Ok kids... Lets set the wayback machine to 1980 when Fantasy Records had started to open the kimono a bit after finally settling various and sundry lawsuits (for better or for worse) with key members of Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). This band was arguably one of the most popular bands from the late 60s and early 70s which, under the leadership of main songwriter John Fogerty, produced a remarkable catalog of classic rock songs which remain popular to this day.
At the turn of the decade into 1980, CCR fans got a jolt of excitement with the official release of a high quality 1970 concert recording from The Royal Albert Hall in London. I bought this LP when it came out and, as a collector, was thrilled to find out I'd gotten an early pressing. How did I know? Well, it had a big sticker on the cover explaining that the label had screwed up and the concert was not actually from England but Oakland, California.
Subsequent editions were renamed to simply: "The Concert"
For years this has been a coveted quasi collectors item which many of us held on. Collector nonsense aside, the music contained with in it rocks rather royally. CCR were a great live band and this album really shows them at the peak of their powers.
Fast forward to the world of SACDs and we discover that Fantasy Records had reissued the album (again, as "The Concert") in the early part of the 00's. I obtained a copy of this SACD release recently and it is a gem. The sound is significantly better than the original LP, which sounds a bit boxy. The SACD version opens up so you can feel more of the sound of the band playing on the stage of the Oakland Coliseum. Doug Clifford's kick drum hits are much more pronounced and the cymbals are surprisingly clear and detailed, a testament to engineer Russ Gary's skills capturing the band in full flower on January 31, 1970.
The Oakland Coliseum is a vast cavernous arena not unlike Madison Square Garden, so to be able to capture a solid live recording from this period given the technology of the era is quite wonderful. It is important to remember that live recording was -- relatively -- still in its infancy at this point in time, at least for rock bands. Apart from The Grateful Dead -- which had pioneered use of live and studio recordings with its second album Anthem of the Sun and issued its first fully live album (Live Dead) in 1969 -- and, arguably, Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & The Holding Company with Janis Joplin, live recordings had not become a super big deal at that point in time.
The Woodstock movie soundtrack would not be released until May of that year. The Allman Brothers' game changing Live at Fillmore East album didn't happen until 1971. Soon pretty much every band of the era would put out a live album and many served to escalate the careers of the groups (Frampton, Kiss, The Band, etc.). So one can only wonder what might have happened had CCR issued this album in 1970 or thereabouts. Instead, the album sat in the archives until endless legal battles were worked out.
The big question remains -- for me, at least -- as to whether I get rid of my original LP version of The Concert. I am thinking that it is time. This SACD sounds much better and, frankly, the original covers bearing the Royal Albert Hall title are pretty common. I checked and they can be found all over eBay and Discogs.com, so its not quite like this is a Beatles' "butcher cover" in terms of rarity. No, it is time for someone else to enjoy the vinyl I preserved for so many years since I bought mine in Syracuse, N.Y., I'll be soon trading it in at a favorite used shop here in town.
I'll be content with this sweet SACD.
Of course, now I want to get the other CCR albums on SACD. Let the hunt begin.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who's songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he's written: www.dialthemusical.com.