Reflections on Rock Music: Remasters, Reissues, and Bootleg Releases…

Originally posted 2009-03-16 23:51:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

In lieu of a video tonight, I’d like to take a moment and review one of the music industry’s favorite ways to make an extra dime on previously released material — also known as “remastered” and/or “reissued” albums.  And, just because it feels right, I’d like to incorporate some thoughts on the release of previously unreleased material, or “bootleg,” “b-side,” and/or “rarity” collections.

Remastered Recordings

What is a remastered recording, really?  Now, in some cases, a remastered recording can be the most exciting release in an artist’s catalog, particularly for longtime fans and audiophiles.  For instance, there really is no substitute for the fully stereo-version of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds.  This remastered disc created quite a controversy when it first came out, as you had purists who claimed it should remain mono, as it was originally intended and released by Brian Wilson and the boys.  Others embraced the all-new expansion of the sound on this classic album.  As for me, I cannot understand how anyone in possession of the Pet Sounds CD could refrain from skipping to track 14 every time to begin with the stereo recording of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”  Compared to the mono recordings, the second set of stereo-mixed tracks are crisp and clear as they pop out around your ears.  You can hear each instrument and truly appreciate the minute instrumental and harmonic details that are present in this Beach Boys masterpiece, as compared to the mono versions which have a tendency to crackle and feel claustrophobic when turned up to any reasonable volume.

This, unfortunately, is probably the exception in the world of “remasters.”

Beware music fans when you pick up a CD or read online that a disc has been “remastered.”  The trick here is to read into the fine print and ascertain to what degree the recording has actually been altered.  For instance, the classic packaging/marketing trick has been for a sticker on a CD case to read “Digitally Remastered.”  That sounds great!  I have to have this new and improved recording for my collection!…

Well, perhaps so, but half the time all this means is that someone converted the analog tracks into a digital format.  Depending on the artist, producer, remixer, and age of original recording, there has often been no real improvement to the sound of the recording.  I’ve certainly been burned a few times by this “Digitally Remastered” marketing…

That being said, there really are some truly great remastered recordings out there if you’re careful to ascertain the degree of thought and effort that has gone into the apparent “remastering” (Like the re-issue of the main albums in Bob Dylan’s catalog a few years ago — and you better appreciate the improvement in sound quality, because there’s no booklet or bonus tracks to speak of!)

Reissues

Not to sound bitter here or anything, but reissues can also be just another waste of money.  Or they can offer any amazing addition to your collection.  How can you tell the difference?  Well, here are a few tips:

  • If it is a reissue of a recently released album, it’s probably just the same old material with a couple of shoddily recorded demos or tracks that didn’t make it to the album (usually for a reason) attached;
  • If it is an album that never made it to CD, then you must ask yourself: How much do I love this artist? If the answer is anything other than “very much,” then stay far, far away from this type of reissue!!  On the other hand, if the answer is “very much,” then what are you waiting for?  Some of my favorite CD purchases have fallen under this category, most notably Warren Zevon’s The Envoy.  I can’t believe that, previous to the reissue of this album in 2003, I wouldn’t have been able to hear such songs as “The Overdraft” or “Hula Hula Boys.”
  • If it is a reissue of a live album, you need to seriously question what has been improved since the initial release.  After all, what level of improvement can there really be in terms of sound quality?  It’s a live album.  It better have lots of additional tracks or an amazing, detailed booklet with updated interviews, etc.  Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison reissue is an excellent example of a worthwhile purchase in this category.
  • If it is an anniversary edition of a studio recording, some of the same criteria apply as above.  For instance, have the tracks been remastered?  (I mean, really remastered!)  Is there a decent array of bonus tracks added for the collector who already has the original album?  Is there a seriously detailed booklet with a decent number of pages?  I mean, after all, if this is an album worthy of a reissue, there must be a good deal of back story, historical importance, and/or artists from that band or other bands that are excited and willing to talk about it!
  • Finally, there is the enigmatic multiple format reissue.  What is this, you may ask?  This is when an album or collection of tracks is released and there are multiple options for the consumer.  For instance, when Pearl Jam re-releases their debut album Ten later this month, there will be three different packages available.  There’s the “Legacy Edition” with two discs — one with the original tracks, one with a newly remixed version of the album by original producer Brendan O’Brien and six bonus tracks.  There’s the “Deluxe Edition” with the aforementioned two discs and a DVD of Pearl Jam’s MTV Unplugged performance from 1992.  Then, there’s the “Collector’s Edition” with the aforementioned two CDs and one DVD, four vinyl discs (one with the original album, one with the remixed and bonus tracks, two with a live concert), a cassette version of Pearl Jam’s original “Momma-Son” demo, and “Package also includes an Eddie Vedder-style composition notebook filled with replica personal notes, images and mementos from the collections of Eddie Vedder and Jeff Ament, a vellum envelope with replicated era-specific ephemera from Pearl Jam’s early work and a two-sided print commemorating the Drop in the Park concert.”  Wow.  Now that’s some selection.  For most people, the “Legacy Edition” really should be enough.  For me, the intermediate Pearl Jam fan (and the ultimate fan of CD packaging), I will consider the “Deluxe Edition” based on the price difference.  If it’s a reasonable amount more, I would really be interested to watch the unplugged performance.  As for the “Collector’s Edition” (valued on Amazon.com at $124.99), you truly need to be a Collector with a capital “C.”  Now, don’t get me wrong; they have really done it up with some amazing elements, but as much as I love and appreciate CD packaging, I’m not about to drop that much money on a single album reissue.  If my memory serves me well, this was the price for buying all the Dylan reissues at one point (again, admittedly without any booklet, bonus tracks, or memorabilia to speak of).

