Category Archives: Reissue

ARTHUR LEE & LOVE – Complete Forever Changes Live

Album: Complete Forever Changes Live

Artist: Arthur Lee & Love

Label: Rockbeat

Release Date: May 05, 2017

rockbeatrecords.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

The late Arthur Lee was one of rock’s more tragic figures. Under-appreciated despite the groundbreaking efforts made with his band Love, one of the first interracial ensembles of the early ‘60s and one of the few that held high aspirations in the era of flower power and patchouli that marked the mid to late ‘60s, his tangles with the law and failure to follow up those early exceptional outings created a pattern of despair and disappointment.

Happily, once Lee finished his five year prison stint for unlawful use of a firearm, he was ready to resume his efforts under the Love branding. Sadly, two of the band’s original members, Bryan MacLean and Ken Forssi, had died during his incarceration, making a reunion of the original band impossible. He then recruited the band Baby Lemonade and embarked on a new phase of the band’s trajectory, mostly replaying past glories. A revisit to the band’s unsung masterpiece Forever Changes — an album that deserves inclusion on the same iconic plateau as Sgt. Pepper, Days Of Future Past and Smiley Smile — was offered on various occasions including as part of the U.K.‘s far reaching Glastonbury Festival from where this newly performance has been newly unearthed.

Recorded in 2003, the then-25 year old album sounds as fresh and vital as ever, thanks to the precise reproduction of the album’s intricate chamber pop arrangements. Songs such as “Alone Again Or,” “Andmoreagain,” “Maybe the People Would Be the Times,” and “The Daily Planet” still possess the power to take one’s breath away, each sweeping in their elegance and elegiac tones. Those that recall these magnificent melodies as part of the soundtrack of their memories will rejoice in the revisit, while newcomers may find themselves stunned at the artistry and imagination that Lee revelled in early on.

This performance ought to have easily qualified as one of the landmark events of the year, perhaps not as wildly hailed as Brian Wilson’s dual celebrations of Smiley Smile or Pet Sounds, but no less significant regardless. When, on “The Red Telephone,” Lee insists “I want my freedom” it’s apparent that after all he endured, he relished the fact that he was finally allowed to be unleashed.  When Leukemia claimed his life three years later, his immortality was already assured.

DOWNLOAD: “Alone Again Or,” “Andmoreagain,” “Maybe the People Would Be the Times,”

 

JACO PASTORIUS – Truth, Liberty & Soul

Album: Truth, Liberty & Soul

Artist: Jaco Pastorius

Label: Resonance/NPR Music

Release Date: May 26, 2017

http://www.resonancerecords.org

The Upshot: No barrel-scraping collection of effluvia, but a vital addition to the slim catalog of a genius. 

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

For a guy as innovative and influential as he is, jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius didn’t record much. He made a handful of Weather Report records, sure, and appeared as a session musician here and there, most notably with Joni Mitchell. But he made only three albums before his death, and only two of those were studio records. Most of his posthumous catalog has been live recordings, some originally captured without intent to release.

The double-disk Truth, Liberty & Soul is a live record as well, but it’s a magnificent find. Originally a concert broadcast on NPR in 1982, it finds Pastorius onstage in NYC with that city’s version of his big band, with whom he recorded his second solo album Word of Mouth. For a guy whose instrument was usually out front in any mix, it seemed odd that he would choose an ensemble with a large horn section capable of dominating any arrangement. But at this point in his career Pastorius was more interested in advancing his career as a composer and arranger than an instrumentalist, and he was happy to let his bandmates take center stage. And no wonder – the core group includes saxophonist Bob Mintzer, trumpeter Randy Brecker, percussionist Don Alias and drummer Peter Erskine, all leaders in their own right, and the big band is littered with names devotees of liner notes will recognize. Late harmonica wizard Toots Thielemans also arrives as a guest on some of the tracks.

