Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Minute Music Gift Guide Part 2

Here are more of my music buying suggestions...

So Red the Rose

Duran Duran
Notorious; Big Thing
The latest batch in EMI’s fine Duran Duran reissue program focuses on the mid-to-late Eighties period when the Fab Five began splintering. Their days of topping the charts had slowed somewhat, but there was plenty of compelling material on these three remastered 2 CD/DVD Special Edition albums.

When John and Andy Taylor formed Power Station in 1985, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor went forth with Arcadia, an atmospheric and keyboard heavy side project with guest appearances by Sting, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones and others. “Election Day” went top 10; “Goodbye is Forever” dented the top 40 and the album itself went platinum. Disc 1 contains 7” mixes and a soundtrack song; Disc 2 has more remixes, while the DVD marks the debut of “The Making of Arcadia” videos and behind the scenes footage.

1986’s Notorious saw 3/5 of Duran reconvene. The Brits brought funk and Latin brass elements under the guidance of producer Nile Rodgers (Chic), who played guitar to supplement contributions from future full-time axe man Warren Cuccurullo and a basically M.I.A. Andy Taylor. The title track was the major hit; “Skin Trade” reached the lower top 40. The handsome mini-box set includes the original album, art card prints, a disc of remixes, B-sides and the rare “Duran Goes Dutch” live 1987 EP recorded in the Netherlands. A previously unreleased “Working for the Skin Trade” live DVD was shot in Rio on the Notorious tour; music videos round things out.  

Adopting a more dance-oriented, house music approach, 1988’s Big Thing found the group experimenting more and backing further from its pop origins. Both top 40 singles (“All She Wants Is,” “I Don’t Want Your Love”) were keepers and Le Bon’s dramatic vocals on “Do You Believe in Shame” and “Edge of America” proved memorable. This reissue restores the original “Drug” to the album running order. Disc 2 contains B-sides and remixes, while the DVD is an Italian concert from ’88. A must for all diehard Durannies.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers 
Damn the Torpedoes
This 1979 disc was the band’s commercial breakthrough and one of the standouts in a catalog that spans more than 30 years. Half the songs became album rock radio classics (“Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” “Even the Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That”) and continued Petty’s introduction into the mainstream that started with “American Girl.” The deluxe edition is remastered and has nine bonus cuts (seven of which were previously unreleased). They encompass rare studio takes “Nowhere” and “Surrender,” B-sides a demo and a live trio from 1980 at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. Liner notes were written by Rolling Stone magazine’s David Fricke. 


Time Flies…1994-2009
(Big Brother/Columbia)
This is the first career-spanning collection from the Beatles and Stone Roses-worshipping Britpop titans who achieved platinum success with their first three albums (Definitely Maybe, What’s the Story Morning Glory, Be Here Now) here. On Time Flies, all 26 UK single A-sides - 10 U.S. Top 20 modern rock radio singles among them (“Wonderwall,” “Live Forever,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Don’t Go Away,” “Stand By Me,” “D’You Know What I Mean,” etc) - are all represented. The deluxe limited edition contains 38 music videos (some live or UK versions) and the Gallagher brothers' commentary on DVD, plus a London 2009 concert.

Seattle’s Soundgarden released its first EP on a nascent Sub Pop Records in 1987 and became the first grunge band to sign with a major label. Its BH Surfers-meets Zeppelin and psychedelic sound, plus leader Chris Cornell’s wailing vocals, took awhile to reach the masses. Shortly after it finally did, the group disintegrated in 1997.The deluxe two-disc, 24-song set has all the major hits (“Spoonman,” “Black Hole Sun,” “Fell on Black Days,” “Pretty Noose,” Burden in My Hand,” “Blow Up the Outside World,” “My Wave”) and fan favorites (“Jesus Christ Pose,” “Rusty Cage”). There are two live tracks, a previously unreleased song (“Black Rain”) and 20 rare and official music videos on the DVD. Also available as a single disc.

Billy Joel
The Hits
The primer for a comprehensive catalog reissue campaign in 2011, The Hits racks up 19 noteworthy tracks for the first time on a single disc (previously, Joel had put out “Greatest Hits” Vols. 1-3). Nearly everything a casual fan could want is here, spanning “Everybody Loves You Now,” off 1971’s Cold Spring Harbor, to the title track from 1993’s River of Dreams. In between are such chart toppers as “It’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll to Me,” “Tell Her About It” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”


Viva Elvis – The Album
The companion piece to the Viva Elvis by Cirque du Soleil production, currently running at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, is similar to what was done for The Beatles’ Love by Cirque du Soleil. Thousands of samples of The King’s voice and interview clips were spliced into different keys and tempos on several signature songs. The new hip-hop, punk and ragga elements can be jarring at first, but the sound is very modern. Both “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Suspicious Minds” are reminiscent of U2, “That’s Alright Mama” has an Iggy Pop “Lust for Life” vibe and “Heartbreak Hotel” became punchy and in-your-face. Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam) mixed three of the dozen tracks.

