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Weekend Reissue Roundup

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Terry Melcher: Terry Melcher (1974)   Butterfield Blues Band: Live (1971)   Femi Kuti: Best of Femi Kuti (2005)   Blood Sweat And Tears: New City (1975)

Terry Melcher: Terry Melcher (Collector’s Choice, May 31, 2005) ***
Butterfield Blues Band: Live (Wounded Bird, May 31, 2005) ****
Femi Kuti: Best Of Femi Kuti (Wrasse, May 31, 2005) ****
Blood Sweat And Tears: New City (Wounded Bird, May 31, 2005) **

Among the more noteworthy reissues to hit the stores in the past week are:

Terry Melcher: Terry Melcher
Terry Melcher: Terry Melcher (1974)
Terry Melcher is best remembered for three things. Professionally, he was a successful producer for Columbia records in the 1960’s. Among his credits are albums by The Byrds and Paul Revere and The Raiders. Personally, he is the son of Doris Day. And notoriously, he was a passing acquaintance of Charles Manson, and had owned the house where Sharon Tate was murdered. As the 1970’s began, Melcher’s star had fallen, partly due to fallout from the Manson connection, and partly due to changing musical tastes. No longer getting plum production assignments, he attempted a recording career, releasing two albums. This debut appeared in 1974, and is more noteworthy for the performers lending a hand than the music on it. Among those performers are Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Spanky McFarlane, and Doris Day, herself. The music is an eclectic mix of styles and influences, featuring a Bob Dylan medley, covers of Jackson Browne, Lloyd Price, and Roger McGuinn, and a few originals. Essentially, it comes across as a vanity project, and it didn’t make a ripple when it originally appeared. Still, this re-issue has collectors’ appeal, and the production flourishes do surprise. File under: kinda interesting.

Butterfield Blues Band: Live
Butterfield Blues Band: Live (1971)

Reissue label Wounded Bird records has approached a business strategy of purchasing the rights to lesser-known albums by key artists that hold more collectors’ appeal than listening thrills. This had been the final Elektra album for the Butterfield Blues band, and was recorded in 1970, long after guitar whiz Michael Bloomfield had left, as well as bassist Jerome Arnold and drummer Sam Lay. Therefore, this album is really a shadow of earlier Butterfield albums. Still, Butterfield himself manages to get strong performances from the musicians present here, and the band runs through such favorites as “I Want To Be With You”, “Born Under A Bad Sign”, and “Love Disease”. Absent are the genre-bending jazz/blues improvisations that had made this band so special; while the band does jam (three titles reach the 10-minute mark), it takes fewer chances than it once did. Butterfield fans will welcome the appearance of this good-not-great album after decades in limbo; newcomers might want to start with East/West, for a taste of what this band was really about.

Femi Kuti: Best Of Femi Kuti
Femi Kuti: Best of Femi Kuti (2005)
Femi Kuti is son of the late Fela Kuti, of Nigeria, one of the most important and influential musicians from Africa in history, with his politically charged mixture of jazz, funk, and African rhythms. Femi had been a member of his fathers’ band for years; following his father’s death in 1997, he was propelled to stardom himself, as something of a substitute for the real thing. Femi is no Fela; while his father was famous for making concessions to nobody, Femi has attempted to carve out a more accessable, pop and hip-hop influenced niche for himself. The result is afrobeat that is catchy and danceable, but lacking in the spirit and risk-taking kis father was renowned for. Best of Femi Kuti is the first anthology of Femi’s work to appear, and is a good album, but it draws mainly from only two albums, and is a bare-bones package. Those looking for Fela should stick with Fela. Femi fans are better off with the albums this draws from, Shoki Shoki, and Fight To Win. Those who just want a pretty good modern afrobeat album will find this one worth it in the end.

Blood Sweat And Tears: New City
Blood Sweat And Tears: New City (1975)
The casual music listener can probably name precisely three Blood Sweat and Tears songs, the three hits from their 1969 post-Al Kooper sophomore album, Blood Sweat And Tears. The casual listener might be surprised to learn that Blood Sweat and Tears kept right on releasing albums through the 70’s and into the 1980’s, 13 albums in all. New City was from 1975, and was noteworthy for the return of David Clayton-Thomas, who had left the band in 1972. The album opens with a jazzy version of Blues Image’s “Ride Captain Ride”, an interesting choice, and follows it with a good, funky version of Allan Toussaint’s “Life”, but the album quickly runs out of steam after that. They cover Lennon/McCartney, Janis Ian, Randy Newman, and John Lee Hooker, but the playing is dull, and given an unnatural sheen from producer Jimmy Lenner, who worked with Three Dog Night and The Raspberries. In short, this is better than most of their 70’s and 80’s output, but only by a step. And a good deal worse than Blood Sweat and Tears, not to mention Child Is The Father To Man.

Weekend reissue roundup appears on Friday night/Saturday AM

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