With so many talents to direct, Pastorius ranges all over his musical map here. He makes full use of the horns on swinging versions of his compositions “Three Views of a Secret” and “Liberty City,” as well as his signature take on Charlie Parker’s (or Miles Davis’, depending on what annotation you read) “Donna Lee.” Minzter’s funky “Fonebone” concentrates on the core group. Pastorius strips down to himself, Erskine, Thielemans and steel pan player Othello Molineaux on Thielemans’ “Bluesette” and Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff.” He also duets with the harmonica with a playful version of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady” and with Erskine on a wide-ranging rhythm section improv that includes snippets of “Purple Haze” and “America the Beautiful.” Pastorius even sings on the closing cover of Mighty Sam McClain’s “Fannie Mae.” It’s almost a laundry list of the music he enjoyed making, minus any jazz fusion.

Superbly performed, the show is recorded with perfect clarity by NPR’s engineers, and packaged with an extensive booklet of essays and photos. Truth, Liberty & Soul is no barrel-scraping collection of effluvia, but a vital addition to the slim catalog of a genius.

DOWNLOAD: “Three Views of a Secret,” “Donna Lee,” “Sophisticated Lady”

 

A HEAP O’ FUN: Uriah Heep

Hop into the WayBack machine to 1971-72, and reconsider three key remastered reissues from Hensley, Byron, Box, and the gang. Bullets optional; more cowbell!

BY BILL KOPP

Critical consensus has not been overly kind to Uriah Heep. The British heavy progressive rockers released a string of commercially successful albums in the 1970s – and persist in greatly altered form to this very day – but they often got short shrift from tastemakers. A typical summation of the group and its work can be found in a worn and dog-eared copy of The Rolling Stone Record Guide: “A mutant version of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep has to be considered one of the worst commercially successful bands of the Seventies.” The Guide gives 11 of 14 Uriah Heep albums rated a bullet (“worthless”) while the other three each earn one star (“poor”).

I’m here to call bullshit on that. Uriah Heep hit a creative peak that extended (at least) across three albums: Look at Yourself (1971), Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday (both 1972). Scored on sincerity and profusion of imaginative melodies/riffs, that musical triptych is in fact an exemplar of the era’s hard rock.

And the albums have worn better than one might expect. Though the band’s lineup shifted often (even in the period when these records were made, there were personnel changes), at their peak Uriah Heep had a distinctive sound that was – while perhaps not quite all their own (they did sound a bit like Deep Purple) – identifiable and appealing.

Today, Look at Yourself is the least-remembered of the three records, but it’s filled with memorable hooks, and nobody could ever question the passion with which the band delivered its music. BMG’s recent expanded reissue of the album includes the original seven-cut album on the first CD, with a bonus disc full of 11 tracks – all previously unreleased – including alternate takes/mixes, leftover tracks, single edits and the like.

Even better – much better, in fact, is 1972’s Demons and Wizards. Yes, it includes the band’s most well-known tune, the pile-driving “Easy Livin’,” a number that isn’t especially representative of Uriah Heep’s sound. More typical of the group’s output in that era is “The Wizard” (not the Black Sabbath tune), a number that features David Byron’s dramatic lead vocals, Mick Box’s always inventive guitar work, Ken Hensley’s delightfully grandiloquent and often heavily distorted organ, and an arrangement that wrings every bit of theatricality out of the music. Sure, it’s easy to parody this kind of thing, focused lyrically on Tolkiensque themes yet without the occasional preciousness of, say Jon Anderson’s lyrics. Spinal Tap made a career out of poking fun at the proto-metal, proto-power balladeering of groups like Uriah Heep. But these songs rock in their own way, and are deserving of respect.

The expanded reissue of Demons and Wizards is truly a revelation. The bonus cuts are easily as good as the previously-released ones, suggesting that had Uriah Heep been so bold as to have made Demons and Wizards a double album, it would have been quite a good one. A non-LP cut, “Why” was originally the flip side of “The Wizard.” The new set includes a nearly eight-minute edit of the song that features a thunderous, corkscrew bass line that is truly a hard-rocking thing of beauty. And it’s just one of many tasty tracks on the set. Demons and Wizards would be Uriah Heep’s first Gold Award album in the USA.

