Revisiting Past Glories Department:
That the original 1963 Live At The Apollo became legendary (as opposed to simply great) was due, at least in part, to the knowledge that it was little more than a sketchily edited snapshot of the entire concert, and we salivated for the complete experience. Which we eventually got, and them some: with all the fucking amazing live Brown that’s been released over the years (I’m partial to the recent reissue of James Brown Live at the Garden, which was actually recorded at a club in Jersey, and is the most shriekingly intimate live JB ever), this assortment of highlights from four Apollo shows (’62, ’67, ’71, and ’72) feels a bit thin by comparison. As a sampler, it does offer a taste of the never-released ’72 set (overdue for complete issue), but the whole point of a James Brown show is a kind of total immersion that’s not really on offer here. That’s not to say it isn’t genius; it’s just genius-lite.
I’m not always fond of those kitchen-sink anthologies, dumping every scrap that can be found from a beloved artist into a big box of disks; I’d rather see something intelligently curated. But given the sparse recording history of Big Star, 2009’s 4-disk Keep An Eye On The Sky had a lot to recommend it, expanding our picture of the classic “cult” group. After that, it’s not surprising that there weren’t more bits and pieces laying around, and this soundtrack for the new Big Star documentary film from Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori unearths no new delights, mostly alternate mixes of familiar favorites like “Thirteen,” “Ballad of El Goodo,” and “O My Soul”; it looks like the well of outtakes and undiscovered gems has run dry. The film will certainly be a must, and this album is probably a better buy for newbies than Keep An Eye On The Sky was, but you can still get #1 Record and Radio City together on mp3 download for under ten bucks. But one way or another, as a certain Mr. Westerberg once said, you really don’t want to travel too far without a little Big Star.
Commemorative releases of classic albums being all the rage, here’s the bittersweet legacy of Duane Allman’s demise: his band’s breakthrough and biggest hit, and the album which ensured that, so long as bro Gregg was willing to drag himself up onstage, the legacy would continue, no matter how many Brothers would come and go over the years. The remastering of the main album is a little bright, lacking something in richness. Dickie Betts is a brilliant guitarist, but he doesn’t’ foster the intrinsic fascination that we would have with unreleased bits and bobs from a one-of-a-kind genius like Duane Allman, so disk 2 isn’t something I’d expect to return to often. Disks 3 and 4 represent the first complete release of a 1973 show at Winterland; vintage live Allmans, of which there’s already a fair amount available: it’s an excellent runthrough of the expected setlist, though somewhat attenuated without the dual guitar lineup . Doubtless there’s plenty more where this came from.
These two disks were recorded at three concerts (in London, Toronto, and New York) in honor of the late Kate McGarrigle (and, as with the Big Star release, are from the soundtrack of an upcoming film), and while most of these songs were crafted for the exquisite harmonies of Kate and her sister Anna, the surviving family does Kate proud: Rufus and Martha kick things off with a soaring “I Am A Diamond,” and are joined along the way by Anna McGarrigle, and Sloan Wainwright (though not, significantly, by Kate’s ex, Loudon Wainwright) , on gorgeous songs like “Tell My Sister” (also offered in a lovely performance by Peggy Seeger), “Prosperina,” and “All The Way to San Francisco,” while Rufus’ solo turns on “Southern Boys” and “Walking Song” are some of the finest vocal work he’s offered in years. The guest list is pretty amazing, too, with, among others, Antony (sweet and sad on “Go Leave”, and mind-bendingly entwined with Rufus on “I Cried For Us” ), Norah Jones (on what is possibly Kate’s best-known song “Talk to Me of Mendocino”), Teddy Thompson, Emmylou Harris (leading dazzling harmonies on “Heart Like A Wheel”), and a delicious reunion between Richard and Linda Thompson on “Go Leave.” Produced by Joe Boyd, who also assembled the concerts that became the Nick Drake tribute, Way To Blue, the recordings are clear and vivid. Trust me: your new favorite song is somewhere on here.
Other Notable 6/25 Releases
American Ride, Willie Nile
Bosnian Rainbows, Bosnian Rainbows
Deceiver of the Gods, Amon Amarth
Garcialive 2: August 5th 1990 Greek Theater, Jerry Garcia Band
The Hidden World Revealed, Three O’Clock
Let Us In: Americana Plays the Music of Paul McCartney, Various Artists
Live in NYC, Jane’s Addiction
One True Vine, Mavis Staples
Rescue & Restore, August Burns Red
Soft Will, Smith Westerns
Sound The Alarm, Booker T
Vol. 3-Club Life: Stockholm, Tiesto