Crowded House – Afterglow (Deluxe Edition)

Released several years after the breakup of the original lineup of Crowded House, Afterglow was a collection of songs that had been relegated to B-sides, to soundtracks, and sometimes to the cutting room floor, never making it to an album but becoming a favorite in the band’s live show. There was material concurrent with all four of the band’s studio albums at the time, and it was something of a bittersweet revelation of how prolific the band was.

But if the original release was a fond reminder of that, the deluxe expanded 2-CD edition is a jaw-dropping revelation. It was known that, after the departure of Paul Hester from the drum seat, an attempt was made to soldier onward with Peter Jones, who had toured with the band after Hester’s abrupt mid-tour exit in 1994. Jones was heard on drums on the original Afterglow‘s incredibly atmospheric track “Help Is Coming”, so obvious some recording was done with him. But the biggest surprise of the second disc is a stretch of material revealing just how much was recorded with Jones – a series of songs that basically amount to an album side. So yes, the deluxe edition of Afterglow brings us half of a Crowded House album that could have been, and really should have been, because the studio demos are so polished – and just as atmospheric as “Help Is Coming” – that they’re sharper than some bands’ final studio masters, and they reveal a band that could very well have continued despite the unplanned personnel change.

After Neil Finn’s home demos of such songs as “Instinct” and “Everything Is Good For You”, the Finn/Seymour/Hart/Jones lineup returns with “Anthem”, a song Finn unearthed from the archives as a charity single a few years earlier, and while it lacks the polish of a finished track, it does show an arrangement that’s been worked out an honed, complete with vocal harmonies. The next track by this post-Together Alone lineup is even more surprising, featuring Mark Hart singing lead on a song that he wrote, “I Don’t Know You”. Again, the song is presented in a somewhat rough state, but one with a lot of promise. Hart eventually reclaimed “I Don’t Know You” for his solo album Nada Sonata, but there’s something stripped-down, bluesy, and incredibly catchy about the Crowded House rendition that may well make it superior to Hart’s final studio version. This should’ve been a single, though one wonders how a single without Finn’s voice (or writing credit) front and center might have been able to navigate the band’s complex internal politics.

Even more songs follow, including the trippy “A Taste Of Something Divine”, which could almost be in late ’90s U2’s wheelhouse rather than what anyone would’ve been expecting from Crowded House. If this is what the band could’ve accomplished with Jones on drums, it’s kind of a glimpse into an alternate universe where Together Alone was followed by even edgier, more out-there changes in style.

Following a nice, folksy rendition of “Spirit Of The Stairs” (a favorite in the Crowdies’ live set), this lineup drops one last surprise with a hard-hitting rendition of “Loose Tongue”, a song which eventually migrated to Finn’s first solo album, 1998’s Try Whistling This. Upon hearing that album in 1998, I remember asking myself “Why was it necessary to break up Crowded House to do this album?”, and this version of “Loose Tongue” really brings that question back. There was very little of Try Whistling This that couldn’t have been done by the full Crowded House lineup.

But the alternate timeline in which Crowded House with Peter Jones in tow ventures into more adventurous musical territory ends there; the rest of disc two is rounded out with the three “new” songs from the 1996 greatest hits album, “Instinct”, “Not The Girl You Think You Are”, and “Everything Is Good For You”, all of them “safer”, more traditional Crowded House songs with 4 out of 4Mitchell Froom at the mixing board and Paul Hester on drums.

The musical equivalent of deleted scenes is what Afterglow was always about, but the expanded edition offers a truly eye-opening glimpse into what could have been if Together Alone had been but the beginning of an experimental phase, and not the end of one. Very few expanded reissues of existing albums justify the double-dip like this one does.

