Category Archives: deluxe edition

Ron Howard, The Beatles • Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years [Blu-ray/DVD]

In 1995 The Beatles created or at least oversaw Anthology, a three part, six hour documentary that aired on television to edify the world on the band’s story. The three surviving members of the band were interviewed specifically for the project, except John Lennon, who had passed away in 1980. Sure, since the documentary was funded and curated by the band, there were probably some subjects that were cleansed or completely avoided in order to show the band in a better light, but over three nights you got a very good examination of their story without any obvious revisionism. When it came out on DVD, VHS and Laserdisc, there was an additional chapter included that didn’t make the final cut. That’s not to mention the three volumes of Anthology on CD and LP that came out, loaded with unreleased outtakes, live versions and more, and a coffee table book with tons of photos. It was a Beatles bonanza.

Eight Days a Week BD/DVDFast forward twenty years to 2016 and Ron Howard‘s Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years. Here we get a 105 minute documentary that covers only three to four years of the band’s history and uncovers hardly anything new or revelatory. (There’s both a standard one disc version and a “Special Edition,” both on Blu-ray or DVD, with an extra disc of bonus material.) The fact that the project started out as a highly publicized idea to examine the band as a live act is interesting. Either Howard and his pals were unable to come up with a good story (hard to believe, given: The Beatles!), even enlisting the public to share their stories and/or audio or video, or for some other reason they changed horses midstream and scrubbed the original plot. Well, you may have guessed that I think they botched it up, big time.

In order to keep this short, I’m just going to bullet-point what I didn’t like here:

  • The subtitle to this documentary shows that the filmmakers were hedging their bets after changing the concept for the film – they end up telling a very disjointed story with no clear mandate or viewpoint;
  • Only the two remaining Beatles were able to contribute, and those contributions don’t really add anything that existing interviews already covered;
  • Consistency! Howard covers the subject from a very U.S.-centric standpoint, yet uses The Beatles’ U.K. album releases as timestamps throughout;
  • Audio and video don’t sync up properly. At the beginning it seemed like the live footage was synced but the talking-head footage wasn’t; by the end it seemed like nothing was synced (not sure if this may in part be due to problems with Blu-ray vs. DVD, as I’ve encountered in the past);
  • Colorization of some of the footage looked unnatural. The Beatles were the most photographed, filmed pop group of all time. People know what they’re supposed to look like! So if you’re going to colorize these guys, don’t make them look like Donald Trumps in nehru jackets.

I’ve already reviewed the “accompanying” reissue of The Beatles Live at the Hollywood Bowl and how that was riddled with problems, so it’s real disheartening to see that Imagine Entertainment, White Horse Pictures and Apple Corps itself let things get so out of hand. I seem to remember some words to live by uttered to me as a kid and over the years to the tune of if you’re gonna do something, do it right. That tune apparently wasn’t in Ron Howard and Company’s hit parade, and that’s too bad. They had a great opportunity to bring something unique to the story of The Beatles and they blew it.

At least you can still pick up a copy of Anthology on DVD to try and put this one out of its misery and out of your mind.

2/5 (UMe/Capitol)

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Ramones • Ramones (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) [3CD/1LP box set]

ramones-40thdeluxe2_500pxFinally got my turntable hooked up in the new place so I can now give this Ramones box set a full and proper whirl. And that’s because the main big deal here is the vinyl: it’s the original album, Ramones, newly remixed by original producer Craig Leon in mono. There are three CDs, too, with the original stereo mix, the new mono mix, a disc of single mixes, demos and outtakes, and a disc containing a never-before released live set recorded in Los Angeles at the Roxy in ’76. Finally, a 12″-sized booklet delves into the early history of the band and their freshman release, still a purely powerful punch in the face forty years later.

