The hits just keep on coming! The latest part 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), features some classic hard rock and soul and a lot of CD pressings (if not as many bonus tracks in this batch). We begin below with one of the heaviest albums of all time!
75. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II (Atlantic, 1969)
Led Zeppelin II is arguably the band’s heaviest and rawest work in studio, in part because it was recorded almost on the run between tour dates. And yet, it never sounded ragged, thanks to a myriad of factors, chiefly guitarist Jimmy Page’s increasing proficiency as a producer and the mixing talents of Eddie Kramer to give the proceedings some consistency. The band’s writing was fresh and spontaneous; song ideas were often born during onstage jams and remembered when it came time to come back in the studio. But when the album kicked The Beatles’ Let It Be out of the top of the Billboard charts, and single “Whole Lotta Love” climbed to the Top 5, it was clear that this wasn’t just dumb luck at play – this was the beginning of a bold new movement in rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin II‘s first appearance outside of its standard LP was a half-speed-mastered audiophile pressing by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 1982 (MFSL 1-065); it was followed up eight years later by the premiere release CD (Atlantic 19127-2) mastered for CD by Barry Diament. Those original CDs were roundly criticized by audiophiles for being mastered not from the original tapes, but from vinyl masters instead. Jimmy Page personally oversaw a remastering of the catalogue with George Marino at Sterling Sound, the final products of which became the basis for several box sets, including the iconic 1990 box set (Atlantic 7 82144-2) and its 1993 sequel (Atlantic 7 82477-2), the 1990 two-disc compilation Remasters (Atlantic 7 80415-2), 1993’s The Complete Studio Recordings (Atlantic 7 82526-2) – which sequenced all the material from the two box sets (including the bonus material) into their original running orders over ten discs. (The LZ II remaster was released on its own in 1994, as Atlantic 82633-2.) These same masters were used for Japanese SHM-CD remasters (Atlantic WPCR-11612, 2003 and WPCR-13131, 2008) that were compiled into another box set in 2008 (The Definitive Collection – Atlantic WPCR-13142; later released on standard CDs in America as Atlantic R2 513820).
74. Otis Redding, Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (Volt, 1965)
With his third album, Otis Redding proved himself a pioneer of soul and a chief architect of the white-hot Stax/Volt sound that’s set music geeks’ hearts aflutter for a half-century. Although much of the material was covers, from The Rolling Stones (“Satisfaction”) and The Temptations (“My Girl”) to B.B. King (“Rock Me Baby”) and Sam Cooke (“Shake,” “Wonderful World,” “A Change is Gonna Come”), that pleading vocal style, coupled with one of the greatest backing bands ever (guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, Isaac Hayes on keyboards and drums from Al Jackson, Jr.), made them sound as original as anything Otis had ever done on record before. And the two originals – the weary “Ole Man Trouble” and the unforgettable “Respect” (later an anthem for another member of soul’s royal family) – are definitive chapters in the book of rhythm and blues.
Otis Blue made its CD debut in 1991, remastered by – as would be custom for many Rhino-friendly titles – Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch at DigiPrep (ATCO 7 80318-2). A gold disc (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 575) followed two years later. Then, in 2008, Rhino expanded Otis Blue in a big way, as a two-disc collector’s set (Rhino R2 422140) that offered both mono and stereo mixes of the album (the latter making its CD debut and featuring alternate versions of some of the tracks on the more widely heard mono version), various alternates and remixes and a host of live material taken in part from several previously available on CD live albums.
From blue, we’re going to black, purple and gold after the jump!
73. AC/DC, Back in Black (Albert Productions/Atlantic, 1980)
It’s a feasible accomplishment to rebound from the acrimonious exit of a band member. But AC/DC lead singer Bon Scott died of alcohol poisoning in the winter of 1980, and his bluesy howl seemed like a difficult sound to replace. That the band – guitarists and brothers Angus and Malcom Young, bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd – could find an able replacement in singer Brian Johnson, could pen a tight, catchy clutch of songs in a few short weeks, record those songs in a fantastic group of sessions helmed by iconic producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange and turn all of that work into the second-biggest selling album of all time is a Herculean effort. The riffs of “Shoot to Thrill,” “You Shook Me All Night Long” and the title track, to name just three, still function as an instantly recognizable shorthand for big, boastful rock.
