Michael Nesmith

The Witchita Train Whistle Sings/Timerider

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This two-fer on the U.K-based Edsel imprint contains a pair of Michael Nesmith's most diverse non-pop music projects. The Wichita Train Whistle Sings is the artist's 1968 solo debut LP, in which he put together a star-studded 52-piece ensemble of studio musicians to perform ten big-band orchestral arrangements of his own compositions. Timerider, from 1982, is the motion picture soundtrack recording to the film of the same name, which Nesmith not only scored but also co-wrote and acted in, albeit as an uncredited extra. Although both titles had been issued on CD before, Nesmith took the time to personally remaster each and provide an essay for the package. In terms of audio fidelity, The Wichita Train Whistle Sings sounds better than all previous incarnations thanks to the recovery of the master tapes. In fact, Nesmith comments in his liner notes that "the mix on the [original] record was poor," adding "this mix is really the first time I have heard the pieces close to the way I hoped they would sound." Owners of the Dot Records pressing might also note that the sequence has been altered to reflect his initial intent. Some of the titles had been on Monkees albums, while others would turn up as part of his solo fare. The off-the-wall and slightly schizophrenic "Nine Times Blue" (marked by a Doug Dillard banjo solo), "Tapioca Tundra," and the otherwise unavailable Nesmith composition "Don't Cry Now" are all standouts. Timerider is a comparatively different experience, with a 1980s heavy metal motif which -- as Nesmith indicates -- was influenced by the German-based iconic combo the Scorpions (as "Michael Schenker's guitar sound was ringing in my head"). While the plot of the movie deals with time travel, along for the ride on the soundtrack is another impressive cache of instrumentalists, including such regular Nesmith collaborators as bassist Joe Chemay and keyboardist John Hobbs, with the sizable string work split between electric guitar fret wiz Richie Zito, whose modern '80s sound and approach would aurally represent the present (circa 1982), and slide guitarist/mandolinist David Mansfield, who was used for the acoustic-based selections that would indicate action in the past. While the melodies are excellent, it essentially remains as incidental music from the early '80s, and with that associated baggage come the self-indulgent, rambling, and synthesizer-riddled leads that practically defined the era. However, tracks such as "Scared to Death," "Dead Man's Duds," "I Want That Machine," "Escape to San Marcos," "Murder at Shallow's Camp," and "Up the Hill to Nowhere" are well worth enduring the rest.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:16
2 3:04
3 2:45
4 3:01
5 3:37
6 4:55
7 3:22
8 2:42
9 2:27
10 4:35
11 3:13
12 1:43
13 1:06
14 0:57
15 0:57
16 1:28
17 2:20
18 0:51
19 2:24
20 2:01
21 0:54
22 2:17
23 1:54
24 3:19
25 3:08
26 3:31
blue highlight denotes track pick