Category Archives: reissue

Rollin Binzer (Director) • Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones [Blu-ray]

[Review originally published 11/16/2010 on Skratchdisc. RIP Charlie Watts!]

What makes a great concert film? Terrific music, for one. Great sound? Definitely. Interesting cinematography? Yeah. An historic event? Sure. And what makes a great concert film director? Someone who knows how to present the band, their music, and what it looks like on stage in a way that makes you want to see it more than once.

So who is this guy, ROLLIN BINZER? Well, he’s the guy who directed Ladies & Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones. But I’m not sure he was the right guy for the assignment. This movie, now repackaged, remastered and remixed for 5.1 surround sound, has been out many times since the home video era began, and this time they even put it out on Blu-ray. A concert film about the Stones’ classic Exile on Main St., it’s certainly got great music. The performance of that music? About what you’d expect of Mick & Keefco in that era. The sound? It’s alright – nothing to write home about. (Not that my parents would give a shit.) The cinematography is just okay. Not only would I decline to write home about it, I might even have bypassed the movie entirely if I’d heard that it was just a basic multi-camera shoot with nothing really special about it.

All of these gripes go a long way to answer the question: If it’s such a dull, cookie-cutter concert film, why are they re-releasing it now? Well, duh. They just executed the marketing campaign for the reissue of Exile, so naturally they had to reissue the movie that went along with it. Can’t miss an opportunity to milk the golden cow, now, can we? And what’s more, as you’d expect, there’s an insert inside the case hawking official Rolling Stones t-shirts and the documentary DVD Stones in Exile, which tells the story of how this magnificent, brilliant rock ’n’ roll record was rendered. Well, I’ll stand by the album as being a great one (though I like Sticky Fingers better), but I’m not a fan of this Blu-ray showcase for Rollin Binzer’s vision of what made the Stones great. I’ll bet my stepmom could’ve made a better concert film. – Marsh Gooch

2.5/5 (Eagle Vision; DVD & Blu-ray)

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The Gun Club • Fire of Love [CD, LP]

When Blixa Sounds reissued Miami late last year, I thought to myself, “Now if they could just put out THE GUN CLUB’s Fire of Love, that would kick ass.” Well, they have and it does. Despite being very won over by their sophomore release upon re-release (my review is here), it was and is their 1981 debut that really cemented Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s place in the L.A. punk rock hall of fame – and on my own Desert Island Discs list. First released on Slash Records’ Ruby label, Fire of Love was a psychobilly/blues/punk hybrid that fit equally into all three of those subgenres and yet practically requires a category of its own. (Apparently some purists don’t think it belongs in “punk” at all, but I don’t know where else you’d put it.)

If there’s anything that demotes this album to less-than-essential (and that’s barely), it would probably be Pierce’s sometimes racist lyrics. I don’t think recounting the contexts in which he uses the “n word” would get him off the hook. And I’m not even sure you can make an argument like “it’s not Pierce, it’s the narrator who is racist,” since the singer/lyricist inhabits that role so solidly and uniquely that you can’t really separate him from him. So, forty years later, Fire of Love is still so goddamned good that I just try not to cringe too much when JLP goes down that road. Most of the time the lyrics and music are so good, so evocative of something very outside of and different from what you’d expect a middle class guy from Southern California to come up with, that it’s not hard to do. “Sex Beat,” “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” “For the Love of Ivy” – their punky gothic vibe comes through loud and clear. The band’s guitar, bass and drums form an incinerator that just burns, pushing Pierce’s vocals up into the air like a brushfire out of control. Whether you like your indie rock on the bluesy side, on the Cramps-y side, or sunny side down, The Gun Club’s Fire of Love does not disappoint.

