Volume 5, Number 4 - October 24, 2008
 
   

 
  Elton John -- Elton John - Deluxe Edition
Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection - Deluxe Edition
(Rocket/UMe)

 

While not his first or even best-selling long players, the eponymous Elton John (1970) and follow-up Tumbleweed Connection (1971) are essential entries in the artist's voluminous 40 year discography. Even more so for his ardent North American fan-base as the two -- which were issued within six months of each other -- are encapsulated in the memories of a generation as their entree into the music of Elton John and the lyrics of Bernie Taupin. In their latest and greatest configuration the albums are in good company, alongside previous Deluxe Edition recipients Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973) and Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboys (1975) as key EJ collections to have been given Universal Music Enterprises' (UMe) royal treatment.

While many LPs are erroneously judged by the number of hits they contain, it would be particularly misleading to rate the longevity of the Elton John album with said criteria. The full-length platter actually made it into the Top Five Pop survey, outscoring the single "Your Song" -- which admirably landed in the Top Ten. Further establishing its importance in the Elton John cannon is that during the intervening four decades he has continued to place "Take Me To The Pilot" -- and upon occasion "Sixty Years On" and "Border Song" -- in his live concert repertoire. The recent digital remastering of the original tapes yield the best stereo mix yet. Although personally, I still prefer the SACD Surround Sound mix done by Greg Penny in 2004. Disc Two is chocked full of never-before-publically heard demos, most done with Elton accompanying himself on piano. There are a number of fascinating inclusions. Chief among them are "Thank You Mama," "All The Way Down To El Paso" and "I'm Going Home" -- none of which were ever revisited and make their debut here. There are also BBC Radio derived versions of "Your Song," "Take Me To The Pilot" and with Brit blues-rockers Hookfoot as his back-up unit, a soulful reading of "Border Song".

With Tumbleweed Connection, the John/Taupin team were nearly half a century ahead of their time as they display their affection for what would now be considered Americana. The influence of The Band's Music From Big Pink (1968) and the laidback rural vibe disseminating from the burgeoning singer/songwriters of the era was unquestionably in the ears and on the minds of the composers. Remarkably, the record made it into the Top 5 without a single being extracted for Top 40 radio airplay. That certainly was not a reflection of the quality of the contents, which had reached a new level of sophistication. Evidence can be found on every selection, from the poignant and tender balladry of "Come Down In Time" and "Love Song" to earthy rockers "Amoreena" and "Where To Now St. Peter?," or the concluding full-tilt gospel rave up "Burn Down The Mission".

The second CD of the Deluxe Edition contains over an hour of additional music -- much of which is offered up here for the first time anywhere. Stripped down piano and vocal demos of  "Come Down In Time," "Country Comfort," and "Talking Old Soldiers" are presented with early takes of "Son Of Your Father" and "There Goes A Well-Know Gun," which was the working-name for "Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun". In terms of additional oddities, there is a formidable rehearsal of the UK single-only side "Into The Old Man's Shoes," the otherwise unknown "Sisters Of The Cross" plus "Ballad Of A Well-Known Gun," "Burn Down The Mission" and "Amoreena" -- all from BBC Radio broadcasts.

The Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection Deluxe Editions are visually complemented by 28-page liner notes booklets containing newly-inked essays from Elton John authority John Tobler and plenty of eye candy -- such as trade magazine adverts, as well as outtakes from the cover photo sessions. Plus, all the elements from the first vinyl pressings -- namely lyrics and personnel credits -- are fully replicated.   
    

 

 
  Various Artists - A Technicolour Dream (DVD)
(Eagle Vision)

 

London's hip and subsequently swinging 1960s underground movement comes flashing back in this stunning two-hour feature documentary. The cover artwork and the project's title are a reference to the infamous 14-Hour Technicolour Dream Concert/Be-In held in late April of 1967 at the Alexandra Palace in North London. However, as is disclosed here, that 'happening' actually marked the end of an era that had begun several years earlier with a Beat Poetry reading at the Royal Albert Hall. Between those two events were numerous Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) protests, the formation of the legendary International Times (it) Newspaper, the creation of the London Free School and subsequent Notting Hill Carnival. The latter of which being a continuing tradition held every year since 1965 in the fashionable section of West London.
 
The saga is recounted by many of the seminal figures who made it happen. Chief among the contributors are journalist/entrepreneur Barry Miles and the highly influential social activist John "Hoppy" Hopkins. In fact it can safely be said that there would not have been a scene at all without these two men. Their comments are augmented by other recent interview recollections from Pink Floyd's Roger Waters and Nick Mason, Soft Machine co-founder Kevin Ayers, Phil May from The Pretty Things, author Pete Brown -- who co-wrote Cream's hits "I Feel Free," "White Room" and "Sunshine Of Your Love" -- as well as record producer Joe Boyd. It was he -- along with Hoppy -- who co-owned the highly influential, albeit short-lived UFO Club in the basement of London's 31 Tottenham Court Road, underneath the Berkeley Cinema. Even though it lasted less than a year, the after-hours venue became the unofficial home to bands such as the Syd-Barrett era Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Tomorrow, The Purple Gang and the like.