Order this CDDisc One

  1. I Am In Love (4:37)
  2. Sacred Cow (3:36)
  3. You Can Touch (3:45)
  4. Help Is Coming (4:48)
  5. I Love You Dawn (2:33)
  6. Dr. Livingston (3:56)
  7. My Tellys’ Gone Bung (3:10)
  8. Private Universe (4:07)
  9. Lester (2:19)
  10. Anyone Can Tell (3:35)
  11. Recurring Dream (3:23)
  12. Left Hand (2:57)
  13. Time Immemorial (4:06)

Disc Two

  1. I Am In Love (Home Demo) (2:07)
  2. Instinct (Home Demo) (2:03)
  3. Spirit Of The Stairs (Home Demo) (3:39)
  4. I’m So Scared Of Losing I Can’t Compete (Home Demo) (2:11)
  5. Everything Is Good For You (Home Demo) (3:14)
  6. Not The Girl You Think You Are (Home Demo) (3:00)
  7. Anthem (3:31)
  8. I Don’t Know You (Studio Demo) (3:40)
  9. A Taste Of Something Divine (Studio Demo) (4:14)
  10. Spirit Of The Stairs (Studio Demo) (4:55)
  11. Loose Tongue
  12. Rough Mix (3:51)
  13. Instinct (3:06)
  14. Everything Is Good For You (3:52)
  15. Not The Girl You Think You Are (4:08)

Released by: Capitol Records
Release date: November 18, 2016
Disc one running time: 46:51
Disc two running time: 47:31

[…]

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)

Galaxy Quest (Newly Expanded Edition)Originally released shortly after the movie’s premiere, but only in a semi-official capacity on an obscure (and now extinct) label specializing in private-label releases for film and TVcomposers, Galaxy Quest has always been one of my favorite things on my soundtrack shelf. With David Newman tackling the movie as a serious SF film (and the cast and crew doing the same thing, keeping up kayfabe for nearly the entire show), the soundtrack was positively epic – the best science fiction film score of the ’90s. Yes, better than The Matrix.

La La Land Records has rescued Galaxy Quest from obscurity, finally giving the soundtrack a fresh remastering and a wide (if limited-edition) release. There are also a few extra minutes of music, but there was plenty of meat on the bones of the earlier release: this is full-bodied, full-orchestra film music at its finest.

The highlights are still the same as they were before: “Red Thingie, Green Thingie… RUN!” is still one of the best pieces of action movie music since the heyday of Star Wars. What this new La La Land edition has over the old Supertracks release is its copious liner notes booklet, telling me more in just a few pages than I ever knew about Galaxy Quest before, including how hard the studio came down on the writers and director to avoid “offending” the Star Trek franchise’s power players and fans. (As it turns out, Star Trek’s power players were among Galaxy Quest‘s biggest fans – Patrick Stewart, in particular, found the movie uproariously funny.) Also revealed is that David Newman was a mere session orchestra player on the first two Star Trek films, which explains how he nails the all of the little Goldsmith and Horner stylistic tricks so perfectly with Galaxy Quest. This score was Newman’s final exam in how closely he was paying attention in 1979 and 1982. 4 out of 4I think he passed.

Galaxy Quest has faded into relative obscurity as a theatrical event, so this soundtrack is getting only a limited release. That’s the only less-than-perfect thing about the whole package. It’s still the best sci-fi movie score of the 1990s.

Order this CD

  1. Galaxy Quest: The Classic TV Theme (0:57)
  2. TV Clip (1:32)
  3. Pathetic Nesmith (0:57)
  4. Galaxy Quest TV Clip #3 / Introducing Sarris / Revealing the Universe (1:50)
  5. Transporting the Crew / Meet the Thermians (1:33)
  6. The N.S.E.A. Protector (0:43)
  7. Crew Quarters & The Bridge / The Launch (3:24)
  8. Jason Takes Action / Sarris Tortures Captain (1:41)
  9. Red Thingie, Green Thingie… Run! (3:30)
  10. Shuttle to Planet / Trek Across Planet (4:26)
  11. Rolling the Sphere / Pig Lizard / Rock Monster (6:05)
  12. “Digitize Me Fred” (1:13)
  13. “I’m So Sorry” (1:42)
  14. Fight, Episode 17 (1:15)
  15. The Hallway Sneak / Alex Finds Quellek (2:16)
  16. Angry Sarris / Into the Ducts / Omega 13 / Heroic Guy / Reveal Chompers / Opening the Airlock (3:31)
  17. Big Kiss / Happy Rock Monster / Dying Thermians / Quellek’s Death / Into Reactor Room / Push the Button / A Hug Before Dying (4:08)
  18. Sarris Orders Attack / The Battle (3:34)
  19. Mathesar Takes Command / Sarris Kills Everybody (2:18)
  20. Mathesar, Hero / Goodbye My Friends / Crash Landing (1:45)
  21. Goodbye Sarris / Happy Ending (2:04)
  22. The New Galaxy Quest (0:59)

Released by: La La Land Records
Release date: 2012
Total running time: 53:07

Man On The Moon – music by R.E.M.

