05/12/08
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

The 2008 Spring harvest of new arrivals has already yielded a bountiful crop of classic reissues -- boasting a vast array of formerly unavailable sights and sounds. This week, As The Disc Spins is rotating no less than four of these recently revamped titles.


Carole King -- Tapestry: Legacy Edition (Epic/Ode/Legacy)

Few albums have continued to have as significant a cultural impact as singer/songwriter Carole King's landmark Tapestry (1971).The project produced a total of four singles  -- "It's Too Late," "I Feel The Earth Move," "So Far Away" and "Smackwater Jack" -- all of which landed in the Top 20. The LP stayed at #1 for 15 weeks, remaining for another 302 consecutive weeks (or, nearly six years) as a key component of the album charts. In fact, only Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) can currently claim a longer run. Indeed, someone must have been buying it, as it has been certified 10-times platinum Stateside and sold in excess of 24 million copies globally. With such an impressive track record, it seems like a no-brainer to occasionally revisit this truly timeless collection.

Disc One, of the double CD Legacy Edition, presents a remastering of the entire dozen-song long player. What better way to go beyond the grooves and enjoy the aforementioned hits and equally incisive deeper cuts "Home Again," "Way Over Yonder," "Beautiful," "You've Got A Friend," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and King's poignant update of "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" -- a song she had written over a decade earlier for The Shirelles. However, it is Disc Two that will undoubtedly and rightfully garner the most spins. It offers what is essentially the artist playing Tapestry live and 'unplugged' -- just King accompanying herself on piano. The concert material -- none of which has ever been issued before -- has been drawn from four separate venues.

The Boston, Columbia MD and Central Park shows were documenting her Fantasy (1973) tour, while the San Francisco Opera House gig -- three years later -- hails from the Thoroughbred (1976) era. The contents of Disc Two mirror the familiar running order of the original long player with one conspicuous caveat. "Where You Lead" -- that sits comfortably between "You've Got A Friend" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?"-- was the sole selection not performed by King as a self-contained number during the early 1970s. Meaning that on the rare occasions that she did do it there were either no usable tapes, or she was backed by a band. The 20-page liner booklet is replete with full-color photos -- including a gorgeous un-retouched shot of the memorable cover art -- complete lyrics, fascinating song-by-song analyses from King's longtime behind-the-scenes collaborator Lou Adler and an essay from noted pop music critic and author Harvey Kubernik.

Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Street Survivors: Deluxe Edition - 30th Anniversary (Geffen/UMe)

Universal Music Enterprises' (UMe) certainly raised the bar with their suitably heroic 'Deluxe Edition' treatments of Lynyrd Skynyrd's epic One More For From The Road (1976) in 2001 and then Gimmie Back My Bullets (1976) four years later. That rich heritage continues with this overhaul of Street Survivors -- marking the 30th Anniversary of the last project by Skynyrd's 'legendary' line-up with Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Steve Gaines (guitar/vocals) and Steve's sister Cassie Gaines, who was a member of Skynyrd's backing vocalists, The Honkettes. They were among those who perished on Thursday, October 20, 1977 -- less than 72 hours after the album came out -- when the combo's chartered tour airplane ran out of gas and crashed in a densely wooded area near McComb, Mississippi. However, Street Survivors left enthusiasts with what was unquestionably the band's definitive musical statement.

Disc One contains the same top-shelf audio restoration that Doug Schwartz had done in 2001 for the single disc 'Expanded Edition'. However, Disc Two augments the eight-song running order with distinct caches of rare recordings. Up first are previously unissued songs that had been readied and produced by the legendary Tom Dowd at his Criteria Studio home-base in Miami, FL in late 1976. Dissatisfied with the final results, Skynyrd scrapped the tapes and started over from scratch. After three decades languishing in the vaults, eager ears are finally treated to 'Original Versions' of "What's Your Name," "You Got That Right," "I Never Dreamed," "Ain't No Good Life," "Sweet Little Missy" -- which is also presented in a demo form -- and "That Smell". Wrapping up the rejected Criteria studio sides are "Georgia Peaches" and "Jacksonville Kid" -- which was a working title for Van Zant's remake of the Merle Haggard staple "Honky Tonk Night Time Man".  Perhaps the most important elements in the Street Survivors: Deluxe Edition -- 30th Anniversary are what may be the last live recordings of the '70s Skynyrd. From August 24, 1977 they perform several yet-to-have-been released songs from the forthcoming LP -- namely "You Got That Right," "That Smell," "Ain't No Good Life" and "What's Your Name". Fittingly, the package concludes with a rowdy, fist-pumpin' reading of one of their earliest hits, "Gimmie Three Steps".

