Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

We're back with a bunch of recent arrivals from some of rock and roll's most sonic and visually singular artists, with both CD and DVD releases from Alien Ant Farm, The Clash and Steely Dan.

Alien Ant Farm -- BUSted (Geffen/UMe)

In between pit stops around the globe -- including some unforgettable footage from Amsterdam -- the SoCal alt-metal quartet Alien Ant Farm can be found sporting their MTV-style videos for "Smooth Criminal," "Movies," "Attitude," "These Days," "Glow," "Drifting Apart," "Sticks & Stones," "Forgive and Forget," "Around The Block" and "She's Only Evil." Those final four clips are previously unissued, as are two different versions of "Movies" and the sole alternate of "These Days".

Also included on BUSted is a dozen-song live set from Hamburg, Germany capturing the band during their infamous ANThology tour in the winter and spring of 2002. This was almost three months prior to the fatal bus accident that practically paralyzed lead vocalist Dryden Mitchell for the rest of his life. "Courage," "Summer," "Stranded," "Whisper," "Calico," "Attitude," "Bug Bytes," and "S.S. Recognize" are but a few of the non-stop highlights from the February 13th show. The Dolby 5.1 Surround audio playback option is better than most and puts the participant right in the center of the venue.    

For those who've ever wondered what really goes on 'behind the scenes' as rock groups go on tour, the "Road To Wreckage" mini-documentary depicts life as a perpetual blur of testosterone-fueled mayhem set to a loud and melodically driven soundtrack. Viewers can join the band on the road and hang in the affectionately-termed 'short bus' with access that goes way beyond that of your typical backstage pass.

The Clash -- Rude Boy (Epic Video/Legacy)

I had begun to wonder whether I would see the day that the Clash's Rude Boy (1980) would get the attention it so rightly deserves. The motion picture was one of the first of its kind to present the emergence of punk as a political statement, more so than simply a trend in pop music.

The primary narrative deals with Ray [aka Rude Boy] as he pursues a career as a roadie for The Clash. However, the real central characters throughout the two-plus hour movie are the tunes. As the quartet tour England, they emit powerfully live versions of "Police and Thieves," "London's Burning," "White Man In Hammersmith Palais," "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.," "Janie Jones," "Tommy Gun," "Complete Control," "Safe European Home," "What's My Name," an incendiary cover of the '60s classic "I Fought The Law," and "White Riot" with Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69.

For this very expanded edition, there are newly restored performances of "White Riot" and "English Civil War" that were cut from the final edit of the movie. Plus archival BBC clips of "Clash City Rockers" and "Tommy Gun" circa 1978. From behind the camera are conversations with Ray "Rude Boy" Gange, as well as Johnny Green -- the actual road manager on which the character was based. Additionally, there are chats with Jack Hanzan and David Mingay, the team who produced, directed and wrote the screenplay.

The Clash -- The Singles (Epic/Legacy)

The celebration of The Clash continues with the unveiling of this immaculately-appointed multi-disc box set -- manufactured in England with extreme attention to detail -- housing all 19 of the UK-issued 45s by the Clash. For many, the highlight of the lot is the never-commercially-available 1977 “Capitol Radio” EP, that could only be obtained as a gratis premium from the New Musical Express newspaper.

The Singles is offered in two formats. For a limited time, nostalgia-lovers with turntables can wrap their lobes around the vinyl versions, replete with replicas of the labels and dust jackets. Or, those with 21st Century ears can spring for the CDs. One huge caveat is that the CDs have bonus tracks gathered from 12-inch singles, non-UK (including US) B-sides, and promotional sources. In fact, the two-part "Capital Radio EP 'Interview'," "Radio One," "This Is Radio Clash," "Outside Broadcast," "Radio 5," and "Sex Mad Roar" have never been on CD domestically before now. 

The lavish 44-page four-color booklet is strewn with plenty of rarely published photographs and extensive memorabilia. Every disc will also be the focus of commentaries from musical luminaries such as  Mike D of The Beastie Boys, Pete Townshend, former Clash manager Bernard Rhodes, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, Shane McGowan of The Pogues, Bernard Sumner from Joy Division and New Order, as well as a host of other notables.

Steely Dan -- Classic Albums: Aja (Eagle Vision)

This volume of the UK-produced Classic Albums series includes a well-deserved entry from the made-in-the-studio combo, Steely Dan. Under the direction of Donald Fagen (keyboards/vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar/bass), Steely Dan was essentially a nom de plume under which the pair could create their own distinct fusion of rock and jazz.

During this hour-long episode, all the primary players, producers and engineers deconstruct the music. Several of the specifically-chosen all-stars are likewise given a chance to illustrate how their contributions were worked out. Of particular note are Michael McDonald's memories of recording the backing vocals to "Peg" and the totally improvised sax solo from former Miles Davis bandmate Wayne Shorter during the title track "Aja".


Steely Dan -- The Definitive Collection (Geffen/UMe Chronicles)

While the Top 40 hits "Josie" and "Time Out Of Mind" didn't make it, among the Definitive Dan deep cuts found within are "Dirty Work," "Bad Sneakers," "Kid Charlemagne," "My Old School," as well as the newer sides 'Cousin Dupree" -- from their 2000 comeback Two Against Nature -- and "Things I Miss The Most" off of the 2003 follow-up Everything Must Go.

All told, these 16 tracks offer an adequate overview of the Steely Dan Story so far. On that level it can similarly be recommended as a suitable starting place for curious consumers who are looking for a solid and modestly-priced single CD compilation as "Do It Again," "Reelin' In The Years," "Rikki Don't Lose That Number," "Deacon Blues," "FM," "Hey Nineteen" and "Babylon Sisters" are but a few of the more obvious inclusions.

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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