Category Archives: Limited Edition

Record Store Day 2021, Part 2 [Vinyl]

Here are a few more RSD purchases we’ve felt the need to dissect. Please note that none of this was free – getting review copies just ain’t what it used to be! So, working from Z backwards…

THE ZOMBIES – Oddities & Extras (Varese Vintage VSD00020-05) – It’s hard to tell what songs have been on what Zombies compilations. Basically, they only released two actual albums, Begin Here and Odessey and Oracle, so everything else has likely been encountered either on the stellar 4CD Zombie Heaven box set from 1999 or on one of the countless comps that have made the rounds ever since a number of us decided that the band belonged in the same echelon as The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who et. al. I’m pretty familiar with just about all of the baker’s dozen songs here on Oddities & Extras, but being a near-completist I needed to add this to the collection. It’s a pleasant enough platter, especially with “She Does Everything for Me,” “Just Out of Reach” and the cover of “Goin’ Out of My Head,” but I can’t help feeling this may be surplus to my Zombies needs.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – Ice Hockey Hair EP (BMG CAT491EP) – A 4-song EP, pressed on unnecessarily 180-gram vinyl, this one also feels a little surplus… to my SFA needs, that is. Gotta say, though, that “Ice Hockey Hair” is a classic in the lush, semi- Britpop vein that the Furries embraced. Of the other three tracks, “Smokin’” is also good, “Let’s Quit Smoking” is a different arrangement of the former (basically), and “Mu-Tron” may just be an excuse for one of the SFA guitarists to use his so-named guitar effects pedal. Being a 12″ (as opposed to a full-on LP), this one is likely to stay shelved for awhile. Not because the song isn’t any good, but because it also appears on the “greatest hits” album, Songbook (The Singles, Vol. 1).

THE KINKS – Percy (BMG CAT488LP) – I’m kinda scratching my head on this one… I get that any album from the Lola-era Kinks is worth reissuing, but why – oh why?! – did they make it a picture disc? This isn’t a typical album from the band, being a soundtrack to a seldom seen 1971 comedy film, with some instrumentals, a “Lola” blues jam and the like, so maybe they decided to have a little fun with it. I mean, one side of the picture disc is a closeup of the image on the front cover, as in, the cartoon man’s groin covered by a big leaf. (The other side is the full cover image.) To be fair, this pic disc is pressed on extra thick vinyl so it actually sounds pretty good. And let’s not forget: This isn’t exactly a proper Kinks album, so you’re not likely to take Percy for a spin very often. It’ll probably stand up to the half dozen plays you’re likely to give it. The textured cover is a nice touch (replicating the original), too.

THE FLAMING LIPS – The Soft Bulletin Companion (Warner 093624885016) – With most of the tracks “Soft Bulletin outtakes, stereo versions of Zaireeka tracks and unreleased songs from the era,” this Companion – a 2LP vinyl representation of a 1999 promo CD – is nice in a humble kind of way. Granted, these days I find myself mimicking Wayne Coyne’s high-pitched, practically falsetto singing voice (“when you got that spider bite on your arm”), but there are some good songs here, and I am very much a fan of this era of the Lips. So, its presentation is fitting: as if it were a generic white album cover, with black and white stickers slapped on the front and back, a coffee stain here, a pen mark there; the colored vinyl itself is silver and the labels are of the “promo copy” variety. There’s scant info about the tracks themselves, but I have faith that most Flaming Lips fans will be aware of their pedigree. The cover of Skip Spence’s “Little Hands” is certainly more tolerable (even pleasant) than the songwriter’s own version. – Marsh Gooch

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Record Store Day 2021, Part 1 [Vinyl]

I picked up nearly two handfuls of vinyl for Record Store Day 2021 (first drop) and decided to “review” them, in a pair of parts, based on my initial impressions. It’s a fact that many of the items we pick up for RSD get played once and then filed away, likely to never be pulled from the shelf again. That’ll be great for resale one day – maybe – but it’s certainly not the way you wanna tie up your record money if you can help it. On the other hand, some gems only come to reveal their beauty further on down the road, so… I don’t know… Ah, let’s just get going.

