Elmer Bernstein – Ghostbusters [35th Anniversary Reissue] (Album Review)

With this year marking the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters, it’s been really nice to see the film’s incredibly robust film score be included in all of the celebrations. Crafted by legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal House, Cape Fear) in the fourth decade of his mind-blowingly impressive career that spanned from Saturday’s Hero in 1951 to Far From Heaven in 2002, his work for Ghostbusters marks a creatively ambitious period in the iconic composer’s stellar catalog. While this 35th anniversary release came out on CD and made its digital debut earlier this year, the impressively crafted vinyl release from Sony is now available and features the film’s score (remastered from the original multi-track sources) stretched across two discs, as well as four additional previously unreleased tracks and a wonderful liner note essay from Bernstein’s son, Peter (who also worked on the film’s score).

Bernstein’s legendary composition work includes over 150 film scores, all of wildly varying degrees of musical sophistication and fearlessness. While he was musically fluent in classical compositions, Broadway musicals, grand westerns, suspense-inducing dramatics, orchestral suites, and more, it was the late-‘70s/early-‘80s period of his career that highlighted some of his most adventurous compositions paired to some of the most notable comedic films of the period. This surprising and prolific section of Bernstein’s career started with his composing the score to the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House, an opportunity that came about due to Peter Bernstein’s childhood friendship with the film’s director, John Landis. The success of Bernstein’s brilliant musical accompaniment matched with oddball comedic cinema carried into his scoring a variety of other comedies in quick succession, including Meatballs (1979), Airplane! (1980), The Blues Brothers (1980), Stripes (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Trading Places (1983), Spies Like Us (1985), Three Amigos! (1986), and many others.

Bernstein’s work on Ghostbusters took place during this time period as well and for the film he mixed some of his more classical and traditional leanings with more modern, tech-savvy flairs of inspiration. Most notably, Bernstein employed the theremin-like sounds of an Ondes Martenot keyboard for the instantly recognizable ghostly atmospherics, as well as three Yamaha DX7 synthesizers for the slick, electro-melodic flourishes. Bernstein’s Ghostbusters score was performed by the 72-person Hollywood Studio Symphony orchestra and was orchestrated by his son, Peter, and David Spear. All of the musical credits outlining the performers and instruments are included in this vinyl releases beautiful full-color booklet that also houses Peter’s essay and a striking collection of film photos. The entire double-disc collection is housed in a sturdy gatefold packaging with an embossed cover and the vinyl is pressed on clear wax with a fantastic neon green slime blob. I love that the pressing process creates such unique designs for each blob, as one of my discs features centralized rings of ghostly ooze and the other is more of a smear that takes on a total Slimer-like shape. Major kudos to Sony for this gorgeous, attention-to-detail release and shout out to Memphis Record Pressing for the quality pressing and playful aesthetics.

The 35th Anniversary vinyl release of the original motion picture score for Ghostbusters can be purchased here: https://soundtracks.lnk.to/GhostbustersScore

Live – Throwing Copper [25th Anniversary Reissue] (Album Review)

As someone who heavily traffics in milestone releases and reissues, I was incredibly surprised by the creative care and level of attention paid to the 2LP/2CD Super Deluxe edition celebrating Live’s 1994 multi-platinum album Throwing Copper. While the album itself certainly achieved enough success to warrant a reissue (8x Platinum, four Top 10 singles, #1 on the Billboard 200), the York, PA quartet went the extra mile by a including a stunning 12-page booklet, three bonus tracks, and a recording of their previously unreleased nine-song set from Woodstock ’94 – all housed in a weighty, thick-spine gatefold packaging that truly highlights the memorable Sisters of Mercy cover art from Scottish painter Peter Howson.      

There’s no denying that Throwing Copper was one of the most celebrated albums of the 1990s. In early 1994, lead single “Selling the Drama” came out a few months ahead of the album and it immediately became an alt-rock radio staple, eventually hitting #1 on Billboard‘s Modern Rock chart. Its moody music video (featuring a “not for very long” long-haired Ed Kowalczyk) established the band’s oft-returning presence on MTV for the next couple of years. For all of 1994 and into 1995, the formula was successfully repeated every couple of months with a new single that unrolled the diverse layers of Live’s cinematic songwriting. The big pop chorus of “I Alone,” the emotive balladeering of “Lightning Crashes,” and the explosive punch of “All Over You” all became Top 10 singles, with each one spawning its own quasi-spiritual music video. The jammy, bass-led “White, Discussion” was put out as a fifth single almost a year after the album was first released, but it stalled around #15 on the charts and didn’t turn get a video of its own. Live was so ubiquitous on alt-rock radio in 1994 that DJs would sometimes tire of the hit singles and play some of the other album tracks like “Iris” and T.B.D.” as well.

