Posts Tagged ‘Big Country’

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The Rolling Stones  –  On Air

On Air is a collection of rarely heard radio recordings from The Rolling Stones formative years. The songs, including eight the band have never recorded or released commercially, were originally broadcast on bygone UK BBC shows such as Saturday Club, Top Gear, Rhythm and Blues and The Joe Loss Pop Show between 1963 and 1965. These flashbacks offer an insight into the band as a vital and constantly surprising live unit. Such was the frequency with which they visited BBC studios in the 60’s, the group constantly set out to offer listeners something different. As well as songs that never appeared on singles or albums, there are seven tracks that were debuted over the airwaves before featuring on albums or EPs.

The group’s take on familiar R&B staples like Roll Over Beethoven, Memphis, Tennessee and Beautiful Delilah (all originated by Chuck Berry) illustrate the verve and energy the Stones regularly brought to their live shows. The BBC would urge them to perform their current singles, and while happy to do so they also relished the opportunity to showcase a fuller picture of their prowess as Britain’s foremost blues outfit, packing clubs and ballrooms night after night.

Among the tracks, first heard ringing out of transistor radios over a period of just under two years, is Come On, the group’s debut single and also the first number laid down for the iconic Saturday Club, hosted by the late, legendary Brian Matthew. Other highlights include the strutting Fannie Mae(originally recorded by bluesman Buster Brown in 1959), Tommy Tucker’s Hi Heel Sneakers, and Bo Diddley’s Cops And Robbers. Nestling among the illustrious and well-chosen cover versions, are raw and vibrant renditions of Stones Jagger / Richards originals, such as (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, The Last Time and The Spider And The Fly in a form closer to the thrilling immediacy of the band’s live shows than on vinyl. These recordings bring the listener as near as possible to the excitement of the era without actually being there in person. If last year’s collection of new recordings of past masters Blue and Lonesome presented the Stones returning to their roots after more than 50 years, On Air is the perfect “sister” compendium, a lovingly curated and restored treasure trove that puts the listener front and centre in the eye of the original storm. To help recapture the spirit of the songs when they were first performed, the tapes have gone through a process called “audio source separation”, which involved de-mixing the transcripts and allowing engineers at Abbey Road access to the original instrumentation and voices within each track, so that they could be rebuilt, rebalanced and remixed to achieve a fuller, more substantial sound. The end result is the Stones at their most passionate and intense, transporting listeners back to the band’s lean and hungry years when their standing as household names was already assured, and global domination was just 12 bars away.

The variety of radio shows from which the material is compiled is testament to the special relationship the Stones had with the BBC from the very beginning of their recording career. The music speaks for itself, but ‘On Air’ also serves as an important historical artefact, and an essential of the group’s impressively evergreen canon. On Air offer a unique insight into the formative days of The Rolling Stones a few years before ‘The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’ became a reality this was a band playing the music they loved so much – Blues, R&B, Soul and even the odd country song. Performing these songs night after night in clubs and dancehalls meant they are all honed to perfection and performed with the genuine love and affection that The Stones have for their musical heritage.

The Rolling Stones’ On Air marks the first wide release of any of the band’s live BBC sessions, recorded during the beginning of their storied career.  An audio companion to the recently published book of the same name, On Air features a bevy of tracks recorded between 1963, when the group appeared on Saturday Club just months after the release of their debut single, a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On,” and 1965, when the band returned to the show armed not only with more great blues and soul covers but a new original, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”  Available in 1CD and 2CD formats, as well as a 2LP vinyl edition (which replicates the contents of the 1CD version).

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Muddy Waters  –  Electric Mud

Third Man Records reissue of Muddy Waters’ fifth studio album Electric Mud, which comes as a continuation of Third Man’s partnership with Universal Music Group and the Estate of Muddy Waters. The album, which Chess originally released in 1968 has not seen a legitimate domestic vinyl release since 2002, despite its enormous influence on generations of blues rockers. It features members of Rotary Connection as Muddy’s backing band and was very controversial upon its release for its fusion of electric blues with psychedelic elements. The album is now recognized as a forward-thinking classic, sampled extensively by artists like The Black Keys and Gorillaz.

