REISSUE ROUNDUP 3: THE BEATLES, ERIC CLAPTON, FRANK SINATRA, THE WHO, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL AND HUMBLE PIE
It's time to wrap up these Reissue Roundups with the latest high end batch from the Universal family of labels.
The Beatles - On Air/Live At The BBC Volume 2
Is somebody keeping count--wait, what am I saying, it's The Beatles, there are millions keeping count. The question is do The Beatles now collectively have more "previously unreleased" tracks than all of their official albums collectively? That's certainly not a bad thing, and with this next installment, Live At The BBC Volume 2, we're offered another 63 tracks (with 37 musical numbers and 23 chats), many of them more self-assured than what was presented on the previous Live At collection. What's nice is that we get ten songs The Beatles hadn't recorded for their label EMI (including "Beautiful Dreamer" and Chuck Berry's "I'm Talking About You"), and we get mostly improved sound quality over the first BBC set (although a few tracks are sketchy based on their sourcing, their historical importance the justification for their appearance). And the Pop Profiles of each Beatle tacked on to the end of both discs is almost like Apple studied the aesthetics of bootlegs, finally framing the group's material using that paradigm, one that already had been used for "rare" Fab Four material for decades. Considering that about 275 performances were BBC'd between 1962 and 1965, though Live At The BBC Volume 2 is another fat (or phat...nah) helping of those recordings and performances, perhaps it's time for a box covering everything (or as much as is archived) is due, if not for this 50th anniversary of the release of the Please Please Me album, then maybe for the 51st?
Eric Clapton - Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Recordings
Celebrating Eric Clapton's two plus years of his tenure at Miami's Criteria Studio seems like massive overkill, and for the average listener or casual fan, this new collection will be overwhelming. But you know what? This giant overview is the most interesting and satisfying E.C. release since he and Bill Levenson's Crossroads concoction at the birth of the CD box set. Why? Musically, this is another of Clapton is God periods (the phrase coined during his time with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers). His breakthrough album 461 Ocean Boulevard (the address of where he lived while recording the project) served as the prototype/reboot for Eric Clapton the guitarist AND artist's next creative phase that lasted up until his Warners years where he seemed to be on autopilot for many albums.
Boulevard birthed a solid identity for Clapton, and it featured not-so-arguably some of the most heartfelt and honest recordings of his career, its essential tracks including the glorious FM classic "Mainline Florida," his bluesrock rework of the traddy "Motherless Children," "Let It Grow" (to which many in the seventies lost their virginity), "Please Be With Me" (with luscious Yvonne Elliman vocals), the funk/blues-y single "Willie And The Hand Jive," and the hit cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" (again with Elliman) his understated reggae version becoming the standard bearer.
Regarding content, the first CD contains that album plus bonus tracks including four previously unreleased session outtakes; the second CD focuses on Boulevard's follow-up, the casual There's One In Every Crowd that served as Clapton's spiritual toe-in-the-water with seven bonus recordings, the obvious standout being his charting cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." Then comes an additional one-two-three punch with a trio of discs covering the E.C. Was Here live album tour, immortalizing his dates at the Long Beach Arena, Nassau Coliseum, Hammersmith Odeon, and the Providence Civic Center. Not done yet. Throw in his legendary sessions with Freddie King, also with previously unreleased gems such as a twenty-two minute version of "Gambling Woman Blues," and a Blu-ray 5.1 mix of 461 Ocean Boulevard, its quad mix, Crowd's quad, a sixty page book with liner notes by John Lynskey and annotations, and a hell of a lot of reissue producer love. Give Me Strength: The'74/'75 Recordings is absolutely exhausting, but it should be considering the leap in creativity that occured during this period. It's one big melange of mellow that might represent Eric Clapton's last truly inspired music, another zenith coming a couple of albums later with the Slowhand album, a project that hopefully will be honored with a similar über-box treatment.
The Who - Tommy (Deluxe Edition, Super Deluxe Edition)
In my recent interview with Roger Daltrey, I was surprised at how casual The Who singer was regarding their landmark album, Tommy. If any of us had created or participated in or parked the car for anyone associated with such a culturally significant work, there would be one ridiculous ear-to-ear smile when the subject came up, I gotta tells ya. The Who had so many cylinders firing during its extended creative and recording process--from the passionate music and arrangements to the intelligent observations on society and the nature of the world--it's amazing the studio didn't blow up. There seemingly was an overarching theme, but the territory was so expansive that each song had potential to be a concept album on its own, especially titles such as "Pinball Wizard," "The Acid Queen," "Cousin Kevin," "Miracle Cure," "I'm Free," "Tommy's Holiday Camp," and God help us, even "Fiddle About."
