The music business always comes up with a new way to celebrate the past. It's a way to get us to buy back our memories and hide the fact that life is passing us by. "Glory Days" as Bruce Springsteen once sang--and probably still does. Except back then he was talking about the past as it was 24 years ago. Now he's got even more ground to maintain.
Over the past few years there have been quite a few albums celebrating their Anniversaries. Speaking of Bruce, he did a fine job with Born To Run on its 30th Anniversary, but so far he hasn't been real quick to do the same for Darkness On The Edge Of Town. Usually, I'd applaud a guy for refusing to cash in on what would be an obvious bonanza, except this time, this is something I wouldn't mind seeing happen. Aside from the less than great CD quality of the original album, there has got to be some great live footage to throw at fans from that 1978 tour. We don't need a documentary about the making of the album. That wouldn't be a bad idea, but if it's going to hold up production, then to hell with it.
Anyhow, lots of albums came out this year allegedly celebrating an anniversary. Some are suspiciously off by a year or two and some didn't seem to need the "Anniversary" tag, as you'll soon see.
While I've put these things in "order," it's hardly a fair way to do anything. Most of these albums are here because they've stood some sort of test of time, so they're not lousy. And, really, trying to decide whether This Year's Model by Elvis Costello is "better" than Love's Forever Changes is not a relevant argument. There often is no "better" when dealing with art. Rankings are for amusement.
And to occasionally annoy a personal friend who has always insisted their opinion is more right than mine. To which I say, maybe it is, but this is MY blog and MY list. Call your mother some time. She'd love to hear from you.It's A Shame About Ray--Lemonheads: Celebrating its 16th Anniversary (?!), this compact little piece of power pop wasn't a bad album. It was plenty short and for all the annoying tendencies of its lead singer and only real Lemonhead, Evan Dando, played as a perfectly pleasant record of the time, smoother than punk rock, rougher than radio pop. The Simon and Garfunkel cover of "Mrs. Robinson" got added to future editions and helped it sell a few more copies. And now it comes with a bunch of extras and a DVD. Because it's 16 years later.
24) Luminous Groove--Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians: This is less an anniversary celebration than a full-on reissue of Robyn Hitchcock's work with the Egyptians, who we know are favorites of our readers here at List Of The Day, since nary does a day pass without someone writing in about them. So, in order for this to qualify for "Anniversary Status," I'm noticing that's it's been 22 years since the release of Element Of Light in 1986 and 15 since 1993's Respect, which includes a song called "The Wreck Of The Arthur Lee," which is listed as the 93rd track on this boxed set, which is obviously a bigger part of a conspiracy that happens in this very blog. Scroll down to see.
22) Destiny--The Jacksons: The Jacksons were once a very popular singing group. Loved more when they counted as five, but nonetheless, an enduring, loving family whose lesser members have been the victims of endless late night talk show punch lines. This 1978 album is coming out in August as a 30th Anniversary Edition. And as you will see further down this list, another Jackson album is celebrating an Anniversary as well. I bet we can all guess which one will get more press and attention.Diesel And Dust--Midnight Oil: Technically a year late for celebrating. Unless we're celebrating the idea that this album is now of legal drinking age. That's right, it's 21 this year. And for anyone who truly believed "Beds Are Burning," you and your pyromaniac act are ready for some bonus material and should probably get good and liquored up. Because you're going to realize how lonely it's gotten out there for Midnight Oil fans.
20) Superfuzzbigmuff--Mudhoney: As I mentioned awhile back when celebrating the year 1988, it's got to hurt for many people to see that Mudhoney's debut EP is now celebrating 20 years of existence. It's like finding out one of your illegitimate children finally doesn't require child support. Damn, I'm going to miss writing that check.Two For The Show--Kansas: In 1978, the RIAA passed a law requiring all eligible bands to record double live albums for their fans. Sure, "Dust In The Wind" and "Carry On Wayward Son" are here but more importantly so are "Icarus--Borne On The Wings Of Steel," "Journey From Mariabronn," "Portrait (He Knew)," and "Excerpt From Lamplight Symphony," which we can only hope is presented in its entirety on this loving, upcoming 30th Anniversary Edition.
