Monday, August 09, 2010

I Am a Sucker for Re-Issues

The headline really needs no explaining.
  • The Beatles - Rubber Soul (1965), The Beatles (a.k.a., "The White Album") (1968; both re-issued 2009).  Rubber Soul takes me back to grade school, playing Dungeons and Dragons and board games at Tom McBride's house.  It's a great album, even after all these years:  besides the classics "Nowhere Man," "Drive My Car, "Norwegian Wood," and "In My Life," there's the keyboard sound on "Think for Yourself," which is epic in itself.  I used to spin sister Carrie around to "Run for Your Life" when she was four... which in retrospect is pretty disturbing.  And as much as Sgt. Pepper's is credited as being a seminal album, Rubber Soul was truly The Beatles' transition album from complete pop to the deeper, more musically interesting experiments of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's The White Album takes me back to childhood as well (we played a lot of Beatles, Blondie, and Abba at the McBride's); this double album follow-up to Sgt. Pepper's still feels like a lot of odds and ends all jumbled together, but it's epic.  As for the re-mastering itself:  it sounds like you're listening to the original vinyl.  And that's as high a compliment as I can give.
    Verdict:  Recommended if you don't have any/some Beatles albums on CD.  They are still the best.

  • INXS - Kick (1987, re-issued 2002).  One of the soundtracks to Smith Middle 2nd floor my freshman year in college.  This re-issue sounds fine, although I really don't hear anything remarkable in the re-mastering.   The four songs they added are really not necessary.
    Verdict:  No need unless you don't own the album, or you are an INXS completist.

  • Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart (1993, re-issued 2009).  This is the original recording of the album, re-mastered, and was new material for me coming in.  However, it turns out that at least "Savory" is a song I heard on the radio back in the day.  It's very solid, with a couple of above average tracks (like "Reel"); the songs are a bit "same-y" sounding after awhile.  But it's still quality stuff; think Sheila Divine (although not quite as good as them).
    Verdict:  On the border of the CD Rack/Portable CD Case territory.  The extra songs probably aren't worth buying the album again if you already have it.

  • Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979, re-issued 2007).  This is part of the series of re-issues of Joy Division material, featuring deluxe packaging and a live CD in addition to the original album.  From the opening of "Disorder," it's clear why Joy Division spawned so many copycats from the moment of their inception.  The re-mastering really cleans up the recording as well.  It's a great album, although I think I don't appreciate as much now as I probably will with more listens.
    Verdict:  Portable CD Case.  Worth it for the re-mastering, I'd guess.  The live bonus album is nice but not spectacular, and thus is really only for completists.

  • Pylon - Chomp More (1983, re-issued 2009).  After Gyrate's re-issue, Chomp's re-issue was only a matter of time; I really hope they re-release their 1990 finale Chain as well, but I think the band has turned their back on that album.  Summary:  there's no R.E.M., or an Athens scene (with the notable exception of the B-52's) without Pylon; they're not famous because they were constantly at the wrong place at the wrong time in their career.  This re-issue is spectacular and you should own it.  Absolutely worth it for anyone; how did they leave some of these songs (like "Spider," "Gyrate," or the Pylon Mix of "Yo-Yo") off the compilation Hits?  GO OUT AND GET THIS NOW.
    Verdict:  It's okay.

  • Sun Dial - Other Way Out (1990, re-issued 2006).  (PV) at the once-defunct- but-recently-revived [uzine] online zine turned me on to these guys; they're the best psychedelic rock group you've never heard of.  Mojo went as far to call this album "The greatest unheard psychedelic album ever."  And if Mojo and I are on the same page... well, that actually means little to nothing.  This re-issue (which expands the 2003 re-issue with eight additional tracks) is excellent as it's really an album you never want to see end.  So this one works well.
    Verdict:  I'm throwing it (and Pylon) back into the car.  They're both great.

  • U2 - The Unforgettable Fire (1984, re-issued 2009).  Others can wax poetic about The Unforgettable Fire; I will not.  In my opinion, it's the worst pre-Rattle and Hum album (i.e., 1988) they released: I doubt many will argue it was outshone by both its predecessor (War) and successor (The Joshua Tree).  What it does have is the best song U2 ever recorded:  "Pride (In the Name of Love)."  The re-mastering definitely helps put the shine back on this album and reveal the quality that is there.  The bonus disc contains the entire excellent Wide Awake in America EP (including the classic live version of "Bad"), as well the single version of "Pride" and its three b-sides ("Boomerang I," "Boomerang II," and a longer version of "4th of July.")  This may be a case where the bonus disc is better than the actual album. 
    Verdict:  Despite all I've said above, U2 from 1980-1992 were one of my favorite bands, and thus this album (while flawed) is still excellent and a cut above the rest.  A must if you are a U2 diehard, and even if you're not, the bonus disc makes the whole album worth it. 
    An American-obsessed album by an American-obsessed band on the verge of becoming global superstars.

  • Uncle Tupelo - Anodyne (1993, re-issued 2003).  My kind of alt-country.  This is a great re-mastering of a tremendous album -- Uncle Tupelo's last before Jay Farrar founded Son Volt and Jeff Tweedy countered with Wilco.  If there was acrimony between the two (and I've read that there was), it doesn't come through on the album.  I hate country as a rule, but you can't argue with this album.  It's great.
    Verdict:  Probably worth picking up for the five bonus tracks for the diehards.  If you don't own it, you really should.

  • Yes - Close to the Edge (1972, re-issued 2003).  One of my all-time favoritesI still remember playing this on vinyl:  one song on Side 1, two on Side 2.  It works because "Close to the Edge" is the best 20-minute song I've ever heard; "And You and I" is in the top five for 10-minute songs; and "Siberian Khatru" is no slouch either.  All in all a great album.  When you consider that in 1972 Yes released this album and the album Fragile, which many critics see as the two best albums of their career... well, that's a good year.  It's actually shocking that Close to the Edge charted at #3 on the Billboard chart, while the much more poppy and easily consumable Fragile (with the single "Roundabout," no less) only made it to #4.  I love their cover of "America" (one of the bonus tracks), although the other bonus tracks are nothing to write home about.
    Verdict:  I love Yes.  There, I said it.  You happy now?
 - Snilch