The DVD's extras are practically worth the price of admission alone. There are clips from the Barrett-led Pink Floyd circa 1967 -- concept videos for "The Scarecrow" and "Arnold Layne," as well as a full-length performance of "Astronomy Domine". Plus additional interview segments with Waters, Mason, Miles, Boyd and one-time Pink Floyd co-manager Pete Jenner.

 

 
  Dennis Wilson - Pacific Ocean Blue - Legacy Edition
(Caribou Records / Epic / Legacy Recordings)

 

The Legacy Edition of Pacific Ocean Blue is a highly-anticipated double-disc upgrade of the only non-Beach Boy project that the band's co-founder and drummer Dennis Wilson oversaw during his lifetime. Although summarily dismissed upon its initial release, over the intervening years it has been reevaluated by hard-core Beach Boys fans and music critics as arguably the finest solo outing to have come from the Beach Boys camp. If you've never heard of it, don't feel out of the loop. The LP was in print for less than two years and the 1991 CD reissue was only out for, quite literally a few months.

For the first time since 1977, bona fied master tapes were accessed and the results are nothing short of reveal-ationary as layers of formerly hidden (or at the very least obscured) sounds are once again distinctly audible. When compilers and producers trawled through the vaults, they likewise uncovered 20 previously-unavailable recordings -- several of which haven't even turned up on the myriad of poor fidelity bootlegs that have surfaced over the decades. Primary among these nuggets are Dennis’ take of the Beach Boys' "Only With You," "Holy Man," and the tune "Tug Of Love" -- which was initially in the planned running order for Pacific Ocean Blue. It was ultimately replaced by "Farewell My Friend" -- a paean Wilson penned specifically to mark the passing of his mentor 'Pop' Hinsche. These 'bonus tracks' fill out the first CD, which also contains the aforementioned freshly upgraded version of the album. Disc Two -- titled Bambu (The Caribou Sessions) -- serves up a collection of sides that were to have been on Wilson's proposed follow-up Bambu. Incidentally, Caribou is a reference to the Colorado-based studios at which Wilson recorded. Since Bambu was never completed before Wilson's untimely passing in December of 1983, what is presented is not a reenactment of what should have been on Bambu. Rather it is a compilation of works-in-progress and outtakes that were in various states of completion.

The deluxe full-color 10-pannel foldout packaging is replete with photos and a 40-page liner note booklet. Inside are unpublished snapshots and reproductions of memorabilia from around the globe. Plus, informative historical essays from Ben Edmonds and authors Jon Stebbins and  David Beard, as well as noted Brian Wilson/Beach Boys' scholar David Leaf. His text can be found as a PDF-embedded file on the first CD.

 

 
  Donovan - Sunshine Superman - The Journey of Donovan (DVD)
(SPV Recordings)

 

Although Donovan Leitch [aka Donovan] has remained creatively active since his 1960s heyday, many modern consumers [read: parties who actually know him by name] still consider him a delegate to the 'Freedom Rock' generation of flower-power pop. Aptly-titled, Sunshine Superman - The Journey Of Donovan (2008) is a riveting five-plus hour package that presents the first and only exhaustive multi-media examination of the criminally-underrated artist. The film is a guided modern globe-spanning sojourn hosted by Donovan himself. He retraces not only his own musical origins, but of those that inspired him as well -- such as the 1950s San Francisco-based Beat poetry scene, the mods of mid '60s Swingin' London, or the comparatively disparate experiences of living in Joshua Tree during the early 1970s.

Despite -- or perhaps influenced by -- such cultural diversity, it was music that became the motif that coursed through the heart of Donovan's excursions and escapades. To that end, scattered about the double DVD set are an embarrassment of archival materials that has never-been-available to even the most die-hard Donovan enthusiast. Pivotal moments of note are the 1960s TV appearances -- such as those on Pete Seeger's short-lived Rainbow Quest, or lip-syncing to "Catch The Wind" on the  A Go-Go show. There are also live acoustic readings of "Sunny Goodge Street" from Sweden in 1966, as well as a number of mini-movies/early concept videos for the songs "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" and "In An Old Fashioned Picture Book".

While excerpts from these are shown within the biopic itself, they are all presented in their entirety on the two-plus hours of "Bonus Footage". It is here that the true Donovan devotee will find those full-length clips, as well as extended interview segments and conversations with Donovan's longtime luthier [read: guitar maker] Danny Ferrington, not to mention a spontaneous solo take of "Cosmic Wheels" during a return trip to his old Joshua Tree haunts. And that barely scratches the surface. There are never-before released songs, vintage live concert clips from the BBC and a section called "The Private Donovan". Here, the artist gives a glance at his voluminous archives and a multi-generational, private family album slide show.

