Monday 15 July 2013

The Best Five AAA Re-Issues Series (News, Views and Music Issue 202)

The Monkees may not have been the most highly regarded of AAA bands – not post 1967 anyway – and many people thought record label Rhino (best known for their re-issues of prog rock and heavy metal) were mad for buying up their back catalogue in the days of CD. But Rhino recognised two major things about this band: that they had an active, vocal, loyal fanbase who always treated The Monkees as a worthy band they were proud to have on their shelves and that they had a real embarrassment of riches sitting in the vaults, the band having recorded almost as much unissued material as they released in their short but busy four years together. Rhino excelled themselves by re-issuing not just the ‘hit’ albums but the obscure, rarer material (the last couple of Monkees albums hadn’t even charted and cost a fortune on vinyl) and making these then-30-year-old LPs blossom and sparkle like never before (they are still among the best sounding CDs in my collection some 20 odd years on).Even better, Rhino took the time to research the making of each album, interviewing all four Monkees for their comprehensive CD booklets and raiding archives for smashing unseen shots of one of the most photogenic of all AAA bands. Unlike some re-issue series the interviews were left intact, however honest some of the opinions, with the bitterness over ‘More Of The Monkees’, especially, making sense of that troubled second album far more than any amount of hyperbole or exaggeration. Best of all for the collectors were the dozens of unissued songs and alternate versions, especially on the mid-period albums of 1968 and 69, almost all of which compared favourably with the recordings that actually made each album. The Monkees worked so hard in the 1960s that there was even enough for a three-volume series of ‘Missing Links’ outtakes (covered elsewhere on this site) and another potential three volumes still in the vaults. The Monkees were never as respected as they were when these CDs came out (and the rest of the world finally caught up with what us fans had been saying for years – that The Monkees really were a proper group worthy of attention) and that’s a wonderful thing for a record company to do, Rhino clearly having the love and care the band’s fans share. While their recent, pricey mono-stereo sets (with a few extra remixes but nothing really new or important) and expansive but expensive ‘handmade’ box sets over the past few years are, frankly, pushing their luck a bit Rhino’s superb early 1990s re-issue series of all nine original Monkees albums on CD has never been surpassed. It wins this website’s coveted award as the ‘best AAA re-issue series of all time’ hands down. There are several other competitors, though, hence this week’s top five which features the best of the rest, in strict alphabetical order, all fighting over second place:

The Beach Boys (1960s catalogue 1962-69; Capitol two-fer-ones, early 1990s)

These CDs have been promoted and pulled so many times weary Beach Boy collectors now speak of a ‘yo-yo’ effect where the band re-issue their albums every few years in a variety of different ways and with a wildly varying degree of care. At their best, though, the Capitol re-issue series was superb: two whole (if short) albums on a single disc, slightlky improved sound, copious choice unissued songs, essays on the albums in the CD booklets (with varying degrees of detail and success) and a short note from Brian Wilson himself. All it would take is a free surfboard and these albums would have been the perfect way to get in touch with the true essence of these albums. Better still, the re-issue series stretched to every single one of the band’s 1960s catalogue, including such oddities as two live albums from 1963 and 1968 (sensible packaged together), ‘The Beach Boys Party!’ (an unplugged covers session from 1966 recorded in a hurry so the band could spend longer making ‘Pet Sounds’) and the ultimate Beach Boy curio ‘Stack-O-Tracks’, 15 Beach Boys backing tracks released when the band had never been less popular and Brian Wilson had never been more poorly or unable to make a ‘proper’ LP, re-issued after selling barely a thousand copies on first release. All this – and the hot-on-the-heels ’30 Years Of Good Vibrations’ and ‘Pet Sounds’ box sets meant Beach Boys fans were never happier. Unfortunately some scrooge out there won out not once but twice – an early, late 1980s bare bones no-bonus-tracks-and-plain-packaging series (with some early CDs lasting barely 20 minutes in total) was re-issued a second time a few years ago, the band and label perhaps figuring they could make even more money this way. Hmm, surf’s up if you ask me – let’s have the old ‘proper’ CDs back out on the shelves again! Thankfully Warner Brothers and Caribou followed suit for their own, similar 1970s Beach Boys album re-issue series which are ever so nearly as good, but don’t feature quite as many bonus tracks so don’t quite make this list in their own right.Place to start: ‘Friends’/’20/20’

The Byrds (entire catalogue 1964-72; Columbia/Legacy, mid-1990s)

