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Listen, Whitey! Incendiary New Compilation Features Bob Dylan’s Rare “George Jackson” and Much More

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In her 1989 autobiography And a Voice to Sing With, Joan Baez recalled once asking Bob Dylan what was the difference between them. It was simple, he replied: she thought she could change things, and he knew that no one could. But one could argue that music did indeed, change things. Youth were politically engaged as never before, and awareness was raised of many crucial issues still debated today. Author Pat Thomas recalls “those turbulent years (approximately 1967 to 1974) when revolutionaries were considered pop culture icons and musicians were seen as revolutionaries.” Thomas is the author of Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power, a weighty 200-page tome just released by Fantagraphics Books revisiting the movement that empowered an entire people. In his definitive book, Thomas addresses the fact that many of that movement’s prominent members shared quite different views on how to go about bringing change.

A soundtrack to the written chronicle seemed essential: “My book is not really about white rock stars mingling with Black Power icons; it is a primer on the birth of the Black Power movement and a near-definitive catalog of related recordings; albums and singles; stray cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes that have been suppressed for decades.” And so the just-released Listen, Whitey! The Sounds of Black Power from Light in the Attic emphasizes diversity in its selection of artists but also the rarity of its material. At least seven of the album’s sixteen incendiary tracks have never been issued domestically on CD before, including one track by Bob Dylan himself. Other artists represented include John Lennon and Yoko Ono, comedian and activist Dick Gregory, jazz/soul chanteuse Marlena Shaw, poet, musician and spoken-word innovator Gil Scott-Heron, soul man Gene McDaniels and even British folk legend Roy Harper.

Hit the jump to read more about this exciting new release, plus a full track listing with discographical info, and an order link!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 2, 2012 at 09:34

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 16 (#25-21)

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We’re nearing the Top 20 of our 100 Greatest Reissues list, taking Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest albums of all time and investigating their many pressings and expansions as the catalogue industry has grown. Today, journey to the past with a quintet of California rock heroes, one of rock-and-roll’s early pioneers and the once-and-always Mr. Dynamite!  Plus: a Beatle and a star of the Motown stable make intensely personal statements on their own!

25. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977)

If any one record could be said to encapsulate an entire era, it might be Fleetwood Mac’s towering 1977 Rumours.  This is the album that turned a solid blues-rock band into the biggest pop giant of the decade, immortalizing the group’s internal strife and romantic intrigues in one made-for-radio package.  Rumours established Lindsey Buckingham as a writing and production force, although Rumours was very much a group effort for Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, as well.  Its four singles (Nicks’ “Dreams,” Christine McVie’s “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way”) are as immortal today as the album itself, which sold over 40 million copies.  Taking in sex, drugs, and rock and roll with the idyllic California sun as the backdrop, Rumours remains one of the most successful LPs of all time.

Rumours was, of course, issued early in the CD age, arriving in 1984 (Warner Bros. 3010-2).  The label’s 2001 DVD-Audio issue “(9 48083-9) featured the album in advanced resolution surround sound as well as stereo, and added one track to the original 11-song line-up.  “Silver Springs,” a B-side of “Go Your Own Way,” replaced “Songbird” as the album’s sixth track, and “Songbird” was relegated to the 12th slot.  In 2004, Warner Bros. and Rhino reissued Rumours as a remastered 2-CD set (R2 73882).  Disc 1 was dedicated to the album, with “Silver Springs” again added, this time in the slot between the reinstated “Songbird” (Track 6) and “The Chain” (Track 8).  Disc 2 premiered 11 roughs and outtakes, five demos and two jam sessions, making the most comprehensive edition yet of the album.  After a 2008 SHM-CD (Super High Material CD) edition from Warner Japan (WPCR-13249), that country’s label issued Rumours as an SHM-SACD in 2011 (WPCR-14171), making the long out-of-print surround mix available once again.

