RATM’s Anniversary Box Set A Great Gift To Band’s Fans

Courtesy:  Epic Records/Legacy Recordings

Courtesy: Epic Records/Legacy Recordings

Twenty years ago, one of the biggest bands in modern music history first broke through with its self-titled debut release.  That debut album completely changed the face of music at the time.  The band in question was none other than Rage Against The Machine.  While RATM may not have been the originators of the rap/rock genre, its musical styling wasn’t what made it such an influential band.  It was the fire lit under an entire generation by the band’s sound mixed with its unapologetic political stance.  The band united a generation, telling in no uncertain terms, to “take the power back.”  And the masses began to do just that in listening to the band’s debut.  The band’s message still resonates true with that generation today and even a whole new generation.  In celebration of that continued impact, Epic Records and Legacy Recordings have released the band’s debut album in a box set complete with the band’s original demo, and a handful of extra live performances never before released and other bonuses.

When fans first open the new Rage Against The Machine XX Deluxe Box set, they are greeted with a large picture book featuring pictures from the band’s career.  It opens with an introduction by fellow music veteran and Public Enemy front man Chuck D.  Chuck notes of the band in his intro, “Over the past 20 years, I’ve often called them the greatest band on Earth because of their ability to stand out musically, lyrically, and philosophically.  Nobody comes close to sounding like THEM.  Their lethal combination of many things considered NON-rock makes them the best rock band period.  Sonically distinct, a cocktail bomb sum of its parts.”  That’s a pretty bold statement coming from one of music’s other biggest and equally most controversial individuals.  And it’s an entirely grounded statement, too.  When RATM first broke through in 1992 with its self-titled debut, the music industry had just broken away from the hair metal movement of the 80’s, and was just opening the era of the Seattle “grunge” sound.  The world of pop music was moving away from 80’s nu-wave and into the more bubble-gum sound that is so prevalent today.  Enter Rage Against The Machine.  As Chuck D. notes, there was nothing like this California based quartet out there at the time.  And as he notes late in his intro, music hasn’t been the same since.

The additional liner notes by Chuck D. in this new box set’s mega picture booklet are just one piece of the whole that makes it a nice idea for any long-time fan of RATM.  After going through the liner notes and photos included in the booklet, fans get to really get into the box set.  First off after the booklet is a rather large double-sided fold out poster with two images of the band.  If a person were to want, one could easily put the poster under double glass and perhaps hang it in a way that would show both sides.  Otherwise, it still makes for a nice bonus to the entire set. 

Moving the poster aside, audiences finally get into the real heart of the set.  The real heart of this set comes in two smaller boxes inside the larger.  The first of those two boxes is one containing a pair of CD’s and a pair of DVD’s.  The first of the two CD’s is the band’s original 1992 debut album.  Whether fans already own the original album or not, this re-issue offers listeners a few bonuses in the form of a trio of bonus live tracks.  The first of the bonus live tracks is a live track taken from the band’s original single release of ‘Bombtrack.’  This piece opens with an introduction by front man Zack de la Rocha.  He explains the basis of the song being centered on AIM member Leonard Peltier.  Long time fans will recognize his name as his ongoing case is also the center of the video for the band’s equally well known song, ‘Freedom.’  ‘Bombtrack’ is followed with a live take of another of the band’s megahits, ‘Bullet in the Head.’  No introduction here.  The band simply launches right into the song.  A live, extended take of ‘Take The Power Back’ closes out this new re-issue of the band’s debut.  It’s a fitting closer, too as it reminds audiences of exactly what RATM stood for then and the impact that it still has on audiences today, despite having only released three albums in its time together.  If the bonus live tracks on the new re-issue aren’t enough for fans, then the inclusion of a full, double-sided 180g vinyl copy of the album might be.  It doesn’t have the bonus tracks.  But for anyone that is nostalgic for vinyl, this inclusion makes for yet another bonus to the set.

The second CD included in the band’s new anniversary set is a full run of the band’s original demo tape.  The tape was originally recorded in 1991.  Before its inclusion in this set, the only way that audiences could get their hands on it was at the band’s live shows.  Now fans can hear early takes on the songs that would make RATM the band that it is today.  Audiences will note that while some of the songs on the demo were included on the eventual full length debut, others weren’t so lucky.  But at least one of the songs on this release managed to find its way onto the soundtrack of the 1994 Brand Lee breakout movie, The Crow.  That song is ‘Darkness of Greed.’  Along with that song, fans are also treated to the rare gems: ‘The Narrows’, ‘Auto Logic’, and ‘Mindset’s a Threat.’

