Vintage Rock Gems Of 2011
You could say 2011 was a banner year for rock n’ roll books, Blu-ray Discs and expanded reissues. And because of a seismic shift in how humans consume music video and information, we could be experiencing the last days of premium packaged boxes, sets full of discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and LPs) and — gulp! — hard-cover books. All the more the reason you should consider grabbing a few of the following — listed in no particular order…
U2’s Achung Baby reaffirmed the band’s ability to stay relevant and ahead of the curve after the mega-stardom of The Joshua Tree nearly pigeon-holed their appeal. Twenty years later, those multi-layered guitars and Bono’s parody-riddled lyrics still bring back an intense and confusing period in the Irish band’s run. The gates have opened with a film, a remastered edition, an expanded edition, a deluxe edition, a super deluxe edition — filled with CDs of B-sides, outtakes, remixes, along with DVDs and even LPs. The ultimate U2 fan will always cherish the "Über Deluxe" editions, which includes Achtung Baby, its follow-up Zooropa, three more CDs of remixes, B-sides and outtakes from Achtung Baby and Zooropa. There’s also a “kindergarten” disc with nascent versions of the album's 12 songs. When you’re done listening, sit down for four DVDs that include the Achtung Baby documentary From the Sky Down, Zoo TV: Live from Sydney, music videos, and documentaries. A double vinyl version of Achtung Baby, plus five 7-inch vinyl singles and more, finish it off.
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Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland
There’s nothing like a little Rush to soothe the savage 40-something frat boy. On Blu-ray and DVD, Time Machine 2011: Live In Cleveland is vintage Rush, playing their classics and Moving Pictures in its entirety. Filmed in Cleveland in tribute to the early support the band got from the city’s radio station WMMS, the performance is book-ended by lengthy and thoroughly comical sketches called The History Of Rush. It’s almost as if Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart are living out a Three Stooges fantasy when they put these films together. Which just goes to show you how much humor is buried behind the cerebral and heady themes of Rush’s lean serving of progressive hard rock. In addition to “The Spirit Of Radio,” “Time Stand Still” “Tom Sawyer” and “La Villa Strangiato,” the band rolled a couple of numbers from their yet-to-be released album slated for 2012, Clockwork Angels. Apparently, Rush’s Time Machine travels to the future as well as to the past. The disc goes well into the past when you get to the bonus section. Skip past the outtakes from The History Of Rush and you’ll stumble upon early 70s footage. There’s one clip featuring original Rush drummer John Rutsey with the band performing “Need Some Love” before the student body at Laura Second Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. The second clip is a rough black & white performance of “Anthem,” circa 1976 in Passaic, New Jersey. That’s like finding buried treasure.
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In The Present: Live From Lyon
If, as a Yes fan, you’ve come to terms with the fact that Yes no longer employs Jon Anderson as their lead singer, but you still find the music viable, then the double-CD/single-DVD live set In The Present: Live From Lyon just might be tickle your ear drums. Recorded in Lyon, France, on December 1, 2009 — before the release of Fly From Here, their first studio album with singer Benoît David. At the time of this show, of course, David had already been with the band for a year, and had just been made an official member. By the sound of it, he was gelling and old chestnuts like “Siberian Khatru” and “I’ve Seen All Good People” are dusted off and shined up proper. With Anderson out of the picture, Yes revisits the period of Drama — which factored in heavily on Fly From Here with the return of Trevor Horn (as producer) and Geoff Downes back on keyboards — playing “Tempus Fugit” and “Machine Messiah” to great reception. A few off-course detours like the new-agey “Onward” and “Astral Traveler” distinguish this set from previous Yes live offerings. Whereas “Heart Of The Sunrise,” “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper” are always played and recorded live — and in this instance, you can tell David is trying to sound as faithful to Anderson’s tone and melodies as possible. For the rest of the band — guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Alan White and short-time member Oliver Wakeman capably handling the keys — the pieces fall naturally into place. In the end, In The Present: Live From Lyon is, on one hand, just what you’d expect and, on another, just what you wouldn’t expect from Yes. Depending on who you ask, that’s either a good or bad thing — you decide.
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Wish You Were Here (Immersion Box Set)
In the Fall of 2011, Pink Floyd rolled out remasters of their 14 studio albums (see our review). They also released two special versions of the immortal The Dark Side Of The Moon: the Experience edition and the Immersion edition. The former includes a second disc comprising a 1974 live performance of Dark Side, while the latter is a six-disc box with a DVD and a Blu-ray featuring the same 5.1 surround mix James Guthrie did for the 2003 SACD, plus Alan Parson's much vaunted 1973 quad mix. The Immersion box set for Wish You Were Here, which dropped at the end of November 2011, mimics the Dark Side set with live performances, surround sound mixes and other endearing extras. Floyd freaks will dance in the aisles when they slip on the second disc (also included with the Experience edition), which not only contains a live version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” but also “Raving And Drooling” and “You’ve Got To Be Crazy,” working titles for “Sheep” and “Dogs” from the then-forthcoming Animals album. For years, bootlegs have circulated form this period, but this is the first time an “official” release has brought the songs played from this tour to light. Once you spin the Blu-ray and/or DVD of the Wish You Were Here, and do an A/B comparison of the quad mix and 5.1 mix, the immersive nature of the set will have already altered your perception of Pink Floyd’s timeless sheen.
