WINTER 1999/2000


1999 was another banner year for CD reissues and the prospects are good for the reissue bandwagon rolling on well into 2000 and beyond. Big labels like Legacy and Universal Music Group continue to fuel the desires of collectors while independent outfits like Collectables and Cuneiform keep the reissue flame high. One sad casualty on the reissue front in ‘99 was the demise of the great Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. They will surely be missed. In this issue, MWE3.COM takes an in depth lock back at some of the finest reissues of the past several months.

When it comes to back catalog reissues, few labels can touch the NYC-based Legacy Recordings. True to form, Legacy released several high profile CD compilations at the tail end of ‘99 including the single disc, 20 track set The Best Of Simon & Garfunkel. Legacy’s latest S&G collection spans all the duo’s big hits, from their ‘65 smash “The Sounds Of Silence” to their ‘75 reunion recording of “My Little Town”. The set features every A-side S&G recorded for Columbia Records and is further fleshed out by b-sides and essential LP tracks. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel changed the face of pop in the ‘60s and because their music was so significant and well recorded their name still lives on. Another classic act from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Poco is remembered with a 14 track Epic / Legacy CD entitled The Very Best Of Poco. Fronted by key members Richie Furay (from Buffalo Springfield) and Jim Messina, Poco recorded eight well received albums of country flavored pop. Early Poco albums like Pickin’ Up The Pieces and From The Inside are still appreciated by music fans. Legacy’s new Poco best-of assembles key album tracks from ‘69 to ‘74 and includes useful liner notes. One of the coolest packages of late from Legacy is the three CD mini-box set from The Isley Brothers entitled It’s Your Thing: The Story Of The Isley Brothers released on Epic/T-Neck/Legacy. The Isley’s influence on ‘60s pop bands like The Beatles was huge considering the Fab Four covered the Isley’s classics “Shout” and “Twist And Shout”. It’s Your Thing focuses on the Isley’s tenure with T-Neck Records, although recordings on numerous other labels are also highlighted including tracks from 1957-58 and late ‘60s work on Tamla/Motown. Also highlighted are mid-60s recordings featuring a young Jimi Hendrix when he was a member of the Isley’s back up band. Broken down into three periods: Volume 1- 1957-1970, Volume 2- 1971-1975 and Volume 3- 1976-1996, the triple disc package contains all the big hits, from “Twist And Shout” (recorded back in the Summer of ‘62), “This Old Heart Of Mine” (1966) and “It’s Your Thing” (from 1969) to their famous mid ‘70s classic “That Lady (Part 1&2)”. Any Isley’s fan will be amazed at the incredible packaging of It’s Your Thing, which is highlighted by a lavish and well researched 52 page full color booklet. 


Pennsylvania-based Collectables had a stellar year in ‘99 and among the label’s latest going into 2000 is a new 30 track best-of CD from rock and roll pioneer Bobby Vee entitled The Very Best Of Bobby Vee. All of Vee’s early hits like “Rubber Ball”, “Take Good Care Of My Baby”, “The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” and more are featured on The Very Best Of Bobby Vee, which tacks on excellent liner notes and artwork. Another winner on Collectables is The Very Best Of The Tower Recordings from the ‘60s West Coast surf-pop cult group The Sunrays. Produced by Murray Wilson, father of the famous Wilson brothers of Beach Boys fame, The Sunrays were a cloned version of the Beach Boys. Featuring the vocals of the group’s lead singer Rick Henn, The Sunrays recorded some fine examples of mid-60s West Coast pop for the Tower Records label, 27 of which are featured here. Like always, Collectables includes descriptive liner notes. Another recent Collectables CD is Psychotic Reaction- The Very Best Of Count Five. The song “Psychotic Reaction” was a cult favorite with AM radio listeners when it was released in early ‘66. Without a follow-up hit, The Count Five, mere teenagers barely out of high school, were soon relegated to one-hit-wonder status, yet the still great sounding “Psychotic Reaction” remains one of the all time classic hits of the mid-60s. Collectables Count Five collection also features the original album art of their now-historic album debut. Collectables has also reissued a series of original albums classics from the vaults of the legendary Sun Records including a two-fer CD by the late, great Carl Perkins entitled Blue Suede Shoes / Original Golden Hits. The 21 tracks here include Carl’s all-time classics including “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Matchbox”, “Honey Don’t” and his ‘55 Sun debut, “Movie Magg”. Liner notes offer a vital historic perspective. Although Perkins passed away on January 19, 1998, he left behind a legacy of great music. 

