REVIEW: My Morning Jacket – “It Still Moves [Deluxe Reissue]”

My Morning Jacket
It Still Moves [Deluxe Reissue]
ATO Records

Can you believe it’s been 15 years since we first faced the onslaught of hair, guitar rock, saxophone, and reverb that was My Morning Jacket‘s seminal It Still Moves album? This was the record that burst MMJ into a global rock ‘n’ roll orbit that continues to this day, and in some ways is still growing. In announcing this reissue, Jim James has alluded to the fact that the band was rushed in mixing the album and they weren’t completely happy with how it turned out. Could it have been an even bigger success if they had more time? The world will never know but we do have a final version of this album to listen to 15 years later, and that’s cause for celebration.

45 seconds into “Mahgeetah” and it’s apparent that the original album did need a remastering. To say that this reissue “sounds better” would be a gross understatement. One will feel as if they are listening to a completely new album. There was no way to know before how much we were missing out on, but it’s blatant now. Every instrument has an essence of it’s own, and sometimes you hear instruments that you never noticed before. It Still Moves was recorded to tape and so guitar solos and horns have an organic and emotional character that wasn’t achieved in the earlier versions. I personally never paid much attention to the horns on this album in the first version. That’s partially because I’m a bass player, but also because they weren’t present enough. Now they are unavoidable, and it’s insane how this slipped through when their importance is so obvious.

This deluxe reissue isn’t just a remix however, it also includes B-Sides and demos of 10 of the 12 tracks on the album. This is of particular interest to me as it is always telling to see how much of the song was written before the recording. How much of the album was written in the studio? How much of each song did Jim show up to practice with? It’s also fascinating to see how satisfactory the demos are, as is the case here. These demos would have made for a successful lo-fi album on their own. However, I do love the juxtaposition of floating through 15 songs that have been blown out to their maximum capability through remastering and then finishing with 10 home recorded demos that are just as capable and touching in their own way. The demos have a tender and heartbreaking vibe. Who would have thought that would be the case when we are talking about the breakout album from the band that many consider to be the standard in live rock’n’roll?

The three B-sides on the album don’t add much other than a good story and to me it’s glaring why they were left off of the album. They aren’t bad songs, but they don’t hold up to the other 12. The one track that feels like it barely missed the album is “That’s Too Bad.” “Grab a Body” is an interesting track because it features both past and present members who recorded at separate times making it a bridge from the old to the new, but not much more than a solid rock song. In the end, we get three more MMJ songs, and who could be mad about that?

Look, if you liked MMJ’s It Still Moves record, I’d consider this reissue to be a must have. I’m pretty sure you will fall in love with this version of it all over again and most likely forget about the original effort. For whatever reason, “Run Thru” is one of my favorite MMJ tracks of all time mainly because the guitar in the beginning always grabbed me and it’s just one of those songs that I will always love. Now I’m able to enjoy it on another level because the guitar has a new vitality. Everything about this reissue has a strength and intensity that changes the way you will experience this album both audibly and emotionally. Z was always far and away my favorite MMJ album and probably in my top 5 of all time (but that list is always changing). Now, I have to take a step back and give It Still Moves another chance. After 15 years this release is still growing on me.