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Review: Bob Dylan, “The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration: Deluxe Edition”

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Bob Dylan - 30th ConcertBob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, held on October 16, 1992 at New York’s Madison Square Garden to mark Dylan’s Columbia Records debut, could have been a valedictory.  The 51-year old honoree and participant was nearly at the halfway point of a self-imposed sabbatical from writing and recording original songs; it would last seven years, from 1990 to 1997.  He had not had an album reach the Top 20 of the Billboard 200 since 1983’s Infidels and hadn’t cracked the Top 5 since 1979’s Slow Train Coming.   When Good as I Been to You, a collection of traditional tunes and standards, arrived in stores just a couple of weeks after the concert, it was the artist’s first solo acoustic album since 1964.  Was the artist who once challenged convention with alarming regularity now succumbing to it, resting on his laurels while his famous friends saluted him?  One could have been forgiven for coming to that conclusion.  But the concert dubbed by participant Neil Young as “Bobfest” proved conclusively that the Bob Dylan songbook was as enshrined in the cultural consciousness as any of the classic songs Dylan had taken to recording of late.  His songs still had the power to shock, to entertain, to incisively observe upon the world and the human condition.  Columbia Records issued the concert as a 2-CD set and on VHS; now, both the audio and video components have received, shall we say, a 22nd anniversary update and upgrade from Legacy Recordings.  With Dylan more venerated than ever, on the heels of a remarkable “comeback” that began in 1997 and hasn’t abated since, the timing couldn’t be better.

It’s striking in equal measure to note how many of the artists featured on Concert Celebration are still going strong, like Dylan, and how many have moved onto the next world.  Of the former, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty all now possess “living legend” status.   There’s an overwhelmingly bittersweet quality, however, savoring the performances by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, George Harrison, Richie Havens, Levon Helm and Rick Danko, Tommy Makem and Bobby, Liam and Paddy Clancy, Howie Epstein of The Heartbreakers and Donald “Duck” Dunn.

Underscoring the adaptable nature of Dylan’s singular songs, the genres of rock, folk, country and even R&B all earned a spot at the Garden that evening.  Naturally for any such concert retrospective, a number of artists reprised past triumphs with an older and wiser sensibility to mark their own shared history with Dylan: Stevie Wonder with his 1966 hit version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Johnny and June Carter Cash with their 1965 Top 5 Country romp through “It Ain’t Me Babe” (enlivened by Mickey Raphael’s harmonica), Roger McGuinn and his 12-string Rickenbacker (plus Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!) with The Byrds’ chart-topping “Mr. Tambourine Man,” folk hero Richie Havens with “Just Like a Woman,” a staple of his repertoire since the 1960s.  The O’Jays liked Dylan’s “Emotionally Yours” so much that they named a 1991 album after the song and recorded it twice on that LP – once in an R&B Version and once in a Gospel Version.  The latter raised the rafters at the Garden, thanks to the chorus featuring, among others, Cissy Houston and the pre-fame Sheryl Crow.  Sans Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band invested “When I Paint My Masterpiece” with appropriate, ironic optimism.

Other headliners also had one foot in the past, honoring the original performances of the songs via their faithful renditions.  John Mellencamp even enlisted Al Kooper to revisit his famous organ part on a rip-roaring, concert-opening “Like a Rolling Stone.”  Rosanne Cash, Shawn Colvin and Mary-Chapin Carpenter revived the folk-rock spirit of The Byrds on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”  Eddie Vedder, on vocals, and Mike McCready, on guitar, tackled the acoustic “Masters of War” (“Even Jesus would never forgive what you do”) and did full justice to its lacerating, unforgiving lyrics (“I’ll stand on your grave ‘til I’m sure that you’re dead”).

