Many of this year's finest box sets came courtesy of the Rhino label. Here, Joe and Randy take a look at a few more of our favorites! First up are Randy's three picks...
First up is Rhino's 25th anniversary 3-CD/1-LP Super Deluxe Edition of Stone Temple Pilots' Purple. Initially hitting shelves on June 7, 1994, the band's sophomore album would debut atop the Billboard 200 and stay there for three weeks, eventually becoming the group's second best-selling album after their debut effort, Core, from 1992.
The STP line-up of Scott Weiland (lead vocals), Dean Deleo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (bass, backing vocals) and Eric Kretz (drums) remained the same for the first 24 years of the group's existence. Their second album kept the basic songwriting collaboration as the first with Weiland writing the lyrics to all tracks and DeLeo providing the music with the rest of the group occasionally co-composing. While the heart of the sound is still very much in the prevalent grunge sound of the 1990s, STP began to expand their musical palette on Purple. For instance, "Interstate Love Song" started as a bossa nova/Burt Bacharach-influenced piece of music. Both that and "Vasoline" would prove to be the two biggest hits from the LP. Each is representative of Weiland's lyrical style for the album: dark and personal, and in these cases, dealing with his ongoing addiction to heroin. "Vasoline" topped the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart for two weeks, only to be pushed out by "Interstate Love Song," which remained there for another at-the-time record 15 weeks.
Rhino's new edition of Purple follows the basic template of the previous 25th anniversary edition of Core with a remastered original album on CD and vinyl and a disc of bonus tracks and another of live material. Purple is slightly less expansive, with only one live disc and no DVD as in the Core reissue. Disc 2 has 12 tracks, a full 11 of which are previously unreleased. (Only their cover of Led Zeppelin's "Dancing Days" from a tribute album has been heard before). Seven tracks trace the development of the album with two "early versions," four demos and two acoustic versions. Not all of the versions are incredibly different, but it is enlightening to hear the band refining the songs. Of special interest is the cover of The Beach Boys' "She Knows Me Too Well." Weiland was a fan of '60s and '70s pop and rock and they were working as this as a possible B-side. It was never finished but it is in a vein you are not used to from the group. Similar to that is their version of Vince Guaraldi's "Christmastime is Here," one of three tracks included from a live Christmas show on radio station KROQ. The final song is an acoustic take of "Interstate Love Song" from 2000.
Disc 3's previously unreleased live show is from New Haven, Connecticut on August 23, 1994. The seventeen songs performed are a mix of selections from Core, Purple and two covers: Woody Guthrie's "Gypsy Davy" and David Bowie's "Andy Warhol." The Bowie cover actually brings to mind some tracks not in this collection. A different live version of the song was a bonus track on Japanese editions of the album and there are a couple of other live tracks issued as B-sides missing.
This new version of Purple is housed in a LP-sized package and includes a 12 page booklet at LP size featuring a new essay by Billboard's Gil Kaufman discussing the genesis of the album. Also included are photos and lyrics, some matching those from the original LP package. The original album remastering by Dan Hersch sounds good on both the CD and vinyl. It would be well worth the time of STP fans to add this new 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of Purple to their collection. They should not be disappointed.
Next is Rhino's 3-CD/1-DVD Deluxe Anniversary Edition of Hootie & The Blowfish's debut album. Released on July 5, 1994, cracked rear view would go on to become the bestselling album of 1995 - and one of the bestselling albums ever, with over 21 million copies sold. The album would have five singles released, three of those making it to the top 10 of the Hot 100 ("Hold My Hand," "Let Her Cry" and "Only Wanna Be With You"). But Hootie & The Blowfish was an unusual success story. The band consisting of Darius Rucker (lead vocal, rhythm guitar), Mark Bryan (lead guitar, backing vocals), Dean Felber (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Jim Sonefeld (drums, percussion, backing vocals) had been around since the mid-1980s touring colleges and smaller venues. (Only Sonefeld was not an original member, joining in 1989). During their early days, they self-released several cassette EPs. It seemed like they were not going to break through until Atlantic A&R rep Tim Sommer heard them and signed them to the venerable label. And even then their success was not assured as their mix of REM, John Mellencamp and folk did not go along with the prevailing grunge sound of groups like, say, Stone Temple Pilots.
Cracked rear view is comprised entirely of original compositions written by the band. The majority had appeared on their self-released EPs and they were re-recorded under the direction of producer Don Gehman in a week of recording sessions in March, 1994. The songs deals mainly with love lost, with some like "Drowning" and "I'm Goin' Home" tackling hatred and death. But despite some of the downbeat subject matter, the tracks are filled with catchy hooks and an underlying bit of fun. The result certainly captivated audiences, leading to the massive success of the album and its singles.
