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!)


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 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!

“Love Stinks” (J. Geils Band Cover)

Originally posted 2008-09-14 20:46:14. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Jeff Copperthite:

I get to kick off a specialty week here on  If Jim & Chris haven’t hyped it up enough, it’s New Bands Week version 2.0 starting tonight!

Our first new band is, to be honest, a band I don’t know all that much about.  Matter of fact, I didn’t even know this song was by this band until it was played on The Complaining Show on WCJM way back when.  It was also featured prominently in the movie “The Wedding Singer” before Adam Sandler had his lights punched out.

I think I don’t match the voice of John (not Jerome) Geils that well, but the acoustic cover is an interesting one for sure.

Hey, it was either this or “Freeze Frame”.

This is probably among the more interesting songs I have covered.  Hopefully the rest of the year my song selection will start to make sense much more often.

Tomorrow Jim will be here to bring another new band to the table.  I can’t wait to see who it is!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

The 51st Annual Grammy Awards (2009) results that you care about!

By Chris Moore:

Hey there, all you blog-reading rock music fans!  I just tuned in to the Grammy awards, and it’s a surreal experience.  After all, I haven’t watched the Grammy awards since Bob Dylan was up for a few awards in 2002, after releasing his Love and Theft album.  There’s really nothing quite as exciting as seeing your favorite musicians honored and – especially – peforming on national television.  I’ll never forget that Dylan performance of “Cry a While”…

But, back to this year.  I’m tuning in a bit late, in hopes of seeing rock music represent!  I bought a LOT of new music last year, and I’m very interested to see if any of my favorites actually get a Grammy nod.  In all honesty, I don’t expect many of mine to win, but I see some hope for rock in Coldplay, Radiohead, and others.

So, for those of you who missed the show or would like to take a second look, here are the results of the rock music-related Grammy’s…

Song of the Year: Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”

Say what you will about Coldplay, but this is a rock band with an amazing rock album if I’ve ever heard one.  And here, officially, they have received the “Song of the Year” nod!  That will be the first album I listen to after the show — the Viva La Vida (or Death And All His Friends) album really is one of the two or three best albums of the year for 2008.  But that award is up for grabs later…

Performance: Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus

While this really isn’t my cup of tea, I really can’t complain when I see a performance with just a singer or two and acoustic guitars.  It’s the Laptop Sessions business model, after all!  I see some hope for rock, or at least acoustic guitar music, in the pop music world when I see two young, attractive women playing a bare-bones, acoustic performance for a national television audience.

Pop Collaboration with Vocals: Robert Plant and Allison Krauss

Again, this is not music that I was excited for or even interested in last year.  I haven’t even heard the Plant and Krauss duets yet.  That being said, I think there’s a victory for rock music in here somewhere.  I think.

Performance: Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers

I really don’t want to be excited about this performance.  And I’m admittedly watching it on mute so I can hear the TNA “Against All Odds” Pay-Per-View playing on the other television in the room.  But – and this is a significant BUT – I think it’s really cool to see the Grammy’s schedule a meeting between old and new, the past and present.  I never thought I’d see the Jonas Brothers rocking out on their guitars, standing shoulder to shoulder with Stevie Wonder on keyboards.  Wonder really has transcended all sorts of boundaries over the years, though, so I suppose it shouldn’t be that big a surprise.

Rock Album: Coldplay’s Viva La Vida (or Death and All His Friends)

Coldplay wins!  How many times have Chris Martin and his boys heard those two words?  Even a couple years ago, I would have happily jumped right on the “Coldplay is overrated” train, but after the release of this album in 2008 I have a newfound respect for this band.  Yes, they’re wearing the faux-Sgt. Pepper’s jackets.  Yes, I can’t understand why they are so univerally loved.  But this album is amazing.  From start to finish, it flows from song to song without losing momentum and building on a number of themes over the course of its ten tracks.  It reminds me of a classic Moody Blues album.  They’re not as good as the Moodies at crafting albums yet, but they have plenty more time to work on that painfully underrated art form.  (And, hey, if they WERE as good as the Moody Blues, then maybe they’d be just as obscure and under-appreciated as Justin Hayward and company are!)

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida”

I’ve reinforced several times that I love this album.  I like this song quite a bit, although perhaps not as much as the rest of the world.  But the real question here is – how many times can you win for one album and its title track??  Just had to ask.

Pop Instrumental Performance: Eagles’ “I Dreamed There Was No War”

I haven’t heard it, but now I’m very interested…

Morgan Freeman

I think it deserves a note that Morgan Freeman (a) looks better than ever, even after that car accident that made headlines a while back, and (b) is announcing a performance at exactly the same time as a match on the TNA Pay-Per-View between Abyss and Matt MORGAN.  Coincidence?

Well, yes, but I was excited.

Performance: Paul McCartney (“I Saw Her Standing There”)

Awesome.  The man still has it.  Of course, he has the same thing he’s had for forty years.  And, of course, I must rephrase my earlier question — how much mileage can you get out of one song?  As Jim mentioned, isn’t the credo of rock’n roll that “only the good die young”?  As for me, I’m not complaining.  It’s good to see McCartney out there showing all the younger acts how it’s done!

