Green Mind – Look at Green Mind, the major label debut by Dinosaur Jr. as you would Elvis‘s ‘That’s All Right‘ and the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Ok there were already those who did some of what this band did, namely noise, distortion & feedback, but Dinosaur Jr. were to put all of these components together so well that theirs would later earn them the reputation as one of the formative influences on American alternative rock, one that can still be heard in bands today, from wherever they originate.
I remember in 1991, coming from a grounding of Ska and 2-Tone of the later seventies and following Scottish rock of the late eighties, that I found the music of this band from the East side of America exhilarating, if not a touch exotic. I can now see where those bands I later followed, the likes of British pretenders Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine, had perhaps learned their craft, but it was content from their fourth album – 1 of 4 offered here – first broadcast in colour on ITV’s independent music program Transmission, that truly pricked my ears.
The original albums have been talked about, heard and reviewed many times over in the years that have passed since their release, but it’s the additional tracks featured on these Expanded Editions that are the real gold in them thar hills, on all 4 of these re-releases offered up by Cherry Red, whose existence deserves to be raised still further and, well, that’s what I intend doing.
As I have already mentioned, Green Mind was the band’s first album to have been released on a major label, although they had proved themselves by releasing 3 earlier long-playing affairs, and when this album came about not only had Mascis pruned the band until it was he who played pretty much everything, but expectation was already running pretty high. With label Sire’s international reach, an already lauded band was set to go sky high and from hereon they did. A further 24 tracks have added to the original album’s content, across this 2-disc affair, featuring not just the noise, distortion & feedback we had become accustomed to, as Mascis displays his influence of sixties and seventies musicians on tracks like ‘Quicksand (Wagon Reprise)‘ and ‘Sideways‘, as well as a host of live recordings, including the earlier released ‘Freak Scene‘, which undoubtedly went some way in attaining them their status. 9/10
Where You Been – Mention this album and it’s ‘Start Choppin’‘ that immediately comes to mind, a track that is so well produced that it just oozes from the speakers, although it’s the bonus material available here that should take the spotlight and so it shall. Remember the 1991 romantic comedy Singles, in which a long-haired Matt Dillon played Cliff, an aspiring grunge musician? Well if you had to ask of his credentials to play this role (apart from the mane that he sported during the film?) then the bonus content here kicks off with Hot Burrito #2, a track on which he offered backing vocals. There, all is well with the World!
As you play through any of these releases, it soon becomes apparent that as much as musicians who came after Dinosaur Jr. owe a debt when it comes to their very existence, so it goes that Dinosaur Jr. themselves owe a debt to musicians that went before them, certainly the likes of Neil Young, or CSNY in fact, who are held in the chords of ‘Quest (Acoustic)’, and even the track that follows ‘Turnip Farm‘, where it could almost be the great man himself who is rockin’ in the free world and playing his brand of six-string, but what is certain here is that all musicians owe a debt of thanks to those who have extended the boundaries and added a little something extra to the tapestry of music as a whole.
It’s 13 tracks that extend the content of its predecessor, including 4 Peel Session versions of Noon At Dawn, Hide, Get Me & Keeblin, as well as a further 2 Evening Session versions of ‘Severed Lips‘ & ‘Thumb‘, acoustic versions that work exceptionally well. Ending the content are a further 3 live versions of Dinosaur Jr. favourites, culminating with a cracking version of ‘Start Choppin’, recorded from what sounds like an audience perspective recording – somewhere mid-venue, but still glorious in its presentation. 8/10
Without A Sound – By the time this release came around, it was pretty certain that Dinosaur Jr. had become those elder of rock musicians that they had first aspired to and the recording and production of this album certainly play out as such. Still possessing their distinctive sound, those rough around the edges parts, had been made smooth. ‘Feel The Pain‘ opens this album, with the familiar sound of a bottle being uncorked, as Mascis exclaims “I feel the pain of everyone, then I feel nothing”, 3 musicians (including Mascis himself) are added to by a host of technical roles, with a total of 8 engineers adding to the album’s credits.
18 tracks are added to the album’s original 11 track content, which in the most part are made up of instrumentals and what seems like an entire live London show taking up 1 CD, or 2 sides of the vinyl release. This kicks off with an incredible version of ‘Freak Scene‘, the audience’s reaction paying homage to this band’s god-like status and following with ‘Out Here‘ from the Where You Been. This show is peppered with incredible moments from their so far 10-year history and is certainly a testimony of who they had become, and, although this album wasn’t a patch on their earlier work, the saving grace here is the recording of their 1994 London Show, I wish I had been there. 8/10
Hand It Over – By the time this album came around it appears clear that Mascis & Co. were up for a grimier, more solid sound and as this album opens with ‘I Don’t Think’”, production had afforded this album just that, so as we continue through ‘Never Bought It‘, its solid bass and soaring guitar solo prove that it’s not just “cock rock” who can produce suburb rock moments.
But once again, it’s not the album’s original 12 track content that I’m here to re-hash and 16 bonus tracks are offered, kicking off with the surprising ‘Take A Run At The Sun‘ – it’s sunshine of Beach Boys vocal familiarity adding to the regular grime and grunge we had become accustomed to. I have to mention the track ‘The Pickle Song‘, which begins with harpsichord and later continues with banjo, something I never thought I’d hear from this band, but whether it be tongue in cheek or just whimsy, it does break the serious sense created. Later on ‘What We Do Is Secret‘, replaces what this band first were, as the hard-core punk of Mascis & Barlow is recreated in 48 seconds of noise and are followed by 2 versions of ‘Never Bought It‘ & ‘Sure Not Over You‘ recorded live for Abc closing this side of the extended edition.
The second CD features another live show from the band, this time one from 1997’s show in Stockholm and rather than a recording taken from the audience perspective, as per Where You Been, this is well and truly from the desk, with its presentation coming directly as it would have done in 1997. Obviously from a larger stage, this band had, by now, made it, and their audience were no longer standing in the front room of some sweaty venue, but in this case from the vantage point of the Stockholm Water Festival, a show never before released and featuring tracks spanning the band’s history. I like intimate recordings and so this was perhaps slightly less of a pull for me personally, although still a worthwhile performance and as we all like different sounds and offerings, still worthy. 8/10.
All four of these historical releases from Cherry Red are certainly very worthwhile and adding to the content from this band, have been improved by the addition of their expanded content. All they have to do now is obtain the rights to the band’s 3 earlier independent releases and offer these up to a baying public.
These reissues are out now on Cherry Red.