Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2014 Reissues

I didn't pick up a ton of re-issues in 2014, but the three I did pick were of some all-time classics. We'll be using the "The Compilation Ripoff Index," which is described in further detail here. As an aside, these three albums are among my all-time favorites ever.

* Aztec Camera - High Land Hard Rain  (original album released in 1983 - 2 CDs). As indicated here, Roddy Frame's story is a cautionary tale: a brilliant debut can be a precursor of things to come, or the yoke around one's neck. I mean, the first song on his first album is "Oblivious." How can you ever top that?

Aztec Camera - "Oblivious"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot. 

The remastering on the original album is clean and unobtrusive, and worth it for any fans. I heard things I never noticed before, and it was great to listen to the album again with the higher values in production. So many standouts - "Pillar to Post," "Release," "Lost Outside the Tunnel".... The bonus disc contains 16 tracks, five of which are previously unreleased and two of which were fanclub-only tracks. It's nice to have all of these b-sides and extras in one place, and once again is totally worth getting. The 7" and 12" versions of "Walk Out to Winter" and the BBC Kid Jensen version of "Release" are worth the price of admission by themselves.
Compilation rating: Very high. High marks for the casual fan, low marks as a ripoff since it's a great album on its own. Everyone wins.

* Bob Mould - Workbook (original album released in 1989 - 2 CDs). Let's step back in time to 1989. Punk/rock underground legends Hϋsker Dϋ had broken up two years prior, and ex-bandmate Grant Hart had already released an EP. So when Mould released an album that
was primarily acoustic and had cello on it... well, let's just say the old guard was not impressed.  After 25 years, however, it's pretty clear in retrospect that the whole venture was brilliant. (It was pretty clear in the first couple of years as well, but some fans never forgave him for this album.) 

Bob Mould - "See a Little Light"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot.

In the good headphones, I'm hearing the same album I've always heard. Very solid on CD, but nothing earth-shattering moving this up a level or anything. The liner notes (which include a synopsis by Michael Azerrad, the original Rolling Stone review, and a piece by Ryan Adams) are great, and really add to the experience of revisiting the album. And it is truly a brilliant album: "See a Little Light," "Wishing Well," and "Poison Years" are worth the price of admission alone. But the album lacks a single subpar song. The worst song on the album is great.

The bonus disc, a 1989 live show from the Cabaret Metro in Chicago which has been released in dribs and drabs, sounds stunning and is worth it for long-time fans. While fans hoped for original demos, this is a surprisingly clean and ageless recording. A great add-on for anyone.

Compilation rating: High. High marks for the casual fan, low to medium marks as a ripoff since the remastering does not make the album more listenable. In any case, if you don't own it, go get it. Idiot.

* Slint - Spiderland (original album released in 1991 - 2 CDs). Originally released in 1991 and largely ignored, this is just an unbelievable exercise in tempo and volume. I don't know what it's classified as and I frankly couldn't care less. It's a mix that shouldn't work -- it's like finding out your desert property has somehow sprouted prize-winning orchids, which are sprouting on top of an unknown gold mine. It's quiet, it's loud, it's plaintive, it's fierce, it's slow, it's fast, it's spoken, it's sung -- I'm not sure where this purple unicorn sprouted from, and I'm guessing they didn't either.

Slint - "Breadcrumb Trail"

If you don't know this album, don't take this the wrong way, but you are an idiot.

The remastering is great, making the nuances of the album crystal clear.

The extra DVD is a 93 minute Lance Briggs directed documentary on the band and on the making of Spiderland. My favorite moment had to be when Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi) indignantly relates a story about the band playing "Safety - Doorknob." (Anyone who spent any time around me or my friends at college know exactly how funny this is.) It's a great documentary and definitely worth a watch by fans.

Compilation rating: High. High marks for the casual fan, low marks as a ripoff as the remastering really helps this. So go get it, idiot.

- Snilch

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