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Archive for December 21st, 2011

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 18 (#15-11)

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And the Top 15 of our 100 Greatest Reissues list begins! We’ve taken Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest albums of all time and investigated their many pressings and expansions over the years. Today, we’re rocking in the 1960s, take a jazz detour to 1959, and remember a 1976 compilation of material circa 1955!

15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced (Reprise, 1967)

If you weren’t experienced before listening to the 1967 debut of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, it’s safe to say that you certainly were by the time you finished the LP! Its blend of era-defining psychedelia, hard rock and blues sensibilities were like nothing that had come before, and it launched the career of one James Marshall Hendrix into the stratosphere.

Its history on CD has been a checkered one, however, thanks to the standard record company practice of the 1960s of devising different editions for different territories. While making a name for themselves in England, Messrs. Hendrix, (Noel) Redding and (Mitch) Mitchell released three singles: “Hey Joe/Stone Free” (actually released in the waning days of 1966), “Purple Haze/51st Anniversary” (March 1967) and “The Wind Cries Mary/Highway Chile” (May 1967). When the Track Records album was released in the U.K. in May, the singles were not present on the LP. The Hendrix phenomenon didn’t crystallize in America until his incendiary performance – both literally and figuratively! – at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. Reprise Records then prepared Are You Experienced for North American release. As was its wont, Reprise removed three tracks (“Red House,” “Remember” and “Can You See Me”) to make way for the three British A-sides. The running order was shuffled, reportedly with Hendrix’s approval, though he was uncomfortable with the blues “Red House” being omitted from the LP. A new stereo mix was prepared, as well as a new, more overtly psychedelic cover (as seen above), and Are You Experienced took the U.S. by storm, peaking at No. 5 after its August release.

The original Reprise CD (W2-6261) was identical to the label’s original stereo LP version, and the first European CD release (Polydor 825 416-2) used the original U.K. track list, but in the Reprise stereo remixed versions (except for “Red House” in mono, and “Remember” in electronically-processed stereo). The 1993 reissue (MCA 10893), as supervised by the controversial Alan Douglas, began the album with the first three U.K. A- and B-sides, but otherwise adhered to the original U.K. track listing and sequence. (The stereo mixes were again used except for “Stone Free”, “51st Anniversary”, and “Highway Chile.”) The version of “Red House” included on Douglas’ remastered CD was the 1969 Smash Hits LP version, not the original AYE recording.

Under the aegis of Experience Hendrix, AYE was reissued again in 1997 from MCA Records (MCAD- 11602) and again in 2010 from Legacy Recordings (88697 65478 2), this latest time with a bonus mini-documentary on DVD. These last two editions standardized the album at 17 tracks, including all of the singles and the original album tracks in a cohesive sequence. (The original “Red House” was also restored.) The mastering by George Marino and Eddie Kramer is not substantially different between the 1997 and 2010 editions. There have also been numerous international pressings; one of the most notable is the 2008 SHM-CD edition from Japan (Universal Japan UICY-90757).

14. The Beatles, Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)

Although released prior to Let It Be, Abbey Road was the final album recorded by The Beatles. When it was released on September 26, 1969 in the U.K., it shot straight to No. 1 and eventually became the fourth best-selling album of the decade there. Upon its U.S. release one week later, it met with further success, reaching No. 1 in its third week. All told, it spent 11 non-consecutive weeks atop the U.S. chart, and 17 weeks in the U.K. (interrupted for just one week, by the Rolling Stones and Let It Bleed.) One of the group’s most cohesive albums ever, the critical and commercial acclaim was a just reward for the collective work of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Harrison shone brightly with both “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” while both Lennon and McCartney crafted an intricate song suite with producer/arranger George Martin for the album’s second side. Even Ringo got into the act with the infectious “Octopus’ Garden.” Abbey Road offered a fitting epitaph for The Beatles’ career with the final line of “The End,” the last proper song on the album: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” (The brief, 23-second “Her Majesty” appears as a hidden track, some 14 seconds after “The End.”) So pervasive was the album that even its cover art launched the famous “Paul is Dead” hoax!

