The Second Disc

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The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 5 (#80-76)

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It’s almost the weekend, and we’ve got the perfect set of tunes to rock your Saturday and Sunday!  It’s Part 5 of our first-ever official Second Disc Buyers Guide, in which we look at the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003, through the filter of when and how these classic albums have been reissued, remastered and repackaged. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself which versions of these albums to buy for certain bonus tracks and the like, we’re your one-stop shop.

80. The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle (CBS/Date, 1968)

It’s always the time of the season for Odessey [sic] and Oracle, the original studio swansong of The Zombies.  Rod Argent described the album in the liner notes to Rhino’s 1987 CD reissue: “In 1967, The Zombies, after only three professional years, had already decided to break up. Chris White and I, however, wanted to make a parting gesture. We wanted to make a very personal final album, controlling every step of the process from writing to final cut, from production of the music to production of the album cover. We knew the record would be released after the break-up of the group, so we didn’t attempt to bow to the pressures of the marketplace. The songs were inspired by a variety of influences, but they were songs which came from our hearts. They were not the result of a producer or record company imposing their views of what a hit single might be. Some of the songs were romantic, others sparked by literature (‘Butchers Tale,’ ‘Brief Candles’) – ‘A Rose for Emily’ was inspired by a Faulkner short story. Chris reflected on his experience growing up near Beechwood Park in his song of that name.  ‘Time of the Season’ was actually influenced by Smokey Robinson’s ‘The Tracks of My Tears.’ I misunderstood the line ‘If you look closer it’s easy (to trace the tracks of my tears)’ as ‘It’s the close of the season.’ I thought it was a great phrase, and when I found out that’s not what he sang, I wrote ‘Time of the Season.’”  Argent wrote five tracks while White contributed seven, and every song was brought to life by those gentlemen (Argent on organ, piano, Mellotron and vocals; White on bass and vocals) plus Colin Blunstone (vocals), Paul Atkinson (guitar, vocals) and Hugh Grundy (drums, vocals).

The record label, CBS, wasn’t as enthusiastic about the album as The Zombies, however.  According to Argent, he and White even had to draw against their songwriting royalties to have a stereo mix created.  The U.K. release finally came on April 19, 1968.  Clive Davis, of the U.S. Columbia/CBS office, initially passed on releasing the album in America.  Enter Al Kooper.  On a trip to the United Kingdom, the songwriter/producer heard Odessey and Oracle, and returned home raving to the top brass at the label.  Kooper felt strongly that there was great potential for hit singles off the album.  Although the first single “Butcher’s Tale” didn’t resonate on the charts, another track certainly did: “Time of the Season” was issued as a single in the U.S. nearly two years after it was recorded, and a year after the Zombies had split.  (White and Argent had already formed the band Argent!)  It hit No. 3 on the chart and remains a radio staple today.  But that iconic single, written by Rod, is just one small part of the Odessey tapestry.  The album is a lush, psychedelic journey that encompasses soul, tough rock and orchestrated baroque pop in a song cycle that’s as uniquely British as contemporary efforts by The Kinks and as ambitious as the best of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Pink Floyd.

Odessey and Oracle (its misspelling intentional, according to Argent) may have the most convoluted reissue history of any title in our Top 100.  We’ll attempt to make it (somewhat!) clear here.  Read on at your own risk!  The album first appeared on CD in 1986 with vastly inferior cover art, courtesy the Rock Machine label (MACD 6).  The next year brought Rhino’s reissue (RNCD 70186, 1987), which added the 1969 single “Imagine the Swan” (with only Argent remaining from the original band) and the Argent/White co-write “I’ll Call You Mine” to the line-up.  Here’s where one needs a scorecard to follow.  Due to vagaries of ownership, The Zombies’ catalogue has been reissued multiple times on multiple labels, with Odessey leading the pack in various editions with unique bonus tracks.  The 2004 edition on Fuel 2000 was advertised as “the first official North American release in 15 years” (Fuel 2000, 302 061 413 2) and adds ten bonus tracks including alternate stereo mixes, overdubbed versions and the U.K. mono mix of “Time of the Season.”  Greg Russo remastered.  Repertoire Records has reissued the album as REP-4214 in 1992, REP-4940 in 2001, REP-5089 in 2009 and finally, REP-5182 in 2011. The 2001 edition retains the stereo album plus sixteen bonus tracks.  The “40th Anniversary Edition” from 2009 offered the mono album on Disc 1 plus five bonus tracks (“I’ll Call You Mine,” “Imagine the Swan,” “Conversation Off Floral Street,” “If It Don’t Work Out,” “I Know She Will” and “Don’t Cry For Me”) plus the stereo album on Disc 2.  The 2011 iteration, subtitled The CBS Years 1967-1969, includes the original mono album plus “I’ll Call You Mine” on Disc 1, and the original stereo album plus an alternate take of “A Rose for Emily” and the unreleased R.I.P. album on Disc 2.  Jon Astley (The Who) remastered this edition.