The first thing I felt when putting on the vinyl was that these cuts were made for mono. The impact is apparent the moment “Blitzkrieg Bop” blasts outta the speakers. Compared to the original stereo mix (via a mid 2000s pressing), the difference is greater than you’d expect, considering what stands out most in stereo are the cymbals, high hats and tambourines, which are panned fairly left or right. ramones-40thdeluxe_500pxThe lead vocals, guitars and bass were pretty much mono anyway, so the high end being panned one way or the other is almost a gimmick or an afterthought. According to Leon, despite feeling then that mono was the way to go, there was no way in 1976 they could release the record in anything but stereo. Eventually he came up with a suitable stereo mix, and that’s what we’re all used to. But you’re gonna wanna hear it in mono if you already like this record. And I know you do!

Because it’s a deluxe edition, on top of the essential vinyl you also get the previously noted CDs with lots of fun Ramones stuff. I like the live disc best – it’s got both sets the Ramones did at the Roxy in L.A. on August 12, 1976. The first set was mixed in ’76 while the second set was recently mixed by Craig Leon and Sam Okell and both sets are great, though not very different from each other. Still, if you’re gonna do a 40th anniversary release, why not pull out all the stops?

The box set is presented in a 12″x12″-ish hardcover book and it’s really nice. I could’ve used more photos and less verbiage (says me, the writer), but otherwise, Ramones couldn’t be better served by this package. Instead of sniffing some glue or going down to the basement, I suggest you snap this baby up, pronto.

5/5 (Sire/Rhino)

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The Kinks • Everybody’s in Show-Biz (2CD)

kinks_everybodysinshowbiz_400pxI’ll admit it. I avoided Everybody’s in Show-Biz for years for the simple reason that I thought the cover looked real cheesy. The cartoon illustration surrounding a colorized pic of Ray Davies crooning just looked so un-rock ‘n’ roll that I figured the songs on it must also be that way. Now, I’ve been a fan of The Kinks for quite awhile so it was only a matter of time before I gave the album a chance. That chance has come now, with the release of a Legacy Edition of this 1972 double album.

The original issue of Show-Biz was a 2LP affair with one record devoted to new studio tracks and the other to recent live recordings. My guess is that the record label (RCA here in the States) felt the need to bolster the new tunes with live renditions of songs already familiar to Kinks fans, as the band’s following in the US wasn’t at an all-time high. On the live record you got the addition of songs performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall in March ’72, including tunes from Muswell Hillbillies (their previous release) as well as “Lola,” which was their biggest/most recent hit. Well, if that was the idea – to add familiarity to help sell the product – it wasn’t enough to katapult the record into the upper reaches of the charts. They should’ve added more familiar live cuts to achieve that end. That, by the way, has been sorted out on this new edition, which features a further 13 live tracks including “Sunny Afternoon” and “’Till the End of the Day.” Yet, even without these great live tracks, Everybody’s in Show-Biz is a stone-cold Kinks klassic.

kinks_showbiz-adRay Davies’ new tunes on Show-Biz are all of his top-shelf variety, even if you take away “Celluloid Heroes,” which is acknowledged by most to be one of the man’s best tunes. It comes last on the studio record, so you gotta listen to the other nine songs first. No problem. Drop the needle (oh, I mean, pop in the disc and hit play) on “Here Comes Yet Another Day” and enjoy the ride through “Hot Potatoes,” “Sitting in My Hotel,” and brother Dave’s “You Don’ Know My Name” and you’ll understand why I say this is as good as The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else or Arthur. Man! I love this record. The band is indeed making a transition from the garage/hard rockin’ ’60s version to a more mature one, but that doesn’t mean the songs suffer – at all. What you get here is an almost middle-aged Ray Davies sorting out the current condition of his life and career, out loud in front of you, me and everyone, with stupendous results.

Kolor me embarrassed that it took a value-priced deluxe edition for me to embrace Everybody’s in Show-Biz. For less than twenty bucks you, too, can be in show biz. Just like the ad there says.

