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Archive for February 2014

Hot Shots: Big Break Relights Dan Hartman’s “Fire,” Expands Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Solo Debut

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Dan Hartman - Relight My FireTalk about fusion!  For “Hands Down,” the opening cut of his 1979 album Relight My Fire, Dan Hartman enlisted rock and roll great Edgar Winter to weave his alto saxophone licks throughout the Latin-flavored disco track, and Stevie Wonder to provide his instantly recognizable harmonica.  Hartman wasn’t just a dilettante, but a regular musical renaissance man.   A veteran of the Johnny Winter Band and the Edgar Winter Group, he wrote the latter’s smash hit “Free Ride,” and successfully completed the transition to solo stardom with 1978’s “Instant Replay,” a No. 1 Disco hit that also reached the Pop Top 30.  In the eighties, he revitalized James Brown’s career with “Living in America” and gave blue-eyed soul a contemporary makeover with “I Can Dream About You.”  The title song of “Relight My Fire,” on which Hartman was joined by Salsoul queen Loleatta Holloway, proved that he could capture the disco magic twice, as the song remained atop the Billboard dance chart for six weeks.  In 1993, it became a hit all over again for Take That and Lulu.  Now, thanks to Hot Shot Records, Hartman’s Fire has once again been relit.

Over just six tracks – all written by Hartman, who also played keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and percussion on the album – Relight My Fire pulsates with the energy of the era as filtered through Hartman’s pop sensibility.  It was a catholic sensibility that made the musician and songwriter adaptable to pop, rock and soul settings.  For the album centerpiece “Vertigo/Relight My Fire,” Hartman traveled to Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound Studios and enlisted veteran Norman Harris (Blue Magic, The O’Jays) to arrange and conduct.  Harris brought his sublime orchestrated style to the introductory “Vertigo” as well as to the main body of the sizzling, catchy “Relight My Fire,” with a typically passionate duet vocal from Loleatta Holloway.  (Harris had also frequently produced Holloway at Salsoul.)  Whether in the original, nearly 10-minute album version of “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” or the 3+-minute single edit of “Relight” (among the six bonus tracks on Hot Shot’s reissue), Hartman and Holloway’s musical invitation can’t be denied.

“Just for Fun” (“Just do what makes you feel all right…If you’re hungry for some good times now, don’t be late, let me show you how!”) is lyrically in the good-time, hedonistic vein expected of a disco record, and the singer’s enthusiasm is infectious, as is his boogie piano solo.  (The piano has a bit of the flavor of another disco anthem, Peter Allen’s “I Go to Rio.”)  The same goes for the bubbly “I Love Makin’ Music,“ which flows out of “Just for Fun” and epitomizes what could have been Hartman’s personal credo throughout his all-too-short 43 years.  “Love makin’ music, love makin’ love,” the female background vocalist coo during the track, but on Relight My Fire, the two acts seem synonymous.  Hartman’s disco remake of his own “Free Ride” is surprisingly effective.  If it doesn’t replace the original, it succeeds on the strength of the song’s abundant melody, signature riff and energetic performance here.

After the jump, we have more on Relight My Fire, plus a look at Hot Shot’s rediscovery of actress-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph’s foray into contemporary R&B! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 28, 2014 at 09:46

Deep Purple Revisit “Made in Japan” in a Big Way

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Deep Purple Made in JapanDeep Purple’s monstrous power as a live act was solidified more than four decades ago with the release of their first live album, Made in Japan. This May, a tidal wave of Made in Japan reissues are surging your way, from remasters to expansions to box sets on CD, vinyl and Blu-Ray. (Whew!)

In 1972, Deep Purple were flying higher than ever. The quintet – at the time, singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, bassist Roger Glover, keyboardist Jon Lord and drummer Ian Paice – had just released their sixth album in five years (and third with the Mk II lineup), Machine Head. It was their first chart-topper in their native England, and also went Top 10 in the States. By this time, the band had quite a sterling reputation as a live act, but were reluctant to attempt a live album for fear they could not produce the exact kind of polished set they could in studio.

