CD reissues from ZZ Top, Billy Bragg, Mott and Merle
TRES HOMBRES; FANDANGO!
When this pair of sleazy boogie-rock albums were transferred to CD in 1987, Warner Bros. decided to ”update” the recordings with synths and drum machines. Blech. That travesty has been reversed with these reissues, which restore the kick-ass 1973 breakthrough Hombres and 1975’s half-live Fandango! to their original greasy, groovy glory.
EXTRAS The three live cuts on each — all cranked tempos and speaker-blowing distortion — give a whiff of the trio’s fierce live shows. Hombres: A-; Fandango!: B
MOTT THE HOOPLE
ALL THE YOUNG DUDES; MOTT; THE HOOPLE
Mott kicked off their 1974 swan song with ”The Golden Age of Rock & Roll,” and damn if the Brits’ three last and best studio discs don’t make a good case for the mid-’70s as rock’s zenith. Any dad tutoring his kid in classic rock could save time spinning Mott, who synthesized the Stones’ surefire riffing, Dylan’s cocky lyricism, and Bowie’s (Dudes‘ producer) theatrical flamboyance. Alas, The Hoople — arguably glam rock’s apotheosis — is an online-only reissue.
EXTRAS B sides, demos, live takes. All: A
LIFE’S A RIOT WITH SPY VS. SPY; BREWING UP WITH BILLY BRAGG; TALKING WITH THE TAXMAN ABOUT POETRY; THE INTERNATIONALE/LIVE & DUBIOUS EPS
Filled with literate love songs and rousing agitpop, with little more than a ragged electric guitar as accompaniment, these four reissues of Billy Bragg’s out-of-print Thatcher era releases (also available in a nine-disc boxed set) reflect the folksy, proletarian spirit of his best period.
EXTRAS Each album comes with a bonus CD of unreleased and rare material. Riot: A-; Brewing Up: A-; Taxman: A; Internationale/Live: B
STRANGERS/SWINGING DOORS AND THE BOTTLE LET ME DOWN; I’M A LONESOME FUGITIVE/BRANDED MAN; SING ME BACK HOME/THE LEGEND OF BONNIE & CLYDE; MAMA TRIED/PRIDE IN WHAT I AM; HAG/SOMEDAY WE’LL LOOK BACK
These twofers should remind a Johnny Cash-sated U.S. that the ”greatest country artist” contest remains undecided. Finding his voice here, Hag’s the manual laborer/poet: a baritone tenor who’s quintessentially manly, but almost feminine in his lyrical tenderness. We demand a movie.
EXTRAS Alternate takes and never-issued tracks. All: A