In 2020, I expected the pandemic would make for a lean year for new music. I was wrong; there were a ton of great new releases. Going into 2021, I figured that this would be the "slow" year. All the good stuff that came out in 2020 was simply a result of in-progress projects being finished, and 2021 would be the lean year. Wrong again. Found some great new artists in 2021, and some old favorites surprised me with long overdue returns. The livestream shows continue, but finally got to see a real live show again in December and it was a joy. While Phil Collins sounded his age, Genesis was still a terrific live band, and I was thrilled my wife finally got to see one of her very favorite bands in person. Here's hoping Omicron doesn't ruin some of the progress made. Get your vaccinations and booster and remember that your mask is supposed to go over your nose too.
Oh, and this year I've caught up with the young'uns and included Spotify links, when possible, along with the YouTube and Bandcamp links so there's another way to preview the albums.
Enjoy the list.
Let It Be
Super Deluxe Edition
The latest Beatles super deluxe set covers their final release, the controversial Let It Be.
What the set includes:
The original Let It Be album, remixed. Unlike the Sgt. Pepper update, you won't be shocked by the new mix. It sounds terrific, but the changes aren't as dramatic.
Glyn Johns' original Get Back album. Johns was the first to take a stab at creating an album from the sessions, and an acetate was created using the originally intended title of Get Back. The band rejected this album and eventually turned the job over to Phil Spector. This is the part of the set I was most excited to hear. Glyn Johns has produced (or co-produced) some albums that are huge favorites, and I was so curious to hear his take on the album. To be honest, I was a little shocked. I get what Glyn was going for: he's included some of the studio chatter and given the album a behind-the-scenes feel. The result feels way less like a finished album and more like a bootleg, not unlike the ones that leaked out over the years. The album sounds great: Glyn's production is well done. The problem is that in giving the album that rougher feeling, he's used some far weaker versions of the songs. I totally get why The Beatles rejected this mix. All that said, it's a fascinating listen. But as my friend Roy said, "the original had it right".
The Let It Be EP, a 4 song CD which gathers two Glyn Johns mixes that didn't make his Get Back edit, and two single mixes. Like Johns' Get Back, his two mixes on the EP sound wonderful, but they lack something compared to the final version. The single versions are a nice completists touch.
And of course, the set includes two CDs out outtakes and rehearsals. Despite the large number of Get Back sessions bootlegs that have captured this same material over the years, the two discs are still a terrific listen. They've been split across the two CDs with more complete outtakes on the Apple Sessions CD and the jams, false starts, and early rehearsal takes are on Rehearsals And Apple Jams CD. A particularly interesting part of these is hearing early takes of songs that weren't used for Let It Be, but later show up on Abbey Road, John's Imagine or George's All Things Must Pass. Yes, if you're a hard-core Beatles fan, you've probably heard most of this. but the sound is much better here.
What the set does not include:
Let It Be… Naked. In 2003, Paul McCartney commissioned a fresh version of Let It Be with the strings and studio chatter removed, the songs re-ordered, and the fragment songs ("Dig It" and "Maggie Mae") replaced by "Don't Let Me Down". The result was a far more conventional album. Still an interesting listen, but not included here. Take a look at my review from 2003 for more details. I'm assuming this was left out because it was assembled so long after the original.
A Blu-ray or DVD of the original Let It Be film. I'm assuming this is because the label didn't want to distract from the new Peter Jackson Get Back series, but I'm really surprised they didn't include it.
The rooftop concert. This one shocks me the most. The whole point of the original Get Back project was to write new material and rehearse for a one-off live concert. Granted, the rooftop of Apple Corps wasn't the original plan, but it is the final live performance by the band. The 5th CD is the set is very short, and there would have been plenty of room. Yes, I know some of the rooftop songs made the official album, and I get that they play several songs twice in a short performance, but it would've been nice to have a complete performance recording. Really can't fathom this one, unless there's a plan for a separate release of just this show as a tie-in with the series.
tracks (Let It Be [new stereo mix]): "Two Of Us", "Dig A Pony", "Across The Universe", "I Me Mine", "Dig It", "Let It Be", "Maggie Mae", "I've Got A Feeling", "One After 909", "The Long And Winding Road", "For You Blue", "Get Back"
tracks (Get Back: Apple Sessions): "Morning Camera" [speech], "Two Of Us" [take 4]", "Maggie Mae / Fancy My Chances With You", "Can You Dig It?", "I Don't Know Why I'm Moaning" [speech], "For You Blue" [take 4]", "Let It Be / Please Please Me / Let It Be" [take 10], "I've Got A Feeling" [take 10], "Dig A Pony" [take 14], "Get Back" [take 19], "Like Making An Album?" [speech], "One After 909" [take 3], "Don't Let Me Down" [first rooftop performance], "The Long And Winding Road" [take 19], "Wake Up Little Susie / I Me Mine" [take 1]
tracks (Rehearsals And Apple Jams): "On The Day Shift Now" [speech], "All Things Must Pass" [rehearsals], "Concentrate On The Sound", "Gimme Some Truth" [rehearsal], "I Me Mine" [rehearsal], "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" [rehearsal], "Polythene Pam" [rehearsal], "Octopus's Garden" [rehearsal], "Oh! Darling" [jam], "Get Back" [take 8], "The Walk" [jam], "Without A Song" [jam] - Billy Preston with John and Ringo, "Something" [rehearsal], "Let It Be" [take 28]
tracks (Get Back [1969 Glyn Johns Mix]): "One After 909", "Medley: I'm Ready (aka Rocker) / Save The Last Dance For Me / Don't Let Me Down", "Don't Let Me Down", "Dig A Pony", "I've Got A Feeling", "Get Back", "For You Blue", "Teddy Boy", "Two Of Us", "Maggie Mae", "Dig It", "Let It Be", "The Long And Winding Road", "Get Back" [reprise]
tracks (Let It Be EP): "Across The Universe" [unreleased Glyn Johns 1970 mix], "I Me Mine" [unreleased Glyn Johns 1970 mix], "Don't Let Me Down" [new mix of original single version], "Let It Be" [new mix of original single version]
Super Deluxe Edition
Marillion's second LP is the last of the "Fish Era" albums to get the deluxe treatment. Fugazi has more of a hard rock feel than the other early albums. It's a bit of a detour for the band, and it was outshined by the two albums that followed — Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws — but it's still an very good album in its own right. "Assassing" is a strong opener, and the epic "Incubus" is as good as anything on their debut album. "Punch And Judy" couples an upbeat song with a deceptively dark lyric about a crumbling marriage and the lyrics have aged rather badly. It's a difficult listen nowadays.
Like the other deluxe reissues, Fugazi includes a Blu-ray and a live CD. The Blu-ray has a couple of documentaries about the album including interviews with all five members of the band, some live footage, and a promo video. These Blu-rays have been one of the best parts of the reissues, and this one does not disappoint as well. The live CD is a mostly unreleased concert from 1984 (four of the songs were released on the live album Real To Reel). The set list is a nice mix of album and single tracks, and the band sounds terrific.
As with last year's deluxe version of Script For A Jester's Tear, this set isn't a complete collection of this era. The 1998 double-CD edition of the album has some alternate mixes and demos that don't appear on this set. So, like with Script, hold on to your double-CD and pick this up for the live material and the Blu-ray.
tracks (Fugazi [2021 remix]): "Assassing", "Punch And Judy", "Jigsaw", "Emerald Lies", "She Chameleon", "Incubus", "Fugazi"
tracks (Live at The Spectrum, Montreal, Canada, 20th June 1984): "Assassing", "Punch And Judy", "Jigsaw", "Script For A Jester's Tear", "Chelsea Monday", "Emerald Lies", "Cinderella Search", "Incubus", "Charting The Single", "He Knows You Know", "Fugazi", "Forgotten Sons", "Garden Party", "Market Square Heroes"
Blu-ray contents: High-definition audio of the CD contents, The Performance Has Just Begun: The Story of Fugazi, The Story of the Songs: Track by Track, Fugazi Live from Hear We Go [Swiss TV 1984], "Assassing" promo video
40th Anniversary Edition
40th Anniversary Edition
Back in 2006 I wrote:
One of the all-time great debut albums, Pretenders mixes punk rockers like "Precious", "Up The Neck" and "Tattooed Love Boys" with classic pop songs like "Brass In Pocket", "Kid", and their cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing". The bonus disc is a mix of demos and outtakes that are a fascinating listen. For instance, the chorus of "Brass In Pocket" originally had Chrissie Hynde singing "You're special, so special" instead of "I'm special, so special", changing the whole perspective of the lyrics. Worth picking up.
