Saturday, May 21, 2011

In the Mood for a Little Music? Enjoying the Extended Play.

I love the EP. I don't know how you discern it from a "maxi-single" or a really short album other than, to me, it somehow defines itself with tracks not appearing on proper full-length LPs, no tracks considered as b-sides to any other included song and substantial enough in its content to stand alone as an entry in a band's catalogue. Whether it's a 7" or two, a 12" record or a single CD, there are several EPs on my shelf that hold their own against any other bands' grandest double-albums. A few of my favorites:

Haunting the Chapel - Slayer - 1984
Haunting the ChapelHaunting the Chapel showed up early in Slayer's history, released just after their 1983 debut, Show No Mercy. Now produced as a four-track EP, it's the single stop for longtime live favorite "Chemical Warfare," the incredible "Captor of Sing" and current pressings also collect "Aggressive Perfector," the track which label Metal Blade used to introduce the band to the world on their Metal Massacre 3 sampler. The title selection, "Haunting the Chapel," captures the group at their rawest and rounds out a nice snapshot of a band that would quickly become the undisputed kings of extreme speed metal.

Kooler Than Jesus - My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - 1989
Kooler Than JesusThe first CD release by My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Kooler Than Jesus collected the previous vinyl releases, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult (1987) and Some Have to Dance...Some Have to Kill (1988). Even though it's technically a compilation, Kooler Than Jesus stands up well as a killer, danceable introduction to the band and ranks higher in my estimation than their proper 1988 full-length debut, I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits. Kooler Than Jesus has since been folded in again on a recent Rykodisc reissue from 2004, simply titled My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, which now includes the great "''Cuz It's Hot" single  along with a few other rarities. It's certainly the economical choice but feels like more of a hodgepodge compilation and retains less of an identity all its own than Kooler Than Jesus (and is lacking that killer day-glo sleeve).

'74 Jailbreak - AC/DC - 1984
'74 Jailbreak (Dlx)Early AC/DC albums High Voltage and T.N.T. were combined into a single volume for their U.S. debut, with several tracks cut from the Australian debut to fit a single LP. These along with a few other odds and sods from the original Australian versions of the Bon Scott-era material were collected onto '74 Jailbreak, commemorating AC/DC's tenth anniversary. "Jailbreak," an all-out essential classic, hails from the Australian Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and one has to wonder why it never made it across the ocean. "You Ain't Got a Hold on Me," "Show Business" and "Soul Stripper" all hail from High Voltage as well as the band's cover of "Baby, Please Don't Go," their first single from March '75. At the time, '74 Jailbreak was a nice look back to the band's beginnings as the Brian Johnson-era exploded and even now, as AC/DC eschew bonus tracks on their proper albums, it nicely fills out the collection for stateside listeners.

Thrall-Demonsweatlive - Danzig - 1993
Thrall: DemonsweatliveDanzig's Thrall-Demonsweatlive is a neat little entry into the classic American Records-era line-up. Split into studio (Thrall) and live (Demonsweatlive) sections, what should have been a cult collectible turned out to be a gold record due to the popularity of the live "Mother" video created from the band's performance at Irvine Meadows, California on Halloween, 1992. The Thrall half interests me most as the studio tracks were recorded in a single day and are a distillation of all that was great about Danzig at the time. "It's Coming Down" is a balls-out rocker that would have been right at home on Danzig III: How the Gods Kill while "The Violet Fire" had an alt bent foretelling the band's creative pinnacle, 4p. "Trouble" provides the sweet Elvis cover we always knew Glenn had in him and was also later released as recorded by Samhain on E-Magine's reissue of Final Descent. The Demonsweatlive half is fiery - easily the best live Danzig to ever make it to record - and, sadly, way too brief with only "Snakes of Christ," "Am I Demon," "Sistinas" and, of course, "Mother" represented. A hidden track, #93, provides a remix, "Mother '93," that is no improvement over the original 1988 release. The sweet sleeve, illustrated by Simon Bisley, is also guaranteed to upset your own mom.

The $5.98 E.P.: Garage Days Re-Revisited - Metallica - 1987
The $9.98 CD: Garage Days Re-RevisitedWith a lengthy title laying out a guaranteed low price, Metallica's Garage Days Re-Revisited consisted entirely of covers that had inspired the band and also introduced the audience to new bassist, Jason Newstead. I had a dubbed cassette in those pre-Napster days and when I finally secured my own copy, it was a variation based on the format,The $9.98 CD: Garage Days Re-Revisited. Covers of Diamond Head, Holocaust, Killing Joke, Budgie and, thank God, the Misfits led me immediately on a search for all sorts of heavy metal and punk rock and a $9.98 CD (which probably cost less as I'm sure I grabbed it used) ended up costing me thousands - and gave me thousands of hours of enjoyment in return. An out-of-print collectible for some time, this EP was compiled along with other singles, b-sides and one-offs as well as a second disc of eleven all-new covers in 1998, Garage, Inc. The newer version is a solid, solid offering from Metallica's most commercially successful line-up but, again, loses a lot of the charm of the brief, dashed-off covers disc that broke the new kid in and bridged Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All.

Whether it's a stopgap between albums, a collection of important tracks from a band's history or a smorgasbord of items that otherwise just didn't fit anywhere else, the EP is, for me, one of the neatest things a music collector can encounter. A bite-sized representation of a band that, more often than not, adds another facet to their story and makes a statement just as significant as any of the "big" records they have on the shelf, an EP, while it may be passed up by many looking for a single of something more hefty for their money, is always a must-buy for me.

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