“You go back, Jack, do it again.” (Steely Dan, 1972)
I’m certain that the Dan never thought their entire body of work would be reissued countless times during their lifetimes.
Reissues of an artist’s most popular works are big business these days. The latest trend is to include outtakes, remixes, demos, DVDs and even surround-sound mixes in order to coax the diehard fan into supporting this “cash cow” for artists and (especially) their music companies.
It is astounding to see the hundreds of reissued CDs (and vinyl too!) that were released in 2012 alone. Let’s take a quick peek at nine significant repackages that would be nice gifts for your favorite music aficionado.
1. PAUL SIMON: GRACELAND. This Grammy-winning album from 1987 is now available in a fine “25th Anniversary edition” that has lots of bonus goodies. There’s a terrific DVD, too, that was recorded in South Africa that very year with guests Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. You Can Call Me Al, The Boy in the Bubble and the exquisite title track make this a must for any Simon fan.
2. JETHRO TULL: THICK AS A BRICK. The real “magic flute,” courtesy of Ian Anderson! A sentimental choice, perhaps, as I was fortunate to see the Thick as a Brick tour at Atlanta’s Omni (remember that venue?) and at the Carolina Coliseum.
Tull’s most innovative offering is now available in a superb 40th anniversary package that contains everything imaginable for fans of this disc.
Stereo and surround-sound mixes, a booklet that has interviews, pictures from the tour, and even a high-quality reproduction of the newspaper that accompanied the original release are among the extras. Somewhere, Gerald Bostock is smiling …
3. DAVID BOWIE: ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS. Even Diane Sawyer didn’t wear this much makeup. Another 40th anniversary edition of an album that has been reissued almost as many times as Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
The follow-up to Hunky Dory has loads o’ special features, but this one makes the list just because the songs and performances are just so darn good. Soul Love, Rock and Roll Suicide and Suffragette City make this disc worthwhile.
Sure, Ziggy played guitar, but it’s Mick Ronson’s fretwork that earns the first chair in my book. Also available in vinyl.
4. SMASHING PUMPKINS; SIAMESE DREAM. This 1993 classic, the group’s second, was recorded mostly in Marietta, Ga., with Bitch Vig handling the production duties. Sure, it’s basically a Billy Corgan solo album, but who cares?
Three discs are included on this repackaging of arguably their finest hour: one being the original version (though mastered a bit too loud for my tastes), an entire CD of alternate takes and demos, and even a vintage in-concert DVD from the Metro that shows just how great the original band was in performance. Cherub Rock, Today, Soma, Disarm and Rocket all stand testament to just how brilliant and focused Corgan was in the early days.
5. THE DOORS: L.A. WOMAN. “I don’t follow orders, I’m just a dumb singer” is uttered by a very “revved-up” Jim Morrison just before one of the alternate takes of Riders on the Storm. This 1971 rock marvel was his final album with the Doors, and it’s quite the swan song.
I vividly remember hearing the album’s first single Love Her Madly on WAUG-FM that spring and thinking that the Doors were getting commercial again, but that song was the lone nod to pop on the disc. Sure, Love Her Madly was very radio friendly (guitarist Robbie Krieger penned it, not Morrison) but the rest of the disc was as rocking as its predecessor Morrison Hotel. Perfect theme music for your next stay at the Chateau Marmont, where the cars do, in fact, “hiss by your window.” Mr. Mojo Risin’!
6. SUGAR: COPPER BLUE. Husker who? To quote one of the album’s songs, this re-release is definitely A Good Idea. Bob Mould remains one of the great underrated artists of his generation, and his keen sense of melody is all over this masterpiece. The reissue boasts the much darker-sounding EP The Beaster along with a complete 1992 show and booklet.
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS: ATHENS, GA. INSIDE/OUT. My old friend Joe Stevenson once told me he actually “wore out” his cassette tape after countless playings of this unique compilation. This priceless (but now it’s about $12) 1987 peek at the Athens music scene is enjoying its first-time CD release that also includes a DVD of the movie. Music from Pylon, Love Tractor, Dreams So Real, the Flat Duo Jets and, of course, REM are spotlighted.
8. PINK FLOYD: THE WALL (IMMERSION BOX SET). As if we already had enough bricks. Since both David Gilmour and Roger Waters are “knock knock knockin’ on 70’s door,” they’ve seen fit to unleash most everything in their vaults. This set has an exhaustive overview of all imaginable extras: the studio version, a live concert from the era, demos, a surround-sound mix, and a DVD with a documentary of all things Floyd. If you and/or your FFF (fave Floyd fan) wants a Pink Christmas, then do as the album says and Run Like Hell and get it!
9. THE BEATLES: VINYL BOX SET. Every album and single the Fab Four officially recorded on pristine 180-gram vinyl. The sound is warmer than chestnuts roasting on any fire. From Please Please Me to Let it Be, it’s The Beatles, but without the scratches and pops that your old copies had. Highlights? All of ’em. It’s the Beatles!