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Archive for June 28th, 2011

Reissue Theory: WHAM! “The Final: Live at Wembley”

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Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look back at notable albums and the reissues they could someday see. Twenty-five years after one of pop’s guiltiest pleasures said goodbye to a packed live audience, we wonder what a release of that show would look like.

On June 28, 1986, twenty-five years ago today, WHAM! became a past-tense pop act. It wasn’t your typical pop meltdown, however; it was a breakup for the ages. What other group bids their fan base (80,000 attendees worth) farewell with a handful of guest megastars and a lengthy, sugar-sweet set list?

Of course, that was par for the course for WHAM!, who had entered 11 of their 12 singles into the U.K. Top 10 (six of which were chart-toppers) and would sell about 20 million albums worldwide when all was said and done. From the beginning, when a lucky scheduling conflict got them a spot on Top of the Pops in 1982, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were two of the flashiest stars on the pop scene.

As an unironic fan of WHAM!’s effortless bubblegum pop, it would give this writer great pleasure to see some sort of catalogue activity occur for the boys. And this final show at Wembley Arena might be the flashpoint for any such product. Hit the jump to read up on how everything in the band’s career culminated in that show – and how we’d present the concert for fans, Reissue Theory-style! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

June 28, 2011 at 17:32

Review: Neil Young, “A Treasure”

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Are you ready for the country?

In 1984, Neil Young certainly was.  His Geffen Records debut, Trans, had just a couple of years earlier plunged Young into a “high tech” world of vocoders, synthesizers and dance beats while the singer ruminated about “The Computer Age,” “Computer Cowboy” and “Transformer Man.”  1983’s Everybody’s Rockin’ was an exercise in recreating rockabilly, with Young’s band billed as The Shocking Pinks.  Originals like “Kinda Fonda Wanda” blended right in with covers of “Mystery Train” and “Cry, Cry, Cry.”  Had Young lost his mind?  Was he just being willful?  Geffen certainly thought so, suing the singer for producing deliberately non-commercial LPs not characteristic of his past work.  (Label owner David Geffen later apologized to Young.)

After the failure of Everybody’s Rockin’, the always-unpredictable musician followed yet another muse and hit the road with the International Harvesters during 1984 and 1985.  The music produced by Young and this group was pure country-and-western, and if the sound was alien in the pop world of 1984, it wasn’t a complete departure like Trans or Everybody’s Rockin’.  Young’s most successful album ever, 1972’s Harvest, was “country,” albeit by way of Laurel Canyon.  Touring with the International Harvesters, Young offered up rollicking, twangy, rootsy music performed to audiences in the heartlands, often at rodeos and state fairs.  Twelve tracks from their tour have been released by Reprise as A Treasure on LP and CD (Reprise, 2011, various cat. nos.) as the ninth entry in the Neil Young Archives Performance Series.  It proves to be a robust, surprisingly joyful listen from an artist in the midst of a controversial period.

A Treasure finds the singer, always somewhat inscrutable, thumbing his nose at both the prevailing musical mores of the 1980s (which he had flirted with on Trans) and his own rock legacy by reveling in Americana.  Despite his Canadian roots, Young had always had an ear for American roots music.  But rather than being a straightforward collection of live country tunes, A Treasure also reflects the many sides of the singer/songwriter.

In a feature shot in 1985 and included on the Blu-Ray edition, Young is described by an interviewer as “erratic,” which the singer quickly corrects to “consistently erratic.”  Promoting his country album Old Ways, he’s then asked whether he’s become “more conservative,” with respect to both his music and his personal views.  So we have the dedicated environmental crusader and blunt songwriter of “Let’s Impeach the President” (that would be No. 43, George W. Bush) plainly praising President Ronald Reagan for, among other attributes, fostering more pride in America.  These views aren’t necessarily contradictory, though they may be jarring to some of the fans who think of Young solely as the writer of “Ohio.”  But Young has rarely shied from expressing himself musically or politically, and has always been a man of multiple facets.  (Van Dyke Parks, once part of the Warner/Reprise family with Young, told Record Collector recently that the idea “fostered in those lyrics [of Young’s “Let’s Roll”] that we should retaliate was just absolutely revolting to me.  It raised my hackles, and I think it condemned Neil Young forever as a mongering toady of war.”  Clearly Young is just as controversial today as he was when he recorded “Ohio” with Messrs. Crosby, Stills and Nash in 1970.)