As part of its comprehensive Zombies campaign, Ace’s Big Beat division has reissued Odessey more than once on CD, as a vinyl replica (CDHP 025) and also as a deluxe expanded edition (CDWIKM 181) for the album’s thirtieth anniversary in 1998.  The latter edition, considered by most to be the definitive one, offers both the mono and stereo versions on one CD plus three bonus tracks: alternates of “A Rose for Emily” and “Time of the Season” plus the backing track to “Prison Song (Care of Cell 44).”  Big Beat has also reissued Odessey on vinyl (LP WIKM 181) and as part of the Zombie Heaven “complete” box set for the group (ZOMBOX 7, 1997).  Japan’s Imperial/Teichiku label has also reissued the album with frequency, including TECI-26537, 2008, in the SHM-CD format.  All of this can become mighty intimidating to a first-time buyer, or heck, even to a seasoned one!  In conclusion, suffice to say that Big Beat’s expanded edition is the way to go, boasting solid sound quality, both the mono and stereo mixes, and a tight brace of three related bonus tracks.  Those of you who wish to explore the Zombie minutiae further can seek out any and all of the above mentioned releases to take an odessey, er, odyssey of your own.

79. James Brown, Star Time (Polydor, 1991)

James Brown was many things, but foremost among them was certainly a star.  When the four-disc box set Star Time was released in 1991, it was at the dawn of a halcyon era of archival releases and collectors’ boxes.  In the CD’s 1980s infancy, few releases had put an artist’s career into perspective with lavishly annotated, expanded reissues.  Star Time was one of the titles that literally set the standard.  Although further releases have explored various avenues of the legacy of the “hardest working man in show business,” including Hip-o Select’s fantastic complete singles series, Star Time remains the set to top for its well-curated, selective-yet-comprehensive “all-killer, no-filler” approach.  In fact, this box might just as well have been called The History of Funk.  Brown was so keyed into the present that his transition from early R&B to soul to funk (and all its own iterations) mirrored that of the larger musical culture.  At 71 tracks, Star Time never burned so brightly.  The original box set (Polydor 849 108) hasn’t been expanded, retooled or otherwise reissued; why tamper with perfection?  With its greasy, danceable grooves, you’ll want to get on the good foot, for sure, and start referring to yourself in the third person!  Owwww!

After the jump: are you ready for the country?

78. Neil Young, Harvest (Reprise, 1972)

The best-selling album of 1972 is still the most successful album ever recorded by the prolific Neil Young, who has maintained a rabid fan base, major-label recording career and restless creativity in the near-40-year period since that seminal release.  It would be easy to pin the success of Harvest on “Heart of Gold,” still Neil Young’s most beloved single.  With James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt among its backing vocalists, it’s one of the cornerstones of the California country-rock that dominated the charts in the 1970s.  And Johnny Cash may be the man to thank for “Heart of Gold” and the album from which it’s drawn.

