Legacy Records’ Retro CD Roundup – Pink Floyd, Adam & The Ants, Miles Davis, Van Morrison

pinkfloydearlyyearsPink Floyd – The Early Years 1967-1972: Cre/ation 2-CD (Pink Floyd Records/ Columbia)

This is a compact, consumer-friendly compilation culled from Pink Floyd’s The Early Years 1965-72 boxed set, 27 discs of mostly previously unreleased audio and video. It’s one of the most lavish and pricey rock artifacts ever produced, retailing in the neighborhood of $600 (though I’ve heard of people finding it for as “low” as $450). This rather more affordable 2-disc set offers a quick glimpse into the vault, and it’s intriguing indeed.

Syd Barrett fans will be disappointed that this does not include the famous outtakes “Scream Thy Last Scream” and “Vegetable Man”, nor any of the fascinating tracks from the 1965 sessions that surfaced on an ultra-limited EP a few years ago. You’ll have to shell out for the big box to get those. And the inclusion of the familiar versions of “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play” on a package onstensibly dedicated to unreleased material is baffling; at least “Jugband Blues” appears as an alternate mix. But we do get a live “Flaming” from the BBC, an early take of “Matilda Mother” with different lyrics and a luminous closing jam, and a groovy instrumental from the Piper sessions titled “In The Beechwoods” that I’d never known existed.

From the David Gilmour period, there are multiple live recordings from BBC sessions that have never been released before – this band was notoriously stingy with the “bonus tracks” on its previous reissues, so there’s a good amount of primo material seeing the light of day for the first time. There are excellent live versions of set list staples like “Embryo”, “Cymbaline”, “Careful With That Axe Eugene” and “Atom Heart Mother”, five remixes from the Zabriskie Point sessions that show the band genre-hopping through teasingly short fragments, and an early, partial attempt at “Echoes” titled “Nothing Part 14” that shows the genesis of one of their finest works. If it ultimately raises more questions than answers, that’s probably the response Floyd are hoping for, prompting fans to dig deep and buy the whole enchilada. This will at least give you something mostly new to listen to while you work that second job and save up the six bills.

adamkingsofthewildfrontier-300x300Adam & The Ants – Kings Of The Wild Frontier – Super Deluxe Edition 2-CD, LP and DVD (Legacy)

One of the items on the DVD that accompanies this big-box edition of Adam & The Ants’ second album and American debut is a brief documentary titled Ants Invasion that includes footage of the band’s visit to Tower Records Sunset in early 1981. This is an event I had heard about long ago, as the Ants became the unwitting target of a punk rock guerrilla marketing campaign from Black Flag. The band had created flyers asserting that “Black Flag Kills Ants Dead” and had sympathizers inside Tower trying to egg the glamorous stars of the moment, putting an eerie creepy-crawl vibe on what should have been a feel-good promo stunt by Britain’s Next Big Thing.

Even though I’d just thoroughly enjoyed the last hour watching the Ants, I had to laugh out loud at the memory. It wouldn’t have mattered how good they were, they were destined to be considered corny by hardcore people. Darby Crash coming back to LA from England in the summer of 1980 and declaring them to be the most happening thing in the world must have really freaked those people out!

I suppose it’s similar to the way the older brothers who had already been through Zeppelin and Aerosmith didn’t understand why we kids were so into KISS in the seventies. On the one hand, it’s just sped-up Gary Glitter and all these symbols thrown together that don’t mean anything. On the other hand, it’s totally unlike any other pop band you’ve ever heard before. Your ability to just accept a ludicrous premise and have a good time with it largely determined your ability to get it. As a kid, you don’t know any better, and if you had fun with it then, you probably still do.

And if you had fun with Adam & the Ants in the eighties then you are likely to get a lot out of this super deluxe edition of their best album. It expands on the (much, much cheaper) 2-CD edition with the aforementioned DVD, which includes a complete live show from Tokyo, all the period music videos and BBC appearances and other goodies, along with a handsome 12-inch color book written mostly by Adam himself and a 180-gram vinyl pressing of the LP. There’s also audio of another complete show from Chicago in 1981. But the sheer volume of fan club memorabilia replicated within is likely to induce gasps from folks who used to mail away for stuff and were thrilled when the requested fanzine or catalog or whatever came accompanied by stickers, flyers, glossy photos and assorted little geegaws.

vanmo-too-lateVan Morrison – It’s Too Late To Stop Now Volumes 11, III and IV – 3-CD and DVD (Legacy)

Van The Man’s 1973 tour was already pretty well represented by the popular double LP  that now makes up “Volume I” of this endeavor, but in case he left you wanting more, this is where it can be found. This release compiles three shows in their near-entirety, all previously unreleased performances, and adds a 50-minute DVD from the show at London’s Rainbow Theater. Morrison must have rehearsed the hell out of his band, the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, for this trip as the different concerts have surprisingly little overlap of song choices. The production is crisp and detailed, the performances are consistently crackling, and there are lots of great songs here including “Moondance”, “The Way Young Lovers Do” and “Purple Heather”, that the original set overlooked entirely. It’s a great presentation of a remarkable period for Morrison, it’s priced reasonably, and fans are definitely advised to pick it up.

milesdavisalbumMiles Davis Quintet – Freedom Jazz Dance/ The Bootleg Series Vol. 5 3-CD (Legacy)

The folks of the Miles Davis estate have been working hard to mine the Columbia vaults for every last nugget of Miles’, every note worth hearing, and make it available. This release takes a different approach from most, presenting the complete tapes from the Miles Smiles sessions in 1966, in addition to a handful of 1967-68 sessions by the same group (made up of Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams), some of which were doled out to later releases Nefertiti and Water Babies. The stated intent is to offer insight into the creative process of the group, as you hear their false starts and rejected takes alongside the final masters. This is, honestly, strictly advanced-level study material if you’ve already heard Miles Smiles, which is great (there’s even a link to access transcripts of the studio dialogue, if you want to go that deep with it.) But if any group of players ever warranted such an in-depth investigation – a chance to hear the trails that led nowhere and possibilities left unexplored – this has got to be it. If Stooges geeks can have the chance to hear all 17 takes of “I Got A Right” on a box set, there’s no reason Miles geeks should be denied the opportunity to hear two or three takes of something as lovely as “Footprints” or “Delores.”

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