Pretenders II is a perfect example of a brilliant second album that gets lost in its predecessor's shadow. Maybe not quite as good as the debut, Pretenders II is still a killer album top to bottom, with the twin classics "Message Of Love" and "Talk Of The Town" leading the way. The gorgeous "Birds Of Paradise" is just as good, and the driving "Day After Day" should've been a smash. The bonus disc on II is mainly a live concert from the tour for the album, and it shows just how spectacular and powerful the original lineup of the band was live. Grab this.
The latest editions of the first two Pretenders albums are 3 CD deluxe editions "curated by Chrissie Hynde". Both CDs include the original album, a selection of B-sides, demos and outtakes and live performances. Pretenders has almost everything the 2006 reissue has. You get more outtakes, some BBC sessions, and a complete version of the 1980 live performance that had been issued as a promotional LP. The only omission is the live cover of "Sabre Dance" on the 2006 reissue.
Pretenders II has everything the 2006 reissue has. The studio extras here are the excellent version of The Small Faces' "What You Gonna Do About It" that was originally issued on a 1981 flexidisc, along with a couple of alternate mixes and B-sides. The extra live material includes a short performance from 1980 along with the complete 1981 Santa Monica show that was included (but partially edited) on the 2006 reissue.
Pretenders and Pretenders II are both must-haves, but whether you should upgrade the 2006 issues for these depends on how casual a fan you are. I needed these; your mileage may vary.
tracks (original album): "Precious", "The Phone Call", "Up The Neck", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Space Invader", "The Wait", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Kid", "Private Life", "Brass In Pocket", "Lovers Of Today", "Mystery Achievement"
tracks (B-sides): "Cuban Slide", "Porcelain", "The Wait" [Nick Lowe version], "Nervous But Shy", "Swinging London"
tracks (demos): "The Phone Call", "Suicide", "Brass In Pocket", "Precious", "The Wait", "I Can't Control Myself", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Tequila", "Kid", "I Go To Sleep", "Do I Love You"
tracks (BBC In Session: The Kid Jensen Show, 5 February, 1979): "The Wait", "Up The Neck", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Private Life", "Cuban Slide"
tracks (BBC In Session: The Kid Jensen Show, 2 July 2, 1979): "Mystery Achievement", "I Need Somebody", "Tattooed Love Boys"
tracks (BBC In Session: Live at The Paris Theatre, London, 2 January, 1979): "The Wait", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Kid", "Cuban Slide", "Brass In Pocket", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Mystery Achievement"
tracks (Warner Bros. Music Show: Live at the Paradise Theater, Boston, 23 March, 1980): "Space Invader", "The Wait", "Precious", "Kid", "Private Life", "Cuban Slide", "The Phone Call", "Talk Of The Town", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Up The Neck Precious", "Mystery Achievement", "Stop Your Sobbing"
tracks (original album): "The Adultress", "Bad Boys Get Spanked", "Message Of Love", "I Go To Sleep", "Birds Of Paradise", "Talk Of The Town", "Pack It Up", "Waste Not Want Not", "Day After Day", "Jealous Dogs", "The English Roses", "Louie Louie"
tracks (demos, singles & alternates): "Talk Of The Town" [demo], "What You Gonna Do About It", "I Go To Sleep" [guitar version], "Pack It Up" [radio mix], "Day After Day" [single mix], "In The Sticks", "Louie Louie" [monitor mix]
tracks (Live in Central Park, NYC, 30 August, 1980): "Precious", "Space Invader", "Cuban Slide", "Porcelain", "Tattooed w Love Boys", "Up The Neck"
tracks (Live At The Santa Monica Civic, September 4th 1981): "The Wait", "The Adultress", "Message Of Love", "Louie Louie", "Talk Of The Town", "Birds Of Paradise", "The English Roses", "Stop Your Sobbing", "Private Life", "Kid", "Day After Day", "Up The Neck", "Bad Boys Get Spanked", "Tattooed Love Boys", "Precious", "Brass In Pocket", "Mystery Achievement", "Higher And Higher"
New Adventures In Hi-Fi
25th Anniversary Edition
Back in 1996 I wrote:
This is the album no-one thought R.E.M. would make. Recorded largely at soundchecks and rehearsals for the Monster tour, New Adventures In Hi-Fi finds R.E.M. straddling the line between the hard rock of Monster and the acoustics of Out Of Time and Automatic For The People. Amazingly enough, it works. "E-Bow The Letter" is a haunting duet with Patti Smith, "The Wake-Up Bomb" and "Bittersweet Me" would fit on Monster just fine. Given the circumstances of the recording, I suppose it's not surprising that R.E.M. didn't go for a new sound again, but the songwriting is so good it doesn't really matter.
Initially looking back at my 1996 review, I was a little surprised. In the time between originally hearing the album and starting to rip my collection into iTunes, I'd dismissed New Adventures In Hi-Fi as an inconsistent album: A few highlights and a lot of filler. Now, listening again with fresh ears, I totally get my original review. New Adventures In Hi-Fi is a little rough around the edges, but it's a really good album overall. The short instrumental "Zither" is the only filler on here. The rest is terrific.
The 25th Anniversary Edition adds a CD of B-sides and rarities along with a Blu-ray with a mix of high-resolution audio and some interesting video goodies. The bonus disc has all the B-sides of the four singles from the album along with an alternate version of "Leave" from the soundtrack of A Life Less Ordinary. The B-sides include some nice live highlights, including a surprisingly good cover of Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman" and an acoustic "New Test Leper". Some less-common studio tracks are also here: a country-tinged cover of Richard Thompson's "Wall Of Death" and a gentle cover of The Troggs' "Love Is All Around".
tracks (New Adventures In Hi-Fi): "How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us", "The Wake-Up Bomb", "New Test Leper", "Undertow", "E-Bow The Letter", "Leave", "Departure", "Bittersweet Me", "Be Mine", "Binky The Doormat", "Zither", "So Fast, So Numb", "Low Desert", "Electrolite"
tracks (B-Sides & Rarities): "Tricycle", "Departure" [live], "Wall of Death", "Undertow" [live], "Wichita Lineman" [live], "New Test Leper" [live], "The Wake-Up Bomb" [live], "Binky The Doormat" [live], "King of Comedy" [808 State Remix], "Be Mine" [Mike on Bus version], "Love Is All Around", "Sponge", "Leave" [Alternate Version]
Blu-ray contents: High-definition audio of the original album, 30-minute Electronic Press Kit, R.E.M. Outdoor Projections "E-Bow The Letter" promo video, "Bittersweet Me" promo video, "Electrolite" promo video, "How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us" promo video, "New Test Leper" promo video
Record Store Day UK 2021 Edition
For the 2021 UK Record Store Day, The Who's first Kenny Jones-era album, Face Dances, was given a 2 LP re-release. The main album is still controversial with Who fans. Whether it's Bill Szymczyk's production, Kenney Jones drumming, or just a change in Pete Townshend's songwriting, Face Dances has a much poppier sound than the Keith Moon-era albums. I like it a lot, but I know I'm biased because it was the first new Who album released after I became a fan, and I was thrilled the band was continuing. "You Better You Bet", "Daily Records", and "Another Tricky Day" are the highlights, but it's a noticeably different feel than the earlier albums.
The reissue's 2nd LP, titled Face Dances Part 3, is divided between studio and live material. The studio side has the three bonus songs from the 1997 reissue of Face Dances along with a Who recording of "Dance It Away" and a version of "Don't Let Go The Coat" with Pete Townshend on lead vocals. The Who's version of "Dance It Away" is more complex than the version Townshend later re-recorded for a single B-side. Roger Daltrey does a terrific job with the lead vocals. The alternate "Don't Let Go The Coat" sounds like an early band demo. The music is similar to the final version, but the lyrics are different, and Pete's vocals are a little hesitant. It's not better than the official version as is, but it does make me wonder if Pete should have sung the final version.
The live side doesn't include the live songs from the 1997 reissue. Instead, it's made up of four songs from the band's 1981 show recorded for the German TV series "Rockpalast" and is apparently one of the few (maybe only) officially recorded shows from the 1981 tour. A pair of bootlegs (the tersely titled Who and Vol. 2) capture this whole show, and were early favorites of mine, so I'm loving having a little of it be officially released. Yes, Kenny Jones is much more reserved that Keith Moon was, but the band sounds great. They really should release the whole show.
If you're a fan of the original album, it's absolutely worth chasing this down.
Why "Face Dances Part 3"? Because Pete Townshend recorded a song called "Face Dances, Pt. 2" on his 1982 solo album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.
Oh, and Spotify doesn't have the Record Story Day edition. I used the 1997 reissue instead.
tracks (Face Dances): "You Better You Bet", "Don't Let Go The Coat", "Cache Cache", "The Quiet One", "Did You Steal My Money", "How Can You Do It Alone", "Daily Records", "You", "Another Tricky Day"
tracks (Face Dances Part 3: Session Rough Mixes): "I Like Nightmares", "It's In You", "Somebody Saved Me", "Dance It Away", "Don't Let Go The Coat" [alternate version]
tracks (Face Dances Part 3: Live): "Don't Let Go The Coat", "You Better You Bet", "The Quiet One", "Another Tricky Day"
The Who Sell Out
Super Deluxe Edition
The new Super Deluxe Edition of The Who Sell Out is the third upgrade of the album. Let me catch you up.
