Holiday Gift Guide 2012
Discs worth slipping in a gift box
From pioneer punks to a giant of soul
Published: November 21, 2012
Drawing from his early-to-mid-'70s sensibilities, his voice is persuasive as ever, even if the overwrought mid-'80s production sometimes derails things.
Highlights abound, including the title song and "Whatever Happens," which would've snuggled cozily on any Withers album.
This compact box includes the albums packaged as mini-LPs with original art, each wit judicious mastering that retains the glorious sound of the master tapes, and a 40-page booklet with essays and song facts. It's a complete study of a fascinating career, a collection of albums that shows how a working class Joe handled fame, love, Hollywood, racism, gratuitous self-promoters and ugly, false prophets, all in song. —Art Rambo
Never Mind the Bollocks (two-disc deluxe CD)
Oasis' Noel Gallagher calls Never Mind the Bollocks the greatest record ever made. His point that it killed everything that came before it and changed everything that came after it — from graphic design to music to fashion to art to film to the music business etc. — is valid. Thirty-five years later, and stripped of context, the 12 songs on Never Mind the Bollocks refuse to age. The songs have the harmonies and progressions of great pop music and the ferocity of four-on-the-floor recordings that stung because they traded in taboos; the album isn't the sound of kids discovering their power, like the Who on Live at Leeds, this is the sound of a band in full command of its power. And they were barely in their 20s. No wonder it scared the shit out of so many people.
NMTB taught the world that anger has an unwieldy power when it's conveyed in ironic orotundity and sing-a-long choruses. Johnny Rotten wrote "God Save the Queen" and "Anarchy in the UK" when he was all of 20, and it's hard to imagine anyone had the wit, sophistication and insight to pull those words off with such awareness of time and place. You can't finger a more accurate, articulate and ironic mass-appealing dismissal of not only a music scene, but also the milieu of an entire country — social, political, sexual, cultural and otherwise. Is it any wonder the album, which rose from what author John Savage called a true avant-garde movement, altered the course of culture and music in 1977 and beyond?
After demoing songs with various producers (and getting booted off EMI and A&M records), producer Chris Thomas (Roxy Music, Pink Floyd, Pretenders) helped the band create its power-chord wall-of-sound, and rock 'n' roll swagger. Rotten was quoted as saying that Thomas added so many guitar overdubs, and never bounced them down, it left one track for him to do his vocals, which he completed in quick takes.
The Thomas-Pistols combination was a perfect one. Paul Cook was a gifted drummer who locked in on swing and groove, which allowed Steve Jones the air and space to give his incessant chording a kind of sexual tension, just like any good rock 'n' roll, from Chuck Berry to T. Rex. And while Rotten was a gifted writer for many reasons, and he referenced Captain Beefheart and the New York Dolls here, has anyone ever pointed out that on "Bodies," the Pistols ode to abortion, he lifted tone, melody, and the word "Body" from Alice Cooper's "Black Juju"? He was a phenomenal singer too, as you can even hear on disc two of this set — a live show captured in Stockholm, Sweden, in July '77 — holding down pitch and rhythm while chaos falls around him.
When the Pistols hit Yankee shores, their intricacies and ironies were lost on American kids. The media squashed their message down to shock-you soundbites, and the shenanigans of a scared junkie bass player, barely 21-year-old Sid Vicious. The band quickly became parody, splitting up in San Francisco, January 1978, never making it back home as a unit.
This two-disc set features the album re-mastered for the first time from the long-misplaced original master tapes, and it's sonically all there. The set also collects the single B-sides, "No Feelings," "Did You No Wrong," the studio version of the Stooges "No Fun," and "Satellite," all great ditties that could've easily made it to the album. The classic lost Pistols tune "Belsen Was a Gas" is omitted though, instead available on the more expensive super deluxe NMTB sets and let the swindle continue. –Art Rambo
Release date Nov. 27
On Dec. 10, 2007, Led Zeppelin reformed for the third time since it initial breakup, except this time it was different. The previous two occasions, at Live Aid and at an Atlantic Records birthday bash, the band was just not up for it. At the O2 Arena in London five years ago though, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones, plus Jason "son of John" Bonham, looked like men possessed as they revisited their history for what looks likely to be one last time. Yes, this writer was fortunate enough to have been there, and there was nothing about that historic concert that wasn't spectacular. "Ramble On," "Misty Mountain Hop," "Black Dog," "Whole Lotta Love," even "Stairway to Heaven," and especially "Kashmir" all sounded immense. Thankfully, the whole thing has been captured for posterity and is being released in time for the holidays. There's a glorious deluxe pack too, featuring two CDs and two DVDs, the latter including rehearsal footage and news clips. For those of us that were lucky enough to be there (18,000 ticket applications out of 2 million were successful), this can't come soon enough. For the many that weren't, this is a chance to view history from the comfort of your own home. Essential viewing and listening. –Brett Callwood
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