Graham Reid | | 6 min read
At a rough count rock'n'roll is getting close to pensioner age. Elvis's first hits are a long time gone (so is he, 35 years), there are only two remaining Beatles and Who members, and in the Who Shot Rock and Roll photographic exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery (which runs until March) there are a lot of dead people framed on the walls.
Little wonder then that so many people look back. The past has been repackaged, boxed up and re-presented for former fans who now actually have a disposable income they might not have had at the time. Nostalgia is good business because there's such a lot to be nostalgic about.
So let's look back at some of the highlights in how the past has been repackaged this year . . . and there are a lot of stocking fillers out there.
Quite a year for the Beatles. Again. In 2009 they released the mono and stereo remasters of al their songs and this year, just when you thought there couldn't be much more there were the Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour films on enhanced DVD . . . and then the massive box set of every remastered album on 180gm vinyl plus a 250 page hardcover book. It's a bank breaker and a shelf bender, but here's the thing. These are the stereo remasters and purists will tell you the mono remasters are the way to go. For that box you might have to wait a bit longer.
CLOCKING UP THE HALF CENTURY
So, 50 years of great songs, hot women, excitement and controversy, sudden death, cast members being replaced . . . Yes, the James Bond franchise. Oh you thought the Rolling Stones? You'd also be right and to celebrate they have released the hits (and decent album tracks) the three CD collection Grrr! which includes their two most recent songs (Doom and Gloom cut from classic Stones cloth). You might have most of these songs (especially if you bought 40 Licks a decade ago) but here's history in a box.
The debut album by Velvet Underground (the one with Nico and the Andy Warhol banana cover) celebrated its 45th birthday by expanding to a six CD set which included live tracks, previously unreleased sessions, the album in mono and stereo mixes and more. Lotta Velvet and too much for most. But an essential album . . . which you can buy – with their second album – for about $20. Way to go unless you are mad fan with an inheritance. (For more on this, see here)
BANG ON A CAN BOX
Although entitled The Lost Tapes these were simply in Can's vaults and unearthing them proved again what an innovative, exciting and progressive band they were . . . and despite these tracks being from '68 to '75 they still sound oddly relevant and exciting. (For more on this see here)
SON OF A GUN
The Sex Pistols' sole album Never Mind the Bollocks clocked up 35 years and was repackaged and remastered as a six disc box set of the original album, live stuff, outtakes and a DVD, because that's such a punk thing to do. There was the more modestly priced entry point of a double disc edition. (For more on this, see here)
'ELLO AGAIN ERIC
Hard to believe but Eric Clapton's Slowhand album (with Cocaine, Lay Down Sally and Wonderful Tonight on it) came out the month after the Pistols . . . which can only mean a 4CD and vinyl album box set for those who have fond memories. In truth it looks like the best stuff is on the live discs.
Smashing Pumpkins fans who delighted in Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness back in 95 and have come into serious money since could swoop on the five CD plus DVD edition (64 bonus tracks, is that a record?). . . but most of us might just aim for the double disc edition.
PLAY THAT ROXY MUSIC WHITE BOY
The 10-year career of Roxy Music came in three separate phases (with Eno, without Eno, with icy 80s poise) and has become a box set of their eight studio albums and two extra discs. Make sure you put on your best clothes when going out to buy this one. Although the smart money says you buy the first three albums as single discs then look for a greatest hits to soak up the rest. (For more on this, see here)
DECENTLY AND IN ORDER
The ever popular – in fact, increasingly popular – New Order toured and that gives anyone an excuse to indulge in the reissued catalogue (now double discs of course). If you are cheap or just want to cheat then the compilation Substance will save you some coin but still get you off. (For more on this see here)
JARVIS THE YOUNGER
Yes, Pulp's early albums – the three before they became famous – were repackaged and reissued and are rather interesting in that you can, if you like this kind of thing, hear someone, Jarvis Cocker, grow up in public and try on different musical hats before finding the one that really suited. More interesting than you might think, and a must of you are a Pulp fan. (For more on this, see here)
BRING THE NOISEQUAKE
Five years on from their reunion concert, the live 2CD/DVD set of Led Zeppelin's Celebration Day finally saw the light and this really is a thriller. As I type this someone across the way is playing it at full volume and I don't know whether it is the parents or their teenage kids. Led Zepp still have that cross-generational appeal and Celebration Day is bottled thunder'n'lightning. (For more on this see here and here)
THE BEAT GOES ON
There are various versions of former Beat members and their bands out there – one even came to New Zealand – but the real Beat was on their three albums which all got reissued as 2CD/DVD packages. A band which found a sound – ska – but cleverly tinkered with it in ways few other ska outfits dared to, or even could. Luvverly stuff, guv'nah. (For more on this see here)
THE TIMES THEY HAVE A'CHANGED
Although critically dumped on at the time (because it wasn't by the Beatles), Paul and Linda McCartney's 1971 album Ram was way better than it was given credit and the reissue (in a very handsome box with lots of discs and a DVD plus postcards, book, photos etc) allowed another reconsideration. You don't need the full monty big box but make a point of getting the original album. Damn fine pop music, with a twist. (For more on this see here)
WE ALL SHALL BE RECEIVED
Or put into receivership if we buy the enormous Graceland reissue (the album, extra stuff, photos, DVD and so forth). Didn't arrive on any particular anniversary (sort of 25 and a bit) but it did remind us of the magic and mystery of this music. Get the single disc and the DVD Under African Skies and you've got all you need of the Paul Simon landmark. (For more on this, see here)
BUT WILL THEY PLAY AGAIN?
Of course not, but this was the year of Toy Love with the double vinyl Live at the Gluepot, the double vinyl Toy Love collection of singles and B-sides etc and their induction as Legacy artists at the annual music awards. And there was the equally important DVD. (For more on these see here and here)
AND SOME OTHERS
The Faces were one of the greatest mobile musical parties of their time (the early 70s) so hats off to them who get a much deserved double CD collection Anthology which has great boozy songs from Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jone and Ian McLagan (and bassist Tetsu Yamauchi who came in when Lane quit). Great collection, pour a drink and turn it up . . . T.Rex were briefly the best glam pop-rock band on the planet and someone recently said Marc Bolan will be remembered long after Bowie is forgotten. Maybe, maybe not but you'd put Electric Warrior (expanded reissue this year) up against any pop album of any era. It rocks, it's essential, don't delay . . .
Lenny Kaye's famous Nuggets collection was given a 40th anniversary remaster/re-release . . . a slew of Steve Miller Band albums soaked up just about the whole of his career from San Francisco in the late Sixties . . . the REM reissue rolled on with Document (plus a bonus disc) . . . Jesse Harper/Doug Jerebine's famous lost tapes from the late Sixties were recovered and released on vinyl then CD . . . there was a whole swag of Frank Zappa reissued (again) but we leave it over to you to figure that peculiar horse out . . .
The Doors story seems to never end but it was worth tuning in for the reissue of their final album LA Woman which had a bluesy skew and some of their very best songs. The 40th anniversary reissue only added a few more songs but get it and pick up the companion DVD Mr Mojo Rising about the making of the album. Good treats . . . he never got as big as Springsteen but Bob Seger made some of the best rocking blue collar rock'n'roll with a touch of soul and so the 22 track Ultimate Hits is hotly recommended . . .and finally a reissue that isn't. Jeff Lynne has re-recorded all his Electric Light Orchestra hits for Mr Blue Sky; The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra, which it isn't, because they were by ELO, right?
For more of the olden time stuff check From the Vaults.