Progressive rock fans are probably familiar with the catalog of Maryland-based Cuneiform Records. One of the first U.S. labels to focus on the European-dominated prog-rock sound of the ‘70s, Cuneiform’s catalog of CDs features exclusive releases from artists such as Fred Frith & Henry Kaiser, Soft Machine and SM founder Hugh Hopper, Happy The Man, Birdsongs Of The Mesozoic, Dr. Nerve, French guitarist Richard Pinhas and his group Heldon, Sweden’s Von Zamla, guitarist Steve Tibbetts and tons more. Among the latest releases on Cuneiform are two titles by the California-based band Djam Karet entitled Burning The Hard City and Suspension & Displacement. Simultaneously released by the band back in 1991, Cuneiform have just reissued both CDs complete with new cover art. Both discs certainly fall within the progressive instrumental realm of rock yet tackle different musical terrain. Burning offers a mind blowing array of guitar driven fusion while S&D is a nocturnal soundtrack incorporating elements of ambient electronics and more. Essential for disciples of cosmic bands like Gong or Ozric Tentacles, both albums haven’t aged a bit and still sound great. Other Djam Karet CDs on Cuneiform include The Devouring and Live At Orion. Cuneiform’s import and catalog division, Wayside Music, has a jam-packed catalog of CDs bound to impress the most jaded music fan. / 


NYC-based Retroactive Records delighted CD collectors with earlier releases by U.K. rock legends like Thunderclap Newman, Arthur Brown and The Creation and now the label adds to their reissue roster with the release of Gonna Have A Good Time by Australian-based rockers The Easybeats. The Easybeats are fondly remembered for their 1967 international smash hit “Friday On My Mind”, a song covered by everyone from David Bowie to The Shadows. Fronted by the songwriting team of Harry Vanda (from Scotland) and George Young (from Holland), The Easybeats first took Australia by by storm and after relocating to London in early ‘67 they teamed up with famed producer Shel Talmy for the making of their best known hit “Friday On My Mind” and the rest as they say is all history. By the close of the ‘60s it would be all over for The Easybeats, although after hearing their new 22 track reissue on Retroactive it’s quite clear they recorded a wealth of great pop and rock music. Gonna Have A Good Time is further enhanced by numerous photos and quite detailed liner notes. Retro-rock fans should pay special attention to further titles on Retroactive, a label that clearly has it’s finger on the reissue pulse. 

A child prodigy who attended the Julliard School Of Music at age nine, singer-songwriter and Brooklyn native Neil Sedaka broke into the pop world way back in 1958. After writing for other artists like Dinah Washington and Connie Francis, Sedaka scored with his first solo outing entitled “The Diary” in December, ‘58 opening the door to his own successful solo career. Together with co-composer Howard Greenfield, Sedaka scored numerous hit songs while becoming a prime architect of early ‘60s rock and roll. “Oh! Carol” (1959), “Calendar Girl” (1960) and “Next Door To An Angel” (1962) are just a few of the pop classics featured on the recent RCA Records release of Neil Sedaka Sings The Hits. The first half of the double CD set features most of Sedaka’s chart topping pop hits from ‘58 to ‘65, while the second CD spotlights Sedaka covering an array of pop standards from the likes of Rogers & Hart and Jobim and more. Disc one is clearly where the fun is and that’s the reason why these songs will be forever played on oldies stations everywhere.


