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Review: Bob Dylan and The Band, “The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes – Complete”

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Dylan and The Band - Basement Tapes CompleteI. They Shall Be Released

1967: Jimi Hendrix asks, “Are You Experienced?” The Beatles plead, “Let me take you down” to “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Brian Wilson spins a yarn of “Heroes and Villains.” The Summer of Love is in full swing, and psychedelia is in the air. Fast forward one year. In July, The Band releases Music from Big Pink. Reportedly, hearing the album convinces Eric Clapton to leave Cream. The ripples of its influence would be felt in the ranks of The Beatles and Pink Floyd. The next month, in August, The Byrds unveil Sweetheart of the Rodeo, arguably the first major country-rock album by an established band. There’s nary a whiff of patchouli. But neither Big Pink and Sweetheart – nor countless albums that followed in their footsteps – would likely have existed, at least as they’re now known, if not for The Basement Tapes.

Big Pink introduced the world to “I Shall Be Released” and “Tears of Rage,” and included “This Wheel’s on Fire.” Rodeo began with “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and ended with “Nothing Was Delivered.” All of those songs were composed and first recorded by Bob Dylan and the group that would become The Band in a fertile period of recording from March 1967 to February 1968 (with some breaks in that period). Yet, The Basement Tapesen toto, the whole enchilada – have remained largely unreleased, until now. Just how these recordings became more influential than most platinum-selling hit records is one of music’s enduring mysteries. Would a full commercial release of this “cosmic American music” (to steal from Gram Parsons) diminish its mystique? The answer, happily, is no. The new Columbia/Legacy release of The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes: Complete, over six CDs, should quickly become the cornerstone of many a musical library and the key to a deeper understanding of not only its artists – who pushed the envelope by looking back as well as forward – but of an entire period of popular music and culture.

Dive into The Basement Tapes cache after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

November 4, 2014 at 13:40

Posted in Bob Dylan, Box Sets, News, Reviews, The Band

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They Shall Be Released: Bob Dylan and The Band’s “The Basement Tapes, Complete” Arrives In November

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Dylan and The Band - Basement Tapes Complete

Come all without, come all within, you’ll not see nothing like The Basement Tapes, Complete.  On November 4, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings will grant an official release to perhaps the most coveted collection of songs in Bob Dylan’s storied catalogue.  The eleventh installment of Dylan’s acclaimed Bootleg Series presents, for the very first time, six discs of The Basement Tapes – as recorded in the summer of 1967 by Dylan and the group that would later become The Band, and per the label, including “every salvageable recording from the tapes, including recently discovered early gems recorded in the ‘Red Room’ of Dylan’s home in upstate New York.”  In addition, this set – meticulously restored by The Band’s Garth Hudson and Canadian music archivist Jan Haust – is being presented “as intact as possible.  Also, unlike the official 1975 release, these performances are presented as close as possible to the way they were originally recorded and sounded back in the summer of 1967.  The tracks on The Basement Tapes Complete run in mostly chronological order based on Garth Hudson’s numbering system.”

In addition to the 6-CD, 138-song box set, a 2-CD, 38-song highlights version of The Bootleg Series Volume 11 will be released as The Basement Tapes Raw.  This iteration will also be presented as a 3-LP vinyl set.  All versions are due on November 4.

After the jump: a look further into the world of The Basement Tapes, plus the full track listing and pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 26, 2014 at 12:15

Release Round-Up: Week of September 24

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In Utero DeluxeNirvana, In Utero: 20th Anniversary Edition (DGC/UMe)

The grunge icon’s final album is greatly expanded in numerous formats for its two-decade mark, with B-sides, a new mix of the album and the band’s Live and Loud concert feature from MTV on CD and DVD. Check the post above to figure out which one suits you best!

1CD Standard remaster: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
1CD Expanded remaster: Target (U.S.)
2CD Deluxe Edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3CD/1DVD Super Deluxe Box: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Live and Loud DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

WaitressesThe Waitresses, Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses (Omnivore)

We know what boys (and girls) like: two discs of the Akron, Ohio-based rock band, including both their LPs for Polydor and nine non-LP bonus tracks. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Lenny Kravitz Are You Gonna Go My Way 20Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Virgin/UMe)

The singer/songwriter/guitarist’s third hit album is expanded as a double-disc set with B-sides and unreleased demos. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Mamas and the PapasCaptain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Safe as Milk: Mono Edition / The Mamas and the Papas, The Mamas and the Papas: Mono Edition / Deliver: Stereo Edition (Sundazed)

Sundazed releases these new masters of The Mamas and The Papas’ second and third albums, along with Captain Beefheart’s debut, on CD and vinyl for the first time in years.