Abbey Road was released on CD in 1987 along with the rest of the Beatles’ catalogue from Capitol in the U.S. and Parlophone in the U.K. (CDP 7 46446-2), and this edition remained the standard CD edition until the much-heralded Abbey Road Studios remasters of 2009 (0946 3 82468-2) which was “enhanced” with a mini-documentary on the CD. This remastered version was also available as part of the complete Beatles in Stereo box set (EMI/Parlophone/Apple 5099969944901).

Hit the jump and you’ll find yourself Underground…

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Written by Joe Marchese

December 21, 2011 at 15:14

The Seventh Day of Second Discmas

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It’s Day 7 of Second Discmas, and we’re thrilled to bring you a remarkable new box set from a legend of jazz!

Wynton Marsalis‘ Swinging Into the 21st is a comprehensive 10-album, 11-CD box set containing career highlights hand-picked by the trumpeter, composer, bandleader and arranger to illuminate each facet of his history!  Marsalis selected the material on Swinging to celebrate his 50th birthday this October 18.  His diverse selections from his large catalogue include two volumes of his Standard Time, 1999′s original film music collection Reel Time, 2000′s The Marciac Suite and Selections from the Village Vanguard Box, and 2002′s All Rise, plus A Fiddler’s Tale, At the Octoroon Balls, Big Train, Sweet Release & Ghost Story!  Each title is packaged in a mini-LP replica sleeve, and a 32-page booklet features full credits and a statement by Marsalis himself.

You can be the one lucky winner of this amazing career retrospective, courtesy of Legacy Recordings, by e-mailing us (theseconddisc (at) gmail (dot) com)!  Just be sure to include your name, city and state in your email.

But that’s not your only way to win!  You can also “like” this post as it appears on Facebook or retweet the post on Twitter!  Drawings for Swinging Into the 21st must be received by Thursday, December 22, at 3:00 p.m. EST.  But if you enter today’s drawing and aren’t a winner, don’t worry!  You’ll automatically be entered in all the rest of the Second Discmas contests!

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for another Second Discmas surprise!

Written by Joe Marchese

December 21, 2011 at 15:04

Take It to the Bridge: Squeeze Frontman Releases New Set of Vintage Demos

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Here’s a treat for any of you British pop fans out there: another series of demos from Squeeze songwriter Glenn Tilbrook.

When Daylight Appears: The Demo Tapes 1985-1991 spotlights Squeeze at one of their most underrated stages in a wildly underrated career. In 1985, the band ended a three-year breakup, reuniting singers/songwriters guitarists Tilbrook and Chris Difford, keyboardist Jools Holland (increasingly known outside of Squeeze for his burgeoning television host career on The Tube), drummer Gilson Lavis and new bassist Keith Wilkinson. This new lineup is the closest the famously revolving band can call “classic,” releasing three consecutive albums, Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985), Babylon and On (1987) and Frank (1989). (Another, Play (1991), followed with all but Holland.)

Despite the excellent craftsmanship of the Difford-Tilbrook partnership (which had endured the breakup with the release of an eclectic “solo” album in 1984), the songs, which experimented with increasingly modern production stylings, were not considered much of a return to form for a band championed by no less a New Wave pioneer than Elvis Costello (who produced 1981’s magnum opus East Side Story and signature song “Tempted”). That said, this era found the band reaching their greatest success in the United States, as 1987 single “Hourglass,” with a colorful, visually arresting music video, peaked in the Billboard Top 20.

In all, 15 of the disc’s 19 tracks are clearly demos of songs that later appeared on albums (with “Wedding Bells,” later turning up as the B-side of “Hourglass” and “Happiness is King” appearing on the flip of 1991’s “Satisfied”). Though much of the material is likely lo-fi, four-track demos – usually Tilbrook singing and playing guitar with a drum machine backing him up – it often retains the spirit of the original tracks, with some surprise arrangements from time to time putting new spins on familiar favorites.