Van Morrison  – Versatile

Van the man releases his 38th studio album Versatile, which arrives less than three months after the singer released his 37th studio album Roll With the Punches. While Roll With the Punches, found Morrison reinterpreting the work of blues and soul legends like Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley and Little Walter, Versatile sees the Irish crooner shifting to jazz standards like George and Ira Gershwin’s A Foggy Day and They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You and Unchained Melody, popularized by the Righteous Brothers. Like Roll With the Punches, the covers are interspersed with Morrison originals; the singer penned seven new songs for Versatile, including an arrangement of the traditional Skye Boat Song.

For his second studio album of the year, Van Morrison has turned to the classics.  Versatile features six Morrison compositions alongside jazz vocal standards and other legends of the Great American Songbook.  Of the six Morrison-penned songs, three are originals and three have been previously recorded: “I Forgot That Love Existed,” “Only a Dream,” and “Start All Over Again” – on Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Down the Road (2002), and Enlightenment (1990), respectively.  Flautist Sir James Galway appears on the new Morrison song “Affirmation.”

Neil Young and Promise of the Real  –  The Visitor

In addition to new single Already Great, the 10-track album The Visitor also includes Young’s patriotic Children of Destiny, which the rock legend surprise-released on July 4th. Young recorded that song at Hollywood, California’s famed Capitol Studios alongside Promise of the Real – led by Willie Nelson’s son Lukas – and a 56-piece orchestra; in total, 62 musicians played on the track. The Visitor, also arrives less than a year after Young released his solo Peace Trail in December 2016; earlier that year, Young and Promise of the Real unleashed their double-disc live LP Earth.

Neil Young with the band Promise of the Real for his latest studio album on the same day that he opens his online archives for business.  Songs like “Already Great,” “Fly by Night Deal,” and “When Bad Got Good” show Young as fiercely political and fiery as ever.

U2  –  Songs of Experience 

U2 return with their hotly anticipated new studio album Songs of Experience. Recorded in Dublin, New York and Los Angeles, Songs of Experience was completed earlier this year with its subject matter influenced by Brendan Kennelly’s* advice to Bono, to “…write as if you’re dead”. The result is a collection of songs in the form of intimate letters to places and people close to the singer’s heart: family, friends, fans and indeed himself. Songs Of Experience is the companion release to 2014’s Songs Of Innocence, the two titles drawing inspiration from a collection of poems, Songs of Innocence and Experience, by the 18th century English mystic and poet William Blake. Produced by Jacknife Lee and Ryan Tedder, with Steve Lillywhite, Andy Barlow and Jolyon Thomas, the album features a cover image by Anton Corbijn of band-members’ teenage children Eli Hewson and Sian Evans.

U2 is garnering acclaim for this newest studio album, a follow-up to 2014’s Songs of Innocence.  

Wilco, A.M. / Being There

Wilco revisits its first two albums this week.  A.M., the band’s 1995 debut, is expanded on 1 CD or 2 LPs with eight previously unreleased bonus tracks, including “When You Find Trouble,” the last track recorded by Jeff Tweedy’s previous band, Uncle Tupelo.  The band’s sophomore double album, Being There, morphs into a 5-CD or 4-LP box set by pairing the original album with a disc of 15 unreleased outtakes and alternates plus a clutch of live material recorded in Los Angeles just after the release of the original album. (The vinyl includes a radio set for KCRW-FM, while the CD box has that, plus a lengthy show recorded at The Troubadour a day before that appearance, on November 12th, 1996.)

Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols: 40th Anniversary Edition

UMG revisits the long out-of-print 2012 Super Deluxe Edition of The Sex Pistols’ album in a smaller format still boasting 3 CDs which include the original studio album with 1977 B-sides, a disc of outtakes, and one disc of live material. A DVD has 1977 footage of the band playing live from the infamous boat party held on the River Thames, London, the Winter Gardens, Penzance in Cornwall and the Happy House, Stockholm, Sweden.  A 48-page booklet rounds out the set.  Available today in the U.K., and next Friday in the U.S.

