Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Jethro Tull, Procol Harum and Mod Jazz
This Was: The 50th Anniversary Edition (Parlophone tbc)
It is 50 years this month since Jethro Tull released their first album This Was, and to mark its golden anniversary it has had a major upgrade, with a 3 CD/DVD edition featuring the original album and bonus tracks remixed in stereo by Steven Wilson, the original mono and stereo mixes, 5.1 surround sound mixes, live BBC sessions and much more, all packaged in a casebound book, featuring an extensive history of the album, track by track annotations by Tull linchpin Ian Anderson and rare and previously unseen photographs. Recorded on 4 Track in June and July 1968 at a reported cost of just £1,200, it was very much a taste of what was to follow, with an esoteric collection of tracks – some vocal, some instrumental – with discernible blues, jazz, folk and prog. rock influences shining through. Even at this early stage, vocalist and flautist Ian Anderson cast a magical musical spell, with the freewheeling My Sunday Feeling, the more propulsive and aggressive Cat’s Squirrel and A Song For Jeffrey among the highlights. Still one of the fans’ favourites, A Song For Jeffrey features some dazzling musicianship, with a meaty bass riff, bluesy harmonica, slide guitar and some demented flute playing from Anderson all creating a compelling backdrop to his vocals which are imbedded deep in the mix and hard to understand but atmospheric.
Grand Hotel (Esoteric ECLEC 22632)
The best of three simultaneously released expanded Procol Harum albums – alongside a 3CD version of 1974’s Exotic Birds And Fruit (ECLEC 32633) and a slightly swollen but still single CD version of 1991’s The Prodigal Stranger (ECLEC 2634) – Grand Hotel finds the Whiter Shade Of Pale hitmakers in a state of flux. It was all but ignored in The UK, where it failed to chart at all, but was a substantial success for them in America, becoming their highest charting album (No.21) there, while also gaining them their highest chart placing in several European territories. Newly remastered, it features five bonus tracks (three previously unreleased). and is housed in a gatefold sleeve alongside a DVD featuring an excellent Belgian TV special dating from 1973, a lyric booklet, and an illustrated booklet with comments from pianist and lead singer Gary Brooker. The NME called it ‘a masterpiece of musical perfection and lyricism’ at the time, and more than 40 years after the fact it has survived the rigours of time remarkably well, especially the sumptuously-orchestrated title track; Fires (Which Burn Brightly), on which the band take a cool jazzy step accompanied by Christianne LeGrand & The Swingle Singers; and the quirky tongue-in-cheek Souvenir Of London, which is quite unlike anything else here and whose lyric ‘got to show it to my doctor’ – about a sexually transmitted disease - caused the BBC to have vapours and ban it.
Mod Jazz Rides Again (Kent CDKEND 479)
Tagged as ‘the sharpest cuts for the keenest feet’, the latest in Kent’s ongoing mod jazz series of compilations – the ninth in the past 22 years – effortlessly fulfils its brief yet again, with two dozen doozies from the years 1960-1969, including the usual mix of known and hitherto unknown delights. Pride of place this time around must go to Sammy Davis Jr, who epitomises cool and treats us to his own highly idiosyncratic reading of the Petula Clark hit I Know A Place recorded live at The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas accompanied by The Buddy Rich Big Band in swing overdrive. Nina Simone rips up a storm with Come On Back, Jack, an answer record to Ray Charles’ Hit The Road, Jack. Gene Walker’s sax-parping Empire City is a bewitching little doodle in twist tempo, while the little-known East 24th Ave. by Billy Graham & The Escalators has a Latin jazz feel and a tune that, in parts, is a little redolent of Watermelon Man. A 16-page booklet provides a wealth of background information and annotation, completing another awesome package