Tilbrook, who with Difford has written some of the best and most underrated pop tunes for Squeeze since the late 1970s, has been intermittently releasing entries in a series of five compilations of demos for Squeeze since the band reunited in the mid-2000s to play a lengthy series of concerts across the world. The first set, 2007’s The Past Has Been Bottled, focused solely on songs written for East Side Story, the group’s 1981 magnum opus (or, at least, the one that has their most widely-known song, “Tempted”). In the Sky Above, released a year later, concentrated on demos from the band’s last three albums (Some Fantastic Place (1993), Ridiculous (1995) and Domino (1998)), while Dreams Are Made of This, released in 2009, was the most worthy for collectors, stretching from the duo’s earliest songwriting moments in 1974 all the way to 1981’s excellent Argybargy. Where will the fifth series take us – perhaps between 1982 and 1984, or through Tilbrook’s solo years? Only time will tell. Until then, enjoy a link to the new set after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 21, 2011 at 14:26

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 17 (#20-16)

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We’re in the Top 20 of Rolling Stone‘s Greatest Albums of All Time list, going through the various reissues and expansions of each one! This time, we have a Boss, a champion of a ’90s rock revolution, a poet of the ’60s – and starting right now, the King of Pop himself. Read on!

20. Michael Jackson, Thriller (Epic, 1982)

Nine disparate songs, helmed by a producer of straightforward jazz and R&B, and performed by a 24-year-old former child star-turned-gawky but dedicated perfectionist. It sounds like it has the makings of a great album, but the best-selling album in history? It seems unconventional – but that’s what makes Thriller so good. There’s something for everyone, from the seven charting singles to the smorgasbord/soundtrack vibe of the whole proceedings, with or without the unforgettable videos on MTV. Michael would strive harder for greatness, for sure, but he’d never achieve it as effortlessly as he did with this one.

First released on CD not too long after the album’s release (Epic EK 38112), that pressing stayed in print for years. (There was a special repackage in Europe in 1999, packaged in a cardboard sleeve and with a Japanese-style OBI indicating Epic’s U.K. “Millennium Edition” series – Epic MILLEN4). A SACD edition was first released in Japan the next year (Epic ESGA 503) and ultimately released in the U.S. six years after that (Epic ES 38112).

The first of two expanded editions (Epic EK 66073) appeared in 2001, preceding the release of Jackson’s then-new album Invincible and arriving alongside reissues of Michael’s other Epic albums through 1991. Like the reissue of Off the Wall, this disc gives far too much space to audio interviews with producer Jones and songwriter Rod Temperton where written recollections would have done better. Still, this has the most bonus tracks out of this reissue program, featuring two demos (“Billie Jean,” the unreleased “Carousel”), the full version of Vincent Price’s delightful “Thriller” outro and “Someone in the Dark,” from the Grammy-winning E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial storybook record Jackson narrated. (Nitpickers have valid complaints with some of the bonus material, though; “Someone in the Dark” is crossfaded with part of an interview with Jones – it would not be released properly until The Ultimate Collection box set in 2004 – and “Carousel” is edited down as well. That full version can be found on Italian pressings of the import compilation King of Pop (Epic 88697 35638-2, 2008).)

The other deluxe reissue, 2008’s Thriller 25 (Epic/Legacy 88697 22096-2), eschewed much of the bonus material from the last reissue (save the “Thriller” rap) in favor of mostly atrocious remixes of Thriller singles by of The Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Kanye West and a DVD of previously-released music videos (as well as Jackson’s iconic performance of “Billie Jean” on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever in 1983). The sole “unreleased track from the Thriller sessions,” a nice if slight ballad called “For All Time,” is almost certainly not from those sessions; co-writers Mike Sherwood and Jeff Porcaro had not collaborated before Toto’s Fahrenheit album in 1986. The Japanese import bonus track, “Got the Hots,” does indeed date back that far.

19. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks (Warner Bros., 1968)

It’s easy to laud these albums as ones that don’t sound like anything else at the time, but Astral Weeks didn’t, and doesn’t. Inspired by traditional Irish folk, blues, jazz and classical artists, it’s a dreamy song cycle that is the night to the bright daytime of “Brown Eyed Girl.” For all its popularity, though, it’s never been reissued on CD anytime past its initial release (Warner Bros. 1768-2); it was reportedly planned for expansion in the late 2000s, but cancelled by the artist himself in a fit of pique with the music industry.

After the jump, the Boss, the bard and the grunge explosion! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 21, 2011 at 12:18