Blixa Sounds’ new reissue is a 2CD or 2LP set that gives you the original 11-track album on one disc and an unreleased live show (recorded in ’81 at L.A.’s Club 88) on the other. There are also a dozen demos and alternate takes (which appear on disc one of the CD version and as downloads in the vinyl set), and they’re nearly as good as the album itself. In fact, you get the title track as an alternate take, since it didn’t actually make the album and was held over (in a different recording) for Miami in 1982. Sound-wise, this CD reissue sounds quite good, perhaps a bit meatier than Slash’s CD version. My vinyl copy is not an original on Ruby/Slash but Porterhouse’s 2014 “prime” cut (which is better than the previous copy I had on Spain’s Munster Records) (and may be better than the original Ruby vinyl I had once upon a time) – I don’t have the new vinyl to give you that score. But I can tell you this: you should own this album, whether on vinyl or CD (and why not both?!), so you oughta give Fire of Love a spin while it’s still fresh on your mind. Not that it will ever go stale, mind you… – Marsh Gooch

5/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 874, 2021)

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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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Elvis Costello & The Attractions • Armed Forces [Super Deluxe Edition]

Here’s the ELVIS COSTELLO & THE ATTRACTIONS’ big box set I’d been waiting for. From the guy who I originally panned when reviewing his first two albums for my junior high school “newspaper,” Armed Forces – the 1979 album has passed its 40th birthday – still stands as a monumental new wave LP. In fact, calling it new wave almost denigrates it. The fact of the matter is, many record labels were looking for acts with that “edgy,” “sharp,” “barbed” sound after EC and his Attractions dropped this bombshell on the ears of those who were searching for something beyond the usual rock.

Dubbed “The Complete Armed Forces,” this behemoth includes LPs, EPs, 7″ singles and booklets galore in a large clamshell box adorned with the original US album cover on the outside (which was actually on the inside of the UK/European versions) and the UK/European front cover on the inside (which was on the back of the US version), all of which was designed by the magnificent Barney Bubbles. The 12″ assortment includes the original Armed Forces in a 13-track version that incorporates both the US and UK track listings (in the very cool origami-like unfolding cover of the foreign versions), a Live at Hollywood High and Beyond album (half of the tracks that appeared on a 2010 CD of the entire concert but considerably more than the three that appeared on the 7″ EP included with the original album), and a blistering ’79 concert recorded at the Pink Pop Festival in the Netherlands. EP-wise – all 10″ vinyl – you get an 8-song volume called Sketches for Emotional Fascism (most of which have appeared on previous Costello releases), a 6-song concert recorded in Australia (Riot at the Regent, quite good but too short!), and a 4-songer called Christmas in the Dominion which is also way too short. The singles feature original artwork for three 7″ releases, but the B-sides aren’t always the same as on the originals (except on one where it is!). Maddening! And the sleeve for “Accidents Will Happen,” which was originally cleverly printed inside-out (as in, “accidents will happen!”), is printed right-side-out, which at least gives you the chance to see what the whole thing looked like without having to take the sleeve apart. As for the “booklets galore,” these are all designed to look like old comic books, pulp fiction novels and other pre-1979 printed materials, with insides that include Elvis’s notes on the songs and their geneses, his handwritten lyrics as they appeared in his notebooks, etc., and all the credits for this humongous undertaking. In all, it’s a shitload of Costello music and ephemera that is going to be way too much for most people but not enough for many of the rest of us.

I think, in all, this “complete” Armed Forces is pretty fabulous. The sound quality is the best yet for the core album (my opinion, even better than the MoFi pressing) and the live concerts sound brilliant. I do wish the Riot at the Regent and Christmas in the Dominion records contained the complete concerts (future marketing opportunities!), but I can handle those coming out separately later on. This box itself is awfully expensive ($200 for the black vinyl version, $260 for the color vinyl) but is likely to come down in price. And if it’s just the music you want, you can find that available as high resolution downloads online. But if you like your box sets in the extravagant variety (not exactly punk rock, but, hey, whatever) then this is one you should have in your armory. – Marsh Gooch

4.5/5 (UMe B0031761-01, 2020)

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Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo • Good Clean Fun [LP]

The following review first appeared in my old music blog, Skratchdisc, some years ago. To preface this repost, BONNIE HAYES with the WILD COMBO’s Good Clean Fun has been reissued by Blixa Sounds in an expanded CD package with the original album, a 6-song EP, an early Hayes group’s single and some great new notes by Bonnie herself. The mastering job is nice ’n’ peppy, allowing this poppy early ’80s new wave classic to shine on into the 2020s. Here’s what I said a few years ago when I found a used copy in my local vinyl emporium.

