**Polyphonic Spree at Empty Bottle, (773) 276-3600, Oct. 4 & 5
Judging from the number of queer audience members at Aimee Mann's Chicago concert in August, it would be safe say that she has reached diva status. Lost In Space (Super Ego/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab), Aimee Mann's fourth solo disc (fifth, if you count the Magnolia soundtrack), was recently reissued in a Super Audio CD version. Not as instantly accessible as her brilliant 2000 disc Bachelor No. 2, Lost In Space takes longer to appreciate, but it is worth the effort. 'It's all about drugs,' Mann sings in 'This Is How It Goes,' and we should take her word for it, as 'drugs' appear in more than a couple of songs. 'All the perfect drugs/and superheroes/ wouldn't be enough/to bring me up to zero,' is in the chorus of 'Humpty Dumpty,' and Mann plays on a Christian right catch-phrase while volunteering her own narcotic abilities when she croons, 'Hate the sinner but love the sin/Let me be your heroin.' 'Invisible Ink' ranks as yet another one of Mann's melancholic masterpieces and the unusual orchestration on 'Today's The Day' deserves repeated listens. Mann remains one of the most important singer/songwriters of her generation, regardless of the galaxy in which you reside.
Love is the prominent theme of If It Was You (Vapor/Sanctuary), the second album by queer twin sisters Tegan and Sara. Co-produced by John Collins of the super-hot New Pornographers, the 2002 disc has been reissued with video footage for the songs 'Monday, Monday, Monday' and 'I Hear Noises,' as well as the buoyant bonus track 'Come On Kids,' a song about living life to its fullest, which includes visiting cities and living in trees. This is a great opportunity to check out a disc you might have missed last year and to hear terrific songs such as 'Living Room' (featuring wonderfully, exotic Polynesian instrumentation), the crunch of 'Time Running,' the delirious drenching of 'Underwater,' and the pop perfection of 'Monday, Monday, Monday,' to mention a few.
There are signs of the performer and songwriter Michelle Shocked would eventually become on Texas Campfire Takes (Mighty Sound), the reissued and expanded version of her 1986 debut album Texas Campfire Tapes. Initially released on an indie British label, as a single disc, the recording eventually led to the signing of Shocked (born Johnston) to Mercury Records. With a natural flair for American folk and blues music, Shocked's stripped-down versions of more than a dozen of her own original songs, including 'Fogtown,' '5 A.M. In Amsterdam,' and '(Don't You Mess Around With) My Little Sister,' makes this essential listening for fans of Shocked and those interested in this style of music.
Texas is also the home-base for The Polyphonic Spree, a massive ensemble (more than two dozen members) led by front man and choirmaster Tim DeLaughter (formerly of Tripping Daisy). As with both the Aimee Mann and Tegan and Sara discs, The Beginning Stages of … The Polyphonic Spree (Hollywood/Good) was originally released in 2002. After creating a buzz and a stir in the music industry, TPS was signed to a major label and its debut disc was reissued with a bonus disc featuring alternate and live versions of album tracks 'Have A Day,' 'It's The Sun,' 'Soldier Girl' and 'Light & Day.' With echoes of Elton John, The Beach Boys and The Flaming Lips, TPS joins The Hidden Cameras as one of the most unique and distinctive musical groups currently in existence. With a forthcoming presence in television commercials and increasing popularity, the Spree seems destined to spread its Polyphonic joy for some time to come.
For those that prefer their Beach Boys experience to be closer to the real thing, I suggest the DVD Audio reissue of Pet Sounds (Capitol). The complete 13-track album, and the additional seven bonus tracks, can now be enjoyed in stereo, mono and 5.1 Surround Sound for those with the proper listening equipment, meaning a DVD audio player. THIS DISC WILL NOT PLAY ON A CONVENTIONAL CD PLAYER. That said, Brian Wilson's eccentric masterpiece sounds especially distinctive using this current technology, meaning that you may not want to listen to songs such as 'Wouldn't It Be Nice,' 'God Only Knows,' 'I Know There's An Answer,' and 'Caroline No,' on your CD player again. The dual-sided disc may be listened to on either a DVD-Audio player or a DVD-Video player.
If the aforementioned Polyphonic Spree reissue isn't bizarre enough for you, I suggest taking a listen to Laverne & Shirley Sing (Collectors' Choice Music). Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) were characters in a spin-off of the popular 1970s sitcom Happy Days. Like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley was set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and so the selections on this album, which include 'Da Do Ron Ron,' 'Easier Said Than Done,' 'All I Have To Do Is Dream,' 'Chapel Of Love,' and others, reflect the era. The album also features 'Five Years On,' written by series co-star and future Christopher Guest movie regular Michael McKean, as well as the amusing spoken-word cut 'More From Our Yearbook,' in which the duo reads yearbook inscriptions.
Not so much a reissue as it is a re-recording, Tubular Bells 2003 (WSM) allows Mike Oldfield, who initially recorded Tubular Bells in 1973 at the age of 19 (!), to correct the imperfections of the original. The timing is certainly good, as this is the 30th anniversary of the movie The Exorcist, for which the opening section of the original Tubular Bells became the theme song. Also, the fourth installment in the Exorcist series, Exorcist IV: The Beginning is set to be released in 2004. In addition to Oldfield's tightening things up a bit, John Cleese is on hand to do the introduction of the instruments in the 'Finale' section, a role performed by Vivian Stanshall on the first edition of the album.
