The Deal: If you thought you knew Ike Reilly, you've got another think coming, and boy is it a good one.
The Good: Reilly falls somewhere between Bob Dylan and Graham Parker. His angry, witty lyrics are delivered in a Dylan-esque snarl backed by slashing guitar riffs that recall The Rumor's guitarist Brinsley Swartz. The album's concept is releasing demos and alternate takes of songs from previous releases. For most artists, that'd be a desperate move, like digging through the trash hoping to find enough scraps for a meal, but Reilly's served up a gourmet dinner here. All of the tracks are so good you wonder why it took so long to exhume them. "The Assassination of Sweet Lou Diablo," as it appears on his 2001 major label debut Salesmen and Racists, is a slow, folky jangle. But the version presented here, re-titled "New Assassination Blues," is a rawer, rocking version that feels like a punch to the jaw. "Duty Free," from the same record, had Reilly channeling Tom Petty. The earlier version that shows up on this release sounds like country rock – angry Byrds fronted by Dylan. "Hip Hop Thighs #17" is the biggest turnaround. Reilly still proclaims that "hip-hop has blown my mind," but "Hip Hop Thighs #16" blows minds with its punky, Irish doo-wop sound. The line "don't think the only light that shines on you is when you're alive" is enough to make "It's Alright To Die" a standout, but once again the contrast between what got on record and what was left lying around is astounding. The version that made it onto 2004's Sparkle In The Finish sounds like Nick Lowe's Rockpile days. But the one displayed here could be an outtake from the Beatles '67 Sgt. Pepper period.
The Bad: That other artists might try this, with horrendous results.
The Verdict: Even if you've got the so-called "finished versions," you need to hear this stuff in its purest, rawest form. Either way, it's all good.