Prince, the man for whom the word “enigmatic” was coined, has reunited with his old label Warner Bros., with which he had some of his greatest successes from 1978-1996. His split from Warners was publicly acrimonious, with Prince characterizing himself as a slave to the corporation.
Eighteen years has seemingly healed those wounds, and Prince is now working on a new album for the label, while also planning a re-release of his classic Purple Rain in time for the album’s 30th anniversary. Okay, maybe it’s not just the time that’s passed – as Billboard reports, Prince almost certainly negotiated a favorable new deal for himself in regards to his Warner’s catalog, which he reportedly has regained ownership under provisions of the Copyright Revision Act of 1976.
In any case, great news for fans.
On November 19th, Bloodshot Records released Bottle Rockets/The Brooklyn Side as a two-disc package, including a detailed 40-page booklet. Released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, these two records are crucial early planks in the bridge from The Replacements through Ryan Adams‘ Whiskeytown and to the now-established alt-country scene.
Not only do the records hold up to their countless progeny, they sound even more vital than many of today’s roots rock releases. The albums’ straight-ahead, raw and roomy production (enhanced by a fine remastering job) has nothing in common with the budget indie sound that dates so many of their contemporaries and, along with the top-notch songwriting and fearless performances, makes for an exciting listen.
We had a quick Q&A with Bottle Rockets drummer Mark Ortmann to see what he thought accounted for the great sound on these records, as well as his thoughts on touring, playing with Marshall Crenshaw, and bands on other planets.
SJ: I had never heard these two early records, and being a fan of lots of independent releases from the early ’90s, I can’t believe how vibrant these sound in contrast, with a really high production value. That can’t just be the remaster, right? To what or whom do you attribute the sound of the recordings?
Mark: John Keane produced, recorded and engineered the debut album Bottle Rockets, whereas The Brooklyn Side was produced by Eric Ambel and recorded by Albert Caiati. Although the remastering did put a new polish on those albums, it’s John, Eric and Albert who are responsible for the vibrant quality of the original recordings. The common approach they took was to record a faithful representation of the band while avoiding the audio fads/trends of the times (gated drums, digital effects, etc.) There is more production on The Brooklyn Side because there was more studio time to work with by the second album, but neither album sounds dated due to the recording methods used.
Officially announced this week, Nirvana’s final studio album, In Utero, is being reissued on September 24. The ‘Super Deluxe Edition’ will feature a remastered cut of the album, along with 70 remastered, remixed, rare, unreleased, and live recordings spread over a four-disc package. No word yet on a tracklist, but we expect one to surface in the weeks ahead.
Those interested in celebrating In Utero without all of the added flair will be able to pick up a two CD and a three LP version version of the reissue as well. No additional information regarding either of those pressings has been released at this time.
Lana Del Rey has been a busy woman since she rose to prominence last year on the strength of a handful of viral videos. She hasn’t let up her onslaught since, regularly pumping out releases that are less songs, videos, and records and more pieces of cannily composed viral content.
It’s a strategy that hasn’t failed Del Rey so far. So you missed her debut LP Born To Die earlier this year and somehow avoided the various music videos and collaborations that followed in its wake? Good luck trying to do that the second time around.
Born To Die, I’m sorry, Born To Die – The Paradise Edition, is a 24 song monster of a re-release, pairing the deluxe version of Del Rey’s debut album with the nine track Paradise EP. That’s a whole lotta Lana.
Not that any of this is going to convert any of the haters. The cuts that we’ve heard from the Paradise EP sound like vintage Del Rey. In fact, the dead-eyed goddess was generous enough to gift the internet viewing public with an atmospheric treatment for one of the songs featured on the Paradise EP, “Bel Air,” which you can see after the jump.
What’s underneath those beards, anyway? Anyone who has ever lent an ear to the legacy of long-lived boogie rock legends ZZ Top can tell you that there’s a fair share of Texas blues in the band’s background. But as an elegantly appointed new boxed set makes clear, the backstory of Billy Gibbons”the Top’s singer and guitarist since their ’69 inception”also boasts a heaping helping of psychedelia.
Moving Sidewalks “ The Complete Collection, just released by reissue specialists Rockbeat Records, chronicles the journey of a young Billy Gibbons through the Houston music scene of the mid-to-late ˜60s on his way to forming the band that would become a rock & roll phenomenon. If you’ve ever yearned to peek beneath the fulsome facial hair of the famous frontman, either literally or figuratively, all you have to do is open up this enticing package. Not only does the photo-laden 54-page booklet offer up images of a clean-shaven, baby-faced Billy in his teens as a member of The Coachmen and then the Moving Sidewalks, the two CDs encompass the entirety of both bands’ output. (more…)
Alt-rock pop-punk band Tigers Jaw are streaming their 2008 Summer EP on YouTube. Their label, Run For Cover Records is taking pre-orders for reissues of this record as well as two others, including Tigers Jaw’s self titled 12″ LP and Belongs To The Dead. Click here to find out more, and check out the first streaming track below called “Neighbors,” a sad bare bones acoustic rendition.
