The Beatles “Live At The Star Club” (Ox Tango Music Productions OT 14 / 01)
Disk 1; Twist and Shout / Mr. Moonlight / Falling In Love Again / I’m Talking About You (v1) / The Hippy Hippy Shake / Ask Me Why / Long Tall Sally / Besame Mucho / I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) / Be-Bop-A-Lula / I saw Her Standing There (v1) / Hallelujah, I Love Her So / Red Hot / Sheila / Kansas City – Hey Hey Hey Hey / Shimmy Like Kate / Reminiscing (40:37)
Disk 2; Red Sails In The Sunset / Sweet Little Sixteen / Roll Over Beethoven / A Taste Of Honey (v1) / Nothing Shakin’ But The Leaves On The Tree / I Saw Her Standing There / To Know Her Is To Love Her / Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby / ’Till There Was You / Where Have You Been All My Life / Lend Me Your Comb / Your Feet’s To Big / I’m Talkin’ About You (v2) / A Taste Of Honey (v2) / Matchbox / Little Queenie / I Remember You (50:30)
Broken apart, bolted together, refurbished and repackaged more often than a rally car, the Beatles Star Club tapes are the bastard child that nobody loved but were ready to sell off for a quick flash of cash. Historical importance aside, these rough tapes, thrown together for nobodies amusement but originally to test out the newest amplifier system at Hamburgs hotspot.
It may have taken a few years but the tapes soon gathered a reputation after the Beatles notoriety really took off but their history is sealed as time-capsules of the raucous bar-band that the lads were out in Germany. Not that the Beatles themselves were all impressed – George most significantly taking the lead role in defending the release of the tapes, taking it to the high court to ensure that these drunken band jams of the time didn’t make it out to the record stores.
My last Star Club review covered the Japanese Yellow Dog single disk release – a disk that took the recordings that Fuego records had turned up along with another set of recordings that the label had found – The CD was generally favourable featured far too many cut outs and omissions where there should have been none.
Now Ox Tango music have delivered a new version of these recordings – proclaimed as being the best sounding version of these recordings to date. You may suggest this hyperbolic flag waving is the kind of thing we’ve grown accustomed to. Boots can be upgraded, tweaked added to and broken down endlessly until all of us are happy. The labels director however, was pleasantly media friendly when the CD was released, suggesting that he’d had his eye on the ball enough to know what his predecessors had done before and where they had gone wrong.
The shows are pleasantly clear rather than the muddy mess they could have been, the band are as raucous and slightly unprepared as you might have gathered – while the musicianship leaves a little to be desired (This was the sound of skiffle and being thrown in at the deep end ) While the slower ballads fail to excite, the hard rocking songs tilt things in to the red.
Where the Fuego tapes fell short of the line was that some of the music sounded like it had been recorded from the next room while the Beatles vocalised – this release brings back the punch of the tracks, building up the music in the back ground, levelling it out with the vocals smoothly.
Comparison with the Purple Chick release reveals that Ox Tango’s tapes do sound better. There is no doubt the question of a little EQ and how far you can go with it, however, the label seem to have brightened the sound without leaving too much residue over the top. As PC’s works sounded a little more aged, Ox’s tapes sound a little more finessed. Leaving out the worst of the tapes has done the label a service but will surely rankle with collectors.
The main reason Beatle purists might have a grumble is that the tapes don’t appear chronologically, without the guidance of the original tapes we can only guess in what order a ‘typical’ set list might take – Ox Tango throw out the rules though and present what sounds best. If you have the source material it’s just as easy to plan in to iTunes or media player what you want to hear, in what order too. Sit and comb the internet for the ’real’ set list to your hears content – cut out the Horst Fascher sung tracks too – He’s certainly no John Lennon.
If you’ve not listened to the Star Club tapes in a while, this is a very worthy place to drop back in to again, Ox Tango have done a fantastic job with their release. Special mention has to go to the liner notes. Informative for the lay-man, exciting and excitable in equal measures, they feature a handful of rare images from the Hamburg days and are suitably entertaining. There maybe a couple of typos but people in glass houses ..
Really recommended for your collection in lieu of a set straight from the tapes (Which may not exist any more) or the much more expensive import sets. You will still need to find the PC disk or the Misterclaudel pressing to find these sets complete.