Once again, on one of my weekly “just lookin’” ventures, I found a couple of great deals. The first one was a Mobile Fidelity half-speed master of a VERY PROMINENT ’70S ROCK ALBUM (name withheld to protect me from those who might make fun), which had a real used cover but the record was PERFECT. And it was only 99¢! The second was what this review’s about, Bonnie Hayes with the Wild Combo’s 1982 new wave gem, Good Clean Fun.

I first ran into this record during my rookie year as a college radio DJ at Seattle’s legendary KCMU. (It is now the world-renowned KEXP, but don’t get me started…!) My freshman year at the University of Washington, 1981/82 was a year that was beyond compare for yours truly. During the summer of ’81 a friend told me about this low-watt radio station where they played all kinds of “weird new wave”—this is where I first heard The B-52’s, XTC, Devo, you name it. I tuned in the station whenever it would come in (at that time it was only 10 watts), and upon my first week of school at the UW, I promptly went to the station to find out what it was all about. It was then that I learned that almost anyone could get a show, and met a slew of like minded students (like my buds Mike Fuller and Andy Taylor, for two) who enjoyed DJing and playing whatever records you wanted. I got my first show in November (a Friday night from 11 pm to 2 am), and eventually this puny little station became a major part of my life. I discovered more great music in the initial years of DJing there than I have in all the years since! Sometime in 1982 Slash Records, the Los Angeles-based punk rock label, put out Bonnie Hayes’s LP, and we played the hell out of it. Sure, some of the jocks thought it was pretty lightweight, and if you have no history with the girl groups of the ’60s, you might, too, but this record really was good clean fun. And this from the label that had already put out X’s first two albums, The Dream Syndicate and The Gun Club! Slash had punk cred like no one else.

Well, anyway, this is about as pure an ’80s new wave record as you can get, with percolating organs and crunchy guitars and a nice female voice singing of “Shelly’s Boyfriend,” “Girls Like Me,” and “Raylene.” And to think I went decades without this record, yesterday I found it in the 99¢ bin! Sleeve in good shape, record looked good. And like the record mentioned way above, it turned out to be in great shape. So, here’s to Bonnie Hayes and her Wild Combo allowing me to relive some memories nearly 30 years old. I’ll have to check out what she’s up to now... – Marsh Gooch

4/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 859, 2020) (bonniehayes.com)

 

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Pop-O-Pies • The White EP – Deluxe Edition [CD]

These days you gotta expect that anything being shipped to you is gonna take extra time to show up. In fact, it might not make it to you at all. Such was the case for our review copy of POP-O-PIES’ very first reissue CD, a reissue of The White EP, the band’s debut recording from 1982. First released on San Francisco indie label 415 Records, the new reissue label Liberation Hall has taken the original 6-song vinyl and put it out on compact disc with an additional seven songs. The kindly promo people guaranteed NuDisc a copy when I sent a salivating email requesting one, promising a sure positive review because “I played the shit out of it on my college radio station,” and I meant that. Then it didn’t show up. I enquired. They sent another one. No show. (It was around the holidays…) I enquired again and THIS TIME, lo-and-behold, it did – along with another 415 reissue CD.

