Pumpkins reissue tops CD reviews

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency
Smashing Pumpkins (AFP photo)

Smashing Pumpkins (AFP photo)

This week: Rehashing Pumpkins, rejuvenating Cliff, resurrecting Dylan, returning Stone, resurfacing Toadies and more. Many happy returns.

Smashing Pumpkins

Pisces Iscariot Deluxe Edition


4.5 stars out of 5

Give Billy Corgan credit; he doesn’t cut corners. Not only is he refurbishing and reissuing the SP studio albums; he’s even upgrading compilations like this 1994 outtakes set. Like predecessors Gish and Siamese Dream, this is augmented with a second CD of demos, covers and rarities, plus a lengthy 1988 cable-access performance, a cassette of their first demo and more. Definitive.

Download: Pissant; Jackie Blue

Jimmy Cliff



4 stars out of 5

Even if you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, you can still freshen up his act. That’s exactly what Rancid’s Tim Armstrong has done for reggae icon Cliff here. Seated in the producer’s chair, the ska-punk guttersnipe injects the Jamaican legend’s first disc in eight years with a much-needed shot of spunk, vibrance and grit. It may not qualify as rebirth, but it’s certainly rejuvenation.

Download: One More; Ruby Soho

Joss Stone

The Soul Sessions Vol. 2


3.5 stars out of 5

First time was the charm. Second time isn’t bad either. Two years after fleeing her major-label deal, Stone continues to celebrate her creative rebirth by coming full circle. For this sequel to her 2003 debut, the 25 year old rejoins producer Steve Greenberg for another earthy batch of classics, obscurities and gems from The Chi-Lites, Dells, Broken Bells and more. Welcome home.

Download: (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People; Stoned Out of My Mind

Bob Dylan

Live in New York: Gaslight Café 6th September 1961 Folk

4 stars out of 5

You gotta start somewhere. For Dylan, it was the folk cafes of New York City. This early live recording — bootlegged for decades — captures one of his first recorded shows, and contains the first recording of him playing an original song. Historical value aside, it’s also remarkably well-recorded and has a varied set list that showcases Dylan’s humour along with his musical talent.

Download: Song to Woody; Pretty Polly




3.5 stars out of 5

They’re through playing possum (if not Possum Kingdom). For their fifth disc (and third since reuniting in 2008) these one-hit wonders from Texas don’t kowtow to anyone. Instead, they fuse hard-hitting beats, sharp-edged guitars, black-humoured lyrics and unhinged vocals into compact little alt-rock nuggets that sound a bit like Cheap Trick with darker sensibilities. Play.It.Loud.

Download: Rattler’s Revival; Beside You

The Fixx

Beautiful Friction


3 stars out of 5

One thing leads to another — eventually. These long-serving British pop-rockers haven’t put out an album since 2003 — but this 10th studio disc will be instantly familiar to anyone who has fond memories of their distinctive blend of soulful vocals, spiky guitars and lush synths. Even though there isn’t a standout single like Saved By Zero, it’s still a decent blast from the new wave past.

Download: Anyone Else; Take a Risk



Helen Burns


2.5 stars out of 5

Take that, John Frusciante. With his first solo EP, Chili Peppers bassist Flea proves his ex-guitarist isn’t the only one who can go from funky to freaky. Bouncing from jazz and neo-classical to electronica, these mostly instrumental cuts (Patti Smith sings on the title track) are more compositional exercises than songs — fitting, since they’re being released to benefit a music school.

Download: The whole thing at silverlakeconservatory.com


Spark Seeker


3 stars out of 5

Shave and a haircut, two bits? Try two big problems for Matisyahu — the formerly Hasidic reggae-rapper has been rapped by fans for backing away from his faith and modernizing his look. Fans might be equally concerned about the musical changes on his fourth album, which leavens his spirituality and sincerity with poppier hooks and production. That might be the unkindest cut of all.

Download: Searchin’; Bal Shem Tov

The Antlers



4 stars out of 5

Water, water, everywhere. Brooklyn singer-guitarist Peter Silberman and his band set sail with their latest EP, a mini-concept album about water as a metaphor for personal interaction. Full of languid beats and washes of guitar, it’s appropriately soothing fare — especially next to the haunting, harrowing tales of their 2008 album Hospice. But these still waters still run plenty deep.

Download: Drift Dive; Zelda

Missy Higgins

The Ol' Razzle Dazzle


3.5 stars out of 5

Coming back up from Down Under: Aussie singer-songwriter Higgins — not to be confused with roots-queen Little Miss Higgins — has returned with her third album. In keeping with that title, it embellishes the rich melodies of her glowing-ember ballads and sunny adult-pop with sophisticated arrangements and sonics reminiscent of Adele. Coming soon to a TV soundtrack near you.