Click on the jump to keep reading! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Johnny Winter, “True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story”

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Johnny Winter - True to the BluesIf there’s some truth to the importance of being in the right place at the right time, Johnny Winter might attest to it.  The slide guitar virtuoso came up in the ranks of show business when blues-rock was rising in popularity.  He embodied an American alternative to Clapton, Page or Mayall, and offered a grittier take than Hendrix, more of the earth than the cosmos.  Since debuting in 1969, Winter has rarely strayed from his signature style even as he’s stretched its boundaries, remaining True to the Blues.  And that’s the entirely-fitting title chosen for Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings’ new large-scale retrospective of his still-strong career.  Over four CDs and 58 tracks, True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story stands a testament not just to the soul and inspiration of its subject but to the durability of the blues idiom itself.  If stylistic diversity isn’t one of the strong suits of True to the Blues, its subject’s artistic consistency is certainly one of its hallmarks.

Following an incendiary guest spot at New York’s Fillmore East, the Mississippi-born, Texas-raised albino scored what was reportedly the biggest-ever sum paid to a new signing to Columbia Records: $600,000.00.  (Remember: that’s in 1969 dollars!)  Mike Bloomfield (subject of another recent, engrossing box set from Columbia/Legacy) introduced his friend Winter at the Fillmore East in December, 1968 as “the baddest motherfucker,” adding an understated “This cat can play!” for good measure.  Coming from the great Bloomfield, that was no small compliment.  The proof is in the pudding, a scorching 11-minute jam on B.B. King’s “It’s My Own Fault.”  It’s just one electrifying moment for blues-rock devotees here.

The chronologically-sequenced (in order of recording, not release) box set draws on 27 albums originally released on labels including Liberty/Imperial, Columbia, Blue Sky/Epic, Alligator, Point Blank/Virgin, Friday Music, Collectors’ Choice Music, Megaforce and Legacy.  It traces his development as an artist both in studio and live settings, accompanied by a number of greats including Bloomfield and Al Kooper, Dr. John, Derek Trucks, Booker T. Jones, Muddy Waters and even Vince Gill.  Though Winter’s licks were torrid, an underlying, infectious joy in sharing this music often permeated his approach.

His swaggering attitude was exemplified on Second Winter, his sophomore Columbia studio effort from 1969 (and that rarest of creatures, a double-LP set with only three sides of music!).  Winter kicked Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” up a notch via a startlingly-reinvented, rip-roaring take, with his near-spoken delivery as idiosyncratic as Dylan’s own.  If Winter’s singing voice might have kept him from greater success – the same was often said of Bloomfield – his harsh, throaty yelp was never less than wholly authentic.  (For comparison’s sake, the box set also makes room for a 1993 blazing live version of “Highway 61” from Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration, on which the still-fiery Winter is backed by Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn of Booker T. and the M.G.’s, plus G.E. Smith and session vets Anton Fig and Jim Keltner.)  The inclusion of Dylan, Percy Mayfield (“Memory Pain”) and Little Richard (“Miss Ann,” with a tasty saxophone solo from Edgar) covers alongside his own material like the breakneck “Hustled Down in Texas” on Second Winter typified Winter’s catholic tastes.  His style enlivened R&B, rock and roll, rockabilly and soul, all of which are represented on True to the Blues.  And as for that vocal instrument?  Winter is almost sweet on a 1977 cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Honest I Do” from his White, Hot and Blue album.

Unsurprisingly, each of the four discs contains a substantial amount of live material, as Winter’s rawest performances have been among his finest.  True to the Blues heats up early with “Leland Mississippi Blues” from Woodstock (backed by brother Edgar on keyboards, plus Tommy Shannon on bass and “Uncle” John Turner on drums).  So powerful was Winter’s performance at Yasgur’s Farm that the band sounds much larger than its actual size.  His guttural growl and strutting guitar pyrotechnics upped the rock quotient and certainly must have brought some of the audience members down to earth from a heightened level of consciousness!

