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Check It Out

Check It Out!: January 9, 2014

Top 10 Classic Artist Reissues – Part II

Paul McCartney & Wings — Wings Over America (MPL Communications Inc./Concord Music Group) — Originally released as a 3-LP set, this 1976 live album vied with Frampton Comes Alive for being one of the decade’s greatest live sets. Twenty-seven years after its initial release, this latest reissue was unleashed in a variety of incarnations including as a Deluxe Edition Box Set made up of 3-CD/1-DVD; the original 28-track album, a bonus tracks disc, DVD of the TV documentary Wings Over the World, 112-page book, assorted memorabilia, 60-page photograph book, 80-page sketch book and download link to all of the material. As for the music, it finds Paul McCartney and this lineup of Wings at its most effective. Coming off the band’s two strongest albums, Band On the Run and Venus and Mars, Macca and company were able to mix great recent material like “Let Me Roll It,” “Picasso’s Last Words” and “Jet” with a decent dose of Beatles fare including“I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Lady Madonna,” and “The Long and Winding Road.”

Donny Hathaway — Never My Love: The Anthology (Atco/Rhino) — One of music’s underrated greats who died far too young at the age of 33, Donny Hathaway was a fabulous talent who emerged from the St. Louis gospel scene and earned a music degree at Howard University. Far more than good friend Roberta Flack’s duet partner, Hathaway was a songwriter, composer, arranger and producer with absurdly soulful pipes; a fact well-documented on this 4-CD set. Despite having recorded only three studio albums, the Chicago native also cut a critically-acclaimed live record along with doing a pair of duet projects with Flack. Disc 1 contains a pair of singles he cut for Curtis Mayfield (two June Conquest duets, the Stax-Volt-flavored “I Thank You Baby” and the lush Philly soul flipside “Just Another Reason.”) The remaining 20 songs cherry pick various Hathaway studio sides that aptly demonstrate the man’s genius. Among the gems are socially conscious originals (the soul-jazz workout “The Ghetto Parts I & II,” and gospel-flavored ear worm “Trying Times”), anthems (the Quiet Storm-like “Someday We’ll All Be Free”) and singular covers of Nina Simone, Ray Charles, Dorsey Burnette and Leon Russell.

Disc 2 is a baker’s dozen of previously unreleased gold that includes Hathaway’s dabbling with country music (the oddly-named “A Lot of Soul”), disco (“After the Dance is Done”), Motown (“Always the Same”) and classical music (the astounding 20-minute plus “Zyxygy Concerto”). Disc 3 are previously unreleased performances from Hathaway’s 1971 three-night stand at Manhattan’s Bitter End that finds him mixing in covers (“Jealous Guy,” “What’s Going On,” “You’ve Got a Friend”) with his own fare (“Little Ghetto Boy,” “Hey Girl”) backed by a crack band of musicians including Cornell Dupree and Willie Weeks. Rounding out this set is Disc 4 comprised of all the Hathaway/Flack duets from the well-known (“Where Is the Love,” “The Closer I Get to You”) to the more obscure (“You Are My Heaven,” “Back Together Again”). Stellar liner notes by UK music journalist Charles Waring make this a complete package.

Steve Earle — The Warner Brothers Years (Shout! Factory)
— By 1993 and 1994, Steve Earle had hit rock bottom — he was a drug addict who’d been arrested for heroin, weapons and cocaine possession. The three Warner Brothers albums in this compilation — Train A Comin’, I Feel Alright and El Corazon — was the start of Earle’s trek down the path of sobriety that continues to this day. Originally released by indie imprint Winter Harvest, 1995’s Train was recorded in five days and found the Texas native mostly revisiting material he’d written in his late teens and twenties by way of bluegrass and old time music arrangements. He also included covers of The Beatles (“I’m Looking Through You”) and Townes Van Zandt (“Tecumseh Valley”). If Train was Earle rediscovering music, his 1996 follow-up I Feel Alright was him addressing his then-recent battles with addiction. It’s in songs like the character at the heart of the rocker “Hard-Core Troubador,” the self-explanatory blues of “Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You” or “CCKMP,” a desolate and vividly painted walk down addiction’s past. Corazon finds Earle walking a more eclectic path, managing to wrangle in a holiday nugget (“Christmas in Washington”), get his honky-tonk on (“The Other Side of Town”) and jam with the Del McCoury Band (“You Know the Rest”) and the Supersuckers (“NYC”). An added bonus for the package is the inclusion of two live performances; the December 1995 show at Nashville’s Polk Theater and the To Hell and Back DVD, recorded in 1996 at Tennessee’s Cold Creek Correctional Facility.

Otis Redding — The Complete Stax/Volt Singles (Shout! Factory) — Cleverly packaged to look like a thick binder of 45s, (remember those?), this 3-CD set is devoid of any liner notes and limited credits save for a page detailing the players on these sessions and a center section featuring life-size pictures of the actual vinyl singles. But that’s okay, because it’s all left for the music to do all the talking from the King of Soul, whose brief career only lasted from 1964 to 1967. Here you’ll find all of the Big O’s singles, both the A- and B-sides, including a couple of holiday releases, plus his singles with fellow Stax Records star Carla Thomas, in the original mono mixes. It’s pure R&B manna.

Dust — Hard Attack/Dust (Kama Sutra/Legacy) — This obscure hard rock trio came out of Brooklyn in the late ‘60s with all three members going on to greater fame. Drummer Marc Bell eventually became Marky Ramone, Kenny Aaronson wound up playing with Stories before becoming a very in-demand session bassist while frontman/vocalist Richie Wise changed gears and joined forces with the band’s manager/lyricist Kenny Kerner to produce the first two Kiss albums. As for this pair of Dust records, the track listing has the 1972 sophomore bow Hard Attack come first. An ambitious outing, it finds Dust using strings (the epic “Thusly Spoken”), mixing in pedal steel (a wistful “I’ve Been Thinking”) instrumentals that fall somewhere between Black Sabbath and early Rush (“Ivory”) and country music balladry (“How Many Horses.”) The trio’s self-titled 1971 debut is a more straightforward, hard rock power trio attack with tinges of prog. “Chasin’ Ladies” could have been a Mountain outtake, “Often Shadows Felt” finds the trio generating a more ethereal vibe punctuated by Bell’s impressive drum rolls while “Goin’ Easy” embraces more of a slow blues arrangement accented by Wise’s slide guitar riffing. It’s all wrapped up by the three and a half minute instrumental rave-up “Loose Goose.”