The problem Columbia faced in the 1990s was a) they were one of the very first AAA bands to jump on the CD re-issue bandwagon with a series of late 1980s bare bones Cds and b) most of the handful of exciting Byrds outtakes and rarities had already been issued on a pretty nifty box set in 1990. As a result, the Byrds re-issue series was never going to be as world-beating as Rhino’s take on The Monkees, but it did the best it could all the same, adding all the relevant bonus tracks from the box set and a small handful of new recordings and rogue B-sides as well as delivering some excellent packaging featuring contributions by every band member available and some rare photos. The label even thought of adding radio plugs for each album as ‘bonus tracks’ – and some of them are very weird indeed! Best of all, each of these albums came out at a cheap price – and got cheaper as the years went on! Whilst rarer nowadays, these CDs are well worth looking out for if all you own is the vinyl editions. Best place to start: ‘The Notorious Byrd Brothers’.
Grateful Dead (entire catalogue 1966-95; Warner Brothers, 1999-2001)
Pricier than The Byrds and Monkees re-issues, at least you more or less got what you paid for with each Dead album released on CD (well eventually, again this excellent superior re-issue series followed a late 1980s bare bones attempt into the shops). Some 25 CDs were made available together in two big boxes or separately, each with relevant bonus tracks that filled out each album to the full CD running time of 80 minutes (or doubled it to 160 minutes in the case of double albums). Whilst the bonus tracks aren’t always that interesting (several live versions of songs taken from tired nights when the band seemed to be nodding off), the best of them are thrilling: alternate mixes, alternate takes and occasional live recordings that transform sometimes tentative studio animals into beautiful transcendental forces of nature. Add in some excellent sleeve notes for each CD (almost all of them by leading figures with long association with the band) and full notes on where and when each song was recorded and Warner Brothers made an awful lot of us Dead fans very happy over a two-year period, with even the supposedly ‘lesser’ Dead albums shining like never before. All this and Bob Weir’s ‘Yellow Dog’ story (improvised while the rest of the band tune up during a 1972 gig) too! Best place to start: ‘Wake Of The Flood’

The Kinks (entire 1960s catalogue 1964-70; Pye/Velvel, late 1990s)

Pye were probably the worst label to be on in the 1960s: bands who weren’t selling were dropped straight away, albums were expected twice a year and often compilations and live albums were ordered without any consultation with the bands themselves. Frankly, The Kinks couldn’t wait to leave in 1970 when their contract was up – and yet Pye might well be the best record label of all in the CD age, re-issuing sensitive, carefully considered CD versions of albums they once used to treat as throwaways (usually by licensing their recordings out to other companies, it has to be said). The Kinks re-issue series of about 15 years ago might not have featured the most detailed packaging or the greatest number of bonus tracks, but at their best they did exactly what they needed to: outlining the stories behind each album in enough detail to whet the appetite, interviewing both Davies brothers and including as many bonus tracks as Ray Davies would allow. Some of them, especially on the early albums, are superb and far too good to have left sitting in vaults for all these years – ‘Kinda Kinks’ especially doubles in length and track number and if anything the ‘second half’ is a better album, featuring three key hit singles plus equally marvellous B-sides, an EP and a wonderful Ray Davies home demo; ‘Arthur’ from 1969 might not be improved (can you improve on perfection?) but also almost doubles in length with some very rare B sides given a ‘proper’ home at last. Last year’s double CD of mono-stereo sets aren’t quite so impressive, adding a few BBC radio sessions which are now themselves released separately on a ‘complete BBC’ set and a tiny smattering of other oddities whilst doubling the price, doesn’t really compare.

The Searchers (entire catalogue 1963-65; Pye/Vellvel/Castle, mid 1990s)

The Searchers are another band originally on Pye who have been well served on CD, far better than they ever were at the time. Alas The Searchers only made five albums and don’t have quite as many outtakes in the vaults as some other bands out there. What they did do, however, is release loads and loads of singles which are all here on relevant albums along with the odd outtake and foreign language recordings. Better still, Pye have chosen to include these in the ‘middle’ of an album, separating mono and stereo copies of each album on one single disc, offering good value for money. The packaging of these CDs, too, are among the best AAA CDs out there, interviews with all the then-surviving Searchers being compacted into a long essay which turned into a fold-out poster. Considering how awfully little has ever been written about this band, it was a great opportunity to get to the heart of the Searchers story. It’s sad that there aren’t more rarities on them – and I’m still waiting for the collection of post-album As and B sides which would make one of the greatest AAA albums of all time if they were finally issued altogether on CD instead of drip-fed onto compilations and box sets – but these five CDs are presented with a lot of love and a lot of care and that’s all you can really ask for record companies looking to make some money out of old material.

That’s all for this week. Join us again next time for some more news, views and music, whatever medium you’re using to listen to these albums!

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
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2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands

160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)

161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches

162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs

163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)

164) AAA Songs About Islands

165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended

167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock

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