The oversized 24-page liner insert is packed with formerly unpublished outtakes of the ominous fiery cover artwork, discographical details about the creation of Skynyrd's swan song, plus a lengthy essay from producer Ron O'Brien that places Street Survivors in an historic context.

Elvis Costello and The Attractions -- This Year's Model: Deluxe Edition (Hip-O/UMe)

Very few pop artists have been able to remain as consistently relevant for as long as Elvis Costello. If you really wanna feel old, consider that it has been 30 years since the great bespectacled one first introduced the world to The Attractions on This Year's Model (1978). Over the years, the platter has perpetually ranked near (or at) the top of the various 'Greatest Albums of All Time' polls and surveys. And with good reason too as Nick Lowe (producer) was able to capture Costello (guitar/vocals) and Attractions' Steve Nieve (keyboards), Bruce Thomas (bass) and Pete Thomas (drums) -- at their most viscerally edgy.

Nary a moment is wasted as Disc One not only houses a recent remastering of the dozen-song LP, but no less than 10 supplementary sides. Costello himself has taken an active hand in the assembly of the extras. For this upgrade he has gone deep into his seemingly infinite archive and retrieved the b-sides "Big Tears," "Tiny Steps," "Neat, Neat, Neat" (live) and "Roadette Song" (live). He also added "Crawling To The USA" -- which initially landed on the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film Americathon (1979) before surfacing on Costello's own and Taking Liberties (1980) odds and sods anthology.  Likewise there are demos for "Running Out Of Angels," "Greenshirt," "Big Boys" and alternates of "This Year's Girl" and "(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea".

While the tunes on the first CD have been widely available, the same cannot be said of the concert featured on Disc Two. The February 28, 1978 appearance at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC was captured for local rebroadcast on a Maryland radio station and only one number ("Chemistry Class") within the 17-song live set has ever resurfaced in any legitimate capacity. The show is wall-to-wall Costello classics from the opening rager "Pump It Up," through highlights including "Waiting For The End Of The World," "Less Than Zero," "Little Triggers," "Radio, Radio," "Lipstick Vogue," "Watching The Detectives," "Mystery Dance," "Blame It On Cain" and seven others. Within the two-dozen pages of the liner booklet are alternates and outtakes from the LP's striking Costello-behind-the-camera cover shot and other full-color photos, lyrics, as well as a compact discography.

Midnight Oil -- Diesel and Dust: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy)

Although Midnight Oil had already garnered a sizable following throughout the rest of the world, it wasn't until their breakthrough Diesel And Dust (1987) that Aussie-based rockers Peter Garrett (vocals), Martin Rotsey (guitar), Jim Moginie (guitar/keyboards), Peter Gifford (bass) and Rob Hirst (drums) made a significant impact Stateside. In fact in their native Australia, Diesel And Dust became their fourth consecutive chart topper. To mark both the 20th anniversary of the release of the original album -- and inaugurating the complete reassessment of Midnight Oil's back catalogue -- Diesel And Dust has been profoundly updated with a fresh digital remastering that, simply put, makes the old CD sound like a cassette. Not only has the fidelity been improved, but after having been banned in North America due to controversial content and explicit lyrics, the track "Gunbarrel Highway" has finally been restored to its rightful place within the lineup. As is the Legacy Edition's trademark of quality, they have taken the project's renovation a step further, complementing the audio with the DVD debut of the hour-long Blackfella/Whitefella Tour (1987) documentary that aired on Australian television.

It was the events that can be seen transpiring during the Blackfella/Whitefella Tour that would leave an indelible impression on the entire Diesel And Dust concept. In effect, the song cycle was actually borne of the band's experiences while semi-formally touring the poverty-stricken Aboriginal settlements of Central Australia during the summer of 1986. What they saw sent them into profound disbelief at the severity under which these people were (barely) existing in. The incidences translated directly into the songs "Bullroarer," "Dreamworld," "Put Down That Weapon," "Sell My Soul" and, of course, the unexpected world-wide hit "Beds Are Burning" -- which made it all the way to the Top 20 Pop Singles survey 20 years ago, mid-May of 1988. Particularly fascinating are Midnight Oil's jams with the Aboriginal Warumpi Band.

It is also worth noting that as well as containing the aforementioned hour-long main feature, there are MTV-style concept video clips for "Beds Are Burning" and "The Dead Heart". The latter is striking as the number was chosen by the Aboriginal Community of Australia as an anthem to celebrate the return of the sacred Uluru monolith (the world's largest) to the people of its native land. However, it may have been Peter Garrett who gained the most from what he saw and heard as he is currently (as of May 2008) serving as the Minister for the Environment, Heritage & the Arts in Australian Parliament.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist based out of the Piedmont of North Carolina. He's a  frequent contributor to All Music Guide, All Movie Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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