The Stones Roses: The Stone Roses: Legacy Edition

By: Ron Hart

In a recent issue of the NME, former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown recently admitted to the roots of the band’s near-ten-minute, ecstasy fueled, baggy funk epic “Fool’s Gold”, the centerpiece of their eponymous 1989 debut, an album that the popular UK music weekly hailed as the greatest British rock album of all time (to the collective gasp and balk of Beatles, Zep, Stones, Bowie, Floyd and Who fans the world over, undoubtedly).

“The Stone Roses were mad into James Brown,” he enthusiastically proclaimed. “We actually wrote ‘Fools Gold’ over ‘The Funky Drummer’ – we had it playing on a porta-studio and Reni had to learn how to play that beat…James Brown was a sheer force of nature. I used to go to a lot of Northern Soul nights in the early 1980s in places like Scarborough and Doncaster and ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ was a big tune for us then.”

The way that Ian Brown gushes over the Godfather of Soul in that article is exactly how a whole generation of kids felt about The Stone Roses back when they first hit the national spotlight in the late ’80s. Disgruntled, disenchanted and disgusted by the warmed over Eurotrash sounds of the decade in the wake of New Wave, British kids were clamoring for an exciting new sound at the dawn of the Thatcher era with a vehemence similar to that of the Mods in the 1960s and the Punks in the ’70s. And with their “Madchester” sound – an ear-pleasing fusion of Britpop’s jangly melodies and the driving acid house rhythms of the then-burgeoning UK rave culture, this ragtag quartet, whose classic lineup consisted of singer Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Gary Manny “Mani” Mounfield, and drummer Alan John Wren (aka Reni), delivered the brave new sonic frontier youth were looking for with an album loaded with great songs like “I Wanna Be Adored,” “She Bangs The Drums,” “Waterfall,” and, of course, “Fool’s Gold,” changing the course of British-based rock music and inspiring such household names as Oasis and Blur in the process.

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, Silvertone Records, in conjunction with Legacy Recordings, has rolled out the proverbial red carpet in delivering a reissue campaign of the first Stone Roses album with a level of reverence worthy of a work deemed to be the greatest of all time. Similar to the way Legacy had delivered the remastered edition of Pearl Jam’s 1991 debut, Ten, earlier in 2009, the Roses’ 1989 debut is being offered in four different formats. And, depending on your budget in these tight economic times, each version offers something worthwhile for fans of this classic LP.

The Special Edition is a single disc set, which features “Fool’s Gold” as a bonus track. Fans who originally picked up the Silvertone disc back in ’89 will remember that the track was, in fact, initially available in the first run, so it is good to see it back in the mix once again. However, more serious fans with a little more cash to burn would be wise to invest in the Legacy Edition, which features the remastered version of the original album with “Fool’s Gold” as the 12th track as well as a second disc of rough demos from the initial recording sessions that includes one previously unreleased full song entitled “Pearl Bastard,” which is also available as a bonus single-sided 7-inch on the Vinyl Edition of the album (buyer beware: this version, sadly, does not include “Fool’s Gold”). The Legacy Edition also features a generous DVD that contains an August 1989 live performance of the album from London’s Blackpool Empress Ballroom as well as the videos for the LP’s six singles (“Waterfall,” “Fool’s Gold,” “I Wanna Be Adored,” “One Love,” “She Bangs The Drums,” and “Standing Here”).

But for major fanatics of this album, it’s the mammoth Collector’s Edition that you will want to add to your wish list this holiday season. Encased in a hardbound slipcase covered in Squire’s iconic Jackson Pollock-esque cover art, you not only get everything the Legacy Edition entails, but also a third disc compiling all of the A- and B- sides. And all the tunes – the original album, the Lost Demos set and the B-Sides collection – come in both the CD and vinyl formats in this bad boy. Additional goodies in the Collector’s Edition include a lemon-shaped USB thumb drive (in honor of the cover), which contains all of the audio from the set as well as five previously unheard backwards jams and album producer John Leckie‘s personal home movie entitled Up at Sawmills: The Making of Fools Gold, as well as a hardcover version of the 48-page book from the Legacy set that features rare and never-before-seen photos and newly penned liner notes from all four band members, Leckie, and a wide range of prolific fans, including former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher, super producer Mark Ronson, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans UK, and Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie among others, not to mention 12-inch art prints showcasing Squire’s cover art for all six singles.

Unfortunately, there is not a big enough fan base to merit this kind of a reissue campaign for the Roses’ sorely under-appreciated 1994 follow-up, Second Coming, as more fans remain repulsed by the band’s darker, heavier sophomore effort than enamored by it, lthough there is a small minority who do feel that it is just as good as their debut, present company included. However, for those of you who do consider The Stone Roses’ debut to be the greatest British rock album ever, as per the NME, one of these definitive versions Legacy has put out will have everything you need and then some.

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