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Big Star

Keep an Eye on the Sky

(Rhino)

5



Big Star
Keep an Eye on the Sky



Long considered one of the greatest/most influential American cult rock bands, Big Star was long overdue for a definitive box set. Keep an Eye on the Sky masterfully chronicles the band’s brief, storied career with an embarrassment of riches: demos, alternate mixes/versions, unreleased tracks and an entire concert. It’s a bittersweet treat to hear Big Star perform songs that would later appear on Chris Bell’s solo debut, I Am the Cosmos. Even with all the demo and rehearsal tracks to fill in the gaps, it’s still a shock to hear the band evolve from the jubilant power-pop of “In the Street” to the noir-lullaby of “Big Black Car” in four short years. Although, we all know that was actually the sound of one man, Alex Chilton, slowly unraveling from a unfortunate series of setbacks and general commercial failure. Keep an Eye on the Sky is a testament to these four Southern Anglophiles’ brilliant run of shoulda-been hits. Ben Schumer


 

 



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The Stone Roses

The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)

(Legacy)

4



The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)



My mother has always been able to pull a handful of seemingly unrelated ingredients out of the fridge and turn them into a hell of a meal. The Stone Roses served up a similarly impressive platter with their self-titled 1989 debut, blending shimmering psychedelia and throbbing beats with singer Ian Brown’s unwavering self-confidence. Brown and original producer John Leckie collaborated on this double-disc Twentieth-Anniversary remaster, making even the most familiar songs—and I’m looking at you, “She Bangs the Drums”—seem relevant again. The album’s five singles are still the standouts, from the ethereal 17-word opener “I Wanna Be Adored” to “Waterfall” and its acid-fueled auto theft. I don’t agree with NME‘s hyperbolic assertion that it’s the best British album of all time but it’s essential listening for anyone who endured the endless succession of bands who tried, and failed, to reproduce the Roses’ sound… a list that includes the Stone Roses themselves. Jelisa Castrodale


 

 



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R.E.M.

Reckoning (Deluxe Edition)

(Capitol)

Review [25.Jun.2009]

3



R.E.M.
Reckoning (Deluxe Edition)



Do we take R.E.M. for granted? I’m serious, people: every other band with as fantastic and storied a history as R.E.M. has been plucked over and vivisected 12 times over. But somehow, despite their latter-day ubiquity, they’ve still managed to maintain an air of mystery surrounding their earliest IRS releases. They haven’t been pored over and pawed to death: they’re cult objects, built for cultish devotion. The fact that they’re also some of the very best rock albums ever recorded certainly doesn’t hurt. Even if you’ve heard Reckoning a thousand or ten thousand times before (raise your hands if you remember rockin’ the cassette back in ‘84!) it still somehow whispers like a secret devised just for your private enjoyment. No wonder this is the album Stephen Malkmus cites as Ground Zero for Pavement—if you listen closely you can still hear the thunderclap echoes from all the synapses popping over this platter back in the Reagan Years. It almost seems like a shame, dusting the record off with such a snazzy makeover. It’s not made for any space-age digital archive: it belongs in the back room of a moldering used bookshop in the swampy regions of the Old Dominion, covered in decay yet perpetually primed for rediscovery by new and old acolytes alike. Tim O’Neil


 

 



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The Feelies

Crazy Rhythms / The Good Earth

(Bar/None)

Review [22.Sep.2009]

2



The Feelies
Crazy Rhythms / The Good Earth



Awkward rock nerds of all ages rejoice: Your gods have returned. With their two best albums having inexplicably fallen out of print, 1980’s Crazy Rhythms and 1986’s The Good Earth, the Feelies were due for a reassessment of their legacy. Now that these albums are back in circulation, the New Jersey band’s post-punk powers blossom for all imitators and neophytes to behold. The manic energy of Crazy Rhythms offers stark counterpoint to the strum-y acoustics of The Good Earth but both stand as important documents of a vastly underrated and influential band. Playing the spot-the-influence game with songs off both records could keep one busy for quite some time. The live cuts and demo versions included with the digital downloads of both releases only add to the enjoyment of these repackaged classics. Let your nerd rock flag fly high. Craig Carson


 

 



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The Beatles

Stereo Box Set

(EMI)

1



The Beatles
Stereo Box Set



The Beatles first incarnation on compact disc occurred in 1987, back when CDs were very much a novelty and the sound quality signified a dramatic improvement over discarded and scratched LPs. It was eventually apparent that a proper remastering of the catalog needed to occur and now, with CDs almost as archaic as cassettes, we have our chance. It’s been worth the wait. Taken as a complete box set, or as individual titles, these new discs are a veritable treasure trove, a reminder that discussion of what the Beatles accomplished in less than a decade remains inexhaustible. The sound is clean, sharp, and full of soul. You can trace the trajectory this band made from mop-top celebrities to avant-garde studio wizards, while always able to perceive—and appreciate—the human minds (and hearts) that created this unparalleled body of work. It is impossible to overstate how significant and how ceaselessly rewarding this music is; it is wonderful to experience these albums again for the first time. Sean Murphy


 
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