Welcome to Part 14 of our look at the many reissues of the 100 greatest albums of all time, as selected by Rolling Stone in 2003! We’ll explore the various versions of these classic albums on compact disc, letting you know which audio treasures can be found on which releases. In today’s group, we meet a guitar-playing alien, bring it all back home with Bob Dylan and his Band, and let it bleed with Mick and Keef!
35. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (RCA, 1972)
The story of Ziggy Stardust is all there in the song:
“Ziggy played guitar, jammin’ good with Weird and Gilly/The spiders from Mars, he played it left hand/But made it too far/Became the special man, then we were Ziggy’s band. Ziggy really sang, screwed up eyes and screwed down hairdo/Like some cat from Japan, he could lick ’em by smiling/He could leave ’em to hang/Came on so loaded man, well hung and snow white tan…”
David Bowie embodied his titular character on his stunning 1972 breakthrough LP, and played the androgynous alien to the hilt. A very loose concept album (Quadrophenia, this ain’t!), Ziggy wrapped crunchy hard rock riffs and atmospheric orchestration around what might have been Bowie’s strongest collection of songs yet. On such mini-rock operas as “Suffragette City,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Hang Onto Yourself” and “Five Years,” Ziggy was joined by the searing musicianship of his Spiders from Mars: Mick Ronson (guitar, pianos, string arrangements), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Mick Woodmansey (drums).
Despite gaining stature over the years as an iconic album of the glam era, Ziggy Stardust only reached No. 75 in the U.S. (it scored significantly better in the U.K., peaking at No. 5). Ziggy was eventually certified platinum and gold in the U.K. and U.S., respectively. “Starman,” selected as the album’s single, reached No. 10 in the U.K., but echoing the album’s placement, it only managed to make it to No. 65 on the U.S. chart. Still, Ziggy has been released numerous times in the compact disc age.
Its earliest domestic CD issue came from RCA in 1984 (PCD1-4702) and the tasteful sonics on this release make it a desirable pressing. When Rykodisc acquired the Bowie catalogue, Ziggy was rolled out with five bonus tracks (RCD-90134) in 1990: demos of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Lady Stardust,” the outtakes “Velvet Goldmine” (also the B-side of the 1975 reissue of “Space Oddity”) and “Sweet Head,” plus an unreleased mix of “John, I’m Only Dancing.” The Bowie catalogue changed hands again near the end of the decade, and the new remasters from Virgin/EMI deleted the bonus tracks from each title. Hence, 1999’s EMI issue (7243 521900 0 3), as remastered by Peter Mew, contains only the original album line-up. Three years later, EMI unveiled a deluxe 2-CD edition of the seminal album (7243 5 39826 2 1) for its 30th anniversary, but the remastering on this set proved controversial. The left and right stereo channels were reversed on the original LP sequence, and some of the songs (“Hang On to Yourself,” the bridge between “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”) were clipped. Its second disc contains twelve tracks, many of which had been previously released by Rykodisc and spread among their 1990–92 reissues. Each of the five bonus tracks from the Rykodisc CD appears, albeit some in different form. (“Sweet Head,” for instance, features extended studio chatter at its beginning.) A stereo and multi-channel hybrid SACD (07243 521900 2 7) was released concurrently. As usual, Japan has kept busy with Ziggy reissues, offering a 2007 vinyl replica edition (TOCP-70144) and a 2009 SHM-CD (TOCP-95044). Bowie’s back catalogue is reportedly up for grabs once more. Chances are, yet another label will soon be trotting out a reissue of Ziggy Stardust, just in time for its 40th anniversary!
34. The Band, Music from Big Pink (Capitol, 1968)
In Part 12 of our series, Mike covered The Band, the eponymous 1969 follow-up to the group’s debut, Music from Big Pink. Though few groups would have the audacity to name themselves The Band, that’s exactly what Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel did. Big Pink was the album where the former Hawks (and former Bob Dylan backing band) crystallized the sound that spawned a thousand imitators, returning rock to its most stripped-down American roots.
The Band worked its magic in the house that lent the album its title. “Big Pink,” a pink-colored house in West Saugerties, New York, was the same home where Bob Dylan and the Band created the legendary “Basement Tapes” demos, which introduced songs like “The Mighty Quinn” into Dylan’s catalogue. The bard of Hibbing, Minnesota was a major presence on Big Pink. He co-wrote two of its tracks (“This Wheel’s on Fire” with Danko and “Tears of Rage” with Manuel) and wrote one solo (“I Shall Be Released”), and even contributed the album’s cover art! Yet by the time of the album’s release, it was clear that The Band could step out of the master’s shadow, with a unique and original voice that was the perfect antidote to the FM hard rock sounds starting to proliferate. Although Robbie Robertson’s “The Weight” only managed No. 63 on the singles chart, the song has become a part of the American pop standard songbook. The album itself got as far as No. 30.