Ultimately, upon discovering a burgeoning bootleg market around their tours, they relented, recording three consecutive nights in Osaka and Tokyo, Japan (where the band were particularly adored). Focusing solely on putting on a great show and less on how the final product would sound (to this day, members of the band have reportedly never heard the album), Deep Purple’s gamble paid off handsomely. A single backed with both studio and live versions of the instant classic (and arguable progenitor of heavy metal) “Smoke on the Water” was a U.S. Top 5 hit. The album went Top 10 in America and Top 20 in England, eventually earning a platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America for over a million units shipped.

Given the hallowed status of the album, there have been several reissues of the Japan shows. A 1993 box set collected much of the three sets, and further parts were included on an expanded reissue of the album proper in 1998. But what have Universal U.K. got planned for this (almost) 40th anniversary celebration? Read on after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 27, 2014 at 17:27

Gotcha! Raven Collects Three Essentials From Saxophone Great Tom Scott

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Tom Scott - Master of FunkChances are if you’re reading these words, you’re intimately familiar with at least one performance by Tom Scott.  The saxophonist played the part of the titular “Jazzman” on Carole King’s 1974 No. 2 single of the same name, helped take Paul McCartney’s “Listen to What the Man Said” all the way up to No. 1 in 1975, and lent support to Whitney Houston as she professed to be “Saving All My Love for You.”  But the Grammy-winning Scott was also a prolific recording artist, both solo and with his band The L.A. Express.  Australia’s Raven Records has recently reissued three vintage Scott albums originally released between 1974 and 1977 on two CDs with four later bonus tracks added for good measure.  Master of Funk: The Essential Albums includes Tom Scott and The L.A. Express’ self-titled Ode debut, its follow-up Tom Cat, and Scott’s solo release New York Connection.

That the Los Angeles-born Scott would pursue a career in music must have seemed like a given; his mother Margery was a pianist and his father Nathan a prolific television composer with a reported 850+ credits including music for Dragnet, Lassie and The Twilight Zone.  Tom began his career as a leader before he was twenty years of age.  On his debut, 1967’s Impulse! release The Honeysuckle Breeze, he was joined by personnel including pianist Mike Melvoin and drummer Jim Gordon for an eclectic array of pop songs including “Mellow Yellow, “Never My Love” and “She’s Leaving Home” as well as more off-the-beaten-path selections like John Coltrane’s “Naima” and Jefferson Airplane’s “Today.”  Breeze was followed by another Impulse! long-player as well as couple of LPs for producer Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label and the aptly-named Great Scott! for A&M.  But Scott was also making his name as a first-call session musician, drawing attention for his work with Joni Mitchell on her classic For the Roses and Court and Spark albums.  Before the seventies were out, Scott would play with Rod Stewart, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Tom Waits, Steely Dan, and just about everybody else!

It was in 1973 that Lou Adler signed Scott to his Ode label for Tom Scott and The L.A. Express featuring leader Scott, keyboardist Joe Sample, bassist Max Bennett, guitarist Larry Carlton and drummer/percussionist John Guerin.  Scott’s accessible pop-jazz fusion set even made room for another Coltrane cover (“Dahomey Dance”) but is likely best-remembered for the funky “Sneakin’ in the Back” which has become a staple of sampling; it’s appeared on songs by artists from Madonna to Wu-Tang Clan.  Following this debut, Sample and Carlton departed to concentrate more fully on their other group, The Crusaders (formerly The Jazz Crusaders).  Scott drafted Larry Nash and Robben Ford into the band, and took the group on the road with Joni Mitchell, resulting in her Miles of Aisles live LP.  Subsequent work followed with three-fourths of The Beatles, but before long, The L.A. Express returned to the studio for Tom Cat.  Guerin guested on the album, as did Mitchell on the vocal refrain of “Love Poem.”  Sticking to the same funky fusion vein as its predecessor, Tom Cat was rewarded with a Top 20 placement on Billboard’s Jazz and R&B charts.