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – Angel Dream (Warner Records 093624882312) – Sort of a companion to last year’s Wildflowers extravaganza, Angel Dream is a “reimagining” of the songs Petty and crew did for the movie, She’s the One. I don’t know if anyone remembers the movie (I don’t) but the songs are memorable. In some ways they share a lot of the vibe of Wildflowers, kind of laid back, but there’s a lightheartedness with these tunes that doesn’t surface in the others, quite likely due to the fact that they were written to accompany a film. I wouldn’t hold this one up to Petty’s greatest albums (Wildflowers is one), but it’s got a charm to it that’s hard to deny. Together with Wildflowers and Finding Wallflowers (a 2LP set of Disc 4 of last year’s heaping helping of Tom’s hospitality), Angel Dream is one purchase you would listen to again.

ELTON JOHN – Regimental Sgt. Zippo (Rocket/UMe RSDRSZ2021) – This one’s really out of left field! Yeah, if you’re trying to guess by the album cover, you’re right: it’s a psychedelic EJ album that was never released. Recorded in early 1968 at DJM Studio in London (home of Elton’s record label in the UK), it’s Elton and Bernie Taupin in their salad days, taking a break from trying to find their own voice and instead working up some groovy, of-the-moment (but now fairly aged) psych-pop. Surprisingly, the arrangements are much more fleshed out than I was expecting, sounding very much like a serious attempt to write an album’s worth of tunes good enough to release. And they are/were! Why this wasn’t put out until now is a good question, and probably even Sir Elton doesn’t quite remember. But at this point in his career – and after most of these songs made their debut on last year’s Jewel Box set – it makes sense to put out a vinyl relic of what Elton & Bernie were spending their time on while still wearing creative short pants. The songs are certainly on the derivative side but they’re fun to listen to, making Sgt. Zippo a nice one to reach for when you’re in the mood for something different. And I like the play on Elton’s given name, too.

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS – Funky Kingston (Get On Down/Island GET54103-LP) – This is one of the greatest reggae albums of the ’70s, even if this particular configuration isn’t the same as its original Jamaican counterpart. Funky Kingston, as it has been since its first international release, is mostly that original issue, with a few tracks brought over from another album and “Pressure Drop” ported over from a ’69 single. Whether or not you consider this a proper album or a compilation, you can’t dispute that this may have been Toots’ peak as an artist. I would’ve liked them to do a 2LP set containing the original Funky, with the extra tracks they swapped in from In the Dark, and whatever else would’ve made sense. But, I guess for that there’s always my Very Best Of… CD, not to mention a host of other compilations still available.

FLAMIN’ GROOVIES – I’ll Have A… Bucket of Brains (Parlophone 0190295104139) – It may have gotten its name from an obscure Welsh beer, but this record’s got the Groovies’ best known song on it, “Shake Some Action,” a stone cold klassic that you should crank anytime you get a chance. This little 10″ mini LP, “The Original 1972 Rockfield Recordings for U.A.,” contains seven songs the San Francisco band did with nascent producer Dave Edmunds for the UK wing of United Artists. UA released a couple of the band’s rock ’n’ roll singles at the time but they were (at least in hindsight) doomed to fail, being released during Britain’s glam rock craze. Yet “Shake Some Action” eventually became a touchstone of power pop and more bands have been influenced by it than probably even know it. Here, Bucket of Brains provides the single version and the original recording at its slightly slower speed (in a 1995 mix) that reveals more of what makes it so damn good. Plus, there’s a killer version of “Tallahassee Lassie” (crushes Freddy Cannon’s original like a grape!) and their other klassic cruncher, “Slow Death.” This was only available as a UK CD (and under a couple of other names in other countries) mostly in the mid ’90s. As a 10″ it is the perfect vinyl artefact. If this doesn’t help you bust out at full speed, then I don’t know what you need… to make it alright! – Marsh Gooch

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Paul & Linda McCartney • RAM (50th Anniversary Half-Speed Master) [LP]

Not necessarily one of Macca’s best-known or best-selling albums, 1971’s RAM by PAUL & LINDA McCARTNEY is a critics favorite for reasons that aren’t always clear. This new reissue – a limited edition half-speed mastered pressing – may just be the best-sounding version of it that any of us with limited resources are ever gonna get, assuming we don’t own a mint original UK or German pressing. I don’t. I mean, I DO have more copies of this album than anyone in their right mind would have, but guys like me aren’t really in our right minds in the first place, so…