Rhino's new anniversary box adds two other CDs of material to the original album. Disc 2 contains 20 tracks, kicking off with the previously unreleased "All That I Believe" from the album sessions. The next four songs were also recorded during the album sessions but were primarily covers and excluded from the album and later released as singles. One of these, "I Go Blind" (a cover of a song by Canadian band 54-40) became a hit when it was included on a Friends soundtrack. Next, you'll hear Hootie performing "Hey, Hey What Can I Do," a Led Zeppelin cover from a tribute album (the same album the STP Zeppelin cover on their reissue was taken from). The disc then moves onto the group's self-released pre-Atlantic efforts Hootie & The Blowfish, Time and Kootchypop in reverse chronological order. The songs are not terribly different from the eventual Atlantic versions, but there are some sonic variations, and it is interesting to listen to the songs they decided not to include on cracked rear view. A couple of live tracks and edits from singles of the time have been excluded, but nothing too major.
Disc 3 presents a mostly previously unreleased concert from February 3, 1995 at Nick's Fat City in Pittsburgh, PA. Three of the songs from this show were included on contemporary singles. As the group had been performing these songs for so long even before the album, the sound here is not too different but it is good to hear the live vibe. Most interesting are the covers including Bill Withers' "Use Me," Stephen Stills' "Love The One You're With" and Lennon and McCartney's "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Disc 4 is a DVD presenting a surround mix of the album, a high-resolution 24/96 PCM stereo presentation of cracked rear view and five of the bonus tracks and five music videos. The surround mix does not have a credit but it sounds like (and is presumably) the mix from the 2001 DVD-Audio edition by Mark Howard. If you have the capability, the surround or hi-res versions of the album should be the go-to listening experience.
Produced by Bill Inglot and Susanne Savage, the set is housed in a DVD-style digipak. It contains a 16-page full color booklet featuring excellent essays from Tim Sommer and Peter Holsapple, then a touring musician with the group. The remastering by Dan Hersch is tastefully done. Rhino's new 3-CD/1-DVD 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of cracked rear view is a well put-together and curated look at this hugely popular album. Fans of Hootie & The Blowfish or fans of 90s music overall should not be disappointed if they give this a try.
Going in a different genre direction brings us to the label's new vinyl singles box edition of The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die, also celebrating its 25th anniversary this year The album needs little introduction for hip-hop fans. The Notorious B.I.G.'s (born as Christopher George Latore Wallace) debut has been ranked as one of the greatest rap albums of all time. Released on September 13, 1994, the New York native drew on his own experiences to craft the album with songs concerning crime, drugs, sex and violence with a natural storytelling style in an honest fashion.
Signed by Sean "Puffy" Combs while he was still in A&R at Uptown Records, The Notorious B.I.G. would record the first part of Ready To Die in 1993. When Combs was fired and founded Bad Boy Records, B.I.G. would follow and record the rest of the album with more commercial material after the darker songs at the earlier session. The move worked and Ready would become a hit with fans and critics. The album would eventually be certified several times Platinum and the two singles became hits: "Juicy" (No. 27 Hot 100/No. 14 Hot R&B Singles/No. 3 Hot Rap Singles) and "Big Poppa" (No. 6 Hot 100/No. 4 Hot R&B/No. 1 Hot Rap Singles). A third song from the album, "One More Chance," was released the next year as a single and became the biggest hit of the three, hitting No. 2 on the Hot 100 and climbing to the peak on the Hot R&B Singles and Hot Rap Singles Charts. It was, however, a heavily remixed and reworked version of the original. The popularity of the album led to the rise in prominence of the East Coast rap scene and would lead to the East Coast-West Coast rap feud which would eventually take B.I.G.'s life on March 9, 1997. He was murdered in a drive-by shooting amid rumors that he was involved in Tupac Shakur's death in 1996. The Notorious B.I.G. was 24 at the time of his death and would not live to see his second album released in late March, 1997.
For this 25th anniversary box set, Rhino has presented Ready to Die as a series of eight 45s, most containing two songs. (One single has three songs due to the 17 tracks on the album). A ninth single contains the bonus tracks "Who Shot Ya?" (B-side to "Big Poppa") and "Just Playing (Dreams)" (first released on a promotional single in 1993). Both tracks have been included on previous reissues. All tracks are the original mixes from the album. No single remixes have been utilized. The vinyl 45s are each colored white, red or black, matching the color-scheme of the original album. Each comes in a heavy paper black-and-white sleeve with the Bad Records logo. The 45 labels are also black-and-white. The discs come housed in a magnetically-sealed "cigar-style" box. A 16-page full-color booklet is included with a 4-page essay from journalist Kathy Iondali and select track-by-track notes by producers Easy Mo Bee and Chucky Thompson who worked on the album. No new remastering has been done for this release. The remastering credits are from the 2004 reissue. The box is limited to 3,500 copies.
