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The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 20 (#5-1)

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Welcome to the grand finale to our reissue rundown of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, as selected by Rolling Stone.  It may be telling that the entirety of our Top 5 comes from the period between 1965 and 1967.  Three of these albums are the work of the same band, while the other two artists had careers that have intersected in various ways with the members of those bands.  Yes, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys found inspiration from each other, and might even have felt a keen competition.  Without further ado, our Top 5!

5. The Beatles, Rubber Soul (Parlophone, 1965)

The faces of the four Beatles appear stretched on the cover of 1965’s Rubber Soul, but the sounds within stretched the boundaries of popular music, too.  Arguably the first truly unified album by the Fab Four (and their first recorded as an album within a specified session period), it boasted instrumental textures that would have been alien to the band’s past work.  And (especially on the altered U.S. edition) it had a pronounced folk-rock feel (see No. 4 on this list), not to mention shockingly good songwriting, which inspired Brian Wilson to “compete” with a masterpiece all his own (see No. 2).  Yes, Rubber Soul transcended its punning title, anticipated psychedelia with its cover artwork, and found the Beatles at the cutting edge.  George Harrison contributed two tracks, with the balance credited to the Lennon and McCartney team.

Despite the fact that Rubber Soul was assembled as a whole by The Beatles and producer George Martin, the U.S. Capitol label nonetheless created a unique American version of the album.  This edition offers dramatically different sequencing and an altered tunestack.  “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” were added, beefing up the folk-rock feel.  In turn, four songs were deleted so that Rubber Soul conformed to the 12-track American standard: “Drive My Car”, “Nowhere Man”, “If I Needed Someone”, and “What Goes On.”   There were other minor variations; the U.S. stereo LP has a “false start” at the beginning of “I’m Looking Through You,” and “The Word” has John Lennon’s vocal double-tracked, an extra falsetto harmony on the left channel during the last two refrains, maracas panning to the right channel during the instrumental break and then back to the left channel and a slightly longer fade.   The mono LP’s “Michelle” has a longer fade-out, as well.

When The Beatles’ catalogue was introduced on CD in 1987 and standardized, the U.K. Rubber Soul made its worldwide debut (Parlophone/Capitol CDP 7 46440 2).  For its digital debut, George Martin created a completely new mix of the album from the four-track masters, unhappy with the primitive stereo originally used.  This remix was offered again as the standard Rubber Soul CD received a remastered upgrade in 2009 (Parlophone CDP 0946 3 57501 2 6).  It, of course, can also be found in the Beatles in Stereo box set (EMI 5099969944901, 2009).  The original American Rubber Soul finally received its CD debut on The Beatles’ The Capitol Albums Volume 2 box set, and both the mono and original stereo mixes of the U.K. Rubber Soul were included on 2009’s Beatles in Mono box set (EMI  5099969945120, 2009).

4. Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia, 1965)

Despite its title, many listeners visited Highway 61 (a 1,400-mile stretch of road from New Orleans, Louisiana to Wyoming, Minnesota) for the first time on Bob Dylan’s sixth studio album, released in 1965.  While Dylan had placated his dedicated folk fans with an acoustic side of his previous album, the order of the day was “all-electric” for Highway 61 Revisited, excepting the epic closer, “Desolation Row.”  There was no mistaking it; Dylan had officially gone “rock.”  Dylan’s oblique, evocative images were commandingly snarled by the singer: “Oh God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son’/Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on’/God say, ‘No,’ Abe say, ‘What?’/God say, ‘You can do what you want Abe, but/The next time you see me comin’ you better run’/Well Abe says, ‘Where do you want this killin’ done?’/God says, ‘Out on Highway 61!’

Of course, the most famous song on Highway 61 kicked off the musical journey.  That song is “Like a Rolling Stone,” often hailed as the best rock song ever written, and the subject of an entire book by Greil Marcus.  Al Kooper’s swirling organ gave the song a commercial hook and sheen.  Dylan’s inimitable lyric might have been literally impenetrable, but his meaning was all too clear.  The song was an instant classic.  Despite the challenging lyrics throughout, or perhaps because of them, the grand and mysterious Highway 61 Revisited ascended all the way to No. 3 on the U.S. pop charts.  Bob Dylan had arrived, turning folk, rock, pop and the blues on their ears.

