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Expanding on the Past
by Gregg Shapiro
2002-10-30

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At the time that this column is being written, in late October of 2002, Elvis Presley's 30 #1 Hits collection has been at the top of the Billboard album chart for a few weeks. The Rolling Stones' Forty Licks hits compilation is firmly planted in the No. 2 position. As is the norm for most greatest-hits discs, there are new ( or in the case of Presley, remixed ) tracks to augment the set.

This newfound '50s and '60s nostalgia might have something to do with the reissue of two Gene Vincent discs. Bluejean Bop! ( Capitol ) by Gene Vincent and his blue caps and Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps ( Capitol ) each contain five or more bonus tracks in addition to the dozen cuts on both original albums. It's important that with all of the Elvis revival madness that other artists of his generation, including Vincent, who Jeff Beck calls in the CD's liner notes, a man who made "radical-yet-sophisticated, guitar-driven rock & roll," can now be heard via the wonders of compact disc technology.

There was probably slightly less musical variety in 1957, but at the same time that Gene Vincent was making rock and roll records, Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy were making records of a different type. Long before she was Shirley Partridge, taking her rocking TV family on the road in their psychedelic tour bus, romantic ballads were the forte of Ms. Jones. With established careers in musical theater and film, Jones and her husband Cassidy recorded for Columbia Records in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Two of their albums Speaking of Love/With Love From Hollywood ( DRG ) are now available on a single disc. It should come as no surprise that much of the material is, at the very least, theatrical, and includes compositions by Noel Coward, Jerome Kern, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart, to name a few.

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Billed as the "queen of rockabilly," Wanda Jackson had a couple of hits--"Let's Have A Party" and "Fujiyama Mama," both which can be found on the reissued and expanded discs Wanda Jackson and Rockin' With Wanda ( both on Capitol ) . Jackson's vocal influence can be heard in just about every female country singer that came after her.

According to Ray Charles, who supervised the production of the classic and newly reissued Jimmy Scott disc Falling In Love Is Wonderful ( Rhino Handmade ) , "they called him 'Crying' Jimmy Scott, because his voice just broke your heart." Truer words were never spoken, and now a whole new generation will have the chance to have that experience with this CD. Scott's gut-wrenching, yet seemingly effortless, renditions of "They Say It's Wonderful," "I Wish I Didn't Love You So," "If I Should Lose You," "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," and "How Deep Is The Ocean," to mention a few, are unlike anything you've ever heard, merging jazz phrasing and vintage pop smarts to create a uniquely timeless style.

Fast forward almost 20 years to the early 1980s. At around the same time that her brother Michael was making things happen with his own Athens, Ga-based band, Lynda Stipe was attempting to make her own kind of music in her band Oh-OK. Her short-lived musical group released two EPs ( Wow Mini Album and Furthermore What ) , both of which can be found on the deliriously infectious The Complete Recordings ( Collectors' Choice Music ) , along with previously unreleased live and archival recordings. Echoing other regional female-led bands of the time, including Swimming Pool Q's, Let's Active and Pylon, as well as the Bush Tetras, practically every female-fronted band owes a debt to Oh-OK, whether they know it or not. More than 20 years since songs such as "Lilting" ( a song about home permanents, I kid you not ) , "Brother," "Such N Such," and "Straight," first appeared, they still sound fresh and original, and the other material is equally as worthwhile.

Ivy's recent cover of "Streets Of Your Town" served as a reminder of how important The Go-Betweens were to the college radio scene of the early to mid 1980s. Further proof can be found on three reissued and considerably expanded discs Send Me A Lullaby, Before Hollywood and Spring Hill Fair ( all on Circus/Jetset ) . From the early Joy Division sounds of the minimalist Send Me A Lullaby to the guitar-driven pop of Before Hollywood ( which contains the single "Cattle and Cane," an indication of the way the band's sound would evolve ) to the positively lush Spring Hill Fair ( which opens with the stunning "Bachelor Kisses" and also contains "Draining The Pool For You" ) , now would be a good time to ( re ) discover the under-appreciated Go-Betweens.

Women's music was also coming into its own in the early 1980s at a time when political activism was also surging ( Reagan was in the White House, doing irreparable damage, after all ) and two important symbols of those movements, Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert ( of The Weavers ) performed a series of concerts in San Francisco in the spring of 1983. A recording of that historic concert event, released in a single-disc edition, has now been expanded into a nearly 90-minute double-disc set titled Lifeline Extended ( Appleseed Recordings/Calico Tracks ) .

The Flaming Lips, a band whose evolution has been one of the most amazing events in music history, and who released Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, one of the best albums of 2002, have been at it for almost 20 years. Most people became aware of the Oklahoma band's Warner Brothers recordings of the last 10 years. Two recent multi-disc sets--Finally The Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid and The Day They Shot A Hole In The Jesus Egg ( both on Rykodisc/Restless ) compile four full-length albums ( including the essential In A Priest Driven Ambulance ) , some EPs, demos and miscellaneous recordings to allow everyone's Flaming Lips collection to be complete.

What Los Lobos were to Southern California roots rock, The Silos were to the same scene in South Florida. The reissue of their seminal disc Cuba ( Dualtone ) , the band's second album released 15 years ago, emphasizes that point. Beginning with the rocking album opener "Tennessee Fire" and continuing on to the lovely love song "For Always" ( enhanced by Mary Rowell's strings ) and the romantically raucous "Mary's Getting Married" to "Head Party" ( which showed they could hold their own against the hair bands of the day ) , the band made a memorable impression.

The Silos remain an essential part of the American musical landscape, having released their latest album Laser Beam Next Door ( Checkered Past ) in 2001.

Speaking of the "hair bands" of the late '80s, one of the most successful and unexpected was Living Colour, an all-black quartet that picked up Jimi's torch almost 20 years after his death. Living Colour's 1988 debut disc Vivid ( Epic/Legacy ) , just reissued in an expanded version featuring five bonus tracks, consisted of blistering and ear-bursting electric guitar solos. The band even managed to have a couple of hit singles ( "Glamour Boys," "Cult Of Personality" ) as well as make some very pointed political statements, including "Open Letter ( To A Landlord ) ."

Living Colour was something of an enigma for the time, especially considering the way that hip-hop and hardcore rap was dominating the music scene. One of the seminal hip-hop outfits of the time, N.W.A. would be the launching pad for the phenomenally successful careers of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the late Eazy-E. Racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-police, N.W.A.'s graphic lyrics and gangsta stance made them feared and revered, and their essential second disc Straight Outta Compton ( Priority/Ruthless/Capitol ) , currently available in a remastered and expanded version, earns its parental advisory sticker.

Ten years and many imitators later Pavement's highly influential 1992 full-length debut album Slanted And Enchanted: Luxe and Reduxe ( Matador ) has been re-released in a double-disc set. A definite divergence from the popular grunge sound of the time, Pavement ( the band from which Stephen Malkmus emerged ) gave a boost to shoe-gazers everywhere, tossing in punk influences and paving the way for the emo crowd to rear their scraggly heads. As daring and experimental as it is rooted in lo-fi garage-rock energy. Slanted And Enchanted is as entertaining as it is educational, and has been expanded to include John Peel Sessions, live tracks, and much more.

Originally released as an eight-song cassette in 1997, You Can Play These Songs With Chords ( Barsuk ) by Death Cab For Cutie is now available as an 18-track CD. Having come across the Seattle-based DCFC in 2000, with the release of We Have The Facts And We're Voting Yes, I am grateful for access to this history lesson. The 10 additional songs, recorded between 1996 and 2000, include a cover of The Smiths' "This Charming Man."

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