If you like Tigers Jaw, then you might also like OurStage’s own Shark Tape.
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Can you believe it’s been twenty years since Rage Against The Machine released their debut self-titled album? In 1992, the politically charged rap/rock hybrid group came right out of the gate with one of the most disturbing and controversial photographs of the 20th century as their album cover, a bold statement that showed the world just how serious they were about making an impact. Since then, Rage has been one of the most influential bands in the world, aiding not only in the world of music, but in the world of political activism as well.
Now, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of their momentous first album, they will be re-issuing the record in multiple limited edition box set formats entitled Rage Against The Machine – XX. According to NME.com, the release will “contain a remastered version of the album, demos and previously unseen live footage as well as a film of their 2010 gig in Finsbury Park and new liner notes written by Public Enemy‘s Chuck D. The deluxe box set will include “two CDs, two DVDs, one 180g vinyl LP, one 40-page booklet and two-sided poster, or as a Special Edition with two CDs and a bonus DVD featuring six tracks.” There will also be a 180g vinyl edition and a single CD edition with three bonus tracks. Rage Against The Machine – XX is set to be released on November 26th. For more details and track-listings, click here.
If you enjoy Rage Against The Machine, then you might also like Ourstage’s own Game Rebellion.
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It was 1991 and Los Lobos were pissed. We had recorded [1990 album] The Neighborhood and toured that record nonstop, remembers saxophonist/keyboardist Steve Berlin. The Neighborhood took us about a year to make, for no good reason. We had a co-producer who had an agenda, and we were dealing with his agenda and not trusting ourselves. We came home from that tour pissed-off, broke, we had sort of bought this idea that we were big rock stars and that we needed to have all this rock-star stuff, like lights, and two buses, and lots of stuff that we really didn’t need, or even want, for that matter. (more…)
The rock world was getting ugly in 1987”the fresh fruit from the first half of the decade began to turn rancid as New Wave pioneers lost the plot and either fell apart or fatally tarted up their sound for more commercial appeal. Things were just as bad on the mainstream end of the spectrum as big-time rock acts got bigger and dumber, often simultaneously. But amid all the sonic Sturm und Drang, a soft, subtle little gem slipped in, showing that it was possible to turn people’s heads without blowing their ears out. And now, twenty-five years later, that unassuming classic is set for a rebirth.
Richard Barone, who had spent most of the ’80s making moody, mysterious power pop as the frontman for The Bongos, ventured out on his own for the first time with Cool Blue Halo, an all-acoustic album recorded live in concert at New York’s intimate Bottom Line club. “I was trying to do something that was not the Bongos,” says Barone. “I didn’t want to replace my best friends, so I didn’t go look for a bass player or drummer, I just tried to be open to other ideas.” The personnel for Barone’s new project fell into place with very little effort”he found cellist Jane Scarpantoni playing solo cello for the lunchtime crowd at Maxwell’s, the Hoboken club that had been The Bongos’ home base. Barone had just produced acoustic guitarist Nick Celeste‘s band, In Color, and the last piece of the puzzle fell into place when someone recommended Valerie Naranjo, who played both African and symphonic percussion.
Though The Bongos were never to release another album, they were still touring at this time, and the kind of quiet, folk-pop magic the Cool Blue Halo band began weaving in its performances made for some serious schizophrenia within Barone’s otherwise amped-to-eleven world. “This was like playing hooky from The Bongos,” Barone recalls. “I was doing the Richard Barone Cool Blue Halo shows and then the next night sometimes performing a Bongos show somewhere. And they were very opposite kinds of energy completely. Ivan Julian [of Richard Hell & The Voidoids] was playing with The Bongos at that time, so the band was really high-powered…It was a blurry period for me.”
The performance you hear on Cool Blue Halo was the first time the foursome had ever performed in public together, Naranjo having joined the band a week before, and the new lineup squeezing in only a single rehearsal before the Bottom Line show. “There’s so much improvisation in that album,” remembers Barone, “because we hadn’t really played as a quartet before until that show. There’s something magical about that for me. I don’t know how we pulled it off.” In keeping with Barone’s vow to diverge from the beat-driven rock of The Bongos, this group took a much more abstract approach to rhythm. “Cool Blue Halo doesn’t really have any backbeat,” explains Barone, “That was one of the rules on that album…it’s all around the beat on the percussion.”