The Village Voice's Robert Christgau once referred to the album as being the first successful extended work in music beyond Frank Zappa's We're Only In It For The Money. John Entwistle said it was "just an association of ideas." But then, its creation was supposedly the result of Pete Townshend being inspired by the teachings of Meher Baba. Obviously, there are lots of different angles to consider, and personally, I choose to look at the plus column when it comes to this album, despite its occasional goofy parodies and dated metaphors. Yes, groups like, well, Yes, Pink Floyd and The Kinks also made good use of the concept LP format, but this updated Deluxe Edition of Tommy again makes the case for why it might be the most important work of all its competitors, it effectively taking a sledgehammer to consumerism and messiahdom in an entertaining, non-preachy way.
FYI, this second version of the Deluxe Edition (I think that's a first for any label) trades the demos and other musical minutia of its previous incarnation for one CD with the actual musical, the second nodding to The Who's fan base and the millions of bootlegs of The Who's live spectacle of this pre-Quadrophenia behemoth. Speaking of behemoths, the SUPER Deluxe Edition piles on a disc of twenty-five Pete Townshend demos (twenty previously unreleased), a 5.1 mix on Blu-ray, a poster, and an eighty page book with notes by Richard Barnes, this edition only outdone by the SUPER DUPER Deluxe Edition where they throw in Roger and Pete dropping by your house to perform the dubstep version and babysit your grandkids. Not bad for that deaf, dumb and blind kid who, apparently, still plays a mean pinball.
Frank Sinatra - Duets/Twentieth Anniversary (Deluxe Edition)
These reworks of older Frank Sinatra classics that originally comprised two volumes of Duets are now released together as a Deluxe Edition, and perhaps offer a little too much insight into just how indifferent he was about recording by this point, that stinging Saturday Night Live parody sadly coming to mind. Surely there are better ways to imbibe your Sinatra. However, as a holiday gift for your Baby Boomer pals and older generation family members, it's terrific. As a casual piece to put on when you want a little Frank Sinatra Lite with a few of his not so personal friends, if you must, sure, this Duets Twentieth Anniversary Deluxe Edition is an okay hot toddy. As an historically important musical document, no no no, please, that's where you have to draw the line, okay? Promise??
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Boxed Set
Remember the literally millions of Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle albums you had to wade through in bargain bins for years as you hunted down your favorite Elvis Costello and Carlene Carter cutouts? Yeah? Well, look who had the last laugh. John Fogerty & Company have not only been elevated to Americana Pioneer status, but all their albums have sold consistently over decades, even getting the gold CD treatment. Their ultimate and unbeatable latest release, cleanly titled Boxed Set, gives us everything--every CCR album, pre-CCR tracks, live tracks, you name it, it's in there. It's a completest's dream, the perfect release, it's affordable and it even sounds better than any previous collection. Case closed, let's not waste your time, it's a six out of five stars.
Humble Pie - Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore/The Complete Recordings
Gathering all of Humble Pie's Fillmore East live recordings and housing them in a modest box, this expanded, complete presentation of Performance isn't so much revelatory as it is refreshing to hear these recordings properly mastered and given the reverence they deserve. Steve Mariott, Peter Frampton, Greg Ridley and Jerry Shirley's audio document of the musical party that lasted from May 28-29, 1971, is a four-disc testimonial on one of the greatest hairy, early-seventies, blues-rockin' bands to its most famous concert runs. Each of the four performances are presented complete and unedited, like you were there that Friday or Saturday. Way back when, you might have missed these rock ruckuses or only been able to attend one of the workouts, but Performance: Rockin' The Fillmore: The Complete Recordings will transport you to that time and place when "I Don't Need No Doctor," "I'm Ready," "Four Day Creep," "Hallelujah (I Love Her So)" and other Humble Pie classics were in the process of earning that appropriate status.
KEITH CHAGALL'S KENNEDY TRIBUTE, "SAIL ON, BETSY ROSS"
According to Keith Chagall...
"It is hard to believe that the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy happened 50 years ago. I have often thought about the lasting impact his death has had on our nation's course of destiny. As an Hispanic American who came to the United States as a small child, it is an interesting and at times a haunting question in terms of social justice and the changes resulting from the travails of Watergate, Vietnam, 911, Iraq, and beyond. I tried to address these issues in 'Sail On, Betsy Ross,' which is my heartfelt homage to JFK, and to the state of America since his presidency. 'Sail On, Betsy Ross' reflects on an iconic president who showed that extraordinary things could be accomplished as a nation when we work together. And the song shines a light on the spirit and resiliency of great American women like Betsy Ross, Jacqueline Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Diana Nyad - who continue to inspire. The video shares emotional images from the fateful Dallas motorcade on November 22, 1963, the Atlantic crossing of a Pilgrim ship, Betsy Ross sewing the American flag, President and Mrs. Kennedy with Caroline and John Jr., the Washington funeral procession of JFK's casket, the moon landing, and clips up through today's Dream Act Immigration reform."