A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Monday, November 26, 2001

RE-ISSUE MANIA! (2001)

Another edition of "year-end-a-mania" (if you follow the Gregorian calendar--if you don't, this is just another post for you...if you want info on alternate calendars, check out Robert Anton Wilson's site here.)

Record labels are notorious for re-packaging their back catalog and adding bonus tracks and "restored artwork" to get you to fork over more of your hard-earned cash to stuff their CEO's greedy pockets. Most people scoff at this and give the labels a rightly deserved two-fingered salute. Me, being the humble record-geek that I am, constantly shell out more cash for the updated versions of discs by bands I like and give the older versions to needy passersby--it's karmic record-collecting in my estimation. Here's some of the re-issues from the past year that I felt were exemplary. I felt the labels almost went out of the way to give the fans a little sumpin'-sumpin' extra before gouging their pockets and wallets and purses of all the money they could grub:

1) The Grateful Dead/The Golden Road (boxed set); Warner Bros./Rhino Records--I never thought I'd see it--they finally got around to re-mastering The Dead's first five or six records. I mean, if anyone could benefit from a little tape clean-up process, it's their early catalog. I'm not a Deadhead per se..but I do enjoy some Anthem Of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa and a bit of Workingman's Dead from time to time. I've had to contend with cruddy Warners CD releases with shoddy booklets and not-barely-better disc sound. Rhino oversaw the process on this set and it's quality. Rhino usually handles their re-releases with flair and they went all-out on "The Golden Road"--12 discs of The Dead in their psychedelic/country folk heyday. All of the Warners albums (up to "Bear's Choice" in '73), plus 2 bonus discs of 1965 pre-Warners studio sessions. The set is very pricey, but I've seen it on eBay--and if you find the auction at the right time--you could get it for almost half the retail price. Jerry would like that.

2) Electric Light Orchestra/Eldorado; Columbia/Legacy/Jet Records--ELO's masterpiece (in my opinion) from 1974 has been given the official re-issue treatment because of the brand-new (reformed) ELO record, Zoom, released earlier this year. In a very puzzling move, Columbia/Legacy have decided to issue the late 70's/early 80s ELO output, instead of starting with the Jeff Lynne/Roy Wood collaboration that is ELO's first album from 1972. Personally, I would rather hear "ELO II" or "On The Third Day" than over-produced, slick (even for ELO) filler-ridden dreck like "Time" (from 1981) or "Discovery" (from 1979). I'm hoping the label has some method to their madness, we'll see. They did manage one great move and that is "Eldorado", the only early-to-mid 70s album re-released so far and it's their best. Jeff Lynne was always a fan of The Beatles' baroque psychedelia and he and Roy Wood both came up with the idea of a classical rock band based on The Fabs' pioneering use of cellos and violins in pop music. Wood left after the first ELO album, leaving Lynne the reins. Slowly they honed their sound until everything was perfected for this album. It's got it all, great string arrangements ("Boy Blue"), Chuck Berry-esque guitar licks ("Illusions In G Major"), pop ballads ("Can't Get It Out Of my Head") and of course, the almighty CONCEPT to suck in the prog-sters. I'm not quite sure what that concept is--something about a dream-world and having to leave it behind, I think. It dosen't really matter because the whole thing goes down like some Bushmills mixed with cola and some water-cooled kind smoke--actually, it's a great record when you've...ah, opened your mind, so to speak. The disc does have a superior sound to the original CD version and the booklet describes ELO's state of mind at that time and includes a line or two about each tune from Jeff Lynne. That's actually the weakest thing about the disc--it's like Lynne couldn't be bothered to write a bit more about his finest hour. Oh well, it's still worth picking up.

3) The Soft Boys/Underwater Moonlight; Matador Records--Remember how cool it was when Rykodisc issued the Soft Boys catalog on CD for the first time in 1992? Then remember how lame it was when you couldn't find any of them any more after, say, 1996? If you were one of the lucky ones (like my man M.A.D.)--you snagged 'em right away and held on to them. I wasn't one of the lucky ones, though I did get the 2-CD set "1976-1981" that Ryko released in 1993..or 1994? I also bought C-Dog's Ryko "Underwater..." in a trip out to Madison, Wis. in 1997. Matador, home to a lot of cool indie bands (such as Yo La Tengo), were hip enough to know that last year was the 20th anniversary of The Soft Boys best record and re-issued a 2 disc set of the original album, plus a few B-sides and unreleased tracks. Most of which were on the Ryko release but some were not. The real treasure trove is a whole disc of rehearsal tapes from The Cambridge Boat House in late 1979. The Soft Boys at their most raw, but never losing the catchy melodies that would make it to the studio sessions. Then Robyn and the lads undertook a small anniversary tour this past year to promote it, and that alone could be a reason this is one of my fave re-releases of the year...Vegetable Man, where are you?

4) Caravan/If I Could Do It All Over... to Cunning Stunts; Deram/London Records (England)--The original CD issues from Deram in 1991 were decent and had some amusing veddy English liner notes by John Tracy, a London Records historian. These discs are greatly improved in sound and band history. I especially noticed the improvement with In The Land Of Grey And Pink, their third album, from 1971. It's my favorite and it sounds amazing! Of course, now there are Japanese imports which are mini-LP discs--with scaled artwork and everything. They've got the very same Caravan albums that Deram just re-issued in England. Uh Oh, I hear that vacuum sound of money being ripped from my pocket....

5) King Crimson/In The Court... to Three Of A Perfect Pair (mini-LP discs); Global Discipline Records--Speaking of mini-LP discs..The Fripper decided to re-issue the entire King Crimson catalog as mini-LP CDs, only in Europe. That's O.K., 'cause a number of them made their way here and since all of my Crimson was stolen..hey, what better way to start buying them over. The artwork is superb and each disc has an extra little booklet with a tiny Fripp scrapbook of record and concert reviews from that era of the band (i.e.-- 1969-era reviews for "In The Court..", etc). If that's not enough for ya--the music has never sounded more clear and Fripp has painstakingly gone over every note (being the staunch perfectionist that he is). If you're a fan of this band..you'll want..nay, you'll need these discs! Check your local import record dealer. Or check amazon.co.uk or eBay. Beware, the bidding for these gets fierce--and I'm still trying to score the mini-LP disc for Lizard, K.C.'s third album, released in 1970. Oh yeah, all three K.C. 80s albums are available in mini-LP format, too.

O.K...as 5-a) I'll recommend the two Bevis Frond re-issues that I just reviewed a couple of posts ago, Miasma and Inner Marshland. The sound is as good as can be for a home recording set-up and there are a lot of bonus tracks included with each one. Nick Saloman, the leader of The Frond, writes a portrait of the group and some humorous observations on his start in the quest to lead the perfect psych/punk band (other than Wire, of course). I don't know if you can get these as budget price, but it's a good place to start if you want to sample their sound--as these were the first ever Frond records.

Time to go once again...but I'll leave you with a list of the most over-rated bands and artists of this year:
1) Staind (This is your pride & joy, New England...~sigh~)
2) J-Lo (Bootylicious, sure, but those god-awful pipes and really, can she act her way out of a paper bag?)
3) Aaliyah (yeah..she was gorgeous..yeah, she could act a little..yeah, she died tragically young..but was her stuff THAT good?)
4) Radiohead (I love 'em..but there was a bit too much anticipation for "Amnesaic"..did it deliver the goods? I think on some level it did, but not all..)
5) U2 (Please..make them stop...please...)
6) Kid Rock (enough said...)