Near the 40th anniversary of their fifth studio album and major label debut, “Tim,” The Replacements are releasing “Tim: Let it Bleed Edition.” The massive box set features a loving remaster of the original release of “Tim,” but the real value is in the live performance, the unreleased tracks, and the contributions of producer Ed Stasium.
Rhino Records has lately made a cottage industry of mining the alternative rock band’s sea of alternate takes and raucous live recordings. The “Let it Bleed Edition” is a tightly focused snapshot of the band’s messy energy and sublime songwriting at a pivotal moment, as The Replacements teetered on the edge of stardom.
The remaster is a marked improvement over the 1985 release. Original producer Thomas Erdelyi, better known as Tommy Ramone, perhaps could have been a brilliant collaborator on the band’s punkier early albums, but this production fell oddly flat against the complexities of “Tim.”
The new remix by Stasium corrects some of the missteps. “Here Comes a Regular” and “Swingin Party” make Paul Westerberg’s crackling lyrics sound like heartbreak and a million cigarettes. “Bastards of the Young” and “Left of the Dial,” cranked up loud, now sound more immediate than they did 40 years ago.
The spiritual heart of the box set is the concert segment, “Not Ready for Prime Time, Live at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago, January 11, 1986,” which was recorded just a week before their national television debut on “Saturday Night Live.” The band cemented a passionate following with their chaotic live shows, and here, they deliver a characteristic roller-coaster ride.
The Chicago show progresses at breakneck speed through delta blues, hardcore, folk, and sludgy Rolling Stones and Beatles covers. The Replacements presented as punk, but at heart, their emotional content is more akin to The Smiths than to The Sex Pistols. Fans might be stagediving one moment and crying a little inside the next. It was a fully unique mood at the time, soon to be refined by Nirvana.
The alternate takes on “Sons of No One: Rare & Unreleased” captures wildly different takes on the “Tim” track list. The best of them, such as “Can’t Hardly Wait (Acoustic Demo)” highlight Westerberg’s brilliant delivery as a storyteller.
“Tim” was adored by critics, but commercial success proved elusive. The mayhem of their “SNL” appearance earned them a lifetime ban for on-air profanity. They refused to release videos in the heart of the MTV era. And guitarist Bob Stinson was soon to leave the band after ongoing battles with Westerberg and his own demons.
But just as in slushy upper Midwestern television programs such as “The Bear” and “Shameless,” the found family sometimes holds its members down just as it keeps them alive, and it ends up all the more loved for it.