fri 14/08/2020

Reissue CDs Weekly: Ramones | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Ramones

Reissue CDs Weekly: Ramones

Repackaged ‘Leave Home’ reveals how New York’s finest approached recording

An outtake from the session used for the inner sleeve of the Ramones' second album, ‘Leave Home’© Danny Fields, from the book ‘My Ramones’

Production gloss and deliberation are not notions immediately springing to mind while pondering the 1976-era Ramones. Even so, this new edition of their second album, the ever-wonderful Leave Home, reveals that careful consideration was given to how they presented themselves on record.

Leave Home demonstrated the Ramones more-than had the goods to build on the promise of their era-defining debut, and little needs saying about the album itself. It steps beyond punk and is a rock classic. The meat of this new reissue is unfamiliar though: fifteen never-before-heard in-progress tracks – the whole of the album plus “Babysitter”: then shelved, but soon-added to a reconfigured edition of the album. These tellingly catch Leave Home before it was finally mixed for release at two separate studios. Made for reference, the rough-mix tapes had, until now, been in the personal archive of Ed Stasium, the album’s engineer.

Ramones Leave HomeBeyond the rough mixes, the other vintage essential bulking out this “Deluxe Edition” reissue is a live set from CBGB recorded on “4/2/77”. This is an American-originated release, so that’s 2 April 1977 not 4 February. The amazing, energised and joyful performance was recorded from the audience with one microphone onto cassette and has better than expected sound quality.

Supplementing these two gems, the rest of the 3CD/album set includes a new mix of Leave Home, a fresh, punchy remaster of the album, further new mixes of all its tracks, the just-about contemporary “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” and “I Don’t Care” single sides and the 1977 UK album mix of “Babysitter”. The new take on the album, titled the “40th Anniversary Mix”, is also on the album. Overall, this is a smart, album-sized, casebound set with a floppy book slotting into the pocket containing the album.

Of his “40th Anniversary Mix”, Stasium’s liner notes say “the band and I always felt the album mix was deficient, and the anniversary provided the opportunity to address that flaw.” As Dee Dee, Joey, Johnny and Tommy are no longer with us, we’ll have to take his word for it. The resultant rewrite of musical history is not earth-shattering. Stasium explains he toned down reverb to add definition and brought Johnny’s guitar forward into the centre of the mix. The net result is a slightly more guitar-oriented album with less-foregrounded vocals. Interesting, but inessential.

Stasium’s trawl through the multi-tracks found parts which had been recorded but were not incorporated into November 1976’s final album mixes so he has created new renderings of the recordings, which either integrate these elements or highlight aspects like previously buried backing vocals. Again, these reconfigured tracks are interesting (a few vocal-free instrumental tracks are included) but, like the “40th Anniversary Mix”, add nothing to the story of the Ramones.

However, the contemporaneous rough mixes do reveal new information. At this point, in early November 1976 and fresh from New York’s Sundragon Studio, the individual tracks have a raw power but do not quite hang together. A live in the studio edginess needed smoothing out. The final mixing brought a balance between the individual elements and ensured the finished album was a coherent statement which flowed by adding a noticeable (noticeable now, that is) light layer of reverb, especially to the guitar and drums.

Whatever the spiffy packaging, the 'Deluxe Edition' reissue of 'Leave Home' is a fans-only release

Curiously, Stasium says that guitarist Johnny was not present for all the Sundragon sessions. “Extra guitar parts [were] tracked by Tommy and me,” states the engineer. If this is correct, he is saying some of the album’s guitar parts were played by either him or the album’s co-producer Tommy Erdelyi (i.e. Ramones’ drummer Tommy Ramone). This puts a new spin on how the Ramones recorded.

After Leave Home was issued in January 1977, how it was recorded was of no immediate concern. Instead, the focus was on “Carbona not Glue”. Carbona was a trade name and the track, included on first pressings, was removed and then replaced with “Babysitter” in the UK and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” in the US. Originals from either territory with “Carbona not Glue” aren’t rare and sell for between £15 and £30 in good shape, but it is good to have the original tracklist restored with “Babysitter” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” appended as bonus tracks.

Leave Home will always be a benchmark album. But whatever the spiffy packaging and insights offered into the Ramones’ creative process, the “Deluxe Edition” reissue is a fans-only release. If tempted, move fast as only 15,000 copies have been manufactured.

  • Next week: Milk of the Tree, a box set which, according to its promo material, “focuses on the music made in the late Sixties and early Seventies in both Britain and North America by either female solo artists or acts with featured female vocalists.”
  • Read more reissue reviews on theartsdesk

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