It’s that time of year for holiday cheer and unwrapping presents—hopefully anything in either chrome or black. Traditionally it’s also a good time to reconnect with old friends, which is what some of us have been doing here at your favorite mag, courtesy of a plethora of music releases to road test. This February’s reviews focus on blasts from the pasts; made better in the form of “Deluxe” versions, which adds additional material to seminal albums many of us already own. While we may unfortunately never see Harley reissuing a limited edition, special run of ’51 Panheads, record companies have no such problem. So we’re finally catching up on special deluxe versions of albums by Nirvana, The Allman Brothers, Tom Petty, The Who, and Derek & The Dominos. And just in time if you have a little holiday cash left over. So if it’s a fix of classic rock ’n’ roll you need, as Neil said, “…rock and roll will never die…”
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Deluxe Edition
Derek and the Dominos
Duane Allman of course first made his mark as a session player. And he was one of the first to whom Eric Clapton turned to when he conceived of the Derek and the Dominos project (a name they hurriedly concocted before their first show). Formed from the remnants of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Clapton gathered Bobby Whitlock, Jim Gordon, and Carl Radle in the spring of 1970, intending it be a blues side project and an escape from the infamous infighting in Delaney & Bonnie. Eric Clapton had already reached superstar status when the group finally went into the studio after a short tour. Duane contributed his slide guitar parts and Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs was born. Produced by the legendary Tom Dowd (The Allman Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Cream, Eagles, Otis Redding, et al.), the album came at a time when Clapton was attempting to lay low from his Cream and Blind Faith projects, otherwise the group could have easily been titled Eric Clapton and Friends. The epic “Layla” of course was the album’s centerpiece, which paired nicely with “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Little Wing” (added as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix), and “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.”
The Deluxe Version adds a second CD of bonus material. The good stuff comes in the form of “Roll It Over” produced by Phil Spector and featuring George Harrison and Dave Mason during the All Things Must Pass project. And there are stunning versions of “Blues Power” and “Matchbox,” taken from The Johnny Cash Show (TV series) with added cameos by Cash and Carl Perkins (Quick! Go check out the YouTube video of this!).
Nevermind, Deluxe Edition
Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since the release of Nirvana’s second album—the epic Nevermind, which registered a 10.0 on the Richter scale of rock ’n’ roll albums. Like the launch of the first Electra Glide, Nevermind’s impact on the emerging alternative/grunge movement was monumental. In the past few decades, perhaps only the debut of Napster was a bigger event for the music industry. Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Kris Novoselic likely didn’t set out to change the face of rock ’n’ roll, but when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was first unleashed on unsuspecting radio listeners, the audience had a choice. It could either continue with the pop status quo or go down the louder, intense path of this “new” sound. A similar choice faced music audiences when the Beatles first emerged—and both changed conventional notions about music. In fact, 1991 was a very good year for music as The Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM, Metallica, and U2 all had breakout albums. But for an all too brief period, Nirvana captured everyone’s attention.
On the expanded edition of Nevermind we get to hear producer Butch Vig’s rejected version of the album. Plus there’s a full live Halloween concert circa 1991 from Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. A “super” Deluxe Version includes the DVD of the concert too.
Who’s Next, Deluxe Edition
Released in 1971 Who’s Next is considered by many fans and critics alike to be the Who’s best album. Based on an aborted rock opera that was to be the follow-up to Tommy, the album has startling similarity with the power of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Both albums contain some of the best songwriting by both respective groups—both are loud, and both deal with internal angst, (“Behind Blue Eyes”) disillusionment (“The Song is Over”), along with frustration and anger (“Won’t Get Fooled Again”). But there’s more. This was one of the Who’s best studio works, even rivaling their legendary live performance at Woodstock. But even before then, Townsend, Entwhistle, Moon, and Daltrey had firmly established themselves as legitimate shareholders to the British rock crown along with The Stones and The Beatles
The Deluxe Edition was newly remastered (as is the case with all titles in the “Deluxe” series) except in this case the original master tapes were used for the first time. There are also 6 bonus tracks and a live show from 1971 done at London’s Young Vic theatre, which had previously only been available as an infamous bootleg. Needless to say the album makes for a great re-discovery.
Damn the Torpedoes, Deluxe Edition
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Tom Petty’s chance meeting with Elvis many years ago during a film shoot inspired him to get his first guitar and he’s never looked back. His first band, Mudcrutch evolved into the Heartbreakers and despite myriad record company problems, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was a group firing on all cylinders; especially by the time their third album, 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes was released. It was an enormous critical and commercial success. Originally the album contained only nine tracks (this was before the CD boom) and every one was killer. Listening to “Refugee,” Here Comes That Girl,” Even The Losers,” “Don’t Do Me Like That,” and the other songs actually is like re-visiting old friends as these songs long ago became familiar radio staples and are ingrained into our musical memory bank. The album was the ultimate culmination of their hybrid Byrds/Stones sound. Produced by one of today’s biggest record company moguls, Jimmy Iovine, the album has stood the test of time very well.
The Deluxe Edition adds the usual remastering, along with a second bonus disc of never-before-heard tracks from the ‘79 sessions, B-sides, alternate takes and live versions of a few of the hits. The only thing you have to add is a few miles of open road and some volume—the more the better.
Eat A Peach, Deluxe Edition
The Allman Brothers Band
Released in 1972 shortly after Duane Allman’s death—the original Eat a Peach double album debuted less than a year after The Allman Brothers Band’s highly- acclaimed, live double album At Fillmore East. By then they were credited with ownership of the new and growing “southern rock” genre, aided by Lynyrd Skynrd, The Marshall Tucker Band, and others. Duane perished in that tragic motorcycle accident a couple of weeks after the Fillmore East album was certified gold so the follow up was a mix of studio and live tracks completed both with and without Duane, with Dickey Betts completing the lead and slide guitar parts. Standout tracks included the iconic “Melissa” and a tribute to Duane of sorts in “Ain’t Wasting Time No More.” Of particular interest is a half-hour plus recording of “Mountain Jam” which showcased the live virtuosity and musicianship of band members, and allowed for a more complex interplay that was difficult to capture in a studio. When released it was their second double album to go gold and a follow-up was delayed when bassist Berry Oakley also tragically perished in a bike accident not far from the scene of Duane’s.
The Deluxe Edition adds a full second CD of their full “goodbye concert” at the Fillmore East venue in New York City’s East Village. Apparently Duane’s playing had reached a new level as fans were treated to one of their best concerts ever. For this alone, the Deluxe Edition is a must-have additionto The Allman Brothers’ legacy.