Bootlegs (and B-sides and Rarities)

A final category in this collection of corporate cash cows (and music lovers’ delights!) are officially released bootleg recordings.  For convenience, I’ll lump in B-sides and rarities.  Bootlegs, of course, are tracks that have not been officially released but are circulated underground among fans.  Perhaps the most famous release of a bootleg was Bob Dylan and the Band’s Basement Tapes.  Worth every crazy, weird minute of sound, my friends!  Dylan’s celebrated Bootleg Series is dedicated to releasing unheard tracks and live concerts that have been — almost without exception — wonderful and worthwhile purchases.  Again, I would ask that you apply that aforementioned question to the purchase laid out before you:  “How much do you like this band/artist?”

Most bands, at some point or another, release a collection of unreleased tracks, b-sides, and rarities.  These are sometimes mediocre at best (Hootie and the Blowfish’s Scattered, Covered, and Smothered) with a minimum of only somewhat interesting liner notes.  However, these are sometimes wildly fascinating and rewarding, such as the Beach Boys’ Endless Harmony soundtrack, Warren Zevon’s Preludes, or Pearl Jam’s Lost Dogs (the latter incorporating a detailed and interesting read of a booklet).

The trick here, to be repeated once and only once more, is to evaluate how much you like the artist or band, and then to take a calculated risk.  In this writer’s opinion, half the fun of surfing the racks (or the web) and buying new albums — whether they be standard releases, remasters, reissues, or bootlegs — is the risk involved.  You may be — and perhaps most often will be — unimpressed or only somewhat entertained.  But it’s all worth it when you have those moments of revelation as you discover a truly worthwhile addition to your music library!

A Christmas Music Catalog – Playlists on Parade

Originally posted 2010-12-18 10:30:25. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

There’s a LOT of Christmas music.

As is to be expected, some is excellent, some is terrible, and much of it is mediocre.  Over the years, in a variety of formats, I’ve been exposed to a lot of Christmas music.  This year, I assembled all the songs that have survived over the years, and I’ve created a 340 song playlist for your perusal below.  This master list has served as the source from which I derived my “Christmas, Volumes 1-3” playlists the past several weeks.

I’m sure I’m missing some tunes here that are very meaningful to you, so I encourage you to comment below to recommend any tracks I should seek out for a listen.

From our blog to you, I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a happy new year!