Back in 1995 I wrote:
The Who Sell Out is one of the great "concept albums" in rock. The album simulates the format of the 60's British "pirate" radio stations. The songs are broken up by commercials (recorded by The Who for very real products) and segues taken from one of the pirate stations, Radio London. In addition, the styles of each song vary greatly from cut to cut. On the original 1967 album, the concept broke down a bit on side two. The style changes were still there, but the ads were less frequent. On the new reissue, a few previously unreleased ads are dropped into what was side 2 of the LP, plus a slew of outtake songs and ads are added to the end of the CD. The result is a seamless 70-minute CD with the wit and power of the original, but with better sound and more songs.
And then in 2009 I wrote:
This time around, the reissue is a 2 CD set with the original stereo mix on disc one and the mono on disc two. The bonus songs that were integrated into the running order of the '95 CD are back at the end of the disc, leaving the original running order alone. The most obvious difference in the two mixes is the radically different guitar solo on "Our Love Was". The rest of the differences are pretty subtle. The bonus materials are similar to the 1995 reissue with a few extra curios thrown in. On the whole, The Who Sell Out is still a classic and you should have a copy. However, unless you're a Who fanatic or you want the original running order, there's no reason to swap out the 1995 CD for this one.
The latest edition of The Who Sell Out basically takes the 2009 edition (using the original running order) and expands it like crazy. The first two CDs are the mono and stereo versions like in 2009, but with a few more bonus tracks. The 3rd and 4th CDs are where the box set starts to get really interesting. These discs cover unreleased studio sessions from 1967 and 1968. 1968 was an unusual year for The Who. They released a handful of odd singles (like "Dogs") before they started in on Tommy. Disc five has the real gems: Pete Townshend demos for songs from Sell Out, plus some unused gems like his 2nd anti-smoking promo song, "Kids! Do You Want Kids?" ("Little Billy" was the other, and the demo is here as well).
Along with the 5 CDs, the set includes 2 replica 45s with some rare alternative mixes and a very nice 12x12 book of articles and pictures and such. This box can replace your 2009 double CD, but if you're a Sell Out fan, hang on to that 1995 CD for that different take on the album. An amazing box set for a little lesser-known classic.
tracks (The Original Mono Album & Bonus Tracks): "Armenia City In The Sky", "Heinz Baked Beans", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Odorono", "Tattoo", "Our Love Was", "I Can See For Miles", "I Can't Reach You", "Medac", "Relax", "Silas Stingy", "Sunrise", "Rael (1 And 2)", "Pictures Of Lily", "Doctor, Doctor", "The Last Time", "Under My Thumb", "I Can See For Miles" [Single Mix], "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Someone's Coming", "Early Morning Cold Taxi", "Jaguar", "Tattoo", "Rael" [Early Talentmasters Mix], "Sunn Equipment Promo Spots", "Great Shakes"
tracks (The Original Stereo Album & Bonus Tracks): "Armenia City In The Sky", "Heinz Baked Beans", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Odorono", "Tattoo", "Our Love Was", "I Can See For Miles", "I Can't Reach You", "Medac", "Relax", "Silas Stingy", "Sunrise", "Rael (1 And 2)", "Rael Naïve", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Someone's Coming", "Summertime Blues", "Glittering Girl", "Early Morning Cold Taxi", "Girl's Eyes", "Coke After Coke", "Sodding About", "Things Go Better With Coke", "In The Hall Of The Mountain King", "Jaguar", "Rael" [IBC Remake]
tracks (The Who Studio Sessions 1967/68): "Glittering Girl", "Girl's Eyes", "The Last Time", "Under My Thumb", "Our Love Was", "Relax", "Relax", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Relax", "I Can See For Miles", "Medac", "Odorono", "Heinz Baked Beans", "Top Gear", "Premier Drums", "Charles Atlas", "Rotosound Strings", "Track Records", "John Mason Cars / Speakeasy / Rotosound Strings / Bag O' Nails", "It's A Girl (aka Glow Girl)", "Mr. Hyde (aka Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde)", "Little Billy (aka Little Billy's Doing Fine)", "Mrs. Walker (aka Glow Girl)", "Lightning (aka Call Me Lightning)", "Dogs", "Melancholia", "Shakin' All Over", "Magic Bus"
tracks (The Road To Tommy 1968): "Glow Girl", "Faith In Something Bigger", "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde", "Call Me Lightning", "Little Billy", "Dogs", "Melancholia", "Fortune Teller", "Facts Of Life", "Magic Bus", "Call Me Lightning" [Mono Single Mix], "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" [UK Mono Single Mix], "Dogs" [Mono Single Mix], "Magic Bus" [Long Version Mono Mix]
tracks (Pete Townshend's Demos): "Kids! Do You Want Kids? (aka Do You Want Kids, Kids?)", "Relax", "Glow Girl", "Glow Girl" [Version 2], "Inside Outside USA", "Jaguar", "Little Billy", "Odorono", "Pictures Of Lily", "Relax" [Version 2], "Melancholia", "Thinking Of You All The While (aka Sunrise)", "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "I Can See For Miles"
tracks ("I Can See For Miles" 45): "I Can See For Miles" [Early Mono Mix], "Someone's Coming" [UK Single Mono Mix]
tracks ("Magic Bus" 45): "Magic Bus" [US / UK Single Mono Mix], "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" [US Single Mono Mix]
Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music Of Peter Green And The Early Years Of Fleetwood Mac
In February of 2020 (about 10 days before lockdowns hit the UK), Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood hosted an all-star concert in honor of the band's founder, Peter Green. The guest list includes current and former Fleetwood Mac members Christine McVie, Jeremy Spencer, and Rick Vito, along with big names like Pete Townshend, Jonny Lang, Billy Gibbons, David Gilmour, Kirk Hammett, Steven Tyler, and Noel Gallagher.
If you're only familiar with the Rumours-era Mac, you're in for a big surprise here. Fleetwood Mac started out as a blues band, and blues rock is the focus of the concert. Jonny Lang steals the show with a killer version of "Homework" and with inspired playing on "Black Magic Woman". Pete Townshend, ever the contrarian, plays an early Mac song, but it's not from Peter Green's time with the band. Instead, he plays "Station Man", which he explains on the DVD version was an influence on "Won't Get Fooled Again". A big surprise for me was Kirk Hammett's playing on "The Green Manalishi". I was expecting him to shred, but he plays it as straight hard rock like the original, and it makes the song (and compensates for a so-so vocal from Billy Gibbons). It was a terrific concert. Make sure to get the version with the DVD — the video is excellent.
Sadly, Peter Green passed away in July of 2020.
tracks: "Rolling Man" [feat. Rick Vito], "Homework" [feat. Jonny Lang], "Doctor Brown" [feat. Billy Gibbons], "All Your Love" [feat. John Mayall], "Rattlesnake Shake" [feat. Billy Gibbons & Steven Tyler], "Stop Messin' Round" [feat. Christine McVie], "Looking For Somebody" [feat. Christine McVie], "Sandy Mary" [feat. Jonny Lang], "Love That Burns" [feat. Rick Vito], "The World Keep Turning" [feat. Noel Gallagher], "Like Crying" [feat. Noel Gallagher], "No Place To Go" [feat. Rick Vito], "Station Man" [feat. Pete Townshend], "Man Of The World" [feat. Neil Finn], "Oh Well (Pt.1)" [feat. Billy Gibbons & Steven Tyler], "Oh Well (Pt.2)" [feat. David Gilmour], "Need Your Love So Bad" [feat. Jonny Lang], "Black Magic Woman" [feat. Rick Vito], "The Sky Is Crying" [feat. Jeremy Spencer], "I Can't Hold Out" [feat. Jeremy Spencer], "The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)" [feat. Billy Gibbons & Kirk Hammett], "Albatross" [feat. David Gilmour], "Shake Your Moneymaker"
Open Door Policy (Live)
Live At First Avenue 11/13/21
Live At 7th Street Entry 11/14/21 (Early Show)
Live At 7th Street Entry 11/14/21 (Late Show) 11/13/21
11/14/21 (Early Show)
11/14/21 (Late Show)
This year's official bootlegs, all available on Bandcamp as a "name your own price" download, capture a pair of firsts.
To kick off a series of livestreams that substituted for the band's normal London residency, the band performed their new album, Open Door Policy, live on Twitch. The soundtrack was made available as Open Door Policy (Live) on Bandcamp, and it's a nice companion to the official album.
