Some of the noteworthy reissues this week include:
The Seeds: Travel with Your Mind (Brentwood, April 26, 2005) ***
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five: The Message (DBK Works, April 26, 2005) *****
Jefferson Airplane: The Essential (RCA, April 26, 2005)*****
Big Star: Extended Versions (Collectibles, April 26, 2005) *
The Seeds: Travel With Your Mind
This re-issue of a 1995 GNP release scrapes the bottom of the collector’s barrel and rounds up a variety of leftover non-album B-sides, demos, rehersals, alternate mixes and the like. The Seeds were a punky Los Angeles garage band led by the flamboyant Sky Saxon in the mid-60’s, best known for three songs, “Pushin’ Too Hard”, “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine”, and “Mr. Farmer”, the first of which being their only real hit. Their sound was fuzzy and snarly, with songs often built around very repetitive organ riffs. If you’re a Seeds maniac (there are a few), this provides some of the hard to find titles of legend. If you’re a garage band fanatic, this’ll provide enjoyment, but your mind will start to wander. You’re better off with the original 1966 LP’s The Seeds and A Web of Sound instead (now available as a two-fer). If you’re neither, you really don’t need this; get a copy of Nuggets first.
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five: The Message
This 1982 album, by New York City’s Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five had an enormous effect on the urban/rap world when it hit the streets; “The Message” was a revolutionary track in rap on par with Dylan’s early effect on rock. It is an edgy, frank assessment of life in the ghetto at the dawn of the 80’s, and one of the first to deal with topical material; the earlier rap pioneers like the Sugarhill Gang and Kurtis Blow made what were mainly party records. Its tagline “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge” became an inner-urban mantra. The production was freaky in its day, too, a mix of dub, scratch, electronic, soul, and R&B. It charted at #4 on the black singles chart, and #62 on the pop charts, at that time the highest ever for a rap song. The rest of the album is more in an old school soul/r&b vein, but it’s good.
Jefferson Airplane: The Essential
There have been so many Jefferson Airplane compilations over the years, most of them useless at capturing the essence of this band, whose albums each bear very distinctive vibes and moods that don’t lend themselves to compilation well. For the first-timer, the best way to acquaint yourself with this remarkable band is through their 1967 classic Surrealistic Pillow. The second best way had been through the fairly pricey triple disc box Jefferson Airplane Loves You. This release now supplants 2400 Fulton Street as the best 2-disc JA compilation. It touches on all their albums from 1966-1973 (cutting off just prior to Jefferson Starship’s launch), and presents the material in chronological order, whereas 2400 Fulton Street had organized it more by mood and sonic texture, with mixed results. One of the essential American bands of the late 60’s; this is a fine sampler. Then get their albums.
Big Star: Extended Versions
This Collectables reissue of a BMG Special Products release is the unnecessary perpetuation of a rip off. Not extended versions at all, this is really a heavily edited version of the 1993 Columbia live reunion album. Four songs are left off from the original album, which remains available. What was the point? At a little over thirty minutes, there’s plenty of room on the disc, and the budget price isn’t necessarily a good deal. The show, which featured singer/guitarist Alex Chilton and drummer/singer Jody Stephens backed by the Posies is a good one; wistful and tuneful, and loud and crunchy, performed at a university at the request of a diehard fan, 20 years after the band broke up. Big Star, for the uninitiated, released three tuneful, melancholic albums in the early 70’s that almost nobody bought, but which are now considered among the key building blocks of power-pop. Chilton had been the teenaged lead singer for The Box Tops in the 60’s. Fans should stick with Columbia; novices are steered to the twofer of #1 Record/Radio City, which is a good deal for the money.
uao’s Weekend Reissue Roundup appears every Saturday morning.
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