It was Paul’s second solo outing, barely a year after The Beatles officially broke up and not long after his first record, McCartney. Both were subject to lots of criticism, true, but when you look back to that time period every Beatles solo record was panned by a majority of reviewers who stupidly hoped/expected the Fab Four’s records without each other would be as good as the ones they did together. Plastic Ono Band: Panned. All Things Must Pass: Pass. Sentimental Journey? Please. Of course, we know now that all three of those albums – yes, even Ringo’s! – are classics if not at least pretty damn good for a drummer. (Ha ha!) Anyway, as tempting as it is to go into what makes RAM so great – you know, “gritty,” “unpolished but charming,” “inventive,” “‘Smile Away’ is awesome and I don’t care how silly it is or what you think” – I feel like if you’re reading this you probably already have a real good clue.

This album, like most of Macca’s, has been reissued near-countless times so it’s gotta either be one of your favorites or you’re a Beatles completist who buys every single reissue you can get your hands on. I’m – believe it or not, friends and family – somewhere in between. I do have multiple vinyl copies of this one: an original US issue on Apple with a mislabeled side 2 (sounds dismal), the 2012 2LP version on Hear Music that sounds very nice, the later Capitol reissue on see-through yellow vinyl that was supposedly pressed from the same master as the Hear Music release, and this brand new half-speed master. Oh yeah, and the awesome 2012 mono reissue (it was actually released to radio stations in ’71 as a promotional copy in a dedicated [not fold-down stereo] mono mix). Not counting that mono copy, this RAM is hands-down the best one I’ve heard. Just like the McCartney half-speed master that came out last year, this one just kills in every way. Things are clearer, the fuzz bass is wild ’n’ woolly like it oughta be, McCartney’s vocals growl or croon when they should, the strings on “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “The Back Seat of My Car” sound lusher than ever, and the acoustic guitars throughout glimmer like ripples on the water on a lovely spring day. (Did I just write that?!) Not only that, but there are backing vocals I’ve never really heard as clearly as they are here, and the lead vocals sometimes linger at the end of a line where you didn’t know they actually did. I probably know RAM better than every McCartney album save Band on the Run and Venus and Mars (I’ll take those half-speed masters toot-suite!) and I can tell you that this version beats not only the superb 1993 DCC Compact Classics gold CD, but the 2012 Archive Series version, too.

So, to wrap this up: If you can get a hold of one of these RAMs without having to go to epic lengths to do so, do it. You read this far; you should need no further convincing. Ram on! – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (Capitol/UMe 00602435577234, 2021)

Here’s a pretty good description of how half-speed mastering can make for a better record. (And no, you don’t have to play the record at half speed!)

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Paul McCartney • McCartney (50th Anniversary Half-Speed Master) [LP]

It’s just about Record Store Day 2020 “Drop 2” (Sat. 9/26/2020) and here we have my main purchase, PAUL McCARTNEY’s McCartney, released for the album’s 50th anniversary. This reissue – coming just three years on from the red vinyl edition – begs the question: How many copies of this (or any) album do we really need? (Which is followed by the companion question: How many times do we have to reconsider the first question?)

Well? Do you already have a copy? On vinyl? How much do you like the album? Do you play it on a regular or even once-in-awhile basis? Let me see: I already have – we’ll call it – a few copies of McCartney on vinyl. (Don’t ask how many copies including CDs…) And yes, I do like the album and play it at least a few times a year. Oh yeah, don’t forget this question that’s crucial to us older (read: 50 and above) dudes: How many more times will I be able to play this before I die, and if it’s not very many, will this new version noticeably enhance my listening experience or would the other copy(ies) I have suffice? Okay, now that we have these rhetorical considerations out of the way (or eating away!), here’s what you need to know about the new half-speed mastered McCartney.

For its 50th anniversary, Macca has decided to issue his first solo album again on vinyl, and this time the mastering really is top notch. Completed at Abbey Road by Miles Showell, who has worked on many Beatles-related projects, the record was cut from a presumably (very) high resolution file that came from the analog master tape.* Many of us would prefer it to be all analog but that kinda thing rarely happens these days, since everyone who still has original masters of their work (or entrusts them to a large conglomerate who hasn’t allowed them to fester or burn while in storage) wants to keep them safe and intact. The thing is, the method for completing a remaster isn’t as important as the care and ears that go into the process. Stay all-analog, go digital, one or the other or both, I don’t really care as long as the people involved have a good idea of what sounds good and achieve that goal. In this case, I think this McCartney sounds better than any other version I know of. (Many people would point to the UK first pressing as the holy grail, but of course, good luck finding one at a reasonable price. I don’t have one.) It was pressed on 180-gram vinyl for a deep groove, which means more info gets transferred to your speakers and therefore your ears, but the half-speed mastering process can tend to weaken the bass frequencies and I do feel like McCartney may be missing the oomph it needs to really knock it out of the park. BUT… what you do hear sounds incredible and the bass – though it may be a bit low in the mix – at least sounds distinctive.