 

 
  Steve Earle - Copperhead Road - Deluxe Edition
(Geffen/UMe)

 

Although he'd already racked up a pair of excellent platters to his name, it took the undeniable country/rock crossover appeal infused into every note of Copperhead Road (1988) for Steve Earle (guitar/vocals) to garner the attention he and his music deserved. This 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition augments the newly remastered long player with a separate 17-song CD of live performances.

Unbelievably, it has been two decades since the artist unleashed one of, if not, the most eclectic projects to have made the mainstream. His earlier albums Guitar Town (1986) and follow-up Exit O (1987) had gone a long way to establish Earle as a formidable stage presence and singer/songwriter in the burgeoning and yet-to-be-stereotyped 'Americana' tradition. Those  influences definitely spilled over onto Copperhead Road. On one hand, he joined forces with Irish folk/punk traditionalists The Pogues for the Celtic-influenced protest song "Johnny Come Lately". On the other, is "Nothing But A Child," featuring the bluegrass-informed acoustic quartet Telluride, whose supergroup personnel boasted Sam Bush (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Mark O'Connor (violin) and Edgar Meyer (bass violin). Add to that, earnest and gritty rockers, such as "Copperhead Road"-- which was a huge hit on progressive country and rock radio stations alike -- and it is patently clear why the effort has gone on to be heralded as Earle's most important work. 

With Universal Music Enterprises' (UMe) Deluxe Edition treatment comes an entire supplementary CD -- containing nearly 80 minutes -- of concert recordings. While a handful have circulated as b-sides and extras, none of the material from the 11-song November 18, 1987 Raleigh, NC set have circulated in any official form before. The gig served up fresh takes of the Copperhead Road sides "The Devil's Right Hand" and "Johnny Come Lately" plus a powerhouse version  of the title track. Earle also throws in remakes of Rodney Crowell's "Brown And Root" and The Flying Burrito Brothers' "Wheels." The remainder of the second disc corrals a few interesting concert recordings that had formerly been issued as B-sides. First up is a stark and stunning solo take of Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" circa 1988. This version has long been sought by collectors and fans worldwide as it initially surfaced on a UK-only release. Bookending the extras is a five-song mini-set from 1989 in Calgary, Canada and sandwiched between them are Earle's "I Ain't Ever Satisfied," as well as overhauls of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers" and an unplugged adaptation of Greg Trooper's "Little Sister".

 

 
  Joe Strummer - The Future is Unwritten (DVD)
(Sony BMG Film/Legacy Recordings)

 

This film is an honest, yet loving and sadly posthumous tribute to Clash co-founder Joe Strummer. Through interviews and informally-shot conversations with those who knew him best, Julian Temple (director) -- whose filmography boasts the Sex Pistols' Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle (1980) and David Bowie's Jazzin' for Blue Jean (1984) -- successfully strips away the layers of Strummer's image. What is subsequently revealed is an extremely sensitive soul whose personal passions and desires were often paralleled in music. These were not only manifested within his own sizable contributions to punk, but equally evident in the sounds that Strummer soaked up throughout his entire life.

Upon its theatrical release, The Future Is Unwritten (2007) garnered considerable praise -- particularly when it made the indie-film circuit -- culminating in a British Independent Film Award in the 'Best Documentary' category. For this DVD, the original audio track has been upgraded to an impressive 5.1 Dolby Surround playback option. Plus, Temple adds personal memories and recollections of his life -- both as an active participant in the mid 1970s British Punk revolution, as well as his role as the project's director -- during his illuminating and insightful full-length commentary. In fact, Temple's narration provides fascinating insight into the subject matter on a humane level that is merely hinted at within the main feature. To a similar degree, the 100-minute "Conversations With Joe" is another DVD-only extra that delves deeper into Strummer's personal life. Here viewers are privy to a continuation of candid chats with Clash-mates Mick Jones and Topper Headon, who are joined by the likes of U2's Bono, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and Anthony Kiedis, as well as Tinsel Town denizens John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Matt Dillon and Marty Scorsese.

Also recommended is The Future Is Unwritten Original Motion Picture Soundtrack audio CD. It contains some of Strummer's favorite tunes including Elvis Presley's "Crawfish," Tim Hardin's "Black Sheep Boy," The MC5's "Kick Out The Jams," Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown," Bob Dylan's "Corrina, Corrina," Nina Simone's cover of The Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody" and even a few rarities -- namely previously unreleased versions of the Clash's "White Riot," "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.," a live take of "(In The) Pouring Rain" and reggae great U-Roy's "Natty Rebel".  
  

 


 

 

 

   
 
     

 

Copyright 2002-2008 Matthew Rowe.
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Disclaimer: various news pieces may state a specific media publication or program as a source. All other news is considered 'rumour' only. That goes double for release dates.

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"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..." Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." -- Hunter S Thompson
"...you best wake up 'fore tomorrow comes creepin' in...: -- Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad)
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." -- Kurt Vonnegut
"Because they wouldn't let me go for three..." -- Woody Hayes (OSU)
"Show me peaceful days before my youth has gone" -- Neil Diamond (Serenade)