Columbia’s original CD issue (Columbia CK 9189) remained in print until the remastered series in 2003 at which time Highway 61 was issued as a stereo-only hybrid SACD (CH 90324).  The SACD was later replaced with a standard edition.  A 1992 gold CD from DCC Compact Classics featured a new mastering by Steve Hoffman (GZS 1021).  A 2008 Blu-Spec disc (playable on all CD players) was released in Japan (SICP 20024).  The mono mix made its CD debut on Dylan’s 2010 Original Mono Recordings (Columbia 71604) box set.  As Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab has just announced a first wave of Dylan reissues as hybrid stereo SACDs, it’s possible that a new MFSL mastering might be around the corner.

After the jump, it’s a battle of the bands as The Beach Boys and The Beatles face off! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2011 at 13:04

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 19 (#10-6)

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It’s the penultimate entry in our list of Rolling Stone‘s greatest albums of all time, as seen through the reissues that have filled our shelves for years. We’ve got some heavy hitters here: Beatles, Stones, Dylan – plus what may be the greatest punk and R&B albums ever.

10. The Beatles, The Beatles (Apple, 1968)

The double-LP the world knows mostly by three other words – “The White Album” – was difficult and unusual inside and out. Most of the songs were conceived during an ultimately aborted transcendental meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; upon returning to Abbey Road, the usually on-point studio vibe had been replaced by a hazier, more dissenting attitude, with Yoko Ono making her first of many stays in the studio with John Lennon and Ringo Starr ultimately quitting the band for two weeks. (Even producer George Martin’s patience and faith in the group was being tested – he even left the band to go on holiday for part of the sessions.) As overblown and full of oddities as the album is, though (I’m looking at you, “Rocky Raccoon”), it’s honestly hard to imagine these 30 tracks presented any other way. Given the album’s presence in the Fab Four’s discography after the monumental Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles remains an incredibly fascinating helping of the band’s already-sterling discography.

Before The Beatles’ catalogue finally made its CD debut in 1987, there was one interesting reissue on vinyl: one from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (2-072) in 1982. It was the third album by The Fab Four to receive such treatment. The Beatles was certainly part of the major push for the band on CD (Parlophone CDS 7 46443 8), the thick white butterfly case (with printed title, rather than embossed as on the original LP cover) a familiar sight in record stores for years. But this album is one of a few for The Beatles with an “extracurricular release” on CD, repackaged as a 500,000-unit limited, numbered edition in 1998 for its 30th anniversary (Apple 72434 96895 2 7) in a slipcase that better reflected the original packaging (down to the stamped serial number and iconic portrait inserts of John, Paul, George and Ringo). The most recent release, of course, was the 2009 remastered edition, available both in stereo (Apple 09463 82466 2 6) and, for the first time on CD, in mono (Apple 50999 684957 2 5). The mono mix was not released on vinyl much outside of the U.K., and is the last dedicated mono mix of a Beatles LP. It’s of course, only available in the excellent The Beatles in Mono box set (Apple 50999 699451 2 0).

9. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia, 1966)

In 1966, it seemed Bob Dylan wasn’t about to stop trying to surprise people. After being lauded as the greatest thing since sliced bread three years earlier, he kicked folk conventions in the ass for several years, starting with the famed “electric” set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, continuing with the staggering rock records Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited that same year and perhaps culminating with Blonde on Blonde, a sprawling double album (arguably the first major one) that balances somber (“One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later),” “Just Like a Woman”) with the occasionally humorous (the opening salvo of carnival-music-from-hell “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35”). Frankly, the whole affair is appealingly contradictory, from quintessential New York hipster Dylan’s recording much of the album in Nashville with local session players. But the results are something to praise.

Like many Dylan albums, Blonde on Blonde has been remastered a few times, but never expanded. The premiere CD release was in 1987 (Columbia CGK 841), with a MasterSound gold CD following in 1994 (Columbia CK 64411). Greg Calbi and George Marino worked on, respectively, a standard and 5.1 surround remastering of the album that was released three ways: once on SACD (Columbia CS 841) in 1999, once in 2003 as a hybrid SACD (Columbia CH 90325) and once again in 2004 as a simple CD (Columbia CK 92400). The album has since been included in its original mono mix as part of The Original Mono Recordings box set released in 2010 (Columbia/Legacy 88697 76105-2).