Fans get a load of treats from the band’s original demo tape now on CD.  As an added bonus fans will also get to not only hear them, but also see them as the band’s first ever live recording is also included on DVD.  That performance was its performance on October 23rd, 1991 on the campus of Cal State Northridge. The video is somewhat rough.  But that’s because it was obviously originally recorded via VHS.  Nonetheless, having this added live experience makes this set all the more worth it for any true RATM fan.  It’s a real added bonus in that in comparison to where the band started, it’s amazing that the band would go so quickly from a college campus to playing major venues the world over.  Those massive venues included the likes of: Pink Pop, Rock Am, Reading Festival and its now iconic 2010 performance at Finsbury Park in London, England.  The performance was a thank you to fans who had helped the band’s single, ‘Killing in the Name’ reach number one over the winner of the U.K.’s X-factor the year before.  The turnout is absolutely incredible.  And the recorded performance is just as amazing.  Both the video and audio mix are above par.  Both help to translate the energy of both the audience and band to home viewers.  Yet again, it’s one more incredible piece that makes this set so much more powerful.   

A lot of thought and work went into assembling the final product that is RATM’s twentieth anniversary deluxe box set.  It includes the band’s original album both on CD and vinyl.  It also includes the band’s original demo tape that would lead to its landmark debut, as well as loads of live material on CD and DVD.  And let fans not forget about the included oversized photo book and double sided poster.  By the time fans have gone through this set, one of two things will happen.  It will leave fans hoping for the day that RATM returns in force with a brand new album or it will leave fans feeling fully satisfied at having a rather large piece of the band’s legacy.  Both reactions are great reactions to have as this deluxe box set is equally great for any of the band’s legions.  It’s available now in stores and online and makes for a very good gift for the RATM fan in anyone’s house.  It can be ordered online direct from the band’s official website, http://www.ratm.com/rage20/.  Fans can also get all the latest info from the band on its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.comRATM.

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Shahidah Omar’s debut is “Freedom” from the musical masses

One look at the cover of her debut album, and one might automatically assume that she’s probably just like any other pop star on the radio.  But everyone knows what assuming does.  We won’t go there.  Just one listen through “Freedom” and listeners will hear that this young up and coming pop star has an album with all the pop sensibility that will make her a star on Top 40 pop radio nation wide, without losing her identity.  The album’s opener, ‘Live My Dream’ is a bold statement from Miss Omar that clearly states she hasn’t lost her identity by any means.  She sings on the song, “I wanna go real high\I wanna live out loud\I’m gonna reach inside\I’M GONNA LIVE MY DREAM.”  It’s a wonderful, uplifting opener to an album that’s filled with emotions and social commentary.

“Freedom” opens with a great up-tempo piece that’s sure to be a radio hit, if it already isn’t, in ‘Live My Dream.’  That song is only one part of what makes Shahidah Omar’s debut album the unexpectedly impressive work that it is.  Rather than simply being another pop or R & B album, she sings about more than just breakups or emotions.  She also includes some social commentary here and there, all while blowing listeners way with her vocal range.  On ‘People of the World’, Omar sings with a voice that seems to combine the best elements of Billie Holiday and Macy Gray.  She also does something that audiences would never expect to hear from a pop artist.  She actually shows off her operatic singing ability.  That one song alone is anough to make one believe that should her pop carer not pan out, she would definitely have a career as a professional opera singer.  Her vocal abilities are that amazing on this piece.

Shahidah Omar has wonderful pop sensibilities.  She also has an impressive vocal talent.  And she also has equally impressive musical sensibility in general.  The song, ‘Cold Inside’ is proof of that.  What could otherwise have been just another standard R & B/pop song is a song with so much more heart, simply for its music.  Rather than simply take the standard auto tuning and general pop route, Omar has crafted her own song that gives audiences a more realistic song to which they can relate both lyrically and musically.  She sing of not giving someone a chance because of past hurt in her life, rather than being just another breakup song.  She sings, “You took the fall for showing me love\Oh, Oh I\Thought you were pretending when you cried\I cry~~\\Cause baby it’s cold inside\Since I let you go\Oh baby it’s cold inside\Need youto keep me warm at night…And if you come back\I will be good baby\Cause I know you were good for me.”  The song continues in this fashion.  She is singing of realizing that she let her past keep her from a potentially happy future.  Who hasn’t ben there.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to let go of the past.  And it can hurt us.  That Add in that this piece doesn’t come across as just another  one of those stereotypical songs, and audiences get one more piece of what is overall quite the opus.

Now for fans who want to check out Shahidah Omar live, they’ll get their chance this Summer as she’ll be performing once more at the famed Bonaroo Festival.  The festival runs this Thursday, June 7th – Sunday, June 10th.  Fans can also keep up with her online at http://shahidahomar.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shahidah-Omar/116194041743650, on Twiiter at http://twitter.com/shahidahomar, and on myspace at http://www.myspace.com/shahidahomar

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