Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something To Make Me Smile!

There has been some "Rod Stewart" debate among the Brothers Mcc - but I'm here to tell you that I am still on board - and I am really looking forward to hearing this:

The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998
Release Date - 09/29/2009

Warner Bros. began reissuing Rod Stewart's Warner Bros. catalog a year ago with remastered and expanded versions of some of the artist's best studio work. With its latest effort, Warner Bros. goes deep into the vaults to reveal the secret studio history of this very public performer with a boxed set of unreleased recordings chosen from sessions spanning 1971-1998. THE ROD STEWART SESSIONS 1971-1998 will be available September 29.

Producers Andy Zax and Cheryl Pawelski prowled through a warehouse of Stewart's tapes to unearth all the dusty gems four discs could hold. Spanning more than 25 years, the collection's 63 songs, outtakes, and ephemera provide extraordinary insight into the studio work of one of rock's legendary figures and paint a picture of what might have been. Many of these performances are more stripped-down and intimate than their released counterparts, so the set becomes an illustration and a showcase of Rod's creative process. Few major artists have allowed such a revealing look behind the scenes.

More than a third of THE ROD STEWART SESSIONS 1971-1998 chronicles the torrent of indelible recordings Stewart unleashed during the '70s. Fittingly, the set opens with a decidedly rough take of "Maggie May," the #1 hit from Stewart's third solo album - Every Picture Tells A Story - that broke him as a solo artist in 1971.

SESSIONS offers alternate versions of well-known hits from that era such as "Sailing," "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)," "You Wear It Well," and an acoustic version of "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)." Alongside those are rarities like the unfinished "Think I'll Pack My Bags" (which later appeared on Ron Wood's solo debut rewritten as "Mystifies Me"), an early version of "So Tired" that finds the band working out the arrangement in the studio, and an acoustic version of the B-side "Rosie."

Of special note is the rumored-to-exist but never heard - until now - sequel to "The Killing of Georgie"; "Innocent (The Killing of Georgie Part III)" completes the epic narrative begun on 1976's A Night On The Town album with a ferociously rocking performance taken from the sessions for the following year's Foot Loose & Fancy Free. Stewart ended the decade with a hits package that was to include his cover of British pub-rocker Frankie Miller's "When I'm Away From You" that has remained unreleased until now.

SESSIONS touches on six albums Stewart released during the '80s, including Foolish Behaviour (1980), which was originally intended to be a double album, but was eventually scaled back to a single disc. Along with an early version of the album track "Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight" the collection also features four unreleased tracks presumably destined for the second disc: "Time Of My Life," "TV Mama," "Stupid," and Buddy Holly's "Maybe Baby." While the multitracks for Tonight I'm Yours (1981) have gone missing, the producers managed to recover an unreleased song called "Thunderbird" from the session's only surviving mixdown tape. The collection closes out the decade with several tracks from Out Of Order (1988), including a tender reading of "Forever Young" that features Stewart accompanied only by a piano and the improvised in the studio and then abandoned "I Go To Jail For You."

The final SESSIONS disc is dedicated to Stewart's resurgence as an artistic and commercial force in the '90s. It begins with six songs recorded in the summer of 1992 that were shelved in favor of Unplugged...And Seated, including a cover of Bob Dylan and The Band's "This Wheel's On Fire," and an all-star remake of the 1969 Python Lee Jackson song (originally also sung by Rod) "In A Broken Dream," which features Pink Floyd's David Gilmour and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. Also included is Stewart's cover of Bobby Womack's "Looking For A Love," which was surprisingly left off A Spanner In The Works (1995) and a version of Oasis' "Rockin' Chair" that he recorded for When We Were The New Boys (1998).

Although never intended to be shared with the world, the directness and immediacy of the music on THE ROD STEWART SESSIONS 1971-1998 documents an exceptional artist at work over a long period of time, says Zax, the set's coproducer. "Admirers of particular eras of Rod's career may be surprised to discover, upon listening to this box, that there is far less difference between the Rod of 1971 and the Rod of 1998-and all the years between them - than they had previously believed."

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Welcome Back, Wilco

I just finished reading the David Carr article on Wilco in the New York Times … and I couldn’t feel better. The reason that I’m feeling better is that it was great to read that Jeff Tweedy (the oft times sidetracked leader of Wilco) is feeling great.

I am one of the faithful that has seen Mr. Tweedy go form the ashes of the Uncle Tupelo and travel the painful trail that has become known as Wilco’s career. Their 2002 film (I Am Trying To Break Your Heart) could not have had a more apt title. This band really tested the limits of friends, band members, record labels and fans. At points, their music almost dared the listener to like it.

And, through it all, there was the soap opera that was Wilco – the band. Busted relationships, bad drug habits, death … the stuff that William Shakespeare spent many years and worked so hard at putting down on paper, these guys had the knack for delivering to themselves day in and day out.

Now, we get “Wilco – The Album.” And for me, this is a joy. A set of songs that can truly showcase the band and its prolific frontman – in ways that were delivered to the world with “AM” and “Being There.” And, yes, I know that those are the first two releases by Wilco – and that there has been seven other releases that followed. But with the exception of the Billy Bragg collaboration (Mermaid Avenue), I’ve always felt that the band was never truly comfortable in their own skin. (Please note; I know that not many other Wilco fans feel this way. I know there are folks who take the more ‘experimental’ Wilco over the ‘pop’ Wilco any day of the week – I just don’t happen to be one of them.)

I will say that I am as guilty as most – that when there were times in the Wilco roadshow that I found more interested in the car wreck that was the lives of Wilco as I did in the music they were releasing. And, after seeing one fantastic Wilco show – followed by one ramshackle mess of a show – I began to hold these guys to what (in retrospect) was an impossible bar to clear.

A lot of folks always thought of Wilco as Americana’s answer to The Band. I never bought that. I always thought of them more as Americana’s answer to Mott The Hoople. Both bands with charismatic frontmen whose vision lead the path of the band. Both with personal trials and tribulations, band members coming and going … and through it all, trying to deliver some great rock and roll. And now, with the release of “Wilco – The Album” – both with CDs named after the band.

At one point of the NY Time article, Mr. Carr quotes Jeff Tweedy as saying; “I suppose because everything about my life is better …” For me, that is the best comment that I could hear from Mr. Tweedy these days. I’ve always liked his music, and I always rooted for him to beat his demons. So I’m glad to see him walking on a sunnier side of the street.

I’m really digging the music on “Wilco – The Album,” and I hope that Jeff & the boys can keep it together … and keep bringing us the joy that is Wilco – the band.