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River Disturbance (Collector's Edition)
Label: Retroactive Records
Time: 13 tracks/73:07 minutes
At first River Disturbance seems like a strange choice for a Deliverance reissue. It was initially released in 1994, during a time when the band's popularity was waning, and in general fans hated the record and thought Jimmy P. Brown II had sold out his speed metal roots. Most longtime fans would prefer to see records like the self-titled debut or Weapons of Our Warfare reissued instead of this one. That being said, in recent years River Disturbance has become a bit of a cult classic, with some pretty strong accolades from fan reviews online. That combined with the fact that there were only 14,000 copies of the initial issue pressed, and that this is Jimmy Brown's favorite Deliverance album, make it a prime candidate for reissue.
River Disturbance had the largest budget of any Deliverance record, and it shows. The original release already had a beefy guitar crunch, and I wasn't sure how much the remaster could improve on the sound of the original. Well, it does! The album sounds heavier and more full than the original, making the disc sound like it could have been recorded a month ago, not over ten years ago. This really benefits the songs, which are often some of Jimmy's best. Although many fans do hate this, it is very underrated. All the songs have tremendous hooks and thought-provoking lyrics.
The album opens with three of its best cuts. "Belltown" is one of Jimmy's heaviest songs and stands up to any of his thrash numbers in terms of heaviness. "After I Fell" experiments with Indian percussion and shows that the band was not afraid to tinker with its sound. The title-track is a monster ballad, slow and also heavy. The album has a bit of a dip in quality near the middle. "Now & Then" is a rather pedestrian ballad, and "A Little Sleep" features the hip-hop group 12th Tribe on guest vocals. Rap-metal collaborations were pretty popular at the time when this was released, but unfortunately, with the exception of Anthrax and Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise," they all tend to sound dated and awful now.
The album picks up again at the end: "You Still Smile" is a beautiful ballad for Jimmy's wife, focusing on the importance of a Christ-like character, and conversely "Breathing Still..." closes the album with a look at the temptress of Proverbs. These two epic songs close the album with a perfect contrast that shows how much Jimmy had grown as a composer.
On top of the remastering and far superior new cover art, the reissue also includes four bonus tracks, unfortunately they are nothing special. "I Thought" was recorded during the sessions, and is clear b-side material. "On the Fritz" is a decent Steve Taylor cover but is not particularly exciting, and the terrible industrial remix of "Belltown" robs the original of all its power. The final bonus track is a twelve-minute monologue in which Jimmy Brown gives his thoughts on the record. While interesting and poignant, it is the type of thing that should be left as liner notes. Most fans will only listen once or twice at most. Apparently there were supposed to be twelve songs on the original release of the record but the band was behind schedule and had to scrap three of them. It would have been nice to have these songs instead of the monologue.
However even though the bonus tracks are not ideal, this reissue is worth owning, for the beefy production value and new cover art alone. But here's hoping for proper reissues of Weapons of Our Warfare and Stay of Execution. I'll be first in line.