This has been a pretty great year to be a fan of The Replacements. In addition to Jim Walsh’s excellent book, All Over But the Shouting, the news had begun to circulate last year that the full catalogue would be getting the remastered/bonus track treatment this year. The first slate of re-issues are the albums originally released on Twin/Tone Records and in addition to the slate of unreleased material, the true reason to celebrate is just the fact that these albums have finally received a remastering. The CD issues of the albums, including the “re-issues” from earlier in the 2000s that were intended, it seemed, just to keep them available since they did nothing to the sound or material, have always had weak recording quality.
So, are they worth picking up? Absolutely. The big changes come to the albums on either end of the slate – Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash and Let It Be. The lead songs on these albums sparkle with a new depth they haven’t had before – “Takin a Ride” is even more propulsive than ever and the drums in “I Will Dare” crackle in a way that makes the classic seem just as jittery and nervous and hopeful as ever. And this carries over throughout the entire album. For people who have listened to these records for years wondering what has been missing, it can be a revelatory listen when you hear the new remasters. The work on Stink and Hootenanny, while not as immediately obvious, is still good. Stink, of course, was already thick and brazen and the remastering doesn’t alter that in any way. Hootenanny retains its sound as well, though both are definitely better than the original CD releases.
The remastering alone is worth the price of admission for long-time fans, but the real draw are the bonus tracks. A lot of what comes on these have made the rounds in bootleg circles for years, but the sound quality of them on CD is dynamic. Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash is the biggest haul, brimming with thirteen bonus tracks. The jewels here are the original basement demo tape recordings that Paul Westerberg gave to Peter Jesperson back in 1980. These are the tracks that legendarily knocked Jesperson on his duff from moment one – included is an older version of “Raised in the City” and “Shutup,” as well as a couple of songs that wouldn’t make it to tape. A slew of studio outtakes are included and the other real gem, the b-side to “I’m In Trouble,” the clever and smile-inducing “If Only You Were Lonely,” long only available on vinyl singles and the Boink! European LP.
Stink has the set’s most completely enjoyable bonus tracks, with the original “Staples in Her Stomach,” an outtake from the sessions, and a high-octane rendition of “Hey, Good Lookin'” and “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock.” This version of Hank Sr.’s classic is not the one that was originally available on the “I Will Dare” 12″ single – rather this one is done in the style of the Stink sessions – abrasive, fast and a hell of a lot of fun. The album ends with the jaw-dropping “You’re Getting Married,” a solo home demo that Westerberg had given to Jesperson back in 1982, but had not brought forth to use with the band. Listening to it, it’s easy to hear the late-period Westerberg – the one from Stereo and Come Feel Me Tremble. It’s a remarkable song.
Hootenanny has the least interesting of outtakes, though it does include a re-recording of “Johnny’s Gonna Die” (originally from Sorry Ma..) done at a faster speed, a studio version of “Treatment Bound” (as opposed to the basement recording found on the album) and another Westerberg solo home recording, “Bad Worker,” that is pretty solid. Let It Be is given a solid set of bonus material with a slate of fantastic covers (“20th Century Boy,” “Temptation Eyes,” and “Heartbeat – It’s a Lovebeat”) as well as an awesome outtake (“Perfectly Leathal”) and alternate and demo versions of two album tracks.
There’s a lot to love here – but will it serve as just a gift to long suffering fans or is there hope that this can help carry the Replacements’ legacy onward another twenty-seven years? The Warner Brothers/Reprise album re-issues, due out later this year, will tell the tale of the band hitting its stride and then some (note to those who matter: “Nowhere is My Home” better be on the Tim re-issue or there will be consequences), so hopefully new listeners will be able to discover the band from stem to stern without missing anything along the way. – j. neas
Elsewhere: Pitchfork Media interviews The Replacements Paul Westerberg
MP3: The Replacements :: Raised In The City (demo)
MP3: The Replacements :: Hey Good Lookin’ (outtake)
MP3: The Replacements :: Johnny Fast (outtake — rough mix)
MP3: The Replacements :: Temptation Eyes (outtake)
Amazon: The Replacements – 2008 Reissues
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