Given its massive popularity, with some 22 million copies moved in the U.S. alone, it’s no surprise that Back in Black has seen a few releases on CD. Originally released on CD in the band’s native Australia in 1985 (Albert CD 431046), Atlantic first released the album to the format two years later (16018-2). A remaster, overseen by Ted Jensen, followed in 1994 (ATCO 92418-2); that same remaster was one of the five discs in the band’s Bonfire box set (EastWest 62119-2, 1997 – reissued Epic E5K 80218, 2003). When the band’s catalogue changed hands in the U.S. to Epic Records, a new remaster by George Marino was commissioned. It was released twice: once in a new enhanced CD edition with bonus multimedia content in a digipak (Epic 69699 80207-2, 2003) and once the following year as a DualDisc (Epic EN 90828), a double-sided disc with a DVD side featuring the album in LPCM stereo and The Story of Back in Black, a new documentary on the album. (That remaster was also released in Europe in 2008 as a fan pack with a guitar pick, keyring and other non-musical bonus content (Columbia 88697 339939-2).)
72. Prince and The Revolution, Purple Rain (Warner Bros., 1984)
Prince was, from the get-go, a performer with a singular vision. His first few albums, and many thereafter, were produced, recorded, written and performed by himself alone. So it’s interesting, then, that his most valuable touchstone – the Rosetta stone that boils down all you need to understand about The Artist and his future-funk music into nine songs – is the first credited to a band. The members of The Revolution – guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink, bassist Mark Brown and drummer Bobby Z – were an integral part of Prince’s image and mystique, no matter how much of the album’s work was solely his. And the album, every last note on it, is a powerful work, one that leaves you wanting more even though you’ve got so much to enjoy. By the last orchestral chords of the title track, you’ve tapped into something far deeper than rock and roll. You’ve unlocked the door to Prince’s heart and soul itself.
Despite the enduring popularity of Purple Rain – or because of the continued resistance from Prince to remaster and expand his bountiful back catalogue – only two major pressings of the album exist on CD. There’s the one that came out right alongside the film’s release (Warner Bros. 9 25110-2), and a Japanese SHM-CD pressing from last year (Warner Bros. WPCR-13535). Rarity hunters will want to seek out The Hits/The B-Sides (Warner Bros./Paisley Park 9 45440-2) for all the flipsides to the 7″ singles (“17 Days,” “Erotic City,” “God” and “Another Lonely Christmas”), as well as Ultimate Prince (Warner Bros. R2 73381, 2006) for the excellent “Special Dance Mix” of “Let’s Go Crazy,” heard in the film’s seven-minute opening number.
71. Neil Young, After the Gold Rush (Reprise, 1970)
The first Neil Young solo album released after the immensely popular Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young LP Déjà Vu earlier that year, After the Gold Rush was oddly ignored by critics in its initial release, despite a clutch of pleasant country-folk tunes like “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and Top 40 hit “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” and an impressive order of personnel that included CSNY’s Stephen Stills and bassist Greg Reeves, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and – though he had never played keyboards before – a young guitarist named Nils Lofgren on keys.
Gold Rush was first released on CD in 1987 (Reprise 2283-2) and then remastered for HDCD in 2009 (Reprise 517936-2). The remasters would also appear in Young’s exhaustive Archives Vol. 1: 1963-1972 box set (released on eight CDs – Reprise 175292-2 – and as 10 Blu-Ray Discs – Reprise 524165-2).
Tomorrow: two more Led Zeppelin titles, a piano man with a face that you may not recognize, a soul kid grown up and off the wall and the highest-charting soundtrack on this list!