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Archive for February 21st, 2011

Review: Ride, “Nowhere: 20th Anniversary Edition”

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Rock music has a definite genre problem. When Rhino Handmade announced the reissue of Ride’s Nowhere late last year, some absent-minded reading on Wikipedia yielded a primer on the shoegaze genre. “Shoegaze” is one of those things you might encounter if you were a voracious reader of music reviews in the early ’90s, but it might have just been a word rather than a whole genre.

Shoegaze was a mini-genre assigned to bands with a particular style – particularly, effects-laden guitars taking center-stage, washing over the vocal tracks in a Wall of Sound-like fashion. (The term itself came from the mostly unmoving stance of the performers on stage, eyes usually cast downward to focus on the changing of effects pedals.) While shoegaze has certainly earned its keep as a genre – thanks in large part to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless – part of me feels the whole assignment of the genre seems unnecessary. Shoegaze, like indie-rock and Britpop and grunge and industrial, is rock and roll, and it carries the basic qualities you’d expect from rock, regardless of guitar and vocal texture.

That was the initial takeaway in hearing Rhino’s expanded Nowhere package (Rhino Handmade RHM2 525247), finally released last week. While the album is rightfully seen as one of the great LPs of the shoegaze era – to many, it sits right next to Loveless – it seems ridiculous to judge its merits on a genre that was largely blown off the map by grunge, itself replaced by Britpop years later and so on. Indeed, it seems not a second goes by on the album without the triumphant, insistent ringing of a guitar. And it’s not easy to inherently pick up on what Mark Gardener and Andy Bell are singing. But let it be known: more than any other genre, Nowhere is a great rock album.

The first disc is full of enough studio mastery to entice the first-time listener. Fifteen tracks are presented on Disc 1, listed as the contents of the Nowhere LP and the Today Forever EP from 1991. This is technically true, although original pressings of Nowhere only had eight tracks. That would make Tracks 9-11 officially stem from a different EP, Fall, and it’s admittedly a far better listen knowing that those tracks can be indexed separately. The eight-track Nowhere is a sublime experience, heavy on sweet harmonies from Gardener and Bell and those hypnotic guitars (though the rhythm section – bassist Steve Queralt and drummer Laurence Colbert – are just as vital to Ride’s sound). Those eight tracks continue to plateau through the urgent cooldown of the last three tracks, “Decay,” “Paralysed” and “Vapour Trail.” Compared to the slightly more ragged, effects-heavier and generally shorter-length treatment on the tracks from Fall and Today Forever, Nowhere deserves to be eight tracks. (Not that the other tracks aren’t welcome, but the rush of those first eight tunes are hard to compare.)

Rhino’s package is further fleshed out by a 12-track live disc recorded at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles in 1991. The form of the tracks doesn’t deviate terribly from how they’re heard in the studio, but there seems to be a greater separation of guitar tracks and a heavier emphasis on rhythm. (The trade-off is rawer vocals with far less harmonies. Think of it as an alternate mix of the album, in that respect.)

Bottom line? If you’re a shoegaze fan, you’re going to want to pick this reissue up. But if you’d rather dispense with that genre and opt for some straightforward rock-and-roll goodness…you’re still going to want to spring for this one.

Written by Mike Duquette

February 21, 2011 at 16:20

Posted in Reissues, Reviews, Ride

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UMe Gets Impulsive with Forthcoming Box Set

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Universal Music Group has an impressive array of jazz titles in their library. Defining labels of the genre like Verve and Mercury are jewels in UMe’s crown, while the catalogues of Concord and Fantasy are distributed domestically by Universal as well.

