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Tales From Topographic Oceans
(Elektra / Rhino / WSM)

When Yes released their magnum opus Close To Edge in 1972 they took their place as the premier progressive rock group of the era. After sharpening their musical edge to the max on their first four albums, their fifth, Close To Edge turned out, as incredible as it seemed then, to be the band’s last ever studio album with founding drummer Bill Bruford. Following the release of the ‘72 classic, Bruford turned over the Yes drum sticks, to legendary John Lennon drummer Alan White. The emergence of Alan White into the Yes ranks, just in time to record the eventual January 1974 double Lp release of Tales From Topographic Oceans was nothing less then a stroke of genius and pure luck for the celebrated Yes quartet of Squire, Anderson, Wakeman & Howe. White was already celebrated as the drummer who played on the John Lennon anthem “Imagine”. His quite demeanor yet stormy and explosive drumming skills gave Yes a bold new sound, the likes of which the band explored to the max on their sprawling, existential ‘73 masterwork, Tales From Topographic Oceans. Reflecting back on those incredible Tales times, one of the album’s chief architects Steve Howe, from his 2003 interview with 20th Century Guitar and editor Robert Silverstein recalls, “It’s kind of a great joy to me that Tales never got deleted and it was never the failure that so many people thought it should be. And it rose and rose in peoples view. And when we play, as we do sometimes, “Ritual” or “Revealing” then we take them to that place that’s called Topographic and they seem to like it.” Both Close To The Edge and Tales From Topographic Oceans are given the deluxe CD reissue treatment by Rhino along with top form Rhino reissues of Relayer (1975) and Going For The One (1977), both of which are also featured in this latest round of 2003 Yes CD remasters. Even if you already have these four, the selection of bonus tracks and incredible new packaging and liner notes makes each one a worthwhile investment.

(Collector's Choice)

Just at that point when Jimi Hendrix died in 1970, 20th Century American rock culture was at it’s zenith. Another great American band from that critical juncture in history that spoke the same musical language of Hendrix was Spirit, who prematurely split in 1971 following an unfavorable review of their all time classic, Dr. Sardonicus in Rolling Stone. With Spirit guitar savant Randy California leaving the group after this incident—and with the power-house team of singer Jay Ferguson and bassist Matt Andes moving on with Jo Jo Gunne—it was up to Spirit sound shaper Ed Cassidy—among the greatest American rock drummers ever—and Spirit alchemist / pianist John Locke to carry on for the band’s final album on Epic Records. In 20/20 hindsight, this particular Spirit album / story offers a first hand view of just how wild and crazy the music scene was back then! Anyway, following the original Spirit split-up, Cassidy and Locke wound up joining forces with Texas rockers, renowned guitarist Christian Staehely and his brother Al Staehely (bass and vocals) for Spirit’s overlooked Feedback album. It comes to light in the liner notes of this first ever CD reissue of Feedback, that Locke and Cassidy were looking to broaden the Spirit sound back then, adding in atmospheric, jazzy fusion instrumentals, serving as the ultimate musical counterweight to the Staehely’s compelling Texas-style rock and roll savvy. It’s safe to say that this short-lived version of Spirit, at that point in time, was one of the most underrated rock lineups of the era. Having witnessed this particular incarnation of the band first hand at their now fabled Carnegie Hall show following the Feedback Lp release in early ‘72, I will just briefly note just how sensational this particular lineup proved to be live. Produced by the late, great David Briggs (of Neil Young fame)—who also helped make Dr. Sardonicus sound so spectacular—Feedback sees it’s first ever reissue on the Collector’s Choice label—and an excellent choice it is for fans of classic early ‘70s rock. With a newly discovered bonus track from the sessions, this Collector's Choice CD adds in all the original Lp artwork and the informative liner notes—filled with new interview bits from Locke—presents an enduring snapshot of a certified album classic from the golden years of early ‘70s rock.


Surrealistic Pillow

Ah the ‘60s... The heyday of the ‘66-68 period of intense music making is brought back to life again in 2003 by RCA Records with new CD reissue releases of the first four albums from ‘60s psychedelic rock superstars Jefferson Airplane. Prefacing the superb liner notes on each, written by the esteemed writer Jeff Tamarkin, are foreward notes by the group’s then manager Bill Thompson. Hearing Thompson’s first hand memories is truly eye-opening stuff. Interestingly, the group gained little attention with their breakthrough ‘66 album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. A decent enough debut it was, yet when the group’s new lead singer Grace Slick stepped up to the mic on November 3rd, 1966 to record the lead vocal to her song “White Rabbit”, the next to last track on their second album Surrealistic Pillow, she more or less put the band on the map and on the road to rock superstardom. Of course having the future Hot Tuna guitar tag team of Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady and the songwriting powerhouse team of Paul Kantner and Marty Balin in the band didn’t hurt either! After the immense success of Surrealistic Pillow, the Airplane proved the skeptics wrong with After Bathing At Baxter's and Crown Of Creation (1968). All four titles are given the first class reissue treatment by RCA, packing in loads of authentic info and pictures and ample bonus tracks, making them the definitive versions of these rock classics.