Safe As Milk: Amazon U.S. – LP / CD; Amazon U.K. – LP / CD
The Mamas and The Papas
: Amazon U.S. – LP / CD; Amazon U.K. – LP / CD
Deliver: Amazon U.S. – LP / CD; Amazon U.K. – LP / CD

Woodstock 40The Band, The Last Waltz (Warner Bros./Rhino) / Various Artists, Woodstock: 40 Years On (Atlantic/Rhino)

These two Rhino box sets, originally released in 2002 and 2009, respectively, get reissued as budget-packaged editions in smaller boxes.

The Last Waltz: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
WoodstockAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Written by Mike Duquette

September 24, 2013 at 08:13

Release Round-Up: Week of September 17

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The Band - Academy of MusicThe Band, LIve at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts (Capitol/UMe)

This five-disc box set (four CDs and a DVD) features selections from The Band’s famed four-night run in New York in 1971. Though these shows would create the live Rock of Ages album, this box instead features highlights from the shows on two discs (including guest appearances by Bob Dylan), another two discs of the complete soundboard mix of the final concert on New Year’s Eve 1971, and a DVD with 5.1 surround mixes and newly-discovered film of two of those performances.

4CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD highlights: Amazon U.S.

Sunshine Daydream packshotGrateful Dead, Sunshine Daydream (Rhino)

One of the most sought-after Dead shows, from the summer of 1972, is released in full on CD and in 5.1 surround sound.

3CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. deluxe version with 40-page booklet and Grateful Days documentary: DVD / BD
4LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Alternate MonroMatt MonroAlternate Monro (Parlophone U.K.)

Twenty-seven alternate takes of classic songs from the underrated British crooner. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

I Robot Legacy EditionThe Alan Parsons Project, I Robot: Legacy Edition (Arista/Legacy)

The Alan Parsons Project’s sophomore album (and first for Arista) featured the band’s second Top 40 hit, “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” amid a narrative structure on artificial intelligence. This Legacy Edition features a bonus disc with all the tracks from the 2007 reissue plus even more bonus material.

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

Roy Orbison In DreamsRoy Orbison, In Dreams: Greatest Hits (Legacy)

A rare example of acclaimed re-recorded versions of an artist’s earlier hits! In Dreams, first released in 1987 after Orbison’s unexpected popularity boost by way of Blue Velvet, was the catalyst to a remarkable comeback for the Big O – one that lasted well beyond his sudden passing in 1988. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pablo ReissuesDizzy Gillespie, Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 / Zoot Sims, Zoot Sims and The Gershwin Brothers / Art Tatum, The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume 1 / Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Ellington Suites / Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Skol (Original Jazz Classics)

Five titles originally released on the Pablo Records label and featuring some of the century’s biggest names in jazz are reissued on CD; all but the Tatum title have been expanded with unreleased material!

Dizzy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Zoot: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Tatum: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Duke: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Oscar: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Glen Campbell ICON ChristmasGlen Campbell, ICON Christmas (Capitol/UMe)

Typically, news of an ICON title gets flung into the sun; however, this disc features, for the first time on CD, Campbell’s 1968 album That Christmas Feeling. The product line comes through! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Release Round-Up: Week of August 27

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Beach Boys Made in California BoxThe Beach Boys, Made in California (Capitol/UMe)

Six discs of career-spanning tunes – hits and rarities aplenty – from the best band to come out of Hawthorne, California. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dylan Bootleg 10Bob Dylan, Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (Columbia)

Revisit one of the most polarizing periods of Dylan’s career with the latest Bootleg Series entry, featuring outtakes from Nashville SkylineSelf Portrait and New Morning. A deluxe version includes Dylan and The Band’s complete Isle of Wight performance and a remastered version of Self Portrait, and a vinyl version also exists.

2CD standard edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD deluxe edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
3LP vinyl edition: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Sly and the Family Stone - HigherSly & The Family Stone, Higher! (Epic/Legacy)

A four-disc box celebrating one of the pioneers of funk and R&B. Intriguing tracks from the vault and little-heard mono mixes are complemented by a really striking visual presentation, and a healthy book of liner notes. Amazon U.S. has got a six-track bonus disc with the box, and there’s also a highlights disc for the less curious.

