Before we get into the record I just have to mention the package and seeing it expanded to a double album gatefold is so cool. I wouldn’t like to get between the ‘So Alone’ V’s ‘Que Sera Sera debate and which is best as to me they were both the best. When they were released they both were exactly what I wanted to hear at the time. Where ‘Que Sera Sera’ had the edge was the more iconic sleeve so much so that I had it on Picture Disc as well as regular jacket version I also bought the reissued version with new notes around ’91 and the CD version with extra tracks and now this one has the benefit of being able to shed some light via extensive sleeve notes from Thunders biographer Nina Antonia and jolly good they are too as well as more material. With a four-sided 12″ lyric booklet with some awesome pictures thrown in for good measure, this is exceptionally well done and will be well received by the people who love all things Thunders except the few hard to please elitists.
Onto the music, this seems to have benefitted greatly from Pat Collier totally remixing the record and I have to say every second is now far superior if your one of those people who think you can’t ever improve on Thunders originals, well, wait until you hear these. With a fuller fatter sound a lot of the songs sound fresher and songs like ‘Little Bit Of Whore’ positively roar. It sounds like PAt has opened a window on the 2″ tapes and let the light flood in. So the tracklist doesn’t follow the original which might take you by surprise when you first drop the needle but that’s no big deal maybe this version has a better flow.
First up on this 2019 version is ‘Alone In A Crowd’ and straight away the guitars sound bigger sure they echo around the room but there is a crispness a bit more bite happening which sounds great. I guess there was no point in this project if you were just merely going to remaster the damn thing and whilst it might seem sacrosanct to meddle with the original mixes it needed to be done even if it went tits up it had to be different and I have to say its a triumph.
On the first side ‘Countdown Love’ and ‘Talk About You’ are the obvious points of interest and whilst Thunders lack of microphone finesse is evident as he pops and booms the mic it sounds great and you do wonder why it never made the final cut. If you think this is a grab all in one place the definitive collection of ‘Que Sera Sera’ then don’t bother because ‘Tie Me Up’ is a noticeable absentee. Anyway, you do get twenty-three songs on this release which isn’t to be sniffed at. ‘Talk About You’ has the guitars right up in the mix its almost as if Thunders were in the room next to me bending those strings as his Gibson barks out the notes.
‘Short Lives’ is lyrically prophetic and benefits from having the fuller sound I’m not sure if I’m looking for things because I know its remixed but the solo sounds fantastic and something that probably would have been buried in reverb had Johnny got his digits on it. ‘I Only Wrote This Song For You’ retains its fragile vocal as Johnny sounds vulnerable I always loved this song when I hear it I often imagine an orchestra with strings on the verses then when Michael Monroe blows the saxophone it sounds like pure heartbreak. Still brilliant and to follow it up with ‘Cool Operator’ is a masterstroke with that throbbing bass line and then the Sax kicking in and honkin’ with the skankin’ guitar is so Wilco Johnson and something of a much-underrated Thunders tune as the whole band of musicians lock right in and here the percussion sparkles with bells and whistles (ok no Whistles but you get the picture).
If the project was to find the definitive recording called ‘Que Sera Sera’ then I have to say its job done. God bless modern technology eh? Being able to revisit the 2″ tapes and remix them has breathed new life into a record that has stood the test of time and having being given something of a kiss of life sounds brilliant. It’s the little things that reach out and touch you like the soft bass runs on the title track or hearing a solo that’s been raised in the mix or just hearing more guitars but not in a spinal tap way this has really hit the bullseye no question about it.
As for the Extra time LP, disc two is where some rather fine and dandy outtakes and live recordings live for example ‘Copy Cat’ kicks things off one of the new tracks is the bass-heavy slice of Funk ‘n’ Roll ‘Taking You Up Avenue D’ sure its unfinished and something of a song in progress but there is some mean Saxophone courtesy of Monroe that’s well worth its inclusion. As is the outtake of ‘I Only Wrote’ where Johnny fucks up the melody and its done. Then a less funky more guitar-heavy version of ‘Cool Operator’ that is listed as the first version.
As for the live material recorded in Lyon, it’s a great sounding performance Johnnys voice is high in the mix and has ‘Countdown Love’ with the band sounding tight even if the songs sound more restrained than plenty of the bootlegs out there but its a great sounding recording. ‘Alone In A Crowd’ is like an avalanche of Guitars and ‘It’s Alright’ is a really cool Rock ‘n’ Rolling birth of ‘Blame It On Mom’ that makes it fanboy fodder and a must have item. The only shame is its only five tracks maybe next year we can have the full set released hey who knows I wouldn’t complain its what makes RSD worthwhile in my humble opinion.
So there you have it a new improved package of an iconic album that doesn’t get regarded as highly as maybe some of his other do but maybe now the time has come for some reassessment now can anyone shed any light on why ‘Tie Me Up’ is missing? Anyone? Hello? oh well Que Sera Sera.
Author: Dom Daley