Hundred-word Reviews January 2016: Reissues

Today’s collection of hundred-word reviews focuses on recent reissues of note.


Uriah Heep – Totally Driven
I’m not going to try to tell you that the turn of the 21st century was Uriah Heep‘s finest hour. Their high point was in the early 1970s, around the time of Demons and Wizards and The Magician’s Birthday (both 1972). And I’ll allow that many critics absolutely hated the band. But then those same writers despised Black Sabbath, and they eventually enjoyed a critical re-appraisal. This set of twenty-seven Uriah Heep tunes – essentially a collection of re-recorded versions of their best-loved numbers – is surprisingly good. It’s certainly several notches above what one normally gets in such cases.


Jeremy Spencer – Jeremy Spencer
Those who know that Fleetwood Mac‘s history extends far before they became the darlings of the mid 1970s California cocaine set know that the original Mac was a blues band, first and foremost. But Jeremy Spencer – arguably the most mercurial guitarist in a band that had three out-there personalities on guitar – had influences and interests well beyond blues. His long-unavailable 1970 solo debut explores those influences, from Buddy Holly to Elmore James. And the backing band features his bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green, and Danny Kirwan plus saxophonist Stephen Gregory. Perhaps not essential, but very worthwhile.


The Kingbees – The Kingbees
Robert Stigwood ‘s RSO Records was never the hippest of labels. The Kingbees can now be seen as RSO’s attempt to get a piece of the retro-rock action that was briefly all the rage in the very early 1980s (see also: Stray Cats). This self-titled debut went exactly nowhere chartwise on its release, and none of the group’s three members went on to become household names. But viewed for what it is, this Omnivore Recordings reissue is a solid, supremely enjoyable record that will appeal to fans of Rockpile. Bonus demo tracks nearly double the length of the original LP.


The Muffs – The Muffs
After finding less success than they deserved with their paisley underground group The Pandoras, guitarists Kim Shattuck and Melanie Vammen went in a much harder-rocking direction and formed The Muffs. This, their 1993 debut plus some assorted demos, finds their buzzsaw attack applied to wide-screen production (thanks Rob Cavallo, the guy behind the boards for Green Day‘s Dookie). Big, high-voltage, dumb rock and roll is the order of the day, and it’s as fun now as it was back in the 90s. Don’t try to sing along with Shattuck, or you’ll rip your precious vocal cords to shreds. A gem.


Klaatu – 3:47 E.S.T. (aka Klaatu)
Unfortunately for the members of this intentionally-faceless Canadian studio group, Klaatu are most remembered for who they weren’t: the Beatles. Victims of hype on the scale of the Paul-is-dead story, Klaatu never recovered from the backlash (and the band had no hand in perpetuating the myth anyway). But taken purely as music, this 1977 album is a real treasure. Very much in a Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles and ELO vein, it features strong songwriting and superb arrangement. The McCartneyesque bass guitar work on “Sub Rosa Subway” (the track’s best cut) is swoonworthy. This remastered reissue includes swell liner notes, too.