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Archive for November 17th, 2011

U.K. Joy Division Box Collects Singles (and More) on Vinyl (UPDATED 11/17/2011: and CD)

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UPDATE: More than a year after this set came out, a U.K. CD counterpart has been noticed on Amazon with a December 27 street date. Like the original post, this was also first noticed by our friends at Slicing Up Eyeballs.

Original post: As reported by Slicing Up Eyeballs, Rhino’s U.K. branch is releasing a special collector’s box of Joy Division singles in December, to commemorate the 30 years since iconic frontman Ian Curtis died.

The vinyl box, +- (Plus Minus), will feature ten 7″ records containing all the Joy Division singles. Now, of course, that math may seem a bit off to you if you know that Joy Division didn’t have ten singles to their name. Instead, curator/journalist Jon Savage combined the singles with some other notable tracks on their own unique singles for this compilation. The tunes were all remastered by Frank Arkwright (of Metropolis Studios) and original drummer Stephen Morris, with Factory Records co-founder Peter Saville designing the box it came in.

The set will also feature free digital downloads of all the tracks therein; the first 500 copies will include an art piece as well as all the music on two CDs. Order it here; it’s expected December 6.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 17, 2011 at 16:38

Review: R.E.M., “Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011”

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R.E.M.’s Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 (Warner Bros. 529088-2) marks the fourth compilation by the Athens band in my collection. As a young teen, I fell in love with their melodic, confident pop/rock with In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 – but that was only part of the picture. The rest would be filled in by the 2006 release of And I Feel Fine…The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987, which captured the quartet at what may be their creative peak. (The third compilation was 1988’s Eponymous, picked up used to get the three alternate or rare tracks I didn’t already have.)

This music lives with me, as it should live with any self-respecting American who enjoys rock music of the last 40 years or so. When R.E.M. came of age in the mid-1980s, it seemed as though America, the nation that filtered country and blues stylings into a slick, satisfying musical hybrid that defined a generation, would never ascend to the top of the pile again. We had Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Doors and others, but England gave us The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin – essentially 2/3 of the modern rock pantheon. (Even Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix got his best breaks across the pond.) By virtue of The Smiths or U2 alone, it looked for awhile like the ’80s were going to be another decade of playing second to the Europeans.

And then along came a simple quartet: a bookish guitarist with the cleanest, most melodic tones you could dream up, a killer rhythm section replete with whip-crack drumming and insistent bass lines and a spindly vocalist whose throaty tones were so captivating, audiences almost ignored the fact that, all too often, they had no idea what the hell he was singing. R.E.M. knew nothing of formula or convention; they did nothing to be popular, even as the gut-wrenching “The One I Love” gave indie label I.R.S. Records one of its biggest hits of all time or 1991’s iconic video for “Losing My Religion” became an MTV staple. By the mid-’90s, they were strong contenders for biggest band in the world (at a time when that seemed to mean something) and firmly situated in the canon of alternative rock, which had blossomed from a whisper to a scream by the end of the century.

Then, crazy things started to happen. In 1997, the band became a trio, losing drummer Bill Berry to retirement. A credited co-writer on the band’s catalogue, his drumming was difficult to replace – and the resultant songs seemed to be missing…something. Was it the urgency? The effortless hooks? Whatever it was, R.E.M. took the logical next step as rock stars: they, willingly or not, entered the point on their timeline where whatever they put out was neither universally adored nor uniformly excoriated. As a live act, they didn’t buoy themselves on hits like, say, The Rolling Stones, but nobody clamored for “Imitation of Life” or “Supernatural Superserious” the way they did for “Radio Free Europe” or “Stand.”

This year, though, the craziest thing happened. Rather than continue making serviceable if not classic albums like this year’s Collapse Into Now, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills walked away. This double-disc, 40-track set is the period with which they (and Berry, too) intend to finish the R.E.M. sentence. It spans, for the first time, both the I.R.S. and Warner years, making it the easiest way to get an overview of the group’s entire discography in one $15 set.

And, despite being the latest (and likely not the last) in an endless string of R.E.M. hits documents, there’s still stuff to learn. With these discs, we learn that 13 tracks of I.R.S. songs is not enough. (No “Cuyahoga” or “Welcome to the Occupation”?) We find that perhaps some of R.E.M.’s throwaways (to us) mean more to them (“Shiny Happy People” and “New Test Leper” make the cut while an underrated beauty like “Daysleeper” does not.) What the post-Berry material lacks in hooks, it makes up for in vocal beauty (the layers of Stipe are what stand out on even the lesser tracks at the end of Disc 2) or noise – and that almost intentional lack of focus, rock stars throwing toys around the room, so to speak, is more than a little interesting.