I haven’t even got into the music itself, but I imagine anyone with even a modest interest in McCartney’s solo stuff knows what McCartney is about. It’s about 35 minutes of really good songs, with only a minor clunker factor, all played by Paul himself and joined by Linda Mac on the harmonies. My picks on this LP are “Every Night,” which really should have been a single, the rockin’ “Oo You,” and the gentle ditty “Junk.” Don’t forget “Maybe I’m Amazed,” which wasn’t released as a single in 1970 but instead became a hit when Wings did it on their 1976 live album, Wings Over America. Still – most everyone’s familiar with the song and this version isn’t much different than the band’s. The rest of the songs are primarily snippets, such as opener “The Lovely Linda” and “Valentine Day,” or interesting instrumentals that allowed Macca to flex his muscles and do something beyond what was typically allowed on a Beatles album (not counting The White Album).

This RSD version of McCartney is a limited edition (supposedly 7,000 copies worldwide) so you’d better high-tail it to your indie dealer and grab one before they’re gone or garnering higher prices once they’re made available on the internet. You can go to the Record Store Day website to find your closest dealer. – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Capitol/MPL/UMe 602508 464720 0, 2020)

* Here’s what it says on the insert inside: “This half-speed master closely references the 2011 remaster by Steve Rooke and Guy Massey. It was made as a vinyl specific transfer in high resolution and without digital peak limiting for the best possible reproduction.” That tells us this pressing comes from a new lacquer, which was cut from a hi-res digital copy that was struck from (presumably) the original analog master tape.

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Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters • Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters [LP, CD]

Well, it sure is a mighty long title for an eponymous release. TONYA DONELLY AND THE PARKINGTON SISTERS’ new album of cover versions doesn’t have a clever title but it does have an interesting vibe/concept. I must confess a few things at the outset: I was a big fan of Belly, Donelly’s ’90s alternative rock band, back in the day; I was drawn to Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters due to that first confession and the track listing of this release; and, I had no idea who these Parkington Sisters were until I looked ’em up on the internet.

Donelly was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist with Belly, who put out one excellent album, Star, and a very good album, King, plus a host of compelling singles for 4AD Records (or Sire here in the States). The Parkington Sisters are Rose, Sara and Ariel (plus sometimes Lydia; I mean, she’s always a sister of theirs but not always in the group), and have been putting out light pop/indie music together since 2010. Donelly was approached by American Laundromat Records to make a covers album and decided that these Parkington Sisters would bring the right vocal and instrumental vibe to whatever songs got chosen, and so, here we are.

This 9-song excursion into other people’s music opens with a moody, violin-heavy version of The Go•Go’s album cut, “Automatic.” Already knowing that song gave me the idea that this might be an interesting album, with the songs included being mostly cunning and not cloying choices. (I’m very glad they didn’t go for “We Got the Beat”!) That’s followed by a Leonard Cohen tune I’m not very familiar with (actually, most of them fall in that category), “Dance Me to the End of Love.” Others are covers of songs by Echo & The Bunnymen (“Ocean Rain”), Crowded House (“Devil You Know”) and Mary Margaret O’Hara (“You Will Be Loved Again”). The ones I was more interested in were “Let Me Roll It,” first done by Paul McCartney & Wings on Band On The Run (1973), a more uptempo and electric tune than most of this album – and though it’s not one of Wings’ most obvious songs, it’s ultimately a safe – but enjoyable – choice. Two other covers I felt were definitely obvious choices. One is “Kid” by the Pretenders, though Donelly’s reasoning for choosing it makes sense: “[It] was [considered] actually on the heels of a conversation that we’d been having about children.” I initially would’ve gone for a Chrissie Hynde tune with a little more balls but then that wouldn’t have fit this lighter-vibed album (imagine “Tattooed Love Boys” with violins!). The other is The Kinks’ “Days,” a Ray Davies tune that is probably his most-covered song and definitely a no-brainer. I think Donelly could have given “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” or “See My Friends” a real go, though she’s the kind of singer who’s not going to cover a song if it doesn’t have a personal meaning to her, so maybe my choice doesn’t speak to her the way her choice does. What do I know? I’m just a rock critic. Finally, I do like the version of the Mike Nesmith song, “Different Drum,” first done and made into a hit by Linda Ronstadt when she was still with The Stone Poneys. It is kinda soft, true, but it’s a sweet song and it’s nice that Tanya and the Parkingtons wanted to pay tribute to Ronstadt.

