Megadeth: Rude Awakenings (Sanctuary Records)
The live, 2-CD Rude Awakening is the culmination of an extensive world tour the band undertook to promote its 2001 release, The World Needs a Hero. In keeping with the band's long-standing commitment to its rabid following, this tour's set was chosen by fans, who could cast their votes on the band's Website, www.megadeth.com. The set is sonically perfect; you can even hear Dave Mustaine's incessant grumbling (especially about Metallica, as on “Mechanix,” where he tells the crowd that they can play the song our way or their way) amid thrashing guitars and savagely beaten drum heads. Crowd-pleasers such as “Bread and the Fugitive Mind,” “Angry Again,” “Reckoning Day,” “A Tout Le Monde,” “Sweating Bullets,” “Almost Honest” and “Trust” show the band at their hard-rocking best. And the accompanying DVD is absolutely fabulous — you can see Megadeth in action and behind the scenes. If this is indeed the last breath of Megadeth — they've announced they're disbanding — that makes this release all the more thrilling, if bittersweet. Their heaviness will be sorely missed on the metal scene.
Producers: Megadeth, Bill Kennedy. Engineered and mixed by Bill Kennedy. Mobile Recording by Studio on Wheels. Mixed at Enterprise Studios (Burbank, Calif.). Mastered by Tom Baker and Precision Mastering.
— Sarah Benzuly
Patti Smith: Land (1975-2002) (Arista)
The word “goddess” comes to mind. More than a quarter-century after she started making punk/poetry recordings with the Patti Smith Group, Smith has lost none of her power, and none of her brilliance. And though her poetic nature can make her seem somewhat effete, there's so much raw intimacy to her ideas and performances that she maintains a very personal connection to her fans…so much so, that she actually solicited online votes to choose the tracks on the first CD of this career retrospective. Favorites such as “Gloria,” “Because the Night” and “People Have the Power” are, of course, included, as are perfect songs such as “Dancing Barefoot” and “Rock 'n' Roll Nigger.” Another standout is a tender cover of Prince's “When Doves Cry.” Songs on the second CD were chosen by Smith and include live recordings and demos, less famous album tracks, and the spoken-word anthem “Piss Factory.” It's a magnificent collection from one of rock 'n' roll's most consistently amazing voices.
Compilation producer: none credited. Original producers: Malcolm Burn, John Cale, Jack Douglas, Jimmy Iovine, Lenny Kaye, Gil Norton, Todd Rundgren, Fred Smith. Original engineers: John Agnello, Malcolm Burn, Roy Cicala, Charlie Conrad, Jay Healey, Jimmy Iovine, Lenny Kaye, Kevin Killen, Bernie Kirsh, Scott Litt, Jay Messina, Jim Michewicz, Sal Mormando, Gil Norton, Thom Panunzio, Todd Rundgren, Gray Russell, Brian Sperber, Danton Supple, Shelly Yakus. Studios: too many to list. Compilation mastering: Greg Calbi/Sterling Sound (New York City).
— Barbara Schultz
The Best of Townes Van Zandt (Tomato)
The late Townes Van Zandt is better known as a songwriter than as a singer, having had his tunes covered by a galaxy of country and folk artists through the years — including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings — and helping inspire a movement of Southwest songwriters that includes Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and many others. But as this fine compilation album drawn from his many years recording for the independent Tomato Records label shows, he was also an evocative and soulful singer and a pretty decent picker himself. Some of Van Zandt's songs have a very visual, wide-open cinematic quality to them, while others are clearly interior meditations; all of them talk in some way about the human condition, about relationships, about making it in a tough world. There's a lot of loneliness and despair in these tracks, but also a lot of promise. “Pancho and Lefty,” “For the Sake of the Song,” “If I Needed You” and “No Place to Fall” (a duet with Willie Nelson) are just some of the draws here. It's also interesting to hear what he does with other people's songs, such as Bo Diddley's “Who Do You Love” and the Stones' “Dead Flowers.” An excellent tribute to one of the great contemporary balladeers.
Producers: Kevin Eggers, Jack Clement, Jim Malloy, Ronald Frangipane, Wolfgang Doebling, Earl Willis, Harold Eggers, Chips Moman. No recording information listed.
— Blair Jackson