Man On The Moon soundtrackThis soundtrack is an odd bird. There’s a smattering of clips from R.E.M.’s film score, a few songs from the band, a couple of performances by Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton, a handful of pieces of source music from significant Kaufman appearances, and one song that doesn’t fit any of these categories but does show up briefly in the movie. I’m sure there’s an audience for each category, but I have to think their intersection is a very small group.

I remember thinking the score did a good job fitting the movie when I saw it, but it’s hard to get much sense of it from any of these clips. Most of them are about two minutes long, so there’s no time for them to really build a mood. I do particularly like “Miracle” and “Milk And Cookies”, which come from the tail end of the film as Kaufman deals with his impending death and his performance at Carnegie Hall – there’s a bittersweet resignation to the music that conveys the sentiment of the plot quite well. An orchestral version of “Man On The Moon” is good, but almost unrecognizable – it was only when I got the DVD-Audio version of Automatic For The People that I recognized a few elements from the song that had made the transition.

The original “Man On The Moon” is one of three R.E.M. performances on the album. Of those, “The Great Beyond” is the only new composition. It’s one of my favorite songs of the band’s three-piece period, thoughtful and mellow but still up-tempo enough to have some energy to it. The guitar-bass-keyboard combo provides an atmospheric backdrop to Michael Stipe’s verses and then kicks into gear with a fuller sound, including some strings, in the choruses. Unfortunately, like almost every other track on this album, it’s marred by the inclusion of dialogue clips from the movie. The third performance, “This Friendly World”, features Carrey singing along with Stipe as both Kaufman and Clifton. It’s amusing, especially when Carrey/Kaufman demands that he and Stipe sing every other word of one verse.

Carrey/Clifton also absolutely butchers “I Will Survive”. Since that’s what he’s setting out to do, I’ll call this one a highly successful failure. “Rose Marie” and “One More Song for You” are original Kaufman performances from the archives, and the man could carry a tune quite well, but they’re probably more memorable for novelty value – “Hey, Latka can sing!” Bob James’ theme from Taxi, “Angela”, fits in rather well with the other instrumental pieces. It’s understated but I think it holds up rather well as one of TV’s most memorable instrumental themes. The Sandpipers’ “Mighty Mouse Theme” is another fun and obvious piece of source music.

As for Exile’s “Kiss You All Over” . . . I got nothin’.

rating: 2 out of 4The problem is that the album is both schizophrenic and short. There’s not enough orchestral music for this to appeal to fans of film scores, there’s not enough comedy for humor fans, and there’s not enough original Kaufman material to appeal to his fans. Once upon a time, the presence of “The Great Beyond” might have made this somewhat worthwhile for R.E.M. fans, but now you can get that song without the film dialogue on the band’s Warner Bros. best-of, and “Man On The Moon” is there as well. But if you’re looking for eclectic eccentricity, this might work for you.

Order this CD

  1. Mighty Mouse Theme (Here I Come to Save the Day) – The Sandpipers (song) (1:53)
  2. The Great Beyond – R.E.M. (song) (5:22)
  3. Kiss You All Over – Exile (song) (3:37)
  4. Angela (Theme from Taxi) – Bob James (instrumental song) (1:27)
  5. Tony Thrown Out – R.E.M. (score) (1:07)
  6. Man on the Moon – R.E.M. (song) (5:13)
  7. This Friendly World – R.E.M. and Jim Carrey (song) (3:03)
  8. Miracle – R.E.M. (score) (2:53)
  9. Lynne and Andy – R.E.M. (score) (1:46)
  10. Rose Marie – Andy Kaufman (song) (2:36)
  11. Andy Gets Fired – R.E.M. (score) (1:07)
  12. I Will Survive – Tony Clifton (song) (1:49)
  13. Milk & Cookies – R.E.M. (score) (1:59)
  14. Man on the Moon (Orchestral) – R.E.M. (score) (1:51)
  15. One More Song for You – Andy Kaufman (score) (1:16)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 37:08

Xevious 3D/G+

Xevious 3D/G+Not really a soundtrack in the strictest sense, this is – like Namco Classics Collection before it – a collection of remixes of background music as heard in Namco’s 3-D update of the classic Xevious arcade game. In many cases, you won’t hear any correlation whatsoever to the music that’s heard in the game – it’s been reworked that much.

