collector’s edition

REVIEW: Jethro Tull – Stand Up (2 CD & DVD Edition)

JETHRO TULL – Stand Up (Originally 1969, 2010 2 CD & DVD Chrysalis Collector’s Edition)

Stand Up, from its wonderful cover art (including a fun Jethro Tull pop-out!) to the music in the grooves, is probably my favourite Tull platter. One basic reason is that it sounds like a transitional album, and I’m often drawn to those. It combines the remnants of the blues jams that they specialized in from the Mick Abrahams era (1968’s This Was), and their growing experimental side. It’s kind of the best of both worlds, and it always sounded great — even better on this new remaster.  Stand Up has since been remixed by the very talented Steven Wilson (2016’s Elevated Edition), but if you wanted a CD copy of the original unaltered mix, this 2010 edition is what you need.  (This mix is available on a DVD in the Elevated Edition, but not CD, and they each contain different bonus material.)

“A New Day Yesterday” has the task of opening this new era of Jethro Tull on LP, and it maintains the blues direction.  Then immediately, “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square” brings on the hippy side, with bongos, psychedlic jamming and the world’s greatest rock flautist.  “Bourée” proves it, as he jams jazz-rock style along to J.S. Bach.  Only Tull can make Bach swing as they do on “Bourée”.  From the upbeat jamming “Nothing is Easy” to the exotic “Fat Man”, this album begins to open up Tull’s diversity.  “Reasons For Waiting” brings on a lush, orchestrated side of Jethro Tull that some would call pompous and others would call delicate and quaint.  But then they just flat out rock — with flute — on album closer “For a Thousand Mothers”.  It’s truly the first diverse Tull album, going from corner to corner to explore whatever their hearts desired.

The Collector’s Edition contains valuable bonus music aplenty.  The first disc alone doubles the length of the album.   It has every bonus track from the previous 2001 remaster, which are the A and B-sides of two standalone singles.  These are the swinging’ “Living In the Past”,  filler “Driving Song”, the powerful (with horns!) and awesome “Sweet Dream”, and my favourite, “17”.   It adds in a mono single mix of “Living In the Past” with some subtle differences.  Two BBC live sessions are included via four live tracks, including “Bourée”.  There are even amusing radio spots. And that’s just the first disc.

The second disc is an entire concert: Live at Carnegie Hall, New York, 4 November 1970.  This would make it a show from the Benefit tour, the album which followed Stand Up.  It includes songs from Benefit, such as “Sossity; You’re a Woman”.  It also previews the future Aqualung classic “My God”. It is, of course, a great live show…it’s Jethro Tull in their youth after all!  Hear Ian Anderson go nuts on the flute solo!

Another highlight is “Dharma For One”, stretched out to 13 minutes to include a bonkers Clive Bunker drum solo.  The wicked slidey guitar on “A Song For Jeffrey” is really hot on these tapes too.  By this time, John Evan had joined as Tull’s pianist which adds another dimension.  Check out the intricate work on “With You There to Help Me”.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, there is a bonus DVD which contains a DTS 5.1 mix of the whole concert — audio only, however!  If you have the equipment to play it, then enjoy. I will usually resort back to the stereo mix on CD but the 5.1 mix offers some additional depth.

For “things you will only watch once” (or twice if you’re reviewing your collection), the DVD also includes a 45 minute Ian Anderson interview from 2010 to check out.  The split with Mick Abrahams is one of the most interesting parts though the story of the impasse is familiar.  It simply boiled down to styles, and Ian didn’t want to be limited to just one.  As such, he considers Stand Up to be the first real Jethro Tull album; the first to tentatively embark on their world-wide musical journey.  Of course Mick had to be replaced, and Ian discusses three guitarists that tried out, including you-know-who.  Martin Barre was chosen of course, given a second chance after a poor first meeting.

Barre’s furious solo work on Stand Up‘s blistering “We Used to Know” more than justifies the choice.