CHRIS’ CHRISTMAS MUSIC CATALOG:

Alvin & the Chipmunks:             “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”

America:                                     Holiday Harmony

Band Aid:                                    “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

Barenaked Ladies:                         Barenaked for the Holidays

The Beach Boys:                        Ultimate Christmas

The Beatles:                                     “Christmas Time is Here Again,” “Everywhere It’s Christmas”

The Bee Gees:                         “Holiday”

Ben Folds:                                    “Lonely Christmas Eve”

Bing Crosby:                                    “Mele Kalikimaka,” “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” “White Christmas”

Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans,

the Crystals, Darlene Love,

the Ronettes, & Phil Spector:  A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector

Bob Dylan:                                    Christmas in the Heart

Bobby Helms:                         “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle”

Bobby Helms, The Brian

Setzer Orchestra, Charles

Brown, Clarence Carter,

Nat King Cole, Darlene Love,

Johnny Mathis, David Newman,

Lou Rawls:                                     The Jingle All the Way Soundtrack

Brenda Lee:                                     “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Papa Noel”

The Brian Setzer Orchestra:             Boogie Woogie Christmas

Brian Wilson:                                     What I Really Want for Christmas, “White Christmas,” “Little Saint Nick” (Web Version)

Burl Ives:                                     “Holly Jolly Christmas”

The Carpenters:                         “The Christmas Song,” “Merry Christmas Darling”

Chicago:                                     Christmas: What’s It Gonna Be, Santa?

Chris Moore:                                     “Christmas From Now On,” “Feliz Navidad” (with Jim Fusco & Dana Camp), “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “Green Christmas” (with Jim Fusco), “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Moment,” “Must Be Santa,” “The New Year,” “A Winter’s Tale”

Chris, Jim, & Mike:                         Our Christmas Gift to You

Chuck Berry:                                     “Run Rudolph Run”

Copeland:                                     “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Death Cab for Cutie:                         “Christmas”

The Drifters:                                     “White Christmas”

The Eagles:                                     “Please Come Home for Christmas”

Eartha Kitt:                                    “Santa Baby”

Eisley:                                     “The Winter Song”

Elmo & Patsy:                         “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” “Percy the Puny Poinsettia”

Elton John:                                     “Step Into Christmas”

Elvis Presley:                                    If Every Day Was Like Christmas

Emerson, Lake, & Palmer:             “I Believe in Father Christmas”

The Fold:                                     “Oh Holy Night”

Fountains of Wayne:                         “I Want an Alien for Christmas”

Frank Sinatra:                                     “I Believe”

Gene Autry:                                     “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane)”

George Harrison:                         “My Sweet Lord,” “Ding Dong Ding Dong”

The Harry Simeone Chorale:             “The Little Drummer Boy”

Hawk Nelson:                                     “Last Christmas”

Ingrid Michaelson:                         “Winter Song,” “Snowfall”

Jack Johnson:                                     “Someday at Christmas”

Jeff Foskett:                                     “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day”

Jethro Tull:                                     “Ring Out Solstice Bells”

Joe Pesci:                                     “If It Doesn’t Snow for Christmas”

John Lennon:                                     “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” “Happy Christmas & Give Peace a Chance”

Johnny Cash:                                     Classic Christmas

Jose Feliciano:                         “Feliz Navidad”

Joy Electric:                                     “What Child is This?”

Judy Garland:                                     “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Lady Gaga:                                     “Christmas Tree”

Mae:                                                 “Carol of the Bells”

The Magnetic Fields:                         “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree”

Mavis Staples:                         “Christmas Vacation”

The Moody Blues:                         December, “Another Morning,” “Eyes of a Child,” “What Child is This?”

The Moonglows:                         “Hey Santa Claus”

MoU:                                                 MoU Holiday Party 2006

Nat King Cole:                         “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “The Little Boy Santa Claus Forgot”

NewSong:                                     “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

The Orioles:                                     “Crying in the Chapel”

Paul McCartney:                         “Wonderful Christmastime”

The Percy Faith Orchestra:             “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”

Ray Charles:                                     “What Child is This?”

Relient K:                                     Let it Snow Baby… Let it Reindeer

Ringo Starr:                                     I Wanna Be Santa Claus

Roger Whittaker:                         “Ding Dong Merrily on High”

Roy Orbison:                                     “Pretty Paper”

The Royal Guardsmen:             “Christmas Bells”

Simon & Garfunkel:                         “Seven O’Clock News/Silent Night”

Smashing Pumpkins:                         “Christmastime”

Spike Jonze:                                     “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”

Starflyer 59:                                     “Christmas Time is Here”

Stevie Wonder:                         “Someday at Christmas”

The Temptations:                         “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: “Christmas All Over Again”

Weezer:                                     Christmas with Weezer

Wham!:                                     “Last Christmas”

The Who:                                     “Christmas”

The Wilsons:                                     “Hey Santa!”

