This week’s notable reissues, on sale now, include the following:
Artist, Album (Label, release date) 1-5 stars
Peter Green: In The Skies (Sanctuary, June 21, 2005) ****
The Fugs: Virgin Fugs (ESP-Disc US June 21, 2005) ****
Culture Club: Greatest Hits (Virgin June 21, 2005) ****
Brownsville Station: No B.S. (Wounded Bird, June 21, 2005) ***
Peter Green: In The Skies
In 1969, a list of the top blues-rock guitarists would invariably include Peter Green right up there with Eric Clapton. Not only was he a virtuoso, he had a broad range of musical influence, and like Clapton, could display a remarkable versatility. As a member of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers and the original Fleetwood Mac, he stood out as a guitar visionary and leading light. He left Fleetwood Mac in 1970 after intense, Syd Barrett-esque LSD experimentation and a religious conversion; he also battled paranoia. He released a bitter and bizarre album, The End of The Game in 1970 and then disappeared completely from the music scene, abandoning a hugely supportive audience. During the 70’s legends about him were rife; he was institutionalized after irrational and threatening behavior. In The Skies, recorded in 1979, was his return to music after everything that had gone down. He shares lead guitar duty with Snowy White of Thin Lizzy, but does more than hold his own after the layoff. Fluid and haunting, he continues in his 60’s tradition of atmospheric instrumentals (5 of the 9 tracks are instrumental), but also sings on four tracks. He doesn’t sound like a legend here; you need to go back to the 60’s for that. But given the circumstances, it was better than could have been hoped. Fans will enjoy it.
The Fugs: Virgin Fugs (ESP-Disc US June 21, 2005)
The original underground group, predating fellow New York underground band Velvet Underground by two years, the Fugs were legendary in the Village scene of the 60’s. Heroes of New York’s gritty Lower east Side, the band formed at the Peace Eye bookstore in 1964, and was led by Peace Eye owner and poet Ed Sanders and poet Tuli Kupferberg. Sanders and Kupferberg, like fellow beatnik Allen Ginsberg, had become psychedelic before the world at large was aware of the term. Their band often included Steve Weber and Peter Stampfel of the Holy Modal Rounders, plus a mixed assortment of local musicians and characters, some of whom couldn’t play. Their albums were a chaotic but joyous mix of social satire, profanity, sexual perversion, and a defiantly unique approach to rock ‘n’ roll. Upon its release, the Fugs’ second album, The Fugs, was easily the most subversive and explicit album to sneak into the top-100. Virgin Fugs, originally released in 1966, is a collection of outtakes from the Fug’s debut, The Fugs First Album. As such, it has more of the feel of a crowded, drunken party in someone’s living room, and is musically fairly unschooled and hard to take. However, interesting moments abound, like the beat poetry of Ginsberg, “I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Rot” set to music by Ed Sanders, and witty shock numbers like “Coca Cola Douche,” “CIA Man”. God (the real one) shares a songwriting credit with Kupferburg on “The Ten Commandments”. Newbies need to get The Fugs, or It Crawled Into My Hand Honest (1968) first. Fugs fans probably have already heard this.
Culture Club: Greatest Hits
Boy George’s mix of blue-eyed soul and new wave synth-pop was one of the biggest selling sounds around in the early 1980’s; they were international stars for a brief 2-year period. They had ten top-40 singles from 1983-1986 before suddenly imploding. Many of these songs, including “Church of the Poison Mind”, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”, “Time (Clock of the Heart)”, “Dop You Really Want to Hurt Me” among the best, have aged far better than their early-80’s synth pop contemporaries. Their albums specialized in a lush, vagely exotic tint to their production, giving them a warmth other synth bands lacked. Boy George was a compelling persona; affable enough to put at ease listeners who might ordinarily not listen to a man wearing dresses. Their downfall was swift; a bizarre and disastrous appearance at Live Aid made Boy George’s heroin addiction public, and his normally affable public persona turned bitter. Although Culture CLub’s final album was panned, it actually isn’t bad; while it didn’t match the quality of the first two in songwriting or delivery, the passage of time has minimalized the drop-off. Greatest Hits, while not particularly distinctive from prior compilations, does its job; all the hits, club hits, near-hits, and a few offbeat choices are here; a few are remixed.
Brownsville Station: No B.S.
Detroit rock mainstays of the 70’s, Brownsville Station were a product of the fertile Ann Arbor hard rock scene when they formed in 1969. Led by guitarist and rock journalist Cub Koda, the band hit big in 1973 with the #3 hit, “Smokin’ In The Boys Room”. The band also charted five other singles, including the top-40 “Kings of the Party” but never really rose above second-tier status. Still, they were very good at what they did, which was mixing 50’s rock ‘n’ roll with a big gritty hard rock sound; they were a good cover band and capable of convincing originals. A noteworthy live act, their actively engaging stage patter influenced J. Geils Band’s Peter Wolf. No B.S. was their 1970 debut, and its best moments are cover versions of Link Wray’s “Rumble” and Bo Diddley’s “Roadrunner”. Koda’s own “Cadillac Express” holds its own. Also included are “Be Bop Confidential” and “Rockin’ Robin'” It’s all solid, and rougher than their big hit; fans of Detroit rock will love this. Brownsville Station disbanded in 1979; Koda died in 2000.
Also noteworthy this week: Beatles and Stones geeks might want the interview discs As It Happened (available separately), which include some great soundbytes from the 60’s. The Stones one is more inclusive. On the tiny Unites States Dist label, whoever that is. Mott The Hoople: Concert Anthology collects performances from the glam rock band’s 1971-1974 period, featuring Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs (who later founded Bad Company). Sony Japan has re-released four Roger Water-less Pink Floyd albums from A Momentary Lapse of Reason through Pulse, plus Waters’ own two studio albums from the 80’s, The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking and Radio K.A.O.S.; none are classics, but each have their moments. The Merry Go Round: Listen Listen: The Definitive Collection, featuring singer/songwriter Emmett Rhodes and best known for “Live”, covered by the Bangles (on Rev-Ola). The Small Faces: Autumn Stone, a thorough double album compilation from 1969 on Snapper UK; quasi-Nuggets packages Garage Beat ’66! Vols. 4 & 5 on Sundazed; and Greatest Hits from alt rock/pop hitsters Sugar Ray, on Capitol.
Weekend Reissue Round-Up appears every Friday night/Saturday AM.
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