“I never felt so much like…” hitting the jump and checking out our next three entries!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 23, 2011 at 02:50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hit the jump and you’ll find yourself Underground…

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Written by Joe Marchese

December 21, 2011 at 15:14

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

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

20. Michael Jackson, Thriller (Epic, 1982)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Mike Duquette

December 21, 2011 at 12:18

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 15 (#30-26)

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It’s time for another installment 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, enjoy selections from three of the most beloved bands of all time, a pioneer in the blues field and our first selection, a singer/songwriter extraordinaire who proved that rock is not just for the guys.

30. Joni Mitchell, Blue (Reprise, 1971)

To read the entries that have come up thus far on the list, you’d think rock and roll was merely a man’s game. Not so, with Joni Mitchell’s fourth album Blue as an example. Inspired by a breakup with Graham Nash and a subsequent trip across the globe, Blue finds Mitchell embracing the most intimate arrangements and the most nakedly open feelings in her songwriting, from “Carey” to “River” to “A Case of You.” Add a host of legends from the 1970s West Coast music scene (James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Pete Kleinow, Russ Kunkel), and you’ve got an album that sounds as good as it looks on paper.

Blue bowed on CD in 1990 (Reprise 2038-2) and was remastered on gold CD by Steve Hoffman in 1996 (DCC Compact Classics GZS-1132); an HDCD version in mini-LP replica packaging followed in the 2000s (Reprise 7599-27199-2 (U.K.)/OPCD-8031 (U.S.)).

29. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (Atlantic, 1969)

Led Zeppelin’s debut is a quickly-produced, self-funded killer of a debut that employed a lot of advances in the studio, from the “backward echo” present on Robert Plant’s vocals to the album’s release solely in stereo. That wasn’t enough to impress critics at first, who, post-Cream, were probably tired of being delivered overhyped British bands on a silver platter. Of course, time has since been kinder to the band and the album, widely regarded as a monster of a first effort.

As with previous Led Zep albums on the list, Led Zeppelin bowed on CD in 1990 (Atlantic 19126-2) mastered for CD by Barry Diament. Jimmy Page and George Marino at Sterling Sound remastered the entire Led Zep catalogue not long after; the final products ended up in the 1990 box set (Atlantic 7 82144-2) and its 1993 sequel (Atlantic 7 82477-2), the 1990 two-disc compilation Remasters (Atlantic 7 80415-2) and 1993′s The Complete Studio Recordings (Atlantic 7 82526-2), which sequenced all the material back into album order, ten discs strong. (Physical Graffiti, as mastered by Page and Marino, was released on its own in 1994, as Atlantic 82632-2.) A Japanese SHM-CD remaster used the same remasters (Atlantic WPCR-13130, 2008); those SHMs were compiled into The Definitive Collection in 2008 (Atlantic WPCR-13142; later released on standard CDs in America as Atlantic R2 513820).

Give a “yeeeeeeeeeeah!” after the jump for a great album by a killer British band, a blues icon and four Irish guys who became the biggest in the world.

28. The Who, Who’s Next (Track Records, 1971)

Built from the ashes of a failed rock opera, Lifehouse, Who’s Next is a rough and ready rocker that kept old and new fans under the band’s spell, from opening number “Baba O’Riley” to killer album closers “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In typical Who fashion, it’s been reissued a few times. The first CDs came out on Polydor/MCA in 1983/1984 (Polydor 813 651-2 (U.K.)/MCA 37217 (U.S.)). Remasters from Andy MacPherson and Jon Astley followed in 1995 (MCA Records MCAD-11269), which featured seven bonus tracks (five of which were unreleased session takes and live tracks, two of which were previously released B-sides or outtakes from Odds and Sods). (That expanded program made it to a gold CD as well – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD-754, 1999. MCA issued a gold CD in 1995 without any bonus tracks as release 11312.)

A 2003 Deluxe Edition (MCA/Chronicles 088 113 056-2) included all those bonus tracks (newly remixed, at that), adding two more studio outtakes and expanding the two live tracks from the Young Vic to an entire show. A Japanese SHM-SACD (Universal International UIGY-9022) followed in 2010. Future reissues are dependent upon location of presentable master tapes, as the originals are considered lost or destroyed (a fact that prevented the album from being included as downloadable content in the Rock Band video game series).

27. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (Columbia, 1961)

The two photographs and now-obsessively detailed mystique that surrounds blues legend Johnson, who died under mysterious circumstances at age 27, didn’t exist when Columbia hastily assembled King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. The image of the singer was merely a hazy painting, and the information provided in the liner notes was wildly inaccurate. But its popularity among a rising crop of British guitarists, including Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, can’t be understated. King of the Delta Blues Singers was the spark that lit a major flame under Johnson’s legend, which culminated in the Grammy-winning 1990 box set The Complete Recordings (Columbia C2K 46222), a double-disc set that featured all of these songs, as many alternate takes as could be found at the time and a far more academic stab at liner notes and discographical information.

While that was the definitive article, the original, 16-track King LP came out on CD twice: once in 1994 as a commemorative 24K gold disc (Columbia CK 52944) and again in 1998 (Columbia CK 65746) with – d’oh! – one alternate take that had been unearthed since the release of the box set. All 42 known recordings were compiled and released with new digital restoration and remastering by Seth Winner for The Centennial Collection (Columbia/Legacy 88697 85907 2, 2011).

26. U2, The Joshua Tree (Island, 1987)

It’s probably a coincidence that U2 were symbolically handed instruments by The Police – then the biggest rock band in the world – at a 1986 Amnesty International concert, one year before they released their iconic breakthrough The Joshua Tree. But there was no need for symbolism from the opening, ringing chords of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to the dark sorrow of “Mothers of the Disappeared.” This LP found U2 at a magical crossroad between European rock sensationalism and rugged American individuality, and the results were a gorgeous vista of sound.

The initial CD pressing of Joshua Tree (Island 7 90581-2) was known for one hideous visual anomaly: the striking, black and white panoramic shot of the band against the Mojave Desert was squished to fit most of the CD cover. That issue was first fixed with the 24K gold CD release (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 650, 1996), which also uncovered a bit of extra material from the master tape of “Mothers.” That extension remained on the remastered disc released for the LP’s 20th anniversary in 2007 (Island B0010285-02); that disc was also included in two deluxe editions: one (Island B0010286-02) which featured a bonus disc of non-LP B-sides and outtakes, and a box (Island B0010304-00) containing those two discs with a DVD featuring a live concert from Paris, a documentary filmed on the subsequent Joshua Tree Tour and several promo videos.

Monday: the final 25 kicks off with Joe and stone cold classics by Fleetwood Mac, James Brown, Chuck Berry and more!

Written by Mike Duquette

December 16, 2011 at 17:34

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

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 13 (#40-36)

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It’s the lucky thirteenth part 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 disc, letting you know which audio treasures can be found on which releases. In today’s group, we get the blues, meet the Brits, head to Laurel Canyon and fall in Love! 

40. Love, Forever Changes (Elektra, 1967)

Welcome to the Top 40!  Released just months after the so-called Summer of Love, Forever Changes was the third studio album by the group simply and boldly called Love.  But more than just that four-letter word was on the mind of bandleader/songwriter Arthur Lee, who saw more than sunshine and flowers that summer.  Love traded in the punchy electric guitar sound of the group’s first two albums (and successful singles like “7 and 7 Is” and a cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “My Little Red Book”) for a denser, more orchestrated style that incorporated strings and horns alongside acoustic guitars.  Despite the often beautiful sound, though, Forever Changes was a song suite that referenced war, violence, drug abuse, failed romance and racial tension in songs like “A House is Not a Motel” (playing off another Bacharach/David song, “A House is Not a Home”), “The Red Telephone” and “Live and Let Live.”  Bryan MacLean contributed the album’s single “Alone Again Or” which kicked off the album in a collision of AM-meets-FM styles.