24. James Brown, Live at the Apollo (King, 1963)

Nobody could accuse James Brown of not having faith in himself.  When Brown approached King Records’ Syd Nathan about recording his upcoming October 1962 stand at the Apollo, Nathan balked.  Brown went ahead anyway, funding the record out of his own pocket.  Mr. Dynamite intuitively knew that his live performances transcended anything he was capable of turning out in the studio, thanks to the unbreakable, palpable rapport between performers and audience.  The vocal interplay is part and parcel of the magic of Live at the Apollo, as exciting a document of musical pandemonium as you’ll ever hear.  And Brown’s faith paid off; his performance with the Famous Flames was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry in 2004.

Live at the Apollo didn’t arrive on CD until 1990 (Polydor 843-479-2), and three years later it arrived as a Mobile Fidelity gold disc (UDCD 583, 1993).  In 2004, Universal revisited the album as B0001715-02, expanding it with four additional single alternates (“Think,” a shortened medley of “I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad,” “Lost Someone” and “I’ll Go Crazy”) and a deluxe 20-page booklet with new essays and photos.  For Brown and the Flames at their frenetic, electrifying best, this is the place to start.

Hit the jump for three shots of raw rock and soul! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 19, 2011 at 13:51

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? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 2, 2011 at 14:58

Pink Floyd, Beatles, Nirvana, Doors Lead Off Record Store Day Exclusives On “Black Friday”

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For those of us who still savor the experience of shopping in a physical environment, Record Store Day has become a yearly tradition.  It’s sometimes frustrating and sometimes exciting, but few could argue with an event that spotlights the hard-working independent music retailers out there who believe that brick-and-mortar retail can still thrive in the iTunes era.  (Amen to that!)  A more recent offshoot of Record Store Day has been the mini-event held each Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving.  While crowds line up each year at Best Buy or Wal-Mart in the wee hours, a rare breed has been doing the same at the record shop in the hopes of obtaining a number of exclusive releases, most of which are on vinyl.  This year’s Black Friday crop boasts reissues from some of the biggest names in rock: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, The Doors and so many more.

With Black Friday just around the corner, Record Store Day has revealed the full list of exclusive titles.  Among the highlights are a number of 7-inch single releases.   From The Beatles, a box set will offer four picture sleeve singles in a sturdy flip-top box.  Pink Floyd’s singles box is dedicated to The Wall, and consists of three 7-inch singles in picture sleeves.  Both box sets feature a Record Store Day-branded adapter and a poster.  Pink Floyd fans might also be interested in a release from Mick Rock.  Syd Barrett is remembered with The Photography of Mick Rock.  The box includes photographs of the legendary Floyd member plus a 7-inch single of “Octopus” b/w “Golden Hair” on yellow vinyl.  A limited, numbered 7-inch set from Bob Dylan offers four singles and includes a sticker of the artist.  Janis Joplin also gets the 7-inch box treatment; her Move Over! offers four previously unreleased picture sleeve singles, including six never-before-released tracks and two rarities.  The box itself includes a photo print of Janis and a temporary tattoo replica of her tattoo.  Joplin is also the recipient of a 180-gram vinyl box set containing four original albums.  The Doors’ L.A. Woman set includes four singles, the fourth of which consists of studio chatter.

Sundazed is offering a number of 7-inches from its deep catalogue.  The Yardbirds’ “Ha Ha Said the Clown” b/w “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor”  is a 1967 U.S. single that never received U.K. release, and “Ten Little Indians” is another U.S. mono single from the same year showcasing Jimmy Page’s experimental studio work.  Two more singles come from The Byrds.  “The Times They Are A-Changin’” b/w “She Don’t Care About Time” was originally earmarked for single release but that never happened; now, the Dylan covers arrive in their originally intended format.  These are joined by “Eight Miles High” b/w “Why” in their mono RCA Studios versions.  The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Alley Oop” b/w “Night Owl Blues,” another “single that never was,” rounds out the label’s releases.