Soon, though, Scott and The L.A. Express decided to go their separate ways.  For 1975’s New York Connection, the final album on Raven’s set, Scott assembled an A-list session crew whose names will be familiar to anyone who was reading LP sleeves in the seventies, including Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Hugh McCracken (guitar), Steve Gadd (drums), Eric Gale (guitar), Richard Tee (keyboards), Gary King (bass) and Bob James (electric piano).  The new band was no less inspired than the old band, and in fact, Scott is quoted in Ian McFarlane’s new liner notes as admitting, “Although the L.A. Express certainly showed me some of the combinations that are possible in terms of rhythmic interaction, the New York Connection thing was rhythmic interaction and rhythmic subtlety to the nth degree.”  New York Connection included tunes written by Scott and Tee as well as by Michel Colombier and the team of Ralph MacDonald and William Salter.  A certain “Quiet Beatle” even dropped by the sessions to add slide guitar to Scott’s composition “Appolonia (Foxtrata).”

After the jump: details on Raven’s bonus tracks, the complete track listing with discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 27, 2014 at 14:13

Posted in News, Reissues, Tom Scott

Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen Issues “High Hopes” Outtakes For RSD, MusiCares Tribute Hits DVD and BD

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Bruce BD

When Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this January, the iconic artist earned his eleventh chart-topping album.    That was enough to make him the No. 3 all-time champ in that department, just behind The Beatles (19) and Jay-Z (13).  The eclectic recordings used to assemble High Hopes divided many of Springsteen’s devotees, as did the contributions of Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello.  But par for the course with any Bruce-related release, the songs heard on High Hopes were culled from a larger group, leaving outtakes behind.  On April 19’s Record Store Day, you’ll have the chance to hear some of those tracks on a new four-song, 12-inch vinyl EP entitled American Beauty.  And that’s not all coming from the prolific singer-songwriter-bandleader.   A little less than a month earlier, on March 25, Columbia Records will release A MusiCares Tribute to Bruce Springsteen on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download, on which many of The Boss’ fans and contemporaries salute him in song for his philanthropy.

American Beauty premieres three songs from the same sessions that yielded much of the material on High Hopes.  “Mary, Mary,” “Hey Blue Eyes” and “American Beauty” all feature Morello’s blistering guitar.  Details have not been provided regarding the fourth track, “Hurry up Sundown,” though speculation has already run rampant among Springsteen fans.  The Guardian speculates that “Sundown” may be the same song recorded by the garage rockers Balloon Farm in 1967.  The Laurie Records single was co-written by the band’s Mike Appel…the same Mike Appel who famously managed Springsteen and produced his first albums.  As High Hopes featured a number of diverse covers, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that another cover version would feature on the Record Store Day EP.

After the jump, we’ll take a look at A MusiCares Tribute to Bruce Springsteen! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 27, 2014 at 10:26

In Case You Missed It: INXS’ Wembley Show Lives Anew in Digital Reissue

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INXS Wembley 1991If you’ve ever wondered why so much INXS catalogue activity centers solely around 1987’s Kick, there’s something new and different for you available: a live concert from the early 1990s, instead.

The Australian band have recently released Live At Wembley Stadium 1991 to digital retailers. This 22-track album features audio from the band’s July 13, 1991 concert at London’s famed stadium, which exactly six years prior held a rapt audience for Live Aid. Their Summer XS tour promoted the previous year’s release of tenth studio album X, another polished collaboration with Kick producer Chris Thomas that yielded more global success with singles like “Suicide Blonde” and “Disappear” becoming worldwide Top 10 hits.

Fans will recognize this program as identical to what was released on the videotape Live Baby Live that same year. A live album of the same name was recorded throughout the tour, and added one new studio track, “Shining Star.” (That same track features here, as well.) The audio from that video is here newly remastered by producer Mark Opitz, who produced the band’s Shabooh Shoobah (1982), Welcome to Wherever You Are (1992) and Full Moon, Dirty Hearts (1993) as well as the original Live Baby Live album.