Dave Matthews Band
Live in New York City
(Bama Rages/RCA)
The Dave Matthews Band can usually be counted on to tour America each summer and afterward, a live album frequently follows suit. Live in New York City is culled from a run at Citi Field last July. Part of the lengthy tour in support of 2009’s Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King, this double disc set is heavy on deep album cuts. It includes selections from King, Stand Up, Matthews' solo effort Some Devil and traditional show closing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

Bryan Adams
Bare Bones
Adams had done an “MTV Unplugged” back in the ‘90s, but was accompanied by an orchestra and band then. Bare Bones, culled from several nights during an East Coast tour of America and Scandinavia, is truly acoustic. Adams just plays guitar and keyboardist Gary Breit joins on a few songs. “Straight From the Heart,” “All for Love” “Heaven,” “It’s Only Love,” “Summer of ’69,” “Cuts Like a Knife” and “(Everything I Do) I Do it for You” are all heard in a fresh, relaxed context as Adams talks to the crowds and jokes around.

Cheap Trick
REO Speedwagon
Setlist: The Very Best Of
Comprised of live nuggets from the vaults, the Setlist series is a single CD of remastered tracks embedded with .pdf files containing liner notes, discography, photos and more in an eco-friendly slim package. Cheap Trick’s edition was taken from LA’s The Whiskey (1977), the famed Tokyo Budokan shows (1978), LA’s The Forum (1979) and Daytona Beach (1988).

The REO Speedwagon edition comes from an early tour (1976), E. Troy, Wisconsin (1980) and Denver (1981) – during the massively successful Hi Infidelity tours, Indianapolis (1984), Kansas City (1985) and Grand Rapids, Mich. (1990). Diehard fans will definitely want to pick it up since seven songs are previously unreleased.


Ladies and Gentlemen: the Rolling Stones
(Eagle Vision) Running time: 110 min.
Hot on the heels of the amazing reissue of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street comes this long-unavailable concert culled from that album’s U.S. tour. Filmed over the course of four Texas gigs in 1972, it was briefly shows in theaters and has been newly restored and remastered. The band is in peak form here.

Among the many standouts are “Tumbling Dice,” “Love in Vain” and “Dead Flowers” (where guitarist Mick Taylor does some amazing solos), “All Down the Line,” a more ruminative than usual “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and an epic, hypnotic take on “Midnight Rambler” (Mick Jagger turns in a bluesy harmonica solo).

Bonus features consist of a three song tour rehearsal (“Shake Your Hips,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Shake Your Hips”), a ’72 TV interview with Jagger from the BBC’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” and a 2010 chat with the singer. In the latter, he talks about how the band bought the rights to the concert film and cleaned it up as well as that tour’s low-key staging and dim lighting effects of the time, where the camera was stationary. The DVD booklet has a short essay by UK music journalist Paul Sexton and a mini foldout poster.

Jackson Browne
Going Home
(Eagle Vision) Running time: 90 min.
Originally shown on The Disney Channel in 1994, this music special combines in-studio performances from then-recent album I’m Alive with archival footage and interviews from throughout Browne’s career. Longtime friends and collaborators Bonnie Raitt, Don Henley, David Crosby, Graham Nash and David Lindley all reflect on Browne’s music, while all but Henley are shown performing with him at various points. The Eagle recalls how Glenn Frey helped finish writing “Take It Easy” and says “Jackson had an influence on me; he was the first one of us to get signed to a record deal.” The director does a cool job stitching together different performances of the same song, giving the viewer a sense of how Browne’s arrangements have evolved. Other high points include clips of Browne at the MUSE benefit shows, joking around with Crosby & Nash in an acoustic number and trips to Europe. Many classics (“Doctor My Eyes,” “These Days,” “Take It Easy,” “The Pretender,” “For Everyman,” “Before the Deluge,” “Running on Empty”) are spotlighted too. 


Keith Urban 
Get Closer
For his seventh solo album, the Nashville-via-New Zealand Urban co-wrote a bulk of the material. The singer/guitarist splits the difference between mid-tempo numbers (“Put You in a Song”) and earthy ballads inspired by wife Nicole Kidman and their baby daughter as well as a slew of country-rockers (“Shut Out the Lights,” “Long Hot Summer”).

The standard version is eight tracks, but diehard fans would be better served getting the exclusive deluxe version at Target stores. It includes four live tracks four live songs recorded during his “Love, Pain & the whole crazy World Tour” and a fine cover of Santana’s 1980s hit “Winning.”

Kenny Chesney 
Hemingway’s Whiskey
Not quite as relaxed as “Just Who I Am” or “Lucky Old Sun,” the new Chesney album is still a mature effort with both laid back and uptempo songs. He teams up with George Jones, who originally recorded “Small Y’all” and takes on a Guy Clark penned number in the slowly unfolding sports influenced title tune (which clocks in at 6:32 and is the theme to the Chesney-produced documentary on high school football). Elsewhere, “Somewhere With You,” delves into the after effect of a break-up, there’s the driving Tom Petty-esque “Round & Round” and ballad “Where I Grew Up.” On the yearning, acoustic-tinged “You and Tequila,” he even pairs with roots rocker Grace Potter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't know anything about the new Oasis collection or the Duran Duran reissues! Thanks for the wonderful overviews of new music.