Jethro Tull: Stand Up: The Elevated Edition (Parlophone/Chrysalis/Rhino, 2 CDs, 2:23:02, + DVD). This was the second Jethro Tull album, but the first to feature what would become the classic Jethro Tull sound with the addition of guitarist Martin Barre. The 1969 release came a year after the band's debut album, "This Was Jethro Tull," which presented the group as a quirky blues band. "Stand Up" was a much more rock effort and set the template for the Jethro Tull albums to come. The key change, other than adding Barre to the lineup, was Rick Abrahams leaving to form Blodwyn Pig, leaving singer/flutist/multi-instrumentalist Ian Anderson to take over complete control, including writing the original songs. The deluxe edition is similar to the previous releases of "Minstrel in the Gallery," "WarChild" and "A Passion Play." This hardcover, book-shaped edition has 112 pages, as well as the three discs.
This edition features a new Steven Wilson stereo remix of the album, plus nine bonus tracks on the first CD. Wilson, with the aid of modern recording devices and access to the original master tapes, rebuilds the tracks to bring out more nuances. The album opens with the straight-up harp- and guitar-filled hard rock of "A New Day Yesterday." Track three is their classic cover of the Bach instrumental "Bouree," as a showcase for Anderson's flute. More flute, in an exciting rock mode, follows in "Back to the Family," which also has nice Barre guitar playing. "Look Into the Sun," a bit of Anderson traditional Brit-folk, is more understated. Other highlights are "Nothing Is Easy," the classic "Fat Man" (here, I though the sound was a bit muffled in spots) and the softer, melodic "Reasons For Waiting," with its strings arranged and conducted by David Palmer. Wilson also remixed two of the non-LP, associated recordings, "Living in the Past" (one of my all-time Tull favorites) and "Driving Song," plus he did the mix of the previously unreleased Morgan Studios version of "Bouree." Disc one concludes with the original 1969 stereo single mixes of "Living in the Past" and "Driving Song," plus BBC Sessions mono versions of "A New Day Yesterday," "Fat Man" "Nothing Is Easy" and "Bouree." (A single disc edition, which came out Feb. 17, contains all of disc one, minus the four BBC Sessions tracks, plus disc two's 1969 mono single mixes of "Living in the Past" and "Driving Song.")
Disc two is a real treat for Tull fans, as it contains the audio from a Jan. 9, 1969 show at the Stockholm Konserthuset. The show, at which they opened for Jimi Hendrix, has been bootlegged extensively, but never with this superior sound quality. The show, which occurred only a few weeks after Barre joined the band, includes the lengthy (12:08), but nice instrumental "Martin's Tune," a version of "Nothing Is Easy" that stretches out from the album's 4:27 to 15:28 and features some harmonica, and the 14:14-long "Dharma For One," which includes extensive drum soloing by Clive Bunker. There are two live versions of "To Be Sad Is a Mad Way To Be," as one from the first show has different lyrics. An extra treat is film of "To Be Sad Is a Mad Way To Be" and "Back to the Family" (7:10) from the Stockholm show on the DVD. The DVD also includes "Stand Up" remixed to 5.1 DTS and AC3 Dolby Digital surround sound and 96/24 LPCM stereo; a flat transfer of the original 1969 stereo master tapes; and a flat transfer of the original 1969 mono and stereo mixes of "Living in the Past" and "Driving Song."
The gorgeous book includes an extensive article by Martin Webb on the development of the band throughout 1969, including in the studio and on stage; track-by-track annotation by Anderson; lyrics for the album and bonus tracks; Nick Logan's "on-the-road" reports for NME (New Musical Express magazine) on Tull in the United States in late 1969; tour and recording chronology for 1969; a tribute to the original Tull bassist, the late Glenn Cornick, with an illustrated discography; and interview with the album's cover artist, Jimmy Grashow (his iconic pop-up portrait of the band, from the first vinyl edition of the album, is recreated inside the book's cover); an interview with assistant engineer John Burns, who remembers working with engineer Andy Johns and working on the road as Tull's sound engineer; and many rare and previously unseen photographs. Grade: whole edition A+
Chicago: Chicago II: The Steven Wilson Remix (Rhino CD, 67:17). Originally released in 1970 as "Chicago," the follow-up to the Chicago-based band's debut album, "Chicago Transit Authority," this classic album was the second of three straight double-LPs from the horn-based band that drew on everything from orchestral music to heavy rock. The streak of double-discs, by the way, was only broken by their live fourth album, a quadruple-LP. The album spawned a trio of Top Ten hits in "Make Me Smile," "Colour My World" and "25 or 6 to 4." Back then, I was in college and recall walking to the Evanston, Ill. record store to buy my eagerly anticipated copy.
