Face it: most times, reunion records by bands trying to reclaim former glories frequently are rather lame, especially if your expectations are super high. And usually, most people’s expectations are as high as the big hit that made them a fan in the first place, and it only takes a few lackluster reunion records to make even the most die-hard give up on comeback albums altogether. Which is a shame, because sometimes reunion records contain some truly fantastic tunes. Fact is, there are some shining moments you may not be aware of from artists you once liked. Here are some that I dig quite a bit:
Recently I came across a fascinating album from 1966 by a pop icon of the ’50s, a reunion with his original band, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Dion and The Belmonts. This is a pretty groovy record that works against all odds, placing Dion’s doo-wop group in the context of a then-modern rock band with folk-rock proto-psychedelic leanings and interesting song structures.
Lamely titled Together Again (marketing clearly missed the boat on this one), the album boasts some genuinely good songs that should have had a shot at radio in that period alongside hits by The Byrds, The Turtles, The Beatles, and others.
We can’t rewrite history, but at least you can today check out this music anew. Some of my fave cuts include a swinging cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind” (retitled here “Baby You’ve Been On My Mind”) and Dion’s original tune, the album closer (and #9 UK hit! Who knew?!), “My Girl In The Month of May.” Two years later, Dion would be back on his original label and scoring a massive hit with “Abraham, Martin and John.” Had he been given his due on this one, he might have spent more time rocking instead of the (equally fine but different) folk singer-songwriter direction he took for much of the ’70s. I’ve only seen this on vinyl, but its worth picking up if you can get a copy.
Last year, power pop legends The dBs got back together and put out a new album,Falling Off the Sky, which picks up right where the band left off in 1987 with Sound of Music.
This was one of my faves from last year, and you really should own a copy if you like great classic pop songwriting. This isn’t just retro retread stuff; in fact, it sounds surprisingly fresh. If you buy the LP, you also get a bonus CD with extra tracks, plus a download of five additional tracks.
In 1973, the original incarnation of The Byrds (with David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, and Michael Clarke) all got back together for a reunion record that came and went with a nod and a snore. That’s a shame, because it’s a really solid release. Granted, it doesn’t have that jingle-jangle signature sound that made early Byrds records so distinct, nor the country rock swagger of the second version of the band McGuinn led up until around the time of this release. Admittedly, it had at least one cringe worthy title.
But as far as albums that play to that popular sound of Southern California singer-songwriters, a flavor Crosby had hit paydirt with in his “other” band (Crosby Still and Nash) — the album works, and possibly has aged better over time. They even do covers of Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “See The Sky About To Rain.” Sure, it’s not “Mr. Tambourine Man,” but it’s definitely worth owning and even contains a few nice surpises. It’s very common on vinyl, but you might have to poke around a bit to find it in a digital form.
Last year Dayton, Ohio’s favorite sons, Guided By Voices, reassembled their original incarnation — the “classic line up,” in rock marketing parlance — and not only hit the ground running with a new reunion record — they put out three. Yes, three albums in one year (plus numerous singles!). That two of the three are genuinely strong with some pretty awesome tunes is a plus. That one came out on clear vinyl is yet another bonus (Gold star for these robot boys!). Here’s the promo video for the title track of the second album from last year, “Class Clown Spots a UFO.” You can find it at Amazon or your favorite record store.