One of the more arguably underrated vintage labels in Universal’s family, though, is Impulse! Records. The label, founded by Creed Taylor in 1960 as a label in the ABC-Paramount group, may not be as long-running as the others in Universal’s catalogue, but it was incredibly notable in its time, offering a hip, fresh take on jazz in terms of content and packaging. (The orange, black and white logo and label design remains one of the greatest logos in music history.) Early artists on the label included trombonist Kai Winding, Gil Evans, Count Basie and Ray Charles, fresh off his tenure with Atlantic Records. But the most notable would have to be John Coltrane, whose saxophone skills and pioneering work in the hard bop and free jazz styles cemented his legacy far beyond his too-early death in 1967 at the age of 40.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Impulse! and this one would have been Coltrane’s 85th year. Thus, a celebration is inevitable, and it will kick off this spring with the release of First Impulse! The Creed Taylor Collection. This four-disc collection looks to represent the first half-dozen or so titles for the label as produced by Taylor, before he was hired away by Verve, ironically enough. Those titles would be J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding’s The Great Kai & J.J., Ray Charles’ Genius + Soul = Jazz (itself reissued last year), Winding’s The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones, Gil Evans’ Out of the Cool and Coltrane’s Africa/Brass.

Though a firm track list is not in place, it appears as though all of those records will be replicated across the discs (marking the domestic CD debut for both albums by Winding). It’s also been revealed that rare and unreleased material will be present. Chief among them is an unreleased Coltrane session with trumpeter Cal Massey in the producer’s chair, featuring three demos sessions leading up to the Africa/Brass LP.

An Amazon pre-order link exists for this set (which lacks a firm release date, although we’ve been told the box is due in April); from the looks of that link, we should expect an order page from Hip-o Select before long. As always, keep it here for news on the set as it happens.

Written by Mike Duquette

February 21, 2011 at 15:16

Presidents’ Day Special Feature: Stan Freberg, “The United States of America”

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Here’s one for Watson: “This actor, comedian, voice artist, singer, songwriter and advertising guru coined the name ‘Grammy’ for the annual awards bestowed by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).” The correct answer? “Who is Stan Freberg?” To list Freberg’s credits in the fields of cinema, radio, television, animation and music would take up the entirety of this column, but readers unfamiliar with those accomplishments are advised to stop reading now, order a copy of Rhino’s multi-disc box set Tip of the Freberg, and then return here. For anyone with a funny bone ready to be tickled will take delight in “Green Chri$tma$,” “John and Marsha,” and Freberg’s indelibly hysterical versions of “Heartbreak Hotel” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” But you might be asking yourself, “What the heck does Stan Freberg have to do with Presidents’ Day?”

In 1961, Freberg released his most ambitious project yet. Released on Capitol Records and featuring the participation of his merry troupe of voice talents including June Foray and Paul Frees, The United States of America Vol. 1: The Early Years gave musical voice to George Washington (Freberg) and Thomas Jefferson (Byron Kane), while Vol. 2: The Middle Years, released some 35 years later on the Rhino label, added James Madison (Lorenzo Music, otherwise known as the voice of Carlton the Doorman and Garfield!), Abraham Lincoln (Freberg again!) and Ulysses S. Grant (David Ogden Stiers) to Freberg’s presidential lexicon. For Vol. 2, Jesse White, Peter Leeds, and Foray all returned to the voice cast alongside “newcomers” John Goodman, Sherman Hemsley, Tyne Daly and Harry Shearer.

Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America has been described by Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen as either the best comedy album in history, or the best history album in comedy. Which is it? Hit the jump and you decide as we celebrate Presidents’ Day here at The Second Disc! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 21, 2011 at 13:32

Posted in Features, Reissues, Stan Freberg

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Iggy Pop, Live and in a Box

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2010 had no shortage of reissues from The Stooges. All three of their classic studio LPs were reissued – The Stooges in a new deluxe edition from Rhino Handmade, Fun House through the repressed 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions box set also from Rhino Handmade and Raw Power as part of Sony’s Legacy Edition series – and Handmade released a live set, Have Some Fun: Live at Ungano’s. There was even a reissue of frontman Iggy Pop and guitarist James Williamson’s Kill City. Not a bad batch of catalogue tributes to an influential band.

But 2011 is shaping up to be a nice year for fans of Iggy, as well. Shout! Factory just announced a four-disc box set at the end of last weekend that will showcase the singer’s live history from past to present. Roadkill Rising: The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009 collects performances from all over the world, including Pop originals, Stooges classics and a few covers as well. These “newly remastered bootleg tracks” are part of the label’s ongoing commitment to quality “official” bootlegs, so fans can likely expect a nicely packaged box. The first 400 pre-orders will also get a bonus disc – one of the early concerts from 1979 presented in full, unavailable anywhere else.