American Laundromat is covering all the bases by offering this album in a variety of colored vinyl versions, as well as on CD and even cassette. You’ll have to go to the website to figure out what is still available and where.

Overall, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters is a nice album, with light fare that’ll be great to put on at dinner and serve as enjoyable background music. That’s not meant to be a “dis,” just that, once you’ve given it a first listen it’s not gonna be a go-to album when you wanna rock out. Put it on when you want to relax, however, and it’ll be just fine. – Marsh Gooch

2.5/5 (American Laundromat ALR-0051, 2020)

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L7 • Smell the Magic [LP, CD]

These days I feel like I could start every review here on NuDisc.net with something like “Jeez! It was 30 years ago… boy, do I feel old!” And it was, indeed, three decades ago that L7’s Smell the Magic was unleashed upon the rock world. But unlike much of what we cover here, this one isn’t a record that I ever owned (neither on vinyl nor CD) or got into heavily so I can’t talk about it like it’s figured that greatly in my life. This is one I thought might be worth checking out again to see if my tastes had changed. Have they? Have I? Let’s see.

L7’s second big release – though it was initially a 6-song EP on vinyl – the record was also their second for Sub Pop, who had already put out a singles club 7″ of “Shove” b/w “Packin’ a Rod” (both on this release). At the time I didn’t pay much attention to their records because L7 was more rawk than I typically went. Sure, I was into punk of the British variety (and some US stuff like X and Ramones), but this branch of it was more sludgy, dare-I-say grungy (before the term was coined and overused) than I got into. Basically, slower rhythms and screamy vocals kinda turned me off. Over the years my intake of music has broadened on all fronts, though, and so, just like I have developed quite a taste for jazz and dub, I have also taken to some harder indie rock. What’s great about doing this is that Smell the Magic is practically like a new release to me. I’m not listening to it and remembering who I was seeing at the time, where I worked, or what drama I may have been going through. So I’m hearing the band’s smart ass, humorous stuff like “Fast and Frightening” and “(Right On) Thru” and digging the words, maybe because I’m not getting stuck on the basic, simple arrangements. OR: Maybe it’s just because, after years of therapy (!), I don’t automatically freak out when it sounds like someone’s yelling at me!

For the 30th Anniversary version, initial 12″ copies – or as Sub Pop calls them, Loser Editions – of Smell the Magic are on clear-with-orange/blue/grey-swirl vinyl (and Amoeba Music and Easy Street Records have a clear blue version) and CD, “remastered [doesn’t say by whom] for maximum impact.” As stated earlier, I don’t have an original copy so I can’t vouch for that claim!

L7’s energy is great, the recordings are what you’d expect for a raw indie release, and Smell the Magic is a nine song, thirty minute blast of good hard rock. Or sludge punk. I don’t know, what would you call it? Regardless, it’s a great way to bust thru the bull shit and enjoy something simpler and primal-er. How does that sound? – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Sub Pop SP 1379, 2020)

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Robyn Hitchcock • The Man Downstairs: Demos & Rarities [CD, DD]

ROBYN HITCHCOCK ought to pay me for reviewing as much of his music as I do. (Seriously: look at all this!) I guess you could say I’m a fan. And that’s why The Man Downstairs: Demos & Rarities warrants both my possession and dissection. Limited to 1000 copies on CD only, this ten song release is sort of a companion to 2014’s The Man Upstairs. The idea then was to record half Hitchcock originals and half cover songs, “a kind of Judy Collins 1965-era album.” Well, I’m not a fan of that folksinger’s, but since it’s always interesting to hear how Robyn hears some of his favorite songs, the concept is a good one. And in this current age of DIY, a good idea. (You can get it on CD or as a digital download on Robyn’s Bandcamp page.)

