As you can see from this release’s dull artwork and naff title, on the outside, this reissue has all the imagination and aesthetic appeal of a cold hamburger on a Monday morning. It’s the kind of compilation you’d probably ignore in the rack of your local music emporium. “Gold” for God’s sake!! So why review it – and should you give it the time of day? Because of what’s contained on the “inside”.
I’ve had various compilations throughout the years in order to have Steppenwolf tracks in my collection – both British and American issues – and some like ‘The Beat Goes On’ British 2CD set of the first two albums – are excellent. But they are all rendered redundant by this fantastic 2CD anthology. The difference lies in the STUNNING RE-MASTERED SOUND engineered by ERICK LABSON. This is way better than anything else previously issued and the sheer numbers of tracks also make it seriously great value for money. LABSON is one of those great unsung heroes of CD re-issues. Working on the huge and varied Universal catalogue, he has a monumental 800+ credits to his name for Engineering, Mastering, Restoration and Digital Remastering stretching back to the early Nineties. So he knows his way around a master tape or two. His exceptional tape work is behind the following generic titled series you’ve probably seen across Amazon’s vast store (most are from the Universal catalogue):
“20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection”
“Blues Classics Remastered & Revisited”
“Chess 50th Anniversary Collection”
“The Definitive Collection”
“Rock `N’ Roll 50th Anniversary Edition”
His mastering/re-mastering ROCK credits include: The Who’s “My Generation Deluxe Edition”, Neil Diamond’s “Play Me: The Complete Uni Studio Recordings”, Joni Mitchell’s “The Beginning Of Survival”, Wishbone Ash’s “Argus” and Three Dog Night’s “The Complete Hit Singles” – and as anyone who owns these will know, they are all exceptional in their sound quality – and thorough in their presentation.
Back to “Gold”. The set covers the first and better part of Steppenwolf’s output from 1968 to 1974. For the uninitiated and prospective buyer, the albums are listed below and then after the discography, what track is from what album:
1. Steppenwolf (1968)
2. Steppenwolf The Second (1969)
3. At Your Birthday Party (1969)
4. Monster (1970)
5. Steppenwolf Live (1970)
6. Steppenwolf 7 ((1970)
7. For Ladies Only (1971)
8. Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes (John Kay Solo LP, 1972)
9. My Sportin’ Life (John Kay Solo LP, 1973)
10. Slow Flux (1974)
1. Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf)
2. Sookie Sookie (Steppenwolf)
3. Everybody’s Next One (Steppenwolf)
4. Your Wall’s Too High (Steppenwolf)
5. Desperation (Steppenwolf)
6. The Pusher (Steppenwolf)
7. The Ostrich (Steppenwolf)
8. Take What You Need (Steppenwolf)
9. Magic Carpet Ride (Steppenwolf The Second)
10. Don’t Step On The Grass Sam (Steppenwolf The Second)
11. Tighten Up Your Wug (Steppenwolf The Second)
12. It’s Never Too Late (Steppenwolf The Second)
13. Jupiter’s Child (At Your Birthday Party)
14. Rock Me (At Your Birthday Party)
15. Monster: Suicide/America Medley (Monster)
1. Move Over (Monster)
2. Power Play (Monster)
3. Hey Lawdy Mama (1970 7″ single)
4. Snow Blind Friend (Steppenwolf 7)
5. Who Needs Ya (Steppenwolf 7)
6. Renegade (Steppenwolf 7)
7. Foggy Mental Breakdown (Steppenwolf 7)
8. Hippo Stomp (Steppenwolf 7)
9. Screaming Night Hog (1970 7″ single)
10. For Ladies Only (For Ladies Only)
11. Tenderness (For Ladies Only)
12. Ride With Me (For Ladies Only)
13. I’m Movin’ On (John Kay solo – Forgotten Songs & Unsung Heroes)
14. My Sportin’ Life (John Kay solo – My Sportin’ Life)
15. Drift Away (John Kay solo – My Sportin’ Life)
16. Straight Shooting Woman (Slow Flux)
Fans will note that 8 out of the 11 tracks on their Dunhill 1968 debut LP are on Disc 1, 4 from the 2nd album too and a hunk off of ‘7′ – all great news. The sound quality is glorious. If you can’t play them through Media Player, then go to the iTunes Store and click a 25 second listen to “Sookie Sookie” and “Everybody’s Next One” and you’ll hear what I mean – just stunning! It would be a fan’s dream if Labson could get to do “extended versions” of their 1st two classic albums “Steppenwolf” and “Steppenwolf The Second” – both of which deserve to be given as much status as anything that rocked out of the late sixties. I do wish Steppenwolf weren’t forever attached to ‘that’ song – solely – almost as if it’s all they ever did!
With regard to the “Gold” series in general: each title usually consists of 2CDs, each is digitally remastered from the original tapes and each is a comprehensive anthology with many titles properly remastered for the first time anywhere. Some of the labels covered are ABC/Brunswick/Cadet/Checker/Chess/Coral/Duke/Dunhill/MCA/Mercury/Verve/Vogue – and many more besides under the Universal umbrella. They began to appear in 2004 and are on-going into 2007. There are huge numbers of artists in the series right across the musical spectrum – here’s some of interest: Aerosmith, The Allman Brothers, Joan Armatrading, Louis Armstrong, Asia, Burt Bacharach & Friends, Chuck Berry, James Brown, The Carpenters, Cinderella, Cream, Neil Diamond, Ella Fitzgerald, Connie Francis, Marvin Gaye, Buddy Holly, Etta James, Tom Jones, B.B. King, Kiss, Patti LaBelle, The Mamas & Papas, Bob Marley & The Wailers, The Moody Blues, The Neville Brothers, Olivia Newton-John, The Oak Ridge Boys, Parliament, Poco, The Righteous Brothers, Rush, Scorpions, Squeeze, The Statler Brothers, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart, Sublime, Supremes, Tears For Fears, Traffic, Velvet Underground and Whitesnake.
On the down side, because of commercial limitations and a crowded marketplace, for some artists here, the “gold” series is probably all we music lovers are going to get in terms of their work presented to us in top sound quality. The naff artwork and unimaginative presentation in general, hasn’t and doesn’t help. This series seems to have come out and gone away – ignored by a public awash with such titled compilations. Which is a damn shame, because the quality of the material, the huge number of tracks on each – and above all, the simply brilliant sound-quality, means that they’re all languishing unloved, unnoticed and unused in digital purgatory somewhere near you.
For a few dollars/handful of pound coins, you can acquire this great Steppenwolf 2CD set – and be like me – start searching second-hand vinyl stores again for good copies of their original LPs – because you’ve just rediscovered how bloody good they were and still are!
I can’t recommended this 2CD retro enough. Buy with the utmost confidence and enjoy!!