New this week in the Rhino Room at iTunes:
Mike + The Mechanics, Mike + The Mechanics / Living Years / Word of Mouth / Beggar on a Beach of Gold / Rewired / Hits: It’s hard to gauge exactly who was aware of it and who wasn’t, but for the past several years, one of the more notable absences from iTunes – at least here in America, anyway – has been the back catalog of Mike + The Mechanics. What started as Mike Rutherford’s side project from Genesis quickly turned from a studio lark into a major commercial success in the US when the group’s self-titled 1985 debut produced two top-10 singles with “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” and “All I Need Is a Miracle,” and when they returned with their sophomore effort, 1989’s The Living Years, they took their homeland by storm as well, with the title track hitting #2 on the UK singles chart and topping the US charts. After that, though, the Mechanics lost favor in the States – another grunge-related tragedy? – and never found top-40 success again…but don’t think that means that you shouldn’t investigate all of these digital reissues.
It’s only been a few short weeks since we introduced Emmylou Harris’s 70’s Studio Album Collection and 80’s Studio Album Collection to our digital catalog, but now it’s time to bring something from Ms. Harris’s catalog to CD…or, more specifically, to bring it back to CD.
In 2007, we put out a pretty cool Emmylou Harris box set entitled Songbird: Rare Tracks & Forgotten Gems, one which featured 78 tracks, all hand-chosen by the singer-songwriter herself. At the time of its initial release, Emmylou said of its contents, "I've selected not greatest hits but personal favorites that – with a few exceptions – have never appeared on any other compilations, but were important gems in the string of pearls that each album strives to become.” In addition, the set also included a handful of contributions she’d made to different tribute albums, various and sundry live and demo tracks, and a few collaborations.
It’s vinyl reissue time again, and this week’s offering is generally considered to be the third album by The Specials, although it’s technically credited to The Special AKA. Why the change in name? Well, you know how it goes with bands: memberships change over time, and sometimes enough members depart to make it seem a little dodgy to keep the band’s name the same.
In the case of In the Studio, which emerged almost half a decade after the previous Specials album (More Specials, released in 1980), there was good reason to view the group as an untested entity, given that Terry Hall, Lynval Golding, and Neville Staple had all headed off for the poppier pastures of Fun Boy Three, leaving Jerry Dammers as the predominant creative force. Not that he hadn’t already been writing songs, but there was definitely a major shift in the material with the aforementioned trio having departed the ranks, particularly in the political content.
It’s a good time to be a Peter, Paul & Mary fan.
Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers first came together in 1961, and although they took the occasional hiatus here and there over the years, they continued to play together until Travers’ declining health took her off the stage, but even after her death in 2009, Yarrow and Stookey have carried on, taking the trio’s music into their 50th anniversary and beyond. Those five decades are being celebrated on PBS on December 1, when the network premieres a new documentary, “50 Years with Peter, Paul and Mary,” but the celebration really started back on November 4, with the release of a new coffee table book, Peter, Paul and Mary: Fifty Years in Music and Life. As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re getting into the act, too, and our contribution comes out smack dab between the other two, with the release of a collection featuring 13 live performances of songs never recorded for any Peter, Paul & Mary studio album.
Whether you knew him for his artwork or his music, Don Van Vliet – beloved to many as Captain Beefheart – has been much mourned since his death in 2010 at the age of 69, but the man who once helmed The Magic Band has continued to maintain a dedicated following. While his music was generally well out of the mainstream, his seminal album, 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, made such an impact that it was added to the United States National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress in 2010. For many, though, that particular album is the sum total of their Captain Beefheart collection, which is why we’re so excited about the opportunity to expand some people’s musical horizons with our new limited-edition four-disc boxed set, Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 to 1972.