After the jump, you’ll find more Record Store Day titles revealed including those from Nirvana, John Lennon and Pete Townshend, plus the complete track listings to each and every one of these releases we’ve discussed above!  Read the rest of this entry »

“Get Back” To The Beatles With Ace’s “Black America Sings Lennon and McCartney”

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“Yesterday” is considered the most-covered popular song of all time, but might The Beatles also be the most-covered band of the rock era?  I’ll leave that one to the Guinness folks, but needless to say, there are thousands of cover versions of songs introduced by The Fab Four, most of which were written under the “Lennon and McCartney” umbrella.  On June 7, Ace will release a follow-up to its acclaimed 2010 collection How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan, turning the spotlight onto the much-covered catalogue of the boys from Liverpool.

Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon and McCartney brings together 24 such examples.  While this may be considered a soul compilation in the broadest sense, the songs encompass a wide variety of genres: blues, gospel, pop and funk among them.  The artists selected are a virtual “Who’s Who” of popular music: Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Little Richard, “Fifth Beatle” Billy Preston, and lesser-known but no less respected artists like Maxine Brown, Mary Wells, The Chairmen of the Board and The Main Ingredient.

As is expected from Ace, there are many rare treats awaiting discovery.  Mary Wells makes a post-Motown appearance with “Please Please Me” while Scepter/Wand goddess Maxine Brown implores, “We Can Work It Out.”  Chubby Checker takes on The White Album with a 1969 recording of “Back in the USSR” on the Buddah label, and the sweet soul harmonies of The Moments enliven “Rocky Raccoon” from that same seminal Beatles set.  “Paperback Writer” shows that there was more to R.B. Greaves than “Take a Letter, Maria,” while the Chairmen of the Board appear with the title track, “Come Together.”

Come Together features versions of The Beatles’ first major U.S. hit (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,” courtesy Al Green) and their last (“The Long and Winding Road,” via The New Birth).  More than one half of the tracks are from the period between 1965 and 1969; the earliest cut is Wells’ “Please Please Me” (1964) and the latest is “The Long and Winding Road” (1976).  (The B-side of Wells’ single was actually the “My Guy” girl’s take on “I Should Have Known Better.”)  Ace’s tribute is only appropriate as The Beatles openly admitted their great debt to the music of Black America.

Hit the jump for the complete track listing plus discographical annotation for each track.  Come Together: Black America Sings Lennon and McCartney is due in the U.K. on June 7 and in the U.S. shortly thereafter. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 26, 2011 at 13:44

Legacy Provides Relief for Japan

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Now here’s a surprise. iTunes, in concert with the major record labels, put together a 38-song compilation called Songs for Japan, the proceeds of which would go to relief funds for the ongoing crises in Japan following a massive earthquake and tsunami that left the country in a state of peril.

And now, Amazon has a listing for the compilation on CD from Legacy. (This two-disc set actually omits some of the tracks heard on the iTunes version, namely tracks by Madonna and David Guetta.) While it’s not a boon for collectors – collecting notable tracks by John Lennon, U2, Sting, Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and almost every other famous rock artist one can think of – it’s certainly worth the $10 for a good cause, and we would be remiss if we didn’t pass on to our loyal readers that one can help by simply buying some music – something you and I likely do a lot!

Order Songs for Japan here and hit the jump for the track list.

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The Year in Reissues, Part III: The Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Well, another New Year is in sight, the CD still isn’t dead (told you so!) and celebration is in the air at The Second Disc. Back on December 23, Mike shared The Year in Reissues both here and over with our pals at Popdose. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 bucks until you read these indispensable columns!

Are you back with me? Good. Now, I’d like to take this opportunity to take a fun look back at a few of my favorite things via Joe’s Gold Bonus Disc Awards! I’m awarding these to the reissues that have raised the bar over the past 12 months. You’ll notice a number of titles that have already been praised by Mike, as well as new entries, but overall, I’ve simply tried to recognize as many diverse, worthy releases as possible. It’s my sincere hope, though, that you’ll take a chance on a title previously unknown to you; all of the artists, producers, and labels mentioned here have kept great music alive in 2010.

Friends, as always, please share your thoughts and comments below. Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2010’s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold?  Hit the jump to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

The Year in Reissues, Part II

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You’re probably wondering where Part I of The Year in Reissues is. Happily, the fine folks at Popdose have put my ramblings about the best reissues, box sets and other catalogue sets on their Web site.