Just as good are three previously unreleased performances from the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival, with Johnny backed once again by Edgar, plus two members of The McCoys (“Hang On Sloopy,” “Fever”) – Rick Derringer and Randy Hobbs.  With Derringer, Hobbs and Rick’s brother Randy Zehringer, Johnny formed the band Johnny Winter And.  Fellow guitarist Rick spurred Winter on to even more creativity when their axes were pitted in battle.  The band’s 1970 eponymous studio album introduced Derringer’s “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo,” the most commercial song Winter had recorded to that point.  The vocals were a bit clearer, the musical interplay a little tighter, but the raw power and searing guitar pyrotechnics and flair still intact.  Heavy metal thunder courses through the psychedelic “Guess I’ll Go Away” while Winter’s rapport with Derringer is evident on the drawling “Out on a Limb.” High-octane covers in the muscular, fluid power-blues manner are highlights throughout True to the Blues; he even out-performs The Rolling Stones on their own “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in a 1971 performance with his band “Johnny Winter And” from the long-shuttered Florida amusement park Pirate’s World.  But Winter’s own ample contributions to the blues-rock songbook are also plentiful.

After the jump, we have much more on Johnny! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

March 3, 2014 at 09:56

Posted in Box Sets, Johnny Winter, News, Reviews

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Release Round-Up: Week of February 25

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Your ArsenalMorrissey, Your Arsenal: Definitive Master (Parlophone)

We don’t hate it when Moz becomes successful, as was the case with his third non-compilation album from 1992, which now comes with an unreleased live show on DVD.

CD/DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Johnny Winter - True to the BluesJohnny Winter, True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story (Columbia/Legacy)

A four-disc tribute to the influential blues guitarist, who turned 70 on Sunday. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

Workbook 25Bob Mould, Workbook: 25th Anniversary Edition (Omnivore)

After the disbandment of Hüsker Dü, singer/guitarist Mould was on the solo beat with this album, now expanded with an unreleased 1989 concert at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Silversun PickupsSilversun Pickups, The Singles Collection (Dangerbird Records, 2014)

The L.A. rockers collect their last nine or so years of A-sides on a professionally-pressed CD-R compilation or a box of six vinyl singles; both feature a newly released track, “Cannibal.”


CD-R: Amazon U.S.
6 x 7″ box:  Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Tabu boxVarious Artists, The Tabu Records Box (Tabu/Edsel)

A 6CD/1DVD/1 45 RPM overview of the classic ’70s/’80s R&B label, whose works have been thoroughly reissued by U.K. label Edsel over the past year. (Amazon U.K.)

And Once AgainIsaac Hayes, For the Sake of Love: Expanded Edition / And Once Again: Expanded Edition /Patti LaBelle, Released: Expanded Edition (Big Break Records)

Three new BBR reissues include two Isaac Hayes LPs for Polydor in the ’80s and LaBelle’s final studio album for Epic, which reunited her with producer Allen Toussaint. Joe, of course, has a full summary coming soon!

For the Sake of Love: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
And Once Again: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Released: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Winter’s Coming: Legacy’s “True to the Blues” Boxes Johnny Winter

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Johnny Winter - True to the BluesJohnny Winter is turning 70 on February 23, 2014, and Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings aren’t about to let the occasion pass without celebration.  Two days later, on February 25, the label will release True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story.  This new 4-CD box set includes 56 tracks spanning Winter’s entire major-label career from 1968 to the present day (his most recent album having been released in 2011).  Though the two-time Grammy Award nominee is looking back with this comprehensive retrospective, he’s still very much an active artist, and will mark his birthday with a special February 23 performance at New York’s B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill.

“If it was not for Johnny Winter,” said Joe Perry of Aerosmith, “I would have never picked up the guitar!” Perry’s testimonial is one of nearly 20 that accompany the box set.  Others paying tribute to the blues-rock icon include Pete Townshend, 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree Carlos Santana, Gregg Allman, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Mountain’s Leslie West, Mark Knopfler, Charlie Daniels and others.

As we wrote when reporting on Legacy’s 2013 2-CD primer The Essential Johnny Winter, “When Johnny Winter was signed to CBS Records in February 1969, the sum paid to him was a record for a solo signing to the label: $600,000.00. Winter, who hailed from Texas, represented the vanguard of American blues-rock. Jimi Hendrix was riding high in ’69 with his psychedelic blues, and the idiom had been co-opted by any number of British guitar-slingers, too, but Winter brought his own virtuosic sound. Like his brother and frequent collaborator Edgar, Winter was born with albinism, and encouraged from an early age to immerse himself in music. Winter found an affinity with the great bluesmen, something that translated to his gutsy, howling, soulful reinterpretations of classic blues standards.”