Young was set for a 1971 appearance on Cash’s television program on the same episode as Taylor and Ronstadt.  Young’s friend Elliot Mazer had opened a studio in Nashville and hoped his friend would set up shop there.   Young, as usual, was armed with a sheaf of songs on which he had been working, and told Mazer that all he needed to begin recording would be a bassist, drummer, and pedal steel guitarist. Young made the decision to start sessions immediately.  Mazer enlisted Kenny Buttrey (drums), Tim Drummond (bass) and Ben Keith (guitars), and initial sessions yielded the basic tracks for “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man”, “Harvest”, and “Dance Dance Dance,” though the latter didn’t make the cut for the original LP.  Session musicians Andy McMahon and John Harris were later brought in to play piano on two more soon-to-be-classics “Old Man” and “Harvest”, respectively, while Teddy Irwin added the second acoustic guitar on “Heart of Gold.”

After taping the Johnny Cash Show, Young invited Ronstadt and Taylor to come back to the studio with him where they added the background vocals for “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.” Taylor picked up Young’s banjo guitar (a six-string banjo tuned like a guitar) and overdubbed a part for the latter song.  Two more songs that didn’t make the cut for the album were recorded, “Bad Fog of Loneliness” (with Ronstadt and Taylor) and “Journey Through the Past” (with John Harris).

Recording continued, appropriately enough, in California.  “Are You Ready for the Country”, “Alabama”, and “Words” were recorded in these sessions with Buttrey, Drummond and Keith, along with legendary arranger and Crazy Horse compatriot Jack Nitzsche on piano and lap steel. Young named this band The Stray Gators, and they would accompany him on his winter 1973 tour.  Nitzsche added his trademark orchestration to “A Man Needs a Maid” and “There’s a World,” while the harrowing “The Needle and the Damage Done” was taken from a live performance.

Young’s fourth studio album, the completed Harvest topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks.  The original Reprise CD (2277-2) remained in print for many years, even as Young promised his decades-in-the-making comprehensive Archives series of reissues and box sets.  In 2002, the album was issued as a high resolution DVD-A (Reprise 48100-9), and included a 5.1 surround remix and an advanced resolution stereo track.  In 2009, Harvest was finally remastered on CD in conjunction with the massive Young Archives box set (Reprise 9362-49789-9), and in Japan, it was released in the SHM-CD format (Reprise/Warner Japan WPCR-13242, 2009).  No expanded edition of the album has yet seen commercial release.

77. The Clash, The Clash (Epic, 1977)

Punk was the music heard ‘round the world when it re-lit a fire in the belly of rock-and-roll that had lain dormant in an era of increasingly complex, often progressive rock (sans the roll) in the 1970s.  One major attack in the punk revolution was the debut album by The Clash: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes (soon to depart the band).  The Clash, however, had a more varied CV than many of the other leading lights in punk, incorporating reggae and rock-and-roll influences into their distinct, powerful, and rage-infused sound.

CBS Records released The Clash in the band’s native United Kingdom in April 1977, and reached No. 12 on the U.K. album charts.  As with Odessey and Oracle (see above!), the U.S. division initially opted not to release the album.  After the success of The Clash’s second album Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the self-titled debut album was finally issued in the United States in 1979.  Recalling the practice which had been common a decade earlier, the American edition (pictured above) featured an altered track line-up.   Four songs were dropped, and five others added, with the five “new” songs taken from U.K. singles and EPs.  The Clash peaked at No. 126 in America, but the band had little to fear as their commercial breakthrough London Calling was just around the corner.

Epic’s 1990 CD reissue (EK 36060) retained the original, 15-song American track listing as did a 2000 remaster (Epic/Legacy EK 63883).  The U.K. CD reissues, of course, retained the British sequence (Epic 468783-2, 1991 and Epic 495344-2, 2000) and the American Epic label finally gave a domestic release to the original British album (Epic/Legacy EK 63882, 2000) as well.  As of this writing, there still hasn’t been a Legacy Edition or similar deluxe reissue combining both the U.K. and U.S. albums with assorted bonus tracks.  There’s a career opportunity for The Clash!