At the end of the day, this is a very nice collectable and tribute to Ready To Die. If you are new to the album and have it in no other format, this might not be for you. Having to flip over a vinyl after every track does not make for the best listening experience. But if you are a big fan of The Notorious B.I.G. and Ready To Die, this is certainly a handsome package to own.
And here are Joe's three reviews!
Rhino recently announced a 2-CD Deluxe Edition of Bad Company's 1979 album Desolation Angels, coming on January 10. But if you're looking to introduce a rock fan in your life to the band's collected works, you might want to first check out the 6-CD box set The Swan Song Years 1974-1982, released earlier this year.
Housed in a clamshell case, it includes the six albums recorded by the first lineup of the band, all of which were originally issued on Led Zeppelin's Swan Song label:
- Bad Company (1974) (2015 remaster)
- Straight Shooter (1975) (2015 remaster)
- Run with the Pack (1976) (2017 remaster)
- Burnin' Sky (1977 (2017 remaster)
- Desolation Angels (1979) (2019 remaster); and
- Rough Diamonds (1982) (2019 remaster).
Each album has been remastered from the original analogue multi-track tapes, including newly remastered versions of Desolation Angels and Rough Diamonds. (The remaster here of Desolation Angels will be utilized for the upcoming Deluxe Edition, which adds nine previously unreleased cuts including the outtakes "Rock Fever" and "Smokin' 45" and alternate versions of other album tracks. Note that a different version of "Smokin' 45" premiered on 1999's The Original Bad Company Anthology.) The 2015 and 2017 remasters heard on The Swan Song Years were previously issued on expanded editions of each title; the bonus discs have been dropped for this back-to-basics set which presents the original album sequences only.
The Swan Song Years captures the prime era of the supergroup formed by vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke of Free, guitarist Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople, and bassist Boz Burrell of King Crimson. All six albums in the box set were international successes, with Bad Company, Straight Shooter, Run with the Pack, and Desolation Angels attaining platinum or multi-platinum status in the United States. The set boasts the original album versions of hit singles including "Can't Get Enough," "Movin' On," "Good Love Gone Bad," "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Young Blood," "Honey Child," and "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy."
The discs are all packaged in mini-LP replica sleeves, with four presented as gatefolds. Straight Shooter, Burnin' Sky, Desolation Angels, and Rough Diamonds all have additional illustrated inserts. All discs have replica Swan Song labels. Following the folding of the Swan Song label in 1983. Bad Company regrouped in 1986 on Atlantic Records with Ralph and Kirke from the original lineup; the duo would remain with the group for six more albums (four with lead singer Brian Howe and two with Robert Hart in that capacity). Perhaps those albums will form the basis of a second Bad Company box set. Paul Rodgers returned in 1998 for three additional stints, the third of which began in 2008 and continues through the present day. The group hasn't recorded a new studio album, however, since 1996.
While those who already own the Rhino expanded editions won't find anything new in The Swan Song Years 1974-1982, this simple and effective box set makes for a fine introduction to the hard rockers' still-powerful legacy of bold and anthemic rock-and-roll.
Over the years, rock bands of every stripe have introduced orchestral elements to varying degrees of success. Rush can definitely be considered in the successful camp. In 2012, the long-running trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart (together since 1974) released their nineteenth and final studio album, Clockwork Angels. It debuted at No. 1 in Canada and No. 2 in the United States, reminding fans of the continuing relevance of the innovative Canadian prog band. A fully-fledged concept album bringing to life lyricist Peart's dystopian steampunk story in twelve songs (or chapters), Clockwork Angels drew on such disparate literary influences as Voltaire, Daphne Du Maurier, and Cormac McCarthy. To bring the dramatic, diverse music composed by Lee and Lifeson to life, Rush enlisted a string ensemble. While Rush had previously featured side-long, conceptually linked pieces, Clockwork Angels was its first album to tell a complete story at full length. With its success, the band decided to take it on the road - strings and all. The result is the Clockwork Angels Tour album. Released on CD as 3-disc set in 2013, it's recently been brought to vinyl by Rhino and Roadrunner Records in a box set of 5 LPs.