And while it didn’t include a hit single on the scale of “Easy Livin’,” The Magician’s Birthday is nearly the equal of Demons and Wizards. For whatever reason, the band was firing on all cylinders in 1971 and ’72, cranking out more quality material than it had space to release. So the 2CD reissue of The Magician’s Birthday features no less than 15 bonus tracks. Most are alternate versions – which, admittedly can get a bit tiring after a while – but they’re all worthwhile. And like the other two reissue sets, it features excellent and informative liner note essays by Joel McIver, based on band interviews.

Was Uriah Heep’s music over the top? Sure; I’ll grant you that. Was it silly? Sometimes, yeah. C’mon: this is rock ‘n’ roll we’re talking about here. Was it fun? Absolutely, without a doubt. Is it still all of those things? You bet. Call it a guilty pleasure if you must – I for one wear my Heep fandom proudly – but if you value the heavier end of what would come to be known as classic rock, you need these albums in your collection. And if you only have the originals, these 2CD sets are a worthwhile upgrade/addition.

***

Bill “Lord Byron” Kopp is the BLURT Jazz Desk Editor, additionally vying this month to be our official Prog God Bureau correspondent. Submit your votes, comments, and sundry submissions to his Musoscribe music magazine blog.

REDD KROSS – Hot Issue LP (grey vinyl)

Album: Hot Issue LP

Artist: Redd Kross

Label: Bang!

Release Date: May 12, 2017

www.bangrecords.com

The Upshot: Power pop, glam, bubblegum and more on limited edition colored wax.

BY UNCLE BLURT

What would you say to a limited-to-600-copies, 150-gm./grey-vinyl-only LP from Redd Kross? Why, you’d say “Boy howdy!” without hesitating, natch. So what we have with Hot Issue is a collector’s item of a collector’s item—it was originally released a year ago on the band’s Fashion Records label, quickly sold out, and subsequently hit prices as high as a hundred bucks on eBay. Enter Spain’s Bang! Label to the reissue with the limited edition at hand.

What does it sound like? Who cares! You’re too busy scrambling to find a copy before Bang!’s iteration disappears! Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you to close the other tabs on your browser… Meanwhile, let’s just note that the 12 songs here are dated as having been “recorded in Hollywood between 1980-2007” but we are advised that most date from the mid/late ‘90s. Highlights range from the pure glam-slam that is “Insatiable Kind” and the Beatles-meet-Plimsouls power pop of “That Girl,” to the bubblegum romp of “Puss n Boots” and the stately, Roger Manning-produced, Queen-like ballad “Born to Love You.” Diverse, eh?

Musically speaking, it’s definitely a mixed bag, with the above-mentioned standouts countered somewhat by a number of throwaways. And compared to the band’s regular releases, it’s hardly essential except for completists, hence the only 2-star rating here. But if you happen to be a never-say-die fan….

DOWNLOAD: Don’t be silly. You can’t download grey vinyl!

IT WAS 50 YEARS AGO TODAY: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Fifty years on – technically, 50 years and a week – Pepper’s still prospers.

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

There’s no small risk involved in tampering with a classic, and the Beatles in particular. The Love spectacular by Cirque de Soleil aside, any attempt to enhance the Fabs’ original intents takes history down a rabbit hole where the producers’ vision threatens to supersede the Beatles’ intents with their own vision of how history should be represented

Naturally then, those concerns are magnified when it comes to a near perfect masterpiece like the immortal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Rated by most as the best rock album of all time, it would be hard to improve upon, at least so far as content is concerned. Still, given the limited sound capabilities that existed in 1967, that does allow for the fact that some essential upgrade in the sonics could be effected, especially if the individual assigned the task is Giles Martin, son of George and perhaps the closest participant to the original recording sessions other than Paul and Ringo themselves.

So let’s cut to the chase. Is there a discernible difference in terms of aural enhancement? The immediate answer is yes. The sound is clearer, less muddy and far punchier than before. The little nuances offer evidence enough, from the clarity of the strings and vocal fades to the rich sheen that surrounds the instruments overall. Granted, a passive listen might not bring these differences to the fore, but with a concentrated hearing it’s quite clear.