76. John Lennon, Imagine (Apple, 1971)

When John Lennon released Plastic Ono Band as his first solo recording, it wasn’t an easy pill to swallow.  It was a companion piece to an album of the same name by his wife and collaborator Yoko Ono, underlining his split from Paul, George and Ringo.  It was heavily influenced by the primal scream therapy of Dr. Arthur Janov, and filled with painful confessions in song, including one proclamation that rocked the world: “I don’t believe in Beatles,” Lennon shockingly sang in “God.”  (Even if he didn’t believe in The Beatles, John still believed in Beatles, enlisting Ringo Starr to play drums on the album!)  Despite its challenging and raw, confessional nature, Plastic Ono Band still captivated listeners who had grown up with Lennon, reaching No. 8 on the U.K. album chart and No. 6 in the U.S., where it spent eighteen weeks in the Top 10.

For his next recording, Lennon took a gentle (and some would say “more commercial”) approach.  His lyrical ideas were still bold, but the production and songwriting both adopted a more familiar pop sensibility.  On its title song, Imagine introduced the world to one of the most beloved ballads of all time.  With the song’s ubiquity today, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like hearing Beatle John for the first time admonish listeners to imagine a world with no religion and no countries, thoughts that would give some pause even in 2011 coming from any other singer.  Lennon’s humanity (and all its contradictions) came through on every track, from “Imagine” to “Jealous Guy,” sometimes hopeful and sometimes just plain vitriolic, as in his attacks on Paul McCartney in “How Do You Sleep?” (“Those freaks was right when they said you was dead…The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you’re gone you’re just another day.”)  And that song was just one of the cuts with guitar by George Harrison!  Despite the many other musicians who contributed, Imagine was pure John Lennon.

Imagine received a straight reissue when it first appeared on compact disc (Capitol CDP 7 46641-2, 1987) and in 2000 was reissued in remixed form.  The 2000 edition (Capitol/Apple CDP 7243 5 24858-2) was also the basis for the 2003 Mobile Fidelity 24K Gold CD (UDCD 759).  A 2007 Japanese edition was bait for collectors in its vinyl-LP replica format (EMI Japan TOCP-70392).  After a decade in limbo, the original 1971 mix was restored in 2010 for a new series of reissues primarily remastered by Allan Rouse and his Abbey Road Studios team.  Imagine was made available individually (Capitol/Apple 50999906502-2, 2010) and as part of the John Lennon Signature Box (Capitol/Apple 50999906509-2, 2010).  This edition is a sonic improvement over the original CD and, as it features the mix Lennon himself intended, makes for the definitive Imagine.

Coming on Monday: it’s a colorful day!  Otis is “Blue,” Prince is “Purple,” Neil is “Gold,” and AC/DC is “Black,” while a British supergroup takes off!

Written by Joe Marchese

December 2, 2011 at 14:58

6 Responses

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  1. Personally I’ve always preferred the 2cd James Brown compilations on Chronicles to the “Star Time” box set: longer versions, better sound, more thorough track selection. To me “Star Time” deserved the accolades in its time, viz. early nineties, but has been outdated since, also with regard to the booklet. So I’m surprised to still see it here, esp. since it’s not a reissue of an original release. But then again I’m as demanding as Mr Brown was (secret fingersnap to concoct deluxe reissues of the JB’s band albums with part 1,2, 3 ànd 4 versions, viz. the original jams from start to finish, without fade outs or cuts) 😉


    December 6, 2011 at 00:50

  2. Thanks for the list of Brown CDs.I’ll be spending lots of money to fill in the gaps! I’ve had Star Time since it was released and thought I was okay with just the box. But I love the idea of having the full length jams that the songs were drawn from. Brown’s bands were awesome. I have “Funk Power- 1970” and “Dead On The Heavy Funk – 1975-1983” on the way to me in the mail. (I managed a great price on the out-of-print “Dead On The Heavy Funk – 1975-1983” on eBay.) Really looking forward to that. I picked up “Soul Pride” a few months ago and it is very good, though when it was sub-titled “Instrumentals” I assumed there’d be less vocals than there are. I couldn’t find much difference between them and any other JB workout. The music cooks, though!
    Thanks again!

    Jason Michael

    December 10, 2011 at 12:21

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