In Part 10 of our TSD Buyers Guide, which counts the reissues of the albums in Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest albums of all time (as selected in 2003), we pay homage to early rock-and-roll and rhythm-and-blues pioneers, look at two very different albums from 1970, and head down for Memphis for some seductive soul!
55. Elvis Presley, Elvis Presley (RCA Victor, 1956)
Well, it’s one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go, cat, go!
With such words was a revolution born! Those simple lyrics were the first sung by Elvis Presley on his 1956 self-titled RCA Victor debut, accompanied by the blasts of Scotty Moore’s guitar, then the frantic beats of D.J. Fontana’s drums. It’s unlikely that Presley ever anticipated that his recording of Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” would provide the soundtrack to a country’s coming of age. Elvis Presley turned 21 in the buttoned-up, repressive climate of the American south circa 1956. Soon his music, synthesizing African-American R&B, pop, soul, country and gospel into something wholly new, hit a raw nerve. Presley’s debut recordings crystallized the power of the American teenager on both culture and the music business, selling the album format (previously the territory of adults) to youth, and influencing clothes, hairstyles and attitudes.
The above is an excerpt of my review of Legacy Recordings’ Young Man with the Big Beat (RCA/Legacy 88697 93534-2, 2011), a lavish 5-CD box set that includes, in its entirety, the 1956 Elvis Presley debut album that’s made this list at No. 55. Young Man was released concurrently with a 2-CD Legacy Edition of the expanded Vic Anesini remasters of Elvis Presley and its just-months-later follow-up, Elvis, minus the box set’s remaining bonus material. Young Man and the Elvis Presley Legacy Edition are the most recent, and perhaps most definitive, editions of Elvis Presley, but they’re not the last word about the album on CD. Its original domestic issue (RCA PCD1-5198, 1985) was supplanted in 1999 by an edition including singles as bonus tracks (RCA 07863 67735-2) and new remastering, though this edition raised the ire of collectors by altering the track listing and sequence. A 2005 DSD remastering by Kevan Budd restored the proper album sequence, with the bonus tracks at the end of the disc (RCA 82876-66058-2). A gold disc was released by RCA itself in 1995. RCA’s 1996 Elvis ’56 (RCA 07863 65135-2) was an early predecessor to Young Man with the Big Beat, containing many of Elvis’ 1956 recordings including much of Elvis Presley. Young Man contains all of the tracks on both Elvis ’56 and the 1999 CD. The only related Elvis Presley tracks not on the Young Man box set can be found on the deluxe reissue of Elvis Presley from the mail-order/Internet-only Follow That Dream label. FTD’s 2006 expansion (8287686160-2) was remastered by Kevan Budd and includes not only the original album and the six singles, but an interview and over an entire disc’s worth of session material. For true devotees of Elvis Presley, the FTD issue and the Young Man box are both essential.
54. Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland (Reprise, 1968)
Electric Ladyland, originally released in October 1968, is the third and final album of new material by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the only one of the band’s albums produced by Hendrix himself. A sprawling psychedelic double-album, it touched on all aspects of Hendrix’s musical personality, from heavy rock to blues, soul and funk. Hendrix’s majestic cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” joined his own psychedelic originals, including both “Voodoo Chile” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” as well as “Crosstown Traffic” and “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland).” The U.S. edition on Reprise Records topped the charts for two weeks, and it was almost as successful in the U.K., where it reached No. 6 on the album chart. Still one of the guitar god’s most beloved and enduring albums, Electric Ladyland has been reissued with frequency.
Whereas Reprise controlled the Hendrix catalogue in the U.S., Polydor had the rights overseas. Both Polydor and Reprise (W2 6307-2, 1987 and 1990) initially released the catalogue on CD (reportedly from second generation tapes) then remastered the titles using the controversial “NoNoise” method. Alan Douglas supervised another edition for MCA Records remastered by Joe Gastwirt (MCAD-10895, 1993), and although the tape used is still a matter of debate, NoNoise wasn’t applied. When the newly-formed Experience Hendrix concern took over the catalogue, yet another remastered edition was released on MCA (MCAD-11600, 1997), this time from the original tapes and again without NoNoise (though some audiophiles took exception to the limiting applied by George Marino and Eddie Kramer on these releases.) The Experience Hendrix series recently moved from Universal to Sony’s Legacy division, and the Kramer/Marino remaster was reissued in a deluxe edition with a bonus DVD (Legacy 88697 62164-2, 2010) containing a 12-minute mini-documentary.
Next stop: the ground floor at the birth of soul! Hit the jump!
