Here is a walk through some of the most interesting vinyl reissues to land on my doorstep in recent months, including a Record Store Day gem to seek out, and a new biography of a rock and roll legend.
Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign (Stax/Craft Recordings)
This reissue of a classic Stax Records blues outing celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late, great Albert King, born April 25, 1923. The title track – recorded, like the rest of the set, with Stax’s equally legendary house band, Booker T and the MGs with the Memphis Horns – was a hit for King and quickly became a standard.
This reissue boasts a classic tip-on sleeve with artwork pasted to heavy duty cardboard, all-analog mastering, 180-gram vinyl and a top quality anti-static inner sleeve.
Rolling Stone included this record in its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and this presentation is worthy of that achievement.
Leon Russell – Signature Songs (Dark Horse)
Released on CD in 2001, this collection of stripped-down versions of some of arranger, performer, singer, pianist, guitarist, producer and composter Leon Russell’s, well, signature songs, is now issued on vinyl for the first time, and on the label started by his old friend George Harrison.
Included are songs like “Stranger in a Strange Land” and “Hummingbird,” as well as tunes he wrote that were big hits for others, like “This Masquerade,” which George Benson rode to the top 10.
These are intimate readings, and sometimes reinventions, of familiar tunes by a guy that was all over the best music of the 1960s and early ‘70s, working with the Beach Boys, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan and countless others. The release is timed to coincide with ...
“Leon Russell: The Master of Space and Time’s Journey Through Rock & Roll History,” by Bill Janovitz (Hachette Books)
Former Buffalo Tom frontman Janovitz has traded his guitar for a pen, writing books about rock and roll and this one seems likely to be his masterwork. Clocking in a just short of 600 pages, Janovitz masterly chronicles the long, diverse, incredible career of Russell, a Tulsa native that performed with everyone who was anyone in the 1960s and ‘70s and landed himself in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Even someone who is not a Russell fanatic – as is the case with me – but is interested in rock history will devour this well-researched, extremely readable look at a unique character in American music.
The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet Record Store Day edition (ABKCO)
I can’t imagine anyone is unfamiliar with this absolute classic, which introduced the world to songs like “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Factory Girl.” Brian Jones’ final album with the Stones, the record was released in the U.S, in a plain, dull substitute for the U.K. sleeve, which depicted a graffiti-laden bathroom (the graffiti is the album credits).
This limited-edition Record Store Day version is packaged in the original U,K. gatefold in all its gritty, ahem, glory, and arrives with a reproduction of an original poster advertising the record. Best of all, the music is pressed into a 180-gram “swirling mass of grey, blue, black and white” vinyl that it simply beautiful. Seek it out, Stones fans!
The Kinks – The Journey Part I (BMG)
At first glance at this double-LP in a gatefold sleeve, you might wonder if the world really needs another compilation of music by The Kinks, but “The Journey Part I,” takes a new approach and, with two planned future sets, will form a six-LP overview of the group’s long, innovative career that began 60 years ago in North London.
It’s not a greatest hits and it’s not chronological. Instead, Ray and Dave Davies and Mick Avory selected these songs based on a theme of their “trials and tribulations of their journey through life together as a band since 1963.” Mixing up the eras and the tracks offers a fresh look at a perennially underrated band and reminds us how they sold 50 million records over the years.
Mastered by the masterful Kevin Gray and pressed on 180-gram vinyl, slipped into archival quality sleeves, with a 12x12 booklet with thoughts on each song by band members, this is a great set. Part 2 is expected later this year, with Part 3, presumably, due next year to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the band’s first LP release.
Art Pepper meets The Rhythm Section (Contemporary/Craft Recordings)
I’m really digging the Craft Recordings tip-on sleeved jazz reissues, like this one. For this 1957 session, West Coast alto saxman Pepper was paired with an ace East Coast trio of pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones (aka 60 percent of the Miles David quintet).
The result – newly mastered from the analog tapes by no less than Bernie Grundman – is so crisp and clean that you can close your eyes and imagine you’re in the room with this stellar outfit.
This is part of the so-called “Acoustic Sounds Series,” celebrating 70 years of California’s Contemporary Records, which will continue on this year with releases from drummer Shelly Manne and others.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.