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A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History Of
The Monterey International Pop Festival
As more and more books on the vintage era of rock and roll filter into the marketplace, you have to use a bit of discretion in choosing the more authoritative volumes on any given subject over the copy-and-paste hatchet jobs — you know the under-ten-bucks stocking stuffers assembled from previously seen clips and photos. A Perfect Haze, “official history” book on the Monterey Pop Festival doesn’t skimp on the details, including a thumbs-up from the festival co-creator, Lou Adler. Put together by rock journalist brothers Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik. A Perfect Haze features a interviews with festival participants and audience members, rare photos, memorabilia, anecdotal sidebars and testimonials. Woodstock may get all the headlines, but it was the Monterey Pop Festival, as this book makes clear, that got the ball rolling on pop festivals with altruistic intentions. There are details on the preparations and planning that went into the event, along with a band-by-band account of those three pivotal days — June 16, 17 and 18 — in1967 that launched the Summer of Love and a revolution of peace and love. There’s an even an article claiming that without the Beatles, who did not appear, the event would have never taken place. Apparently, the Fab Four’s looming, prescient influence became even more significant that year when Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band turned a generation on its collective ear.
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Young Man With The Big Beat:
The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Recordings
Having issued several tasteful Elvis Presley collections since 2009, the good folks at Sony’s Legacy truly outdid themselves when they rolled out Young Man With the Big Beat: The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Recordings. Capturing the meteoric rise of Presley in 1956, as he transformed from a bashful Southern boy with golden pipes into a worldwide phenomenon, this five-CD box set covers a wide swath of the singer’s studio recordings — from hits to outtakes — plus, live performances and interviews. The package includes two discs of RCA studio master recordings, with barnstormers like “Blue Suede Shoes,” “I Got A Woman,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” :Hound Dog” “Don’t Be Cruel.” — songs from his first two albums, plus singles and EP tracks. The live performances, from three different shows, encapsulate how powerful Presley and his band (guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black, and D.J. Fontana on drums) were on stage in those early days. The fourth disc features outtakes — Anyone for numerous takes of “Lawdy, Miss Clawdy” and “Shake, Rattle And Roll”? — and the fifth has an insightful interview Presley did with Paul Wilder, additional monologues and interview segments, and a couple of RCA Victrola radio ads. Who knew the King was also an effective pitchman.
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Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1
Miles Davis Quintet
Three cheers for the only full-on jazz musician in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame: Miles Davis. That may rankle the boot straps of some rock purists, but the trumpet-blowing innovator knew how to make his flavor of jazz rock like no other. His “second great quintet” with Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Herbie Hancock (piano), Ron Carter (bass), and Tony Williams (drums) had no trouble connecting the dots and giving the master room to roam. On Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1, performances from three shows over three CDs in Belgium, Denmark and France succinctly sum up the energy and chemistry that drove this group of musicians. Two more appearances from Germany and Sweden get visual on the included DVD. This is reportedly the only known video of the quintet, who was behind such seminal Miles Davis albums as E.S.P. (1965), Miles Smiles (1966), Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti (1967), Miles In the Sky (1968), and Filles De Kilimanjaro (1968). To really appreciate the music within, leaf through the 28-page booklet that comes with Live In Europe 1967: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1, and play through the different versions of “Agitation” and “Footprints” to see how many times they play the same notes twice.
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Live At Montreux 2011
Deep Purple With Orchestra
Montreux is one place Deep Purple keep coming back to. For their 2011 tour, they brought along a full orchestra. And, ever mindful of the historical implications, the 115-minute show, the closing night of the Montreux Jazz Festival, was filmed in high definition and recorded in 5.1 surround for the DVD and Blu-Ray release Live At Montreux 2011. Classics like “Highway Star,” “Perfect Strangers” and “Smoke On The Water,” plus deeper cuts like “Hard Lovin’ Man,” “No One Came” and the more recent “Rapture Of The Deep,” get a lift from the orchestra, conducted by Stephen Bentley-Klein. Vocally, Ian Gillan pulls through by the skin of his lungs, while guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey light up the breaks with electric solo spots. Bonus interviews reveal the band’s intentions, which effectively was to use the orchestra to enhance the Purple sound without diminishing its unique impact. By all accounts, they succeeded.
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~ Shawn Perry