The period of 2000-2009 saw the re-release of some of the greatest music of all time, packaged with superior sound, deluxe liner notes and bonus tracks. After the jump, see my thoughts on the greatest reissues of the decade.
Perception by The Doors (2006). Fans of The Doors hit the jackpot in the 2000s. The Doors set up a label called Bright Midnight Records where they released full length soundboard concerts of the musical legends. After about 6 shows were released, Rhino Records repacked the 6 studio albums by The Doors in a deluxe box set called Perception, a play on words on the original William Blake quote that inspired the name of the band. Each album has a booklet with rare photos, liner notes, studio outtakes and the jewels of each album – a DVD with the full album in 5.1 Surround Sound. Though the recordings are nearly 40 years old, listening to Perception makes it sound as if The Doors are performing in your living room. You’ll hear instruments and vocals that were lost in the mix and on the title track from “The Soft Parade,” there’s a 90 second poem that had never seen the light of day until now!
Ultimate by Prince (2006). I had the privelage of picking out all the songs for the final Warner Bros. release from legend Prince. This was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. To be a life long fan and have my name in the booklet was a dream come true. The 2-cd set features a full disc of 12″ versions, and most of them had never been available on CD before this release. To hear the long versions of “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” “U Got The Look,” “She’s Always in My Hair,” and “Let’s Work,” on CD is enough to appease the die-hard fan and bring new fans into the wonderful purple kingdom of Prince. My only regret is that we were not allowed to make this a 5-cd box set. You can read an interview I did about this cd here.
Surrounded by Bjork (2006). Like Perception by The Doors, Rhino Records collected all of Bjork’s studio albums and re-released them in 5.1 Surround Sound. Hearing this set is like a choir of angels (in swan dresses) serenading you. Each albums’ DVD side also has all the videos for each record. The only complaint I have is that for the DVD side of each release, you are not allowed to fast forward to the next track, which can pose a problem if you quickly want to play the 8th track on the album for your friends before dancing off into the night.
Rumours and Tusk by Fleetwood Mac (2004). These two classic albums were not re-released in 5.1 Surround Sound, but were given deluxe treatment by being remastered each with a bonus disc of demos and outtakes from the album sessions. Rumours features demos of almost every track on their massively successful 1977 album plus never-before heard demos of tracks such as “Think About It,” “Doesn’t Anything Last,” and “Planets of the Universe,” which would remain unreleased for nearly 25 years before Stevie Nicks dusted it off and re-wrote the lyrics for a 2001 solo album. Tusk features a bonus disc with 21 demos and alternate versions including the ultra rare studio version of “Farmer’s Daughter.”
Love by The Beatles (2006). Long before the 2009 Beatles Remasters, George Martin produced the soundtrack to the Beatles-infused Cirque Du Soleil show Love. This was issued both as a single cd and a deluxe edition with 5.1 Surround Sound mix (are you noticing a pattern of qualities I love in a re-release?) There are many mash-ups of classic Beatles tracks such as “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite/I Want You (She’s So Heavy)/Helter Skelter” plus a version of “Strawberry Fields Forever” that starts off with a demo, morphs into a semi-finished version and finally gives way to the studio version fans have been listening to for 40 years. Also included is a gorgeous take on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that also includes parts of the demo, but is also fused with a full symphony orchestra to give it extra awesomeness.
The Collection by Sly and the Family Stone (2007). The father of funk Sly Stone got the deluxe reissue treatment by Sony in 2007 with the release of The Collection – all 7 of Sly and The Family Stone’s legendary releases. Each disc has the original liner notes, plus new essays, rare pictures and bonus tracks that are comprised of single edits, instrumental versions and previously unreleased outtakes from the sessions of each album. As you listen to these albums, in glorious remastered sound quality, you hear precisely why they are one of the most sampled groups of all time.
Thriller (25th Anniversary Edition) by Michael Jackson (2008). This re-release of Michael Jackson’s classic album Thriller was sadly the last album to see the light of day before Jackson’s death in 2009. While the bonus tracks feature new versions of classic tracks ruined by the likes of Akon, Fergie and Kanye West, deluxe packaging, remastered sound and a DVD with the legendary videos “Billie Jean,” “Beat It,” “Thriller,” and the infamous Motown 25th Anniversary performance of “Billie Jean” that introduced the world to the moonwalk are featured. While this footage has been around for awhile, it was the first time in years that people put Michael Jackson’s crazy personal life aside to focus on that which matters most – his music.
