This Mixed Media online blog is a companion to the December/January print Playlist and features CD reissues, DVDs, Blu-rays and books from and/or about U.K. artists.
Moondance—Van Morrison (Warner Bros.)
There are few albums that rival Van Morrison’s Moondance for defining the music of the 70s. Warner Brothers has recently reissued the album in various configurations. The two-disc set features the original album with a complete second disc of all previously unissued alternate and outtake versions from the historic sessions.
Rarities—Rod Stewart (Mercury)
Here is the Rod Stewart that was once considered one of the greatest singers in rock. Covering roughly 1969 through 1974 on the Mercury label, these two CDs of rarities showcase what a great song interpreter Stewart could be. It’s remarkable that he recorded much of the music here while simultaneously fronting The Faces. The live BBC material is of particular note, as are most of these early, mostly acoustic, alternate versions of some of his best-loved songs and covers.
The Third Eye Centre—Belle and Sebastian (Matador)
In the period between Brit Pop’s final fizzle in America and the latest British Invasion of the past ten years, Belle & Sebastian was the only bright spot on the U.K. scene. Their twee songs and knowing 60s sensibility made for a delicious pop confection. Although they never even sniffed at any commercial success in America and have since shed many members and many of the elements that made them so special, it’s nice to have this 19-song collection of rarities of mostly rare imported B-sides. The earliest incarnation of this Scottish band boasts an impressive array of talent that merged to create an unforgettable sound that is sadly missed.
I Robot—The Alan Parsons Project (Arista/Legacy)
This is an album that is a favorite of Dr. Evil and is now issued as a Legacy Edition 35th anniversary edition on two CDs. The set contains the original album on disc one and 14 bonus tracks on disc two, including nine previously unreleased tracks. The album is also another example of what a key member the late Eric Woolfson was in the creation of the group’s sound. Although they at times veered toward an almost Spinal Tap-like progressive mode, there’s no denying the sonic brilliance of these recordings and how much of a studio wizard Parsons is in the recording world.
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll
Fans of the Rolling Stones have their pick of several reissues of some of the group’s classic London year’s recordings from ABKCO. In 2009 a box set of audio and video discs of the group’s live Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out album was released. It is now out-of-print, but the same material is available again. Drawn from the original album of the group’s performances at Madison Square Garden, the music here represents the best available live Stones recording period. This 3-CD/1 DVD set includes the original album, one disc of five bonus performances, one disc of opening acts Ike & Tina Turner and B.B. King and a DVD of the Stones performance, along with backstage and additional bonus footage. Three Stones albums have also been reissued on vinyl. Hot Rocks is a double-album that neatly chronicles the best of the group’s London Brian Jones years and the first stirrings of the new Mick Taylor lineup. The real vinyl gems, though, are Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. The Beggars Banquet reissue features the original, infamous bathroom wall-themed album cover and Let It Bleed is arguably the group’s best album from the 60s. Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live—The Rolling Stones (Eagle). Say what you will about the Rolling Stones, but given the excellence of this live concert from London’s Hyde Park from last summer, the Stones can still rock you. This release features a virtual greatest hits of the group’s mid-60s to mid-70s output, and attests to the fact that there are few groups who boast as impressive a song catalog and ability to still deliver the goods live. It’s wonderful to see Mick Taylor back in the fold, if only briefly. This concert, like any Rolling Stones show, conveys such a sense of occasion that makes it more than a mere rock concert. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll indeed. Also look for A Prince Among Stones (Bloomsbury) from Prince Rupert Lowenstein. Lowenstein was the de-facto business manager and accountant for the Rolling Stones for 37 years, guiding them through their rebellious 60s apex to their place as rock band as corporate enterprise behemoth. This erudite and surprisingly even-handed account of the Stones navigates through the world of rock, finance and high society with insight and aplomb.