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The Skids  –  Scared to Dance

Deluxe Expanded Edition of the debut album by The Skids. Originally released in March 1979 the album spent ten weeks in the UK National Charts, eventually peaking at No.19. The hit singles Sweet Suburbia (No.70), The Saints Are Coming (No.48) and Into The Valley (No.10) are all featured. This three CD edition contains the original album expanded with nine bonus tracks, a second disc with 12 previously unreleased 1978 studio demos (long sought after by collectors of the band) and a third disc with the complete show from a late `78 show at the legendary London Marquee from which the B-side T.V. Stars (Albert Tatlock!) was taken. Each disc comes in its own cardboard wallet and is housed in a clam shell box featuring original album artwork. A 20-page booklet contains lyrics to the album, pictures of all relevant singles and detailed liner notes.

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Hater  –  Red Blinders

Rough Trade Shops top tip.You can imagine John Peel’s hurriedly inaccurate summation of a cold and unforgiving Swedish winter as he juxtaposes the big-jumper-like welcoming warmth of Hater. Their lush and tempered guitars are an almost Marr-approved Smiths-like foil for Caroline Landahl’s beautifully accented and accentuated vocal – it’s a heartwarming brew. Hater are new to the game. Last year’s well-received debut album, You Tried earned comparisons to Alvvays, The Pretenders and even Jefferson Airplane, eclectic for sure, but that’s just incidental. Their new EP distinguishes their very own super polished and intricate guitar-led dreamy pop. Featuring their first single for Fire, the wonderfully forlorn and truly lovesick Blushing (we’ve all been there) and Rest with its haunting monosyllabic guitar break, a super-clean chiming motif that seems like a closing salvo before it regains momentum and brings proceedings to a suitable climax, welcoming back Landahl for one last chorus. The echoey eeriness of Red Blinders could have come right out of the bubble blowing indie pop hey days of the early ‘80s, while Penthouse is a chunkier c86 groove with a wind blowing through its motorik rhythm.

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The Lovely Eggs  –  Cob Dominos

Repressed on their own Lovely Eggs imprint. Described as unhinged, strange, bizarre, cuckoo and howling mad; but with a growing army of fans including Radio One’s Huw Stephens and Art Brut’s Eddie Argos you’d be crazy not to fall in love with their underground grunge-pop sound. Inspired by everyday life, coupled with a fierce ethos that music should be about magic and art and feeling and fun, the Lancashire duo have more in common with writer Richard Brautigan and artist David Shrigley than they do with their musical peers.

Big Country, – We’re Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998)

One of the Scottish alt-rock group’s lesser-known periods is examined in this band-approved 5CD set of recordings of live shows across the U.S. and Europe during their second decade.

Other Re-Issues Releases This Week on Vinyl and CD

Suicide – The First Rehearsal Tapes – Superior Viaduct
Olafur Arnalds – Eulogy For Evolution – Erased Tapes
Bob Dylan & The Band – The Basement Tapes – We Are Vinyl
Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood – We Are Vinyl
The Specials – The Specials – Chrysalis
Special AKA – In The Studio – Chrysalis
Tom Waits – Glitter & Doom Live – Anti
Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained – Silver Lining
Andy Human & The Reptoids – Kill The Comma 7″ – Emotional Response
Protomartyr – Under  Color Of Official Right – Hardly Art

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Formed out of the ashes of Scottish punk band Skids by their guitarist Stuart Adamson, Big Country became one of the biggest British alternative rock bands of the 1980s, with a huge reputation as a live band to rival the likes of U2 and Simple Minds.