4CD box: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
4CD box + bonus disc: Amazon U.S.
8LP box: Amazon U.K.
8LP box + bonus disc: Amazon U.S.
1CD compilation: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Belinda Heaven on Earth DeluxeBelinda Carlisle, Heaven on Earth Runaway Horses Live Your Life Be Free Real: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

When The Go-Go’s leader went full-on pop, the music world was all the better for it. Belinda’s Virgin discography has now been expanded as 2CD/1DVD sets, Edsel-style.

Heaven on Earth: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Runaway HorsesAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Live Your Life Be FreeAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
RealAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Robert Palmer Pride-RiptideRobert Palmer, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley/Pressure DropSome People Can Do What They Like/Double Fun / Secrets/Clues/Maybe It’s LivePride/Riptide (Edsel)

The Robert Palmer Island Records discography is finally remastered and expanded – not as we’d imagine (as two-fers and one three-fer), but at least this late great is getting the attention he so greatly deserves.

Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley/Pressure Drop: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Some People Can Do What They Like/Double Fun: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Secrets/Clues/Maybe It’s LiveAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Pride/RiptideAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Mario Lanza - Toast of HollywoodMario Lanza, The Toast of Hollywood (Sony Masterworks)

A new two-disc compilation celebrating MGM’s beloved actor-tenor features six previously unreleased recordings. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Dexter Gordon - Daddy Plays the HornOscar Pettiford, Modern Quintet / Chris Connor, Sings Lullabys For Lovers / Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays The Horn / Charles Mingus, The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus / Nina Simone, Little Girl Blue / Booker Ervin, The Book Cooks (Naxos/Bethlehem)

The first of several batches of reissues from the classic Bethlehem label (additional batches are planned through next summer!) are hitting CD, LP and MP3, back in print after too long. (The above link is being updated with full links as they’re available.)

CHIC Vinyl SinglesCHIC, The 12″ Singles Collection (Atlantic/Rhino U.K.)

Ten tracks of disco goodness spanning the entire, immortal partnership of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, on five pieces of vinyl. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Fuel for the FireNaked Eyes, Fuel for the Fire: Expanded Edition (Cherry Pop)

The second and final Naked Eyes LP debuts on CD with rare bonus tracks and unreleased demos for your enjoyment. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Life Is a Carnival with The Band’s Box Set “Live at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts”

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The Band - Academy of MusicThe Band’s Rock of Ages has long been a mighty document of a mighty quintet at the height of its powers.  And it’s about to get even mightier.

Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel closed 1971 with four nights at New York City’s Academy of Music, reveling in new horn arrangements by New Orleans’ legendary Allen Toussaint and jamming with old mate Bob Dylan on New Year’s Eve.  Highlights from the concert spawned the Top 10 album Rock of Ages, and a 2001 reissue added ten tracks to the original release’s eighteen.  But on September 17, Capitol Records will unveil Live at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts, a 4-CD/1-DVD box set chronicling these shows in unprecedented detail.  Housed in a 48-page hardbound book, Live at the Academy presents new stereo and 5.1 surround mixes of the music of Rock of Ages, including 19 more previously unreleased performances and newly discovered footage of two songs filmed by Howard Alk and Murray Lerner.  Unlike many so-called “super deluxe” boxes, this set does not include the original album on which it’s based; the 1972 LP version of Rock of Ages is absent with the new box serving more as a companion than a replacement to it.

After Americana/roots-rock trailblazers The Band completed their fourth album, Cahoots, they set out for Europe to play a brief tour in spring 1971.  More live performances followed that summer, culminating in the album’s release in October.  The Band promoted Cahoots with a number of American dates, building up to a December 28-31 stand on Manhattan’s East 14th Street between Irving Place and 3rd Avenue at The Academy of Music.  The 3,000-seat venue (sadly demolished by New York University following its closure in 1997) had filled the gap in New York nightlife recently vacated by Bill Graham’s Fillmore East, and proved the perfect spot for The Band’s brand of musical magic.

