Album reviews: Reissue roundup part 1

Album reviews: Reissue roundup part 1

Throughout the year, I reviewed some reissues (notably Gene Clark’s magisterial No Other and Prince’s colossal 1999). Here’s a few I missed along the way—more to come next time.

James Brown

Live at Home With His Bad Self (UMG)

James Brown returned to play his hometown of Augusta, GA, in 1969, planning to release the show on an album. A few tracks showed up on 1970’s Sex Machine, but Brown shelved the live release, possibly because his band quit shortly after the show (and what a band, including Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, with Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks on drums). Through old hits like “Try Me” and contemporary singles like “Mother Popcorn,” they take every corner blazingly and flawlessly. Live at Home is indispensable, relentless James Brown. [9.3]

39 Clocks

Next Dimension Transfer (Tapete)

The first two albums by Germany’s unjustly obscure 39 Clocks—the rudimentary and completely cool Pain it Dark (1981) and Subnarcotic (1982)—sound like a missing link between The Troggs and early Jesus and Mary Chain. Here, Tapete collects those releases plus two more ’80s albums and a brief live set—the Clocks’ whimsy is cloaked in surliness but betrayed by titles like “Stupid Art,” “Beat Your Brain Out,” and “Your Prick Makes Me Sick.” [8.5]

R.E.M.

Monster (Craft)

I’ve always had a soft spot for the oft-maligned Monster, so this was a welcome chance to revisit the season when Michael Stipe got steamy in a dozen different ways between sheets of reverberating, fuzzed-out guitar. Scott Litt’s gauzy production matched Stipe’s sensual mood, and the drier remix included here sounds half-baked next to the spacious remaster. The best moments on Monster are the funkier ones—and even the straight rockers are a little funky—but R.E.M.’s signature weird folkie magic had vanished, and a disc of mostly-instrumental demos shows how conventional its songwriting had become. Meantime, a live show from the massive Monster arena tour likewise underscores that R.E.M. had crossed the Rubicon into unnatural habitats, soon to stumble. [7.3]

Ana Mazzotti

Ninguem Vai Me Segurar, Ana Mazzotti (Far Out)

Azymuth

Demos 1973-1975 (Far Out)

Here’s a trio of ’70s Brazilian recordings from the insanely talented, tragically short-lived Ana Mazzotti along with Azymuth, a pioneering quartet that also backed legends like Jorge Ben, Marcos Valle, and Mazzotti, on these, her only two albums. Caveat: they comprise basically the same tracks, tweaked slightly. But either way, it’s all marvelous bossa-jazz-pop, and it’s crazy Ana Mazzotti isn’t mentioned more often alongside Elis Regina et. al. Meantime, the Azymuth demos, recorded at keyboardist José Roberto Bertrami’s home studio, capture a frisky unit building momentum towards its classic 1975 debut. The songs are barely there, but Azymuth’s vibe—somewhere between Bitches Brew and Katy Lied—is fully-formed, and the jamming is furious. [8.5/8.1/8.5]

https://anamazzotti.bandcamp.com/album/ninguem-vai-me-segurar-1974-ana-mazzotti-1977

https://azymuth.bandcamp.com/album/demos-1973-75-volumes-1-2

Stereolab

Emperor Tomato Ketchup (Warp)

On Emperor Tomato Ketchup (1996), Stereolab rounded the edges on its experimental impulses while accentuating melody, heavenly vocal harmonies, and groove; the result remains a favorite among the band’s hardcore and casual fans alike. On this reissue, there’s also the billowing, unreleased “Old Lungs”; the honking rarity “Freestyle Dumpling”; and a bunch of demos, which include album tracks plus future releases like the spellbinding diptych “Brigitte,” and which are fascinating. They show both how fetching Stereolab’s basic ideas were—“Les Yper Sound” and “Anonymous Collective” suggest a Gallic Young Marble Giants—and how surefooted the band was in fleshing them out. [9.5]

https://stereolab.bandcamp.com/album/emperor-tomato-ketchup-expanded-edition

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