Home / The Breakdown: Across the Universe, John Coltrane, Counting Crows, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, U2, Eddie Vedder

The Breakdown: Across the Universe, John Coltrane, Counting Crows, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, U2, Eddie Vedder

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Our wallets and credit cards sure are getting a workout lately, aren't they? Yet another astounding heavy release week – prepare to see a lot of these kinds of weeks for the next couple of months. I'm not complaining, however. Are you?

Across the Universe – Original Soundtrack: The music of the Beatles’ catalog of the late 60s is used to illustrate the story of two young people who fall in love, then deal with the effects of the Vietnam war on their lives. There’s a catch, however: the songs are sung by both the actors in the movie as well as several prominent musicians who have parts in the movie. The film itself is getting mixed reviews, but the soundtrack appears to be at least an intriguing mix of musicians (Bono, with and without the Secret Machines, Joe Cocker, among others) and actors who sing (Evan Rachel Woods, Jim Sturgess, Salma Hayak…) Not sure how it all works out in terms of musical satisfaction, but if you’re going to pick this up, seek out a Best Buy, who has an exclusive two-disc version of the album with 15 extra songs from the film – for a ridiculously low $9.99.

John Coltrane – Interplay Box Set: Prestige is adding to their collection of fine Coltrane box sets (Fearless Leader was released last year) with this 5-disc set dedicated to his sessions as a sideman to many of jazz's elite before becoming one of those elite himself.

Counting Crows – August and Everything After Deluxe Edition: This edition expands the now-classic original album with a couple of non-album tracks, demos, and a full 80 minute concert from December, 1994, along with extensive liner notes and a fold-out poster.

David Gilmour – Remember That Night: Live at the Royal Albert Hall: If anyone else was watching VH-1 Classic this weekend (and I might be the only one still checking to see what this sadly fallen-from-grace channel is broadcasting anymore), you might have caught the special on David Gilmour's Remember That Night DVD, which comes out today. If not, it's not like you missed out on too much, since what was shown is part of the two-DVD set, but if you were on the edge like me – having been seriously underwhelmed by his 2006 album, On an Island – it might have tipped you over to the "buy" side.

As I said, I found Island to be far too mannered, even for Gilmour, to really capture my attention. But I have to admit that it is a vehicle for some fantastic solos from the man. Live, however, the material was said to be much more driving and pleasing by those who saw the shows, and now that I've seen some glimpses of it from the "Road to the Royal Albert Hall" documentary VH1C showed, I can attest to that. Simply put, the material gains some much needed spontaneity and soul that I found lacking in the album's recording.

After watching the doc, I'm thankful that there is a second version of "Comfortably Numb" that does not have David Bowie crooning all over it, as is on the concert-proper on DVD 1. I like Bowie, but from what I saw of him on this track in the doc, I didn't think he particularly did the song justice. I did like, however, seeing the little bit of British progressive weirdo Robert Wyatt adding his cornet to "Then I Close My Eyes," as he did on the album, not to mention the significant presence of David Crosby and Graham Nash on a number of tunes from the album. The show is as beautifully shot as it was recorded.

Also intriguing in the doc is a short scene in which Gilmour and Roger Waters, who both somehow happened to be rehearsing for their respective tours at the same site, meet up and talk for a short while. Not much of this meeting was shown, but it was clear from what I saw that Gilmour is almost certainly the reason there will be no Pink Floyd reunion – he looked about as uncomfortable as possible. The warmth he showed toward Waters was not that of an old friend. It was more akin to two homeowners talking about neighborhood happenings, rather than a meeting between two men who spent the better part of two decades together. Very tense, uncomfortable meeting – and Gilmour plainly wants little to do with Waters.

It's kind of sad to see, actually, and it seems unfortunate that the grudge is clearly still there. At least until I realized that if this band were to reunite and tour, it would simply be a rehash of what we've already gotten enough of – The Wall and Dark Side material, with a tiny smattering of "other" stuff. On their own, these two are covering a significant amount of more obscure Floyd material that would never be touched on a reunion tour. It's better, then, in my eyes, to let the past be the past, and let the Pink Floyd name simply fade away.

You're going to want to hit Best Buy for this one this week – not only is it only $11.99, it also includes an exclusive 3-song CD (the tracks are presumably from the audio of the DVD.)

Mark Knopfler – Kill to Get Crimson: I don't have much to report on the actual music. I've only heard the song currently available on his site and, as I expected, it's typical Knopfler, which means it's great. I can tell you that we here in the US were originally going to be treated to a CD/DVD special edition, but that was cancelled because those stupid bastards at Warner Brothers want to push their ridiculous renaming of the DVD standard, MVI. When that's coming out is anyone's guess – it's not listed anywhere. If you really want the short documentary and MK's interviews with his band, order this from CD Universe for just under $16 – it may be the Canuck version of the album, but it's NTSC, Region 0 formatted.

U2 – Popmart Live from Mexico City DVD: While U2 on album may have faltered with the Pop album, the tour was the usual gigantic stadium extravaganza they'd become known for, and fans responded as they always do to U2 tours – they went friggin' nuts. I actually got to see this tour when it stopped at ASU's Sun Devil Stadium and I can attest that it really was the multimedia overdose promised in every review I'd seen.

