Monday, December 14, 2020

Music Gift Guide: Tears For Fears, Cat Stevens, 'Ready Steady Go!', Mike Viola

With Hanukkah already here and Christmas fast approaching, here is a roundup of a number of special titles that will make great gifts for discerning music lovers.

Tears For Fears
Title: The Seeds Of Love - Super Deluxe Edition (UMe/Virgin)
You might like if you enjoy: Tears For Fears, The Beatles' "Abbey Road" and "White Album" 
Tell me more: Tears For Fears' brilliant third album The Seeds Of Love was released more than 30 years ago but sounds better and more relevant than ever. A recent reissue of the classic is available in several different configurations ranging from a two-disc audio CD set to a Super Deluxe Edition box set that consists of four CDs and one Blu-Ray which collectively tells the story of how this four-years-in-the-making album from Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith came to be. The recently-issued expanded Super Deluxe Edition reissue of the 1989 masterwork is truly a joy. Indeed, the box set includes 22 previously-unissued tracks from demo sessions, live jams and studio sessions. The material here spans the sonic landscape; the jazz-meets-rock "Bad Man's Song," soul-styled "Advice for the Young at Heart," genre-blending "Standing on the Corner of the Third World," gorgeous "Famous Last Words" and mind-blowing Beatlesque title track sound better than ever. Additional gems include a slew of 45's and B-sides; the adventuresome world music-minded "Tears Roll Down," experimental "My Life in the Suicide Ranks" and jazzy rocker "Always in the Past" are among this writer's favorites. Information:

"Tea For The Tillerman" 50th Anniversary Super
Deluxe Edition
Yusuf / Cat Stevens
Titles: Mona Bone Jakon: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition; Tea For The Tillerman: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (A&M/UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Cat Stevens, Yusuf, Don McLean, Elliott Smith 
Tell me more: Back in 1970, rising artist Cat Stevens released not one, but two impressive albums. Fast forward 50 years to 2020 and both of those now-legendary LPs  Mona Bone Jakon and Tea For The Tillerman (released just months apart in 1970)  have been released at expanded 50th anniversary editions. While this year has certainly been a complete downer in terms of live music (let's face it, live-streaming can't replace the concert going experience), the parade of noteworthy expanded and special reissues has been spectacular as personified by these terrific and in-depth dives into the artistry of Cat Stevens (who changed his name to Yusuf following his conversion to Islam in December 1977); they are truly must-haves for fans of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer-songwriter. 

Mona Bone Jakon: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition

The 2020 remasters of the original albums are incredible; there are also wonderful new 2020 mixes of each album as well. Listening to even well-known tracks such as "Wild World," "Father and Son" and "Where Do The Children Play" (from Tea for the Tillerman), and "Lady Darbanville," "Maybe Your Right" and "I Think I See The Light" (on Mona Bone Jakon) is to seemingly rediscover the beloved songs for the first time. Mona Bone Jakon includes 24 previously unreleased songs, and Tea for the Tillerman features 21 unreleased tracks alongside a number of other rarities. The multi-format releases were released Dec. 4, 2020. For more information on the Super Deluxe Edition box set versions of each of these albums, visit the artist's website. Information:

Ready Steady Go!: The Weekend Starts Here (BMG)
Author: Andy Neill
Publisher: BMG Books
You might like if you enjoy: 1960s music, art and fashion, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, British rock 'n' roll
Tell me more: "Ready Steady Go!: The Weekend Starts Here" is a comprehensive and definitive must-have book by author Andy Neill that provides an in-depth look at the pioneering 1960s British music TV show that hosted the era's greatest names beginning in August 1963. Weighing in at 6 pounds, the 268-page hardcover edition is beautifully  illustrated with a wealth of amazing images (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Zombies, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and countless more!)  most never previously seen  and exclusive essays that provide more appreciation of the 173 episodes aired over the show's three-and-a-half-year run. Insights from the illustrious likes of Manfred Mann, Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Colin Blunstone, Rod Argent and Ray Davies bolster the fast-moving read. A guide also provides details on each of the episodes. Information:

Mike Viola
Title: Godmuffin (Good Morning Monkey / Grand Phony Music)
You might like if you enjoy: Damon Albarn, Alex Chilton, Pete Yorn, Candy Butchers 
Tell me more: Anchored by one of the most bewitching singles in memory  the melodic "Ordinary Girl"  Mike Viola's new album Godmuffin quickly reveals its greatness beyond that undeniable cut. With its indie rock spirit, real life warmth and incredible song craft, the parade of great songs includes the lush Americana-tinged opener "Creeper," probing "We May Never Be This Young Again," biting "Drug Rug," tuneful "All You Can Eat" and gentle closer "That Seems Impossible Now." If Bruce Springsteen came of age a generation later he may well have penned "Superkid II, Trying To Do The Thing That I Thought I Was Born To Do," a brilliant original. Never heard of Viola? You have heard him; it was his top-tier lead vocals on the Oscar-nominated "That Thing You Do" title track from Tom Hanks' 1996 hit film and other cuts featuring the fictional band the Wonders heard in the movie. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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