There are a slew of new "best of" and reissues out this month, but the most creative is the new box set from New Order, Retro. Released through Rhino and Warner Bros., Retro includes four CDs from the top moody techno band of all time, each of the discs chosen by a different person to represent a particular "strength" of the band. Journalist Miranda Sawyer picked the 14 tracks of the first disc, labeled Pop, which includes radio favorites "True Faith," "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Regret," "Blue Monday," "Fine Time" and more. Another writer, John McCready, picked the disc labeled Fan. which tends toward the band's darker, more gothic roots, mixing album tracks with early '80s singles and single B-sides, like "In a Lonely Place," "Elegia," "Procession," "Your Silent Face" and "Every Little Counts." Mike Pickering, a DJ and leader of the group M People, picked the Club disc, which offers remixes of "Confusion," "Regret," "Bizarre Love Triangle," "Shellshock," "Blue Monday," "World in Motion" and more. The Live disc, picked by Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, is interesting to fans from a historical perspective, since there are a lot of early performances captured. But it's also a little disappointing, since the quality of many of the recordings is fairly raw. Retro is a great set for fans, but for the budget-conscious who want to wait, there will be a hits and remixes single CD distillation called International released next month.
Rhino has paired up with Elektra to start reissuing the catalog of Yes on CD, with remastered classic albums that include bonus tracks from those recorded during the period in which the album was originally recorded. The first new expanded and remastered Yes albums are Yes, Time and a Word, Fragile and The Yes Album. The latter two include the classic FM radio tracks "Yours Is No Disgrace," "I've Seen All Good People" and "Roundabout." The bonus tracks on each disc tend to be alternate or early versions of various songs, and the single versions that were culled from the longer album version tracks.
Kansas, another '70s FM radio stalwart, has put out a handful of live albums over the years. Its latest, a double live CD set titled Device – Voice – Drum, was tracked last summer in Georgia and has just been released on the independent Compendia label both as a CD set with a video bonus track and as a DVD release. Nearly 30 years into its recording career, Steve Walsh's vocals are growing a little rough around the edges, but the band still sounds great. The first disc focuses classic album tracks, from "Icarus" (paired with the recently released "Icarus II"), "Song for America," "The Wall," "Journey From Mariabronn," "Cheyenne Anthem" and its huge hit, "Dust in the Wind." Disc two is all about hits, featuring "Point of Know Return," "Portrait/Pinnacle," "Fight Fire With Fire," "Play the Game Tonight" and "Carry on Wayward Son." For more information, check the www.kansasband.com Web site.
Fans of Janis Joplin and/or George Gershwin (a natural pairing, right?) can pick up new double CD entries in Sony Legacy's The Essential series covering their careers.The Essential Janis Joplin has 30 songs, including a couple of previously unreleased live tracks, alongside her hits "Me and Bobby McGee," "Mercedes Benz" and "Piece of My Heart." The Essential George Gershwin includes Frank Sinatra's take on "Soneone to Watch Over Me," Billie Holiday's versions of "The Man I Love," and "Summertime," Fred Astaire's "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," Ella Fitzgerald at the mike for "I've Got a Crush on You," and a recording of Gershwin himself performing "Rhapsody in Blue."
200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane
It's not just American record producers who are grabbing attractive teens and putting them in front of the microphone — and the fashion cameras — to land pop hits based, as much, on sex appeal as talent. The two 17-year-old girls in Russia's t.A.T.u. auditioned for a Russian svengali to gain their roles in heading up the new group, and have since sold more than a million copies of this album in Europe, thanks both to its catchy techno hooks and to pushing a "bad girl" image by capitalizing on their lesbian relationship. English producer Trevor Horn (who knows his way around a techno tune, having founded The Buggles, joined Yes in the '80s and produced a variety of artists, including Seal) took the band's original Russian album and remixed it for broader appeal to English audiences in Europe and the U.S.
200 KM/H in the Wrong Lane has now made it to these shores in its expanded format, and while it doesn't utilize much of the duo's touted classical piano training (nor did they write any of the songs supposedly based on aspects of their relationship), it's still an upbeat, engaging listen. The mix of high-pitched, frantically delivered girlish vocals, with just enough traces of Eastern ethnicity in the vocals and keyboard accents makes for a mildly exotic, if otherwise standard, techno-pop album.
"Not Gonna Get Us" and "All The Things She Said" are picture-perfect, teen-dance anthems, "Malchik Gay" is infectious in its galloping beat and stacatto repetition and their cover of The Smiths' "How Soon Is Now" will be of interest to fans of alternative '80s rock. Most of the disc is in English, but for the curious, there are a couple of tracks that appear in both English and Russian. There's also a music video included for computer play.
They won't knock Britney off the charts here, but fans of electronic girl-pop will love this disc.