The packaging is gorgeous, coming packed in a thick, sturdy digipack.  Artwork like this deserves a proper showcase, and unless you buy an original LP, this is about as good as it’s going to get.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: ZZ Top – Eliminator (Collector’s Edition)

Aaron says this is the first cassette he ever bought! He picked a good ‘un.

ZZ TOP – Eliminator (2008 CD+DVD Collector’s Edition, Warner)

Consider all earlier CD releases “eliminated”!

Say what you will about ZZ Top’s foray into 80’s music.  Using sequencers and compression on the drums wasn’t everybody’s cup ‘o java, but it sure made ZZ Top millionaires.  I like this album. Reverend Billy Gibbons’ guitar tone was so sweet on this album. It’s so smooth and creamy, I just love the tone. This might be my favourite album of his, purely for guitar tone. Just listen to that sweet picking on the album version of “Legs”. Man, how does he get that sound?

The original album has been lovingly remastered, with the original album version of “Legs” restored. However, fear not, the single version is still here as a bonus track. Other bonus tracks include live versions, the most exciting of which is a fiery “I Got The Six”. And hey, if you don’t like the techno sounds of the album, the live tunes give you an idea of what they’re like stripped down to the bone…like a juicy rack of ribs, meat falling right off.  It’s cool how Frank Beard is just as metronomic on the live versions. He’s not a flamboyant drummer, but he’s definitely solid. Just like the Beatles wouldn’t have sounded the same without Ringo, or the Stones without Charlie, Frank is essential to that whole ZZ “Je ne sais quoi?”

I like the whole album, with only a few songs I call filler, such as “Thug”. I always enjoy hearing “Sharp Dressed Man”. I don’t know how all these years later I’m not sick of it, but I’m not. “TV Dinners” always makes me smile. Really, will these guys write about anything?

“I Need You Tonight” is one of those smooth ZZ Top blues.  It’s slick, but unquestionably still blues.  “If I Could Only Flag Her Down” is another blues based standout.  This one’s a bit more of a boogie.  Finally, “Bad Girl” (sung by Dusty Hill) is pure rock and roll.

The DVD is cool.  You get the original music videos and some live TV performances.  If you’re a ZZ Top fan (and for your own happiness, I hope that you are) I think you will enjoy the video stuff. Liner notes are also ample.

5/5 stars.  It’s never too late to pick it up!

Click the pic of the Ford to see yesterday’s gallery of the Monogram ZZ Top Eliminator model kit!

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…and here’s your CD gallery.

REVIEW: Pearl Jam – Ten (Collector’s Edition, aka The Mother of All Box Sets!)

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Pearl Jam – Ten (2009 Collector’s Edition, 4LP, 2 CD, 1 DVD, 1 Cassette boxed set)

This is how you do a box set!

Obviously, due to the price tag ($250 give or take), this box is not for every fan. This set is for the diehards — the ones who try to collect all the live bootlegs, all the singles, are members of the Ten club, and go see them live every year. Or, this is for people who just want to own something monstrous and cool looking. No matter who you are, if you have the disposable income, you will not be disappointed. There are some things that I was mildly disappointed with (which I shall get to in a moment) but on the whole, if you bought this, you got exactly what you wanted.

This box is packed full of goodies so numerous that I can’t list them all. Needless to say, don’t let the kids get into it or stuff will go missing. From Vedder’s scrap book, to photos, to even a reproduction Mookie Blaylock rookie card! (Pearl Jam’s original name was Mookie Blaylock in case you wondered.) Like I said, this box is loaded. It will take days to absorb all the goodies inside, all packed within a very sturdy and attractive black case. Amazon shipped this set very well packed.

To some, all that stuff is just paper and doesn’t matter next to the music, and in some sense they’re right. So onto the music.

This box includes the original Ten on vinyl and CD. It also includes the 2009 remixed Ten on vinyl and CD. The CD version contains 6 bonus tracks. Brendan O’Brien himself helmed the remixes. I have never been fond of the sound of Ten, until now. If you liked the remixes done for Rearviewmirror, you will like this. I have always found the original mixes too muddy and dull, now they are very bright and crisp. Dare I say it, they are heavier and more rocking. But the essence is the same, and casual fans will probably think this is the way the album always sounded. The six bonus tracks are mostly demos, all very rare.