After their initial success with a string of albums on Mercury Records, Big Country continued throughout the 1990s with new albums on a variety of labels, playing as ever around the world to their devoted fanbase. Sadly, Stuart Adamson’s untimely death in 2001 closed a chapter on Big Country’s story forever…

“We’re Not In Kansas” pays tribute to the tour de force that was Big Country were in the Nineties, with recordings of five live shows released officially for the very first time and with the full blessing of the band.

The new box set We’re Not In Kansas (The Live Bootleg Box Set 1993-1998) (Cherry Red CRCDBOX43) seeks to fix this, offering fans a handsome, band-approved chronicle of a worthy era.

The story of Big Country up to the time covered in We’re Not In Kansas goes like this: the quartet, featuring ex-Skids guitarist Stuart Adamson on vocals and guitar, guitarist Bruce Watson, bassist Tony Butler and drummer Mark Brzezicki, hit the U.K. Top 10 with singles like “Fields of Fire,” “Chance,” “Wonderland” and “Look Away” during the early-to-mid-’80s; the hopeful, ringing guitars of “In a Big Country” gave the band a taste of American success, too. But by the late ’80s, consistent hits were harder to come by, with the Peter Wolf-produced Peace In Our Time (1988) a particular misstep, overly reliant on middle-of-the-road pop production. Brzezicki left the group at decade’s end, but served in a session capacity on the fraught 1991 follow-up, No Place Like Home, which turned out to be the band’s last major-label effort. 1993’s The Buffalo Skinners saw the trio go back to basics – effective, guitar-driven melodies coupled with fiery lyrics in praise of the hopes and dreams of the working class – and the ensuing tour found the classic lineup whole once more. The full band continued for two more albums and a final tour in 2000, one year before Adamson took his own life after a prolonged battle with alcohol abuse and depression.

Included on this 5CD set are selections from six different shows: a gig at Minneapolis’ First Avenue in 1993, right after the release of The Buffalo Skinners; an acoustic theatre show at the University of Stirling in the band’s native Scotland from 1994; two shows from the summer of 1995 (an electric performance at Glasgow’s Tower Records store and an acoustic one in Rotterdam) in support of that season’s seventh album Why The Long Face; a portion of a 1998 acoustic set in the group’s hometown of Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland (recorded at Tappie Toories, a pub run by Adamson and his second wife); and a final cover of The Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” from a 1995 set.

For a band so known for electric guitar tones, the presence of so much acoustic material here is a particular treat. (As John Gouveia writes in his liner notes, the band’s first acoustic appearance at an American show in 1993 was in fact out of necessity, after the venue’s power failed before the group took the stage.) The songs retain their power even without their distinctive solos, and at a time when “unplugged” shows were in fashion, it ceretainly fits the mood of the day.

Indeed, “In a Big Country,” “Chance” and “Look Away” don’t lose much power when de-amplified, nor do newer tracks like “We’re Not In Kansas,” “All Go Together” and “Ships.” And both acoustic and electric sets from the same tour have enough unique songs among them: the First Avenue set includes powerful renditions of Buffalo Skinners cuts “What Are You Working For” and “Pink Marshmallow Moon,” while the Stirling set features a gorgeous, quiet take on Steeltown (1984) closer “Just a Shadow” and a slowed-down “One Great Thing,” one of the fine singles from The Seer. The electric set at Tower Records in Glasgow is more devoted to then-new selections from Why The Long Face, like “You Dreamer,” “I’m Not Ashamed” and “Send You.” Meanwhile, the acoustic Rotterdam show (punctuated by some interesting interactions between Adamson and the audience during the set) features some of those same tracks alongside the hits you’d come to expect.

Of particular note across the entire set is the presence of exciting covers. The quartet, eager to experiment on stage and nod to their musical influences, tackle tunes by Neil Young (“Hey Hey, My My,” “Rockin in the Free World”), Blue Oyster Cult (“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”), The Miracles (“Tracks of My Tears”) and even a fun, faithful acoustic take on the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You.”

