Welcome to our brand-new, exhaustive feature to take us to the end of another great year for reissues and box sets: our first-ever official Second Disc Buyers Guide! From now until Christmas, we’re taking you on a delightful trip through the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003, through the filter of when and how these classic albums have been reissued, remastered and repackaged. If you’ve ever wondered to yourself which versions of these albums to buy for certain bonus tracks and the like, wonder no more.
In our second installment, you’ll travel from the bayou to the Yellow Brick Road, and everywhere in between. We’ll journey from the 1950s through the 1980s with a group of true legends: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Miles Davis, Prince, Buddy Holly and Elton John!
95. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Green River (Fantasy, 1969)
If you tuned into the Thanksgiving Day parade coverage on CBS last week, you might have found a sight that had nothing to do with Macy’s, giant floats or cartoon characters. That sight was one John Fogerty, late of the band Creedence Clearwater Revival , playing many of his classic hits for an appreciative audience that Thanksgiving morning. Fogerty hasn’t always had such a warm relationship with his back catalogue, the result of acrimony between the singer/songwriter and both his bandmates and his original label. Though tensions have since cooled, with Fogerty even indicating to Rolling Stone that he would be open to considering a reunion (“It’s possible, yeah. I think the call would maybe have to come from outside the realm … [But] I haven’t really wasted mental energy being angry for quite some time.”), only one thing has remained a constant in all of these years: the vitality of Fogerty’s so-called “swamp rock” created with Doug Clifford, Stu Cook and his brother Tom Fogerty in Creedence.
The band’s third album, 1969’s Green River, crystallized the sound of its predecessor Bayou Country. Both albums have a number of similarities: an all-Fogerty line-up of original songs supplemented by one cover version (“Good Golly, Miss Molly” on the earlier album, “Night Time is the Right Time” on the later one), a powerful title song, a blend of evocative, haunting imagery with good-time rock. But the songs on Green River were tighter, more focused and more idiosyncratic. (The entire album is barely thirty minutes long.) “Lodi” exposed Fogerty’s fear of becoming a musician stuck playing dead-end dives in a town such as Lodi, California (some 70 miles away from Fogerty’s Bay Area home), while “Bad Moon Rising” was the most perfect expression yet of the songwriter’s darkness-meets-light ethos. The elegiac “Green River” painted an evocative picture of a South that might have never been, but now always will be, in song.
Green River has been issued numerous times on CD, and all editions save the most recent edition have featured only the original nine-song track listing. The original Fantasy CD (Fantasy 4514) was upgraded by the label with “20-Bit K2 Super Coding” remastering (FCD24-8393) in 2000, but some listeners might prefer the limited edition 24K Gold CD released in 1994 by DCC Compact Classics (GZS-1064) as remastered by Steve Hoffman. Hoffman himself revisited Green River for Analogue Productions in 2003 as a hybrid stereo SACD (Analogue Productions CAPP 8393 SA) with amazingly crisp sound or a 180-gram vinyl LP. Green River was also included in full on the 2001 box set Creedence Clearwater Revival (Fantasy 6CCRCD-4434-2) with the 20-bit “K2” sound. Fantasy, under the new ownership of Concord Records, mended fences with John Fogerty after his clashes with former label boss Saul Zaentz, and issued definitive 40th Anniversary Editions of the Creedence catalogue. Green River (FAN-30878, 2008) was expanded by five bonus tracks: two instrumental test tracks recorded prior to the sessions which yielded the album (“Broken Spoke Shuffle” and “Glory Be”) and three live renditions (“Bad Moon Rising” from Berlin on September 16, 1971, “Green River/Suzie Q” from Stockholm on September 21, 1971 and “Lodi” from Hamburg on September 17, 1971).
94. Miles Davis, Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970)
If Miles Davis’ groundbreaking work with his Second Great Quintet was far-removed from his early bebop days, or his Gil Evans-arranged orchestral albums, nothing could have prepared listeners fully for 1970’s Bitches Brew. On this sprawling double album, Davis embraced electric instrumentation and an improvised rock spirit that wouldn’t have fazed fans of Jimi Hendrix. The gambit paid off when Bitches picked up Grammy Awards and gold records. Entirely self-composed by Davis with the exception of Joe Zawinul’s “Pharoah’s Dance” and Wayne Shorter’s “Sanctuary,” Bitches Brew featured use of the studio itself as a musical instrument, with its lengthy tracks spliced and edited to their final form. Davis’ trumpet playing had become more aggressive and he shares the solo spotlight with the soprano saxophone of Shorter. Tracks featured up to 12 musicians playing at any time, including Zawinul, Shorter, Ron Carter, Airto Moreira, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Don Alias, Bennie Maupin, Larry Young, and Lenny White. Bitches Brew is a landmark recording not simply in jazz-rock or fusion, but in jazz itself, inspiring countless imitators and proving that Davis circa 1970 remained a restlessly inventive artist who refused to be relegated to music’s back pages. Critical reaction was divided as to Davis’ polarizing, innovative new style, and the album is still much-discussed today.