Forever Changes has always been better-regarded in the United Kingdom than in its United States birthplace; it went Top 30 in Britain but only reached No. 154 in America.  That hasn’t stopped the album’s cachet from growing every year, however, and it’s been celebrated in a number of reissues.  The original 1987 CD of Forever Changes (Elektra 74013-2) retained the original track listing of the LP, and it was included in its entirety on Rhino’s 1995 double-disc anthology Love Story.  In 2000, Rhino reissued the album with a brace of seven bonus tracks as R2 76717.  These included demos, alternate mixes, outtakes, single sides and session highlights.  A bare-bones mini-LP replica was released on CD in 2007 (Elektra/Rhino R2 74802) and a standard edition was released again (this time, in a jewel case) in 2011 at a budget price point.   In 2008, though, the Rhino label issued the most comprehensive version of the album to date.  The 2008 Collectors’ Edition (Elektra/Rhino R2 428796) featured the original album only as Disc 1, while Disc 2 included a complete Alternate Mix as well as ten more bonus tracks.  This edition, partially remastered by Steve Hoffman, is the definitive version of this album.

39. The Beatles – Please Please Me (Parlophone, 1963)

The debut long-player from Liverpool’s favorite lads, Please Please Me was rush-released by Parlophone after The Beatles had taken the United Kingdom by storm with the singles “Please Please Me” and “Love Me Do.”  Of the album’s fourteen songs (a common number for U.K. albums of the time, whereas U.S. releases usually had twelve), eight were Lennon/McCartney originals.  Ten songs were recorded in a whirlwind day to supplement the four previously-released single sides.  Under such inauspicious circumstances was a classic born by John, Paul, George and Ringo, and producer George Martin.  Originals like “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Love Me Do,” “P.S. I Love You,” “Do You Want to Know a Secret” and the title song were joined by covers of Goffin and King’s “Chains,” Burt Bacharach, Mack David and Barney Williams (Luther Dixon)’s “Baby, It’s You,” Phil Medley and Bert Russell (Bert Berns)’s “Twist and Shout,” and Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow’s  ubiquitous “A Taste of Honey.”

The original 1987 CD (Capitol CDP 7 46435-2) was the first time Please Please Me saw an American release; its tracks were released in America on such U.S.-only LPs as Vee-Jay’s Introducing…the Beatles and Capitol’s The Early Beatles.  In 2009, the entire Beatles catalogue was remastered, and a new CD of Please Please Me (Capitol 09463 82416-2) replaced the 1987 issue.  It was, of course, included in the complete Beatles stereo box set (Capitol 50999 69944-9) .  The album was also released on CD in mono as part of the Beatles in Mono box set (Parlophone/EMI 50999 69945-1, 2009).

After the jump, we’ll traverse some Muddy Waters, head west and check into the Hotel California! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 14, 2011 at 12:01

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 12 (#45-41)

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You know the drill: Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest albums of all time, as assessed by us in terms of their many reissues, to bring you the best-sounding and most thoroughly expanded editions for your buck. The Band literally plays on as we kick off this installment!

45. The Band, The Band (Capitol, 1969)

After the great debut Music from Big Pink the year before, The Band drew on concepts of Americana and rural history for their follow-up. There was no sophomore slump here; guitarist Robbie Robertson’s songwriting was becoming even more top-notch (he wrote or co-wrote every song on the album), and the band was sounding as flawlessly arranged as ever, particularly definitive folk tracks like “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Capitol first released The Band on CD in 1987 (CDP 7 46493 2) and expanded it in 2000 with seven bonus tracks, including a non-LP B-side, “Get Up Jake,” and six alternate takes. (Andrew Sandoval and Dan Hersch mastered this release – Capitol 72435 25389 2 8.) In 2009, Audio Fidelity released a Gold CD mastered by Steve Hoffman (AFZ 032) which featured “Get Up Jake” as a bonus track.

44. Patti Smith, Horses (Arista, 1975)

The New York singer/poet’s incendiary debut was an American forerunner of punk rock, an eclectic mix of jazz and rock that took forms short (straight-ahead rock songs “Redondo Beach” and “Free Money”) and long (the suites “Gloria,” “Birdland” and “Land”). If all you know is Smith’s still gorgeous Bruce Springsteen cover “Because the Night,” this is the one to pick up.

Horses‘ release history on CD is nice and neat. The first release on the format was in 1988 (Arista ARCD-8362), followed by a remaster by Vic Anesini in 1996 (Arista 07822 18827-2) which featured one bonus track, a live cover of The Who’s “My Generation.” In 2005, a Legacy Edition was released (Arista/Legacy 82876 71198-2); officially titled Horses/Horses, it features the same contents of the ’96 reissue (albeit remastered by Greg Calbi) and a bonus disc featuring a live performance of the whole album (and “My Generation”) from London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2005, with Television’s Tom Verlaine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea serving as part of the backing band.