“Two Of Us” (The Beatles Cover)

Originally posted 2009-09-08 23:52:35. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jim Fusco:

I swear we didn’t plan this… I’m sure by now, if you’re a rock music fan, you’ve heard about the Beatles Rock Band game that’s coming out tomorrow, Wednesday, 9/9/09.  Everyone in the gaming world is excited about this new release, and you better believe I am, too!  You see, it’s very rare we get an official Beatles release (any more “interview” discs floating around?), and it’s great to see the Beatles music brought to a whole new generation of youngsters that are sure to fall in love with it just like the rest of us did.  I’m excited about the new Rock Band video game for Playstation 3, but I’m especially excited about the entire Beatles catalog (including the collection of singles in Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2) being remastered and re-released.  I’ve wanted the Beatles albums remastered for as long as I remember hearing them.  The original tape transfers sound so tinny- the discs they were selling on shelves all the way up until today were made in 1986 and have just been duplicates.  Go ahead- check your CDs- they all say 1986 on them!  That’s back in the time where they had to tell you the “great sound quality and fidelity” you get with CDs…  Anyway, as I am happy that they’ve remastered the original two-track masters of the Beatles albums, I’m a bit disappointed in two things:

First, they’re not remixed.  Not to say that they weren’t mixed great for the time, especially because (next to Brian Wilson, in my personal opinion) George Martin was the best producer ever.  But, now you listen to these songs and many leave a lot to be desired.  Imagine if you heard some of the songs on “HELP!” without all the vocals to the right channel and the music in the left.  Imagine if the drums in the early records were panned more towards center so they don’t cut through the mix (especially the tambourine).  As tacky as the “Love” CD from Cirque de Soleil is, it’s still pretty cool to hear the songs in such lush stereo, as opposed to the duophonic sound that they achieved before the late 60s.

And second, there are no bonus tracks.  My father is quick to point out some key missing tracks that were left off the Anthologies (“The extended version of “Dig It”!”, he always yells) and we’re left with nothing more than the albums that we’ve already bought on LP, 8-track, cassette, and original CD.

So, there’s Beatlemania in the air and I love it.  It’s been WAY too long since the fervor of the Anthology series and it feels great to say, “Oh yeah, well I’m only 25 and I’ve been a fan ALL 25 years!”

Which brings me to tonight’s Beatles cover song video.  Let me tell you, folks- prepare to be blown away.  Along with my mystery guest Steve and other off-camera guest Chris (not Moore) (from my new cover band, the Traveling Acai Berries, also featuring Bill, who couldn’t be at the session), we play a completely effortless version of “Two of Us” from the “Let It Be” album.  Chris appears on-camera in the video I’ll be posting next week, but Steve, by request of his college-age daughter who would commit social suicide if her friends found out her father was on YouTube singing Beatles songs with a 25 year old :-) , decided that he would just show his guitar skills on camera.  Actually, that’s Steve singing with me on this one, too.

And that way I described the performance: effortless.  That’s what makes it different from many of my past collaborations.  Whether it be getting the chords right, remembering the words, or remembering harmony parts, past duets have always been troublesome.  But Steve, Chris, and I play this like we’ve been playing for years, and that’s what I love about this video.  You can barely hear Chris in this video- he’s playing mandolin away from the microphone, but at times, especially late in the chorus, you can hear him plucking away.  His sight reading was impressive.  On next week’s video, you can definitely hear him, though.  Steve’s playing is great, as he took the time to learn all those parts I don’t on guitar, which is just so great knowing that I can just sing and play rhythm.  Steve reminds me a lot of my father- not only in his love for the Beatles music, but in how he can sing harmony parts without having to teach him every note.  Somehow, he just knows.  And that’s where this familiarity comes from- it really shows through in the video.

I sincerely hope you enjoy tonight’s performance- one’s that’s been in the works for months now.  It was a lot of fun and I hope they’ll want to do more, especially when they see all the good reviews we’ll get!  I’ll be back next week and hopefully I’ll be enjoying the new Beatles Rock Band game, too.  I’m going to wait until Christmas for the Beatles remastered albums, though- in stereo, of course.  And don’t even get me started on the new “mono” box set… :-)  Until next week!!