This September, The Cult‘s 1989 album Sonic Temple turns 30 and for its birthday those lovely people at Beggars Arkive are giving it a 5 CD, 53 – track deluxe makeover, along with a couple of rather special vinyl editions to boot.
Across the 5 CDs you get the original album on disc 1, alternate edits, mixes, extended versions and acoustic versions on disc 2, limited-release demos on discs 3 & 4 and Live at Wembley recorded by the BBC on disc 5. Six of the live tracks are previously unreleased.
So lets take it one disc at a time….
Disc 1 contains the Bob Rock, Sonic Temple album, complete with its 3 UK top 40 hit singles (Fire Woman, Edie (Ciao Baby), Sun King). You know the score with this one, the follow-up to the Rick Rubin produced mega-album Electric, that took The Cult into the arenas and stadiums of America. Listen back to it, it has the late MTV eighties sheen and while not quite up there withit’s predecessor (at least for me), it’s still a damn fine album, that certainly did the business, shifting in excess of 1.5 million copies in the USA alone. The album catapulted The Cult into superstar status, job done!
Disc 2 is more a luxury than a necessity. You get short, long and very very long versions of the album’s singles, along with a very unnecessary radio advert for the album. Though amongst the chaff there are some jewels. Single b-sides Messin’ Up The Blues, Medicine Train, The River and most notably Bleeding Heart Graffiti are fine reminders of those great singles tucked safely up in the attic.
Now onto the really interesting stuff, the Sonic Temple demos. During 1988, The band recorded the first (14-track) demo version of this album with soon to be KISS drummer, Eric Singer. Then, a further 15-track demo version of the record with Bob Rock’s drummer, Chris Taylor. Twenty of those 29 tracks are presented here across 2-discs, a fine treat they are.
Disc 3 presents 6 of the 10 tracks that made it to the final album (New York City, American Horse, Sun King, Automatic Blues, Fire and Wake Up Time For Freedom), along with future B-sides (Medicine Train and The River) and a couple of also-rans ( Yes Man and Citadel ). Even at this early stage you can hear why Fire was a chorus short and a drum more than the classic Fire Woman hit single it became and why Yes Man got dropped. This disc is a great listen, sounding really stripped down and raw. Sure, Billy over-plays it throughout, chucking in what seems like every lick he knows and Ian’s vocals are rough but that’s cool, very cool.
Disc 4 is bursting with another 10 demo tunes and along with the previous disc make this package an essential purchase for any self respecting Cult fan. This time only Edie (Ciao Baby), New York City, Medicine Train and Fire (Woman) feature from the final album, with another largely lost 6 tunes (The Crystal Ocean, Cashmere, Bleeding Hearts Revival, My Love, Star Child and Spanish Gold) making up the numbers. While the content is a little more sketchy than on Disc 3, it’s a great listen. The whole CD is pretty much a Zep-out, not only from the obvious lift of Cashmere but the general stripped down vibe of the whole thing. Billy’s playing is a little more restrained and Ian’s vocals a little more hesitant and thoughtful but, the jam demo of Spanish Gold is a real gem.
Disc 5 pulls together 9 tracks from a BBC recorded Wembley live show. While 3 of the 9 tunes (American Horse, Soul Asylum and Sweet Soul Sister ) have previously appeared as B-sides, 6 of them are previously unreleased. It’s a decent listen but nothing particularly exciting. Just your standard soundboard kind of recording. Astbury sounds like an out of breath yank, Duffy riffs like a muther fucker and even Jamie Stewart gets a bit of a bass solo…. it’s cool but nothing earth shattering and hardly the pick of the vaults. Much like Disc 2, this isn’t a disc you’ll rush back to time-and-again.
All this loveliness comes packaged in book form with rare photographs and interviews with the band by journalist James Brown, though I’ll have to wait until the official release to check that all out.
There are also another vinyl two editions of this bad boy to seperate you from your hard earned cash. Firstly, there’s a double re-vamped 16 track reissue of the original album, spread across 2 discs and adding 6 B-sides to the original 10-track LP. Secondly, there’s a mouth watering limited (to 3000) mega box set containing three slabs of vinyl (featuring the original album, B-sides and live tracks), along with a cassette of demos plus tour memorabilia and other goodies (replica of original laminate, backstage pass, original press releases and label copy and more). Not sure why the hell anyone would want the demos on a cassette to be honest as they are the highlight of the package so why shoove them on a hipster format you can’t listen to…. unless of course it comes with a download code.
So where does that leave us? While not as essential as 2013 Electric/Peace Train re-issue, £35 for the CD box-set is a great deal. The double LP at £22 is an attractive proposition too, though weighing in at a hefty £85, the box-set may be for the hardcore only.
The Cult bring there Sonic Temple anniversary tour to the UK this coming October. Dig deep and check it out, it’ll be a hell of a night out !!!
Buy Sonic Temple 30 Here
Author: Fraser Munro