The first Velvet Underground album I bought was an odd MGM repackaging of White Light/White Heat. It was cool, mysterious and a little bit frightening for a Midwestern teen. Loaded, however, was my second VU album and the one that made me go “ah-ha!” While it is not the prime Reed/Cale/Morrison/Tucker lineup, it was a glorious melding of downtown NYC grittiness with midtown Brill Building pop. The album contains the band’s “big hits,” “Rock & Roll” and “Sweet Jane” as well as a “sweet nuthin’” ditty like “Who Loves The Sun” and the heartfelt “I Found A Reason.” To commemorate the album’s 45th anniversary, Rhino will unveil a massive 6-disc collection. Besides remastered stereo and mono versions of the album, the box-set also includes two live discs: the classic Live At Max’s Kansas City (recorded on the day Lou Reed left the band) and the previously unreleased May 9, 1970 recording (before Loaded’s release) of a Philadelphia concert taped by a fan on a reel-to-reel player. The Max’s disc includes material from the 2004 Rhino reissue. There is also a 21-track disc of alternative mixes, early versions and song demos, plus an audio=only DVD containing three different high-end Loaded mixes. This is a mega-fully Loaded collection.
If you are a Van Morrison fan, you’ll be experiencing a “sense of wonder” in the next few months. Sony’s Legacy Recordings now has the rights to over 30 Van Morrison albums and will be launching a huge digital release of 33 Morrison records. While there are too many titles to name, the releases span over 40 years, starting with 1965’s The Angry Young Them/Them album going through 2009’s Astral Weeks: Live At The Hollywood Bowl and features a bunch of out-of-print material and stuff that hasn’t been available before on iTunes.
Not everything is included in this Morrison treasury. It hops from the Them albums to St. Dominic’s Preview, skipping over his late 60’s/early 70’s efforts, including his Warner titles. But fear not, Warner Bros. Records will be released remastered, expanded versions of his first (Astral Weeks) and third/final WB (His Band And The Street Choir) records. Each album, which will be available on October 30, will also hold some previously unreleased bonus tracks that show Morrison exploring various arrangements for his songs.
To power pop fans, the name Michael Brown sits among royalty. As a teen, he led Left Banke, known for its hit “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina.” In the mid-70’s, he fronted the band, The Beckies, which received scant recognition then but has become a cult item. Real Gone Music will be giving it a proper CD release on Oct. 9.
Roy Orbison’s MGM years were not his most popular; however, Universal Music Enterprises and Roys Boys (a company run by Orbison’s sons) have partnered up to create a 153-track retrospective of those years to offer a glimpse into the music Orbison was making in the mid-60’s through early ‘70s.
Speaking of career retrospective, the Drive-By Truckers will be releasing a 3-CD (with some other format variation) live set on Oct. 30. Recorded at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, It’s Great To Be Alive provides a great look at the wealth of wonderful tunes that this band has created over the years.
And I will close with news on documentaries about the Carter Families – not singular but plural. One documentary is America’s Gospel Singers, executive produced by Marty Stuart and featuring appearances by Merle Haggard, Connie Smith and Dan Rather. It examines the long career of the Carter Family that is behind the famous gospel group, the Chuck Wagon Gang. Started by D.P. Carter and his family in 1935, the group is led by the third generations of Carters today. The documentary on this Gospel Music Hall of Fame group will be broadcast on Public Television stations this fall.
The other Carter Family documentary is The Winding Stream — The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music, which looks at the music and legacy of the Carter Family led by A.P. Carter. This documentary, by Beth Harrington, has been an award-winner and festival favorite. Omnivore Recordings will be releasing its soundtrack on Oct. 16 and the CD will feature Carter songs performed by the Carter Family, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, George Jones, John Prine, Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Old 97’s Murry Hammond.