Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Frankenstein Albums

Track 140 | Life goes on, bra — with a little help from some friends & technology.

I don’t have a problem with The Beatles’ “last song” Now & Then being made and released, Sure, it’s a ‘Frankenstein’ track — one cobbled together and brought to a new, unnatural life through technological wizardry. But, I happen to agree with John Lennon‘s son Sean, who believes his beloved father would have loved the idea. I just have my doubts as to where or not Lennon would have suggested this particular song.

In my imagination, Lennon might have first suggested Peter Jackson and co. remove all traces of him from Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da. That would be a matter of principle. If it were a matter of economics, John could have suggested the other Beatles be added to any number of songs he wrote during his time in the band, but ended up on a solo album instead — like Look At Me, Gimme Some Truth, Remember, Child Of Nature (Jealous Guy), Cold Turkey and Oh Yoko! Instead we get Beatle-ized versions of three of his unused, overlooked or discarded demos — Now And Then, Free As A Bird and Real Love.

Aside from the posthumous compilation The Lioness, nobody’s ever gonna do that to Amy Winehouse. Years ago, Universal Music UK boss David Joseph claimed to have personally destroyed her demos to make sure they couldn’t be made into anything. He says it was a moral decision.

That’s almost certainly something which would have happened. Since Tupac Shakur died, there have been seven posthumous studio albums and two remix albums. The Notorious B.I.G. also had a dubious, controversial posthumous release of “duets” including tracks where samples of Biggie’s vocals were blended with Bob Marley, Korn and R. Kelly.

There are actually a slew of deceased stars who have had their unreleased work “finished up” by former bandmates and friends — with varying degrees of success. Let’s go through a few of them.

One which is about to come out as a special Record Store Day Black Friday release is a re-issue of former KISS drummer Eric Carr’s solo album Rockology. This version has a new cover that makes it look like it was part of KISS’s 1978 set of solo albums. Due to Carr’s death, the album had to be completed by his old KISS bandmate, guitarist Bruce Kulick. In keeping with The Beatles flavour of this column, Carr’s Rockology includes a cover of the aforementioned Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Since his assassination in 1980, there have been 14 Lennon compilations and one studio album — 1984’s Milk And Honey, overseen by Yoko Ono. Beatles bandmate George Harrison’s final studio album Brainwashed was released a year after his death. Work on the record began a decade before, but was delayed due to Harrison’s health. His son Dhani worked with Jim Keltner and Jeff Lynne to finish it for release — working from notes left by Harrison himself.

Guitarist Brian May is a big fan of Queen’s last album Made In Heaven, which they completed in 1995 after frontman Freddie Mercury’s death in 1991. May has even referred to it as their best album and the making of it being a “beautiful” experience. May, drummer Roger Taylor and bass guitarist John Deacon worked with the new vocal and piano parts Mercury recorded before his death and added overdubs. Mercury tried to leave his bandmates as much as he could, coming down to the studio even for just a few hours any time he felt well enough.

This practice goes back decades. Buddy Holly’s 1959 album Peggy Sue Got Married was released after his death in a plane crash. Studio musicians — not The Crickets — added backing vocals and instruments to several of Holly’s home demos, which consisted of just him and his guitar.

One of the most famous songs finished posthumously is Otis Redding’s biggest hit, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay. The endearing whistling towards the end of the song was done by Redding himself, who intended to overdub proper lyrics there — but he died before this happened. The song received a final mix and some overdubs by guitarist Steve Cropper a month after Redding’s death in a plane crash.

Roy Orbison’s sons added instrumentation to a home cassette demo their dad did in 1986 and released the song The Way Is Love on the 25th anniversary re-issue of Mystery Girl.

Del Shannon died in 1990, just as he was enjoying a career resurgence, courtesy of Tom Petty. He was in the middle of recording a new album when he died by suicide — two weeks after starting on antidepressants to deal with stress. The album, Rock On!, was completed by Jeff Lynne and members of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers — especially guitarist Mike Campbell, who co-produced it with Lynne.

Finally, producer Rick Rubin had two albums worth of material to work with when Johnny Cash died in 2003. The pair had already made four LPs in the American Recordings series up to that point — American V and VI were completed by Rubin.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.