Live at Sin-E (Legacy Edition) by Jeff Buckley (2003). Sony’s Legacy division does it right with this reissue. The orignal EP had 4 tracks and this deluxe edition has a whopping 34 tracks, plus a DVD with 3 performances and an interview. When Jeff Buckley was first starting out, he played this legendary New York venue and he mixed original songs in with covers of bands and singers as diverse as Billie Holiday and Van Morrison to Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. They also released a Legacy Edition of Grace, the only full length release that came out in Jeff Buckley’s short lifetime. That package is also cool as there are a plethora of demos, b-sides and live tracks, plus a DVD with videos and the original electronic press kit.
The Singles 81-85 by Duran Duran (2003). One of the coolest box sets ever. When The Singles 81-85 came out, not only did it mark the first CD appearance for the band’s long sought-after b-sides and extended versions, but each single was repackaged in a mini replica sleeve of the original import only vinyl release. The box set has 13 CD singles from the bands’ first release “Planet Earth” to the James Bond theme “A View To A Kill.” The B-sides such as “Fame,” “Khanada,” “Late Bar,” “Faster Than Light” and “Secret Oktober” have never sounded so glorious. A year later, they released a second singles box set collection and while the packaging is the same ultra-cool idea, the music is not as good as what was included in this first set from their glory days.
Speak and Spell, A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, Music For The Masses, Violator, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Ultra, Exciter by Depeche Mode (2006). Each of Depeche Mode’s 9 studio albums was given the deluxe reissue treatment by Rhino Records and this meant 2-disc editions of each album. The first disc is a CD with the original album remastered. The second disc is a DVD that features the albums in 5.1 Surround Sound, all their b-sides and documentaries about each album (that range from 15 minutes to 45 minutes in length). The sound is amazing on all these releases as you’ll hear instruments, sound effects and vocals that were originally lost in the mix. The documentaries feature interviews with the band and key studio people who made these records so great. Also, they discuss the making of the album covers, show live clips and of course talk about the tensions in the band, the songwriting process and Dave Gahan’s near death experiences as a heroin addict.
A Night At The Opera by Queen (2005). When you hear the second disc of Queen’s legendary album remastered in 5.1 Surround Sound, you better have a box of tissues handy as the mix is so brilliant, it will probably move you to tears. Freddie Mercury’s voice on “Bohemian Rhapsody” never sounded more beautiful than it does in this mix. Again, you’ll hear instruments and vocals that were previously buried in the mix and on tracks like “The Prophet Song,” you’ll have a choir of Freddies in your living room. The DVD also has 10 new videos for the tracks on the album, plus audio commentary on the making of each track.
In The Garden, Sweet Dreams, Touch, Be Yourself Tonight, Revenge, Savage, We Too Are One, Peace by Eurythmics (2005). All of Eurythmics’ classic albums (aside from 1984 and Touch Dance) were rereleased in 2005. The sound quality is so much improved from the original releases. Each album has b-sides, extended versions, remixes and a previously unreleased cover from their covers album that never saw the light of day. They do takes on David Bowie’s “Fame,” The Doors’ “Hello I Love You,” The Smiths’ “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Lou Reed’s “Satellite Of Love.” While these versions are much weaker than the original versions, they are nice to hear instead of collecting dust in a studio archive. The booklets feature tons of photos from the artwork sessions, but sadly absent are the lyrics to these great songs.
Please, Actually, Introspective, Behaviour, Very, Bilingual by Pet Shop Boys (2001). The Pet Shop Boys really know how to satisfy their die-hard fans. When they re-released their first 6 full-length studio albums, they did so in the best possible way. Each album has become a 2-disc set, with the first disc being the original album, remastered. The second disc in each set is called “Further Listening” and it includes b-sides, remixes, extended versions and demos. Lots of the tracks had been previously unreleased until these sets came out. Also included is a deluxe 40 page booklet with each album that has full lyrics to all the songs, plus unseen photos and a track by track commentary by the Boys themselves, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe.