When The Rolling Stones released ‘Steel Wheels’ at the end of the 80s, they’d spent the better part of a decade coasting off the back of some average albums and a lot of goodwill. Although when heard many years later the album now sounds like the Stones on autopilot, in 1989 it sounded sharp and vibrant; streets ahead of both 1983’s ‘Undercover’ and 1986’s absolutely turgid ‘Dirty Work’. The singles ‘Rock & A Hard Place’ and ‘Mixed Emotions’ harked back to solid rockers like ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Little T&A’ from almost a decade earlier, while tracks like ‘Hold On To Your Hat’ proved the veteran rockers were still more than capable of cutting loose.
A great album deserves a great tour, and in that department, the Stones really didn’t short change their fans either. The ‘Steel Wheels Tour’ of ’89 – renamed the ‘Urban Jungle Tour’ in 1990 – took the band around the globe and saw them visiting the US shores for the first time since 1981. Fans have already been able to revisit the Steel Wheels tour via a widely circulated show filmed at the Tokyo Dome in 1990, but the earlier show from Atlantic City in December ‘89 outdoes that in almost every respect.
The Beatles can arguably claim to being the most covered band in the history of recorded music. Pretty much everything they released between 1962-1970 has been covered at some time, and by bands and artists from right across the musical spectrum. Dig deep enough into the internet, you’ll even find other people reinterpreting ‘Revolution 9’, surely the most marginal of Beatles recordings. Even while the band was still active – long before being considered of any real historical importance – their work was being reinterpreted by high profile artists in a disparate range of styles. Most notably, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. & The MG’s, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley put their own stamp on various Fab Four classics, but for every hit interpretation, several dozen others could be found languishing on cult albums and under-bought singles.
In some ways, Tasmin Archer’s work seems like an odd choice to be given the priority box set treatment. For many years, her best selling debut ‘Great Expectations’ was somewhat of a charity shop staple and, indeed, the original album has often obtainable for little more than a few copper coins on the internet’s second hand market. In addition, Archer’s time at the top seemed so brief when compared to some of the other pop heroines of the age. Then again, perhaps Archer’s fleeting moment of genuine stardom makes her the ideal candidate for such a reissue package. For most, she’s only really known as the lady who sang ‘Sleeping Satellite’ – a soul-pop #1 hit that seemed to take on an omnipresent annoyance – but as this set shows, she wrote and recorded better songs during her first few years of stardom. Much stronger and more interesting material than her once hugely popular hit would have you believe.
After years of speculation, ‘Rock Legends’, a massive career-spanning box set from Thin Lizzy, is to be released in September. Released to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary, the 6CD + DVD anthology is an essential addition to any fan’s collection.
Where as some bands are happy to repackage a few rarities with a bunch of previously released material, ‘Rock Legends’ gives everyone great value for money, in that 74 of the 99 tracks are unreleased and the bulk of the rest are making their debut on CD.
Although best remembered for massive hits ‘Magic’ and ‘January’, there was always far more to Pilot’s career in the 1970s. The Scottish pop-rockers released four albums between 1974 and 1977 containing well crafted pop and rock elements which, at their best, should’ve placed the band high on a pantheon of pop alongside 10cc and Andrew Gold. Instead, they’re sometimes remembered – somewhat unfairly – as part of the decade’s pop pin-up fare. Just take one listen to the giant fanfare that heralds the arrival of #1 hit ‘January’, with its multi-tracked guitars and enduringly jubilant vocal performance, or David Paton’s complex bass runs that cut through the heart of ‘Magic’, and it’s obvious there was far more to Pilot than generic pop.
The obviously titled ‘The Albums’ brings together all four of the band’s four major releases for the first time, including the first ever UK CD release for their ‘Two’s A Crowd’ LP from 1977. As those who’ve treasured their vinyl copies of the first two albums will suspect, this is a collection that features a fair amount of great material, but shows how Pilot weren’t always the most consistent among the decade’s pop-rockers.