Sounds like the past: Neil Young, The Band, Peggy Lee reissues

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday February 1, 2022
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Neil Young, Peggy Lee, Japan
Neil Young, Peggy Lee, Japan

Neil Young may not be on the top of the list of many LGBTQ folks' favorite singer/songwriters, but if you've been paying attention, he led the growing boycott of Spotify for streaming anti-vaccination and conspiracy theories on Joe Rogan's show. Young's longtime colleague Joni Mitchell joined and had her songs removed, as have Bruce Springsteen, Nils Lofgren and other musicians.

Also, some of our favorite divas have been singing his praises and songs for years. Bette Midler's cover of Young's "Birds" can be heard on her Live at Last album, the second Trio album by Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt finds the threesome covering "After The Gold Rush."

Saint Etienne (featuring lead vocalist Sarah Cracknell) recorded a memorable version of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." Additionally, Young's song "Philadelphia," from the Tom Hanks film of the same name, is actually a better song than the Oscar-winning Bruce Springsteen tune.

These three songs have something else in common — they can all be found on Young's breakthrough third album After the Gold Rush (Reprise/Neil Young Archives), also reissued in 50-year anniversary editions, including expanded CD and deluxe, numbered limited edition 180-gram vinyl with bonus materials. After The Gold Rush is also notable for the song "Southern Man," in which Young takes the American South to task for reparations, and also inspired Lynyrd Skynyrd's answer song "Sweet Home Alabama."

Even though The Band was only technically in existence for ten years, they managed to achieve legendary status during that time. So much so that their "farewell concert appearance" was made into the acclaimed concert film/documentary The Last Waltz, directed by Martin Scorcese.

Originally formed as a backing band for Bob Dylan and others, the Canadian-American quintet was renowned for its distinctive brand of folk-rock. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of The Band's third album Stage Fright (Capitol), the 1970 album has been reissued in multiple formats in a remixed and remastered edition.

The double CD set includes the original 10-song album (featuring the title cut, "The Shape I'm In," "The Rumor," "Time to Kill" and "Sleeping") as well as nine bonus tracks. The second disc, "Live at The Royal Albert Hall, June 1971," features 20 songs including "The Weight," "Up On Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," and Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."

Groundbreaking singer and songwriter Peggy Lee, who died in 2002, would have turned 100 in 2020. In honor of that momentous occasion, as well as to complement the PBS doc Fever: The Music of Peggy Lee, the 40-track double-disc set Something Wonderful: Peggy Lee Sings The Great American Songbook (Omnivore) has been released.

A compilation of heretofore unissued live performances from Lee's early 1950s radio show, the package includes Lee performing originals such as "Mañana," "It's A Good Day," and "I Don't Know Enough About You," as well as tunes by Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael, in addition to Johnny Mercer and Frank Loesser (both of whom accompany Lee on a few songs).

Would there even be a Duran Duran if not for David Sylvian's groundbreaking synth-pop band Japan? Quiet Life (BMG), Japan's newly remastered and reissued third album from 1979, pre-dates Duran Duran's eponymous debut album by about a year and a half, and there's no denying that you can both hear and see Japan's influence on them.

Quiet Life opens with the titular song which is anything but quiet. In fact, it boasts one of the most persuasive beats and synthesizer riffs you've ever heard. "Fall in Love with Me," "In-Vogue," and "Alien," also have their dance floor charms. A cover of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties" is also outstanding.

In the mid-1980s, before there was alt-country (see early Wilco and the Bloodshot Records catalog), there was cowpunk. Many of the bands, including Lone Justice, Rank and File, and The Long Ryders were SoCal-based. The Beat Farmers, led by the late Country Dick Montana, is another example. Tales of the New West (Blixa Sounds), The Beat Farmers' acclaimed 1985 debut album, has just been given the double-disc deluxe expanded reissue treatment.

True to its punk roots, only one of the songs on the original album crosses the three-minute mark. In addition to a pair of outstanding covers —the Velvet Underground's "There She Goes Again" and Springsteen's "Reason to Believe"— the album boasts memorable originals including "Lost Weekend," "Goldmine," "Selfish Heart" and the goofy "Happy Boy" (which features a kazoo and gargling!). The second disc of the set features the 21-track "Live at the Spring Valley Inn, 1983."

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