Plenty of those can be sampled on True to the Blues.  The chronologically-sequenced (in order of recording, not release) box draws from 27 albums originally released on labels including Liberty/Imperial, Columbia, Blue Sky/Epic, Alligator, Point Blank/Virgin, Friday Music, Collectors’ Choice Music, Megaforce and Legacy.  These range from his independently recorded and released The Progressive Blues Experiment of 1968 (“Bad Luck and Trouble,” “Mean Town Blues”) up through the 2011 duets album, Roots (“Maybelline” with Vince Gill, “Dust My Broom” with Derek Trucks).  Gill and Trucks aren’t the only luminaries to appear on the new box.  Mike Bloomfield (himself being feted with an upcoming Legacy box set) introduces Winter to the Fillmore East audience at a “Super Session” gig with Al Kooper.  New Orleans’ own Dr. John appears on a 1991 performance of “Illustrated Man,” and a 1992 version of Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” from Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert in New York City is featured on which Winter is joined by G.E. Smith, Steve Cropper, Booker T. Jones, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Anton Fig, and Jim Keltner.  Needless to say, Edgar Winter appears on numerous tracks on vocals and a plethora of instruments, while Johnny also teams with blues heroes such as Willie Dixon (from 1969) and Muddy Waters (from 1977).

Among the rare tracks included, True to the Blues presents music from the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival.  Tracks from the concert – which also featured Poco, The Chambers Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band and Mountain – were released by Columbia as the 3-LP set The First Great Rock Festivals of the Seventies – Isle of Wight/Atlanta Pop.  “Mean Mistreater” appears from that never-before-on-CD box, along with two more previously unreleased cuts from the concert, “Eyesight to the Blind” and “Prodigal Son.”

After the jump, we have more details on the new box, plus pre-order links and the full track listing with discography! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 12, 2013 at 11:06

The Legacy of Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, Jerry Lee Lewis and More Anthologized On “Essential” Releases

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Essential NilssonToday, Legacy Recordings issues a number of titles from some of music’s greatest artists as part of the label’s ongoing Essential series of anthologies.  We’re taking a look at the collections from Harry Nilsson, Andy Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pete Seeger, Mott the Hoople and Midnight Oil!  Plus: we have track listings for all titles!

A 2010 documentary posed the question, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  Well, if you don’t already know the answer, The Essential Nilsson will go a long way in providing it for you.  Harry Nilsson was the songwriter’s songwriter, who enjoyed his two biggest hits with songs not written by him: Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” and Pete Ham and Tom Evans’ “Without You.”  He was the hard-partying pal of John Lennon’s capable of almost painfully tender moments in song like “Don’t Forget Me.”  He was the rocker who penned vaudeville tunes for The Monkees (“Daddy’s Song,” “Cuddly Toy”) and recorded an album of standards with legendary arranger Gordon Jenkins long before such albums were in vogue.  And he was the composer of effortless pop melodies like “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” which he provided with a four-letter punch line as if to torpedo its chances for the Top 40.  Harry Nilsson was a man of many contradictions, but they’re all represented in this 2-CD, 40-track collection of his RCA years (1967-1977) produced by Rob Santos and Andrew Sandoval.  (Sandoval also contributes the essay.)