The other three releases celebrate the band's return to their spiritual home, Minneapolis' First Avenue & 7th Street Entry club. These shows were the first concerts with an audience since the pandemic. They sound a little rough in spots, but the shows have a tremendous energy. The band folds in a bunch of songs from the new album and brings along a local version of the "Horn Steady" horn section they'd been using in the NYC shows. There's a lot of variety in the sets, and they're all worth hearing.
Open Door Policy (Live): "The Feelers", "Spices", "Lanyards", "Family Farm", "Unpleasant Breakfast", "Heavy Covenant", "The Prior Procedure", "Riptown", "Me & Magdalena", "Hanover Camera", "Parade Days"
Live At First Avenue 11/13/21: "Constructive Summer", "Barfruit Blues", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Lanyards", "Party Pit", "Cattle And The Creeping Things", "Heavy Covenant", "Sequestered in Memphis", "T-Shirt Tux", "Yeah Sapphire", "First Night", "Chips Ahoy", "The Weekenders", "Blackout Sam", "Banging Camp", "Family Farm", "Massive Nights", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Southtown Girls", "Slapped Actress", "How A Resurrection Really Feels", "Certain Songs", "Stuck Between Stations", "Stay Positive", "Entitlement Crew", "Killer Parties"
Live At 7th Street Entry 11/14/21 (Early Show): "Positive Jam", "Stuck Between Stations", "The Swish", "Magazines", "Lanyards", "Stevie Nix", "Multitude Of Casualties", "One For The Cutters", "Sequestered In Memphis", "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You", "Denver Haircut", "The Feelers", "Entitlement Crew", "Chips Ahoy", "Don't Let Me Explode", "Spices", "Hurricane J", "Knuckles", "Massive Nights", "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Constructive Summer", "Hot Soft Light", "Confusion In The Markertplace", "Killer Parties"
Live At 7th Street Entry 11/14/21 (Late Show): "Hornets! Hornets!", "Cattle And The Creeping Things", "Ask Her for Adderall", "You Did Good Kid", "Sequestered in Memphis", "Banging Camp", "Heavy Covenant", "Stuck Between Stations", "Unpleasant Breakfast", "Party Pit", "We Can Get Together", "The Weekenders", "Constructive Summer", "On With The Business", "T-Shirt Tux", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Massive Nights", "Entitlement Crew", "Southtown Girls", "Crucifixion Cruise", "How A Resurrection Really Feels", "Parade Days", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "Stay Positive", "Killer Parties"
Recorded in front of a UK record-breaking 250,000 fans over two nights at Oasis' commercial zenith, Knebworth 1996 captures the band riding the wave of popularity of their two smash albums Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory?. The band played the same terrific set each night, with the big hits from the albums, a handful of killer non-album songs, and even a couple of new songs that would eventually show up on their less well-received third album, Be Here Now. As befits a show on this scale, Oasis has a five-piece string section, a five-piece horn section, a keyboardist, and a harmonica player that get used here and there to make certain songs sound even bigger. And to cap off the show, they bring on Stone Roses guitarist John Squire for the final two songs. The band sounds powerful, and you totally get why Oasis was so big in the UK. Knebworth 1996 is a wonderful look at the band at their absolute best, before everything went sideways. The later albums were good (some were very good), but it was never the same after this.
The deluxe edition includes the documentary film about the shows. There's lots of live footage, but it's not a concert film. It's also not a conventional documentary with "talking head" interviews. Instead, it's a mix of professional footage and home movies spanning the days overlaid with voiceover commentary from fans and the band. Instead of telling you how the shows were done, the film is trying to give you a feel for what it was like to be there. Heck, the first 20 minutes or so are largely about what it took to get tickets and the challenges in getting to the Knebworth. It's unusual, but it does pull you in and give you a strong feel for the excitement of the weekend.
tracks: "Columbia", "Acquiesce", "Supersonic", "Hello", "Some Might Say", "Roll With It", "Slide Away", "Morning Glory", "Round Are Way", "Cigarettes & Alcohol", "Whatever", "Cast No Shadow", "Wonderwall", "The Masterplan", "Don't Look Back In Anger", "My Big Mouth", "It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)", "Live Forever", "Champagne Supernova", "I Am The Walrus"
The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band took a break from the lengthy sessions for The River to perform at two of the "No Nukes" concerts at Madison Square Garden in September of 1979. The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts creates one "show" from the two performances, and it's amazing. Only the band's introduction gives away that the recording is starting from the beginning of the set. You'd be forgiven for assuming the recording started mid-way through because the band is on fire from the first note, rolling out with electrifying versions of "Prove It All Night", "Badlands", and "The Promised Land". With a set about half the length of Springsteen's usual for the time, the band packs in anthem after anthem and simply never lets off the gas. The show ends with a series of covers including "Stay" with guest vocals from Jackson Browne and Tom Petty, a roaring "Detroit Medley", and closes out with a blazing cover of Buddy Holly's "Rave On". Additionally, the set comes with a Blu-ray with footage of the same performances, and they're a blast. The band is clearly having a great time on stage, and this just adds to the electricity in the show.
tracks: "Prove It All Night", "Badlands", "The Promised Land", "The River", "Sherry Darling", "Thunder Road", "Jungleland", "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)", "Born To Run", "Stay", "Detroit Medley: Devil With The Blue Dress On / Good Golly Miss Molly / C.C. Rider / Jenny Take A Ride", "Quarter To Three", "Rave On"
Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live!
The Nightfly: Live
Since Walter Becker's passing in 2017, Donald Fagen has kept touring as Steely Dan using their talented long-time touring band. Although credited differently, both Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live! and The Nightfly: Live feature the same musicians recorded in the same year (2019), just set up for different occasions.
Northeast Corridor captures highlights from Steely Dan's current repertoire, and it's a nice mix of hits like "Reelin' In The Years", "Peg", and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", album cuts like "Bodhisattva", "Black Cow", and "Aja" and the jazz standard "A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry". The band's modern sound is jazzier than their seventies heyday, but they still sound terrific. If you've seen a latter-day Steely Dan show, you know what to expect. If you're only familiar with the album versions, this may sound a little different at first, but it's worth checking out.
The Nightfly: Live is exactly what it appears to be. It's Fagen and the Steely Dan touring band playing his solo debut in album order. The sound of the modern Steely Dan band fits the album perfectly, and like the album "I.G.Y." and "New Frontier" are the big highlights, but the album is great top-to-bottom. If you like the original, you'll enjoy this.
Digression: Is the band still "Steely Dan" without Walter Becker?
Per Donald Fagen in an interview with Rolling Stone: "I would actually prefer to call it Donald Fagen and the Steely Dan Band or something like that," he says, noting that promoters have so far insisted that he call it Steely Dan for commercial reasons. "That's an ongoing debate. To me, Steely Dan was just me and Walter, really — it was like a concept we had together."
I agree with Fagen. I think it would have been more respectful to Becker's memory to bill the band that way. My hunch is that promoters are concerned that casual fans might not know who Donald Fagen is.
tracks (Northeast Corridor: Steely Dan Live!): "Black Cow", "Kid Charlemagne", "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", "Hey Nineteen", "Any Major Dude Will Tell You", "Glamour Profession", "Things I Miss The Most", "Aja", "Peg", "Bodhisattva", "Reelin' In The Years", "A Man Ain't Supposed To Cry"
tracks (The Nightfly: Live): "I.G.Y.", "Green Flower Street", "Ruby Baby", "Maxine", "New Frontier", "The Nightfly", "The Goodbye Look", "Walk Between The Raindrops"
Live From London
Live From London is a collection taken from a series of a lockdown concerts with just Thompson on guitar and vocal, with Zara Philips joining on vocals occasionally and no crowd. Except for maybe the obligatory "Meet On The Ledge", Thompson goes with and interesting mix of songs he doesn't frequently feature in live shows, so it's a lot of fun for hard-core Thompson fans.
tracks: "Hand Of Kindness", "Sunset Song", "The Sun Never Shines On The Poor", "She Never Could Resist A Winding Road", "Reynardine", "The Deserter", "Crazy Man Michael", "Woman Or A Man?", "Sloth", "Turning Of The Tide", "Now Be Thankful", "The Poor Ditching Boy", "Dry My Tears And Move On", "Poor Will And The Jolly Hangman", "Meet On The Ledge", "The Great Valerio"
An Orchestrated Songbook
In 2019, Paul Weller released a live album, Other Aspects, that captured an acoustic performance by his band backed by an orchestra. An Orchestrated Songbook takes this idea one step further. The performance is simply Weller (vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano) and Steve Cradock (acoustic guitar) backed by The BBC Symphony Orchestra, with the occasional guest vocalist. Removing the band puts the focus on Weller's fine voice and his excellent songwriting. The orchestral backing can occasionally feel a little schmaltzy, like you're hearing an old-school "easy listening" arrangement, but it works nicely far more than not. The piano songs (like "Broken Stones" and "You Do Something To Me") were just built for this type of arrangement, and they're the clear highlights. The guest appearances by James Morrison and Celeste both enhance their songs nicely, giving them a nice soulful feel. However, Boy George's vocal on "You're The Best Thing" detracts from a lovely arrangement of a very pretty song - his voice has definitely seen better days. It's the only weak spot on the album.
