Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Re-issue Special

Ah, the re-mastered re-issue. The younger, scraggly cousin of the compilation, this record-company double-dip revenue generator can be a long overdue overhaul, or a minor redux to soak the fan base for more cash. An example of the latter would be Modest Mouse's The Moon & Antarctica, which was released in 2000. Sony had the gall to re-release the album four years later, a month before their next album of new material. Disgusting. I have still not bought the re-master, despite the fact that it's an all-time great album. Losers.

Not that I hold a grudge.

The following re-releases are 14+ years after the fact (almost 30, in one case), which is acceptable in my book. In alphabetical order:

  • The Cult - Love (2009; originally released in 1985). This release includes a full disc of extras, comprising the b-sides from the album. Two oddities: it's the 24th anniversary of the release (why not wait a year?) and the re-release is about 20 seconds shorter than the original CD. I'd describe the re-mastering (besides the obvious volume boost) as "Windex": it gets rid of a layer of muddiness you weren't even aware was there. This separates the treble above the rest of the mix and boosts the bass significantly. The end result is that I enjoy the album a lot more. The bonus disc has some good stuff on it (the long version of "She Sells Sanctuary" is very interesting) and is actually longer than the album itself; if you own the Rare Cult box set (and you are lucky if you do), then you already have everything on it.
    - Why you should get it: It makes Love sound like the best album in The Cult's discography, and I've firmly been in the Electric camp for 23 years. That plus the bonus disc, all for under $15 -- a must have for casual fans or ones who've had the disc for 20+ years. It's a classic.
    - Why you shouldn't bother: You hate The Cult. You pathetic freak.
  • Thomas Dolby - The Flat Earth (2009; originally released in 1984). Thomas Dolby's sophomore effort, after "She Blinded Me With Science" had transported him into the stratosphere of "one hit wonders," was recommended by Jamie. Now I knew Dolby's career arc did not go straight down; he actually continued to release albums as a cult act well into the 90's. What I didn't know was that his biggest hit in the UK was actually "Hyperactive," found on this release. This album is well worth picking up. I can't speak to how significant the re-mastering was, but the extras are all excellent. It's not as quirky as the "Science" single; it does show the class of musician that Dolby was back in the day.- Why you should get it: You don't own it -- you should. You do and you love it -- you'll like the extras. You are a Dolby freak -- you'll want the live version of "Marseille," which Dolby's liner notes calls "possibly the rarest Dolby song ever."
    - Why you shouldn't bother: You don't like '80's music. My follow-up: why again
    are you reading this blog? You really don't need to. Seriously, I won't be offended.
  • Joy Division - Still (2007; originally released in 1981). Well, a re-release of a compilation just beats all, doesn't it? I bought this because Yves gave me my CDR copy to evaluate and it's good enough to own. This re-issue includes the re-mastered album plus a live CD from 2/20/80 (including six songs from the soundcheck).- Why you should get it: You don't own the album already. Or you don't mind spending $20 for a live Joy Division performance and a minor re-mastering.
    - Why you shouldn't bother: You own the album and really don't need yet another live performance from Joy Division.
  • Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville (2008; originally released in 1993). This landmark album's re-release includes three additional tracks and a DVD. The re-mastering here we'll describe as "Pledge": it really restores the sound to another level, probably what it sounded like in the studio. It's really great, a re-master that seems worth the exercise. The three bonus tracks don't add much. The DVD, which reflects on the album and is produced and directed by Phair, is not really a professional product: for example, the basic requirement of interview audio is to actually mic the interview subjects. The story is strung together in order but is ultimately boring and primarily full of Phair navel-gazing. Also, she hints throughout that she can prove that the album is a song-by-song response to The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street... but she never actually does. By the time it got interesting an hour in, it was already beyond redemption.- Why you should get it: You don't already own it. Your life is not currently complete, please go get it immediately. And it's still worth picking up if you own it; I'd suggest buying the vinyl, as it comes with the CD and worth the tradeoff versus getting the worthless DVD.