Download: Set Me on Fire; Watering Hole


Yellow & Green


4 stars out of 5

No one wants to be stuck in sludge forever. So with their epic third album — the latest in a colourful concatenation that began with 2007’s Red Album and 2009’s Blue Record — these Georgia progressive-metal mavens continue to pull themselves up out of the musical muck by grabbing ahold of everything from melodic modern-rock to hazy psychedelia. Colour me impressed.

Download: Take My Bones Away; Cocainium

River City Tanlines

Coast to Coast


3.5 stars out of 5

Their name sounds like summer. As does their music. Fronted by singer-guitarist Alicja Trout — the hipster kids may remember her from her stint in The Lost Sounds with the late Jay Reatard — this Memphis trio hammer out crunchy little nuggets of buzzy, fuzzy garage-rock and pop-punk. The perfect soundtrack to a day of drinking warm beer at the public beach with Riff Randall.

Download: Stop My Heart; Cant Stand U Anymore

Alberta Cross

Songs of Patience


4 stars out of 5

One guy is from Sweden. The other, London. They’re based in the U.S. They made this sophomore album in New York, L.A. and Virginia. And their sound is a sumptuous, yes, cross between My Morning Jacket’s soaring southern majesty — keening vocals intact — with Neil Young’s Topanga folk and roots-grunge. The only thing I don’t get: Where does Alberta fit into the story?

Download: Magnolia; Crate of Gold



The Killers


“We can’t wait till tomorrow,” wails Brandon Flowers on this sneak peek from their forthcoming album Battle Born. If you can’t wait until the fall for new music from the stylish Vegas rockers, you’re in luck; the song is streaming now on their website. And it delivers everything you expect from the Killers: A whole lotta synths and Springsteen and soaring grandeur. Enjoy the ride.


Snoop Lion

La La La

Jah and juice? Soon come, apparently. According to online reports, Snoop Dogg is making a reggae album. Granted, it sounds like a joke — and is probably just part of some stoner-logic ploy for Snoop to circumvent drug laws by becoming a Rastafari. Whatever, here’s the first glimpse of Reincarnated: A fairly standard reggae cut produced by Diplo and Major Lazer. Puff, puff, pass.


No Doubt

Settle Down

About time. After more than 10 years and innumerable false starts, blond bombshell Gwen Stefani and her boys have finally finished a new disc. Push and Shove is due out in September, but you can get in the mood with the inappropriately titled first single Settle Down, a track that finds the sweet spot between dancehall riddim, pure pop melody and CB radio. 10-4 good buddies.




Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones

Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago 1981


3.5 stars out of 5

If you’ve seen one blues jam, you’ve seen them all. Almost. This freewheeling summit between King Muddy and heirs Mick, Keith and Ronnie (among others) in Buddy Guy’s packed dive may be the exception. Sure, it’s been bootlegged ever since, but this 95-minute version boasts new crystal-clear audio (too bad they can’t fix that ’80s video-cam picture). It’ll get your mojo working.

Duran Duran

A Diamond in the Mind: Live 2011


3.5 stars out of 5

Hope you really like the Durannies’ 2010 album All You Need is Now: You’ll hear about half of it — at the expense of hits like Girls on Film — during this 95-minute Manchester concert. But say what you will about the set — and Simon’s Ricky Gervais beard — you can’t quibble with the artsy wide-screen cinematography and sharp sound mix. Extras include a doc and two more songs.



Alien Shape Shifter

Edmonton, Alta.


With a name like that, these Edmontonians should be fairly out of this world, right? Wrong. Despite their freaky handle — and having guys named Ricky Phoenix on bass (sorry, “bazz”) and Kevie Metal on guitar, their music is garden-variety modern-rock crud-blort that never gets off the ground. Then again, what more do you expect from a band whose initials spell … well, you don’t need to be Mr. Spock to figure out that one.

VERDICT: “Insert your own Uranus joke here.”

1 star out of 5



Aug. 7

Cut the World

Antony & The Johnsons

Four MFs Playin' Tunes

Branford Marsalis Quartet

Researching the Blues

Redd Kross

Lost in Transition

Sixpence None the Richer


Aug. 14


Dead Can Dance

Mighty Death Pop!

Insane Clown Posse

Rock ’N’ Roll Revival


Cabin Fever

Corb Lund

Turn on the Lights

Daniel Powter



Story of Light

Steve Vai