Sometimes, as in the mesmerizing “Area 1: MLO Deep Pan Mix”, this is just fine. There are quite a few tracks on here which have an almost hypnotic effect – overall, pretty good standard-issue trance. But the lead 3 out of 4track, “Area 7: Happy-Go-Lucky Mix”, is worthy of skipping every time – it sounds like it’s trying to find a whimsical tone, and it winds up being more annoying than anything.

It may have precious little to do with Xevious, but it’s not a bad listen in and of itself.

Order this CD

  1. Area 7: Happy-Go Lucky Mix mixed by SPAG (6:04)
  2. Area 4: Liquid Groove Mix mixed by SPAG (6:15)
  3. Boss 4: NP Mix mixed by SPAG (4:35)
  4. Area 1: MLO Deep Pan Mix remixed by MLO (8:43)
  5. Boss 7: Berserker’s Fat Beat Mix remixed by Berserker (6:38)
  6. Ending Movie: The Wax Head Mix remixed by The Hypnotist (7:57)
  7. Opening Movie: Dub Struck remixed by The Hypnotist (8:37)
  8. Area 5: Overhead Noise Mix remixed by Overhead Noise (17:20)
  9. Untitled Hidden Track #1 (6:14)
  10. Untitled Hidden Track #2 (4:27)

Released by: Pony Canyon
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 76:52

Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun

Command & Conquer: Tiberian SunIt may seem silly to snatch up the music of a game I don’t even own (honestly, I’m not sure my system could handle it), but sometimes it’s worth it. Frank Klepacki carries on the proud, if unorthodox, tradition of tracking a wargame with some serious techno beats that wouldn’t be out of place in the club scene. The smooth groove of “Lone Trooper” and the slow-building jam of “Scouting” are some of the finest techno cuts I’ve heard, game or no game. “Mutants” kicks off with the slimiest slice of modern funk I’ve heard in a long time, and the menacing “Approach” track echoes the ticking clock percussion of some of the better cues from John Williams’ JFK score. “What Lurks” is a bit reminiscent of 4 out of 4Klepacki’s best work from Dune 2000. While Tiberian Sun itself didn’t get the warmest reception from the PC gaming community (as well as a few Command & Conquer purists who balked at the transition from overhead 2-D graphics to a 3-D look), the soundtrack is right on the money – whether you’re listening to it in the car or blasting away at the legions of NOD.

Order this CD

  1. Timebomb (2:07)
  2. Pharotek (4:41)
  3. Lone Trooper (4:42)
  4. Scouting (4:17)
  5. Infrared (4:31)
  6. Flurry (4:15)
  7. Mutants (4:15)
  8. Gloom (4:01)
  9. Heroism (4:03)
  10. Approach (4:43)
  11. Dusk Hour (4:18)
  12. The Defense (4:05)
  13. Mad Rap (4:32)
  14. Valves (4:22)
  15. What Lurks (5:17)
  16. Score (1:49)

Released by: Westwood Studios / Electronic Arts
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 65:58

Roy Wood – Mustard

Roy Wood - MustardFollowing up on the not-quite-success of his amazing 1973 solo debut Boulders and some equally underground releases (commercial-success-wise, that is) with his band Wizzard, ELO co-founder Roy Wood regrouped and decided to do another truly solo album. Woody can play a few dozen instruments, you see, so locking this guy into a recording studio by himself for a few weeks with a fresh batch of songs is not a problem. What he emerged with, while not quite up to the innovation level of Boulders, is still stunning.

I have to admit a certain level of amazement with those gifted individuals who can play it all for themselves, and Roy Wood is among the most amazing of those musical hermit crabs. Who else could get away with using bagpipes in an intro to an all-out 70s style rocker? And actually play the bloody things himself?

