Sticks and Stones re-issue (Ultra Deluxe package)
It is hard to find anything to say about Sticks and Stones that hasn’t already been said a time or two in the last 22 years. On a personal note, this was my introduction to the 77’s as a band. It wasn’t until years later that I checked out their albums prior to this one, but Sticks has remained a favorite of mine for years, not just because of the absolutely beautiful songs that are contained here, but also because of the memories that are associated with it. Sticks was a truly alternative album when it came out, it was the alternative to pretty much anything else in the Christian market at that time. Tracks like “MT” come rolling out with this sonic wave of guitar that stands up and demands attention, then the tempo changes into a refined and laid back groove that sounds absolutely beautiful because Roe’s vocals are so fluid and intensely emotional that they add a dimension to the music that makes this real art. If tracks like “MT”, “The Days to Come” and “This is the Way Love is” get stuck in your head, then tracks like “Nowhere Else”, “Don’t, This Way”, “God Sends Quails” and “Bottom Line” will break your heart. The music here is so intense and really provides a perfect vehicle to Roe’s lyrics and singing, and as “The Loop” testifies, you don’t always need to have singing to hit the mark. All these tracks and more comprise the first disc of the re-issue.
Disc number two is called “This is the Way Love Was” and is a compilation of demos and live tracks. The really cool thing about these tracks are that unreleased rarities like “Problem Girl”, “Cross the City Sky” and “Walk Through the Door” are written by Mark Tootle, and they are a great chance to hear Mark singing lead vocals and show just how formative his style and sound were in the early days of the Sevens. There are a couple of pretty amazing versions of “This is the Way Love Is” on disc two as well, but all in all you get another 11 tracks of really solid music on the second disc.
If you bought the “Ultra Deluxe” package, you also get the third disc titled “Seeds and Stems” (insert your own reference here) There are another cool 10 tracks on this disc which is one of my favorites because I can never get enough of favorites like “Ba Ba Ba Ba” or “I Could Laugh (But it’s Not Funny). This disc is also built up with original mixes, demos and live tracks that make you sing along, reminisce, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the guitar on this version of “God Sends Quails” is unbelievable brilliant. There is also a bandcamp exclusive live version of “You Don’t Scare Me” at the end of the digital portion of this package. “You Don’t Scare Me” is a bluesy, rocking track that lives up to everything you know and more in this live setting that has Roe at the top of his game.
Just to make this release even better, the guys have released this in as many formats as you could possibly want. There are the hardcopy pressings, the digital releases, the individual digital tracks and then there are several packages that come with different merch options like t-shirts and other assorted goodies. I’m really excited about this re-release; it is from a classic album that sounds so much better with the digital restoration and remastering. This is a must have for any fan, casual or die-hard alike, there is something here for everyone. Hearing these tracks has reminded me once again of just how stunningly good this band was, and still is. My hats off to the guys who preserved this stuff, and to the ones who restored it to sound so good all these years later, and thanks to Li-Fidelity Records for releasing this in so many different packages.