7/15/15

REELIN' IN THE YEARS [1991] vs ROCK OF THE 70's [1992]

Like Satanic backward masking in heavy metal music or the very definition of love in The Holy Bible, different people are going to interpret The Dark Side Of The Rainbow through their own unique perspective.  While I find the whole backward masking kerfuffle laughable and seem to enjoy a more inclusive, more loving King James version of the Bible than most Republicans, The Dark Side Of The Moon movie and album synchronization brouhaha has never spoke to me yet it has found a place in popular culture.  While my failure to get it may be due to some unknown and as yet mercifully undetected brain damage, maybe the more plausible explanation is that unlike a lot of other Floyd fans, I do not drink a little drink or smoke a little smoke when I journey to either the dark side of the moon or the land of Oz.  First gaining national exposure in 1995, the excitement surrounding The Dark Side Of The Rainbow entertainment experience died down after about eighteen months or so before an influential rock DJ became particularly enamoured of it after a viewing filled with "an amazing series of cosmic coincidences."
That jock's name was George Taylor Morris and, at the time, his day job was on Boston's WZLX, where he discussed The Dark Side Of The Rainbow on air enough that the phenomenon enjoyed an even bigger surge in popularity. A lifelong radio man, Morris was also working for NBC's The Source radio network in various capacities at the time and from 1986-1999, hosted a syndicated music program called Reelin' In The Years™ that has since been called "legendary." 
Back in 1991, Sandstone Music, a division of Dunhill Compact Classics, partnered with  Reelin' In The Years™ to release a series of five compact discs mastered by Steve Hoffman from the original two track masters. George Taylor Morris wrote a brief introduction for the series of discs which features 53 songs from 1967-1983, forming the foundation of any self-respecting classic rock collection with obvious hits and deep cuts.  The discs are readily and easily available nearly twenty-five years after their original release but don't let that fool you - these are some of the best sounding discs you will ever hear with Hoffman's impeccable mastering deserving a lot of the credit.  The Spotify playlists I've included are for reference only - the sound is so much better on the discs.

Volume 1 kicks off on a high-note with the Stray Cats rollicking "Rock This Town", which depending on your perspective is either just right, too new or too old to be "classic rock".  The next three songs are undeniable staples of the genre and the deep cut this out is Spirit's "Dark Eyed Woman".  No qualms, here.  The disc finishes strong with a triplet of tunes from Thin Lizzy, Ms. Linda Ronstadt and another stomper from Bachman-Turner Overdrive to close it out.
Depending on your level of fandom, the deep cut on Volume 2 is either Elton John's "Take Me To The Pilot", 10cc's "The Wall Street Shuffle" or The Guess Who's "Undun".  The one I'm least familiar with is 10cc but man what a song.  Gonna put the parent album Sheet Music in "the audition pile", that growing playlist of albums and songs to listen to "later."  Some might nominate "My Back Pages" for deep cut status but I would argue that is classic just by being a Dylan cover and a Top 40 one at that.  The rest of the disc is readily heard on any classic rock station which is not to discount the songs but rather point out their comforting familiarity.
The third volume in the series features an odd, three of these things don't belong set near the end of the disc featuring Blondie's "Heart Of Glass", Earth Wind & Fire's "September" and The Kinks with their disco rock hybrid "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman".  Even absent a contribution from official ambassadors Lynyrd Skynyrd, the rest of the disc plays like a Southern Classic Rock compilation finishing up with The Outlaws and their epic "Free Bird" "Green Grass & High Tides." 

Volume 4 is the slow jams disc of the series, mellowing things out.  The fourth track is indeed a one track version of "Sirius/Eye In The Sky," a track which can only be found on one other disc as far as I know.  I do not know if I would pick it the next time out but my favorite track on this disc as I listened to it today was Al Stewart's "Time Passages" though it made me want to hear "Year Of The Cat" more than anything.  Just like "Poetry Man" by Phoebe Snow always makes me want to hear Carole King's "Jazzman" and Maria Muldaur's "Midnight At The Oasis."

The fifth and final volume in the Reelin' In The Years™ series features many top notch classic rock standards.  And a song by Uriah Heep.  Which sounds like a bad Foreigner song.  The disc is both front-loaded ("Carry On Wayward Son" and "Layla") and back-loaded ("Radar Love", "Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)" and the pseudo-live "Bennie And The Jets".)  If I had to pick just one disc as my favorite, it would come down to Volumes 1 and 5, with 5 winning by a narrow margin.  Your eyes do not deceive you, the Steely Dan namesake song of the series does not appear anywhere on the five discs.  Here's where things get weird: The entire Reelin' In The Years™ series, all five volumes, was reissued in 1992 by Dunhill Compact Classics as Rock Of The 70's, with new artwork and slightly shuffled playlists on all but one disc.   The title of the series is slightly incorrect as there are seven songs from the 60's and three songs from the 80's - I'm just sayin'. Though these discs are just a bit newer and feature the same brilliant Hoffman mastering, they are somewhat harder to find nowadays then their Reelin' In The Years doppelgängers and they come in two cover varieties, one with artists listed on the cover art and one without.  I was unable to establish if a third issuance of the series had occurred (possibly in 1995) though that might have accounted for the cover variations. Initial pressings of Volume Five of Rock Of The 70's were issued with the full length album version of "Time Has Come Today" rather than the shorter radio friendly edit that had been included on Volume 5 of Reelin' In The Years™. Steve Hoffman himself has confirmed that this was an error and was corrected with the shorter version on subsequent pressings.  Anyhow, the Spotify playlists below do not reflect Hoffman's mastering just the tracklisting of each disc.





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George Taylor Morris was part of XM Radio when it launched in 2001, serving as host to the network's interview and performance show XM Music Confidential as all as program director and morning host of the network's Deep Tracks channel.  Morris passed in 2009 after a battle with throat cancer.  A tribute video was assembled and posted by the satellite service:


Thanks to the soft rock kid™, the Steve Hoffman Forums and the Radio & Records page at the American Radio History site.  If you're interested, Ron aka Mr. crapfromthepast has scanned in the entire CD package from each of the Reelin' In The Years™ discs HERE.

2 comments:

  1. I listened to many episodes of Reelin' in the Years back in the '90s. Morris had a great voice. That was replaced by the syndicated show Flashback which I enjoyed until they canned Bill St. James. Now the only syndicated show I hear with any regularity is Dan Ackroyd's Blues Mobile (which is pretty good in spite of Ackroyd).

    As for the CD series, it looks like fairly typical fare.

    I am willing to try Dark Side of the Rainbow, but not to the point that I'm gonna buy a Wizard of Oz DVD so I guess I'm out unless the local headshop puts on a screening.

    As for the whole backward masking fad, the brain doesn't work that way, so it's just a cool sounding gimmick. I don't want to get into the physical processes of audio wavelength and time, but I have a fairly worthless degree in epistemology, so I ask you to trust me on this one. ;-p

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  2. Interesting mix on the CDs. I looks more like "let's see what we can license and then see what fits together".

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