to show how this 19 August 2013 Extended CD on Warner Brothers/Rhino 8122796443 (18 tracks at 69:53 minutes) will finally allow fans to sequence all three variants of "Then Play On" LP - and the singles that surrounded it (just about). The track number is after each song title...

ALBUMS:
September 1969 UK LP on Reprise RSLP 9000 with 14 Tracks:
Side 1:
1. Coming Your Way [1]
2. Closing My Eyes [2]
3. Fighting For Madge [3]
4. When You Say [4]
5. Show-biz Blues [5]
6. Under Way [6]
7. One Sunny Day [7]

Side 2:
1. Although The Sun Is Shining [8]
2. Rattlesnake Shake [9]
3. Without You [10]
4. Searching For Madge [11]
5. My Dream [12]
6. Like Crying [13]
7. Before The Beginning [14]

September 1969 USA 1st Pressing LP on Reprise RS 6368 with 12 tracks:
Side 1:
1. Coming Your Way [1]
2. Closing My Eyes [2]
3. Fighting For Madge [3]
4. When You Say [4]
5. Show-biz Blues [5]
6. Underway [aka Under Way] [6]

Side 2:
1. Although The Sun Is Shining [8]
2. Rattlesnake Shake [9]
3. Searching For Madge [11]
4. My Dream [12]
5. Like Crying [13]
6. Before The Beginning [14]

November 1969 "Reissued" USA LP on Reprise RS 6368 with 11 tracks:
Side 1:
1. Coming Your Way [1]
2. Closing My Eyes [2]
3. Show-biz Blues [5]
4. Underway [6]
5. Oh Well (Full Length Version) [15 and 16 - minus the minute in error]

Side 2:
1. Although The Sun Is Shining [8]
2. Rattlesnake Shake [9]
3. Searching For Madge [11]
4. Fighting For Madge [3]
5. Like Crying [13]
6. Before The Beginning [14]

SINGLES:
Rattlesnake Shake b/w Coming Your Way - September 1969 USA 7" single on Reprise 0860 [NO UK Issue]
Oh Well (Part 1) b/w Oh Well (Part 2) - September 1969 UK 7" single on Reprise RS.27000
Oh Well (Pt. 1) b/w Oh Well (Pt. 2) - November 1969 USA 7" single on Reprise 0883
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) b/w World In Harmony - May 1970 UK 7" single on Reprise RS.27007 (Rare Copies Have A Picture Sleeve)
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) b/w World In Harmony - June 1970 USA 7" single on Reprise 0925

First up it's in a stickered jewel case and not a digipak. The booklet is superbly extended to 12-pages with great liner notes by DAVID FRICKE of Rolling Stone magazine which also features a Mick Fleetwood interview that is both witty and informative. Photos of US demo 7" singles on Reprise and boxes of master tapes festoon each page and the band photo that was the inner sleeve of the gatefold is reproduced on the last pages. There's even master-tapes pictured under the see-through CD tray.

The original British track running order has been re-instated also (Tracks 1 to 14) which for US fans will mean that the album they've grown up with (including the erroneous 9-minute "Oh Well") technically isn't here. But as it's a British band and Peter Green sanctioned the UK track list - in my mind Rhino gets it right. Besides the bonus tracks more than make up for any niggles on that one.

SOUND: the original 1988 CD has been described by some as a benchmark on how 'not' to master an old album. The new disc is 'mastered' by Chris Bellman at Bernie Grundman mastering (says remastered on the sticker but not in the booklet?) and isn't really an improvement. Those expecting sonic miracles will be massively disappointed. In fact I think the results will probably ranker more than please. It has to be said that there's very audible levels of hiss on almost every track and the top end still seems muddied and ragged. I suspect this has more to do with the original tapes and how the songs were recorded - but bluntly - on a good turntable my original UK vinyl LP sounds better than this...

MUSIC: You'd have to say that "Then Play On" in its English form is an acquired taste. Parts of it sound horribly dated ("Coming My Way") while "Without You" has that amazing "Albatross" vibe that sounds eons ahead of its time. One of the albums other great unsung heroes turned up on 1971's "Greatest Hits" - the blasting "Rattlesnake Shake" (lyrics from it title this review) and here it sounds just fabulous. The re-instating of the two Danny Kirwan songs (especially the rocking "One Sunny Day") bolster the listen experience hugely. They certainly show that both the album and the band at that time wasn't all Peter Green. The bluesy "Show-Biz Blues" and "Under Way" are other highlights and I love the quiet majesty of "Although The Sun Is Shining". And what can you say about the truly astonishing "Oh Well" (either part) - it's 44 years old and rock magic - every time you hear it - it has the power to amaze and influence.

