Deluxe, retrospective looks back at beloved albums from the past have been commonplace over the course of the compact disc era. But how often do these reconsiderations designed for rabid fans happen for an album that only came out a bit more than a year past?
The first disc represents an alternate-universe version of the album. The 2007 release was a bit of a change of pace for the group, as they moved further from their grungy roots towards more melody-oriented '60s sounds. Much of this alternate version of the album ups that trend, but with a somewhat more psychedelic edge as well.
While Tracking the Trail is actually missing two of my favorite tracks from Howl -- "Refrain" and "Smile" -- it makes up for it with extended and improved versions of "Yer Stoned Italian Cowboy" and "Help You Out." Some crazed guitar work by former Dirtbomb Dan Kroha on the album-closing medley of "Down a Spiral" and "Jigsaw Man" doesn't hurt either. Overall, it is a nearly completely separate album from its predecessor -- the songs that are common to both appear here in mostly radically different versions.
The second LP contains both acoustic demos and more fleshed out versions of a few songs that didn't make either version of the album. As an extra bonus, the double album also contains the entire contents as a CD burn, for those without turntables. I haven't seen this release turn up in local stores yet, and would guess it's probably a limited run, so fans are advised to snag one from either of the labels which collaborated on the project -- former band member Dave Buick's -- while they last! (Italy/Bellyache 2008)