While Throwing Copper is notable for being one of the earliest standouts of the post-grunge era, the band was able to solidify their successes through some memorable live performances – especially their fantastic on Saturday Night Live, their mesmerizing MTV Unplugged episode (sidenote: how does this not have a standalone release?!?), and their blistering set at Woodstock ’94. The latter performance has never been officially released by the band until now, as it encompasses the entirety of the second CD of this reissue. Their bombastic Woodstock ’94 set includes seven songs from Throwing Copper and two tracks – “The Beauty of Gray” and “Operation Spirit” – from their debut album Mental Jewelry. It really showcases Live’s talents as a live band, especially with Kowalczyk’s whisper-to-a-shriek vocals and their true secret weapon, the slick complexity of Patrick Dahlheimer’s bass lines. While I would’ve loved to see their MTV Unplugged tracks (or maybe even a DVD of the performance) included in this reissue, their Woodstock ’94 performance is an incredibly welcomed addition to the proper album.           

The original vinyl release of Throwing Copper cut out the songs “Pillar of Davidson” and secret track “Horse” so that it could be pressed on a single disc, so it’s really nice to see the album presented across two discs for this reissue. “Pillar of Davidson” and “Horse” have been restored back into the tracklist and three additional bonus tracks were added to Side D: “Hold Me Up,” “We Deal in Dreams,” and “Susquehanna.” The 12-page vinyl-sized booklet contains an enlightening interview with the band framed around a timeline of everything that happened with the band through 1994-1995. While it's really cool to finally have such a solid, two-disc vinyl pressing of the album, it's the impressive extras - the bonus tracks, the Woodstock '94 set, the 12-page booklet, and the gorgeously weighty packaging - that really make this one of the more standout anniversary vinyl reissues that has come out in the last few years. 

The Super Deluxe 25th anniversary reissue of Throwing Copper (as well as the single CD and deluxe digital album versions) can be purchased here: https://ume.lnk.to/ThrowingCopper25  

U2 – The Unforgettable Fire and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (Album Review)

U2 continues its masterful vinyl reissue campaign that it started last year with another selection of mixed chronology releases. This time around they’ve paired 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire and 2004’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb together and pressed them both on sharply colored wax that evokes each album’s cover art. The Unforgettable Fire has been pressed on 180-gram “wine” (a rich, not too deep purple) and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb has been pressed on 180-gram red (an explosively bright variant shade). These two new entries in the vinyl reissue catalog are welcomed additions to the impressive rollout that has already featured Wide Awake in America, Achtung Baby, Zooropa, Pop, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and both “Best of” compilations.

While I may certainly be reading too much into the potential reasoning behind their choices for release parings, I really like this duo because both albums echo points in the band’s career where they wonderfully subverted the expectations of needing to follow their preceding albums. For example, the experimentally ambient The Unforgettable Fire was released about a year and a half after the far more bombastic rock of War. Likewise, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb really cranked the guitars and energy up a couple notches from what they merely hinted at with All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Both albums also contain some of U2’s most beloved hits and deep album fan favorites, including “Pride (In the Name of Love),” “Bad,” “A Sort of Homecoming,” “Vertigo,” and “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own.” Additionally, both albums have been certified 3x platinum in the U.S. alone, with The Unforgettable Fire notching over 8 million in worldwide sales and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb hitting 10 million worldwide.

