Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rarities #29: Red Hot Chili Peppers Live Rare Remix Box (1994)

This box set of 3 CDs was released in 1994, in between the band's Blood Sex Sugar Magik and One Hot Minute albums. Essentially, the tracks in this box set are the B-sides of the five singles culled from Blood Sex Sugar Magik.

This box is certainly quite rare and I have only seen one other copy in Singapore - at Roxy Music. So if you're keen to get your hands on this, you can go visit this little store at Excelsior Shopping Centre (opposite Peninsular near Funan).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Don't Stop The Music

It's going to be an exciting month next month, because there's not going to be one Jackson album, but TWO Jackson albums! How often does this happen, you might ask. Not that often actually.

The last time the two Jackson siblings released albums in the same calendar year was in 2001, when Janet released All For You in April followed by Michael's Invincible in October. Before that, you would have to look at 1995, when Michael released HIStory in June and Janet with her Design Of A Decade compilation in October.

So by a strange alignment of the stars, we have the two siblings releasing their albums just two weeks apart next month.

MJ's 25th Anniversary edition of Thriller will be released worldwide on 11 February, followed by the US release the following day. It is actually technically not accurate, as the album was released on 1 December, 1982, so the 25th Anniversary should have been 2 months ago. But well.

Anyway, the package will be enhanced with bonus remixed tracks by Akon, Will.i.Am, Kanye West and Fergie. Of all these, I quite like Will.i.Am's remix of The Girl Is Mine and Akon's Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. Fergie's Beat It duet is just horrendous, while I felt that Kanye could have done much, much more with Billie Jean.

There's also a bonus DVD of the Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller videos, as well as MJ's famous Motown 25 Billie Jean performance, where he debuted the moonwalk for the first time. Actually these videos have all been released before, so it's not that big a deal. I was hoping they could release some never-before-seen performances or studio sessions, that would have been cool. But I'm still getting it anyway.

On 26 February, Janet will be releasing her 10th studio album, titled Discipline. I'm really looking forward to this one because it's new material and it's her first album under Island Def Jam.

Since the announcement last week that EMI is going to cut 2,000 jobs, I already feel that Janet's doing all the right things by leaving the wretched Virgin, which is owned by EMI. I really can't imagine her releasing another album with Virgin, and there will really be zero promotion this time round.

Anyway, Discipline is off to a good start. I've seen many music videos (trust me on this) and I haven't been as excited by a music video for a long time as I have seeing the Feedback video. I'm glad it wasn't OTT like Call On Me, just a simple and minimalistic look that reminded me a little of Scream (maybe it's because it's set in outer space as well).

But yeah, the video's damn hot and Janet's looking damn fine too. The dance is awesome and I can't wait to see it performed live. The choreography is killin' me.

The album cover is smokin' hot too, though I have some reservations about her hair. But overall, I'm glad she's taking a more bold approach this time and not just flashing her pearlies.

No news yet on the second single, but it's still early. Feedback is at #51 on the Hot 100 this week. Not fantastic yet, and I hope it can reach the top 10. #1 would be sweet, but let's not give ourselves too high hopes yet.

Anyway, I just bought the Rihanna album. I've been wanting to for some time now, and I finally got it. I'm so digging track 3, Don't Stop The Music, which as mentioned before, samples MJ's Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'. It's such a stomper and it really sums up how I'm feeling now. Don't stop the music! Keep it coming!!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rarities #28: Michael Jackson with the Jackson Five - Soulsation! (1995)

This is another one of those items that I have been searching for a long time, and I'm glad I managed to find it 12 years after its release, in the good old Real Groovy of course.

Soulsation! is a 4-disc box set released to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Jackson Five scoring their first number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. The song in question is I Want You Back, which was released in 1969 but hit the top spot on 23 January 1970.

In fact, their first four singles went to number 1, a feat that has never been repeated since. These four tracks are included in this collection, as well as their other hits spanning from 1969 to 1975. The fourth disc is a collection of previously unreleased Jackson Five songs and solo cuts by Michael, Jermaine and Jackie.

The Jacksons are apparently planning for a reunion tour this year, although it is very, very unlikely that will materialise. But if it somehow miraculously does, it will be interesting to see if they can still groove and bring the same magic as they did almost 40 years ago.

One thing is for sure. The music remains timeless and it still captures the youthful exuberance of the brothers when they were kids. I simply can't quite imagine a world without the Jackson Five, because that would mean that Michael would never have gone on as a solo artist, which of course, is an unimaginable thought for me.