Guitar, Spirit and Switzerland
Invitation to Illumination Live at Montreux 2011—Santana & McLaughlin (Eagle)
There are probably no two guitarists who bring so much spirit and spirituality to playing the electric guitar than John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana. While many electric rock guitarists bring so much macho male attitude to their playing, these two veteran masters are more about the notes they don’t play than the ones they do play. They have reunited after not having played together in decades and remind us all what an extraordinary collaboration their 1973 Love Devotion and Surrender album was and how far ahead of its time the album remains. There are songs from that release as well as extraordinary covers of everyone from John Coltrane to Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. It’s a shame these two guitar giants couldn’t take this extraordinary show out on a full-scale tour.
Eric Clapton released a new studio album Old Sock earlier this year, but a number of other Clapton recordings have been released. Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival (Rhino/Reprise) is available as double, Blu-ray, DVD and CD packages. The fourth festival is as stunning in its line-up and collaborations as previous festivals. The fact that this show was filmed and recorded at the more intimate and acoustically forgiving Madison Square Garden makes for even more of a guitar extravaganza. There are many great performances, but the highlight is Clapton performing “Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad” with the Allman Brothers Band. The premier Eric Clapton reissue project for this year is the release of Give Me Strength: The ‘74/’75 Recordings (Universal) from Eric Clapton. The 5-CD/1-DVD set includes the original 461 Ocean Boulevard album with additional session outtakes on disc one. Disc two features the album There’s One In Every Crowd with session outtakes and non-album single releases. Disc three and four include the live double-album E.C. Was Here with additional performances, with some of these performances from Clapton’s 1975 Nassau Coliseum performance. Disc four includes tracks from the Freddie King Criteria Studios sessions and features two previously unreleased recordings. Disc five is a Blu-ray that includes a 5.1 surround sound mix of the 461 Ocean Boulevard album, the original Quadrophonic mix and a Quadrophonic mix of There’s One In Every Crowd. The music here represents Clapton’s 70s comeback from his self-imposed drug exile. There is also a 60-page hardcover book. Clapton’s Grammy-winning MTV Unplugged (Reprise/MTV) receives the deluxe treatment. This three-disc set includes the original album and DVD along with an audio disk of six rehearsal performances, with two songs that were not included in the MTV airing, album or telecast.
Hal Leonard publishes many of the best books on popular music. There have been a slew of recent titles, but three are definitive texts on Eric Clapton. Marc Roberty is the acknowledged Boswell of Eric Clapton scholarship who has published many books on Slowhand through the years. His two newest books, from the Day-By-Day Series, The Early Years 1963-1982 and The Later Years 1983-2013, offer a detailed diary of Clapton’s music career that will form the backbone of all future research into Clapton’s still evolving career. The beautiful hardcover books are also filled with illustrations and color photography. Also from Hal Leonard is Eric Clapton FAQ: All That’s Left To Know About Slowhand from David Bowling. This compendium of facts, figures, dates and names is the ultimate Clapton dictionary and is a nice companion to the two Roberty books.
Who is Pink?
From the Who comes perhaps the best-ever reissue of the group’s music. Tommy (Universal) includes four discs, a hardback book and a poster. Disc one includes the original double album on CD in HD. Disc two includes 25 bonus recordings, 20 of which are, never-before-released tracks, and 23 of which are cuts of Pete Townshend’s original demos. There are also two Who demo/outtakes. Disc three includes a Hi-Fidelity Pure-Audio Blu-ray of the original album in 5.1. The fourth disc includes 21 previously unreleased live performances from 1969. It’s inconceivable that a more valued reissue of the music of the Who could ever be released. The perfect gift book from Hal Leonard is Treasures of The Who from Chris Welch. This hardcover book, housed in a beautiful case, is a dizzying illustrated history of the band filled with concert tickets, posters and ephemera to make any Mod or Who fan be swept up in a frenzy of ecstasy. Another fine Hal Leonard book is Roger Waters The Man Behind The Wall from Dave Thompson. This is surprisingly the first full-length biography of Waters. British ex-pat Thompson brings his considerable experience and musical knowledge to unmasking the former Pink Floyd bassist and principal songwriter.