Tuesday, 16 May 2017

"Pretenders: 2CD + DVD Deluxe Special Edition" by PRETENDERS (October 2015 Edsel/Rhino 3-Disc Reissue/Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Got Brass In Pocket...Gonna Use It..."

Prepped for a whole year by killer 7" singles like "Stop Your Sobbing" (January 1979), "Kid" (June 1979) and the total winner that was "Brass In Pocket" (a UK No.1 in November 1979) - The Pretenders incendiary self-titled debut album finally arrived on Real Records (Sire in the USA) in the first week of a new decade - January 1980. 

And the public went quietly doolally for it. In the same organic way the sassy "...I'm so special..." single of "Brass In Pocket" had captured a nation's heart, hips and head-shakers in those last months of 1979 – the Pop, Rock and New Wave musical combo that was "Pretenders" went to No. 1 in Blighty and even cracked a No. 9 slot in Chrissie Hynde's own USA. It remains one of the great debut LPs of all time in my books and holds a special place in fan's hearts...

But which CD variant of it do you buy? I'd argue there are two real contenders in 2017 - the Rhino 2CD Remaster from October 2006 in a gatefold card sleeve with 16 Bonus Tracks - or this - Edsel's October 2015 upgrade on the Rhino issue that offers 19 music tracks across 2CDs (three more than before) and a 3rd disc - a DVD with 9 Videos some of which is Previously Unreleased. I'm gonna suggest that the Edsel reissue edges it on several fronts - here are the tattooed love boys...

UK released October 2015 - "Pretenders: 2CD + 1DVD Deluxe Special Edition" by PRETENDERS on Edsel EDSG 8047 (Barcode 740155804732) is a 3-Disc Reissue/Remaster that plays out as follows:

CD1 (67:46 minutes):
1. Precious [Side 1]
2. The Phone Call
3. Up The Neck
4. Tattooed Love Boys
5. Space Invader 
6. The Wait 
7. Stop Your Sobbing 
8. Kid [Side 2]
9. Private Life
10. Brass In Pocket 
11. Lovers Of Today 
12. Mystery Achievement 
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "Pretenders" - released January 1980 in the UK on Real Records RAL 3 and January 1980 in the USA on Sire Records SRK 6083. Produced by CHRIS THOMAS ("Stop Your Sobbing" only produced by NICK LOWE) - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 9 in the USA. 

13. Swinging London
14. Nervous But Shy
Tracks 13 and 14 are two non-album B-sides to "Brass In Pocket" (both instrumentals) - a UK 7" single released November 1979 on Real Records ARE 11
15. Cuban Slide
Track 15 first appeared as the non-album B-side to "Talk Of The Town" - a UK 7" single released March 1980 on Real Records ARE 12. It was also one of five tracks on the March 1981 American "Extended Play" 12" EP on Sire MINI 3563. 
16. Porcelain 
Track 16 first appeared as the non-album B-side to "Message Of Love" - a UK 7" single released February 1981 on Real Records ARE 15. It was also one of five tracks on the March 1981 American "Extended Play" 12" EP on Sire MINI 3563. 
17. Precious (Live in Central Park, 30 August 1980) - one of five tracks on the March 1981 American "Extended Play" 12" EP on Sire MINI 3563. 
18. Kid (1987 Extended Remix by Bob Clearmountain) - first released October 1987 as the A-side to a UK 7" single on Real/WEA YZ 156   

CD2 (48:26 minutes):
1. The Phone Call (Late 1977)
2. Brass In Pocket (Air Studio, 6 February 1978)
3. Precious (Regent’s Park, 12 April 1978)
4. The Wait (Regent’s Park, 12 April 1978)
5. Stop Your Sobbing (Regent’s Park, 12 April 1978)
6. I Can't Control Myself (Regent’s Park, 12 April 1978)
7. Tequila (Regent’s Park, 12 April 1978)
8. Kid (Olympic Studio, 7 December 1978)

9. Sabre Dance (The Marquee, London, 2 April 1978)
10. I Need Somebody (The Kid Jensen Show, BBC Radio 1, July 1979)
11. Mystery Achievement (The Kid Jensen Show, BBC Radio 1, July 1979)
12. Precious (The Paradise Theatre, Boston, March 1980)
13. Tattooed Love Boys (The Paradise Theatre, Boston, 23 March 1980)

DVD (NTSC, No Region Restrictions):
1. Stop Your Sobbing 
2. Kid
3. Brass In Pocket 

1. Stop Your Sobbing (Top of the Pops, February 1979)
2. Kid (Top of the Pops, July 1979)
3. Brass In Pocket (Top of the Pops, November 1979)
4. Brass In Pocket (Top of the Pops, December 1979)
5. Kid (Swap Shop, December 1979)
6. Brass In pocket (Top of the Pops, January 1980)

The stocky and chunky digipak on Edsel EDSG 8047 certainly looks the part. It folds out into four flaps and pictures the black and white theme on the three discs that was on the original labels of the English Real Records album (RAL 3). The 16-page booklet features lyrics - front and rear picture sleeves for key singles like their cover of The Kinks classic "Stop Your Sobbing" (from their 1964 "Kinks" debut album on Pye) and Chrissie Hynde's own "Kid" as well as a more interesting foreign pic sleeve for "Brass In Pocket" than the rather plain black and white UK issue. There are a couple of photos of the four-piece band looking suitably biker-moody - Ohio-born American Vocalist, Guitarist and Principal Songwriter Chrissie Hynde leading with her equally spiky British cohorts - Guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, Bassist Don Farndon and Drummer Martin Chambers. Although it looks good (see photos provided) and apart from the usual reissue credits - disappointingly Edsel have taken the lazy way out and provided no new liner notes. 