Still, that’s not the biggest bonanza, and for the hefty price tag, one wouldn’t expect that it would be. The various takes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” spotlight the song’s evolution and Lennon’s early vocals offer an intimacy that’s far removed from the darker trappings of the finished version. Other early takes of “Penny Lane,” “A Day in the Life,” the “Sgt. Pepper’s” theme, “Good Morning, Good Morning” and all the other tracks are similarly revealing, taking the listener from skeletal origins with minimal instrumentation to the final build up that results in the songs’ finished versions. (Simply listen to Paul McCartney humming and hand clapping in an early demo of “Penny Lane” to imagine what it must have been like to actually be present for the proceedings.) It makes for a remarkable revelation, far surpassing any of the bootleg versions that have popped up over the years. It is, in fact, a coup—the world’s most famous album divvied up and dissected in a most remarkable and revealing way.

There’s more to the package, however. Far more. A hardbound coffee table book provides extraordinary commentary and insights, along with reproductions of handwritten lyrics, photos, notes and essays that provide background and context. The book itself would be well worth the price of admission, but taken in tandem with the recordings and a Blu-ray of a making-of documentary that’s rarely been seen since its first appearance 25 years ago, it’s a sumptuous package to be sure, one well worthy of the Sgt. Pepper’s pedigree.

It may have been 50 years ago, but Pepper’s still prospers.

JEAN-JACQUES PERREY – Moog Indigo LP

Album: Moog Indigo LP

Artist: Jean-Jacques Perry

Label: Vanguard

Release Date: March 03, 2017

www.vanguardrecords.com

The Upshot: On one level, a demonstration record, a document of just what can be done with Moog analog synthesizers in 1970. But it’s also a collection of impossibly catchy tunes, delivered in the most playful manner imaginable.

BY BILL KOPP

Perhaps Jean-Jacques Perrey shouldn’t be thought of in the same context as Jean-Michel Jarre, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and other early pioneers of the synthesizer-as-musical-instrument. His work wasn’t as edgy and experimental as that of those other guys. But here’s the thing: a half-century on, spinning a Perrey album is far more likely to bring a smile to the listener’s lips than most anything by those other, more “serious” artists.

On one level, Moog Indigo is a demonstration record. It’s a document of just what can be done with Moog analog synthesizers in 1970. But it’s also a collection of impossibly catchy tunes, delivered in the most playful manner imaginable. Perrey was no dour experimentalist; he made records that were fun, full stop.

The sound textures brought forth on Moog Indigo are so dated, so frozen-in-time, that it’s difficult to listen without chuckling. Wah-wah guitars about. Churchy organ lines find their way into pop tunes. Bloops and bleeps of every imaginable texture flit in and out of the mix.

Most of the dozen tracks on Moog Indigo – now lovingly reissued on 180-gram vinyl in an extra-sturdy reproduction sleeve – are originals composed specifically for the record. Perrey himself had a hand in composing about half of them. Gilbert Sigrist’s “The Rose and the Cross” is one of the few “serious” tunes on the set, so it feels a bit out of context. Yet it’s still lovely. “Cat in the Night” sounds very much like Emerson, Lake and Palmer in a particularly goofy moment; the lead synth sweeps have a distinctly Emersonian texture to them.

“Flight of the Bumblebee” has a synthesizer tone that – while inevitably annoying – exquisitely suits the song. It’s pretty clear that Perrey and his unnamed musical associates took these sessions very seriously, but also manage to have a lot of fun in the process. Listeners open to this kind of thing should appreciate their efforts. “Gossipo Perpetuo” is the strangest cut on the disc; it sounds uncannily like someone’s playing sampled male and female voices. But such technology simply didn’t exist in 1970, so it’s up to the listener to sort out what might be happening. In any case, it’s delightfully weird.

If you’ve ever seen the old comedy/variety television show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, then you might recall those bits in which the entire cast was dancing to some way-out instrumental music, punctuated every few seconds by some freeze-frame and comedic one-liners. Well, leave the jokes out and keep the dancing going, and Moog Indigo would make a perfect soundtrack. Try it for your next party, too.

SWANS – The Great Annihilator/Drainland

Album: The Great Annihilator/Drainland

Artist: Swans

Label: Young God

Release Date: May 05, 2017

www.younggodrecords.com

The Upshot: Final Swans meets first Gira solo album in reissue coupling.