5/5 (Legacy/RCA)

Here’s a live rendition of “Celluloid Heroes” from 1979 with some superb lead guitar from Dave Davies.

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Supergrass • I Should Coco (20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition 3CD)

ishouldcoco-350pxIf they left anything off of this exhaustive 3CD reissue of British band Supergrass‘s debut album, I Should Coco, I can’t imagine what. The band entered the Britpop sweepstakes a little on the late side with this 1995 album but they had more balls than Blur, Oasis or any of the other groups lumped into that genre that have now been forgotten by all but the most hardcore Britpop fans.

What you get here is the original 13 song album on disc one, followed by the superlative disc two that collects “demos/B-sides/out-takes/curios” including their first two (pre-Parlophone) singles, numerous B-sides and demos and a real solid idea of how this trio put together their initial repertoire. I love the kickass studio demo of “Lose It,” the cover of “Stone Free” (appeared on the 7″ single that came with initial vinyl copies of the ’95 issue and is also included in the current vinyl reissue), and the original Backbeat Records versions of “Strange Ones” and “Sitting Up Straight.” But they’re all quite good! Then there’s disc three, which is dedicated to live versions of their tunes recorded at Bath Moles in October 1994 and in France at La Route Du Rock in August 1995. You get to hear the progression from punk nutters to (slightly less punk) nutters in under a year, just before they recorded their utterly brilliant sophomore release, In It for the Money.

Supergrass_bandSupergrass toned down the punk rock energy after I Should Coco, and they got better despite that. Their ability to write and arrange unforgettable pop melodies was hardly bettered during the ’90s, as demonstrated by the singles “Mary,” “Seen the Light,” “Pumping on Your Stereo” and “Rush Hour Soul.”  Though they didn’t score the number of hits that their Britpop elders did, they certainly couldn’t be accused of not putting ’em out there. The public didn’t buy them and that was the public’s loss. Here in early 2016, listening to “Alright,” “Lenny” and their killer cover of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” I long for the times when bands wrote energetic power pop songs with king-sized hooks and I gobbled them up. Right now it seems like those days are gone, so here’s to hoping either Supergrass gets back together or somebody takes up the torch real soon!

4/5 (Parlophone 1995/2015)

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David Bowie • Station to Station (Deluxe Edition)

bowie-stationtostation-CD (This review first ran on my old blog, Skratchdisc, in November 2010.)

The return of the son of the Thin White Duke…? Station to Station was one of the many times over his career where David Bowie sought to reinvent himself. In 1976 it was more rockin’ than Young Americans, more soulful than Diamond Dogs, and even considered “modern” (whatever that meant then).

When I first came across this album (in the early ’80s), I didn’t really like much of it, save for “Golden Years,” which upon release was the first record I was ever aware of that was by this “bisexual” guy Bowie. (In ’74 I was eleven.) That single’s always been one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve come to like most of the rest of Station to Station. “TVC 15” starts out with a Professor Longhair piano riff, and that barrelhouse vibe carries through the verses until you get to the chorus, which takes the tune into a very different realm. It’s a successful transmogrification. “Stay” is a rock/funk jam that showcases the entire band, especially drummer Dennis Davis. Throughout the record, he, guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and pianist Roy Bittan back up Bowie with a muscular, sometimes tender sound that foreshadowed where DB would go with his music in the early Eighties. (Earl Slick also shows up here, as does “Warren Peace” on vocals, who if memory serves me, is Luther Vandross [?]) And “Word on a Wing” really captures that sweet, yearning thing that Bowie does so well.

bowie_station2station_2This release, the third or fourth time Station to Station has been on CD, comes in a few different versions, ranging from the standard one CD to the absolutely over the top 5CD/1DVD/3LP box that only the richest, most trainspotting of Bowie’s fans would buy. ($150!) I opted for the middle version, the 3CD one that has the original album on one disc, and then the oft-bootlegged 1976 Nassau Coliseum show on the other two. This live concert makes this the station from which to depart. The setlist is fairly imaginative for Bowie at this point, incorporating just the right amount of hits and other cool tunes, like “Waiting for the Man” (yes, the Velvets song), “Five Years” and “Life on Mars?” Almost the same band as on Station, these guys tackle Bowie’s set with vim and vigor, and a few reinterpretations that make this show worth the ticket price.