Long considered to be the (young) godfather of new age music, it's easy to hear why when listening to the art/prog rock instrumental album.
Reveling in his most irreverent androgyny and glorious glam, David Bowie effortlessly inhabited his Ziggy Stardust persona over the course of a few albums, including Aladdin Sane (Capitol), which has been reissued in a handsomely packaged, digitally remastered 30th anniversary double-disc edition. Gay, bi or whatever, the Bowie of the early 1970s was the ultimate diamond dog, particularly on songs such as 'Watch That Man,' 'Panic In Detroit,' 'Cracked Actor,' 'The Prettiest Star,' 'The Jean Genie,' and, of course, 'Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?).' The second, bonus disc of the set pours on the glitter on tracks such as the sax version of 'John, I'm Only Dancing,' Bowie's rendition of 'All The Young Dudes,' and live versions of 'Changes' and 'Life On Mars,' to mention a few.
While Bowie was bending genders every which way, Marvin Gaye was pursuing his heterosexual male urges. Continuing the erotic exploration he began on Let's Get It On, Gaye and producer and songwriter Leon Ware turned up the sexual heat on I Want You (Motown/Chronicles), newly available in an expanded, two-disc set reissue, featuring single and alternate mixes and outtakes. A steamy and provocative jam session, with jazz leanings, I Want You raised the bar for future musical seductions via songs such as the title track, 'Come Live With Me Angel,' 'Feel All My Love Inside,' and 'Soon I'll Be Loving You Again.'
Anyone who thinks that the present day music scene is diverse, should keep in mind that it was only one year after the release of Gaye's I Want You that Television's Marquee Moon (Elektra/Rhino), would be released, and go on to become an album that many people consider to be one of the definitive and most highly regarded albums of the punk rock era. A near seamless blend of punk, garage rock and blues, all tied together with the alternately emotive and distant vocals of lead singer Tom Verlaine (think of a male Patti Smith). Combine that with Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's skillful guitar playing on songs such as the near-epic title track, 'See No Evil,' 'Venus,' and 'Friction' and you have a monumental piece of work. Television's back-to-back albums Marquee Moon and Adventure are now available in expanded editions featuring alternate, early and single versions of songs from the albums as well as non-album tracks such as 'Little Johnny Jewel (Parts 1 & 2).'
Originally released in 2001 on the well-respected independent label Bar/None, the reissue of the stunning modern folk of Rabbit Songs (DreamWorks) by Hem, never ceases to amaze. Fans of Eastmountainsouth and The Be Good Tanyas probably already know about Hem, but just in case they (or you) haven't made the leap yet, now is your chance. Sally Ellyson's exquisite and airy vocals allow Dan Messe's songs to be both timeless and immediate. Imagine a warmer Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) and you are on the right track. Lovely and languorous songs such as 'When I Was Drinking,' 'Half Acre,' 'Betting On Trains,' 'Leave Me Here,' 'Idle (The Rabbit Song),' and 'Stupid Mouth Shut,' are comforting and refreshing, reassuring the listener that there are still authentic singers and songwriters out there amidst all the manufactured music.
Earlier this year, Cypress/Afoot, the debut EP and full-length CD combo by 1980s alternative/college rock pioneers Let's Active was reissued. With our appetites for great pop music sufficiently whetted, Let's Active's final two albums have also been reissued in expanded editions. Big Plans For Everybody (Collector's Choice Music/EMI), from 1986, and Every Dog Has His Day (Collector's Choice Music/EMI), from 1988, contain two bonus tracks each, including the 'gloomy,' previously unreleased 'Invisible Hills' (on Big Plans…), and the alternate versions of 'Horizon' (on Big Plans …) and 'Bad Machinery' and 'Sweepstakes Winner' (on Every Dog …). Let's Active's evolution is audible throughout and although they moved away from the remarkable original trio incarnation of Mitch Easter, Faye Hunter and Sara Romweber (if you haven't heard Cypress/ Afoot, you really should), Easter's well-established productions skills and his songwriting gifts still shine through, especially on the less hard-rocking Big Plans … disc.
Continuing the excellent tradition begun in 2001, with the 'Deluxe Edition' expanded reissues of My Aim Is True, Spike and All This Useless Beauty, we now have three more Elvis Costello & The Attractions albums with which to become reacquainted. Already considered to be sizable when it was first released on vinyl in 1980, the 20-track Get Happy!! (Rhino) features a second bonus disc of 30 (!) tracks, including live, demo and alternate versions. The equally acclaimed Trust (Rhino) followed Get Happy!! the next year, containing such Costello standards as 'Watch Your Step' and 'From A Whisper To A Scream,' and includes a 17-track bonus disc. Costello had a legitimate hit with the song 'Everyday I Write The Book,' from his 1983 album Punch The Clock (Rhino), easily his most commercial effort. The album also includes 'The Element Within Her' and 'Shipbuilding,' as well as a 26-track bonus disc including solo and BBC Session versions of songs.