So far, only iTunes seems to be the place you can get Live At Wembley Stadium 1991, although the band’s official site is selling a two-disc edition of the set, ostensibly to tie into the recent Australian broadcast of INXS: Never Tear Us Apart, a miniseries about the country’s favorite musical sons (the critical reception of which actually bought Kick and a recent compilation back into the country’s Top 10). The track list for this vintage show is below.

INXS, Live At Wembley Stadium 1991 (Petrol Electric, 2014)

  1. Guns in the Sky
  2. New Sensation
  3. I Send a Message
  4. The Stairs
  5. Know the Difference
  6. Disappear
  7. By My Side
  8. Hear That Sound
  9. Original Sin
  10. The Loved One
  11. Wild Life
  12. Mystify
  13. Bitter Tears
  14. Suicide Blonde
  15. What You Need
  16. Kick
  17. Need You Tonight
  18. Mediate
  19. Never Tear Us Apart
  20. Who Pays the Price
  21. Devil Inside
  22. Shining Star

All tracks except Track 22 recorded live at Wembley Stadium, London – 7/13/1991
Track 22 first released on Live Baby Live (EastWest 9031 75630-2 (AUS)/Atlantic 82294 (U.S.), 1991)

Written by Mike Duquette

February 26, 2014 at 15:26

Posted in Digital, INXS, News, Reissues

Rock ‘N’ Roll Stars Revisited: Oasis Announce Catalogue Expansion

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Oasis Definitely Maybe

Britpop band Oasis may never be reuniting again thanks to the hilariously toxic relationship between brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, but the band’s 20th anniversary will be celebrated with several deluxe reissues, the first of which was announced today.

This year, all three of the band’s albums released in the 1990s will be remastered and expanded, starting with 1994 debut album Definitely Maybe, to be reissued in May. (The set’s being referred to as the “Chasing the Sun Edition,” to quote a lyric from the band’s “Slide Away.”) Their next two albums, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory(1995) and Be Here Now (1997), will be expanded at an unconfirmed later date.

With perhaps the keenest ear for pop hooks in England since Morrissey and Marr and a confident, optimistic lyrical bent that stood in direct contrast to the dominant grunge trends in rock and roll, Oasis essentially helped revitalize interest in the country as a supplier of rock music. Though commercial reaction in the States was modest at best, Top 10 singles like “Live Forever,” “Cigarettes & Alcohol” and the non-LP release “Whatever” became touchstones of a generation.

The band were rarely out of the U.K. music press since, whether for their music or their offstage antics The notorious feuds between lead singer Liam and guitarist/songwriter Noel could be withering but also bizarrely entertaining, such as a 1996 taping for MTV Unplugged that saw Liam opt out due to throat trouble – only to sit in the audience with beer and cigarettes, heckling his brother’s voice from a balcony in between takes. A backstage altercation before a festival date in 2009 led Noel to finally quit; Liam reformed the remaining lineup as Beady Eye while Noel put together a solo band under the moniker Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

What can fans expect from the newly expanded Definitely Maybe? Find out after the jump!

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Written by Mike Duquette

February 26, 2014 at 11:30

Posted in Box Sets, News, Oasis, Reissues, Vinyl

I’ll Have Popcorn With That: Eclectic New Compilation Offers Jerry Butler, Eartha Kitt, Johnny Nash, Frankie Laine

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Sweet n Salty PopcornWhat is Popcorn music?

Bob Stanley of the band St. Etienne and the new Croydon Municipal label wants to tell you.  “Popcorn is a genre after the fact, built by curation rather than creation,” the author of Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop (soon to be retitled The Story of Pop Music from Bill Haley to Beyonce for its upcoming U.S. edition) writes in the liner notes to his new release Sweet ‘n’ Salty Popcorn.  “Its narrative was formed by Belgians in the seventies from records made in the fifties and sixties – there was no such thing as a Popcorn artist because no one had set out to make a Popcorn record in the first place.  It was all in the rhythm, which had to suit the unusual ‘slow swing’ dance, and it could be Latin boogaloo, an orchestrated Italian ballad or an early Tamla Motown single.”