I'm glad I finally laid my hands on this. It's long out of print and it travelled a few thousand kilometres to get to my cupboard. And I'm going to keep it well.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rarities #27: Blur 13 (1999)

Also one of the rare finds I managed to unearth at Real Groovy, I have been looking for this package for many years now. I have previously encountered it a few times, but the condition of the package wasn't too good so I gave it a pass.

Anyway, I'm not that big a Blur fan but I like quite a few of their songs. I remember the whole Oasis vs Blur debacle back in 1996, when both bands released singles at the same time. Blur's Country House trumped Oasis' Some Might Say, but Oasis won the war in the long run.

13 is the album after that whole episode and perhaps in their effort to distinguish themselves from Oasis (both were Brit bands that emerged on the scene at about the same time), Blur changed their musical style and surprised many with their first single Tender.

Instead of a guitar-heavy, straightforward rock song, Tender was like a ballad that was slow-moving and with a sing-a-long chant as the chorus. It signalled Blur's new direction, away from the Britpop sound that they were so famous for.

Second single was Coffee & TV and I remember the music video for its milk carton character. Nice song, nice video. The third single taken off the album was No Distance Left To Run.

The 13 album paved the way for their future musical direction, as they moved towards more abstract and less melodic tunes. It can be evidenced by their subsequent releases like Music Is My Radar, from their Best Of CD, Out Of Time and most of the songs off Think Tank.

Blur have been on hiatus and it seems unlikely that they will be reforming anytime soon. But with reunion tours being all the rage now, don't count Blur out. They might just pop another surprise.

Rarities #26: No Doubt Boom Box (2003)

During my recent trip to Auckland, I made a pilgrimage to one super cool record shop, called Real Groovy Record Store. It was located just 5 minutes from where my hotel was located at in Queen Street. I read about it in Lonely Planet before I set off for the trip and I was very excited to visit the store.

So when I finally had a day off for free-and-easy, I headed for the store and I wasn't disappointed. I spent 3 and a half hours in there. It's one of those old-fashioned record store that is really rare now. It's everything HMV is not.

The store itself is huge, occupying a building of its own. And the interior is not so brightly-lit and organised like HMV. Rather, it is more haphazard with rows and rows of stuff everywhere. It sold CDs, DVDs, vinyls, books, T-shirts, basically all the shit. There was also a stage where I believe some bands will perform when they launch their albums or stuff. In a word, cool.

I love the shop. Reminded me a lot of the old Tower Records/Tower Books at Pacific Plaza in Singapore. It was my ambition to work in Tower Records and it still is. Oh man, I love the old-school record shops.

Anyway, the reason for the long story is because I found this rarity in Real Groovy. It's really a treasure trove there. In addition to the 3 and a half hours there, I also spent about 200 bucks on stuff. Could have been more, but I resisted like mad.

But yeah, I have been searching for No Doubt's Boom Box for a long, long time. I only knew it existed but I didn't know how it looked like. And I was so happy when I finally found it.

This Boom Box collection is a great box set. The four discs in it are actually available for purchase separately, but it's always nice to have them in one tidy little box. And there's also a nice booklet that includes the lyrics to all the songs as well as stories behind the tracks.

The first disc is The Singles 1992 - 2003, containing 15 of their greatest hits. It's a strong collection and it showcases how No Doubt have evolved over the years - from their early punk ska sounds to the more synthetic dance grooves in the new millenium.

Disc Two is The Videos 1992 - 2003, which also contains 15 videos but substitues It's My Life with Oi To The World. Disc Three is the B-sides and remixes disc, titled Everything In Time. Haven't heard this yet though.

Disc Four is the concert DVD Live In The Tragic Kingdom. I remember watching this on VCD sometime back, and I was always looking forward to watching it again. It's a very good concert. Gwen Stefani sure knows how to work the crowd, and the part where she asks the guys to sing the line "I'm just a girl" is always funny. The band is top-notch too.

With the release of this collection, No Doubt took a hiatus and Gwen went to do her own stuff, releasing two highly successful solo albums in the meantime. Word is that they are re-grouping and releasing a new album this year. Apparently the songs have been recorded already - they're just waiting for Gwen to record her vocals.

It will definitely be one of my most-anticipated albums this year and I can't wait to hear how their sound is going to evolve next. No Doubt rules!