It’s no surprise, then, that Music from Big Pink has been the recipient of quite a few reissues. Initial standard CD releases of Big Pink (Capitol CDP 7 46069 2, 1988) and the Mobile Fidelity Gold CD pressing (UDCD-527, 1989) featured the original 11-track album sequence, but Capitol rewarded Band fans in 2000 with a deluxe edition as part of its series of expanded Band remasters. The 2000 Big Pink (Capitol 7243 5 25390 2 4) boasted a generous nine bonus tracks! A DVD-Audio (Capitol 72434-77939-9-8, 2001) released around the same time offered the album in advanced resolution surround sound as well as stereo. Japan got into the act in 2004 with a mini-LP replica (Capitol TOCP-67391) and in 2009, Mobile Fidelity revisited the original album on a stereo-only hybrid SACD (UDSACD 2044) in superior sound. A 2011 U.K. edition bundled the album in a 2-CD set with its follow-up, The Band. Surely we haven’t heard the last of Music from Big Pink!
Coming up after the jump: from the Ramones to the Stones!
33. Ramones, Ramones (Sire, 1976)
Hey ho, let’s go! With such words was rock-and-roll poetry made. The Ramones hit the New York scene in 1976 with their self-titled debut on Sire, and three chords never sounded so intoxicating. Despite their unvarnished, simple punk sound and lyrical themes of violence, horror and well, glue-sniffing, the Ramones were pop kids at heart, and Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy celebrated the sounds of surfing and girl groups, just played incredibly fast and incredibly loud! (Among the originals, they even covered Chris Montez’s “Let’s Dance” here!) Songs like “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” and “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” all captured the energy and spirit of the then-burgeoning New York punk scene; the vibrancy and vitality of these tracks has ensured that Ramones remains a touchstone today.
Ramones arrived on CD from Sire in 1987 (6020-2) and had to wait until 2001 for the deluxe treatment, which came courtesy of Rhino (R2-74306). Its eight bonus tracks included the original single version of “Blitzkrieg Bop” plus seven rare demos. (Can you imagine the Ramones in an even less polished setting? YES!) Some had previously appeared on the All the Stuff and More compilation and others on vinyl, but all are appealing. “I Can’t Be” and “I Don’t Wanna Be Learned/I Don’t Wanna Be Tamed” didn’t make the final cut for the album and are particularly welcome. A 2007 Japanese edition was housed in the familiar mini-LP sleeve (Sire/Warner Japan WPCR-12722) and a 2008 disc was released in the SHM-CD format (WPCR-13252).
32. The Rolling Stones, Let It Bleed (Decca, 1969)
Bookended with “Gimme Shelter” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Let It Bleed found The Rolling Stones at the top of their game. The last album to feature Brian Jones and the first with Mick Taylor, the 1969 LP (the band’s eighth British and tenth American studio album) is a seamless collection of tough, often-dark rock and blues that anticipated future albums like Exile on Main St. in 1972. It featured a number of guests, among them Jack Nitzsche, Al Kooper, Doris Troy and Madeline Bell on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” Merry Clayton and Nicky Hopkins on the blistering “Gimme Shelter,” Leon Russell and Bobby Keys on “Live with Me,” and Ry Cooder on a smoking cover of Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain.” Their collective effort was decidedly not in vain, when Let It Bleed topped the British album chart and made it all the way to No. 3 in America.
Each CD reissue of Let It Bleed has featured only the original album sequence, including the 1986 CD issue (ABKCO 80042) and the 2002 hybrid stereo SACD (ABKCO 90042) with its crisply detailed sound. (This edition was subsequently reissued in standard CD format.) Universal Japan has reissued the album numerous times, including in a mini-LP sleeve in 2006 (UICY-93029) and in the SHM-CD format (UICY-90747, 2008). It has most recently been reissued in Japan as a non-hybrid stereo SHM-SACD (UICY-9021, 2010) for those who might have missed the original ABKCO SACD issue.
31. Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia, 1965)
No album better expressed the duality of Bob Dylan than Bringing It All Back Home. His fifth studio album, it was divided into an electric side and an acoustic side, all the better to stir up debate among fans as to which Dylan was the “real thing.” Bolstered by such now-familiar songs as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm” (electric) and “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (acoustic), Bringing It All Back Home was Dylan’s most successful album to date and the first to crack the American Top 10. Audiences didn’t mind that his lyrics were becoming increasingly surreal and further away from their folk-based origins, although “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” was direct and pointed in its rather political outrage.
Bringing It All Back Home arrived on CD in 1987 (Columbia CK 9128) in a typically standard edition. In 2003, a number of titles in Dylan’s catalogue arrived as hybrid SACDs from Columbia (CH 90326); in the case of Bringing It All Back Home, it contained both a stereo and multi-channel program. A non-SACD edition soon replaced this issue (CK 92401). Like all of the titles in Dylan’s catalogue, a deluxe, expanded version has never arrived. A small number of outtakes related to the album, however, have surfaced on various Dylan compilations over the years. There’s more, however, to tantalize fans and collectors, until the day comes when Dylan’s classic albums receive the Legacy Edition expanded treatment. If you’re looking to bring it all back home in mono, look no further than Dylan’s 2010 box set The Original Mono Recordings (Columbia/Legacy 88697 76105-2).
Tomorrow: Mike’s got the blues as well as Blue, plus: Who’s Next? It just might be U2, and a British supergroup!