BY MICHAEL TOLAND

Originally released in 1995, The Great Annihilator was the last Swans studio album before the band’s dissolution for fifteen years. (1996’s Soundtracks For the Blind was comprised of multiple recordings from various sources and time periods.) With the regular band (leader Michael Gira and stalwarts Jarboe, Norman Westberg, Algis Kizys, Clinton Steele and Ted Parsons) joined by then-Ministry drummer Bill Rieflin, the music is at its most percussive, as might be expected with drummers as hard-hitting as Rieflin and Parsons. Yet, at the same time, the record also finds the band at its most symphonic, with sweeping arrangements combining the repetition of minimalism with the bombast of gothic expressionism. Which is a fancy way of saying Swans has refined its sense of dynamics, so the shifts from ambience to explosion feel more like natural progressions and less like shock treatments. Though the record continues the group’s drift in and out of accessibility, Gira’s love of drone and obsession with the effects of addictive personalities keep the songs from coming close to mainstream alternative. Though mostly ranging from brooding ballads like “Blood Promise” and “Killing For Company” to thundering doom rockers a la “I Am the Sun” and “Mind/Body/Light/Sound,” the record also stops off for the sarcastic social commentary of “Celebrity Lifestyle,” the ethereal wisp of “Mother’s Milk” and the primal scream of “Mother/Father.” Ambitious, varied and imaginative, The Great Annihilator is one of Swans’ very best.

While recording The Great Annihilator, Gira simultaneously worked with Jarboe and Rieflin on Drainland, his first solo album. Though the record features prominent acoustic guitars, atmospheric keyboards and percussion low in the mix, the contrast with its sibling isn’t as stark as you might think. “Low Life Form,” “If You…” and “I See Them All Lined Up” run on similar fuel as TGA, with noisy drones and Gira’s frazzled moan right up front. “Blind” and “Unreal” crank the volume and chaos levels down for a take on gothic balladry rooted in twentieth century urban tension instead of nineteenth century drama. There’s also another sore-thumb swipe at celebrity culture with the sneering “Fan Letter,” but it’s easily balanced with dark nights of the soul like “Why I Ate My Wife.” Though technically a solo album, the music could easily slide into The Great Annihilator without disruption, making this reissued coupling perfect sense.

DOWNLOAD: “I Am the Sun,” “Killing For Company,” “Why I Ate My Wife”

 

GUY DARRELL – I’ve Been Hurt: The Complete 1960s Recordings

Album: I’ve Been Hurt: The Complete 1960s Recordings

Artist: Guy Darrell

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: March 24, 2017

www.cherryred.co.uk

The Upshot: British popster gets the anthology treatment.

TIM HINELY

Wow, I can’t even call this guy a blast from that past as that would imply that I’d heard of him before, which I hadn’t (sorry, had to come clean). Shame for me too, ‘cos he’s really good and this 28-song collection goes through all of his bands: Guy Darrell & the Midniters, GD and the Winds of Change, but most of the songs are under just his own name, plus a few as the Guy Darrell Syndicate.

His biggest hit was 1966’s “I’ve Been Hurt,” which was a cover of American beach music avatars Bill Deal and The Rondels; reissued in 1973, Darrell’s version struck gold a second time. But no matter the incarnation, the guy’s stuff is all solid, and most of it isn’t just solid but very good. Just nice rock/pop songs and if he reminded me a bit of anyone on our shores maybe a touch o’ Del Shannon, especially on dreamier cuts like “Blessed” and “My Way of Thinking.” Later on you’ll hear covers of Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” plus a few numbers written by the songwriting team of Elton John and Bernie Taupen (you might have heard of them), Paul Simon and even a cover of  Dylan song (“It Take a Lot to Laugh, it Takes a Train to Cry”).

If you’ve yet to hear this guy check him out, an underground gem to be sure and of course longtime fans need this one as well. Go!

DOWNLOAD: “I’ve Been Hirt,” “Blessed,” “My Way of Thinking”

JOHN LEE HOOKER – Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest (LP)

Album: Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker's Finest (LP)

Artist: John Lee Hooker

Label: Vee Jay

Release Date: March 31, 2017

www.veejayrecords.net

The Upshot: Monumental and a hell of a lot of fun!