Also included on DVD is the complete MTV Unplugged performance, previously unreleased and longer than the original broadcast version. This DVD was also included in the more affordable regular retail version so don’t shell out just for this DVD, although it is truly excellent and a great performance.  Legendary performance in fact.  Back in the early 90’s, this is one that spread by word of mouth.  We didn’t get MTV up here in Canada so it was even harder to see stuff like this.  Generally you had to buy a bootleg video at some shady store in Owen Sound or something.  And it looks and sounds a heck of a lot better than bootleg video.  5.1 surround sound plus “Oceans” which did not make the broadcast.

There’s exclusive music in this box, which is another real reason to get it. Drop In The Park, included on vinyl only, is a September 20, 1992 concert at Magnuson Park in Seattle. This is a 9 song album, two records (four sides!) with a 12 minute version of “Porch”. This is a fantastic early concert, a highlight of which was “State of Love and Trust”. As an added bonus, and one not heavily advertized, was that the album comes with a tiny coupon with a download code. You can download the whole album on mp3 and burn it to CD. Nice added touch.

And more!  Also included is a reproduction of Pearl Jam’s original demo cassette, Momma-Son. Right down to the cassette shell and J-card, this replicates the tape that Eddie and the boys made. These early arrangements are really interesting, with “Once” being quite different. This being a cassette, it sounds like…well…a cassette. I would recommend playing it just once, and burning it if you have the technology to do so. After all, tapes wear out fast.  One play could screw it up if it doesn’t like your tape deck.

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I mentioned earlier that some tunes were not included. What I wish they did was give you a download code to get mp3 versions of Momma-Son. Throw in some mp3s for MTV Unplugged, and now we’d be cooking. However these items were not made available for mp3 download. Astute fans may already have them on mp3 anyway…(wink).

Also not included were the four bonus tracks available for sale on the iTunes version. For the record, those tracks were “Why Go”, “Even Flow”, “Alone”, and “Garden” recorded on December 31, 1992 at The Academy Theater in New York. After spending this much money, I felt ripped off that I needed to buy those tracks separately. So being the obsessive compulsive collector that I am, I shelled out.  Again.  I had to buy the whole album again to get the four tracks.  I guess different retailers need different exclusives, it’s what makes the music world go ’round?

There are also MIA bonus tracks from earlier versions of Ten. Europe had “Alive (live)”, “Wash” and “Dirty Frank”, while Japan had “Master/Slave” and the Beatles cover “I’ve Got a Feeling”. For a box set of this stature, I’m afraid to say that these songs really had to be included. Otherwise, this is an incomplete picture of what Ten was and is. In my opinion. Some of that stuff can be easily found on singles and Lost Dogs, others not.

Yet Ten is an historic album.  It is one of very few that you cannot deny was part of a dramatic movement that shook the music world to its core.  Not the rock world, the music world.  Don’t forget, two years later, Pearl Jam were collaborating with Cypress Hill.

I’m going to be totally truthful to admit that Ten is not my favourite PJ album (Vitalogy is), and that I don’t really listen to it much anymore.  I’ve heard “Jeremy” a lotta times…let’s put it that way.  Still, I have never been tired of “Even Flow”.  The guitars of Stone and McCready are strait out of 1970, they are buttery smooth.  Sounds like Fenders and Gibsons to me!  You can’t go wrong with the basic album, even if you don’t like every single song.  It’s an album, it’s a portrait, and it friggin’ rocks at times!

The bottom line is, armed with this information, only you can decide whether this edition of Ten is worth the money. Another drawback to consider: After spending this money, do you really want to play the CDs in the car? It does look awesome on the shelf, but unless you have the money to burn, you may be wiser get the scaled down edition.

5/5 stars. My complaints are mostly nit picks.