These, being demos, aren’t as ornate as the ones Upstairs, but that doesn’t matter much. Hitchcock plays mostly guitar, with few overdubs (most being backing or doubling vocals) in a cozy atmosphere. Naturally I’m really into his version of “Arnold Layne,” one of the great early Pink Floyd tunes penned by the “mad genius” Syd Barrett and practically purpose-built for Robyn Hitchcock. I’m not as fond of the Nick Drake tune “River Man” (though I now know where ’90s UK band The Lilac Time got their name) or Dylan’s “Born in Time,” but I like the Townes Van Zandt tune, “The Tower Song.” Of Robyn’s own tunes, a few of them really strike a chord at this moment in time: “All Love and No Peace,” “Recalling the Truth” and especially “The Threat of Freedom.” I’m glad they saved this stuff!

The Man Upstairs was a good record, with stellar versions of The Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” and The Doors’ “The Crystal Ship,” and so this serving of the demos that led to that Joe Boyd-produced outing makes a great companion piece. The Man Downstairs may not make it into your collection, physically (if it’s sold out by the time you read this), but you’ll still be able to conjure his presence via download. Downstairs download. I like it. – Marsh Gooch

3.5/5 (Tiny Ghost [no cat. #], 2020)

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Pretenders • Live! At The Paradise Theater, Boston, 1980 [LP]

Once released as an LP sent to radio stations only as a promotional item to help sell the band’s debut album, Live! At The Paradise Theater, Boston, 1980 is PRETENDERS at their livest best. The show was recorded on March 23 of that year just a few months after Pretenders was released to critical acclaim. Already the band was touring the USA, and within a year or so they’d released a stop-gap EP and then their second full length, the imaginitively-titled Pretenders II. To say things seemed to be happening for them is an understatement – and yet that momentum came to a pretty swift halt soon after. The stories have been told elsewhere of how guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon went down the well-traveled drug death road that so many rockers have, so let’s just say there’s no telling what the band would have done had the original lineup stayed intact. Not that the Pretenders didn’t end up achieving a pretty solid career…

Anyway, for Record Store Day 2020 (Drop 1), Sire/Warner Bros. has issued that for-broadcast-only concert on a real cool clear/red vinyl LP that comes in a clear PVC cover*. The 11-song set list is made up primarily of tracks from the band’s first album, so you’ll hear “Precious,” “Kid,” “Mystery Achievement” and “Tattooed Love Boys,” for instance, and early versions of “Talk of the Town” and “Cuban Slide.” Recording-wise, Live! At The Paradise Theater is of a quality I’d call “better than soundboard,” as in it’s lacking some shimmer in the high end and could stand a little more bottom, but otherwise much better than if you’d taped it from the radio back in the day. Of course, big time (real?) Pretenders fans would have looked for a copy of the original promo release, but those are fairly rare and not exactly on the cheap side. So now RSD comes to the rescue – or to the delight of those who had no idea this item ever existed at all. I don’t tend to listen to live albums all that regularly, but this one I’ll put on more frequently than, say, this RSD’s live Bowie release (the 1974 tour recording, reviewed here). If you’ve been trying to hunt down that original release, it is time for you to stop all of your sobbing and grab one of these.

3.5/5 (Sire RCV1 114, 2020)   * Do yourself a favor and keep the record itself in a regular paper or audiophile sleeve; over time records get baked into PVC sleeves and become unplayable.

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David Bowie • I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74) [2LP, CD]

DAVID BOWIE’s camp has been regularly issuing and reissuing some of the man’s concerts for Record Store Day and other events so you gotta wonder how close to the bottom of the barrel they’re getting. Will one bad apple spoil the rest of ’em? I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74) might just be one of those (possibly) offending apples.

These “legendary,” “mythical” concerts were what basically amounts to Bowie rejigging his band mid-tour – originally dubbed the Diamond Dogs Tour – with additional performers, and changing the arrangements to reflect, I guess, what he was hearing in his head. He dialed up the soul and dialed back the rock – and that is either gonna be a real plus for you (like, if you’re a big fan of Young Americans, recorded soon after) or a let down (like if you prefer David’s rockier, Ziggy-er side). For me, firmly in the latter category, it’s not as great as I had hoped it’d be. I much prefer Cracked Actor (Live in Los Angeles ’74) (issued for RSD 2017, see my review here) for its crunchy arrangements. Here we have near-cheesy keyboards (sorry, Mike Garson, ’cause I generally like your playing) and an at-times caterwauling sax (courtesy of David Sanborn) that sounds pretty dated (think of the theme song for Saturday Night Live). Ugh. On the other hand, I do like the covers medley of “Foot Stompin’/I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” with its “Fame”-style guitar stabs. But that sax. You’re killin’ me, Sanborn!