Much like Davis’ 1959 modal jazz breakthrough Kind of Blue, Bitches Brew has been reissued with great frequency. Early CD issues (such as Columbia C2K 40577 under the “CBS Jazz Masterpieces” banner) replicated the original 6-song track listing, while Legacy’s 1999 remaster (C2K 65774) added one bonus track to the second disc, Wayne Shorter’s “Feio.” That track was recorded in early 1970 with much of the same personnel as the core album. However, the Legacy remaster featured a remix of the album; the original can be found on older Japanese issues such as CSCS 5151-2 or 50DP 703-4 as well as on the 1996 Japan-only SRCS 9118-9. Sony’s ace engineer Mark Wilder explained the remix as follows: “[The] two tracks [i.e. the actual stereo mix down master tape] had not aged well. So we could either work with inferior tape copies from other countries, or go back to the original eight tracks and remix them, and so save ourselves a generation. The decision was made to remix from the original multitracks.” The remix became the norm for subsequent reissues. Bitches Brew has also been released on SACD in its remixed form as SIGP-20/21 in 2003 and SICP 10089-90 in 2007.
1998’s The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (Columbia/Legacy 65570) is the sixth in a series of chronological “complete” box sets chronicling Miles Davis’ Columbia Records career. That 4-CD set compiles all tracks Davis recorded between August 19, 1969 and February 6, 1970, including Bitches Brew in its entirety. At the time of its release, some questioned the curating process for this set. Outside of the tracks which originally appeared on Bitches Brew, none of the other tracks on the box were recorded during the same August 1969 sessions that resulted in the final album. Some material recorded for, but not used on Bitches Brew, was not included, primarily rehearsal takes and unedited performances of the six album tracks. This box set was reissued in 2004 with new packaging as Columbia/Legacy 90924.
The Bitches Brew saga continued in 2010 with both a 3-CD/1-DVD/LP Super Deluxe Edition (Columbia/Legacy 88697 70274 2) and 2-CD/1-DVD Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy 88697 54519 2) in commemoration of the album’s 40th anniversary. The first CDs include the original album (albeit in remixed form) plus six bonus tracks: two previously unreleased alternate takes of “Spanish Key” and “John McLaughlin” as well as the single edits of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down,” “Spanish Key,” “Great Expectations,” and “Little Blue Frog.” The third CD captures a live gig at Tanglewood from August 1970 with August 1970, with Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, Airto Moreira and Gary Bartz. The 71-minute DVD Copenhagen Live 1969 preserves a complete performance by a quintet that includes Shorter, Corea, Holland, and DeJohnette. The Legacy Edition included the first two CDs and the Copenhagen DVD only. Bitches Brew Live (Columbia/Legacy 88697 81485 2) appeared in early 2011, with nine rare performances recorded at festivals nine months before Bitches Brew‘s release (Newport Jazz Festival, July 1969, the first three tracks, previously unissued) and four months after (Isle Of Wight, August 1970, the final six tracks).
Hit the jump for the scoop on entries from Prince, Buddy Holly and Elton John!
93. Prince, Sign O’ the Times (Warner Bros., 1987)
Prince’s ninth studio album and first following his departure from The Revolution, 1987’s Sign O’ the Times is another sprawling double album. The constraints of a single LP couldn’t hold back the prodigiously talented musical polymath, who tackled his favorite lyrical themes of gender identity, sex and spirituality (often in the same songs!) over the album’s 16 tracks. Prince actually intended Sign to run a full 3 LPs, with many of its songs having begun life as part of Dream Factory, a project intended for The Revolution, and another LP entitled Camille. Prince proposed that the songs form a 22-track, 3-LP set to be called Crystal Ball. One needn’t have a crystal ball to have predicted that the suits at Warner Bros. Records would balk. Sign o’ the Times was the slimmed-down album that emerged.
Musically, the album explored familiar territory for Prince fans, a stew of pop, rock, soul, funk and psychedelia. Another 1980s icon, Sheena Easton, guested on “U Got the Look,” which made it all the way to No. 2 on the singles charts. Two more hits came from Sign, the most Prince had racked up on a single album since 1984’s Purple Rain. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” squeezed into the Top 10 at No. 10, and the title cut made it to No. 3 while topping the R&B chart. The album itself peaked at No. 6.
Unfortunately, remastering and expanding his back catalogue has never been a priority for the man born Prince Rogers Nelson, so fans have had to content themselves with the original CD issue (Paisley Park/Warner Bros. 925 577-2, 1987). In 2009, Sign O’ the Times was reissued in Japan in a series of Prince albums on the SHM-CD, or Super High Material CD, format (Paisley Park/Warner Japan WPCR-13538/9). SHM-CDs are playable in all standard CD players. Reports indicate that the sound was, indeed, tweaked to generally positive results. No bonus material, unsurprisingly, was added to the replica-LP package.
