Personal note: This marks the 50th-year anniversary of my first published music column. Then called Playback, it debuted on Feb. 11, 1972 in Paddock Publications’ Herald newspapers in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Having been a devoted listener of music since childhood – Broadway, Motown, pop and rock in particular – my interest in reviewing was sparked by a journalism course in the arts my graduate year at Northwestern University. It seems appropriate that a 50th anniversary column would start with a 50th anniversary release. My first column started with a Johnny Mathis review. Playback migrated to The Camden Herald and then The Courier-Gazette, where it underwent a couple of name changes, and now is found on the two VillageSoup websites.

The Band: Cahoots: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (1971, Capitol/UMe, 2 CDs, Blu-ray, LP, 7-inch). This, the fourth studio album by the great Canadian/American band, was not their best work, especially considering how classic their first two albums were. That was partially the result of the group’s disfunction at the time. Pianist Richard Manuel was no longer writing songs, leaving nearly all the writing to guitarist/vocalist Robbie Robertson, whose approach this time is more clinical than previously. Some have compared the songs to book reports. In fact, Robertson based “Shootout in Chinatown,” one of the highlights, on Herbert Asbury’s 1933 book, “The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld.”

That growing disconnect between the band members resulted, after their first tour in Europe since they backed Dylan five years before exacerbated already-simmering tensions, in a four-year gap before they released another album of new material. As for the album, subsequently the band members have downplayed it, if they even mention it. Drummer Levon Helm barely mentions it in his memoir, “This Wheel’s on Fire,” and Robertson dismisses it in his memoir, “Testimony.”

Robertson has said he was more interested in film and literature than in music when making “Cahoots.” He also never was pleased with the original album’s mix, so here, he allows producer Bob Clearmountain to remix the album, which overall is about the past giving way to the future and what gets lost in the process. For example, “Thinkin’ Out Loud” reflects on the past, others songs are about the demise of blacksmiths, eagles going extinct, railroads going under and old neighborhoods being gone (“Smoke Signal”). In fact, one song is even called “Where Dop We Go From Here.”

In the new mix, Clearmountain takes out instruments to declutter the arrangements and let the songs breathe a little more. For example, he brings out the piano sustain on “Last of the Blacksmiths” and highlights Helm’s tom-tom rhythm on “Life Is a Carnival,” making it funkier. The latter is one of the album’s true classics, as is their cover of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece,” a song Dylan gifted them when asked if he had something they could record. “Life Is a Carnival” is lifted by its horn arrangement, provided by Allen Toussaint. “Carnival” also is the only group-written song on the album.

Clearmountin also adds new parts in places, such as such as the new outro on “Where Do We Go From Here” and a reworked intro to “Shootout in Chinatown.” Overall, the sound is livelier. Garth Hudson (also organ, accordion) has a sax solo on “Volcano” and plays piano on the closing “The Rhythm Hymn.” Both are now more prominent in the mix.

The album was recorded at a new studio in Woodstock, N.Y. That was Bearsville Recording Studio, where Todd Rundgren did a lot of his early solo work. The other outside contributor was Van Morrison, who sings on and co-wrote “4% Pantomime,” a bit of joyousness.

The main album CD contains five bonus tracks, three of which have new 2021 mixes. Best are “Endless Highway” and their Motown cover of “Don’t Do It.” There also are two early attempts at “4% Pantomime” with Morrison. The Blu-ray audio is the remixed original album and four of the bonus tracks, leaving off “Bessie Smith.” The 7-inch single is “Life Is a Carnival,” backed with “The Moon Struck One,” an original 1971 Japanese pressing. The LP of the remixed original album is a half-speed master.

There also is a live disc, a bootleg recording of a partial concert at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, France from May 1971. This was just after the recording sessions, but before the album’s release. There are 11 numbers, none of which from the album. In addition to the more familiar originals, there are good covers of “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever” and “Don’t Do It,” Hudson’s organ solo on “The Genetic Method” and a very nice instrumental close, including Hudson’s sax, on “The Unfaithful Servant.”

The live CD itself has three bonus tracks, fine instrumental versions of “Life Is a Carnival” and Volcano,” plus a stripped-down mix of “Thinkin’ Out Loud.” All three are very worthwhile. The set also comes with a 12-inch, 24-page booklet, with liner notes by Rob Bowman, photos and memorabilia, plus three lithographs. Grade: original album B-; box set B+

Elvis Costello & The Imposters (Capitol CD). Costello adds some of the fire from his youth to this new collection of 14 songs, his 32nd studio album and one which reunites him with The Imposters (aka The Attractions, with bassist Davey Faragher replacing Bruce Thomas in 2001, and joining keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas). Costello’s lyrics remain pun-filled and intense, but Nieve’s array of keyboards wheeze and squeal, mocking Costello’s objects of derision.

Sebastian Krys’ mix stresses the textures of the acoustic instruments, while Costello’s guitar enunciates the hooks, as on the rocking opener “Farewell, OK,” which actually is a kiss-off, and the fine “What If I Can’t.” Thomas’ drums pound on the Who-ish “Penelope Halfpenny,” the wordy “Mistook Me For a Friend” and shares lead instrument with Costello’s guitar on “The Death of Magic Thinking.” Other songs of note are the organ-filled “Magnificent Hurt,” also with strong drumming, and the softer, but still aggressive “My Most beautiful Mistake,” with guest Nicole Atkins joining Costello on vocals.

“The Difference,” a rocker based on Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” becomes a bit plodding, but has a nice chorus with Nieve’s keyboard. Two songs that do not seem to fit the album musically are the smooth ballad “Paint the Red Rose Blue” and “Trick Out the Truth.” The bad character tale, “The Man You Love to Hate,” seems more like a movie. Grade: A-

Vangelis: Juno to Jupiter (Decca CD). The pioneering synthesizer composer-artist, famed for his soundtracks for “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner,” seems to be writing a symphony here, which is much more underwhelming than I expected. It is inspired by the launch of NASA’s Juno probe to the planet Jupiter in 2011. The album features the voice of soprano Angela Gheorghiu on three tracks – among the best as she vocalizes as the goddess Juno/Hera, mother of the gods and mankind — and interweaves mission control sounds from the real space mission on two tracks.

There is a sense of mystery added to “Juno’s Quiet Determination,” while “Jupiter’s Intuition” and “Juno’s Power” are more symphonic, with strings and horns. The brief “In the Magic of the Cosmos” is very melodic, while “Zeus Almighty” has the most dramatic start and is the longest at 11 minutes. A choir is used on the closing “In Serenitatem.”

One edition comes with a 136-page booklet with photos of the mission and Jupiter, plus introductions by Vangelis and Dr. Scott Bolton, the principal mission investigator. Vangelis writes, “Everything can be explained through vibration, sequences and music.” Grade: C+