Friday, April 8, 2011

Best of the Rest (of)

OK....while I am torn on "Best of" compilations, I am generally a sucker for Leftover platters.  And not Monday's meatloaf. Unless it's Meat Loaf. In other words, when a band calls it quits and they or the label clear the vaults of tracks that didn't make the living discography, I cannot wait to hear what got left behind. Many established artists do this from time to time during their ongoing career and we end up with nice little single-discs gems like R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office or Def Leppard's Retro Active. Others come up with entire box sets to explore, like Springsteen's Tracks and Danzig's Lost Tracks. What interests me most, though, are those that come out as a last gasp and neatly sew up the legacy. A few favorites include:

Coda - Led Zeppelin - 1982
While a sparse gathering of Led Zeppelin leftovers, Coda is essential, nonetheless. "Poor Tom" would have been worthy of inclusion on any of their preceding albums and "Wearing and Tearing" and "We're Gonna Groove" have become part of this listener's core Zeppelin playlist. "Bonzo's Montreux" falls short of Bonham's earlier masterpieces but is a touching final farewell nonetheless. The Complete Studio Recordings box set version of this disc turns it into an absolute must-have, adding "Baby Come on Home," "Travelling Riverside Blues," "White Summer/Black Mountain Side" and "Hey, Hey What Can I Do." It is a shock and a shame that the newer remastered single-disc pressings of Coda leave these classics off (something iTunes, thankfully, makes easy to remedy for a few dollars). This feels like odds and ends overall but as Led Zeppelin gave us so little across a brief, brilliant career it remains a welcome gift.

Finyl Vinyl - Rainbow - 1986
Prior to the release in 2006 of the superb Live In Munich 1977, Rainbow had only one live album in their catalogue and it left a lot to be desired. And following the definitive Dio lineup, each Rainbow album marked a change in direction and sound, leaving behind a muddled legacy when Ritchie Blackmore called it quits in 1984. Finyl Vinyl collected some ferocious live tracks, largely featuring Joe Lynn Turner (featured on the studio LPs Difficult to Cure, Straight Between the Eyes and Bent Out of Shape) but also a few contributions from Graham Bonnet and Ronnie James Dio. The result, while a patchwork, has the cohesive feel of a raw, outright rocking class reunion and is an immensely satisfying, well-sequenced package. Add in a few b-side rarities, "Weiss Heim" and "Jealous Lover," and the Rainbow collector is left feeling complete after all (from my research it appears that the band left very little developed material on the cutting room floor). Blackmore reassembled Rainbow with all new players in 1995 for Stranger in Us All and disappeared again almost immediately.  For most, though, the story was cleanly wrapped up with Finyl Vinyl.

Legacy of Brutality & Cuts from the Crypt - Misfits - 1985, 2001
While the Misfits seem to continue as a Jerry Only vehicle, many hardcore fans contend they ceased to exist when Glenn Danzig left the band as that incarnation's second and final album, Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood, appeared in 1983. Legacy of Brutality appeared fairly soon thereafter and offered a feast of material spanning from 1978 to 1981, including what was then considered to be the entirety of the Static Age album from '78 (since released as a standalone with additional tracks peviously relegated to EPs, varying mixes and a different running order). These alone rivaled the Misfits' defining moment, Walk Among Us. Add in, then, Danzig's early solo "Who Killed Marilyn?" and the killer "American Nightmare" along with a few other odds and sods and you have a compilation that, if not at the top, easily ranks second in the Misfits discography.

Jerry and Doyle re-emerged in fits and starts around 1996, with a new lineup comprised of vocalist Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud featured on a new studio record, American Psycho, in 1997. Many refuse to even acknowledge this era but, frankly, I dig it. It's not the same but it's fun, nonetheless. A second LP record by the same foursome, Famous Monsters, came out in 1999 with the band splitting again in 2000. This era, while brief, resulted in two very good, solid albums and a nice selection of leftovers, preserved on Cuts from the Crypt, released in 2001. The completist collector has to be thrilled to find the band's first demos across the first six tracks combined with tribute and soundtrack cuts ("Fiend Without a Face" and "Bruiser" from the George Romero film of the same name being essentials) along with a few oddball live, promo and session tracks. "1,000,000 Years B.C.," a cut from Famous Monsters is so screamingly good, so maddeningly fast and intense, it alone merits purchase of this record. Regardless of how you feel about the Misfits' ever-changing lineups, it's fun to collect and review works from a band that evolves so quickly and so often.

And that's what I like best about all of these.  We grow to love a band, we listen to each passing record and, eventually, we bid them farewell. A posthumous collection, while not always the strongest material, adds color, breadth and depth to the picture and gives us just a little more from a story that, no matter how many years it spans, always seems too brief.

1 comment:

  1. Me thinks Rainbow Rising was the definitive Rainbow album!