For these reissues, the attentive touches go well beyond the cool aesthetics of the color wax choices. Both reissues are housed in standard single sleeve packaging with fantastic color work on the front and back covers. Inside, both releases feature two sleeve options: a black poly-lined paper sleeve and a thicker full color option. They both also contain a beautiful, full color 16-page booklet with lyrics, liner notes, and more. I must say, as a vinyl collector and a massive U2 fan, both of these releases not only check a variety of boxes on the high-quality reissue want list, but they also continue the trend of U2’s pitch-perfect campaign of reissuing their back catalog on heavyweight vinyl with sturdy packaging, brilliant artwork, and nice little extra touches that help make these reissues really standout from their decades-old vinyl pressings. Whether you’re upgrading your original versions or grabbing the albums for the first time, I highly recommend picking up The Unforgettable Fire and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb reissues (as well as their reissues from the last year and a half or so) for the superb audio quality and the beautifully well-done visuals.

R.E.M. – In Time: The Best of R.E.M. (Album Review)

While I’m not always a huge fan of greatest hits compilations (especially for bands that I’m a super fan of), R.E.M. has an unmistakably stellar track record of nailing the format to perfection. After the release of Eponymous in 1988 (which chronicled their early years on I.R.S. Records), the band released In Time: The Best of R.E.M. in 2003 to cover their years on Warner Brothers records. While I missed snagging a vinyl copy of In Time upon its initial release, Craft Records has just released the first vinyl pressing of the jam-packed greatest hits collection in over 15 years. While it’s always nice to have a first-run, this new pressing from Craft is certainly worth the wait, as it’s actually the release’s debut on heavyweight 180-gram vinyl and its 18 tracks are spread out over two discs. While the double LP is available on standard black vinyl, I was stoked to snag one of the translucent blue copies – a wax color choice that looks fantastic alongside the simplified color palette of the album’s artwork.

Cataloging the band’s most popular and ubiquitous major label period, In Time features tracks from their politically-minded, commercial smash of Green to the electronically leaning bounciness of Reveal. Standout selections from Out of Time, Automatic for the People, Monster, New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and Up – as well as soundtrack entries from the films Man on the Moon and Vanilla Sky – round out the collection. What’s great about this tailored tracklist is that you can truly hear the band navigating the heights of their musical celebrity, maturing through the departure of drummer Bill Berry, and finding new footing as a trio. In Time also features two previously unreleased tracks, the wonderfully frantic “Bad Day” and “Animal.” Rough versions of “Bad Day” had been rolling around in the R.E.M. camp since the mid-‘80s (under the name “P.S.A.”), but was officially finished (slightly updated and renamed) for In Time. To give the greatest hits compilation a feeling of fresh life, the band released “Bad Day” and “Animal” as singles and even shot fantastic music videos for both.

Alongside the otherworldly music and truly beautiful packaging for In Time (strikingly simple blue artwork on the front and back cover, thick gatefold housing, color liner insert), one of its best features is guitarist Peter Buck’s song-by-song liner notes. Effortlessly dancing between commentary, recollections, and analysis that are both insightful and tongue-in-cheek, Buck manages to capture the grandeur and the unaffectedness of the band in equal measure. He rightfully acknowledges that “our career can be divided into two parts: pre-Losing My Religion and post-Losing My Religion,” he refers to “Stand” as “the stupidest song we’ve ever written,” and states that “Everybody Hurts” “doesn’t really belong to us anymore; it belongs to everybody who has ever gotten any solace from it.” As a personal favorite, he also explains the unconventional means by which one of their most beautiful songs, “Nightswimming,” came to be. All in all, the songs are incredible snippets of the band’s high-profile period, the packaging is incredibly well crafted, and the translucent blue wax variant provides a nice aesthetic touch to the spinning of this welcomed reissued gem.

In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 Tracklist:
"Man on the Moon" (from Automatic for the People, 1992)
"The Great Beyond" (from the Man on the Moon soundtrack, 1999)
"Bad Day" (previously unreleased)
"What's the Frequency, Kenneth?" (from Monster, 1994)
"All the Way to Reno (You're Gonna Be a Star)" (from Reveal, 2001)
"Losing My Religion" (from Out of Time, 1991)
"E-Bow the Letter" (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)
"Orange Crush" (from Green, 1988)
"Imitation of Life" (from Reveal, 2001)
"Daysleeper" (from Up, 1998)
"Animal" (previously unreleased)
"The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite" (from Automatic for the People, 1992)
"Stand" (from Green, 1988)
"Electrolite" (from New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)
"All the Right Friends" (from the Vanilla Sky soundtrack, 2001)
"Everybody Hurts" (from Automatic for the People, 1992)
"At My Most Beautiful" (from Up, 1998)
"Nightswimming" (from Automatic for the People, 1992)