At Fillmore East
(Mercury / Chronicles)
Atlanta International Pop Festival
(Epic / Legacy)

Following the release of their fabled, self-titled, 1969 album debut on Capricorn Records, The Allman Brothers took their place as the premier southern rock band of the era. Fueled by the guitar work of the late, great Duane Allman and Dickey Betts—and the vocals and songwriting of Gregg Allman—back then, the Brothers could do no wrong. In the words of the group’s producer Tom Dowd—who also engineered the group’s famous four show appearances at NYC’s Fillmore East on March 12-13, 1971—”They were at their absolute peak. When Duane and Dickey played together, it was frightening. You’re talking about two people that had feather fingers.” Dowd did a superb engineering job those nights and the proof can be heard on the 2003 deluxe edition double CD cd of The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East. Featuring over two hours of recordings that recaptures the original Allmans at their zenith, the newly remastered double CD set on Chronicles is further enhanced by six bonus tracks and an eye-opening, photo-filled CD booklet that really does justice to the original July 1971 double Lp set. Coinciding with the release of At Fillmore East, Epic Legacy have also released a double CD set from The Allman Brothers entitled The Allman Brothers Band Live At The Atlanta International Pop Festival. That now fabled Summer 1970 Atlanta International Pop Festival took place over the July 4th weekend in 1970. Featuring a number of the biggest rock acts of the era—including Grand Funk Railroad, Mountain, Ten Years After, Spirit and Jimi Hendrix, the festival ended in the dawning hours after an early Monday morning performance from The Allman Brothers. Predating the recordings on At Fillmore East, the double CD Live At The Atlanta International Pop Festival features over 150 minutes of prime, mostly unreleased Allman Brothers music, with a sound quality and choice of material that just about equals their legendary 1971 Fillmore East shows. The whole Live At The Atlanta International Pop Festival event is recalled with clarity in the detailed CD booklet by the Allman’s long time associate Kirk West, who adds “Thank the Lord those tape machines were loaded and rolling, that and the fact that I made it home in one piece. The Brothers all made it home fine; the front porch was only fourteen miles away.” /


Johnny Cash At Madison Sq. Garden
(Columbia Legacy)

Over the past year Sony Legacy have reissued so many classic albums from late, great country-rock superstar Johnny Cash, including last years double CD The Essential Johnny Cash. High among the list of Columbia’s fine 2002 Cash reissues is a first ever CD release entitled Johnny Cash At Madison Sq. Garden. Recorded on the evening of Friday, December 5th, 1969, the recording captures Cash and company in fantastic form. Reflecting back on that historic concert at the Garden, Cash—from the CD liner notes—adds, “It was a magic night! The air was electric and felt good. The audience responded beautifully.” Performing to a sellout crowd of twenty thousand fans, Cash was joined by his legendary entourage featuring guitarists Carl Perkins and Bob Wooten, Tommy Cash, The Statler Brothers and the entire Carter Family. Adding, “it was almost like performing for friends in my living room”, Cash was mesmerizing that night, romping through 26 tracks including all time favorites such as “Folsom Prison Blues”, “A Boy Named Sue” and “Big River”. Hearing Carl Perkins, in his own spotlight moment performing his “Blue Suede Shoes”, and the great Statler Brothers doing their cool ‘60s pop smash “Flowers On The Wall” only adds to the magic of that classic NYC night. The CD booklet—adding in tons of extras including extensive reviewer clips of that electrifying night and b&w photos galore—only adds fuel to the notion that Johnny Cash At Madison Sq. Garden ranks among the great live albums of the ‘60s.


Chicago-based Home Vision Entertainment are leaders when it comes to classic film and documentary DVD reissues. Case in point are two recent HVE titles from Canadian film maker Ron Mann. First off, the 2002 HVE DVD reissue of Mann’s 1992 documentary, Twist, is a fascinating DVD documentary detailing the rise of the Twist dance craze that overtook America (and the whole world) at the dawn of the ‘60s. Written in the late ‘50s by Hank Ballard, the song “The Twist” was taken to new heights in ‘60/61 by rock and roll pioneer Chubby Checker and shortly thereafter again by NYC ‘Twist’ legend Joey Dee. Featuring fascinating, in depth interviews with Ballard, Chubby, Joey Dee, and a host of other early ‘60s scene-makers, the 78 minute Twist DVD, even more importantly, reexamines the social ramifications the Twist dance craze had on Americaand to a somewhat lesser degree, on the worldwide music scene, which was about to be overtaken by The Beatles, the English pop legends who were primed to free us (and the world) from the incipient pop blueprint of American ‘50s rock and roll. HVE’s Twist is simply put, essential viewing for pop historians. Another Ron Mann 2000 documentary, reissued in 2002 as an HVE classic DVD, Grass takes a fresh look at the way America demon-ized marijuana throughout much of the 20th Century. An 80 minute 2002 HVE DVD release, Grass blows the lid off America’s war on marijuana and reexamines how ordinary citizens were criminalized simply for having another hit of fresh air. As with his Twist documentary, Mann’s production and direction skills are in prime form on Grass. HVE’s new high definition transfer of Grass for DVD is enhanced by 5.1 surround sound, theatrical trailer, movie poster, original score by Guido Luciani, more music by Devo honcho Mark Mothersbaugh and the sage narration of noted pot advocate Woody Harrelson.

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