By the numbers, The Essential Nilsson falls short of the standard set by 1995’s 49-song survey Personal Best: The Harry Nilsson Anthology.  But even those who own Personal Best should invest in Essential, both for Vic Anesini’s revelatory remastering and for a couple of unreleased tracks and a handful of mono single rarities.  You’ll savor Nilsson’s perky melody in the new, previously unissued remix of “Girlfriend” (better known as “Best Friend,” the theme to TV’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father), and the touching simplicity of “Life Line” in a never-before-heard piano-and-voice take.  There’s plenty of Harry’s trademark humor on The Essential (the aforementioned “You’re Breakin’ My Heart,” the novelty-esque hit “Coconut,” the offbeat television homage “Kojak Columbo”) as well as his tributes to pals Lennon and McCartney (“You Can’t Do That”) and Randy Newman (“Sail Away,” “Vine Street” and the sublime “Living Without You”).  That last-named Newman song boasts the lyric “It’s so hard, it’s so hard, living without you.”  For fans of intelligent, frequently stunningly-crafted pop, it’s been so hard living without Harry Nilsson.  The Essential Nilsson captures Harry –the angel-faced choirboy of his early albums and the bearded, vocally-battered figure of his later albums – in all his many colors.  Don’t miss it.

After the jump: plenty more on every title in this batch including full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

April 30, 2013 at 10:05

Release Round-Up: Week of April 30

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Shalamar Friends 2CD

Shalamar, Friends: Deluxe Edition / The Isley Brothers, Winner Takes All: Expanded Edition / Bootsy Collins Presents Sweat Band: Expanded Edition / The Gap Band, Gap Band VII: Expanded Edition / Billy Paul, Lately: Expanded Edition (Big Break)

The Big Break titles we covered yesterday include a double-disc expansion of one of Shalamar’s most enduring LPs, plus Isleys, P-Funk and albums from Total Experience Records. Full coverage/pre-order links here!

David Allan Coe

Blue Oyster Cult, Imaginos / Sea Level, Cats on the Coast/On the Edge Wilderness Road, Sold for the Prevention of Disease Only / David Allan Coe, Texas Moon / Eddy Arnold, Complete Original #1 Hits / Johnny Lytle, The Soulful Rebel/People & Love / Allspice, Allspice / Larry Williams, That Larry Williams (Real Gone Music)

Read all about Real Gone’s latest here.

Essential Mott

Midnight Oil, Essential Oils / Indigo Girls, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mott the Hoople, Harry Nilsson, Pete Seeger, Andy Williams, Johnny Winter, The Essential (Legacy)

Two-disc Essential sets for a bunch of artists! Unreleased tracks can be enjoyed on the Andy Williams and Nilsson sets, and the others are solid overviews.  Joe reviews ’em here!

Indigo Girls: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jerry Lee Lewis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Midnight Oil: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Mott: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Nilsson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Seeger: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Andy Williams: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Johnny Winter: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

History of Eagles

Eagles, History of the Eagles (Jigsaw)

The new two-part documentary on the legendary rock band, coupled with an unreleased concert from 1977.

DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Blu-ray: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Super Deluxe Blu-Ray: Amazon U.S.

Tubes - Remote Control

The Tubes, Remote Control: Expanded Edition (Iconoclassic)

Four unreleased tracks complement this new version of the band’s final A&M album, a classic concept album produced by Todd Rundgren. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Ambrosia - Life Beyond LA

Ambrosia, Life Beyond L.A.: Deluxe Edition (Friday Music)

Led by David Pack, this smooth album spun off the hit “How Much I Feel”; here, it’s expanded with an unreleased bonus live set. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Phyllis Hyman - Somewhere

G.C. Cameron, Love Songs and Other Tragedies: Expanded Edition / Phyllis Hyman, Somewhere in My Lifetime: Expanded Edition / Meli’sa Morgan, Good Love: Expanded Edition / Nancy Wilson, Music on My Mind / Life, Love and Harmony (SoulMusic Records) (Order all titles here from Amazon U.K.)

Here’s the latest batch from Cherry Red’s SoulMusic Records label!  Read Joe’s review of Somewhere in My Lifetime here!

James Taylor - JT Paper Sleeve

West, Bruce and Laing, Whatever Turns You On / West, Bruce and Laing, Live ‘n’ Kickin’ / Walter Egan, Fundamental Roll/Not Shy / James Taylor, JT/Flag/Dad Loves His Work (Culture Factory)

The latest in mini-LP replica remasters from Culture Factory.