    - Why you shouldn't bother: I really can't see why.
  • The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses (2009; originally released in 1989). My brother really liked these guys when he was in college, but for unknown reasons I never went out and got this album. That was a mistake. I can't speak to the re-mastering or the "deluxe edition," although I've read that longtime fans will want to dig into that version. The album is great and it's a shame that I somehow failed to get into it for twenty years.- Why you should get it: You don't own it. You won't be disappointed. Or you are a fan and want to get the Deluxe Edition.
    - Why you shouldn't bother: You own the album and don't feel passionate enough about it to get the Deluxe Edition.
  • Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary, LP2 (2009; originally released in 1994, 1995). Confession time: when they came out, I loved Diary and sold back LP2. This seminal grunge band has re-formed with its original lineup for its first tour in fifteen years. In the interim, SDRE's subsequent releases (with different lineup configurations) and lead singer Jeremy Enigk's various solo/band projects have proved to be among my all-time favorites. For the tour, there's no new studio material; the only option for the record company to make a buck was to re-release the two albums the original band recorded. This is a straight re-issue; no re-mastering, but each come with two bonus tracks (which are excellent) and extensive liner notes. Diary is great; LP2 is surprisingly great, too. I think the single "Seven" overshadowed both albums in my mind back then; now I'm ready to embrace both albums. These albums are a must-listen for young drummers.
    Why you should get it: You don't own either album. Start with Diary, and get LP2 if you like it. You should own at least one -- this is a great, underrated grunge band that is and isn't grunge. Haunting vocals, incomprehensible lyrics, great guitars and a tremendous rhythm section.- Why you shouldn't bother: You own the albums, and they're still pristine. Buy the bonus tracks on iTunes and I'll lend you the liner notes.
  • U2 - Boy, October, War (2008; originally released in 1980, 1981, 1983). These are all great. Each album is worth getting whether you already own them or not, for the careful remastering and the fantastic book of liner notes (both by The Edge) that accompany each. Boy is my all-time favorite U2 album; the extras are here are very nice (there are six unreleased mixes/tracks here), with "Saturday Night" (an early version of "Fire" from October) and the live "Cartoon World" the highlights. October (which I've always loved) actually doesn't hold up over the years -- I now hear the flaws that other fans and even The Edge acknowledge. But the extras are great: the single "A Celebration" finally appears on a U2 CD, which makes this a must-buy in itself, and the live tracks are really cool. War ultimately has the least interesting extras, although you do get a chance to hear "Adam's first and only solo vocal on a U2 record"; but I don't need four mixes of "New Year's Day" and three of "Two Hearts Beat as One." All in all, I like these re-releases better than the 1980's/1990's b-sides compilations.- Why you should get it: You're a big U2 fan, or are looking to complete your past with their early material. You will not be disappointed by the extras and will enjoy the albums all over again.- Why you shouldn't bother: You think Zooropa or Pop were where U2 went right. You won't like these, and you're wrong.
- Snilch


Seano said...

Still used to only be available on Cassette and Vinyl! I've never seen a CD version. You should own it because it collects everything the other two albums do not have and all of their early work.

Rain has always been the Cult's best album because it's the album with the most playing by Big Country's unpronounceably-named drummer (apart from on Sanctuary) and they are a band that has suffered, big-time, from boring drummer syndrome. He is phenomenal. Please note that all the songs one every album after Rain worth listening to are the ones where the drumming steps above pedestrian or "programmed"...


Stone Roses you should own because it's Madchester at its best, isn't it?

Full flippin' stop...

Love - CaptK, the Norwegian God of Fred.

Jamie said...

Good write-up, Mike. I'll ponder a few of those. Oh, and by the way, here's a neat trick: Queue up The Cult's "Love Removal Machine" and the start of the first Fleischer Superman cartoon, "Superman," a.k.a., "The Mad Scientist," hit the play button. It works.