Thursday, December 14, 2006

Re-issues: Pretenders I and II

Always a popular gift idea is the re-issue of a previously released album that has been re-mastered and re-packaged with a truckload of bonus tracks (+ xtra disc). On Both Pretenders I and II, the first disc is the original remastered album, while disc #2 features demos, unreleased and live tracks. The live cuts especially showcase what a great band the original line-up was, the Pretenders were made up of Chrissie Hynde, the late James Honeyman-Scott, the late Pete Farndon and drummer Martin Chambers

Believe it or not, the first Pretender's album was issued almost 27 years ago in January of 1980. The year previous they had released the singles for Stop Your Sobbing, Kid and Brass In Pocket. If you didn't own the album, these were the songs that you would have identified the Pretenders with. When I first heard the whole album I was completely blown away, the other songs rocked way harder than the radio hits and the range in material from punk to rock, instrumental to ballad is solid! One of the local FM radio stations back in the early 80's played complete albums uninterupted at midnight. Certain nights were designated as "classic album nights" playing such treats as Sticky Fingers, Dark Side Of The Moon, Beggars Banquet, Who's Next, Led Zeppelin IV etc. A fine introduction to some essential stuff for listeners who suffered through the repeated playing of only hit singles. Of course in those days I taped everything including Pretenders I, I listened to that tape for years (I was too cheap to buy the album), even though my radio recorded copy had skips on two of the tracks on side one. Obviously, this upgraded CD will continue to provide me with many more happy listenings.

Pretenders II was the last album with the short-lived original line-up, both Honeyman-Scott and Farnden overdosed after the release of II and musically the group was never the same. I admit Learning to Crawl (3rd album, 1982) was my second favourite Pretenders album and it was a big hit on radio, but the group never regained the same intensity and edge as their previous discs. The Pretenders became known as Chrissie Hynde and her revolving door of backing musicians and I kind of lost interest. I honestly don't think I can name more than 2 or 3 songs the Pretenders have done since 1986 (that's 20 years ago!). For any newer fans of the band these re-issues are a wonderful way to discover the early songs that made them famous. Needless to say, Pretenders II reissue has some fine moments as disc 2 is almost entirely live versions. Still high energy and tight, yet maybe slightly more reserved, the more I listen to II, the more I appreciate how classic this album is!

Pretenders I
Brass In Pocket (demo, much slower version) she says, "Your special" instead of "I'm special" , changes the meaning of the song?
Kid (demo)
Precious (live)
Tatooed Love Boys (live)

Pretenders II
Message Of Love (live)

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