RUMOURS: DELUXE EDITION Fleetwood Mac (Rhino) *****
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of their masterwork, Fleetwood Mac have given Rumours the royal treatment. Impressive sales figures aside (over 40 million sold so far) I can’t think of another album that deserves such a fuss as much as this.
That this album exists at all is unbelievable. As everyone knows, two couples within the band (John & Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks & Lindsay Buckingham) were going through breakups while Rumours was being recorded. Imagine what that must’ve been like- “I hate the sight of you, now let’s get to work.” As a consequence, this album is full of exposed nerve endings as the feuding couples put all of that raw emotion into the songs. Surely they had no idea they were also crafting a timeless masterpiece.
I have the 3 disc expanded version; the original album with the B-side Silver Springs, a dozen unreleased live cuts from the 1977 tour, and a full disc of unreleased takes from the studio sessions. While the original album is arguably rock & roll’s most perfect record- a work of art really, to be considered like a great painting- the disc of studio outtakes is what makes this package compelling. To hear some of these songs in the early developmental stages while knowing what they would become- talk about peeking behind the wizard’s curtain! In some cases, like Second Hand News or Go Your Way, the demos in some ways equal or even surpass the emotional impact of the finished versions. Last year I dipped into the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here and The Wall Immersion box sets and enjoyable as they were, this is immensely more satisfying.
The disc of live tracks from the 1977 tour is nice to have, but ultimately inconsequential- I prefer being in the studio with the band, where all the shit was going down. As I listen to this set for the 3rd time, I have to marvel at the emotional strength it must have taken to overcome their personal difficulties and pour everything they had into the music, recognizing it as their only hope for salvation. I recognize the sentiment too- in times of emotional turmoil in my own life (divorce, for instance) there is nothing more satisfying than getting lost in work that you love. It doesn’t judge, it doesn’t demand, it just is. Perhaps this is what all 40+ million of us have responded to in Rumours.
When you hit the store to pick this up (only $20 last week at HMV), I highly recommend grabbing the Classic Albums DVD of the making of Rumours too- watch that first, then listen to this. Rumours Deluxe is a deep musical experience.
DISC ONE: Go Your Own Way, The Chain
DISC TWO: Monday Morning, Rhiannon
TEXAS FLOOD (Legacy Edition) Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble (Epic Legacy) *****
The debut album featuring on the best, hottest, most passionate blues guitarists of ANY color finally gets the deluxe treatment. At the risk of being obvious, what’s not to love?
Released in midsummer of 1983, Texas Flood started a wave that’s still rolling today. After seeing Double Trouble at the Montreux Jazz Festival the year previous and jamming with the guys at an incendiary after hours performance in a shitty little club, Jackson Browne invited them out to California to record at his place, if they ever felt the urge. When the trio arrived in their van and while scouting for club gigs to pay for the trip, they set up at Browne’s warehouse and recorded their live show at the time- a mix of originals and blues standards, including Buddy Guy’s Mary had A Little Lamb and The Isley Brothers’ Testify. The rest, as they say, is history.
There are lots of extras in this reissue, stuff that I don’t have- such as the bonus track Tin Pan Alley as well as the previously unreleased live performance at Ripley’s Music Hall in Philly from October of ’83 that makes up all of disc 2. Of all the video I’ve seen of Vaughan in action, two things that strike me are evident here; how hard he leans into each and every note, whether soloing or laying down a series of chords, and how incredibly tight Double trouble are. Yeah Stevie was the ‘star’, but Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton put down the grooves. The band’s musical communication is instinctive, almost preternatural. Vaughan was a great guitarist to be sure, many times recalling his hero Albert King in his playing- but without Shannon and Layton, his star would likely not have shone so bright.
At a time when music was taking a serious detour into the machine made robo-nonsense that much of the 80’s became, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble were a raw blast of fresh air, a kick in the trousers that recorded music sorely needed. If you already have Texas Flood hey, you’re not alone, but get this anyway- the live set alone is SO worth it. I’ll be featuring this package for the full hour on my weekly blues radio show How Blue Can You Get, Sunday February 17th at noon Alberta time at www.953krock.com, just in case you want to check it out before you buy.
TOP TRACKS: DISC ONE: Texas Flood, Pride And Joy, Lenny
DISC TWO: Testify, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
SIX PACK George Kilby Jr. (Top Frog) *** ½
An unexpected rockin’ bluegrass treat from this Brooklyn based/ Alabama grown artist. Making what he calls “rough-cut American music”, Kilby will become one of your best friends in just six songs.
First impression as I put this on to start my day is that he reminds me an awful lot of Ian Tyson- not a bad first impression- with more of a rock beat. Six Pack is 5 original songs plus a bluegrass remake of Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love that works surprisingly well, which in turn reminded me of Luther Wright & The Wrong’s version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. A good song is good song, especially when it translates across genres like this.
Joining George in the studio is his longtime band The Road Dogs, along with various special guests. At first this disc felt like country, but there’s so much more going on in these grooves. Moving gracefully from ‘jamgrass’ to Delta blues, roots rock, folk music and the aforementioned bluegrass, Six Pack is a trippy and friendly little congregation of tunes that I like a little more with each spin. If you like Ian Tyson’s stuff then give this one a spin and you can thank me later.
TOP TRACKS: Sunshine Of Your Love, Love You To Brooklyn
WONDERFUL GLORIOUS Eels (Universal) *****
I’ve been circling this album for more than a week, uncertain of where to land. I know I like it- a lot. I’ve enjoyed Eels’ music since 1995 but haven’t really stayed in touch with it on a regular basis. Wonderful, Glorious is certain to make my ‘best of 2013’ list in 10 or 11 months- it may even claim the top spot.
This record sounds dark and disjointed yet cohesive all at the same time- surely Mark Everett, the one man band that is Eels, is some type of shaman. On the darkly beautiful On The Ropes I thought he’d brought in actor Chris Cooper as a guest vocalist- the timbre, the weary despair in the voice sounded so much like tragic father next door in the movie American Beauty it unnerved me. This isn’t the sound of a rock combo gleefully pounding out 13 songs live off the floor and overdubbing some solos for good measure- Wonderful Glorious is the sound of one man’s musical vision, carefully weighed and crafted, every element placed just where it needs to be. It is these things that irritate me about much of today’s modern pop music, but for some reason it doesn’t here. Everett (Eels) has somehow found his way into my head, and the bastard won’t leave.
Every time I find myself in this old bind, watching the death of my hopes/ in the ring so long, gonna prove ‘em wrong/ I’m not knocked out, but I’m on the ropes That’s how my favorite song on this disc starts out, a mix of despair and hope that speaks volumes to me as does the rest of the record. The title of the album itself is review enough; wonderful, glorious.
TOP TRACKS: On The Ropes, Bombs Away, New Alphabet