Overall, this is a big departure from his recent work, and it's not for everyone, but An Orchestrated Songbook is very nicely done and worth a listen.
tracks: "Andromeda", "English Rose", "My Ever Changing Moods", "On Sunset", "Carnation", "Glad Times", "Broken Stones" [with James Morrison], "Gravity", "It's A Very Deep Sea", "Bowie", "Equanimity", "You're The Best Thing" [with Boy George], "Still Glides The Stream", "Movin On", "Wild Wood" [with Celeste], "Rockets", "You Do Something To Me", "White Horses"
Way Down In The Rust Bucket
Recorded at one of the first few "warm-up" shows for the Ragged Glory tour, Way Down In The Rust Bucket captures a very different show than the original live album from the tour, Weld. You still get a heavy slab of Ragged Glory songs, but the older songs are a little different mix of tunes, and it's cool to hear songs like "Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze", "Danger Bird", and "Don't Cry No Tears" mixed in. This may have been a "warm-up", but The Horse is in killer form already. If you have Weld and are thinking you don't need another live album from this tour, think again. This is a must.
The complainy bit: The whole show was filmed as well, however, the video is only available if you buy a box set containing the album on CD and vinyl as well. Why there wasn't a CD/DVD edition is beyond me. The DVD also includes an additional song, "Cowgirl In The Sand". The audio had problems, so apparently the audio is patched together from different mixes on the video and wouldn't have been great on CD.
tracks: "Country Home", "Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze", "Love To Burn", "Days That Used To Be", "Bite The Bullet", "Cinnamon Girl", "Farmer John", "Over And Over", "Dangerbird", "Don't Cry No Tears", "Sedan Delivery", "Roll Another Number (For The Road)", "F*!#in' Up", "T-Bone", "Homegrown", "Mansion On The Hill", "Like A Hurricane", "Love And Only Love", "Cortez The Killer"
Zappa '88: The Last U.S. Show
In late 1988, Frank Zappa released Broadway The Hard Way, a live album focused on the new material introduced on his brilliant — and sadly, final — tour in 1988. In 1991, Frank released two double-CD live albums from the tour: the aptly titled The Best Band You Never Heard In Your Life, which focused on lesser known songs and Make A Jazz Noise Here, which focused on instrumentals. Between the three sets, there's over 5½ hours of material, but what many fans wanted (me included), was a single complete show*.
Zappa '88: The Last U.S. Show, mostly recorded at Nassau Coliseum in New York, captures his final US performance and it's amazing. The big highlight is the inclusion of "The Beatles Medley", generally known in bootleg circles as "The Texas Motel Medley". The medley takes terrific performances of "Norwegian Wood", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", and "Strawberry Fields Forever" and adds new lyrics from Zappa mocking the then-recent sex scandal involving televangelist Jimmy Swaggart being caught with a prostitute at the Texas Motel in New Orleans. The band sounds amazing as they do on the all the 1988 recordings, but when songs appear both on here and one of the older Zappa '88 collections, Zappa's first release is usually better. For example, "Stairway To Heaven" is excellent here, but it's no match for the version on The Best Band. Despite that, this is essential for any fans of the 1988 tour (like me). It's terrific to hear a show beginning to end* instead of cherry-picked highlights, even though those highlights are brilliant.
What's with the asterisks? Strictly speaking, this isn't exactly the show as performed. There was a monologue by Brother A. West in "Pound For A Brown" that has been removed and the versions of "Whipping Post" and "Stairway To Heaven" are taken from earlier shows in the tour. Dweezil Zappa played guitar on those two songs and per his request, they've been replaced. Don't know if this is a return of the friction between Dweezil and the Zappa Family Trust or if he simply wanted the CD to feature his father all the way through. So no — it's not literally the last US show, but it's got the spirit of the thing.
tracks: "We Are Doing Voter Registration Here", "The Black Page (New Age Version)", "I Ain't Got No Heart", "Love Of My Life", "Inca Roads", "Sharleena", "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", "I Left My Heart In San Francisco", "Dickie's Such An Asshole", "When The Lie's So Big", "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk", "Sofa #1", "One Man, One Vote", "Happy Birthday, Chad!", "Packard Goose Pt. I", "Royal March From L'Histoire Du Soldat", "Theme From The Bartok Piano Concerto #3", "Packard Goose Pt. II", "The Torture Never Stops Pt. I", "Theme From Bonanza", "Lonesome Cowboy Burt", "The Torture Never Stops Pt. II", "City Of Tiny Lites", "Pound For A Brown", "The Beatles Medley", "Peaches En Regalia", "Stairway To Heaven", "I Am The Walrus", "Whipping Post", "Bolero", "America The Beautiful"
OTHER NOTEWORTHY RELEASES
In the category of "Bands Least Likely To Reunite", ABBA had to be near the top. In recent interviews, the band confirmed the story that they had received a "very serious offer" of a literal billion dollars to reunite for a 100-show concert tour in 2000. They considered it, but ultimately turned it down. 18 years later, ABBA decided to record two new songs to accompany a performance using holographic "ABBAtars" backed by a real band. Since then, the two new songs became a whole album, and the virtual performance is slated to run in London in 2022.
So, how is does the first ABBA album in forty years sound? All four members may be over 70, but Voyage sounds simply like ABBA. Except for the modern-sounding recording, it would be easy to believe this was recorded in 1983 or 1984 and just put in a vault. As always, Benny Andersson wrote the music, Björn Ulvaeus wrote the lyrics, and the pair produced the album. Most surprisingly, both Agnetha Fältskog and Frida Lyngstad's voices sound like they did in 1982. The songs are gorgeous pop with bittersweet lyrics. And like late-period ABBA, you can't help but read between the lines and assume that songs like "When You Danced With Me", "Don't Shut Me Down", "I Can Be That Woman", and "No Doubt About It" are at least partly inspired by Björn and Agnetha's breakup in the late seventies. The only real weak spot is "Little Things", a straight-up Christmas song complete with a children's choir - it's a little saccharine and feels out of place.
"I Still Have Faith In You" is the best song on the album, but it's not an immediate classic like "Dancing Queen", "The Name Of The Game" or "The Winner Takes It All". However, Voyage is a surprisingly consistent album, and a worthy reunion. Benny and Björn are on the record as saying this is a one-off reunion but playfully hint that if "the girls" wanted to do another album, they could be convinced to do it. If you liked ABBA back in the day, you should give this a listen.
tracks: "I Still Have Faith In You", "When You Danced With Me", "Little Things", "Don't Shut Me Down", "Just A Notion", "I Can Be That Woman", "Keep An Eye On Dan", "Bumblebee", "No Doubt About It", "Ode To Freedom"
Arc Of Life
Arc Of Life is a new band from current Yes members Billy Sherwood and Jon Davison and Yes touring drummer Jay Schellen. Between Davison's voice and Sherwood's Chris Squire-esque bass, you'll get a strong Yes feel from most of the album. Songs like "You Make It Real" and "I Want To Know You Better" are way poppier than anything Yes would record, but songs like "Just In Sight" and "Therefore We Are" are longer, proggier songs that hard-core Yes fans would be looking for.
Basically, this is an alternate take on modern Yes, led by Billy Sherwood instead of Steve Howe. Recommended for Yes fans who are willing to take it for what it is.
tracks: "Life Has A Way", "Talking With Siri", "You Make It Real", "Until Further Notice", "The Magic Of It All", "Just In Sight", "I Want To Know You Better", "Locked Down", "Therefore We Are", "The End Game"
The Myth Of The Happily Ever After
Described by the band as a "sister album" to last year's A Celebration Of Endings, The Myth Of The Happily Ever After is generally much harder-edged than Celebration, and it lacks the standout singles of its predecessor. The highlight is "Unknown Male 01", which mixes in some moody, ethereal sections to balance things out a bit. Overall, a very solid follow-up, but not quite as good as A Celebration Of Endings.
tracks: "DumDum", "A Hunger In Your Haunt", "Denier", "Separate Missions", "Witch's Cup", "Holy Water", "Errors In The History Of God", "Haru Urara", "Unknown Male 01", "Existed", "Slurpy Slurpy Sleep Sleep"
Music of The Spheres
Music of The Spheres mixes in a little electronica and ambient music into the band's sound and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The proggy, ten-minute closer "Coloratura" is the best thing Coldplay has recorded in years, and it's easily the highlight of the album. The lead single, "Higher Power" is classic Coldplay, "People Of The Pride" mixes in the loudest guitar the band has used in years, and "♥" is a gorgeous vocal showcase with the band joined by We Are KING and Jacob Collier. "Biutyful", which could have been a good song, is ruined by manipulating Chris Martin's voice to make him sound like a young child. It makes the song a tough listen.
