Summer is as good a time as any to get people's attention with remastered and, often times, expanded editions of CDs. Some of
my personal favorite discs have gotten the remade/remodeled treatment, while some others that are bound to find an audience have
also been reissued.
Two of my personal favorite mid-1980s releases, the EP Afoot and the full-length album Cypress, by legendary producer Mitch
Easter's band Let's Active have been reissued in a remastered single-disc edition Cypress/Afoot (Collectors' Choice). First released
in this format in 1989 on IRS (Let's Active's initial major record label), the remastered version contains both original bonus tracks,
'Grey Scale' and 'Two Yous,' as well as Let's Active's trademark Southeastern, college radio, indie pop songs such as 'Easy Does,'
'Lowdown,' 'Blue Line,' and 'Every Word Means Know.'
One of the most influential punk bands of the 1980s, the songs of X seem to have an eternal shelf life. Remastered/expanded
editions of the band's seminal first three albums—Los Angeles, Wild Gift (both on Slash/Rhino), and Under The Big Black Sun
(Elektra/Rhino) were released a couple of years ago, and with the band hitting the road for a tour, deserve to be heard now more than
ever. Additionally, the band's next three albums, More Fun In The New World, Ain't Love Grand and See How We Are (all on Elektra/
Rhino), were more recently reissued in remastered and expanded versions. The combination of Exene's blasé, yet emotionally
infused, vocals and John Doe's nasal growl, backed by the rapid fire playing of Billy Zoom and D.J. Bonebrake on 'Johnny Hit and
Run Paulene' (from Los Angeles), 'We're Desperate' and 'When Our Love Passed Out On The Couch' (from Wild Gift), set the
standard for what was to come. There is no way that the mournful songs of loss on Under The Big Black Sun could have prepared
listeners for the brilliant political punk pop of More Fun In The New World (including 'The New World,' and the amazing 'I Must Not
Think Bad Thoughts' and 'Make The Music Go Bang'). The heartbreak of Ain't Love Grand, X's most straightforward rock and roll
album (including high points such as 'Watch The Sun Go Down' and 'I'll Stand Up For You') and the new beginnings (including Tony
Gilkyson replacing original guitarist Billy Zoom) of See How We Are (featuring the unforgettable title track and '4th of July') are the
perfect punctuation marks for this set.
Don McLean paid a touching tribute to his influences in his lengthy and legendary song 'American Pie,' which, in 1972, was an
eight and half-minute musical history of rock and roll up until that time. The remastered and expanded American Pie (Capitol/ EMI)
features the title track in all its glory along with the other McLean standard 'Vincent' (a/k/a 'Starry Starry Night'), among others.
Formed within a year of each other Simple Minds and Spandau Ballet are two bands whose individual sounds and styles evolved
enough to lead to commercial success. Simple Minds had been in existence and recording for six years before they topped the charts
in 1985 with The Breakfast Club soundtrack selection 'Don't You Forget About Me.' That song was a far cry from the progressive post-
punk art rock of newly digitally remastered and reissued albums such as Life In A Day, Reel To Real Cacophony, Empires And Dance
and Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call (all on Virgin). There are hints of what was to come on Simple Minds' trio of albums
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84), Sparkle In The Rain and Once Upon A Time (also all on Virgin). However, as quickly as chart-
topping success arrived, it departed even faster, as the albums that followed, including Street Fighting Years and Good News From
The Next World failed to build on Jim Kerr and company's hard-won momentum.
My first memory of Spandau Ballet was during the short-lived New Romantic music scene (which also gave us Duran Duran,
Classix Nouveau and others), and dancing to their song 'To Cut A Long Story Short' at a club called Spit in Boston. That memory was
shattered when, a few years later, in 1983, Spandau Ballet mellowed into a blue-eyed soul unit and actually had a chart-topping hit
with the ballad 'True.' The 20th Anniversary Enhanced Edition of True (Chrysalis/Capitol) puts the emphasis on 'enhanced' with a
photo gallery, home video footage and the music video of 'Gold,' among other treats.