After the jump, a trip to the dark side, the debut of an iconic ’60s band and the punk rock statement of the millennium!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 13, 2011 at 23:19

The Second Disc Buyers Guide: The 100 Greatest Reissues of All Time, Part 11 (#50-46)

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And so starts the second half of our 100 Greatest Reissues feature! We’ve taken Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 greatest albums of all time from 2003 and scoured the history of each one on compact disc, making note of masterings, packaging and bonus tracks wherever possible. These next five are some of the definitive statements in their respective genres, from rock to rap to reggae to jazz; we’re sure there’s something for everyone in this entry!

50. Little Richard, Here’s Little Richard (Specialty, 1957)

With a handful of nonsensical syllables – “A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bop-bop” – Richard Penniman helped shape rock and roll forever. Two years of killer singles and definitive performances of the genre culminated in Here’s Little Richard, his first long-playing record. (Believe it or not, it was one of his only for Specialty Records; after another self-titled album the next year, he would turn his back on rock for gospel music, and would spend much of his career between the two.) In addition to “Tutti Frutti,” key tracks included “Rip It Up,” “Ready Teddy” and the equally iconic “Long Tall Sally.”

Despite its deserved status in the rock canon, Here’s Little Richard is sort of a subdued title on CD. First released by beloved U.K. label Ace in the late ’80s (CDCHM 128), that release remains in print. A Mobile Fidelity hybrid SACD release (UDSACD 2028, 2006) paired Here’s Little Richard with its self-titled follow-up; both are found together on CD in this set by the import Hoodoo label. (A Mobile Fidelity vinyl pressing – MFSL 1-287 – also exists.) Completists will want to check out two boxes entitled The Specialty Sessions that exhaustively chronicle this fertile period in rock history: a hard-to-find six-disc version by Ace (ABOXCD 1, 1989) and a slightly easier-to-find triple-disc set on Specialty 8508, released a year later.

49. The Allman Brothers Band, At Fillmore East (Capricorn, 1971)

On the surface, The Allman Brothers looked like your typical Southern-fried rock band. Digging deeper, though, they were a strong band with deep connections to each other onstage. Their work over two nights at the Fillmore East in March of 1971 suggests a jazz collective as much as good ol’ boys, and the subsequent live album, with its insanely prodigious extended jams (some stretching all the way to 20 minutes), was one to listen to no matter how much you liked country. The Fillmore shows also proved ripe for the group’s subsequent album, Eat a Peach – which featured extras from the shows (including the half-hour “Mountain Jam,” extended over two sides of vinyl!) – as well as the sound systems of fans everywhere, with the alternately mixed and edited quadrophonic pressings of the album serving as a treat to early adopter audiophiles.

The first CD release of At Fillmore East was a double-disc set in Europe on Polydor (823 273-2) in 1986. Dennis M. Drake receives digital mastering credit. In 1989, the Dreams box set (Polydor 839 417-2) featured two tracks from the original LP (“Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”), as remixed from the quadrophonic masters. It also included an unreleased track from those March 13-14 shows, “Drunken Hearted Boy.” The Fillmore tracks from At Fillmore East, Eat a Peach and Dreams, along with one other track (“Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” first released on 1972’s Duane Allman: An Anthology), were re-edited and remixed for 1992’s The Fillmore Concerts (Polydor 314 517 294-2); that same year, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab remastered the original album on two gold CDs (UDCD 2-558).

In 1997, the original album, remastered by Suha Gur, was released on CD as Capricorn 314 531 260-2. The next year, a DTS CD (DTS Entertainment 710215 4410 2 3) provided the first CD edition of the album with the original quadrophonic mix. Gur remixed and remastered the Fillmore material yet again for a Deluxe Edition (again, with one more track, “Midnight Rider” from Duane Allman: An Anthology II). That set (Mercury B0000401-02, 2003) was followed a year later by a hybrid SACD version (Mercury B0000400-36) of the original album – the final word, for now.

After the jump, it’s all about the rhythm and the rebel, in more ways than one!

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Written by Mike Duquette

December 12, 2011 at 17:31