Like the last few Coldplay albums, Music of The Spheres is a mixed bag. The good bits are pretty good (especially "Coloratura"), but the rest drags down the whole.
Yeah, five of the songs on the album are titled by icons instead of words. The four I don't mention above are basically little ambient connectors in the album. I agree, it's a little pretentious. The icons in the track list below use the characters that iTunes uses for the songs. They don't quite match the icons on the album.
tracks: "⦵", "Higher Power", "Humankind", "*✧", "Let Somebody Go" [Coldplay X Selena Gomez], "♥" [Coldplay X We Are KING X Jacob Collier], "People Of The Pride", "Biutyful", "❍", "My Universe" [Coldplay X BTS], "∞", "Coloratura"
Dreamers Are Waiting
Crowded House's first new album in over ten years features some lineup changes in the band. Producer Mitchell Froom (who also produced the first three Crowded House albums) is now a member of the band, as are Neil Finn's sons Liam (guitar) and Elroy (drums). The lineup changes don't change the sound of the band, however. It's a solid comeback with "Playing With Fire" and "Love Isn't Hard At All" as the definite highlights. Worth checking out.
tracks: "Bad Times Good", "Playing With Fire", "To The Island", "Sweet Tooth", "Whatever You Want", "Show Me The Way", "Goodnight Everyone", "Too Good For This World", "Start Of Something", "Real Life Woman", "Love Isn't Hard At All", "Deeper Down"
Inspired by HBO's excellent documentary How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, Dave Grohl created a new Bee Gees cover band, Dee Gees, that just happens to be the current Foo Fighters lineup. Hail Satin captures five Bee Gees covers (OK, well four and one Andy Gibb cover to be precise) and plays 'em fairly straight with a little hard rock muscle mixed in. If you liked the originals, you'll like these too.
Filling out the album are five "live-in-the-studio" versions of songs from Medicine At Midnight. Good covers, but not radically different.
tracks (Dee Gees): "You Should Be Dancing", "Night Fever", "Tragedy", "Shadow Dancing", "More Than A Woman"
tracks (Foo Fighters): "Making A Fire", "Shame Shame", "Waiting On A War", "No Son Of Mine", "Cloudspotter"
Medicine At Midnight
A little of the influence of the band's Bee Gees tribute Hail Satin has crept into Medicine At Midnight. The lead single, "Shame Shame" has a slinky feel that's very new for the band, the title track has a little dance feel along the way. It's not a radical reinvention though. Songs like "Making A Fire" and "Cloudspotter" may play with a little different feel for a moment, they still end up with big sing-along choruses. "Waiting On A War" and "Chasing Birds" mix in some lighter moments, and they're both big highlights.
tracks: "Making A Fire", "Shame Shame", "Cloudspotter", "Waiting On A War", "Medicine At Midnight", "No Son Of Mine", "Holding Poison", "Chasing Birds", "Love Dies Young"
Back The Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011-2021)
In 10 years, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds has released three full-length albums, three EPs and a remix album. Does an act with around 60 songs in their catalog really need a double-CD best of with the obligatory two new songs? Need? No, probably not. But the new songs ("We're On Our Way Now" and "Flying On The Ground") are excellent, and Noel's done a solid job of picking the highlights of his solo career so far. Given how Noel's started to evolve his sound on the EPs, this is actually a nice summation of the first phase of his solo career. It's also an excellent intro for newbies.
The deluxe edition adds a 3rd CD of remixes, demos, and instrumentals. For the most part they're skippable, with a few exceptions. The demo of the previously unreleased "International Magic" is excellent, as are the acoustic versions of "If I Had A Gun …", "The Man Who Built The Moon", and "The Dying Of The Light" are superb. A must-hear for the serious fans.
tracks: "Everybody's On The Run", "The Death Of You And Me", "AKA … What A Life!", "If I Had A Gun …", "In The Heat Of The Moment", "Riverman", "Lock All The Doors", "The Dying Of The Light", "Ballad Of The Mighty I", "We're On Our Way Now", "Black Star Dancing", "Holy Mountain" [remastered], "A Dream Is All I Need To Get By", "This Is The Place", "It's A Beautiful World", "Blue Moon Rising", "Dead In The Water" [live], "Flying On The Ground"
bonus disc: "It's A Beautiful World" [Instrumental], "If I Had A Gun …" [Acoustic Version], "Black Star Dancing" [Skeleton Key Remix], "Black Star Dancing" [12" Mix Instrumental], "The Man Who Built The Moon" [Acoustic Version], "International Magic" [Demo], "Blue Moon Rising" [Sons Of The Desert Remix], "The Dying Of The Light" [Acoustic Version], "This Is The Place" [Skeleton Key Remix], "This Is The Place" [Instrumental], "Black Star Dancing" [The Reflex Revision], "Be Careful What You Wish For" [Instrumental]
The Hardest Battle
Colin Moulding's first new release after a brief return in 2017 with his TC&I EP with Terry Chambers is a new single backed with its demo and early version of one of Colin's last XTC songs, "Say It". "The Hardest Battle" would have slotted in nicely on the TC&I EP, it's charming pop that should be a hit (but never will be). XTC fans need to hear this.
tracks: "The Hardest Battle", "Say It" [original version], "The Hardest Battle" [first exploratory demo]
My Failed Songwriting Career, Volume 1
Four brothers and sisters, happily reunited and presented as a family group aural snapshot for your entertainment and delight. - Andy Partridge
After XTC ended, Andy Partridge figured his next career move was being a songwriter for other artists. All four of these were rejected by their intended artists, but Andy won't say who rejected what. Instead, Partridge has cleaned them up in his home studio and released them as a solo EP. As you'd expect (if you're an XTC fan), the songs are excellent and it's baffling to realize that they weren't eagerly recorded. Though Andy makes it clear in his liner notes that this is "not a solo record that represents where my heart and head are at today", I can't help but hope that this becomes an ongoing series. Like Colin Moulding's new EP, XTC fans really need to hear this.
tracks: "Ghost Train", "Great Day", "Maid Of Stars", "The Mating Dance"
Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Versions)
Last year's 4-CD box set, Wildflowers & All The Rest was expanded in 2021 with a 5-CD Super Deluxe edition. Fortunately, the 5th disc, Finding Wildflowers (Alternate Versions), was made available separately.
The album is basically an alternate take on the whole album. You get alternative, early versions of most of the songs on Wildflowers. A couple of the songs were already released on the excellent An American Treasure box from 2018 and a few were released as B-sides back in '94, but the rest are all previously unreleased. The biggest surprise to me is that six of the songs are performed with the then-current Heartbreakers lineup and they sound terrific as always. The band version of "Crawling Back To You" is even better than the original release. Two of the never-released before songs, "Drivin' Down To Georgia" and "You Saw Me Comin'" are dazzling. I continue to be floored by what a songwriting roll Petty was on for this project. Petty wanted Wildflowers to be a double-LP, and I'm starting to think he could have gone for a triple. If you have the 4-CD Wildflowers & All The Rest set, you should pick this up as well.
tracks: "A Higher Place" [alternate version], "Hard On Me" [alternate version], "Cabin Down Below" [alternate version], "Crawling Back To You" [alternate version], "Only A Broken Heart" [acoustic version], "Drivin' Down To Georgia", "You Wreck Me" [alternate version], "It's Good To Be King" [alternate version], "House In The Woods" [alternate version], "Honey Bee" [alternate version], "Girl On LSD", "Cabin Down Below" [acoustic version], "Wildflowers" [alternate version], "Don't Fade On Me" [alternate take], "Wake Up Time" [alternate take], "You Saw Me Comin'"
Angel Dream (Songs And Music From The Motion Picture "She's The One")
Back in 1996 I wrote about the original She's The One release:
Tom Petty started out to write a single song for the soundtrack of "She's The One" and ended up writing the whole thing. The end result is an album that sounds like it must have been fun to record. The lyrics are the most playful of Petty's career, and the sound is looser and more casual than usual. Petty's even thrown in a cover (Beck's "Asshole"). Oddly enough, Petty's managed a "change of pace" album while still maintaining the classic Heartbreakers sound.
