Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reissue rants



I'm hearing these strange French voices in my ear as I listen to a compilation of French psychedelic pop (no, you thought it was going to be Pakistani pop, didn't you?) and it's just totally groovy! That time machine is running again...

There's usually a price of admission for that time machine, and I'm finding that it's a bit steep for me these days. So naturally, I'm going to bitch about it. And the first target of my ire is Best Buy.

Why Best Buy, you ask? They sell lots of fine electronics at reasonable prices, and have great sales on CDs since they sell them as loss leaders. Well, let's call this a case of sour grapes. I bought a fine LCD monitor for my desktop computer there, and a keyboard that types really quietly, and a mouse, all for under $300. Earned some points in there rewards program that translate into discount coupons, too. Big scam, I know. The kind of thing I regularly rant about, like when I tell my mother that coupons are just a way to con you into buying shit you wouldn't have bothered buying otherwise. So I'm ranting against Best Buy because I fell for the rewards program scam, AND because of the big tease they pulled with the Sly & The Family Stone box set.

Sly's limited edition The Collection box came out last week, and was briefly advertised on Best Buy's website at the unbelievable price of $9.99. The saga has been chronicled in posts to the Smile Shop message board. Basically, it was first advertised online, in advance of its release date, at the sale price of $39.99. Then, suddenly the price dropped to $9.99. This was unbelievable mostly because the set contains seven full CDs with bonus tracks. It's a set that could easily fetch $70.00, so even $39.99 was a great price. Not long after the thirty dollar price drop, the set quickly "sold out" at the $39.99 price, leaving the rest of us to look for copies in physical stores for $49.99. This was all happening on Easter weekend, mind you, so people like myself who were too busy making nice with relatives and stuffing our faces with the flesh of baby animals were completely oblivious to the big online snafu at Best Buy.

In retrospect, I'm fully confident that the weekend I spent breaking bread with the fabulous girlfriend's fabulous family was far more enjoyable than embarking on a sterile treasure hunt inside of a big-box money-sucking machine ever could be. But still, why the torture? It seems awfully fishy that the price dropped so drastically and then the set sold out. I couldn't even find the box in the local Best Buy I walked into, and in the end I decided that my old versions of the albums collected in the box were just fine, thank you very much. Besides, ever since I tweaked the EQ settings on my Winamp, everything I listen to on my PC sounds like a unique remaster.

And though this isn't exactly news anymore, we can expect to see some new reissues by Elvis Costello. I mean, this is going to be the fourth label to manhandle Costello's first 11 albums: the originals were on Columbia, then Rykodisc added bonus tracks in the '90s, then Rhino added fully-stocked bonus discs to each album in the early '00s, and now... Universal gets their shot at creating the 'definitive' versions of these albums. No word yet on whether the full bonus discs from the Rhino versions will be preserved, or if the single-disc Ryko editions will serve as the new old standard for nostalgia, or something completely different. Hopefully Elvis and Universal learned from the mistake the Beach Boys made in the mid '90s -- when you take away bonus tracks and strip your albums back down to basics after giving fans a taste of the bounties of your archives, fans will be pissed off and accuse you of being a greedy, idiotic nincompoop.

And I still haven't heard Neil Young's 'raw' version of his Living With War album, which mirrors a trend in recent years of albums being re-released within a year of their original release date with bonus tracks, bonus DVDs, or other such promises of aural and/or visual revelation. Given that Neil has also released two archival live discs in the past year devoted to classic performances he put on in the '70s, and is about to release his long-promised Archives box set, I'm just a little overwhelmed.

The pace at which new and archival music is released and re-released has gotten to the point where, if I'm going to keep up with my favorite artists, and with artists who potentially could be my or somebody else's favorites, I'm going to have to listen and research full time and get paid so I can put some food in my mouth and keep a roof over my head. Any takers?

1 comment:

Doug M. said...

The thing that makes the Sly remasters worth getting is that they have the original "hit" mono single versions of many of the singles. The stereo LP versions are in some case radically different, mostly much less punchy, funky, and psychedelic.