The Band had first worked with Allen Toussaint when he contributed horn arrangements to Cahoots’ single “Life is a Carnival.”  When it became clear that the performances at the Academy of Music were to be recorded for a live album, The Band invited the writer of “Mother-in-Law” and “Working in the Coalmine” to beef up the group’s sound with his N’awlins brass.  Horns weren’t new to The Band; multi-instrumentalist Garth Hudson had added tuba, euphonium and saxophones on the group’s very first album.  But Toussaint brought a wealth of experience as an arranger and orchestrator, and a distinct funky sound all his own.  “I felt very much at home with The Band,” Toussaint told writer Rob Bowman in 2000.  “There was nothing ‘stock’ about them.  Coming together as a group, that magic that formed from such individual love and interest, I just felt really good.”

The road to the Academy was a bumpy one, though, especially when the unbelievable happened and Toussaint’s bag containing eleven musical scores was lost at the airport!  The famously cool Toussaint took it in stride, telling Bowman, “I’m glad it did happen because what was written in Woodstock [where he traveled to meet the group to rehearse prior to the Manhattan stand] was better than anything I could have come up with at home.  More appropriate at least…I felt so fresh and so much better about it after getting there and seeing the guys and being in that environment.”

The concerts consisted of two sets each night, first with The Band alone, then with the five-man horn section.  The set list was consistent, and nine songs had been added from the dates earlier that fall to beef up the concerts for the album.  Interestingly, the sets were light on songs from Cahoots.  “Shoot Out in Chinatown” had been dropped from the earlier gigs, and only two songs from the LP survived (“Life is a Carnival” and “Smoke Signal,” the latter of which wasn’t even included on the original Rock of Ages release).  In a surprise move, Bob Dylan showed up for the December 31 show to ring in New Year’s 1972.

The late, great Phil Ramone was the recording engineer for Rock of Ages, working with Mark Harman.  Yet as early as the album’s release in late summer 1972, there was confusion as to which tracks were utilized for the LP.  Ramone told the press that most of the album came from the December 30 performance, while Robbie Robertson opined that eighty percent was recorded on December 31.  The Dylan tracks were not included on the original release, but they were added to the 2001 reissue produced by Cheryl Pawelski and Andrew Sandoval.  That included bonus recordings from all four nights as its second disc, with the original album remaining in sequence on Disc One.

Exactly what will you find on Live at the Academy?  Hit the jump, won’t you? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 29, 2013 at 14:10

Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series Vol. 10” Answers Burning Question: “What is This Shit?”

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UnknownThe Bootleg Series is back.

Almost three years after the release of Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 9 – The Witmark Demos 1962-1964, Columbia Records has announced a tenth volume in the acclaimed series dedicated to the unreleased recordings of The Bard of Hibbing.  On August 27, the label will deliver Vol.  10 – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971), drawing on the treasure trove of material mainly used to assemble the 1970 studio albums New Morning and Self Portrait.  This new, 35-song collection was previewed for April’s Record Store Day event via the limited edition 7-inch single of “Wigwam” and “Thirsty Boots.”  (For those who missed out, no fear.  Both songs are included on the new Bootleg volume.)  A special box set edition of The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 will also premiere a rare live concert from 1969 with Dylan and The Band.

Greil Marcus infamously asked, “What is this shit?” in his review of Dylan’s tenth album, Self Portrait.   A mix of frankly strange cover versions, instrumentals, live recordings and originals spread over 2 LPs, Dylan told young journalist Cameron Crowe that the intention was to put out “his own bootleg record” consisting of studio warm-ups “just to get things right, and then we’d go on and do what we were going to do.” Prior to the Crowe interview, the singer had asserted that the album was a pointed slap in the face to his own overzealous fans: “I said, ‘well, fuck it. I wish these people would just forget about me. I wanna do something they can’t possibly like, can’t possibly relate to. They’ll see it, and they’ll listen, and they’ll say, ‘Well, let’s get on to the next person. He ain’t sayin’ it no more.’”  Indeed, Dylan appeared anxious to shed his standing as a message-carrying prophet of song and get down to the simple business of making music.  Self Portrait still managed to go gold as listeners wanted to hear what the hell it was all about. Like many of Dylan’s albums, a number of outtakes were generated in the sessions held between April 1969 and March 1970; some might wonder about the quality of the songs left off such a maligned album!  But Another Self Portrait aims to place Dylan’s sessions of the era in context, allowing them to be viewed in a revelatory new light.