Despite sharing that atmospheric, “slow swing,” soulful rhythm, the twenty tracks selected by Stanley to introduce Popcorn to an audience outside of Belgium make for a diverse lot.  Popcorn could emerge from crooners (Tony Martin), theatrical vixens (Eartha Kitt), early rock and rollers (Jo Ann Campbell, Larry Hall), and bona fide soul men (Jerry Butler, Roy Hamilton).  Popcorn songs could hail from the pens of writers Burt Bacharach and Hal’s brother Mack David (Dean Barlow’s “Third Window from the Right”), Phil Spector (Johnny Nash’s “Some of Your Lovin’,” not the Goffin and King tune of the same name), Curtis Mayfield (Butler’s “Find Another Girl”), Billy Sherrill (future evangelist Jackie Weaver’s “The Tingle”) and the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (the offbeat “River in My Blood” sung by future “I Love New York” jingle writer Steve Karmen).  The earliest days of Motown even were incorporated into the Popcorn sound, as heard on Little Iva and Her Band’s recording of the “Continental Strut” co-written by Brian Holland.  In other words, the Popcorn genre is rather catholic; Stanley counts “gritty R&B…film themes, ska, tango, Spector-esque girl groups and loungey instrumentals” from the fifties and sixties among the tracks you might hear in a Popcorn club.

After the jump, we have more details on Sweet ‘n’ Salty Popcorn as well as the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 26, 2014 at 10:32

In A Russian State of Mind: Billy Joel’s “A Matter of Trust: The Bridge To Russia” Gets Deluxe Treatment

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Billy Joel - A Matter of Trust CoverWith Billy Joel in the midst of his unprecedented concert run as a “franchise” at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the time has never been better to revisit one of the most significant concert appearances of the Long Island troubadour’s long musical career.  On May 20, 2014, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings will definitively chronicle Joel’s historic 1987 Russian concert tour on A Matter of Trust – The Bridge to Russia.

A Matter of Trust will be available in a Deluxe Edition box set containing the full-length concert film (simply entitled The Concert) on DVD or Blu-ray; a 2-CD set (The Music) expanding the original KOHUEPT concert album; and, as an exclusive, the documentary film A Matter of Trust from Emmy-winning director Jim Brown who has previously brought the stories of Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte to film.  The box set will also contain a book containing new liner notes from contributors such as Gary Graff, Michael Jensen, Neal Preston, Rona Elliot and Wayne Robins.  The concert film will be available separately on DVD and Blu-ray, and the 2-CD set The Music will also be released as a stand-alone title.

When the piano man’s tour in support of his album The Bridge stopped in the Soviet Union the year after the adoption of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (read: openness or transparency) it made headlines around the world.  Joel became one of the first major American rock artists to play in the Soviet Union post-Berlin Wall.  Backed by his band including Liberty DeVitto (drums), Doug Stegmeyer (bass), Mark Rivera (saxophone), Dave LeBolt (keyboards), Russell Javors and Kevin Dukes (guitars), he stormed through six stadium concerts in Moscow and Leningrad (plus a smaller, acoustic show in Tbilisi) and was credited with introducing many Russian youths to American rock and roll via his big hits (“Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”), recent songs from The Bridge (“Baby Grand,” “A Matter of Trust”) and even a spirited cover of The Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R.” for good measure.   By the end of the evenings, audience members who had never left Communist Russia were in a New York state of mind.

After the jump, we have more details including the full track listings for all formats! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 25, 2014 at 15:55

Posted in Billy Joel, DVD, News, Reissues

EXCLUSIVE: Real Gone Saddles Up To Record Store Day With Never-Before-Heard Music From Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys

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Bob Wills - LabelWaylon Jennings might have said it best: “Bob Wills is still the King.”  The song of that name closed Jennings’ 1975 album Dreaming My Dreams, which was released just one month after the death of the King of Western Swing at age 70.  Waylon’s ode to Bob Wills was revived three decades later by The Rolling Stones, and the sentiment still held true.  Now, Real Gone Music is celebrating Record Store Day 2014 – that’s Saturday, April 19 – with a slice of ultra-rare, vintage Americana that you’ve never heard before.