That’s not the only stylistic innovation on Mustard; on two tracks – the title track intro and “You Sure Got It Now” – Wood does an uncanny vocal impersonation of the Andrews Sisters, complete with scratchy-record effects on the former. The latter overlays that all-female trio sound on a somewhat bluesier, rockier rhythm track, and it works in a weird, cultural-collision sort of way. And keep in mind, it’s all Roy Wood’s vocals. (The only guest vocals are Phil Everly – yes, as in the Everly Brothers, who coincidentally later had a song produced by Wood’s former ELO cohort Jeff Lynne – on “Get On Down Home” and Annie Haslam singing higher backing vocals on the excellent ballad “The Rain Came Down”.)

The highlight for me is easily “The Song”, which slowly unfolds into a lovely instrumental in its second half, and it’s easy to tell that the starting point for the song’s sound – if not the music itself – was The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home”.

This being a 1999 CD reissue, fully half of the tracks are added bonuses from non-album singles and B-sides (the original Mustard ended with “Get On Down Home”), including the sitar-heavy “Bengal Jig”, and some more of the 50s-style rockers which Wood has made part of his unique style – “Oh What A Shame” 4 out of 4and “The Rattlesnake Roll”. An ELO-worthy instrumental with equal helpings of sax and Moog synthesizer, “Strider”, is also included, as are some very interesting liner notes placing Wood’s work into the context of British rock history and what other acts were doing at roughly the same time. A highly recommended package for fans of Woody’s work – or even for those unfamiliar with it.

Order this CD

  1. Mustard (1:27)
  2. Any Old Time Will Do (4:12)
  3. The Rain Came Down On Everything (6:34)
  4. You Sure Got It Now (5:29)
  5. Why Does A Pretty Girl Sing Those Sad Songs (4:32)
  6. The Song (6:35)
  7. Look Thru The Eyes Of A Fool (2:55)
  8. Interlude (1:24)
  9. Get On Down Home (7:29)
  10. Oh What A Shame (3:50)
  11. Bengal Jig (2:13)
  12. Rattlesnake Roll (4:01)
  13. Can’t Help My Feelings (5:11)
  14. Strider (2:49)
  15. Indiana Rainbow (3:53)
  16. The Thing Is This (This Is The Thing) (5:43)

Released by: Edsel Records
Release date: 1975 (reissued in 1999)
Total running time: 68:39

Afro-Celt Sound System – Volume 2: Release

Afro-Celt Sound System - Volume 2: ReleaseComing off of what could have been a glorious one-off experiment, the Afro-Celts decided to grab for a little more exposure by starting what has now become a tradition in their work: high-profile guest artists. None other than Sinead O’Connor kicks the proceedings off with her compassionate vocal for “Release”, for which she also wrote the anti-violence lyrics (the album is bookended with an instrumental version of “Release” as the last track, and O’Connor’s credit is the only one missing among the songwriters).

If there’s one thing that strikes me upfront about Release, it’s the increase in atmosphere. Songs such as “Èireann”, “Hypnotica” and “Even In My Dreams” are drenched with an almost eerie feel. Most of the tracks top out upward of six and seven minutes, and I’m fine with that – the dense rhythms need time to evolve and develop, else they’d seem a little forced if we were hit over the head with them all at once. But sometimes the atmosphere isn’t about rhythms – it’s about building a tone for the song before the percussion kicks in.

4 out of 4“Release” and “Amber” really win the prize for being this album’s most relaxing songs, while “Big Cat” and “Riding The Waves” prove the Afro-Celts still have the chops necessary to turn out some hyperkinetic heavyweights that wouldn’t be out of place on the dance floor. In all, a very cohesive collection and most enjoyable.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Release (7:39)
  2. Lovers Of Light (4:03)
  3. Èireann (5:12)
  4. Urban Aire (2:07)
  5. Big Cat (7:47)
  6. Even In My Dreams (7:07)
  7. Amber (5:27)
  8. Hypnotica (7:18)
  9. Riding The Waves (6:36)
  10. I Think Of… (4:33)
  11. Release It (instrumental) (6:26)

Released by: Narada RealWorld
Release date: 1999
Total running time: 64:02