Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rock 'n' Roll Roundup

Rock 'n' Roll Roundup 2017 marks the anniversary of several  important albums in the history of rock music, and special editions of classic albums are landing regularly with a ponderous thud that makes one think of aphorisms like "gilding the lily," but the reissue machine grinds relentlessly forward regardless. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was a titanic release in 1967, and has often (especially in Rolling Stone magazine) been held as the pinnacle of rock 'n' roll music. It's hard to listen to this album with fresh ears, especially if you were born after the release of the album, taking all of their innovations for granted because they are indelibly stamped in the DNA of much of the music which followed. This Fiftieth Anniversary edition of the reissue comes in two formats: a two disc set, with a remastered stereo version of the album on disc one, sounding bright and shiny enough to make a Pepper agnostic blush, and a selection of outtakes, loops, alternate takes and chatter on disc two. The second disc is interesting for a behind the curtain look at The Beatles creative process, but it's not compelling enough to be returned to very often. For the hard core Pepperologist, especially one that has deep pockets comes the four disc plus DVD/Blu-ray Super Deluxe Edition, which have various mixes of the record and outtakes in mono, stereo, surround sound, and the requisite big book of essays and photos. Another band who is not known for their modesty is U2, and they are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their lauded album, The Joshua Tree. The album may be their most enduring work, containing hits and memorable deep cuts. Like the Pepper set, this re-issue comes in two flavors: the poor man's two-disc set that has remastered album, then a live recording of a 1987 Madison Square Garden concert. The big spender edition beefs the package up to four discs, with the two aforementioned along with a deep dive into album remixes along with period B-Sides and outtakes. The Rolling Stones grind out re-issues at a dizzying rate, with live music making the bulk of the material. Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones was recorded in Texas on the 1972 Exile On Main Street tour, so it catches the band playing a hot set at near the peak of their powers. Playing cuts from that album and tweaking them on the fly in addition to judicious reprising of some of their earlier hits. The only thing that holds this back from really standing out among the scads of Stones live LPs is the bootleg quality sound, one that wraps the music in a in a muddy miasma that is perhaps appropriate considering how much of the Exile on Main Street album itself was such a gloriously murky sprawl. The three disc deluxe edition of The Doors first LP also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, gave me a vivid synesthetic flashback of wandering around my first college, spinning this tape in my Walkman (remember those?) This package has a cleanly remastered version of the original LP itself in both mono and stereo in addition to a period live recording and the obligatory expanded liner notes with rare photographs. Nick Cave has always been an enigmatic presence on the rock 'n' roll scene beginning with the band The Birthday Party, and eventually forming his own band called The Bad Seeds. The two disc collection Lovely Creatures - The Best of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds is an excellent introduction to his solo work, covering the length of his career, hitting all of the high spots and including some interesting album tracks that give a well rounded look into his musical vision. Finally, The Grateful Dead release what to diehard fans may be the holy grail, a professionally mastered release of the complete concert from Barton Hall at Cornell University in May of 1977. This concert can be purchased separately or as part of the deluxe Get Shown the Light boxed set which includes the concerts immediately preceding and following the Cornell show. The Dead were at a mid career peak, performing at a very high level as well improvising and re-arranging new and familiar material. If you are still in need of more Dead, the soundtrack to the new documentary film Long Strange Trip is available, mixing familiar tracks with previously released songs.

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