For this "more-nuanced" mix, Wilson built a stereo remix from the 16-track multi-track tapes, bringing out elements that were muffled or submerged in the original album mix. Overall, the sound is cleaner -- listen to the opening "Movin' In" and "The Road" -- and improved in spots -- Terry Kath's guitar sounds great on the instrumental portions of "25 or 6 to 4." To me, the most different sounding is "Fancy Colours," while the orchestra is very pretty on "A.M. Mourning," part of the "Memories of Love" suite, one of three multi-movement pieces, along with "Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon" and the anti-war protest, "It Had Better End Soon." Other album highlights are "Poem For the People," "In the Country," "Wake Up Sunshine" and "Where Do We Go From Here." The principal composers were trombonist James Pankow and keyboardist/singer Robert Lamm.
In a press release, Wilson states: "Working with high-resolution 96K/24 bit digitally transferred files, I had every element from the recording sessions isolated, which meant I was able to rebuild the mix from the drums upwards, recreating as closely as I could the equalization, stereo placement, reverbs, other effects, and volume changes of each individual instrument or vocal, but at the same time looking to gain definition and clarity in the overall sound.
"So rich was their creative seam at the time that, like their debut, and the album that followed this one, it was a two record set. I consider all of these albums to be classics, but perhaps 'Chicago II' is the pre-eminent masterpiece. It's got everything: moments of tender beauty to power riffs and scorched-earth jazz-rock, catchy melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. When I first heard it as a teenager, I was captivated by the mixture of jazz, blues, pop, classical, progressive and heavy rock styles, including both improvisational elements and intricate arrangements, and by songs written and sung by several different members, all with their own unique personality. How could that possibly hang together? But it does, and brilliantly so." Grade: Album A+
Def Leppard: And There Will Be a Next Time -- Live from Detroit (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray + 2 CDs or DVD + 2 CDs, 88 min.). Recorded at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Mich. -- the same venue, albeit under a different name, where they opened for Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz 35 years earlier -- this release captures the band in peak performance during their 55-city Summer 2016 North American tour.
In a press release, front man Joe Elliott said: “I had this idea that we should film one of the shows from the 2016 tour because, apart from the 'Viva Hysteria' shows, we hadn’t actually had a live performance filmed since 1988. With a new album out that was being so well received, it was just a case of where to do it. From the second the house lights went down, we could see the sun setting from the stage, and the energy from the crowd just seemed to intensify. It was a good choice and a great way to document Def Leppard in 2016."
Def Leppard has been together since 1977, with the only change being original guitarist Steve Clark being replaced by Vivian Campbell, after Clark died in 1991 at age 30. A testimony to how important Clark was to the group is the fact that 12 of the 17 songs performed here were co-written by him. During the closing "Photograph," images of Clark and the early band are shown on the giant screen.
What is truly impressive about the band is that it continues to make great music. The show starts off with "Let's Go" ("Welcome to the carnival/Welcome to the party") from their 2015 self-titled album, and it is instantly memorable. Another solid new song is "Dangerous," which is melodic and has a catchy chorus. Def Leppard does not neglect its hits during the show, which features lots of flashy lighting. Three come from 1983's "Pyromania" album, including "Foolin'" and the encores "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph." Another four come from "Hysteria," including the melodic "Love Bites," "Rocket," "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and the title track, part of a medley with David Bowie's "Heroes. The other cover performed is David Essex's "Rock On."