18) Fumbling Towards Ecstasy--Sarah McLachlan: I'm a little torn about the idea of celebrating albums on their 15th Anniversary. It makes more sense than the Lemonheads' 16th, but it still seems a little early. Then again, she's Canadian and they use the metric system, so it's very possible that Fumbling is celebrating its 25th Kilowatt or whatever it is they do up there.Eliminator--ZZ Top: Now this is what I'm talking about. 25 years old! Damn. And these guys were considered old school back then. Now, granted, at one time, anyone approaching 25 itself was considered to be an oldster. These days people really are redefining mathematics as we speak. It always made me suspicious when the Who offered that "One and one don't make two, one and one make one." I knew then the future was in trouble. Once you let accountants start cooking your lyrics, it's one slippery slope down the toilet, brother.
16) Hootenanny!--The Replacements: All of their albums are up for reissue and this one came out in 1983, meaning it's the one that's definitely celebrating a legitimate anniversary. The Replacements made a career out of being a spotty band. Much like mental patients off medication, the Replacements were able to experience euphoric highs and harrowing lows. These days everyone's so loaded up on SSRIs, the music has essentially flatlined, but back in the day when most drugs had amusing side effects (and if you think "decreased sexual function" is a desirable side effect, then you are one child of the 90s for sure), drugs and music could be counted on for making you stumble into furniture. Now that's awesome.The Stranger--Billy Joel: This has been given the lavish treatment. You can buy it as a box with a bonus DVD and a live show with liner notes and photos. It's more than just an album. It's another album and a video! The only thing missing is a video game. But maybe they're saving that for future Joel reissues. Personally, I'd like to play a game called "Glass Houses" because I'd like to break stuff.
14) No Guru, No Method, No Teacher--Van Morrison: Van Morrison albums are being reissued in an odd, inscrutable order and this one from 1986 is celebrating its 22th Anniversary. Which is an even odder place to stop than most. At least none of these albums have come with unwanted bonus features like nude photographs or extensive liner notes explaining what morons we all are for not making him a bigger star.Pacific Ocean Blue--Dennis Wilson: Includes a newly recorded vocal from Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins! Just what a hardcore Beach Boys fan would be looking for when they hear that the obscure Dennis Wilson 1977 solo album is about to be reissued along with outtakes from the subsequent solo album that never happened. I guess Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello really was too busy jamming with Springsteen to add a few licks. And why didn't someone call Thurston Moore to offer his commentary on Wilson's importance on the New York No Wave Scene? Talk about lost opportunities!
12) Jesus Of Cool--Nick Lowe: They couldn't call the album Jesus Of Cool in America because it would be deemed offensive. "Cool" people get pretty touchy if you pervert their definition. So, instead it came out as Pure Pop For Now People, which upset the hell out of the "Now" movement. These days it just sounds like a pleasant album of old time rock n' roll, a few good hooks and it's over and out. Not a bad schematic.Stardust--Willie Nelson: Willie Nelson wisely figured out that after years of struggling to be taken seriously by the country music crowd that it would be wise to make sure that other people knew who he was as well, just in case the country people decided to turn on him. So he recorded a bunch of standards and tunes not normally associated with a country music act and his legacy as a guy who looks like he belongs on Mount Rushmore was sealed.
10) War--U2: Yes, there was a time when these men were boys and thought they could save the world with the strum of their guitars, the pounding of their beat and the Herculean wail of their singer. This was before they understood how the "World Bank" worked and discovered the intricacies of irony and product placement and so on...They were sincere and they meant it. And while that optimism doesn't always work when solving the world's problems, it usually makes for a better rock n' roll band.Tapestry--Carole King: And why shouldn't Ms. King sing her own songs? She's plenty capable of doing it. And by the 1970s people were more impressed if you sang your own songs. It was as if you meant it even more than someone who was reading your words. Me? I'm all for plagiarism. But only if it's better than what I can think up on my own.
