Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Essential reissues and returns astound

A groundbreaking album from The Zombies and a beloved instrumental tribute to the music of The Monkees have both been reissued on the occasion of their respective 50th anniversaries while pioneering ensemble Gorillaz is back with a new genre-busting studio collection. In addition, a celebrated soundtrack from the dawn of the 1980s is available for the first time ever on CD.

Artist: The Zombies
Title: Odessey & Oracle - 50th Anniversary Edition (Varèse Sarabande Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, The Zombies
Tell me more: Anyone who caught The Zombies during the band's recent string of Southern California dates (including at the Grammy Museum on April 27, the Stagecoach Festival in Indio on April 28 and a show I caught at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in L.A. on April 29) knows the enduring power of the British band's groundbreaking sound. Now The Zombies' greatest album has been reissued in lavish fashion; the seminal Odessey & Oracle - 50th Anniversary is available on both audio CD and vinyl. The terrific reissue  was remastered from the best original sources available and the expanded edition includes seven bonus tracks (a mix of alternate versions and outtakes from the original recording sessions); additionally there are new liner notes and previously-unreleased photos all adding to a greater appreciation of the 1967 sessions that gave rise to Odyssey & Oracle.  An artful mix of harmonies and creative arrangements enhance the baroque pop of "Care of Cell 44" and "A Rose For Emily," jazz-tinged "Beechwood Park," experimental "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)," tuneful "I Want Her She Wants Me," and psychedelic rock masterpiece "Time of the Season." I consider this album to not only be one of the best albums of the 1960s, but one of the greatest albums of all time. Information: VareseSarabande.com.

Artist: Gorillaz
Title: Humanz (Warner Bros.)
You might like if you enjoy: Damon Albarn, Mavis Staples, Grace Jones
Tell me more: Gorillaz is back. Seven years after the release of the virtual British band's last album The Fall in December 2010, musical leader Damon Albarn (of Blur fame) and visual artist Jamie Hewlett have released the ambitious Humanz. The album is a wide ranging affair that includes everything from spoken word and hip hop to electronica, alt rock and trip hop. There are a slew of high-profile talents who join in Albarn's journey, including R&B singer Peven Everett on the grooving "Strobelite," the dub-styled "Saturnz Barz" (featuring both Albarn and Popcaan), exhilarating mash-up of styles on "Let Me Out" (with vocals  from Albarn, soul singer Mavis Staples and rapper Pusha T. showcased) and the electronica-mining "Busted and Blue" and "Sex Murder Party" (the latter two being this writer's favorite selections on the disc). Humanz is available on vinyl and audio CD (both a standard version, and a two-disc limited edition deluxe edition). Information: gorillaz.com.

Title: Stu Phillips Presents The Monkees Song Book (Varèse Sarabande Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Golden Gate Strings, The Monkees
Tell me more: One of the more interesting collections of the 1960s, Stu Phillips Presents The Monkees Song Book featured instrumental versions of 10 Monkees hits arranged by Sid Fellner (who conducted the Golden Gate Strings), Ernie Freeman and Lincoln Mayorga and recorded in a mere three-day span in early February 1967. The most interesting track on the 10-track title is the version of "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," which is dramatically different than the Monkees' freewheeling rock-styled take. In the hands of the Golden Gate Strings, the piece is draped in melancholy and takes on a sonic life of its own. The Monkees Song Book works as both a tribute to the Monkees and a musical time machine capturing the sounds of 50 years ago. The CD booklet includes vintage photos and new details on Phillips (who also handled instrumental music on The Monkees' popular TV show). Information: VareseSarabande.com.

Title: On Golden Pond: Music and Original Dialog from the Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varèse Sarabande Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Composer Dave Grusin, composer John Barry
Tell me more: The 1981 film On Golden Pond was not only a commercial and artistic triumph (it scored a number of Academy Award nominations, including wins for stars Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn), and the film's dramatic power was further bolstered by one of composer Dave Grusin's most mesmerizing movie scores. The intimate and emotional piano-anchored main theme, uptempo "New Hampshire Hornpipe" and sweeping symphonic textures used during "Father-Daughter Relationship" on the soundtrack were adorned with sections of dialog from the movie interspersed along the way. The release of On Golden Pond: Music and Original Dialog from the Motion Picture Soundtrack marks the first time the full Academy Award-nominated score has been available on audio CD. Information: VareseSarabande.com.

Robert Kinsler

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