Pretenders [Bonus Disc]

by: Pretenders

The Pretenders' debut album received a much-deserved upgrade in the fall of 2006, as Rhino reissued it as a double-disc set containing a remastered version of the original album on the first disc and a wealth of rarities on the second. Of the 16 tracks, 11 are previously unreleased, but the five previously released cuts are relatively rare, including "Cuban Slide" and "Porcelain," the two excellent non-LP cuts from the 1981 EP Extended Play that didn't surface on CD until the 2006 box Pirate Radio. They're highlights here too, particularly for fans of the first lineup of the Pretenders who didn't want to invest in the big box, but this entire second disc is extremely worthwhile, a worthy supplement to one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made. Not that it is always as confident and assured as the finished album; it's often rough, particularly on the demos, such as "Stop Your Sobbing," which isn't as full as the studio version, or on the demo of "Brass in Pocket," which reveals that Chrissie Hynde's original line for the chorus was "you're special" instead of "I'm special," a slight shift that changes the meaning of the song considerably. These may not be as good as the final versions, but they're certainly worthwhile, if only to hear a great band at work, and they're complemented by raucous live cuts -- including a rampaging cover of "Sabre Dance" -- capturing the band at its peak. Add to this a few rarely heard but strong songs -- a demo of "I Can't Control Myself," an early extremely laconic and shambolic version of "Tequila," "Swinging London," and "Nervous But Shy" -- and this is an essential purchase for anybody who is a fan of the first album (which should include anybody who loves rock & roll). ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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