Well, it was pretty much worth the wait and heartache. Okay, there wasn’t really any heartache involved. You see, I still have my original vinyl copy – in fact, I celebrate the entire Pop-O-Pies catalog – and I pretty much know it by heart. I wish I could say that this CD is as absolutely effin’ awesome as I hoped it would be, but I can’t. BUT… it’s close! Pop-O-Pies was/is the brainchild of Joe (Callahan) Pop-O-Pie, a smart ass from the Bay Area who came up with the idea of taking the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” and re-styling it as a hardcore punk song. The further gimmick was that that cover version would be the only song the Pop-O-Pies would play. Supposedly that was so, at least for awhile. But eventually Joe & Co. came up with some originals, including the slow, pseudo-’60s ballad “The Catholics Are Attacking,“ all about that church and its hypocrisy, and further punkers like “Anna Ripped Me Off” and “Timothy Leary Lives,” which I love for its “guitar solo” that is actually just someone (Joe?) singing “neer nuh neer nuh neer” as if he’s the guitar. Genius! My 19-year old brain couldn’t get enough of this thing when it first came out, and I played it so much on KCMU that I’m sure our station music director must have passed a note to me about maybe giving some other artists some attention. Anyway, 415 put out a 12″ EP of the band’s stuff (which featured TWO versions of “Truckin’,” including a rap version that is quite funny [still]). The band went on to do a few more foot-long EPs, though on other labels, and eventually they spun out as some of the members had also been playing with other bands that became much more popular (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle). And so the Pies were done.

I said earlier that this Pop-O-Pies CD was “pretty much worth the wait,” and that’s because it’s lacking the kind of bonus tracks and packaging that I’d expect after nearly 40 years! Yes, there are seven extra tracks here but four of them sound identical to tracks that appeared on the band’s sophomore release (Joe’s Second Record, 1984, which had only six songs). The others are pretty good, including “Slow & Ignorant” (recorded in ’93) and a trippy thing called “Lenny in Wonderland.” The final bonus, “A Political Song (The Hip Version),” is short and unremarkable. Packaging-wise, it’s your standard CD that comes in a jewel case with a typical insert, lacking lots of info (like: ARE those four songs from Joe’s Second Record actually the same recordings that are on Joe’s second record?), no unpublished photos, and a tag on the front cover noting “featuring members of” bands that takes up almost as much room as the Pop-O-Pies logo itself. I mean: Does the record label think they’ll move more of these CDs by touting other bands, when, let’s face it, your run-of-the-mill Cars or Tubes fan is probably not gonna take a chance on this release unless they already know what it is? I’d doubt it.

Yet: Pop-O-Pies finally makes it to the 21st Century! I feel tingly all over, like a tomato. – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (for the reissue), 5/5 (for the White EP itself) (Liberation Hall LIB-5027, 2021)

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Jet • Get Born [2CD/DVD]

Well, that Australian band that made such a huge splash in the early ’00s has been born again. Yes, I’m speaking of JET. Their debut album, Get Born, has been reissued in a super deluxe set that gives you about as many versions of “Cold Hard Bitch” and “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” as you could possibly want. Cherry Red’s new 2CD/ 1DVD edition is packed with 35 audio tracks (and nine videos on the DVD) and a fairly informative booklet that make it, at this point, the definitive birth certificate of an album that was so good that there was just no way the young band could follow it up and better it.

Without regurgitating Jet’s pre-birth story, these Melbourne guys adopted their name in 2001 – after their favorite McCartney & Wings song (I like that!) – but sounded more like a Stones/ Who hybrid than a ’70s pop band. They took off with two guitars, bass and drums for an attack that was a definite throwback yet contained something that must have been lacking in popular music in the first decade of the 21st century. I can’t help but think that they were more appealing to dudes my age (I was in my late 30s then) than most people in their own age bracket, but it doesn’t matter much because their hard rockin’ sound grabbed you by the throat with its instant familiarity and freshness, regardless of yer age. Informed in equal amounts by both the classic rock of the late ’60s and the punk rock of the late ’70s, Get Born was a debut album as amazing as Nirvana’s Nevermind from a decade earlier (though that was, indeed, that band’s second record). A few of the songs appeared on Jet’s first release, a 4-song EP called Dirty Sweet, which, if I remember right, includes recordings that are downright soundalikes to the versions here. But since that record was never available here in the States, what we got on Get Born was thirteen dirty, sweet tracks that just burned with excitement. Not just the aforementioned “…Bitch” and “…Girl,” but also opener “Last Chance,” “Rollover DJ” and “Take It Or Leave It,”; slow burner ballads like “Look What You’ve Done” and closer “Timothy,” and all the rest. I really don’t think there’s a bad one in the bunch.