Hit the jump to explore the new Bootleg Series entry! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 16, 2013 at 12:05

R.I.P. Levon Helm (1940-2012)

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American popular music has lost another one of the greats with today’s passing of singer/drummer Levon Helm, 71.  Though few groups would have the audacity to name themselves The Band, that’s exactly what Helm, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel did. The former Hawks crystallized the sound that spawned a thousand imitators, returning rock to its most stripped-down American roots.  The Band backed Bob Dylan, was admired by The Beatles, and epitomized the burgeoning back-to-basics “Americana” as an antidote to the bigger and bigger progressive rock  “FM” sounds of the day.  Prominently featured on immortal songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Weight,” Helm’s voice is part of the fabric of American music.  On albums like The Band, Stage Fright and Music from Big Pink, The Band stepped out of Dylan’s shadow and forged a niche in pop and rock that the group will forever occupy.  He continued the tradition with his own well-regarded solo albums and as the host of live Midnight Rambles in his Woodstock home.  Please join us below in sharing your memories of Levon Helm, a musician’s musician.

Written by Joe Marchese

April 19, 2012 at 15:42

Posted in Levon Helm, News, The Band

From “Blonde” to “Blue”: Bob Dylan, Miles Davis Classics Coming on SACD and LP

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Any label president would have killed to have Bob Dylan or Miles Davis on his company’s roster, but Columbia Records’ legendary Goddard Lieberson had the good fortune to have had both of these groundbreaking artists making their most important music on the red label under its watchful eye logo.  Since the advent of the compact disc era, there’s been no shortage of reissued music from these giants, and it’s already clear that 2012 will continue the steady flow.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has announced two new campaigns dedicated to Mr. Davis and Mr. Dylan.  Both of these seminal musicians will see a number of their most beloved albums reissued as both audiophile-quality vinyl and hybrid Super Audio CDs (SACDs) sometime in 2012.  (Release dates aren’t yet concrete.)  None of these numbered, limited-edition releases contain surround mixes, and the albums are presented in their original sequences only, with no bonus tracks appended.  All albums are in stereo unless otherwise noted, and as hybrid SACDs, the discs can be played on all CD players.

The jazz trumpeter’s Mobile Fidelity series takes in highlights from his first decade-plus at Columbia, beginning with his label debut, 1957’s Round About Midnight.  1958’s Milestones appears in mono, capturing the quintet of Davis, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.  Kind of Blue (1959, with Davis joined by Adderley, Coltrane, Chambers, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb) has been reissued multiple times on SACD, but has been remastered from the original master tapes for this issue.   Sketches of Spain, from 1960, teamed Davis with noted arranger and orchestrator Gil Evans and his 18-piece orchestra; Mobile Fidelity promises that the new edition “digs deep to eradicate a dryness that many critics have found as an anathema to its overall enjoyment.”  1966’s live album Four and More was one of Davis’ final standards-based projects, recorded in New York in 1964 with Ron Carter, Tony Williams, George Coleman and Herbie Hancock.  Finally, 1969’s In a Silent Way is a departure from the other titles as Davis’ first excursion into fusion.  Williams and Hancock return, and the album also features John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter and Dave Holland.

Hit the jump to explore Bob Dylan’s Mobile Fidelity line-up, and also to find track listings for all releases! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 25, 2012 at 09:58

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 14 (#35-31)

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Welcome to Part 14 of our look at the many reissues of the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003! We’ll explore the various versions of these classic albums on compact disc, letting you know which audio treasures can be found on which releases. In today’s group, we meet a guitar-playing alien, bring it all back home with Bob Dylan and his Band, and let it bleed with Mick and Keef!

35. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (RCA, 1972)

The story of Ziggy Stardust is all there in the song:

“Ziggy played guitar, jammin’ good with Weird and Gilly/The spiders from Mars, he played it left hand/But made it too far/Became the special man, then we were Ziggy’s band.  Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo/Like some cat from Japan, he could lick ’em by smiling/He could leave ’em to hang/Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan…”

David Bowie embodied his titular character on his stunning 1972 breakthrough LP, and played the androgynous alien to the hilt.  A very loose concept album (Quadrophenia, this ain’t!), Ziggy wrapped crunchy hard rock riffs and atmospheric orchestration around what might have been Bowie’s strongest collection of songs yet.  On such mini-rock operas as “Suffragette City,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Hang Onto Yourself” and “Five Years,” Ziggy was joined by the searing musicianship of his Spiders from Mars: Mick Ronson (guitar, pianos, string arrangements), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).