The Second Disc is exclusively breaking the news that the California label will commemorate the legacy of the Texas icon with the limited edition vinyl release of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys – Transcriptions.  The ten tracks on this 1,500-unit collectible have never appeared anywhere in any format before, and four of the songs will remain exclusive to this Record Store Day release.

By 1946, Bob Wills and his band The Texas Playboys were already the stuff of legend.  The bandleader, songwriter and fiddle player extraordinaire had popularized “Western swing” with his dance band melding traditional country-and-western guitar, fiddle and banjo sounds with steel guitar, drums, piano, horns and reeds.  1940’s “New San Antonio Rose,” written by Wills, propelled the band to widespread fame, and Bing Crosby’s recording sold over one million copies.  Wills and the Playboys even travelled to Hollywood to star in films like Take Me Back to Oklahoma opposite singing cowboy Tex Ritter, and raised a ruckus by bringing horns and drums into the hallowed hall of the Grand Ole Opry.  In 1946 and 1947, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys recorded almost 400 full songs for Tiffany Music, Inc., a body of work that came to be known simply as “the Tiffany Transcriptions.”  These incendiary recordings were distributed only to radio stations on 16-inch transcription discs, intended for airplay as part of a syndicated radio program featuring Wills and his band including vocalist Tommy Duncan.  When Tiffany folded at the end of the decade, however, the company left over 200 songs consigned to the vaults…until now.

Hit the jump for complete details on this exciting new find! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 25, 2014 at 14:47

Won’t You Come: Soundgarden Announce “Superunknown” Box Set

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Superunknown 20 box

Grunge legends Soundgarden will honor their most successful album, 1994’s Superunknown, with a sprawling five-disc box set.

The first band of the Seattle explosion to sign with a major label, A&M Records, in 1988, Soundgarden broke through the commercial mainstream with the release of third album Badmotorfinger in 1991, arguably the holy trinity of the genre alongside fellow 1991 albums Nevermind by Nirvana and Ten by Pearl Jam. Superunknown saw the band experimenting with an expanded sonic palette, trying on unorthodox tunings and time signatures. But the songs still remain accessible and catchy, thanks to singles like “Spoonman,” “Black Hole Sun” (the band’s first and biggest Top 40 hit) and “Fell on Black Days.” In 1995, “Spoonman” and “Black Hole Sun” won Grammy Awards for Best Metal and Best Hard Rock Performance, respectively, while the album received a nomination for Best Rock Album.

The band – singer Chris Cornell, guitarist Kim Thayil, bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron – would split a year after the release of follow-up album Down on the Upside in 1997, after which Cornell pursued a solo career and Cameron joined his friends in Pearl Jam. Happily, they reunited in 2010, issuing two archival projects, the compilations Telephantasm and Live on I-5, in 2010 and 2011; a new album, King Animal, was released in 2012.

Superunknown will be expanded in two forms: a double-disc expanded edition pairing the remastered album with a disc of demos, rehearsal takes and B-sides (10 of which are unreleased), and a five-disc box set including the album, a disc of 16 B-sides, a further two bonus discs of demos and rehearsals and a Blu-Ray disc featuring the album mixed in 5.1 surround sound. David Fricke pens new liner notes, while the band’s creative director Josh Graham provides newly redesigned, lenticular artwork.

A 200-gram double vinyl edition with a gatefold sleeve will also be made available, as will a 10″ box set of Superunknown-era singles as a Record Store Day exclusive – including several original B-sides actually not featured on the super deluxe box.

The expanded Superunknown is available June 3. Pre-order links are not yet available, but the full track list for all formats is after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

February 25, 2014 at 14:46