On these two CDs you get the album plus a handful of B-sides on disc one – of which, “Sgt. Major” is killer and the acoustic version of “…Girl” is awesome – and all kinds of different versions, B-sides and demos on disc two. That second CD contains just about every outtake, edit or live recording from the era that exists (though I know of a few things that aren’t here), and here’s where this collection is a bit much. I can’t imagine there are many who need to hear “…Bitch” in an album version, an edit, a second edit and a one-off live version, all in one go. Likewise, “…Girl” appears in album, acoustic, edit and live versions. That’s a whole lotta love for just two songs! YET… you DO get some real scorchin’ tracks like “Sweet Young Thing,” a totally different demo version of “Lazy Gun,” another great in “You Don’t Look the Same,” and a cover of “That’s Alright, Mama” that really buries Elvis’s version. Why the obscure tracks that have appeared on earlier reissues that aren’t here, aren’t here, is a mystery we may never know the answer to, though it’s probably due to some rights issues that are likely to be as boring as watching paint dry. And why do that when you can listen to Get Born? I mean, if you’re gonna do that, at least put on some Jet and watch that paint set!

Ranting and rhyming aside, the two CDs here – plus the region-free, NTSC DVD containing eight videos* – make this the essential edition of this Down Under band’s first and greatest triumph. – Marsh Gooch

3.75/5 (Cherry Red QCDTRED826, UK)   (*The video of “Look What You’ve Done” below is an alternate version to the one on the DVD)

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Richard Hell & The Voidoids • Destiny Street Complete [2CD/2LP]

Way back in 1982 I was a nineteen year old college student discovering punk and new wave via my college radio station, KCMU. Yes, MTV was a factor in my alt-rock education, but to a much lesser degree. At the University of Washington’s student-run 90.3 FM (atop the Communications Building in room 304), we had the run of all the records in its library. It had decades’ worth of rock ’n’ roll, but what I was most attracted to was the current records coming out that were in the station’s daily rotation. One of them was RICHARD HELL & THE VOIDOIDSDestiny Street, the 1982 sophomore release from the once member and co-founder of Television. On the covers of KCMU’s records were stickers for the DJs to scribble their comments, and if I remember right, more than one of the older jocks had written “not as good as Blank Generation” as their sentence-fragment review; naturally I had to dig that one up and decide for myself. Between the title track and “Love Comes in Spurts,” I think I did like Blank better. But Destiny Street wasn’t too shabby, either.

I tended to gravitate, at least early on, to songs with kooky titles, so things like “The Kid with the Replaceable Head” and “Lowest Common Dominator” were my initial faves. These were tunes propelled by twangy, angular/staccato guitars, a pretty funky bass and fairly straight ahead drums. I don’t remember if, at the time, I was bothered by Richard Hell’s out-of-tune, subtle caterwauling or not – I was probably too unschooled to notice it much and it likely was hidden by what I thought was just a highly unique vocal delivery. (It was years before I noticed, for instance, how flat my beloved Elvis Costello sings, so…) Anyway, the band’s semi-punk, semi-new wave sound was fairly new to me, and the couple of ’60s garage covers on the album weren’t in my radar yet (“I Gotta Move” and yes, even “I Can Only Give You Everything”), but the record was pretty dang cool regardless of what I did or didn’t know then.

Today, Richard Hell isn’t someone I’d choose all that often to listen to – I am a much bigger fan of Television – but I can appreciate various aspects of what he and his Voidoids put down. When you pick up this reissue of Destiny Street you’re gonna get FOUR different versions of the album. First, the original from ’82, then a 2009 version entitled Destiny Street Repaired that uses the original’s basic tracks but features re-recorded guitar solos and new lead vocals. Version three – Destiny Street Remixed – is a brand new mix of the original (from the 24-track tapes), and finally a selection of demos of most of the songs that were destined for Destiny Street. Why so many versions? I guess the answer to that would have to be, for lack of a better answer, why not?! I can think of a couple reasons, actually. Hell has apparently always disliked the way the original album turned out, so in 2009 he drafted Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot to add some guitar parts (original Voioids guitarists Robert Quine and Naux had passed away). That might have been the final version of the record, but then, just last year the original multitracks for 3/4 of the album turned up and so Richard, not satisfied with version two either, set about remixing the original tracks with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner. After listening to these three different versions three times I don’t find enough difference or improvement in the “repairs” or remixes to really warrant all this fuss. (I will say that Remixed seems to put Hell’s vocals more up front in the mix, which doesn’t exactly improve the album…)