The two CDs contain all the music from the concert. However, the Blu-ray or DVD also has music videos for four of their new songs, including two videos -- one with lyrics -- for "Let's Go." The other videos are four "Dangerous," "Man Enough" and We Belong." All have the same futuristic look. Their total time is about 23 minutes. Grade: A
Scott Ramminger: Do What Your Heart Says To (Arbor Lane Music CD, 61:31). This musical gumbo features 14 original tunes, with Ramminger's lyrics often a skewed look at life and relationships. The album was co-produced by Ramminger and Mike Harvey. In addition to Ramminger on vocals and sax, the disc includes special guest vocal appearances from Tommy Malone (Subdudes), Bekka Bramlett, Francine Reed, The McCrary Sisters, Janiva Magness and Roddie Romero (who also plays accordion on a track). The album features an all-star New Orleans rhythm section, with Shane Theriot on guitar, David Torkanowsky on keyboards, George Porter Jr. on bass and Doug Belote on drums. Two tracks have Roland Guerin on bass and Johnny Vidacovich on drums. Several tracks also include New Orleans trombone players, Rick Trolsen and Greg Hicks, along with trumpeter Eric Lucero.
The heady New Orleans influence bursts through on the opening "Living Too Fast," which also has tinkling piano. It is an album highlight, as is the next track, "Someone New To Disappoint," which features Bramlett on backing vocals and has a nice horn solo. The title track returns to the New Orleans sound and has backing vocals by Reed. Continuing the strong opening, "Hoping That the Sun Won't Shine" is slower post-breakup song and a duet with Bramlett. "Give a Pencil to a Fish" is funky and features the organ, while "Winter Is Always Worse" is straight blues. Other highlights are the funky and twisty "Get Back Up," featuring the McCrary Sisters; the bouncy, partyish "Mystery To Me" (although one verse is quiet); and "My Girl For Life," the prettiest song. The lengthiest track, "I Need a New One," has a long piano solo.
Ramminger grew up in Huntsville, AL. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a degree in journalism, he moved to the Washington D.C. area, spending 35 years there. He has gigged extensively there and elsewhere around the East Coast and South with his own band. He also has performed as a sideman with others, including Nashville songwriter Gary Nicholson and Louisiana soul man Eric Lindell. He relocated to Nashville this January. Grade: B+
Grateful Dead: The Grateful Dead: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Dead.net/Rhino, 2 CDs, 1:54:25). This the first in a special album reissue series that will include two-disc deluxe editions and limited edition vinyl picture disc versions of all the group's studio and live albums. Each will be timed for release around the individual album's 50th anniversary. These two-disc deluxe editions will include the original album with newly remastered sound, plus a bonus disc of unreleased recordings. The same remastered audio from the original album also will be released as a 12-inch picture disc, produced in a limited edition of 10,000 copies.
For the Dead's debut album, the tracks have been newly remastered from the original tapes by David Glasser and restored by Plangent Processes. The band recorded and mixed "The Grateful Dead" in five days before releasing it in March 1967. (They previously issued some material as the Warlocks in 1965.) It captures the band's early sound with a mix of electrified jug band stomps ("Sitting On Top of the World"), Chicago Blues (Sonny Boy Williamson's "Good Morning Little School Girl," 1937), crazed modal improv ("Viola Lee Blues") and Bob Dylan-esque put-downs ("Cream Puff War" by Jerry Garcia; one of two originals on the album). The Dylan influence is heard even more on the second disc, a complete unreleased concert from July 29, 1966 and select cuts from July 30, all recorded at the P.N.E. Garden Auditorium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The live material is mastered by Jeffrey Norman. Also impressive on the debut album are the bouncy "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)," a slice of psychedelia; the down-home cover of Jesse Fuller's "Beat It On Down the Line"; "Morning Dew"; and "New, New Minglewood Blues."