Last year's Wildflowers releases included All The Rest, Petty's 10-song CD of leftovers from the original project. Three of the songs from that album, "California", "Hung Up And Overdue", and "Hope You Never", ended up being reused on Songs And Music From The Motion Picture "She's The One". As a result, "She's The One" has been reconfigured as Angel Dream to remove the now-duplicated songs. In addition to the duplicated songs, the "No. 4" version of "Angel Dream" and the "Circus" version of "Walls" have been dropped as have the two short instrumentals "Airport" and "Hope On Board". In their place, are four new songs ("One Of Life's Little Mysteries", "Thirteen Days", "105 Degrees" and "French Disconnection") and "Supernatural Radio" has been swapped out for a longer version. The four new songs are terrific. "One Of Life's Little Mysteries" is an old-fashioned shuffle with a similar feel to the later "The Man Who Loves Women". The J.J. Cale cover "Thirteen Days" is a bluesy song that fits the band's style perfectly. "105 Degrees" is an excellent rocker, and "French Disconnection" is a lovely acoustic reprise of the title track. Overall, the new version is an improvement over the original and fits in nicely with the other Wildflowers releases.
tracks: "Angel Dream" [No. 2], "Grew Up Fast", "Change The Locks", "Zero From Outer Space", "Asshole", "One Of Life's Little Mysteries", "Walls" [No. 3], "Thirteen Days", "105 Degrees", "Climb That Hill", "Supernatural Radio" [extended version], "French Disconnection"
Like last year's Bloody Noses EP, Serpent's Tears is an EP of six new Richard Thompson songs with occasional vocals from Zara Phillips. The acoustic songs are terrific, and "When I Was Drunk" is the highlight coupling a beautiful melody with a chilling lyric. I've enjoyed the acoustic songs on these two EPs, but I missed hearing RT's electric guitar and "When The Saints Rise Out Of Their Graves" delivers. It's still Thompson on all instruments, but it sounds like a full band recording, and it's a blast hearing Thompson's brilliant electric guitar again. Easily the highlight of the two EPs. Bloody Noses was excellent, and Serpent's Tears is better.
The two original EPs were digital only and available from Bandcamp. If you prefer a physical CD, the two have been combined onto one CD and is available on Thompson's site (richardthompson-music.com).
tracks: "Tinker's Rhapsody", "As I Hold You", "The Big Love Scene", "When The Saints Rise Out Of Their Graves", "Widow's Walk", "When I Was Drunk"
The first new Yes album in seven years is also the first in their over fifty-year history with no founding members on the album, although Steve Howe and Alan White have been in the band since the early seventies. This lineup has been playing together live since Chris Squire's passing in 2015, so it's also a long-lived lineup (for Yes, anyway). The Quest is a definite improvement over 2014's Heaven & Earth, although you won't confuse it with any of their seventies classics. Billy Sherwood does a decent job replicating Squire's busy, trebly bass, Jon Davison still sounds very much like Jon Anderson, and Steve Howe is still a superb guitarist. The opener, "The Ice Bridge", is the definite highlight, and is the best thing the Jon Davison edition of the band has done.
The album has an odd configuration. Despite being an hour in length, The Quest is split across two CDs. The idea is that the first CD is the main album, and the three extra songs were described by Steve Howe as "high-quality reserve tracks" included on a second CD. The highlight of the second CD is the Beatles tribute "Mystery Tour" with lyrics about the band and name-checks of the band members and song lyrics along the way.
tracks: "The Ice Bridge", "Dare To Know", "Minus The Man", "Leave Well Alone", "The Western Edge", "Future Memories", "Music To My Ears", "A Living Island", "Sister Sleeping Soul", "Mystery Tour", "Damaged World"
Neil Young's second album in a row with Crazy Horse, and it's in the same style as 2019's Colorado. Four of Barn's ten songs have Neil Young & Crazy Horse rocking out, and they're the best things on the album. "Human Race" is a perfect mix of Young's power guitar and Crazy Horse harmonies. "Heading West" and "Canerican" are darn close, and "Welcome Back" is slower and longer than the rest, but still great. The rest of the album is a mixed bag - a lot of it sounds like a first take. I know Young likes catching early takes, but I think a little more polish would have helped.
If you combined the best of Colorado and Barn, you'd have something more akin to Psychedelic Pill or Ragged Glory. But on its own, Barn is a bit of a mixed bag. If you like older Neil Young & Crazy Horse albums, it's worth it to hear the four I mention above.
tracks: "Song Of The Seasons", "Heading West", "Change Ain't Never Gonna", "Canerican", "Shape Of You", "They Might Be Lost", "Human Race", "Tumblin' Thru The Years", "Welcome Back", "Don't Forget Love"
THE TOP TEN FOR 2021
THE FUTURE BITES
For THE FUTURE BITES, Steven Wilson steps away from his usual guitar-heavy prog and into a far more electronic sound. The result is both catchy and occasionally unnerving. The centerpiece of the album is the nearly 10-minute "PERSONAL SHOPPER" which couples an electronics and guitar with a lyrical indictment of consumer culture and a snarky recitation of "deluxe" products by Elton John. "12 THINGS I FORGOT" is the lone throwback to the sound of Wilson's previous albums, and it's a lovely song and a big highlight. Overall, THE FUTURE BITES is a big departure for Wilson, but it's worth checking out.
The videos below for "SELF" and "PERSONAL SHOPPER" are pretty amazing. "SELF" uses "deepfake" technology to amazing effect, turning Wilson into a myriad of celebrities, and the creepy science-fiction of the "PERSONAL SHOPPER" video matches the tone of the song perfectly. Even if you're not a fan of the songs themselves, the videos are worth a watch.
No, I'm not trying to shout at you. The album and song titles seem to always be shown in all uppercase. I know — it looks weird.
tracks: "UNSELF", "SELF", "KING GHOST", "12 THINGS I FORGOT", "EMINENT SLEAZE", "MAN OF THE PEOPLE", "PERSONAL SHOPPER", "FOLLOWER", "COUNT OF UNEASE"
It Won't Always Be Like This
Inhaler's debut is a solid collection of modern indie guitar rock. The album opens with a terrific one-two punch of the superb title track and "My Honest Face" that shows off the band's electric playing and lead singer Elijah Hewson's terrific voice. Elijah's voice will occasionally remind you of his famous father (Bono), but the band is not a U2 clone. If anything, they remind me more of bands like Hard-Fi or Franz Ferdinand. A terrific debut.
tracks: "It Won't Always Be Like This", "My Honest Face", "Slide Out The Window", "Cheer Up Baby", "A Night On The Floor", "My King Will Be Kind", "When It Breaks", "Who's Your Money On? (Plastic House)", "Totally", "Strange Time To Be Alive", "In My Sleep"
She loves her and he loves him / There's nothing you can do to end this love.
Jason Narducy and Jon Wurster have been Bob Mould's rhythm section for roughly a decade now, and Split Single gives Narducy his turn to front a power trio. Narducy switches from bass to guitar and vocals and brings in R.E.M.'s Mike Mills on bass. The result is a collection of catchy, high-energy power pop that will remind you a bit of his work with Bob Mould, although Narducy has a smoother vocal style than Mould. The album starts on an odd note with the minute-long sound collage "cAPtAIN calamIty'S crUde pRoCessiON", but then kicks in with "Blood Break Ground" and the album just takes off. The big highlight of the album is "(Nothing You Can Do) To End This Love", an irresistibly hooky song with a powerful lyric about same-sex relationships. It's one of the best songs I heard all year. "95 Percent" and "Worry" are other big moments and are almost as good. The only misstep is the ballad "Adrift". I'm sure it's there as a little break in the flow, but it doesn't match the other songs on the album. Doesn't matter though: the rest of the album is stellar.
tracks: "cAPtAIN calamIty'S crUde pRoCessiON", "Blood Break Ground", "Stone Heart World", "95 Percent", "Adrift", "Bitten By The Sound", "(Nothing You Can Do) To End This Love", "Mangled Tusk", "Belly Of Lead", "Worry", "Satellite"
Manic Street Preachers
The Ultra Vivid Lament
During the lockdown, James Dean Bradfield's 105-year-old neighbor gifted him her piano. Bradfield learned to play and did much of the composing on piano and plays on the album as well. The piano is prominent on some of the new songs (notably "Orwellian", "Quest For Ancient Color", and "Into The Waves Of Love") and adds an elegant accent on the others. Overall, the album is poppier and mellower than their last album Resistance Is Futile, but it's not a rerun of the gentle Lifeblood. The lighter sound works well with the wistful opener "Still Snowing In Sapporo". Nicky Wire's lyrics look back to an early Manics tour of Japan back before Richey Edwards' tragic disappearance in 1995.
As has become standard, The Manics have a couple of guest singers on the album. "The Secret He Had Missed" is a terrific duet with Julia Cumming - her voice and Bradfield's work beautifully together. The other, "Blank Diary Entry" is a duet with the gravelly voiced Mark Lanegan. The song is one of the quietest on the album. Lanegan's voice is quite different from the usual Manics guest singers, but it works.