But there are plenty more good ones I wanted to shine the spotlight on after filing the story. So here’s are five other notable catalogue sets to remember from the past year. And do share your opinions in the comments below, as always!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 23, 2010 at 10:17

Back Tracks: John Lennon

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Whether you thought he was the smartest of The Beatles, the best writer, the most politically astute, the one with the most interesting solo career – or if you disagree with any of those statements – I daresay I cannot allow you to disagree with this one: it is not fair that John Lennon is not still alive today.

Regardless of your take on his input into the Fab Four (or their eventual demise), Lennon was very much an intelligent, caring, smart musician, who spent much of his career using those talents for good, whether it was good music or good causes. Those with a more centrist take may disagree, and that’s fine. But the fact that, on this day three decades ago, he was taken from his family and his fans by a man whose motives are still not entirely clear is not a way for anyone to go, let alone one of the more influential musicians of a generation.

This year, EMI reissued a good chunk of the Lennon discography in honor of what would have been the singer/songwriter’s 70th birthday (see The Second Disc’s review here). It was a slightly different approach from previous reissues and repackages. To that end, today’s Back Tracks takes a look at the legend of Lennon through various remasters, compilations and box sets. Imagine a world of catalogue riches after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mike Duquette

December 8, 2010 at 10:09

Review: John Lennon, “Signature Box,” “Double Fantasy: Stripped Down” and “Gimme Some Truth”

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Lift the lid off the giant box set (and objet d’art) The John Lennon Signature Box (EMI/Capitol 50999 906509 2 5) and you’ll see the word “YES” jumping out at you. YES is a good reaction to the thought of having (mostly) all of John Lennon’s solo studio output available in one place, remastered largely by the same team responsible for last year’s Beatles reissues, and accompanied by a hardcover book and art print. Is The John Lennon Signature Box, and its companion discs, an unqualified YES, however? Ummm…NO. But is it a welcome – almost necessary, even – addition to the collection of any serious rock fan? Undoubtedly. It’s also a fitting tribute to the late musician/revolutionary on the event of what would have been, and what should have been, his 70th birthday. Media coverage – and shelf space in the big boxes – has been nonexistent for these reissues, compared to last year’s brief wave of Beatlemania. But fans who seek these titles out likely won’t be disappointed.

Placed alongside 1998’s four-disc John Lennon Anthology, The Signature Box positively dwarfs its predecessor in stature. That box consisted mostly of unreleased demos, studio outtakes and alternate versions; an even earlier box set (1990’s Lennon) concentrated on 80 tracks culled from the artist’s released studio albums. The Signature Box offers Lennon’s eight core studio albums with no bonus tracks, similar to the format employed for the Beatles remasters and the box set which collected them all. It’s important to note what’s not on the box set: the three Lennon/Yoko Ono experimental LPs recorded for Apple and Zapple before the release of 1970’s Plastic Ono Band (the disc which kicks off this collection), and more puzzingly, the seminal Live Peace in Toronto 1969. Also omitted are posthumous compilations such as Menlove Avenue and Live in New York City. This author would welcome remastered editions of all of the above, with the unique John Lennon Collection strip present on the artwork for each of the discs in this wave of releases. Taken as a whole, though, Lennon’s artistry is even more overwhelming. The albums here show every facet of one of pop culture’s most complicated individuals: Lennon was an idealist, a pessimist, a romantic, an agitator, a hellraiser, a dreamer, a spirited rock-and-roller, a father, a husband. Beginning with the still-unsettling Plastic Ono Band LP, Lennon was confessional in a manner far-removed from that of his contemporaries like James Taylor or Joni Mitchell; each album feels urgent and compelling, a snapshot of where the always-impassioned, intelligent artist was at that point in time. Of course, he got by with a little help from his friends: these albums include contributions from Ono, Phil Spector, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Elton John, Harry Nilsson and others.

But how does the box sound? Hit the jump and find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 7, 2010 at 10:15