Polygram, Island and MCA are now united under the Universal Music Group banner and under the arrangement UMG continues to mine the vaults with their 20th Century Masters Millennium Collections. Among the latest Millennium Collection CDs include best-of titles from Steve Winwood, Robert Palmer and Neil Diamond. The Steve Winwood collection selects album various tracks the rock legend recorded with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith. With an enormous amount of solo material also in the vaults, Winwood is clearly an artist that transcends one 11 track best-of collection. Containing hits like “Sweet Caroline” and “I Am...I Said”, UMG’s 11 track Neil Diamond Millennium Collection examines the Brooklyn-born artist’s career during 1968-73. UMG’s Robert Palmer best-of spotlights 10 R&B based soul-pop tracks beginning with the English singer’s mid-70s early solo career all the way to “Addicted To Love” from his ‘85 album Riptide. Each UMG Millennium Collection CD features color photos and liner notes. Other recent arrivals from UMG include two more upgraded CDs from the Steely Dan back catalog, The Royal Scam (1976) and Aja (from 1977). Originally released on ABC Records, both albums have been digitally remastered with original artwork and liner notes. FM radio was constantly playing these albums when they came out and even if you never owned either album before, you will recognize the songs. Fleshing out the memorable music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen are smooth performances from top session guys like Jim Keltner, Larry Carlton, Wayne Shorter and Elliot Randall. Both albums follow UMG upgrades of earlier Steely Dan albums Can’t Buy A Thrill (1972), Countdown To Ecstasy (1973), Pretzel Logic (1974) and Katy Lied (1975). 

Any label that puts out a ten CD box set entitled The Ultimate History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll Collection had better be able to back it up. Minnesota-based K-Tel gets pretty close with their 150 song Ultimate History box set. Released a while ago, the box is notable because, while the cuts here do, in fact feature the original artist, they’re not the original hit version. Remakes of classic hits by the original artists that made them famous in the first place makes for some pretty lively listening. Broken down into ten chapters of ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s music, high points include Chapter Three’s Teen Idols with hits from Bobby Vee, Tommy Roe, Lou Christie and Chubby Checker. Chapter Four’s Rockin’ Instrumentals spotlights The Ventures, The Tornadoes, The Marketts and The T-Bones. Other chapters include Rock’s Pioneers (Little Richard, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis), The Great Bands (The Beach Boys, The Box Tops, The Zombies), Soul Explosion (Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, The Capitols), Those Were The Days (The Turtles, Mungo Jerry, Mary Hopkin) and so on for ten volumes! By the time you reach Chapter Nine’s Easy ‘70s most of the magic is gone, yet anyone who remembers just how great the music of the ‘50s and ‘60s was (and still is!) will get a buzz from K-Tel’s The Ultimate History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll. 


Now that Capitol Records has taken over the entire catalog of recordings by The Beach Boys, the label is planning to roll out a series of albums released by the Boys on their own label Brother Records during the ‘70s. As a prelude to reissuing long out of print Beach Boys classics such as Surf’s Up and The Beach Boys Love You, Capitol has just released a 20 track sampler CD entitled The Beach Boys Greatest Hits Volume 3: Best Of The Brother Years. These were the years that Beach Boys mentor and primary songwriter Brian Wilson assumed behind the scenes production chores and sort of shared the songwriting spotlight with the other members including his younger brother, the late, great Carl Wilson. Featured here are the classic Brian Wilson compositions “This Whole World” and “Surf’s Up”, which sit neatly alongside (decent, but not great) Beach Boys covers of “Rock And Roll Music” and “Peggy Sue”. The lack of Brian Wilson’s incredible vocals on many of these tracks and the dearth of anything from the late, great Dennis Wilson is disappointing, though all told, the CD brings back a wealth of musical memories for diehard fans.

Also recent on Capitol Records is the double disc set, Nightcap from rock legends Jethro Tull which is finally seeing it’s first U.S. First issued in the U.K. back in 1993, Nightcap is full of rare and unreleased Tull goodies including the famous Chateau D’isaster Tapes which would later be revamped as Tull’s 1973 album A Passion Play. Much more than a collection of scraped sessions, outtakes, instrumentals and b-sides, Nightcap features two hours of vintage Tull topped off by track data and reflective notes by Tull founder Ian Anderson. Long time Tull fans who still swear by the group’s early sound won’t be disappointed as more than half the set features the ‘70s Tull in prime form. 


