My Morning Jacket Reissues ‘It Still Moves’ – Revisits Majestic Sounds & Illuminating Sketches (ALBUM REVIEW)

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mmj2It might be unreasonable to expect the expanded reissue of My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves to represent the same quantum leap in archiving as the original 2003 studio production did within the band’s discography. But even though titular leader Jim James professed publicly he sought improvements by overseeing the remixing & remastering of the original dozen tracks, adding content and reconfiguring alternative artwork and graphics, in releasing this two CD deluxe package, he and the band implicitly acknowledges their third album as a high point of their career.

My Morning Jacket seemed to have set a template for itself with the original release of It Still Moves. Proof positive is that dramatic songs like “Mageetah” and “One Big Holiday” remain high points of their concerts even today and, with updated technology applied, resound more deeply on this new edition. Meanwhile, the earthy but exalting horn arrangements of “Dancefloors,” for example, opened up possibilities for expanding their sound even further at the time. But even if, in an extension of his role as original producer of the album, James felt it necessary to remix It Still Moves, prior to remastering by Bob Ludwig, and thus offer its new and decidedly greater sonic detail, he’s only reaffirming the fundamental strength(s) of the original record (besides taking advantage of what he’s learned from the studio in the interim).

The inclusion of demo recordings of James’ highlight the generally high caliber of the material he composed for the album over a decade ago. The three b-sides, however, do not sound like viable candidates for inclusion on the final track list: “En La Ceremony” recalls, but does not extend the acoustic textures on which the twelve formal tracks end, “Grab A Body” is a largely instrumental composite of other motifs on the album proper and likewise “That’s Too Bad:” despite its superficial resemblance to much of It Still Moves in its final form, it’s a minor composition.

Still, the ten remaining cuts on the second disc, comprised of acoustic demos James created of all  the songs that did end up on the record, (except “Just One thing” and “One Big Holiday”) present illuminating sketches for the eventual band arrangements, not to mention more than just a mere modicum of atmosphere. The author’s emotive engagement in the performances is unmistakable and it is a distinct pleasure to hear his voice unadorned except for some multi-tracking as appears on “Golden.” The sparse sound also makes “Rollin’ Back” deceptively powerful.

Yet some in-process recordings with the rest of the quintet or early live renditions of this same material might’ve shed even more light on the MMJ creative process; as it stands, given the roughly hour-long playing times of each CD, such content might well have been presented. And if that had been the case, this deluxe edition of It Still Moves would stand as a pinnacle of accomplishment, comparable to its counterpart, on its own terms.


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