Male Pop Vocal Performance: John Mayer (“Say”)

Really?  Am I the only one who thought this song was really boring?  The chorus goes as follows: “Say what you need to say” repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, etc., etc…  I miss younger, short-haired John Mayer…

Solo Rock Vocal Performance: John Mayer (“Gravity”)

To be fair, I’ll include Paul McCartney (for “I Saw Her Standing There” from Amoeba’s Secret) in the following rant.  How can a live track, much less a live performance of a previously released song, make the “Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance”?  Isn’t that the beauty of the studio, that the rawness of a vocal performance and the controlled environment of the studio combine to bring the best of two worlds?  Even if you disagree, consider the competition — “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” a great Bruce Springsteen track from Magic, and “Rise,” a track from the great Eddie Vedder soundtrack for Into The Wild.  To be honest, I haven’t heard the Neil Young track.  But, really, John Mayer?  This smacks too much of a high school-esque popularity contest.

Rock Song: Bruce Springsteen (“Girls in Their Summer Clothes”)

I’m not really sure why this song became the flagship of the Magic tracks, but this is indeed a great song and I’m glad to see it getting some credit.  Moreover, I hope more people will check out Magic, the Springsteen album that this song originated from.  Truly an enjoyable album.  And, according to the Grammy’s, this is a great song — just not good enough to beat a live version of “Gravity” by John Mayer for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Alternative Music Album: Radiohead (In Rainbows)

I didn’t like this album nearly as much as everyone else who heard it, and I personally would have voted for Beck.  But, that being said, I really do appreciate what Radiohead is trying to do and I need to go back to In Rainbows this week to see what I missed…

Recording Package: Metallica (Death Magnetic)

Boxed or Special Limited Edition Packaging: Radiohead (In Rainbows)

I LOVE that there are still awards being given out for physical packaging.  There’s hope yet for the CD/vinyl/non-digital format!

Engineered Album, Non-Classical: Raconteurs (Consolers of the Lonely)

I’ll admit that I’m not exactly sure what this means, but I like the new Raconteurs album and it’s truly a great alternative rock album, so I’ll drink to this one!

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Rick Rubin

Hands down, this is THE choice for this category.  Why do I say this?  Four reasons.  Jakob Dylan’s Seeing Things.  Weezer’s Red Album.  Neil Diamond’s Home Before Dark.  Metallica’s Death Magnetic.  Enough said.

Short Form Music Video: Weezer (“Pork and Beans”)

An instant favorite on YouTube — this choice makes sense.

Long Form Music Video: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Runnin’ Down a Dream)

This really was a great documentary and will go down as perhaps one of the rock documentary essentials, if only for its wonderful treatment of the story of one of the all-time classic rock bands.

Video Montage: Tribute to those who have passed away this year

This was a really nice presentation and is indeed a perfect stage for this sort of tribute.

When all is said and done, I can’t say I’ll rush back for next year’s Grammy awards, but I am glad to see some of my favorites get some attention.  I apologize for any negative, ranting-like tones I may have adopted during this report, but there’s just so much music I heard last year that should have received more attention than it did.  The Counting Crows and Brian Wilson to start with, never mind R.E.M. and Weezer.  But this being said, have a great night and “viva la” rock!

A “Chris Moore Monday” Premiere!

By Chris Moore:

Well, I am regretfully feeling pretty terrible tonight and my throat has taken quite the hit.  So, should we just cancel the session for the night and wait for “Jim Fusco Tuesday?”…

Not a chance!

Instead of a music video tonight, I’m working on the first in a series of articles on rock music that I will release in the coming year.  I’m still trying to work on a name for the series as a whole.  Maybe “Rock Face: The Face of Rock Music Today.”  Sorry, that was a shameless inside joke that only a few of you will get.

Seriously, though, I’m working hard on this article now and I hope you enjoy it when I post it later tonight.

On an unrelated note, the Bruce Springsteen Halftime Show performance yesterday was even more exciting than I thought it would be, for a number of reasons.  First of all, the performance itself was great.  As Jim’s father pointed out, it looked like Springsteen would need to be hooked up to oxygen immediately after the show, based on all the energy he put into the twelve minute performance.  Once again, I’m not really a Springsteen fanatic, but I love his recent work.  I’ve been somewhat unimpressed with his live work (including a couple of concerts televised on television over the past few years), but the Super Bowl performance was certainly a high point of the game for me.  I realize that’s sacriledge and I may be branded as an outcast, but so be it…  Oh, and that being said, there’s a really funny list on a Yahoo! blog today called: “The 10 Unforgivable Sins Of Bruce Springsteen’s Performance At The Super Bowl.”  Jim sent it to me earlier today.  Worth a read for any music fan.

The second reason why the performance was so exciting is its aftermath.  I posted the set list and some general comments and predictions yesterday, mainly because I was looking forward to the show and it was on my mind.  Well, the post helped catapult us to an all-new view record for a single day on the Laptop Sessions music blog!  Thank you, Super Bowl, and thank you, Bruce Springsteen!

Stay tuned for the article to come; I hope you enjoy reading it!