BUT… I DO find that Destiny Street, regardless of which version I’m listening to, is a much better album than I remember and I’m really enjoying it. I like the Clash-style guitars in opener “The Kid with the Replaceable Head” (a la “Capitol Radio Two,” though those electrics are toned down enough in the later versions that you don’t quite notice the resemblance), I like “Ignore That Door” with its souped-up Steppenwolf vibe, and I like the title track and its spoken word narration.

So if Richard Hell wants to go to all this trouble after all these years to redo his band’s swan song release, and a reputable record label wants to put it out as a deluxe 2CD set (or just the Remixed portion as a single LP) AND it rekindles the Voidoids’ flame, I guess I can go along with it. I mean, you know when Hell and his honchos were running this concept up the flagpole they must have been considering what I, Marsh Gooch, would think about the enterprise. Psych. – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Omnivore Recordings OVCD-410, 2021)

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The Gun Club • Miami [LP, CD]

THE GUN CLUB is primarily remembered for their incendiary debut album, Fire of Love, a psychobilly/roots rock/punk classic that introduced the world to vocalist Jeffrey Lee Pierce. Their sophomore release, Miami, came out in 1982 on Blondie’s Chris Stein’s Animal Records label and has just been reissued by Blixa Sounds.

Continuing in the same vein as their introductory platter, Miami was, in many ways, the quintessential ’80s American indie rock release. With Ward Dotson’s twangy rhythm guitar leading the unadorned but solid bass and drums of Rob Ritter and Terry Graham, The Gun Club’s sound was at the root of two then upcoming indie rock camps: the twangy Americana guitar rock of R.E.M., Guadalcanal Diary, et. al., and the cowpunk/voodoo vibe of The Cramps, Tex & The Horseheads and the like. Leader/singer Pierce – “Elvis, Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop all rolled up into one” (says Dotson in a recent interview) – was a big fan of the blues and other American music but wasn’t exactly the greatest candidate for carrying the torch. At least, on paper. But in the studio and on stage, he conjured his influences into a compelling, raw, unschooled vocal style that would make you forget, if indeed you knew, that he was really a “guy that lives with his mom in Reseda” (Dotson again).

That first album, Fire of Love, was one of Slash Records’ earliest releases (on their Ruby subsidiary) and was a good seller for the label. But it wasn’t long before Pierce had burned a lot of bridges, both personal and professional, with his difficult personality and questionable antics. By the time they recorded Miami they had signed to a new record label that was backed by a larger label (Animal was distributed by Chrysalis Records). Unlike the crisp, raw sound of their debut, this album – produced by Stein – has a slightly muffled sound that doesn’t jump out of the speakers quite the way Fire of Love did. Still, its songs flicker and burn in a similar fashion. “Devil in the Woods” and “John Hardy” stand out as tunes that could’ve been on the Slash release, while opener “Carry Home” and the cover of CCR’s “Run Through the Jungle” are less psycho and closer to that generic college radio sound that many of us still have stuck somewhere in our heads. Overall, though, in hindsight Miami is just a notch less-great than its classic predecessor.

Blixa Sounds’ 2CD and 2LP reissues include the original Miami on disc one and that album’s demos on disc two. (The compact disc version adds an additional handful of songs demoed for Miami but eventually released on The Gun Club’s next album, The Las Vegas Story.) The CD package contains interesting liner notes, skeletal credits and only a few small photos (there is no actual booklet included in the six-panel digipak; I’m not sure if you get more in the 2LP configuration), but the sound is punchy despite the subtle high end. Regardless, it’s great to have Miami restored to availability after so many years of obscurity. We may not have Jeffrey Lee Pierce around anymore, but his band/spawn continues on. – Marsh Gooch

3/5 (Blixa Sounds ETA 843, 2020)

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