Thursday, November 20, 2014

CD Review: Omnivore Recordings Releases Deluxe Reissues From Old 97's And Game Theory

The Dallas, TX band Old 97's released their debut album "Hitchhike to Rhome" in 1994 and instantly became one of the founders of alternative-country music alongside such bands as Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown and The Jayhawks. Since then, the band has released ten studio albums during their twenty year career and has became one of the top live draws around the country and one of the few successful alt-country bands that is still together. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Omnivore Recordings is re-releasing it as an expanded two-CD set featuring demos and outtakes from the recording sessions for the album. The first disc contains the original sixteen-song album which has been remixed from the original session tapes by Rip Rowan, Old 97's longtime engineer. The songs definitely benefit from these remixes as the twang of the country-stomp opener "St. Ignatius" and the punk-like speed of the grunge-like rocker "504" sound very fresh and new. The sixties-sway of "Dancing With Tears" and the southern surf-guitar of "Leaf Clover" shows the band's diversity in these early days. Their cover of Merle Haggard's "Mama Tried" shows their respects to the early days of country, while also injecting youth into their sound in "If My Heart Was A Car."
 
The second disc begins with the band's four-song demo cassette that contained the storied lyrics of regretful love in the unreleased song "Making Love With You." The demo version of "Dancing With Tears" has a more laid-back acoustic feel, while "Ivy" is a work-in-progress that has the Old 97's still searching for their alt-country sound. The final six songs on the second disc contain outtakes that the band recorded for their debut album, but never made the final cut. The quick pace of "Eyes For You" is a shot of punk youth, while "Victoria" has the perfect blend of country and rock that would have fit perfectly on the original release. Fans can thank guitarist Ken Betha who discovered these tracks while digging for the original tapes for remixing the album. This new set from the Old 97's was released on November 17th. The band has a handful of live shows to finish out the year. To find out more about this new expanded version of "Hitchhike To Rhome," please visit old97s.com.
 
Underground 80's power pop band Game Theory released five full-length albums that have since been out of print, that was until Omnivore Recordings stepped in. The band's 1982 debut album "Blaze Of Glory" was remastered and re-released in September by Omnivore Recordings and now the label is looking to re-release the French-only compilation "Dead Center." The album was released in 1984 in France only and it combines the band's first two EPs "Pointed Accounts Of People You Know" and "Distortion."
 
The music definitely carries that synthesizer sound that made every pop song a hit in the 80's. Beginning with the modern, keyboard-heavy "Nine Lives To Rigel Five," Game Theory were full of pop anthems that never caught the ear of the general public, but found an underground following as the band grew to cult status. The band looked to be the leaders of the early 80's new wave movement with "Dead Center," but also show their post-punk edginess with their rendition of "The Letter." The original ten-song release adds on another eleven songs to this newly released version of the album. The bonus tracks are made up of demos, live versions and rare mixes of the song's that have showed up on this and other albums from Game Theory. The live versions of "Mother Of Pearl" and "Trouble" shows the band enjoying the live setting as their passion for performing is heard in the delivery of these songs. One of the highlights of the bonus tracks is Game Theory's live cover of "Gloria" as they try to capture the intensity of the original. The newly remastered version of Game Theory's album "Dead Center" will be available on November 24th. To find out more, please visit omnivorerecordings.com.

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