The three new tracks – “A Month of Saturdays,” “We All Go Back to Where We Belong” and “Hallelujah” – are incredibly forgettable, even by the lofty standards of extra tracks on compilations. (Mills recently made a decent argument that the three serve as reminders of R.E.M.’s major facets as a band, but I’d rather get my silliness from “Stand” and my heavy poignance from “Nightswimming.”) Even the liner notes, featuring commentary by all four band members, seem kind of rote. (Buck penned the bitingly funny notes for most previous compilations, and those are easily the definitive word for liner notes junkies out there.)

Ultimately, though, that’s not what the set is about – and those of you who are already stocked to the brim with R.E.M. material are definitely going to be fine with skipping this one. But it might be worth giving to someone who needs to understand or be reminded anew what all the fuss was about concerning this crazy quartet. For better – and even for worse – R.E.M. are one of the brightest patches on the quilt of rock and roll, and Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage is a great way to end an illustrious career: by reminding us of just how important – and truly great – it all was.

Written by Mike Duquette

November 17, 2011 at 14:02

Posted in Compilations, News, R.E.M.

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Rammstein Zusammenstellung

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How metal is metal? For 16 years, German band Rammstein has pushed the limits of the genre, in the studio and onstage – and next month, they’re going to celebrate their work with their first compilation, Made in Germany 1995-2011.

With songs like “Mein Herz Brennt,” “Engel,” “Pussy” and “Du Hast” (arguably their most notable song in America), Rammstein took the best of industrial and symphonic rock, added a dash of electronica and techno and created a sound that was hard for metal audiences to ignore. (In Germany, there’s even a subgenre for which Rammstein is considered a pioneer: Neue Deutsche Härte, or “new German hardness.”) Lead singer Till Lindemann’s booming, near-operatic vocals grab your ears immediately, even if you can’t understand what he’s singing, and the group is world famous for creating an intentionally over-the-top theatrical rock show, complete with elaborate costumes, staging and blazing pyrotechnics. (So important are those effects to the group that Lindemann became a licensed pyrotechnician.)

Made in Germany 1995-2011 features 15 of the Berlin band’s best-loved singles (all newly remastered) and one brand new track, “Mein Land.” Two deluxe editions will be available as well: a double-disc edition which includes 17 remixes of Rammstein’s singles (all found on various German CD singles). Notable producers and artists, including Hurts, Junkie XL, Faith No More, Meshuggah and the Pet Shop Boys, all had a hand in creating these alternate mixes over the years. Finally, a super-deluxe edition adds three DVDs of all the band’s often-controversial promo videos, each with making-of footage. (All five discs in the super-deluxe edition come packed in a steelbook case with a 24o-page booklet.)

The set is available December 2 in the band’s native land and December 13 in the States. The specs for each set are after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 17, 2011 at 12:02

Reissue Theory: Barry Manilow, “Live at the Troubadour 1975”

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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. Today’s column takes a slight departure, looking at an album that never was, but certainly could be.   We present Barry Manilow’s Live at the Troubadour!

Rolling Stone may have famously proclaimed him “the showman of our generation,” but when Clive Davis signed Barry Manilow to the fledgling Arista label, he was anything but.  Manilow was a longtime accompanist, jingle writer, arranger and producer on the New York scene, and signed to Arista predecessor Bell Records.  But “showman” wasn’t in his vocabulary.  He was armed only with a youthful confidence in his skill as a behind-the-scenes music man and his belief that the music he was writing was, indeed, good music, inspired in equal parts by the Broadway musical tradition and the singer/songwriter style of Laura Nyro.

When Manilow took the stage at Los Angeles’ Troubadour on February 25, 1975, there was no flash (and no Lady Flash!), no pizzazz.  There was just a musician at work, behind the piano, and a real band: two guitarists, a keyboardist, a bassist, two percussionists, and four background singers, one of whom had been an Archie and a Detergent.  Manilow’s performance was captured in stellar sound but its only commercial release has been through the digital treasure trove known as Wolfgang’s Vault.  The time is long overdue to expose this performance to an audience more familiar with Manilow the Las Vegas entertainer extraordinaire.  The only pyrotechnics at Doug Weston’s Troubadour came from Manilow and his band, whereas today, patrons at a Manilow concert will find costumes, time-honed routines and dazzling showmanship.  The artist has allowed some glimpses into his past in recent years, including a DVD release of a 1974 New York City rehearsal at Carroll’s Studio (on the 2-DVD set First and Farewell, also including his performance on a 2004 tour for maximum contrast) in which he agonizes over his set list as he’s about to go solo.  With Manilow having recently announced a new Live in London CD, the time couldn’t be better to imagine Barry Manilow: Live at the Troubadour!  Our proposed release would offer a glimpse into another path that Manilow might have taken (though few could argue with the success of his phenomenal career).

Hit the jump, and you’ll find yourself on Sunset Boulevard on a winter evening in 1975! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 17, 2011 at 10:21

Posted in Barry Manilow, Features, Reissues

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