8) Exile In Guyville--Liz Phair: Here's another one of those albums celebrating that dubious 15th Anniversary stuff. It even comes with a DVD documentary shot by Ms. Phair that's worse than the stuff that comes out of high school film classes. Seriously, the sound is horrible, the shots are stagnant and off center and annoying and it goes on for an hour and a half. The album was considered to be somewhat "lo-fi" and now we have a documentary that's "lo-def." You think she sits around the house playing Pong?Thriller--Michael Jackson: This guy's sold more albums than Slim Whitman, whose Thrill Her album was once recommended to me. I've never heard it. I'm not sure I've ever heard this album either. Sure, it was the best selling album of the decade, century, whatever it was and there were videos on the cable television. But we didn't have cable at my house. Because it was a waste of money and the only thing on it back then were videos that would lead to the moral decay of society and my own promising career as something else. As you see, we as a society have decayed without the help of Mr. Jackson, and I'd venture to say that when he made people happy with his music that he was serving the public good far more than people looking to ban cable television from my household. What was the question?
6) Parallel Lines--Blondie: Lots of catchy songs that didn't seem all that earth shattering at the time, but considering what passes for pop music sometimes, it's pretty intriguing and classy. Not that pop music needs to be classy. I like tasteless, tuneless crap as much as the next guy. Well, maybe not as much as the next guy. Judging by what some people tolerate these days, I feel a little out of step from time to time.This Was--Jethro Tull: I always liked Jethro Tull. A lot of people didn't. I think I liked them because I didn't think about them too much. They would come on the radio and you always knew it was them without having to ask and that seemed like a strong compliment. But what I've never been able to figure out is this--and Tull fans please feel free to confirm or deny these findings: why is it that I can listen to all of Thick As A Brick and really get into it, but then I put on Passion Play and I'm bored silly? Is it because I owned Brick when I was a more patient teenager and received Passion Play as a less tolerant adult? Or is Brick that much better? This Was is practically a different band from those albums and worth checking out, by the way...
4) Otis Blue--Otis Redding: Otis Redding could sing anything. He had one of those voices that no amount of "training" can bring you. Sure, he may have learned timing and phrasing but the pure sound, the pure expression is one of those weird, weird marvels of genetic superiority. Like high cheekbones but somewhere in his larynx. He sings a word and you believe it whether he really does or not.Straight Outta Compton--N.W.A.: You don't see many rap albums receive the "anniversary" treatment. Mostly, I assume, because its fans don't tend to be historically minded. They prefer the new and exciting, the shiny and gift-wrapped. They like to feel like they are living in the present and not someone else's idea of the past. Besides, Ice Cube is now featured in family movies and Dr. Dre doesn't make his presence nearly as known here as he does on his later work. But there sure is a lot of cursing going on here. And that never goes out of style. Have you watched Scarface lately?
2) This Year's Model--Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Elvis Costello seems determined to reissue his entire album collection at least once every decade. He probably wishes at this point that he'd saved even more of those old recordings. How many times will people buy the same album? When it's this good, it's likely to happen more often than, say, when he goes to reissue the Kojak Variety for a fifth time. Who ever thought Costello could be such a salesman?Forever Changes--Love: For those of you careful readers who read the Robyn Hitchcock entry way up top, here's the pay-off. "The Wreck Of The Arthur Lee" before there was such a wreck, when the man was on the verge of being a revolutionary, of redefining not just the music but the way we live as people. If Arthur Lee had succeeded, we might not be worried about the "falling dollar" of today because there might not be a monetary system left to destroy. We would have transcended money. And we wouldn't need a 40th Anniversary edition of an album already reissued with bonus cuts. Now we have an alternate mix, that according to the album's notes are "alternate." It all sounds fine to me.
- Bruce Springsteen