92. Buddy Holly, 20 Golden Greats (MCA, 1978)
Quickly search “20 Golden Greats” online, and you’ll come up with any number of releases from a wide array of artists with the nondescript title. But Rolling Stone found one such disc head and shoulders above the rest, and it’s hard to argue. The album belongs to one Buddy Holly (1936-1959) and brings together just what the title indicates: 20 slabs of prime early rock and roll. One can’t help but wonder what Buddy Holly would have accomplished had his life not been so short, but the remarkable songs birthed by the young man are as fresh today as they were 50+ years ago. On 20 Golden Greats, you’ll find a stunning number of songs both written and recorded by Holly, and these titles speak for themselves : “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Words of Love,” “Everyday,” “Not Fade Away,” “Oh! Boy!,” “It’s So Easy,” “Maybe, Baby, “True Love Ways.” The list goes on; each song is a short slice of pop history.
Compiled in England by John Beecher, 20 Golden Greats topped the U.K. album charts upon its 1978 release there by EMI U.K., who quickly licensed it to MCA in America. The American edition only reached No. 55 on the U.S. charts but eventually was certified gold. 20 Golden Greats was superseded in 1985 by another 20-track collection hailed for its pristine sound, MCA’s From the Original Master Tapes (MCAD-5540). In 1989, 20 Golden Greats received a CD reissue in the U.K. (MCA DMCTV 1) with its original track listing unchanged. (This was subsequently repressed in 2007.) In later years, more comprehensive Holly packages were issued, until the mother of them all arrived in 2008. Hip-o Select’s Not Fade Away: The Complete Studio Recordings and More (B0012875-02) is a six-disc box set housed in a handsome hardcover book. It is the ultimate textbook on Holly, and deserves a place on every music lover’s shelf. But for just over 40 minutes of all-killer, no-filler, the original 20 Golden Greats is hard to top. Its cover boldly proclaimed “Buddy Holly Lives.” He still does.
91. Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (DJM/MCA, 1973)
It’s hard to underestimate the impact of Elton John on rock in the early 1970s, so powerful was the icon’s grip on the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Synthesizing rock and roll, pop balladry, country and western, rhythm and blues and a glam sensibility, John was like no other superstar before him. Perhaps the crown jewel of John’s kingdom, however, remains 1973’s double-LP Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. His seventh studio album, it remains his best-selling album to date, with the timeless title track joined by other favorites such as “Candle in the Wind,” “Bennie and the Jets” and “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting.” But there’s no filler on Goodbye. The symphonic rock of 11-minute album opener “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” gives way to the cheeky piano-pounding “All the Young Girls Love Alice,” then to the low-key ode to a “Sweet Painted Lady” of the evening. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is all over the map, as was the creativity of John, his lyrical collaborator Bernie Taupin and album producer Gus Dudgeon. The cinematic epics that dot this album confirmed John’s place as a craftsman and artist of the highest order; he was able to thrive as both a showman and an artist. Credit for the cohesive sound of the album can go to the other members of the Elton John Band, as well: Davey Johnstone (guitars), Dee Murray (bass), Nigel Olsson (drums) and Ray Cooper (percussion). Johnstone and Olsson still play with John today.
Goodbye topped the album charts in the U.S. and U.K, and as of 1998, had already been certified 7x platinum. The original 1973 LP, when released on CD, was first issued on two discs (MCAD2-6894, 1984). Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s 24K Gold CD (UDCD 526, 1989) and the standard remastered edition CD (Rocket/Island 528 159-2, 1995) both contained the entire album on one disc taking advantage of improved CD storage capacity. The 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (various cat. nos., 2003) returned to the album’s original 2-disc configuration in order to include four bonus tracks on the second disc following the album program. It was made available in three formats: a standard hybrid 2-SACD edition playable on all CD players (Rocket/Island B0001570-36); an edition with both discs and a DVD with the “Classic Albums” documentary on the making of the album; and a DVD-Audio edition. These 30th anniversary editions offered the original stereo mix as well as an impressive, immersive 5.1 surround remix produced and engineered by Greg Penny. The four bonus tracks consist of three B-sides (“Whenever You’re Ready (We’ll Go Steady),” “Jack Rabbit” and “Screw You (Young Man’s Blues)” plus an acoustic remix of “Candle in the Wind.” These 30th Anniversary editions come highly recommended. Subsequent issues have included an SHM-SACD, but the 30th Anniversary Editions remain the most accessible and most comprehensive.
Tomorrow: We venture beyond the gates of Folsom Prison and onward to Memphis, open a “talking book,” have our first Fab run-in, and place another brick in The Wall!