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Roll Back by Peter Aaron

Jeff Buckley— Grace Around the World (Columbia/Legacy)

The Jayhawks— Music From the North Country (American/Legacy)

The Stone Roses— The Stone Roses: 20th Anniversary Edition (Silvertone/Legacy)

Nostalgia is a tricky trap. When it comes to music, it can have some people thinking that, for example, big band jazz was the only thing going on in the 1940s. Or that everyone in the ’50s hung out at the drive-in, wore pompadours or poodle skirts, and listened to Elvis. But dig an inch or two below this deceptive shorthand facade and you’ll see that at any given time there were many trends and tributaries that thrived and overlapped—not just those that would later become the basis of inane theme restaurants and office-party Halloween get-ups. And so it is with the 1990s, which barely 10 years hence are viewed by many simply as the Age of Grunge, when of course there were all kinds of other worthy musics being made. So, then, let this month’s grab bag of non-grunge ’90s alt rock serve as a reminder: It wasn’t all fuzz and flannel back in the day.

It’s not hard to see why Jeff Buckley has risen to the level of rock messiah since his tragic 1997 passing. With his divine, bird-like voice, underrated, muscular band, and dramatic songwriting talent (and, yes, his highly photogenic looks), Buckley’s towering aura is undeniable, and though he was only able to make one proper album, 1994’s Grace (Columbia), before he was taken from us, his influence continues to resonate with vigor. Available as either a CD/DVD version or a deluxe CD/double-DVD package, Grace Around the World compiles live audio and TV performances from the tours Buckley did in support of Grace, and these lung-busting renditions of its songs only fan the flames of his legend. The limited deluxe set includes a booklet, a poster, and other fan tidbits, but the added DVD documentary, Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley, is what makes it essential.

Minneapolis’s Jayhawks are simply one of the greatest American roots bands of recent times. Led in its classic incarnation by the stunning harmonies and superb songwriting of Gary Louris and Mark Olson, the group put a rawer spin on the country rock template of the Flying Burrito Brothers and almost singlehandedly kicked off the alt-country genre. The single-CD version of the career-spanning Music From the North Country culls 20 of the band’s best tracks circa 1989-2003, while a deluxe release adds a CD of rare cuts and a DVD; a four-disc collection has it all plus yet another CD of still more rarities. If you’re new, start with the single CD. If you’re already a fan, the expanded versions are a-callin’.

The debut by England’s Stone Roses actually dates from 1989, but its impact edged into the following decade—though the phenomenon is admittedly baffling to this reviewer. The Stone Roses has been cited by legions of Britpoppers (Oasis, et al) as generation-influencing for its blending of dance rhythms with chiming guitar pop—i.e., the “Madchester” sound. But the Roses’ smoothed-down faux-post-punk and lite funk has always left these ears cold, and front man Ian Brown is a total black hole (there’s a considerable gap between being coolly detached and being, like Brown, utterly inconsequential). But, hey, those who do get it will want this remastered edition, with its bonus track, “lost demos” CD, and live/promos DVD. (Also out as a remastered single CD with bonus track; three-CD/three-LPs/DVD/USB set; and on LP with bonus 7-inch.) —Peter Aaron

www.legacyrecordings.com



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