If there’s one caveat to the material on We’re Not In Kansas, it’s that is very much an official bootleg. These aren’t soundboard-quality recordings by any means, and even the better of the audience recordings tend to flutter quite a bit in the headphones. For some, that may drop it down from “must hear” to “fans only” status – which is a shame, as it’s not only good material, but packaged far better than any unofficial release. Cherry Red put each disc in its own cardboard wallet, accompanied by a fine booklet with band photos and a new interview with Butler and Watson – all in a compact clamshell box.

We’re Not In Kansas may not appeal outside of Big Country’s fan base, but if you’re part of that base, you should absolutely check it out. Adamson’s tragic passing means we only have Big Country’s music and memories to commemorate him as a frontman – and, speaking wholly from personal experience, his music has uplifted me long and far enough to consider any opportunities to hear him on record. The output of Big Country, as heard on We’re Not In Kansas, feels like home to those who feel that familiar lift whenever those guitars ring out. And you know what they say: there’s no place like home.

Across these various in-concert recordings, which have previously been available only on elusive, under-the-counter bootlegs, you’ll hear a band touring to promote their most recent albums The Buffalo Skinners (1993) and Why The Long Face (1995), with live sets which often climaxed with impassioned cover versions of ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ (Blue Oyster Cult), ‘My, My, Hey Hey’ and ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ (both Neil Young) and ‘Tracks Of My Tears’ (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles).

Founder members Bruce Watson and Tony Butler have been interviewed for the Q&A sleeve-notes, which document a fascinating and largely undocumented period in the band’s history.

Also included, as one would expect, are rousing versions of many of their evergreen hits – ‘In A Big Country’, ‘Look Away’, ‘Chance’, ‘Wonderland’, ‘Peace In Our Time’ and ‘King Of Emotion’.

Track List:

DISC ONE:
MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. LOOK AWAY
4. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING FOR
5. CHESTER’S FARM
6. WONDERLAND
7. PINK MARSHMALLOW MOON
8. SHIPS
9. LONG WAY HOME
10. ALONE
11. THE ONE I LOVE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

DISC TWO:
(MINNEAPOLIS 6/11/93)(continued)

1. CHANCE
2. LOST PATROL
3. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
4. HEY HEY, MY MY

GLASGOW TOWER RECORDS 23/06/95
5. YOU DREAMER
6. LOOK AWAY
7. I’M NOT ASHAMED
8. ONE IN A MILLION
9. SEND YOU
10. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
11. HEY HEY, MY MY
12. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD

DISC THREE:
STIRLING 29/4/94

1. ALL GO TOGETHER
2. HARVEST HOME
3. KING OF EMOTION
4. LOOK AWAY
5. THIRTEEN VALLEYS
6. ONE GREAT THING
7. WINTER SKY
8. LONG WAY HOME
9. SHIPS
10. THE STORM
11. EVERYTHING I NEED
12. RIVER OF HOPE
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
15. COME BACK TO ME

DISC FOUR:
STIRLING 29/4/94 (continued)

1. PEACE IN OUR TIME
2. IN A BIG COUNTRY
3. CHANCE
4. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
5. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER

ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95
6. INTRODUCTION BY MARK
7. ALL GO TOGETHER #1
8. ALL GO TOGETHER #2
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. SHIPS
12. I’M NOT ASHAMED
13. JUST A SHADOW
14. LONG WAY HOME
15. THE STORM
16. THIRTEEN VALLEYS

DISC FIVE:
ROTTERDAM ROTOWN 28/08/95 (continued)

1. DON’T FEAR THE REAPER
2. WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS
3. IN A BIG COUNTRY
4. PEACE IN OUR TIME
5. FOUND OUT ABOUT YOU
6. ROCKIN’ IN THE FREE WORLD
7. CHANCE
8. TRACKS OF MY TEARS

TAPPIE TOORIES (1998)
9. YOU DREAMER
10. LOOK AWAY
11. CHANCE
12. IN A BIG COUNTRY

TUNBRIDGE WELLS HIGH ROCKS 09/06/95
13. DAYDREAM BELIEVER