And so Young’s cranky anger is evident on “Motor City,” a sarcastic jab at the 1980s foreign car culture which originated on the album Re-ac-tor.  When he sings, “Too many Toyotas in this town!,” he’s preaching to the choir, and is greeted by loud cheers from the audience.  He’s just as riveting, however, on the workingman’s protest song “Nothing is Perfect” (“But nothing is perfect in God’s perfect plan/Look in the shadow to see/He only gave us the good things so we’d understand/What life without them would be…There’s plenty of wheat on the prairies/Lots of coal in the mines/We got soldiers so strong they can bury their dead/And still not go back shooting blind.”), one of the five songs making their commercial debut on A Treasure.  Another of those “new” tracks, “Grey Riders,” is the most rock-sounding cut, and features Young on scorching electric guitar.

What else will you find on A Treasure?  Hit the jump to continue reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 28, 2011 at 11:01

Posted in CSNY, Neil Young, Reissues

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Release Round-Up: Week of June 28

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Queen, News of the World / Jazz / The Game / Flash Gordon / Hot Space: Deluxe Editions (Island/UMC)

The next wave of Queen remasters are out this Monday in England. If you don’t want to get them as imports, you’ll have to wait until September to get these as domestic reissues – by which point I’d imagine the third wave will be out in the U.K. (Official site)

Alice Cooper, Old School 1964-1974 (Bigger Picture)

This desk-sized box includes not pencils, not books, not black eyeliner, but four CDs of unreleased rarities from Alice Cooper’s early years, along with some vinyl goodies and extra swag. (Official site)

Teena Marie, Lady T: Expanded Edition / Irons in the Fire: Expanded Edition / First Class Love: Rare Tee (Hip-o Select/Motown)

The Ivory Queen of Soul is honored with expansions of her second and third Motown LPs plus a double-disc set of unreleased tracks (originally issued as a smaller-scale digital set). (Hip-o Select: Lady T, Irons, Rare Tee)

Alicia Keys, Songs in A Minor: Deluxe and Collector’s Editions (J/Legacy)

To mark ten(!) years since Alicia Keys’ first album was released, it’s been expanded with a host of vault material (and in the case of the collector’s edition, a new documentary). The original album has also been pressed on vinyl, too. (Official site)

The Left Banke, Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina / The Left Banke Too (Sundazed)

Two long-out-of-print albums by The Left Banke, newly reissued on CD and vinyl (Sundazed: Walk Away CD, LP; Too CD, LP; CD bundle, LP bundle, CD and LP bundle)

The Doobie Brothers, Live at The Greek Theatre 1982: Farewell Tour (Eagle Rock)

A CD (or DVD – not both, sadly) set of The Doobies’ last tour before Michael McDonald went full-on solo, featuring guest appearances by a handful of former members. (Eagle Rock: CD, DVD)

Deep Purple, Phoenix Rising (Eagle Rock)

A treasure from the vault – documentary footage of the band’s live tour in 1975 – and all the rock and roll insanity that followed. (Eagle Rock: CD/DVD, Blu-Ray)

Various Artists, The Best of Soul Train Live (Time-Life)

I’ve been on a Soul Train kick lately, and it excites me to see this compilation of a handful of live performances on the long-running show get an official CD release. (Amazon)

Buddy Guy with Junior Wells and Junior Mance, Buddy and The Juniors (Hip-o Select/Verve)

The U.S. CD debut of this loose, laid-back record from the Blue Thumb catalogue. (Hip-o Select)

Paul McCartney, Run Devil Run (MPL/Concord)

Not nearly as expansive as the last McCartney reissues – this one’s just a straight-up remaster. (Official site)