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Weekend Reissue Roundup

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Blue Oyster Cult: Singles Collection (2005)   King Crimson: Earthbound (2002)   Bob Marley: Bob Marley Collection (2005)   Donovan: The Troubadour (2005)

Artist: Album (label, release date) 1-5 stars:

Blue Oyster Cult: Singles Collection (Sony International, July 5, 2005) *****
King Crimson: Earthbound (DGM, July 5, 2005) ***
Bob Marley: Bob Marley Collection {Madacy, July 5, 2005) ***
Donovan: The Troubadour (Prism Platinum, July 5, 2005) ***

Surprisingly, there is very little noteworthy this week; here’s the best of a puny selection:

Blue Oyster Cult: Singles Collection
Blue Oyster Cult: Singles Collection (2005)
Blue Oyster Cult is not a band one would think would be well represented by a singles collection. They weren’t hitmakers; in a career spanning back to 1972 and encompassing 15 studio albums, they reached the top-40 precisely twice: “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was a surprise #12 in 1976, and “Burnin’ For You” just sneaked in at #40 in 1981. Their best albums, Blue Oyster Cult (1972), and Agents of Fortune (1976) are atmospheric collections that work well as albums. The band’s sound changed singificantly in 1976; their first three albums were sinister, dark affairs of post-psychedelic hard rock. In the late 70’s, they specialized in a glossier, slicker product, but still produced some pretty good albums. The commercial failure of The Revolution By Night in 1983 marked the end of the band as a major league attraction; line-up changes followed, and their sporadic releases since have failed to garner much attention. Blue Oyster Cult: Singles Collection takes the bands singles from their years at Columbia through the 1986 Club Ninja album, and is a surprisingly good listen. Many of the band’s best songs weren’t singles, but some excellent ones were, including “Then Came The Last Days of May”, “Astronomy”, “Godzilla”, the Patti Smith-penned “Shooting Shark”, “Mirrors”, “The Red & The Black”. At 20 songs, with all of their Columbia albums represented except for their last, Imaginos, it’s a concise introduction to a uniquely interesting band. It does unnaturally highlight the hooks, but this band had some great ones. Nice packaging and notes, too.

King Crimson: Earthbound
King Crimson: Earthbound (2002)
Earthbound, last seen on Polydor in 2002, is being given a new push by DGM. Earthbound has always been a strange album. Recorded live on cassette tape, its original incarnation was abysmal sounding. Polydor cleaned up the tapes digitally as best they could, and DGM also has remastered them. It still sounds like it was recorded on cassette, but this is the cleanest thusfar. As for the music, it is also fairly strange, even by King Crimson’s standards. Recorded in late 1972, the lineup consists of Robert Fripp, Boz Burrell, Ian Wallace, and Mel Collins; the longest-lived in the band’s long convoluted history (and short-lived by anyone else’s standards). Musically, the playing is good, if atypical of the band’s progressive leanings. Collin’s saxophone dominates the album; Burrel’s jazzy singing even crosses into some decent scat. The overall effect is more funky than progressive, particularly on cuts like “Peopria” and “Goon”. A loose, 11-minute “21st Century Schizoid Man” gets a funkified treatment as well, breathing extra warmth into the chilly original. This isn’t the place to start with this band; the sound quality doesn’t do them justice. However, the completist is going to like this; a rare “official bootleg” you might actually play for pleasure. Released in England in 1972, it has always been tough to find in America.

Bob Marley: Bob Marley Collection
Bob Marley: Bob Marley Collection (2005)
Not a lot of care went into the packaging of this 3-CD set, which looks cheap and offers little in the way of notes. The material in this collection is of his early rocksteady recordings, mostly with the Wailers; Jamaica-only releases recorded long before Marley landed a major label deal in 1973. The tracks were recorded on less than state-of-the-art equipment in small studios; however, most rocksteady albums of the era shared the same low-fidelity tendencies; so true devotees shouldn’t mind the somewhat dodgy sound quality, although these same tracks have sounded better elsewhere. The 36 cuts cover a lot of ground, and include some standouts like “Soul Rebel”, “Small Axe”, “Go Tell It On The Mountain” and “Duppy Conqueror”. The material is fine, and historic. The CD is what it is, a shoddy budget-priced collection of gray-area legality. This is a cheap way to get these essential recordings, but not necessarily the best way.

Donovan: The Troubadour
Donovan: The Troubadour (2005)
More cheapo product, the single disc The Troubadour should not be confused with the better but also flawed double disc Troubadour: The Definitive Collection 1964-1976. Neither a singles collection, nor a comprehensive collection, this collects a scattershot assortment of a dozen tracks from the 60’s and 70’s. Included are “Sunshine Superman” but no “Mellow Yellow”, “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” but no “Season of the Witch”, “Catch the Wind” but no “Jennifer Juniper”, etc. “Cosmic Wheels” from 1973 is included, as are lesser known tracks like “Sadness” and “Young Girl Blues”. Budget priced in England, it isn’t a cheap deal in America and doesn’t include much of his best work.

Weekend Reissue Roundup appears on Friday night/Saturday morning

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About uao

  • It’s important to note that this issue of Earthbound is exactly, 100% identical in sound to the one issued a few years back. DGM has simply won back the rights to the tapes from Virgin and is issuing them under their own label. If you already own the remaster from a few years back, there is no need to buy this unless you’re one of those freak-collectors who simply must have everything with the band’s name on it. In that case, my condolences to your spouses.

  • H.W. Saxton

    uao,I think what happened with these recordings is that they went into the public domain and were picked up by some unscrupulous distributors. No one had counted on Bob becoming the megastar that he eventually became a few years after these were done (it’s likely that Toots would’ve been the BIG break out artist from Jamaica had he not been jailed on charges of Ganja possession at a time when he and Marley were running neck to neck popularity wise. The story has always been that Toots bust was orchestrated by people in Marleys camp. And indeed simultaneous with Toots imprisonment Marleys star rose high with no real competition at the time. Toots still made it so to speak but not like Bob ended up doing.) and the legality of these in the first place was likely a little shady. I’ve seen various packages like these of the same material released in part and in whole, including some Japanese pressed like the one you have. The early Reggae scene was dominated by gangsters. All of the big producers,promoters,etc were all thugs, hoods and gangsta’s. Many of them unashamedly and self admittedly so.

  • uao

    Thanks HW, that’s good information. I first heard some of this music on some questionable cassette tapes I bought from a street vendor in Japan, of all places.

    You’re right; I can’t think of anyone starting out with Marley liking these. I always liked the ambience of 60’s rocksteady though, vacuum tube recording quality and all.

  • H.W. Saxton

    uao, The Marley material represented in this collection has been packaged and re-packaged about (according to the 2005 Official U.S. Survey Of Quasi-Legit Bob Marley & The Wailers Re-Issues)3,749 times.

    The sound is kinda dodgy but the material is good. If you are lucky like I have been, you can find some of these same tunes on Quasi-Legit 45 RPM re-releases.I found “Soul Shakedown Party”,”Duppy Conqueror”,”Rock The Boat”,”Kaya” and a few more in a small Caribbean food market!(Along with some Coconut Soda!!!)The coolest part was that these all have the Dub as their B sides,so you grab 2 copies of each for mixing and cutting if you DJ. Anyway,they are worth having for Marley fiends but likely won’t appeal too much to those who have only a passing acquaintance with his music. And this material is almost always really cheap which makes it worth it.It can usually be had for about $8-10 dollars or the 3CD set.