Music Consumption in the MP3 Era
Music Consumption in the MP3 Era

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Name: uao
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uao is also a contributor to Blogcritics.org, Rhapsody Radish. and FIQL.com.

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Note: the copyrighted audio material on this site is for listening only, and is not downloadable. It is provided as illustrations to the articles, and to interest people in the legal purchase of these artists' material. Any copyright holder who would like their material removed should contact me, and I'll remove it.

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Sunday, February 05, 2006
 

Weekly Reissue Roundup #37: 02/04/06

Big Star: 3rd (2006)   Badfinger: Day After Day (1990)   Justin Hayward: Classic Blue (1994)   Sam & Dave: Soul Men (1967)


Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars

Big Star: Third (Rykodisc, January 31, 2006) *****
Badfinger: Day After Day Live (Rykodisc, January 31, 2006) ***
Justin Hayward: Classic Blue (CMC International, January 31, 2006) **
Sam & Dave: Soul Men (Collectables, January 31, 2006) ****

Big Star: Third
Big Star: 3rd (2006)
One of the most legendary unreleased/grey-market albums of all time, until it was given a proper resequencing and release on Rykodisc in 1992, Big Star's third album (also known as "Sister Lovers") is given re-release with a new cover. Big Star, from Memphis, is best known as Alex Chilton's vehicle, Chilton being the enigmatic and maverick singer/guitarist/songwriter who first gained fame as a teenager with a rich soul voice in the Box Tops. When the Box Tops ran out of steam, Chilton returned home for Memphis, where childhood friend Chris Bell invited him to join his new band. Re-named Big Star, the band never found its audience. They recorded for the small label Ardent, a subsidiary of Memphis soul label Stax, and their music, which was a tuneful, almost naive power-pop before the term had been coined, was distinctly out of step with the product Ardent dealt in. Bell left the group after the first album tanked, despite excellent reviews, and bassist Andy Hummell left after the second. When Third was being recorded by Chilton and remaining co-member Jody Stephens (drums), Ardent was collapsing amidst a bankrupcy and Chilton knew that the record was an exercise in futility, destined never to see the light of day. So he went about maiming the songs, each and every one, sabotaging them with purposely non-commerical production techniques like using a deflated basketball for a drum, and playing havoc with the stereo separation. The songs, which are mostly in a somewhat British pop style, are insular, paranoid, edgy, and manic depressive. The overall result is a brilliant power pop album for the suicidal. Whether this is something you need, is a matter of choice. But the tortured vocals on "Kangaroo", the heartbreaking singalong "O Dana", a weird cover of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale", the resigned "Thank You Friends", and Stephens' wistful "For You" are worth the price of admission, for power pop fans and the truly depressed. Following this album, Chilton embarked on a bizarre solo career with some good, quirky ups and a lot of downs; Bell died in an accident in 1978.

Badfinger: Day After Day Live
Badfinger: Day After Day (1990)
This is a very controversial release among Badfinger fans, one that led to a court battle between singer/guitarist Joey Molland and drummer Mike Gibbins (and the estates of Pete Ham and Tom Evans). The story goes that in 1974, when Warner Brothers yanked the excellent Wish You Were Here after two weeks in the stores because of financial irregularities (that ultimately left the band bankrupt, and indirectly led to Pete Ham's suicide), Molland quit the band in disgust. As he departed, he took a tape of this concert, which was recorded at the Cleveland Agora in January 1974. Molland sat on the tapes until 1990, when he produced this album for Rykodisc. The controversy comes in with Molland's production job. Molland's vocals and guitar are re-recorded, and Molland's songs are all front-loaded on the album. This makes Molland's contributions sound more important than they were within the context of the original band. Worse, he covered up most of Mike Gibbins' drums with a drum machine, that sounds tacky and out of place on the early 70's recording. Gibbins claimed it was done without his knowledge, and won a mixed-verdict, that allowed the record to remain in stores, but required Molland to pay more for the rights. Contrary to popular belief though, the album isn't worthless. While the drum machine is a nuisance, and Molland would have helped himself by keeping his songs mixed in with Ham/Evans' songs, there are 10 great songs here, some in considerably looser, more rocking versions than their studio counterparts, and Molland probably did improve what always was a very murky recording on bootleg. Molland's "Give It Up", a worldweary ballad-cum-heavy rocker is the best of his songs, while Pet Ham/Tom Evans' "Name Of The Game", "Timeless", and "Blind Owl" all sound good here. A very misleading and incomplete portrait of the band, but certainly listenable for fans. Those wanting a better live album are steered towards the excellent Live At The BBC, but this one has its uses, too.

Justin Hayward: Classic Blue
Justin Hayward: Classic Blue (1994)
This 1994 solo album by Moody Blues guitarist Justin Hayward is one of those albums you really don't need, and probably shouldn't have, unless you really have mush for a heart. 13 rock classics are given orchestral treatment with Hayward supplying vocals, and the overall effect is easy listening that would make an elevator blush. The songs aren't especially interesting ones; familiar chestnuts like "God Only Knows", "Stairway To Heaven", "Vincent", "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", and "Scarborough Fair", among others are here. The London Philharmonic does what it does, which is to infuse these songs with a lot of sleepy strings and horns, while Hayward croons on top. There's nothing really "rock" about this album (which arguably can be said about the Moody Blues), the songs stay so close to the originals that there aren't any surprises, and Hayward never had a particularly compelling or memorable voice. In short, this is simply a career move that tried to cash in on the then-current craze for orchestral albums. Those looking to build a collection of really pretentious, silly versions of "MacArthur Park" will need this, though. If you have to have orchestras, stick with Days of Future Passed.

Sam & Dave: Soul Men
Sam & Dave: Soul Men (1967)
Sam & Dave had a lot of hard luck, and it has cost them in the posterity sweepstakes; seldom does anyone hear more than "Soul Man" on the radio anymore, which is a pity, because these guys practically defined Memphis soul in the late 1960's, and their records are full of grit and character. Their records were distributed for Stax, which overtook Motown as the most innovative soul label in the late 1960's, and they benefited themselves of all the perks that went with it: Isaac Hayes and David Porter-penned tunes, Booker T. & The MG's as backing. "Soul Men", released in 1967, was probably their best album, among several good ones (Collectables is re-releasing 3 others simultaneously). "Soul Man" is here, and is the lone hit, but the other stuff is remarkably strong: "Hold It Baby", "Rich Kind of Poverty", and "Just Keep Holding On" all all top drawer and could have been hits on their own. Sam and Dave's music had a great swagger to it; it implied as much raunch as it delivered, and Isaac Hayes' production is stripped raw, and kept organic. The horns are great; the duo is at their peak. Unfortunately, Sam and dave hit a major bump in the road the following year when Atlantic records (to whom they were signed) ended its distribution deal with Stax. The pair were unable to work with the Stax producers, songwriters, and backing musicians, and their albums suffered. The John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd movie The Blues Brothers put their name in lights again in 1980, but their career failed to re-ignite and they split in 1981. Dave Prater died in 1988, a year after he was busted for selling crack. The duo was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll hall of Fame in 1992.

     

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