BY BILL KOPP

John Lee Hooker was one of the most important blues artists of his – or any other – generation. With a style that managed at once to be thoroughly authentic and somehow commercial, Hooker’s output has become part of the American musical lexicon.

After a stint on a smaller label, Hooker signed with Vee-Jay, for whom he recorded a substantial number of singles, including the 1962 hit “Boom Boom.” But – as best as I can tell, and I could be wrong on this – Hooker didn’t seem to have had his Vee-Jay era work compiled on an album, at least not during the time he was signed to the label.

Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker’s Finest corrects that. And even if I’m wrong – even if there’s a Vee-Jay album release in the period 1955-1965 that spans this material – the vinyl LP Whisky & Wimmen is an essential compilation. In addition to excellent sound – clearly drawn from master tapes, which is never a given when we’re talking about the work of classic blues artists – the set boasts detailed annotation (who played on what, release date, chart position if any). And if that weren’t enough, a nice essay from blues historian Bill Dahl, plus some vintage photographs, rounds out a winning set packaged in a study gatefold sleeve.

The instrumental accompaniment on some of the tracks – “I Love You Honey” from 1958, for example – is delightfully loose-limbed. But that quality only adds to its appeal. Whether he’s backed by a band, or (as on several cuts) only by brother Earl on bass, John Lee Hooker delivers tour-de-force performances on vocal and guitar. The music on Whiskey & Wimmen is both historically monumental and a hell of a lot of fun. If you appreciate Hooker even a little bit, and if you own a turntable, this record should be a no-brainer purchase.

GRATEFUL DEAD – Get Shown The Light (Cornell 5/8/77)

Album: Grateful Dead

Label: Get Shown The Light (Cornell 5/8/77)

Release Date: May 05, 2017

www.rhino.com / www.dead.net

BY HAL BIENSTOCK

In 1976, the Grateful Dead returned from a more than year-long hiatus, when they didn’t tour and played only a few shows. As most people do after a lengthy vacation, they came back re-energized and ready to take on new challenges. The group was working on what would be its poppiest album to date, Terrapin Station, had a slew of new songs that would become Dead standards, and was tighter than usual from all the studio time.

All of this culminated in a legendary run of shows in May 1977, four of which are captured in a new 11-CD set Get Shown the Light, that many fans cite as being among the best they’ve ever played.  The selling point is the first commercial release of the band’s performance at Cornell University’s Barton Hall on May 8, 1977, which is also available as its own 3-CD package. This concert was one of the better sounding and more easily available shows of the pre-Internet tape trading days, so for many fans who grew up with the Dead in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it became the epitome of a what a great Dead show sounds like. To this day, it still tops many lists of the band’s best performances, although there are others who say that has as much to do with its ubiquity as its quality.

Get Shown the Light, gives each side ammunition for their argument. There’s no doubt Cornell is a great show. The version of “Morning Dew” that closes the second set is one of the Dead’s most powerful performances. Energy is high throughout and there are also excellent versions of Dead classics like “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain,” “Not Fade Away,” and “Jack Straw,” among others.

But every show in this set has equally strong highlights, from “Terrapin Station” and “The Music Never Stopped” at Boston Garden the night before Cornell to “Help on the Way/Slipknot/Franklin’s Tower,” “Comes a Time” and “Sugar Magnolia” in Buffalo the night after. All of the shows in this set could easily become a part of any Deadhead’s regular rotation. A concert in New Haven on May 5, 1977, which is often seen as a prelude to the other three shows in the box, would be a career highlight for many bands, featuring a fiery version of “Sugaree” and a gorgeous “Peggy-O.”

With this set, these four landmark shows are given the treatment they deserve. It sounds great, with separation between the instruments that allow you to hear what each member is doing and how the parts lock together. If there’s a revelation here, it’s Keith Godchaux’s piano, which I don’t remember ever hearing so clearly before.

Forty years later, with nearly every Dead show available at your fingertips, these four performances still stand out.

DOWNLOAD: “Morning Dew,” “Scarlet Begonias>Fire on the Mountain”