I've had the non-album b-side "World In Harmony" on some CD compilation these past few years - but Rhino are claiming the first official worldwide release of it on this CD. I wish I could say it was a bit of a find but it isn't - it's starts out nicely but descends into a rather dull and meandering Danny Kirwan instrumental. You can't say the same for the blistering A-side which astonishes to this day - "The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)". WOW! Musically - lyrically - what a blast. It would have been nice to have the rare UK Picture Sleeve (I proudly own one) pictured in the booklet (along with other European variants) - but alas.

To sum up - there's good liner notes for sure, but the sound is iffy at best and bound to divide and disappoint fans who've waited decades for this reissue. The four extra tracks are mostly worthy of the moniker 'bonus' and it has a price tag that isn't some ludicrously inflated deluxe box set rip-off. But in truth - a lot of me wishes this was a lot better than it is.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Aug 2013 18:36:27 BDT
Stevie Dal says:
Great review as ever Mark , enjoyed it.
Have to say though, my copy came today and , although not perfect, sounds WAY better than the old CD. Vast improvement.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Aug 2013 01:33:37 BDT
It seems to me that much of what we're dealing with here is simply the way the album sounds. It wasn't a terrific production job to begin with. The group has said as much. I believe those expecting sonic miracles are unrealistic. I just want the album the way it was issued (as much as possible anyway). I don't want it to sound like it was recorded this year. I don't have an original UK vinyl copy but it's a muddy,dusky sounding record. This new edition doesn't seem to have been tweaked,compressed,brightened,noise reduced or brick walled. I welcome this release.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Aug 2013 16:34:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Aug 2013 16:51:18 BDT
Byrdman50 says:
Now that the new CD is in my collection, it will be my preferred version, when I want to hear the whole album in its intended running order, and it is a pleasure to hear the master take of 'World in Harmony'.
Now the bad news. Were it not for the fact that 'Under Way' is a few seconds longer on the British version of the album (and therefore the new CD), I would have assumed that the new CD used the OLD CD as its source. To my ears EVERY fault, be it hiss, mysterious clicks and bumps and so on, is evident on the new master. If the source is the original tapes, they must be in a dire condition.
I did a side-by-side comparison of the two CDs with some decent Sennheiser headphones. Not my favourite way of listening, but I wanted to be CLOSE to the sound. I would say that the hiss is reduced on some tracks, but, I fear, not because of a superior tape source. I can't help thinking that noise reduction has been used on some tracks, albeit VERY sparingly. On the plus side, I would agree with Mr Haskell that the signal has not been compressed. No brick walling here. The recording level is about the same as the 1990 (?) disc.
The 'Oh Well' single is poorly served yet again. It sounds just like the tracks on CBS's 1989 CD of 'Greatest Hits'. The only saving grace being that the mono signal has been centred properly (shame on you, CBS).
What astounds me is that the out-takes from this album, that appear on the 'Showbiz Blues 1968 - 1970' and 'The Vaudeville Years: 1968-1970', generally sound better preserved than the album itself. I can only guess that their management held onto the out-takes, and only the master takes went to the record company, ending up lost along the way.
Yet another sad outcome for this blighted album.
Like the correspondent above I DO welcome the release. Should anybody new to this album be reading this, go for this new version. It costs the same and you get the correct running order and more music for your money. The best thing that can be said about the sound is that it is no worse.

Thanks to M. Barry for your many reviews. They sometimes serve me as a 'buyers guide' to obtaining some artists on CD. Your reviews of Fleetwood Mac's Blue Horizon catalogue were especially useful.

Posted on 28 Aug 2013 13:48:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 18 Sep 2013 23:59:13 BDT
Alan McGuire says:
Haven't ordered the CD yet as I am still debating the purchase of the Rhino vinyl box set ( love Bare Trees) - although Amazon customer reviews regarding the pressing quality are a bit off putting, having said that my original 'dinner plate' vinyl copy always had surface noise

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Sep 2013 20:33:14 BDT
Alfonso says:
I absolutely subscribe what you say, there is no sound improvement, maybe even marginally worse than the old CD to my ears. A shame...
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