Friday, 9 October 2009

News, Views and Music Issue 45 (Top Five): AAA Albums In Need Of Re-mastering

And so we move on to our farewell five. In honour of the Beatles box set we look at the other AAA groups desperately in need of the re-mastering treatment and wonder when they too will get the re-issues they deserve:

5) Lindisfarne: To be fair the ‘reunion’ (i.e. 1978-93 albums) did indeed receive a re-mastered re-issue about 10 years or so ago and the sound and packaging were fairly decent (even if they did lose a black mark or two for the lack of bonus tracks). But they died a death within a few months of their release (it’s taken me a long time to track most of them down and even then I’m still missing a CD copy of ‘Back And Fourth’). Even more worryingly, the ‘big three’ of Lindisfarne albums (‘Nicely Out Of Tune, Fog On The Tyne, Dingly Dell) disappeared some time ago and are currently off catalogue, despite containing about 90% of the Lindisfarne songs you’d really want to own. Charisma did a superlative job on the re-issue of the ‘Lindisfarne Live’ album (recorded 1971, released as a stopgap LP 1973), adding another 8 or so unheard performances and putting the track listing back in the right order for the gig. So what’s happened to their re-issue of the other albums? The original (late 80s/early 90s) CDs are showing their age now – ‘Nicely’ was always a muted album production wise but the old CD sound was ridiculous (even with two excellent bonus track B-sides as extras). And as for Fog On The Tyne it’s, well, foggy. 

4) CSN/Y: Similarly Atlantic did a fairly good job with their first batch of CSN remasters (the first album and Daylight Again), tweaking the sound a little (even if the bass on the first album still sounds fairly horrible unlike the CSN box-set) and adding four relevant and intriguing bonus tracks to each. So what’s happened to the albums in-between and after? ‘Deja Vu’ is a far more obvious candidate for re-issue and even if the band stuck with hard-to-find rather than unreleased material as bonus tracks they could double the running length of the album! ‘CSN’ (the 1977 version) is similarly deserving of re-mastering (can’t say I noticed much difference when they ‘remastered’ and reissued the set a second time in the early 90s) and that too has plenty of bonus tracks around even if there aren’t any more in the vault. And albums like ‘American Dream’ and ‘Live It Up’ could probably do with an over-hauling too.  

3) Nils Lofgren: Nils’ albums are always a bit of a minority interest so I can understand why I don’t see his albums every day in HMV. But surely they should have been agiven a second lease of life by now – even the most ridiculously obscure albums have been issued at least twice in their lifetime and I’m not too sure that all of Nils’ fine LPs made it to CD the first time around (has there ever been an issue of ‘Wonderland’ for example?) The trouble here is that from the late 70s onwards Nils recorded for a different record label with practically every album he produced. But surely they could be bought up by someone en masse (Rhino are an excellent label at putting split back catalogues back together) and reunited – preferably with better sound than the few Lofgren CDs I have managed to pick up. And I’m surprised that even the ‘core four’ made for CBS haven’t been around on CD for a decade or more – they at least have enough of a fan following to make the cost more than worth it.

2)The Kinks (especially the 1970-90s output): The Kinks were one of the biggest, best loved bands that ever lived and even if some of their catalogue sold better than others its stunning to think that most of it has been impossible to find for 5 years or more now. The 60s releases on Pye are stunning – oodles of bonus tracks, sensible sleeve notes and fair to glorious sound. The 1970s RCA releases fare less well, thanks to a lack of bonus tracks but they were at least around for a short while (it’s taken me an age to track them all down but now all I’m missing is ‘Muswell Hillbillies’ which was always something of a lesser LP for me anyway). But what’s happened to everything made after 1979 – I can’t find anything from ‘One For The Road’ onwards on CD and the extortionate prices on Amazon suggest that most other fans can’t find them either. Thanks to the Pye re-issues several collectors got right back into Kinks collecting in the 1990s but – typically Kinks – all that hard work and interest just got lost by the rarity of the later albums. I’d love to hear albums like ‘UK Jive’ and ‘Phobia’ in decent sound and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So where are they?!

1) The Rolling Stones (especially the 1960s Decca output): The Stones suffer from the opposite problem – their later, less loved albums are everywhere with the group of albums from ‘Goat’s Head Soup’ on now on their third of fourth re-issue (the sound is much better I’ve heard – though I’ve not bought any of them yet – but the lack of bonus tracks and the high price is worrying). As for the band’s 60s Decca product you can’t get them at all these days and even when you could they copied the American track listing and packaging, meaning that several fine album tracks are as rare as Keith Richards sober these days, junked in favour of hit singles that have been available 20-odd times already. And the sound – Decca were terrible for sound qualities in the 1960s and seemed to think that recording rock and roll in the same way they recorded classical music would be perfectly fine for the teenagers of the day. And yet even the original Moody Blues CDs (recorded from 1967 onwards for Decca subsidiary Deram) sound amazing, full of light and shade these murky Stones albums can only dream about, never mind the recent deluxe Moodies issues. So what’s the problem? The Stones would make far more money and gain far more respect re-hashing their 60s catalogue than they are re-hashing their 70s one. Or are they just waiting to see how the Beatles box fares so they can issue their own?

An honourable mention too, by the way, for Pink Floyd: yes the re-mastered box set from 2007 sounds amazing – but why oh why weren’t these CDs made available individually? I can’t afford £250-odd for a box-set that’s still missing a few albums out! (‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ is the only re-master currently available – the others all date back to the early 1990s). 

Right that’s enough moaning – and in fact that’s it for another issue. Join us next week for another exotic, eclectic, electric issue of everybody’s favourite Monkeynuts Newsletter. See you next time!

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