THE JAYHAWKS - HOLLYWOOD TOWN HALL
- TOMORROW THE GREEN GRASS
It was with great joy that Jayhawks fans greeted the news the group was reforming. And it's not just the last version of the group; this time co-founder Mark Olson is back in the folding for the first time since 1995. He'd quit after Tomorrow The Green Grass, the group's fourth, failed to break them to a new level. Gary Louris kept the flag flying into the 2000's, but clearly the best version of the band was found on these two albums. Now with the group back in business, these have been reissued with plenty of bonus cuts, as fans enjoy the live shows, and wait for a new disc this year.
Hollywood Town Hall came out in 1992, the group's first major label release, and really set the American movement ablaze. For many people, it was the way in to discovering Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and others. Olson and Louris's Everly Brothers' harmonies rang rich and true on the gorgeous Waiting For The Sun, and full disc revealed they could write as well as they could sing. The trademark sound is the two of them in unison, then breaking out into harmonies for the choruses and following verses. There was drama in each number, the sadness behind love or the darkness behind each small life. For this reissue, we get five bonus cuts, from European b-sides, a promotional disc, and two session out-takes. It's one of those rare reissues where the bonus cuts are equal to the rest of the disc.
Given the breakthrough of Hollywood Town Hall, it was widely felt the follow-up would propel the group into the big leagues. It certainly had the tunes. Lead track Blue is another stunning ballad, an awesome track that is to the Jayhawks what Try is to Blue Rodeo. The disc continues on with classic after classic, mixing in rockers with softer sing-alongs, and ringing guitar solos that put the alt in alt-country. There's even a brilliant cover, a reclamation of the old Grand Funk hit Bad Time. While the album was an even bigger favourite with the fans that band had gathered, it couldn't find that elusive bigger audience, as the country twang kept them off mainstream airplay.
This album is given the deluxe treatment, with a full second disc of bonuses, plus five b-sides and out-takes filling up disc one. We finally get the rare title track of the album, which was relegated to the ignomy of the soundtrack of National Lampoon's Senior Vacation, but it's disc two that has everyone excited. A few years ago, collectors were stunned when a few dozen demos showed up on the 'net, from the early 90's. Dubbed "The Mystery Demos", the mystery is cleared up here. Olson and Louris recorded them in two sessions between Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass, aided only by a fiddle on the first few. It was obviously a heady time for the two as writers, with so many quality songs spilling out, and only so much room to make use of them. Some of them did show up on Tomorrow, but the duo also mined this treasure for years, taking the songs to side project Golden Smog, and even revisiting some just a couple of years back for the reunion Olson-Louris disc Ready For The Flood. While it's not all A-list stuff, most of it is, and it's proof that when a songwriting partnership is clicking, you better take advantage of that blessed time. Let's hope there's more to come in the reunion.