Despite gaining stature over the years as an iconic album of the glam era, Ziggy Stardust only reached No. 75 in the U.S. (it scored significantly better in the U.K., peaking at No. 5).  Ziggy was eventually certified platinum and gold in the U.K. and U.S., respectively.  “Starman,” selected as the album’s single, reached No. 10 in the U.K., but echoing the album’s placement, it only managed to make it to No. 65 on the U.S. chart.  Still, Ziggy has been released numerous times in the compact disc age.

Its earliest domestic CD issue came from RCA in 1984 (PCD1-4702) and the tasteful sonics on this release make it a desirable pressing.  When Rykodisc acquired the Bowie catalogue, Ziggy was rolled out with five bonus tracks (RCD-90134) in 1990: demos of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Lady Stardust,” the outtakes “Velvet Goldmine” (also the B-side of the 1975 reissue of “Space Oddity”) and “Sweet Head,” plus an unreleased mix of “John, I’m Only Dancing.”  The Bowie catalogue changed hands again near the end of the decade, and the new remasters from Virgin/EMI deleted the bonus tracks from each title.  Hence, 1999’s EMI issue (7243 521900 0 3), as remastered by Peter Mew, contains only the original album line-up.  Three years later, EMI unveiled a deluxe 2-CD edition of the seminal album (7243 5 39826 2 1) for its 30th anniversary, but the remastering on this set proved controversial.  The left and right stereo channels were reversed on the original LP sequence, and some of the songs (“Hang On to Yourself,” the bridge between “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”) were clipped.  Its second disc contains twelve tracks, many of which had been previously released by Rykodisc and spread among their 1990–92 reissues. Each of the five bonus tracks from the Rykodisc CD appears, albeit some in different form.  (“Sweet Head,” for instance, features extended studio chatter at its beginning.)  A stereo and multi-channel hybrid SACD (07243 521900 2 7) was released concurrently.  As usual, Japan has kept busy with Ziggy reissues, offering a 2007 vinyl replica edition (TOCP-70144) and a 2009 SHM-CD (TOCP-95044).  Bowie’s back catalogue is reportedly up for grabs once more.  Chances are, yet another label will soon be trotting out a reissue of Ziggy Stardust, just in time for its 40th anniversary!

34. The Band, Music from Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)

In Part 12 of our series, Mike covered The Band, the eponymous 1969 follow-up to the group’s debut, Music from Big Pink.  Though few groups would have the audacity to name themselves The Band, that’s exactly what Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel did.  Big Pink was the album where the former Hawks (and former Bob Dylan backing band) crystallized the sound that spawned a thousand imitators, returning rock to its most stripped-down American roots.

The Band worked its magic in the house that lent the album its title.  “Big Pink,” a pink-colored house in West Saugerties, New York, was the same home where Bob Dylan and the Band created the legendary “Basement Tapes” demos, which introduced songs like “The Mighty Quinn” into Dylan’s catalogue.  The bard of Hibbing, Minnesota was a major presence on Big Pink.  He co-wrote two of its tracks (“This Wheel’s on Fire” with Danko and “Tears of Rage” with Manuel) and wrote one solo (“I Shall Be Released”), and even contributed the album’s cover art!  Yet by the time of the album’s release, it was clear that The Band could step out of the master’s shadow, with a unique and original voice that was the perfect antidote to the FM hard rock sounds starting to proliferate.  Although Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight” only managed No. 63 on the singles chart, the song has become a part of the American pop standard songbook.  The album itself got as far as No. 30.

It’s no surprise, then, that Music from Big Pink has been the recipient of quite a few reissues.  Initial standard CD releases of Big Pink (Capitol CDP 7 46069 2, 1988) and the Mobile Fidelity Gold CD pressing (UDCD-527, 1989) featured the original 11-track album sequence, but Capitol rewarded Band fans in 2000 with a deluxe edition as part of its series of expanded Band remasters.  The 2000 Big Pink (Capitol 7243 5 25390 2 4) boasted a generous nine bonus tracks!  A DVD-Audio (Capitol 72434-77939-9-8, 2001) released around the same time offered the album in advanced resolution surround sound as well as stereo.  Japan got into the act in 2004 with a mini-LP replica (Capitol TOCP-67391) and in 2009, Mobile Fidelity revisited the original album on a stereo-only hybrid SACD (UDSACD 2044) in superior sound.  A 2011 U.K. edition bundled the album in a 2-CD set with its follow-up, The Band.  Surely we haven’t heard the last of Music from Big Pink!

Coming up after the jump: from the Ramones to the Stones! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 15, 2011 at 14:03