Barone also decided to honor a few of his key influences, but in unexpected ways. “I thought I should do a Beatles song, but I had to find the most obscure one I could¦I always loved ‘Cry Baby Cry’ from the White Album. I loved the way they did it, but I always felt like it was kind of an unfinished production¦I fleshed it out a little bit more, as far as the cello line and the marimba. And then I wanted to do a Marc Bolan song. I had already done ‘Mambo Sun’ with The Bongos, but I wanted to do a really obscure Marc Bolan song, so I did ‘The Visit.’ It’s about a love affair with an alien”I thought that was really romantic. And then I wanted to pick a Bowie song. At the time, ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ was very obscure, it had been covered only by Lulu in 1973, produced by David! I have the vinyl single of that. So I had Beatles, Bolan and Bowie. I couldn’t go wrong with that. And then I framed it, the first and last songs are Bongos songs. I kind of built a house with Cool Blue Halo where I had these pillars of the Beatles, Bowie, and Bolan in the middle holding it up, and the Bongos are the outside walls, and I could go in with my own new songs in between.”
The hushed and haunting sound the Cool Blue Halo band created might have been at odds with its era, but it had at least a partial precedent in the quietly elegant chamber-pop sounds of some of the 1960s’ more sophisticated bands. “The minor key feel of The Zombies and the harmonies of The Left Banke, those are in what we were doing,” Barone allows. “Never intentionally, because we weren’t, like, studying them, but it’s definitely in there.” In 1987, the approach was different enough to strike a chord with the curious, and the quartet spent the better part of the next two years touring in the US and Europe, even though the album’s American label, Passport, went under shortly after the record’s release. “We were still touring,” Barone recalls, “we didn’t really care, it went under and the copies were still floating around. It could have gotten around a lot more if the label didn’t die in the middle of the process, but in Europe it was on different labels, so that was fine.”
But now Cool Blue Halo is about to have a second life in time for its twenty-fifth anniversary, as a deluxe, expanded, five-disc box set. Barone says the idea came from author and music executive Jay Frank, who’d been getting set to start a new label. “When he said five discs, I was taken aback at first, but then I realized that there are five discs here. One is the original album, which we’ll have to remaster. I think it’s gonna reveal a lot more of the detail of that album when we put it back up on the machine. Then I think we’ll do Live in Berlin for the live album, it’s a different show completely, even though it’s the same songs. Also on that same second disc could be Live in Paris. Then there’s the demos; I did make demos for the musicians on multitrack cassette, that’ll be an outtakes disc”demos and recordings that we did to learn the songs. And there are rare videos from the era, that’ll be on the outtakes disc as well. Then on May 4 at [New York club] City Winery we’re gonna do a new show, we’re gonna recreate the album, but with special guests. That will be recorded as an audio disc, and it’ll be filmed with several cameras. One of the discs will be the DVD. Then there’s also vinyl, there will be a single, that’s the fifth disc.”
As if that wasn’t enough, extra enticements will include a t-shirt and a lithograph, as well as a hardcover book containing photos, essays, album reviews from the time and more, all in a limited edition of 1,000 numbered and signed sets. To help offset the cost of things like the multi-camera video shoot, there’s a pre-order site where fans can kick in to get one of several variations on the reissue package, from the remastered original album alone to the full-blown box set plus tickets to the City Winery show.
Ultimately, Barone”a hardcore record collector himself”wanted to create a collectible item on a par with the collectors’ pieces he personally cherishes. “Right now in my apartment I’m surrounded by collectible things from different artists that I’ve collected all my life,” he says. “I just want to make this as nice and beloved as those items I’ve collected. This is the right album to do it with, maybe because the label went under, maybe because it had a limited run in America, maybe that’s why it’s interesting now to bring it back in this way. It was thwarted when the label went under then, it didn’t really have a chance. So I think now maybe more people can have a chance to hear it.”
The holiday season is supposed to appeal to all of our finer instincts as sentient earthlings ”at least that’s the idea that’s been inculcated in us practically since birth. So why is its annual arrival commonly greeted with the kind of dull-eyed existential dread otherwise reserved for tax audits, traffic court and other such frivolities? Maybe it’s because of the stress that comes along with finding just the right gifts for all the loved ones on our lists. After all, some folks are a snap”another Xbox game, Scotch bottle or sweater, and they’re set”but everyone’s holiday shopping list always contains at least one or two of the type we’ll term “The Difficult Ones.” Their tastes are micro-specific, and they usually seem to want nothing, already have everything or both. With that in mind, in the interest of sucking some of the stress out of the season, here are a few humble holiday gift suggestions for “The Difficult Ones” in your own life, conveniently organized by personality type.
The Classic Rockers
Jimi Hendrix – Winterland
Do you have a dude in your life”and in this context, “dude” couldn’t be a more appropriate designation”whose idea of extreme sports is playing air guitar to Bachman-Turner Overdrive while pedaling his exercise bike? Someone whose TV remote has somehow been programmed to never depart from the VH1 Classic channel? He may already have every classic-rock reissue, remaster and repackaging you could conceive of, but he hasn’t gotten around to this one yet”five live discs featuring Jimi Hendrix in his prime at the legendary Winterland Ballroom. Iit’ll send any card-carrying Classic Rocker into a state of six-string ecstasy.