Though most of these reissues are replete with bells and whistles — extra tracks, remastering, super-duper deluxe editions, hot-and-cold runnning water — a few are of the no-nonsense refresher-course variety. All worth perusing and considering, however, to some degree.
1) Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True (Extra Tracks, Deluxe Edition, Original Recording Remastered)
Okay, we’ve had Columbia, Ryko, Rhino, a single disc edition of My Aim is True in a Digipak and now this release — so there may be nothing essential for everybody here, but then again it does include session out-takes, demos and live material, with 26 tracks previously unreleased, and the complete Live at the Nashville Rooms, August 7, 1977 concert recording, one of the Attraction’s earliest shows (and the appeal for me). Then there’s the main Aim itself: It’s more pub than punk, and pre-Attractions with pre- above-the-fold News. It has plenty of bite without the all-out venom of This Year’s Model, pervasive pop smarts without the richly-layered propelled-pop production of Armed Forces, and is rough-edged without the raw immediacy of Get Happy. But with such songs as the perversely poignant “Alison,“ and the spittle-in-the-grooves tracks like “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Miracle Man,“ and “I’m Not Angry,” Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True remains a classic of balladry and bristle, making it one of the best debut albums in the history of, um, debut albums. Now with the added attractions. And Attractions.
2) Warren Zevon - Stand in the Fire (Original Recording Remastered)
You’ll enjoy every sandwich listening to this ferocious and fiery concert album — one of the best live albums ever — filled with fervor and fun, amassed with cherry-picked cuts (“The dog ate the part we didn’t like,” states the liner notes). With Stand Zevon was at a peak performance level, trailing clouds of big-hit glory with radio staples like “Werewolves Of London” and “Excitable Boy,” and garnering critical kudos for such albums as a self-titled 1976 release and Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Zevon proves himself a commanding, expressive performer, and a strong personality adept not only at striking up the band but in revving up the crowd. At one point in the often gruesome “Excitable Boy,” during the point when our highly-strung titular psycho “dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones,” a blood-curdling Hollywood-style scream, off in the background, can be heard — right on cue. Send lawyers, guns, and money — the defecation has hit the oscillation!