But Audio-wise they have used Warners Tape Archives for those 'Special Deluxe Edition' multipacks and their resident Engineer PHIL KINRADE has done the transfers at Alchemy Mastering. I loved the Rhino Bill Inglot and Dan Hersch Remasters from 2006 that featured extra oomph given to a notoriously long and cramped debut album sonically compromised by the limitations of a single vinyl LP. Here we get more of the same - all of it sounding fabulous - even those great B-sides like the groovy "Cuban Slide" and the sexy "Porcelain". I'm also thinking the visuals are a huge bonus too over the Rhino twofer. The DVD authoring was done by LARA RUFFLE at Sony DADC. 

Amped up and ready to let rip - "Precious" opens the album with Chrissie screaming and off we go into a lethal Punk slasher riff. What I loved about The Pretenders was their 'sound' that seemed to straddle Rock and New Wave and Punk - like it was all three - and with the most ballsy, sexy and expressive woman singer out front giving the Clash boys a run for their White Riot money. A dial tone opens the aggressive riffage of "The Phone Call" where the band sound lean and mean and hungry - but "Up To The Neck" gives the first real indication of that 'Pretenders' sound Chrissie gets as the notes ping and chime across her shimmering voice. It takes of waking up in a strange room but as lust turns to anger - she takes jabs as he previous chap's bedroom abilities. "Tattooed Love Boys" has always been a stormer for me. Here is the anger of Punk corralled like The Clash into a new rocker - that crazy pace - stunning lyrics and that brilliant guitar solo that now roars out of your speakers. I used not think much of the Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott instrumental "Space Invader" but as the years have passed it's wormed my way into heart. I'm honestly not a huge fan of "Stop Your Sobbing" - but "The Wait" is a whole different buttered bun. What a fantastic little rocker and always a crowd-winner live. 

Side 2 opens with the very Nick Lowe-esque "Kid" but is soon blown out of the water by the magnificent "Private Life" - six and half minutes of female rationalising as some dweeb bemoans his fate with drama and crisis tactics that aren't working on savvied Chrissie. Grace Jones would of course take this most ballsy of songs and almost immediately make it her angry own on the May 1980 "Warm Leatherette" LP over on Island Records. The remaster keeps that strummed menace just sizzling on the surface until those guitar jabs come roaring in - no sentimental gestures here. The mood is lightened with the irresistible "Brass In Pocket" - surely a contender for one of the Top 20 singles of all time. The last two tracks "Lovers Of Today" and "Mystery Achievement" are the overlooked bedfellows - both lifted up from vinyl cramp into something more expressive as Chrissie's voice warbles on "Lovers" and the rhythm section anchors the chugging guitars of "Mystery Achievement". It’s a fantastic end to a fab album. 

Of the Bonus Material I can live without the dismissible instrumental "Nervous But Shy" - but the two studio B-sides "Cuban Slide", "Porcelain" and a further Live in Central Park version of "Precious" (August 1980) from the American "Extended Play" 5-Track EP are superb extras (stuff I find as exciting as anything on the core album). The very Patti Smith sounding demo of The Troggs track "I Can't Control Myself" is close to "The Wait" in structure and again another brilliant inclusion but the 5:19 minute Remix of "Kid" is an 80ts tinker I can do without. The BBC stuff (which was Previously Unreleased in 2006) also has some corkers too like "I Need Somebody" and a more fulsome "Mystery Achievement". But their safe studio sterility is trashed by another version of "Precious" this time recorded live 23 March 1980 in Boston along with "Tattooed Love Boys". The band and the audience are on fire - so tight - so frigging exciting - barely taking a breath between songs. And as far as I can see all of the BBC TV Appearances are new to this release – best of which is band having a laugh enjoying the hit "Brass In Pocket" in three different studios as adults and children look on bemused and ever so slightly turned on at one and the same time. 

They would return with "Pretenders II" in August of 1981 cementing the reputation they’d struggled for years to achieve - followed in 1984 with the stunning and svelte "Learning To Crawl" LP – a bit of a 1-track unsung hero in our New Wave boudoir. 

"...Gonna use my arms...gonna use my legs...gonna use my style..." – Chrissie Hynde sang nearly 40 years ago. And I for one am still listening...

Releases in the October 2015 
PRETENDERS 'Deluxe Special Edition'
 Reissue Series by Edsel/Rhino:

1. "Pretenders" (January 1980 debut) - Edsel EDSG 8047 (Barcode 740155804732) - 2CDs + 1DVD
2. "Pretenders II" (August 1981) - Edsel EDSG 8048 (Barcode 740155804831) - 2CDs + 1DVD
3. "Learning To Crawl" (January 1984) - Edsel EDSG 8049 (Barcode 740155804930) - 2CDs + 1DVD
4. "Get Close" (October 1986) - Edsel EDSG 8050 (Barcode 740155805036) - 2CDs + 1DVD
5. "Packed!" (May 1990) - Edsel EDSX 3022 (Barcode 740155302238) - 1CD + 1DVD
6. "Last Of The Independents" (May 1994) - Edsel EDSG 8051 (Barcode 740155805135) - 2CDs + 1DVD
7. "The Isle Of View" (September 1995) - Edsel EDSX 3023 (Barcode 740155302337) - 1CD + 1DVD 
8. "Viva El Amor!" (May 1999) - Edsel EDSG 8052 (Barcode 740155805234 - 2CDs + 1DVD
9. "Pretenders 1979-1999" - Edsel PRETBOX01 (Barcode 5014797892620) - 22-Disc Card Wrap Box Set with all of 1 to 8 above (no extra booklet)
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