The deluxe edition adds demos for all the songs, plus two of Nicky Wire's sparse home demos which are an interesting comparison to the band demos that follow. The demo CD is an interesting listen, but more for the hard-core fans.
tracks: "Still Snowing In Sapporo", "Orwellian", "The Secret He Had Missed" [with Julia Cumming], "Quest For Ancient Colour", "Don't Let The Night Divide Us", "Diapause", "Complicated Illusions", "Into The Waves Of Love", "Blank Diary Entry" [with Mark Lanegan], "Happy Bored Alone", "Afterending"
tracks (Deluxe Edition only): "Still Snowing In Sapporo" [Demo], "Orwellian" [Demo], "The Secret He Had Missed" [Demo], "Quest For Ancient Colour" [Demo], "Don't Let The Night Divide Us" [Nicky Wire Home Demo], "Don't Let The Night Divide Us" [Demo], "Diapause" [Demo], "Complicated Illusions" [Nicky Wire Home Demo], "Complicated Illusions" [Demo], "Into The Waves Of Love" [Demo], "Blank Diary Entry" [Demo], "Happy Bored Alone" [Demo], "Afterending" [Demo]
Analog Girl In A Digital World
The title Analog Girl In A Digital World could not be more apt — Arielle's sound is a throwback to classic seventies guitar pop and rock. "Digital World" opens the album on a highlight, combining a lyric about "the good old days" with the chords that echo The Who's "Baba O'Riley" and Arielle's strong voice and guitar work. "Peace Of Mind" works in some Byrdsy 12-string, and "You're Still A Man" matches an snarky lyric with heavy guitars. She mixes in lighter material as well, like the pretty "Inside & Outside" and "Living In A Fortress". She seems way too young to be doing this kind of album, but she does it very well.
tracks: "Dialup", "Digital World", "Peace Of Mind", "This Is Our Intervention", "You're Still A Man", "Inside & Outside", "I'd Rather Be In England", "Living In A Fortress", "Reimagine Redefine"
My friend Carrie introduced me to Lucy Dacus through her excellent cover of "Dancing In The Dark" from her mostly-covers EP 2019. The EP is excellent, and Home Video is even better. The album is a really cool mix of dreamy pop, indie rock, and the occasional blast of grungy guitar combined with Dacus' beautiful voice and bittersweet, emotional lyrics about her youth. The centerpiece of the album is the chilling "Thumbs" which combines haunting music with lyrics about accompanying a friend (girlfriend?) to meet her estranged father. The narrator wants to care for her friend but also ponders killing the father. The music is appropriately sparse, and the lyrics take center stage. The album's lyrics have a very personal vibe, and it closes with a long, intense song ("Triple Dog Dare") about a relationship that never was, and it brings the album to a powerful close. Home Video is an excellent album. Make sure you listen closely to the lyrics to get the full effect.
tracks: "Hot & Heavy", "Christine", "First Time", "VBS", "Cartwheel", "Thumbs", "Going Going Gone", "Partner In Crime", "Brando", "Please Stay", "Triple Dog Dare"
Fat Pop (Volume 1)
In my review of Paul Weller's 2020 album, On Sunset, I wrote:
In November, Weller aired a livestream called Mid-Sömmer Musik. The show was an hour of "live in the studio" performances of songs from On Sunset and True Meanings along with four songs from an upcoming 2021 album, tentatively titled Fat Pop (Volume 1). The new songs are as good as anything from On Sunset, and maybe better.
Based on that four-song preview, I was expecting a lot from Fat Pop (Volume 1), and the album really delivers. The opener, "Cosmic Fringes", mixes hints of electronica in with a strident rocker. "Shades Of Blue" is a catchy piano-driven pop song, and "Cobweb / Connections" pulls in the orchestral side of Weller's recent albums. The first half of Fat Pop (Volume 1) is solid, but it's the second half of the album is where it takes off. The four songs previewed on Mid-Sömmer Musik are here and they steal the show. The soul infused "Testify" starts things off on a bang, and the album doesn't let up. "Failed" and "Moving Canvas" couple insistent grooves and powerful guitar, and the album ends on an elegant note with the lush "Still Glides The Stream". Overall, the album is excellent, but that second half is the best side Weller's recorded in decades. Absolutely amazing.
The deluxe edition of the album comes with two bonus discs. The first is a soundtrack to last year's livestream Mid-Sömmer Musik. The interviews and two songs are dropped ("Gravity", "Aspects"), and one song is added ("Rockets"). "Rockets" is an excellent version of the On Sunset song, and it's nice to have it, but I wish the other two had remained as well. Overall, a terrific disc, and every bit the match of the main album.
The second bonus CD is a collection of outtakes, and for the most part, I get why they were left off. "Round The Floor" and "Pure Sound" are good, but the rest is just so-so. The closing 16-minute "Fat Mix" is an experimental collage that's lost on me. However, the deluxe version is the one to get — Mid-Sömmer Musik makes it worth the price.
tracks: "Cosmic Fringes", "True", "Fat Pop", "Shade Of Blue", "Glad Times", "Cobweb/Connections", "Testify", "That Pleasure", "Failed", "Moving Canvas", "In Better Times", "Still Glides The Stream"
bonus tracks (Mid-Sömmer Musik): "On Sunset", "Old Father Tyme", "Moving Canvas", "Failed", "Village", "More", "Testify", "Still Glides The Stream", "Rockets", "Mayfly"
bonus tracks (Fat Pop - Bonus): "Round The Floor", "Serafina", "Crowboy", "Into The Sea", "Pure Sound", "Fat Mix"
Between 1997 and 2016 Teenage Fanclub released five studio albums. All five had exactly twelve songs with Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love writing and singing lead vocals on four each. In 2018 Gerard Love left the band, reportedly due to a lack of interest in touring. As you'd expect, the twelve songs are simply divvied six-six between Blake and McGinley. Since Love wrote some of the band's best songs, I wasn't sure how they would fare without him. Turns out, they manage just fine. Endless Arcade is twelve songs of catchy Big Star-inspired pop.
The opening "Home" is the band's take on a Neil Young & Crazy Horse style jam song with the band just extending the ending for the last four of the song's seven minutes. The ending is just hypnotic, and it's the best thing on the album. "Everything Is Falling Apart", "I'm More Inclined" and "Back In The Day" are the other standouts, but the album is consistent top to bottom. I was disappointed to hear that the band was down a songwriter, but Blake and McGinley still deliver the goods.
I ended my 2016 review of Here by asking "See you in 2021?" I sincerely hope we don't have to wait another five years for a new album, but here's to another Teenage Fanclub classic in 2026.
tracks: "Home", "Endless Arcade", "Warm Embrace", "Everything Is Falling Apart", "The Sun Won't Shine On Me", "Come With Me", "In Our Dreams", "I'm More Inclined", "Back In The Day", "The Future", "Living With You", "Silent Song"
KALEO's third album, Surface Sounds, is another slab of electrifying blues-rock with JJ Julius Son's powerful voice as the signature part of their sound (apropos, since "kaleo" is the Hawaiian word for "voice"). The album starts with the slow burn of "Break My Baby" before "Alter Ego" picks up the pace. "Hey Gringo" brings in background singers and a more soulful sound, and it's a dazzler. "I Walk On Water" is another change of pace mixing in a choir and strings for a dramatic highlight. This album (as well as KALEO's first two) are must-hears.
tracks: "Brother Run Fast", "Break My Baby", "Alter Ego", "Free The Slave", "Skinny", "Hey Gringo", "My Fair Lady", "I Want More", "Backbone", "I Walk On Water", "Into My Mother's Arms"
The Hold Steady
Open Door Policy
Open Door Policy is the second release by the six-man Hold Steady, and it's spectacular. The album is chock full of the Hold Steady's usual "sing-along songs", but this time around several songs shift styles mid-way, moving between moodier and anthemic sections. The album also makes great use of a new horn section, dubbed "The Horn Steady" in concerts. Craig Finn's character study lyrics are as dense and clever as ever ("She had the aura of an angel / But she had a couple problems / I guess the big one is she's someone else's wife" or "The nurse that they assigned me had 'Eruption' as her ring tone / Blasting out through built in speakers like it's bug spray / Buzzing like a hornet halfway blown").
"The Feelers" (about a drug buy and a woman "putting out the feelers"), "Lanyards" (which uses backstage passes as a clever metaphor), and the urgent "Family Farm" (about an encounter with a cult) are the easy immediate highlights, but "Unpleasant Breakfast" and "Riptown" are damn close. The album is up there with the band's best.
By the way, digital copies of the album include a bonus track, "Parade Days", and it's amazing. The band felt the song didn't quite match the vibe of the rest of the album, but it's terrific. Even if you prefer vinyl, it's worth getting this song as well.
tracks: "The Feelers", "Spices", "Lanyards", "Family Farm", "Unpleasant Breakfast", "Heavy Covenant", "The Prior Procedure", "Riptown", "Me & Magdalena", "Hanover Camera"
bonus tracks (digital only): "Parade Days"
ALL THE BESTS
Just click on the album cover to see that year's review.