The year 1983 was definitely the year for corny pop music. In addition to the arrival of the unstoppable force known as Madonna,
Lionel Richie also achieved his greatest chart success with his second solo album, Can't Slow Down (Motown), which is now
available in a double-disc deluxe edition. It's impossible to listen to this album without hearing the influence of Michael Jackson's
1982 record-breaking album Thriller. You can hear it in the title track, a rip-off of 'Wanna Be Starting Something.' Richie redeems
himself with his mega-hit 'All Night Long (All Night),' although it still sounds like a Quincy Jones production. Richie's strength
remained in balladry and with hugely popular, but sickeningly sweet, songs such as 'Hello,' 'Penny Lover' 'Stuck On You,' to name a
few, he didn't disappoint. The bonus material consists of 7' and 12' single remixes as well as a second disc made up of demos,
alternate takes, 'working masters & session jams.'
I bought my first Warren Zevon album, Excitable Boy, when it was released in 1978. It remains one of my favorite albums. I
eventually completed my Zevon collection, including all of his Asylum albums, but found my interest waning following the release of
Sentimental Hygiene (Virgin), his first album on Virgin, which has been reissued with 24-bit digital remastering and a couple of bonus
tracks. The 1987 album has some great songs, such as the title track, 'Boom Boom Mancini,' 'Reconsider Me,' the hilarious 'Detox
Mansion' (which finds him raking leaves with Liza), and the heartbreaking 'The Heartache. It wasn't until 2000's Life'll Kill Ya that I
reignited my interest in and appreciation of this gifted songwriter and distinctive vocalist.
Zevon's songs have been covered by a variety of artists. The late Nick Drake has also had his songs covered by several
performers, including Andy Bey ('River Man') and Ashley MacIsaac ('Cello Song'). One listen to the reissues of Drake's essential first
three albums—Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon (all on Island)—and it is easy to understand why it is that people want
to sing his small, but stunning, oeuvre.
The deluxe, double-disc, expanded edition of Dirty (Geffen) by Sonic Youth is a festival of feedback and blistering tunes. From the
aural assault of '100%' and 'Swimsuit Issue' to the punk blues of 'Shoot,' the NYC garage of 'Sugar Kane,' and the song you love to
hate, 'Youth Against Fascism,' to mention a few, Sonic Youth lived up to their name. Bonus material includes b-sides and rehearsal
recordings, stretching to fill out two discs.
After releasing more 'hits' collections than one might think necessary for an artist who only recorded a handful of albums for a
label, the tasteful and thorough two-disc set The Complete MCA Studio Recordings (MCA/Chronicles) does a splendid job of
collecting Nanci Griffith's four MCA discs in one place. Covering the period of 1987 through 1991, the albums Lonestar State Of Mind,
Little Love Affairs, Storms and Late Night Grand Hotel are probably the most daring releases of Griffith's career. In her post-Philo-folk
years, Griffith worked the new country angle on Lonestar (featuring her rendition of 'From A Distance,' which pre-dated Bette Midler's
by a few years) and Love Affairs (with 'Outbound Plane'), and then leapt into more straightforward pop, even including synthesizers
on some tracks on Storms (with Griffith's full-fledged hit single 'It's A Hard Life Wherever You Go') and the lush Late Night Grande
Hotel. Griffith fans should be aware that this collection contains two previously domestically unreleased tracks.
Yelling At Mary (Y&T Music) by Mary Karlzen, originally released on Atlantic Records in 1995 (a time when the label had a
remarkable roster of female artists including Jill Sobule, Melissa Ferrick, Julianna Hatfield, and a new singer/songwriter named
Jewel), is getting a much deserved second chance in an expanded reissue. I remember writing about how much I enjoyed the disc
when I first reviewed it upon its release and the good news is that Karlzen's songs stand the test of time. With an impressive roster of
guest musicians (Letters To Cleo's Kay Hanley, Los Lobos's David Hidalgo, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Kenny Aronoff of
Mellencamp's band, and Jackson Browne) and catchy songs such as 'Everybody's Sleeping,' 'Stronger,' 'I'd Be Lying,' 'Wooden
Man,' and 'Anywhere Is Better Than Here,' to mention a few. Among the six songs is a cover of 'Kill The Birds,' a song written by the
band For Squirrels.