53. Ray Charles, The Birth of Soul: The Complete Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Recordings 1952-1959 (Rhino/Atlantic, 1991)
The makings of a Genius were never more apparent than on this 3-CD compendium of Ray Charles’ finest early R&B recordings as made for the Atlantic Records label. The Birth of Soul (Rhino/Atlantic 82310-2) may be the cornerstone of what we consider soul music today. “I Got a Woman,” “Hallejulah, I Love Her So,” “Night Time is the Right Time,” “What’d I Say”…most of Charles’ most earth-shattering songs are here, and these paved the way for his continued successes at ABC (“Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Unchain My Heart”). But whereas those tracks embraced so many strains of American music, from country to orchestral pop and jazz, Charles’ Atlantic years as heard on Birth of Soul are pure, raw, unvarnished, untamed rhythm and blues. Unfortunately, this all-killer, no-filler box set is out of print, but it was superceded by Rhino’s immense 8-CD Pure Genius: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1952-1959 (Rhino/Atlantic 74731, 2005) collecting everything on Birth of Soul (albeit some tracks in different mixes) and much more.
52. Al Green, Greatest Hits (Hi Records, 1975)
It’s rare that a greatest hits compilation is so well-curated that it becomes a classic album in its own right, but that’s certainly the case with Hi’s 1975 selection of Al Green’s Greatest Hits. On the face of it, Greatest Hits is just that, bringing together such classics as “Let’s Stay Together,” “I’m Still in Love with You,” “Tired of Being Alone” and “Here I Am (Come and Take Me).” Taken as a whole, though, Green’s Greatest Hits is a smoldering primer on love and loss, Southern soul-style. Green and producer Willie Mitchell combined the deep soulfulness of Memphis with the sexy, smooth grooves that were dominating the charts (often from Philadelphia!) into one seductive, earthy whole. Capitol’s CD reissue of Greatest Hits (The Right Stuff/Capitol 7243 8 30800-2, 1995) added five bonus tracks culled from the second LP of Green’s best. In 1998, DCC Compact Classics released its Gold CD edition (GZS-1125) along with a remastered vinyl edition (LPZ-2058). Capitol went back to the well in 2001 for an advanced resolution DVD-Audio version, with all fifteen tracks remixed into surround sound (The Right Stuff/Capitol 72438-30800-9-0), and again in 2005 for a CD/DVD version (09463-82041-2); the CD was standard, but the bonus DVD contained five performances spanning the period between 1972 and 2004. Both the DVD-A and CD/DVD editions are now out-of-print and commanding high prices on the secondhand market. In 2007, the 15-track album was expanded by a further six tracks for the 21-track Definitive Greatest Hits (Capitol 09463-82041-2-1) which was also issued in a CD/DVD combo with the same bonus DVD as on the 2005 version. Most recently, a 2009 issue came back to the very beginning (a very good place to start, no?) when Fat Possum acquired Green’s catalogue at Hi Records. The Fat Possum CD (1135-2) contains only the lean, original ten tracks that formed Greatest Hits back in 1975.
51. Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water (Columbia, 1970)
Bridge Over Troubled Water, the final studio album by the duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, has taken on almost mythical status over the past 40+ years. Upon its release, it was greeted by commercial and critical plaudits upon its release, not to mention six Grammy Awards and three Top Ten singles. But its greatest measure of success may simply be the way that “When you’re weary, feeling small…when tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all” can still gently reassure one in need, whether sung by Art Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Clay Aiken, Annie Lennox, Neil Sedaka or the Jackson 5, just to name a few of the diverse artists who have tackled Simon’s grandest musical statement.
Bridge arrived earlier this year in a compelling 40th Anniversary edition (Columbia/Legacy 88697 82724-2) containing the original album on one CD plus a bonus DVD with two documentaries, The Harmony Game (a “making-of” film) and Songs of America (a controversial 1969 television special starring the duo.) Though the 40th anniversary edition, remastered by Vic Anesini, is the definitive reissue, Legacy’s 2001 expanded version (Columbia/Legacy 495084-2) offers demos of “Bridge” and “Feuilles-O” that were both, alas, dropped from the 40th anniversary edition. This expanded version is also included in Simon and Garfunkel’s Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970 box set, also released in 2001 (Columbia/Legacy 63815). The album was previously available from Columbia as a standard CD (CK 9914, 1985) and also as a MasterSound Gold Disc (Columbia CK 64421, 1995). Both of those issues contain only the original track line-up. Numerous international editions also exist, including a 2009 Japanese “Blu-Spec” CD which is playable in all standard CD players. The 40th anniversary edition is a must-have for the video content, but the 2001 remaster fits the bill for a great-sounding expanded reissue!
Coming on Monday: perhaps the most diverse assortment yet! John Coltrane goes spiritual, the Allman Brothers Band jams at a legendary New York venue, Little Richard hits the scene and Bob Marley proves he has the stuff of a “Legend.” Plus: does it take a nation of millions to hold back Public Enemy?