The box drops on May 17. Pre-order it here and check out the track list after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

February 21, 2011 at 11:34

Posted in Box Sets, Iggy Pop, News

Robbie Williams Reissues to Entertain You in March

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After a new double-disc compilation and a heavily-publicized reunion with U.K. boy band Take That (who will go on tour this year), EMI will have another batch of goodies for the Robbie Williams fan in your life: new CD/DVD reissues of the singer’s Chrysalis catalogue.

Williams – one of the most celebrated male singers in England, with more BRIT Award wins than anyone and some 60 million albums sold worldwide – recorded seven LPs for Chrysalis between 1997 and 2006. Each one topped the British charts and featured a myriad of hits, including No. 1 smashes “Millennium,” “Rock DJ” and “Eternity.” (Williams has since moved within EMI to Virgin, which released Reality Killed the Radio Star in 2009.)

While there will be no bonus tracks on the CDs, each will come with a DVD full of performances from various television programs across Europe, including Top of the Pops, Later…with Jools Holland and Wetten das?! Most of the performances have never been released on DVD before, and all will be included with digital reissues as well. (The lone exception is Swing When You’re Winning (2001), which will be paired with the Live at the Albert DVD from the same year. That CD/DVD set will not be replicated digitally.)

Interestingly, there appears to be no sign of remastering, either. EMI’s U.K. database fastidiously lists catalogue titles and often indicates when tracks are remastered, but no notes seem to exist on these new releases. There is, of course, also no sign of The Ego Has Landed (1999), Williams vastly underrated U.S. compilation culled from his first two records.

These sets will be available in the U.K. on March 21. Read all the track lists after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

February 21, 2011 at 09:43

D.I.Y. Dylan: Bob’s “Archive” Box Coming Soon

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Maybe Bob Dylan really was a hobo.

Despite his solid middle-class upbringing, it wasn’t uncommon for fans to believe that Dylan really did ride the rails slinging a bag on a stick. Dylan, for a time, even encouraged this mythology of his own making. But if he wasn’t a hobo in the literal sense, he undoubtedly was one, musically, if one defines a hobo as “one who wanders from place to place without a permanent home.” Since his self-titled Columbia debut in 1962, Dylan has travelled the path from folk to blues, rock to country, gospel to the Great American Songbook. The path hasn’t been a straight one, with numerous detours and explorations over nearly fifty years as a recording artist. His catalogue may have the greatest breadth in the entire popular music canon, and as such, its sheer volume can be intimidating. The team at Box of Vision, however, may have something to offer both Dylan newbies and die-hard fans. The musical wanderer’s complete CD discography forms the basis of one of the most extravagant packages yet designed for collectors: The Bob Dylan Archive.

The Bob Dylan Archive follows the company’s creations for the complete catalogues of The Beatles and John Lennon. These are heavy, suitable-for-display “D.I.Y.” box sets. Similar to those boxes, Archive features three unique components which fit snugly into a colossal case adorned with artwork (in this case, a photograph of the artist). A 220-page hardcover LP-sized book replicates the complete, original LP artwork for each of Dylan’s releases. (A fleeting glimpse of the arwork for the box set Biograph shows us that the book’s scope is indeed broad.) A separate book contains a Dylan discography with historical reviews and original album advertisements accompanying the informational listing for each release. This too spans Dylan’s entire career. The centerpiece and raison d’etre is a storage book with plastic sleeves designed to store each album on CD plus the booklet and if desired, the tray card. (Most likely these sleeves will accommodate digipaks as the John Lennon Box of Vision did.) Underneath each sheet of sleeves is a page of artwork instructing you where to place each disc in chronological order. Bob Dylan at Budokan, for instance, has two slots, as it was a 2-CD set. So what’s missing? Only the CDs themselves are absent. Hit the jump for a video preview and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 21, 2011 at 08:52