Lenny Kravitz - Mama Said, Are You Gonna Go My Way, Circus, and 5 [Vinyl Reissues] (Album Reviews)

Ahead of November’s 30th anniversary campaign kick-off for his 1989 debut Let Love Rule, Lenny Kravitz has reissued his four 1990s albums – Mama Said, Are You Gonna Go My Way, Circus, and 5 – as part of an extensive vinyl reissue campaign that finds the quartet of releases pressed on double LP 180-gram black vinyl (as well as limited-edition, album-specific color variants) and presented in stunningly vibrant gatefold packaging. Three of the four reissues also feature a variety of bonus tracks, many of which are making their vinyl debut. As one of rock’s most unapologetic genre-blurring, hit-making, multi-instrumentalists over the last three decades (and still going strong with the recent release of his new album Raise Vibration), Kravitz’s multi-album reissue project places some of his biggest hits and most inspired musical moments in a celebratory and well-deserved, high-quality vinyl context.
Mama Said (1991): After sauntering onto the scene with his funk-rock “how do you do” of Let Love Rule in 1989, Kravitz’s sophomore album Mama Said (released on April 2, 1991) earned him his first dip into the Top 40 on the strength of the mid-tempo, Motown-spiked smash “It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over” going all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. After producing (and co-writing) Madonna’s “Justify My Love” the year prior, Kravitz’s star was rising and he was able to secure a few amazing guest spots on the album - including Slash playing some blistering funk guitar on lead single “Always on the Run” and Sean Lennon co-writing “All I Ever Wanted.” This reissue of Mama Said marks the first time the album has been available on vinyl in the U.S. and the its robust 14-song tracklisting is beautifully laid out across two LPs with no need (and no room) for extra tracks. The limited-edition color variant of Mama Said is pressed on white/gray marbled vinyl.

Are You Gonna Go My Way (1993): For his third album, Kravitz grew out his signature dreads, cranked the amps, and added a heavy dose of ‘70s classic rock to his eclectic sonic repertoire. Coming hot out of the gate with the insta-classic title track as the album’s lead single, Kravitz soon achieved maximum pop cultural saturation in early 1993 with a simultaneous takeover of radio and MTV via the song’s equally iconic guitar riff and music video. While follow-up singles “Believe” and “Heaven Help” also hit the charts and help bring additional buoyancy to the album’s presence, it was the chart-topping title track that helped earn Kravitz his first Top 20 album and firmly established his status as a bonafide rockstar. This notable reissue of Are You Gonna Go My Way marks the first time that the album is being made available on commercial vinyl and the entire second disc includes a whopping eight bonus tracks that are all marking their vinyl debut. The limited-edition color variant of Are You Gonna Go My Way is pressed on transparent purple/red split vinyl.

Circus (1995): Still riding the wave of creative success that birthed Are You Gonna Go My Way, Kravitz’s follow-up album Circus took some darker turns as he was dealing with the double punch of his mother’s sickness and his encroaching music business woes. However, those outside things didn’t seem to curb Kravitz’s rise, as Circus ended up netting him his first Top 10 album ranking and two modest radio hits in the wildly misunderstood “Rock and Roll Is Dead” and the soul-drenched power ballad “Can’t Get You Off My Mind.” This reissue of Circus is the U.S. vinyl debut of the album and the second side of the second disc features three bonus tracks: “Another Life,” “Confused,” and “Is It Me, Or Is It You?” The limited-edition color variant of Circus is pressed on transparent clear/blue split vinyl.

5 (1998): The aptly titled 5 (it was his fifth album, after all) marked a new era of commercial success for Kravitz, as his monster hit single “Fly Away” went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock and Modern Rock charts, as well as topping a variety of international charts. The seemingly inescapable guitar riff also became a quick go-to for a bunch of TV commercials. “Fly Away” even earned Kravitz his first (of many) Grammy award, this one for Best Male Rock Vocal performance at the ’99 Grammys. This reissue of 5 marks the vinyl debut of the album and his blistering cover of The Guess Who’s “American Woman” (from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) and “Without You” both appear as side D bonus tracks. The limited-edition color variant of 5 is pressed on solid white/orange split vinyl.