Rush elegantly conceived the tour's setlist to please both the fans looking to hear classic favorites and those willing to experience the band's latest work. The concert as presented here (recorded in Dallas, Phoenix, and San Antonio) opened with a ten-song set featuring just Lee, Lifeson, and Peart, taking up almost three full sides of vinyl. They drew on material from Signals (1982), Grace Under Pressure (1984), Power Windows (1985), Hold Your Fire (1987), Roll the Bones (1991), and Snakes and Arrows (2007) for their opening set before bringing on the nine-piece string ensemble conducted by David Campbell as accompaniment for most of Clockwork Angels.
The epic shows continued with further cuts from Grace Under Pressure, Roll the Bones, Moving Pictures (1981), and Permanent Waves (1980). ("Red Sector A" and the instrumental "YYZ" both were enhanced by the string section, as well.) Where to go for an encore? Rush provided their final salvos of the evening with "Tom Sawyer" from Moving Pictures and a suite from 2112 (1976), the lone concession to the band's 1970s output. Clearly, Rush had never forgotten how to be forward-thinking, and indeed, progressive.
This stellar document of the Clockwork Angels tour retains the four bonus tracks on the original CD: a soundcheck performance of "Limelight" plus "outtakes" of "Middletown Dreams," "The Pass," and "Manhattan Project" (the latter with strings). The fifth vinyl LP has the bonus tracks on one side; the other side boasts etchings of the Clockwork Angels symbols for each song (as depicted on the original album's artwork). All of the vinyl LPs, pressed on quiet 180-gram vinyl, are housed in black protective sleeves.
The lift-off lid box set also contains an eight-page booklet with Ray Wawrzyniak's liner notes, photographs, and credits. Last but not least, the set contains a download code for high-resolution files of each track. Clockwork Angels Tour is a high-quality souvenir of an adventurous tour from a beloved band.
One of the year's most fun vinyl sets comes from Pasadena's favorite sons, Van Halen. Between 1978 and 1984, the group featuring Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and lead singer David Lee Roth released thirteen singles in Japan. Only eight of these thirteen singles mirrored their U.S. counterparts in content; the others were unique releases for Japan drawing on the same six albums released during that period. (The Japan-exclusive singles are "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" b/w "Running with the Devil"; "On Fire" b/w "Jamie's Cryin'"; "Dance the Night Away" b/w "Spanish Fly"; "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" b/w "Spanish Fly"; and "Unchained" b/w "So This Is Love?".) Now, replicas of those hard-to-find original 45s have been collected in the new vinyl box set The Japanese Singles 1978-1984 from Rhino and Warner Records.
A single of "You Really Got Me" b/w "Atomic Punk," released as in the U.S., opens the set. The Kinks' klassic isn't the only cover here; the Japanese market also got the U.S. A-sides "(Oh) Pretty Woman" and "Dancing in the Street" featuring Van Halen's inimitable takes on Roy Orbison and Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. The Orbison song and the band-penned hit "I'll Wait" are both featured here in single versions (matching the U.S. single versions) while "Hot for Teacher" is heard in a unique Japanese edit. All of the other singles are identical to the album versions. As of 1982's "(Oh) Pretty Woman" b/w "Happy Trails," the Japanese singles echoed their American counterparts, so smashes like "Panama" and the chart-topping "Jump" are, naturally, here.
Rory Wilson's design for the box is exemplary. Each single has been lavishly presented within the hardcover case (the top opens up in the manner of a cigarette pack). A sturdy clear plastic jacket includes a sheet replicating the vintage Japanese picture sleeve, with the rear artwork reprinting the back cover (typically the lyrics in Japanese and in an English translation). The 45s themselves are in a paper sleeve also contained within the plastic jacket, and each 45 bears a custom black Van Halen label. A new insert lacks liner notes but has credits and discographical annotation for each single. While there is no mastering information, the sound is faithful to the band's aggressive and freewheeling style.
A standard black vinyl version is available from all retail outlets while Rhino.com is offering a limited edition with each single pressed on red vinyl; that version is limited to 750 copies. While flipping over thirteen consecutive discs might not be many fans' preferable way to hear these songs, much of the fun of The Japanese Singles 1978-1984 is the immersion into that country's artwork for each single, an experience which couldn't be replicated as successfully on CD or digital platforms. The Japanese Singles 1978-1984 is an enjoyable romp with the raucous rock-and-rollers through some of the late seventies' and early eighties' most memorable songs. Dancing the night away to this set is a definite possibility.
All of the above titles are available now at the following links:
Stone Temple Pilots, Purple: 25th Anniversary Edition [Various Formats]
Hootie and The Blowfish, Cracked Rear View: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition [Various Formats]
The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die: 25th Anniversary Vinyl Box Set
Available exclusively through Rhino.com