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PANTERA – COWBOYS FROM HELL 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Review)

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61baLwtDQfL. SL500 AA300 We’ve spoken at such great length over the past few weeks regarding the 20th Anniversary of PANTERA’s landmark 1990 album COWBOYS FROM HELL, that you’d think there’d be nothing left to say. Not the case, as we take a look at the 3-Disc Deluxe Edition of the album, in-stores today via Rhino Records.

Comprised of the original album, a live disc, and a full disc’s worth of demos, CFH Deluxe is a time capsule in album form, best owned in a physical format as opposed to digital.

Packed into a thick, old-school double-wide jewel case, CFH Deluxe immediately transports you back to the early ’90’s, a time when the musical landscape was about to shift from Glam to Grunge, while leaving an opening just right for bands like PANTERA to slide through.

The studio album has never sounded better, though there’s not a huge difference between the original release and what is presented here. The live disc finds some duplication, as the tracks presented are all CFH-era. You’ll find two performances each of “Domination,” “Primal Concrete Sledge,” “Heresy,” “Psycho Holiday,” and of course the title track – “Cowboys from Hell.” With 7 tracks culled from a 1990 Los Angeles performance, and 5 from Moscow (released in ’94 as an EP), you hear just how tight the band was at the time. Check out the similarities in the two performances of “Heresy.”

The demo disc features the previously-unreleased “The Will to Survive,” which comes off a little more in the vein of pre-CFH PANTERA with a decidedly 80’s feel (the demos were recorded in 1989). The rawness of the demo recordings, offers listeners an inside look into how the album evolved – especially those with alternate arrangements such as “Cemetery Gates”.

An “expanded edition” of CFH is also available, dropping the demo disc in favor of a 2-disc collection, while an “ultimate edition” box set is scheduled for release on November 22nd. Musically the ultimate set is the same as the Deluxe, but it’s a variety of collectibles that amount to the $100 price point, making the Deluxe edition the sweet spot for audiophiles looking to complete their PANTERA collection.

CFH represents a band on the brink of greatness, ushering in a new era of their career, and setting the stage for things to come. While many cite PANTERA’s 1992 follow-up VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER as the band’s finest moment, I personally regard FAR BEYOND DRIVEN as my favorite album from the Texas titans – and both will see similar reissues over the next few years if the surviving members of the band have their way.

Rating: 4.5/5

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