Sure, we’re all getting a little weary of these reissues—do we really need another rendition of a limited edition 7 CD box set of the Stooges’ Fun House sessions?—but apparently they’re almost the only thing keeping the major labels afloat these days. Still, the often nagginess (is that a word? well, it is now) of the thought “Do I really need this version?” that trails the purchase of such an endeavor can get to be taxing. But if music is the thing that floats your boat, then you need to keep that baby above water!
3.5/5 (EMI)

Upon reexamination in early 2016, I give the over-the-top Deluxe Edition a 5/5. A few years ago I got it, brand new, severely discounted by one online retailer or another. Hooray for me! R.I.P. David Bowie. – Ed.

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Wings • Wings at the Speed of Sound (Deluxe Edition CD)

watsos_deluxebookWings at the Speed of Sound has always been there for me. I bought it in 1976 when it first came out (back when you could get a single vinyl LP on sale for $3.99!), and though it wasn’t as good to me then as Venus and Mars was, it was still “the new McCartney album” so it was hard to find too much fault with it. Over the years it has gone up and down in my estimation, but recently some interesting – dare I say, mysterious – facts have come to light. I’ll share those in a few paragraphs.

You can say how lightweight you think this album is, but if you do you’re only thinking of the hit singles (“Silly Love Songs” and “Let ‘Em In”) and not the stellar album tracks such as “Beware My Love” (still my fave on WATSOS), “Time to Hide” and even Linda McCartney’s “Cook of the House.” Here we have an album where Paul McCartney was sharing the lead vocals with the band (even drummer Joe English gets a shot in “Must Do Something About It”), and using the horn section he first put together for Venus and Mars and Wings’ 1975 tour to great success. This in turn fed the tour of 1976 that resulted in the 3LP Wings Over America. I won’t go as far as to say that this is classic McCartney but it’s certainly standing there waiting on the porch to get into the house.

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Wings at the Speed of Sound, Sarah Gooch, acrylic on canvas, 2015.

Now, here’s what’s amazing about Wings at the Speed of Sound to me. I learned a few years ago when I first started dating my wife Sarah that “Silly Love Songs” was #1 the week she was born. That’s super cool! (Steve Lawrence’s “Go Away Little Girl” was my birthweek #1 – ugh.)  When I finally got this deluxe book edition, which comes with 2 CDs, a DVD and a real sweet book with great photos and lots of facsimile concert tickets, song lyrics, etc., I learned something even cooler. Turns out, according to the notes in the book here, that Wings began recording “Silly Love Songs” on my birthday, January 16, 1976. Whoa! If that’s not some kinda prophecy or whatever from Sir Paul then I don’t know what is! And did I mention that Sarah did a painting for me a year or so ago that she titled “Wings at the Speed of Sound”? Yep. Take a look right here.

watson_backcoverPaul McCartney’s Archive Series has had some great entries – Band on the Run, Ram and Wings Over America being top dogs – but I can’t say that WATSOS is one of them. It’s not exactly substantial in terms of bonus tracks (there’s got to be more early versions, demos, rough mixes, etc. they could have used), though there is a version of “Beware My Love” with John Bonham on drums. The book has lots of great photos and is laid out nicely. The CDs sound great. The DVD, though, is pretty short, with just one music video (“Silly Love Songs”) and two short documentary films that only the most die-hard Macca fan would watch more than once. Yet it’s clear that this album now has an even more special place in my heart that I never would have figured on way back when.

3.5/5 (Hear Music)

 

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