For the live show, the Dead were the opening act. It opens with the Dylan-influenced original, "Standing on the Corner," which the band never recorded, then their uplifting cover of "I Know You Rider," which they continued to perform at least through the early Eighties. In this concert, the Dead also cover Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" (performed on the same day as Dylan's infamous motorcycle accident in Woodstock, N.Y.) and perform Garcia's "Cream Puff War." Another song here that they never recorded is the complicated "You Don't Have To Ask," which has three verses, each with a different arrangement of call-and-response vocals, plus multiple key changes (one occurs mid-solo). There is a free-flowing cover of "Sittin' On Top of the World," the first live version of their classic cover of "Stealin'," and the closing four all were to appear of "The Grateful Dead" album. One of the four tracks from the next night is "Cold Rain and Snow," a traditional song arranged by the band which they also would play for decades. The third song played at Vancouver's Trips Festival, but never recorded again, was "Cardboard Cowboy," introduced by Bob Weir as "No Left Turn Unstoned" and known within the band as "The Monster." It was the only Grateful Dead song until 1994 with music and lyrics solely by Phil Lesh. Grade: A
Dave's Picks series (Dead.net/Rhino, 3-CDs each). These live recordings, exclusively available at dead.net, come out four times a year. Most sell out quickly, but the Website does offer annual subscriptions. The last two 2015 releases were recorded, respectively, April 22, 1978 at the Nashville (Tenn.) Municipal Auditorium and March 28, 1973 at the Springfield (Mass.) Civic Center. The Nashville show includes crowd-pleasers like "Bertha"/"Good Lovin'" and "Jack Straw" in the first set and "Not Fade Away"/"Wharf Rat"/"Sugar Magnolia" in the second, with "Wharf Rat" one of the finest versions ever performed. The Springfield show , which nearly did not happen, has 30 songs, as the band had almost too much good material. "Cumberland Blues" is a rare opener, while disc three contains the second set's nearly 31-minute "Weather Report Suite" that includes a "Prelude," "Dark Star," "Eyes of the World" and "Playing in the Band.
The 2016 releases, included shows July 19, 1975 at Selland Arena in Fresno, Calif.; July 17, 1976 at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco, Calif.; Jan. 23, 1970 at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium in Honolulu, Hawaii; and Dec. 9, 1981 at the CU Events Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In Fresno, Garcia performs a spectacularly different take on "Scarlet Begonias," while Lesh and keyboardist Ned Lagin dip into the future of electronic music with their "Seastones" set perform a 30-minute "Playing in the Band." The San Francisco recording was the fifth night of a six-night run, with Chuck Berry bookends on the first set and a 15-minute version of "Not Fade Away." The Hawaii show demonstrates how the band transitioned from chaotic psychedelia to cohesive, country-tinged, song-oriented harmonies. They perform the soon-to-be classics "Black Peter" and "Dire Wolf" from their upcoming album, "Workingman's Dead." Finally, the University of Colorado show includes classic covers of "Mama Tried," "Little Red Rooster," "Around and Around," "Good Lovin'," and potentially the very best version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" that the Dead ever did.
This year's series started with April 2, 1973 at the Boston Garden with 34 songs, including brand-new songs ("Wave That Flag," "Eyes Of The World," "Row Jimmy") and newly-minted classics ("Mississippi Half-Step," "Stella Blue").
"We're laser-focused on continuing the release of exceptional Grateful Dead concerts throughout 2017, with some incredible music being considered for release as the year progresses," said archivist and producer David Lemieux in a press release of the Dave's Picks series. "Volumes 21-24 in 2017 promise to rival the very best releases of the first 20 installments of the series."
Grateful Dead: May 1977: Get Shown the Light (Dead.net, 11 CDs). Also, while the Grateful Dead played more than 2,000 concerts, none continues to spark interest and provoke discussion quite like the band's performance at Cornell University's Barton Hall on May 8, 1977. It is one of the most collected, traded and debated concerts by any band ever, has topped numerous fan polls through the years, and was a favorite of the group's longtime archivist Dick Latvala, who sates in a press release: "Enough can't be said about this superb show." Even Uncle Sam got into the act in 2011 when the recording was "deemed so important to the history and culture of the United States" that a copy was added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the show, Dead.net will release "May 1977: Get Shown the Light," a new 11-disc boxed set that features the commercial debut of the Cornell University show, along with three other previously unreleased concerts: Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, New Haven, Conn. (May 5, 1977), Boston Garden, Boston, Mass. (May 7, 1977) and Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, N.Y. (May 9, 1977). The source for these recordings is the legendary Betty Boards, which Jeffrey Norman has mastered in HDCD. The transfers from the master tapes were produced by Plangent Processes.
"These four concerts have been the holy grail of wish-list releases both externally and internally for a long, long time," says Lemieux. "During the 18-plus years I've worked with the Grateful Dead, no concert has garnered as much attention and as many requests for release as Cornell, with the New Haven, Boston and Buffalo shows following very closely behind. For those who didn't know the history of these master tapes and about their absence from the band's vault, and for those who have, like us, lamented this hole in the collection, we join with you in celebrating what might be, minute-for-minute, song-for-song, the most high quality Grateful Dead release ever produced."