It’s interesting to note that with artists like Steve Hackett and Ozric Tentacles on their roster, U.K.-based Snapper Music have also issued a double disc set by the America’s long favorite instrumental surf-rock group The Ventures entitled Stars On Guitars. The booklet features 4 pages of well written liner notes which informs you that these 38 tracks were recorded for Japanese labels during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Among the 20 tracks on disc one are nostalgic Ventures-style guitar-based instrumentals of early ‘60s AM radio smashes like “Hey Paula”, “Goldfinger” and “Rhythm Of The Rain” while disc two compiles 18 live in Japan rave-ups of “Secret Agent Man”, “Kyoto Doll” and “Paint It Black” recorded in ‘90 and ‘93. Apparently The Ventures have always been more respected in Japan and fittingly, these recordings are among the last with original Ventures drummer Mel Taylor adding further weight to this guitar driven surf-rock CD set. From the import specialists at Musicrama. 

Following CD releases from big names like Jethro Tull and Julian Lennon, L.A.-based Fuel 2000 Records goes full blast into the reissue world with a new series of BBC In Concert series titles. The first CD released by Fuel is Badfinger- BBC In Concert 1972-3. Badfinger’s history was marred by the unfortunate suicides of the group’s chief songwriter Pete Ham in 1974 and later Tom Evans in 1983. With that morbid fact out of the way, Badfinger at the Beeb captures the band in their prime from two separate Radio One shows. The June ‘72 show highlights tracks from their classic No Dice and Straight Up albums along with spirited covers of “Feelin’ Alright” and “Only You Know And I Know” written by Dave Mason. An August ‘73 BBC show features songs from their final Apple Records album Ass and their Warner Bros. debut Badfinger. The disc closes with a their most famous song “Come And Get It” from a 1970 Top Of The Pops show. Performed in front of an enthusiastic audience and featuring pretty good sound quality, the disc will no doubt further fuel Badfinger’s reputation as one of the U.K.’s finest, albeit short lived pop treasures. Fuel’s newest BBC archive series include CDs from The Small Faces and Humble Pie and Procol Harum (in March). 


Anyone who remembers the heyday of early ‘60s AM radio can tell you that when it came to recording two and a half minute wonders of pop joy, The Four Seasons were up there with the best of them. Not only did the group have the crack songwriting team of Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio guiding the FS musical ship but they also boasted a top rate singer in Franki Valli. Sort of the N.Y./N.J. version of the The Beach Boys, (Brian Wilson is a big fan), The Four Seasons recorded various albums which also contained their great hit singles. It’s a real shame that their albums have never really been properly reissued, but Nashville-based Curb Records comes close with their 10 CD series of Four Seasons music. Not much in the way of liner notes or track data with these reissues, but it’s so cool to hear these songs again that you just don’t care. Titles such as Sherry & 11 Others (Vol. 1) and Dawn & 11 Other Hits (Vol. 4) gives you a good indication of what the series has to offer. Decent sound quality and nostalgic cover art are also noted throughout the ten CD series. 

No music fan who lived through the ‘60s will ever contest that it will always be the decade remembered for the most innovative pop music of all time. L.A.-based The Right Stuff proves that point with their own double CD compilation to the ‘60s entitled Positively ‘60s. The brief liner notes salute ‘60s icons like Dr. King, The Kennedys, Dylan and The Beatles, but the fact is these songs sound just as great now as they did back then. Eschewing the innocence of early ‘60s AM radio, the 30 track Positively ‘60s takes you back to the heart of late ‘60s psych-pop with Donovan (“Hurdy Gurdy Man”), The Moody Blues (“Ride My See Saw”), The Plastic Ono Band (“Give Peace A Chance”), Dion (“Abraham, Martin & John”) and perhaps the best protest song of the ‘60s, “Eve Of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. Music fans who recall the turbulent ‘60s will agree many of the songs on Positively ‘60s do indeed provide the optimum soundtrack to that golden decade. 

Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by Send to: CD Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein, P.O. Box 630249, Little Neck, N.Y. 11363-0249




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