What we have here is the now de rigueur dual-format release: the plain jane single-disc DVD, and the two-disc limited, expanded edition. The LE includes 9 additional performances as well as documentaries. Really, why skimp on the single disc? The extra tracks are like having half of another concert added on.

Eddie Vedder – Into the Wild Original Soundtrack: Working without Pearl Jam, Vedder is almost entirely responsible for everything on this folksy, rootsy soundtrack. I've seen mixed reviews, but what I'm hearing in clips is more personal and simple than Pearl Jam's efforts, and to me, this sounds like a fine change of pace. Lots of acoustic guitars and banjo throughout the music, which was written by Vedder for the true story of a young man who abandons civilized life to be closer to nature and comes to find out the hard way that nature doesn't let go. Once again, Best Buy is your friend this week – no exclusive bonuses, but a price tag of $9.99 makes up for that.

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About Tom Johnson

  • I’m most interested in these latter two releases: U2’s PopMart and the Vedder soundtrack. Part of me wants the expanded August, but I’m on the fence. That was a great album but I’m not sure the goodies are good enough to get me to take one out the door. Do you know if it’s been remastered, or has it just had the extras appended to it?

  • The Wikipedia entry says it is, but I can’t find that anywhere else. I would be surprised if it’s not, but it doesn’t really need it. The live show on disc 2, however, should be pretty spectacular, if other live shows I’ve heard are any indication.

    Vedder’s album is fantastic, but very short – 33 minutes (and that includes a “hidden” bonus song after the last track. Very much like Pearl Jam’s newer material when it gets slower and quieter. A must-have for PJ fans.

    I initially thought I could wait on Popmart, but I looked at it at Best Buy yesterday ($19.99 – you may have to pricematch it against their own website) I realized I really wanted it. Scratch that: need it.

  • zingzing

    i know best buy has some nice prices, but the place itself is just depressing. can’t stand it.

    is there not an indepedent record store around for you to support?

  • Zing, I hate Best Buy as you do. I have nearly stopped doing any business with them. I happened to have a coupon, cash, and they had cheapass prices on the two items I went and bought.

    There isn’t an indie store nearby for me. I have to drive two hours to Nashville to find a good one, and that’s just out of the question except for occasional special trips. Like I said, I’m opposed to Best Buy and have nearly stopped doing business there because they’re evil but I’m not about to pay more for my music at an indie store for the sake of “supporting them.” Shit, someone needs to support me!

    I’ve taken nearly all my business to Amazon. They have the advantage of not being a physical place with annoying people, their prices are usually good, and their selection is solid.

  • I just confirmed the August deluxe edition is remastered. I saw it on the shelves at SatanBestBuy and there is a sticker on the packaging that says it was re-mastered. I’m intrigued. Remastered sound and bonus tracks might make something I need to purchase.

    I’ve listened to the Vedder soundtrack once through and am on the second listen. It’s really good, I like it. It is short, but the “sketch” approach to these songs makes it more of a strength than a weakness.

    I also picked up my copy of PopMart. I can’t wait to go home and watch that.

  • Zingzing, the indie stores around me stock hardly any new releases. Best Buy actually stocks more than they do, but for the most part I’ve given up buying locally due to frustrations with lack of products and also just plain due to time limitations. I just don’t have the time I used to – I can’t drive around to 4 or 5 different stores hoping to find what I want. I know many want to blame the big stores, but I’ve been witnessing this change for many years now – it’s the indie stores that have screwed themselves by being so exclusive that they lost the mainstream buyers, and then flip-flopping and overstocking mainstream items to attract back that crowd, long after they’d forgotten about them. Now they concentrate on used stuff, for the most part, but they maintain a painfully bad selection of titles. I think things are different in bigger, more concentrated cities, and older, more established areas, but the Phoenix area is seriously lacking in small shops of any kind. We are a franchise city, if anything. “Mom and pop” stores are not the cherished commodity like they are in most places – and when we do have them, they are overpriced “boutique” shops that cater to the “Snotsdale” crowd. It’s sad, but it’s just a symptom of the way things developed here.

  • serverless

    Most (all?) of the major reviewers love Vedder’s album. Those that don’t or are mixed, from what I can see, come from a few less than renowned critics.

    The fans love it. Eddie Vedder will always have detractors. He’s too strong an artist not to leave a strong impression (which some can take and others leave) and his politics upset some and cause others to adore him all the more.

    While I understand the observation of “simple” applied to this album, I believe it is misplaced. A careful listening reveals many details, and short does not equate to simple, or easy. The work is inspired, which might be why it seems so easy and simple on first listens, but it is neither.

    It might have been easy for him to create, but I don’t think that translates into easy for another to do the same.

    Eddie Vedder’s original songs for Pearl Jam are some of their most fierce. It’s nice to hear him this way. It’s a welcome change.

  • Serverless, I’ve seen some mixed reviews myself. For example, AllMusic gave the album 2.5 stars.

    I happen to like the album very much — bought it yesterday — but Tom is right that it’s not being universally hailed.

  • No, I’m going to stick with “simple,” Serverless. “Complex” music would be King Crimson, or Frank Zappa, or pretty much any real jazz. This is simple music – it’s easy to listen to and enjoy and doesn’t require any particular effort on the part of the listener to do so. Don’t make the mistake that many do and assume that “simple” is meant as an insult. Did you not read the rest of the entry where I praised it?