I’m Only Dancing also suffers from a hoarse-voiced Bowie and the recording’s mediocre sound quality. It sounds better than your typical bootleg of the era, for sure, so this is probably an improvement in that regard. Design-wise, this package is miles better than its mid ’70s counterpart, with graphics adapted from the tour program that was available at the shows. The 2LP and 2CD sets are both Record Store Day exclusives so they’re going to go fast. Whether you want to make the trip to your local vinyl emporium is up to you – though you should go and support your local regardless of your interest in this year’s Bowie release. You’ll be able to either pick up a copy of this or something else that’ll float your boat. Let’s not forget, no matter what any of us critics say about any particular DB product, it’s still gonna be better than your average album. It’s Bowie! – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Parlophone DBRSDLP 2020, 2020)

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The Kinks • The Kink Kronikles [2LP]

The Kink Kronikles is one of my favorite kompilations of any of those in my kollection. In 1972 THE KINKS had recently moved on from their original US record label, Reprise, to the hopefully greener pastures of RCA Records, so the wise guys in their former A&R department decided to put together a kollect… okay, I’m gonna stop with the “’k’ in place of ‘c’ thing” now… collection of a bunch of great singles and pair them with tracks – primarily B-sides – that they hadn’t yet released on album on this bounteous 2LP set, which has just been re-released for Record Store Day 2020.

One of the smarter things the label ever did was to draft rock critic and Kinks fan John Mendelsohn to not only compile the tracks, but annotate the package. What he put together, selection-wise, is an exemplary survey of what made the band so great. And his liner notes, which take up the entire inside of the gatefold cover, are an illustration of the fine art of putting someone on a pedestal and trying to knock them off of it at the same time. Mendelsohn’s twisted love of The Kinks is no secret (he later even penned a book about them), and neither was his sarcastic yet spot-on writing about rock music. They don’t make ’em like him anymore.

Remaining in Reprise’s catalog for many years, The Kink Kronikles was a valued 2LP set for the group’s hardcore US fans despite it being compiled and released without any input from the band. This, certainly, had been par for the course at Reprise. Just like The Beatles, The Stones and The Who – and pretty much all of the British bands – The Kinks had had their albums sliced ’n’ diced at will by the powers-that-had-been because those bozos presumably thought they knew better what would fly in the good ol’ US of A than their counterparts in the UK. And by that, I mean, you know, “We’ll cut a few songs from this 14-track album, take the tracks from some of the singles – hell! – even include a coupla tracks that were on the last album and bang! We got another way to make money off of these funny sounding English guys who probably won’t be around next year anyway.” The thing is, this compilation had so many sought after songs on it – lots of rare B-sides and songs lopped off their UK LPs – that the album became a pretty good seller, quite likely even cannibalizing sales of RCA’s current releases of new Kinks material (’71’s Muswell Hillbillies and ’72’s Everybody’s in Show-Biz).

I don’t have an original copy of The Kink Kronikles to compare this new Record Store Day version to, but it sounds pretty phenomenal, cats. Besides that, the collection itself is a great mix of familiar and obscure tracks. Sure, you get “Victoria,” “Days,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Lola” and “Sunny Afternoon,” but you also get once-super-hard to find goodies like “She’s Got Everything,” “Big Black Smoke,” “Mr. Pleasant,” “Berkeley Mews” and the then-unreleased “Did You See His Name?” There are 28 tracks here and they’re all worthwhile. Yes, today in 2020 they’ve pretty much all been added to the appropriate reissues of the band’s original albums, so if you’ve got the multi-CD sets of Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur or whatever, you have a good number of what’s here. But that’s no reason to pass on this limited edition, red vinyl reissue that’ll probably be deleted before you can say “Kinks reunion” for the umpteenth time. – Marsh Gooch

4.5/5 (Sanctuary BMGCAT436DLP, 2020)

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