Essential '60s soundtrack receives a full release
In some ways it's fitting that the soundtrack to this landmark film has suffered a series of legal hassles from The Man. In its original 1969 vinyl release, it was denied the film's use of The Band's "The Weight" (by the band's then-label Capitol), and a sound-alike cover by Smith was issued in its place. More recently, the soundtrack was withheld from domestic CD reissue, squeaking out a European version many years before MCA's 2000 digital issue. The latter reunited The Band with their film-mates, at the expense of altering the original Smith-bred artifact. Hip-O's deluxe two-disc reissue provides the best of both worlds – including both versions of "The Weight" – and filling out a second disc of contemporaneous radio hits. The original soundtrack is a five-star release on its own, brilliantly capturing the flavor of the film and its times with a carefully selected set of music, and augmented with snippets of sound and dialogue. Many of these songs were, or became, period classics, burned into everyone's consciousness by endless radio play; but what really makes the album great are the non-hit tracks. Beyond the collection of well-worn hits are more unusual inclusions: The Holy Modal Rounders' lunatic old-timey "If You Want to be a Bird (Bird Song)," Fraternity of Man's stoner country "Don't Bogart That Joint" and The Electric Prunes' reverb-drenched psychedelic mass "Kyrie Ellison." Roger McGuinn's cover of Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" and his original "Ballad of Easy Rider" close out the original track lineup with a helping of paranoia, dissolution and salvation. Disc two adds 19 period selections that flesh out the country's growing acid-paranoia, from the independence-minded garage punk of The Seeds and psychedelic trippings of the Electric Prunes and Jefferson Airplane, to the reactionary folk of Richie Havens and The Youngbloods, and heavy-metal acid freak-out of Blue Cheer. Nearly all of this will be very familiar to those weaned on the era's radio, as well as those who've bought other late-60s anthologies. The Band's original version of "The Weight," omitted from the original soundtrack, is a bonus; the rest of the disc, which, unsurprisingly, plays more like an anthology than a film soundtrack, is superfluous in contrast to the original soundtrack.
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