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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Aim is True

As incredible as Elvis Costello's early material is, I am very miffed at the news that his first eleven albums are going to be reissued on CD again. I wonder now: can you reissue something too many times? Whatever happened to reissuing something once until vastly superior technology is available? Do the record companies think we're that stupid with re-releasing stuff after only a few years?

I thought I hit pay dirt when I got Rykodisc's versions of Costello's first four albums. Bonus tracks were on every CD and even a rip-roaring live concert CD came with a box set. Well, then Rhino got the rights to the records and did a kick-ass job of remastering and reissuing all of his albums up to All This Useless Beauty. Each album came with pristine sound, a bonus disc of material and fantastic liner notes from Mr. Costello himself. What more could us Costello fans want? Apparently more, according to the powers that be at Universal.

I don't know if Rhino's versions of the first eleven albums will go out of print now that Universal has taken over, but I flat out refuse to buy these new reissues. I'm totally fine with my Rhino double-disc remasters of My Aim is True, This Year's Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy! and Greatest Hits -- how can you convince me that I need these newer ones?

Remastering and repackaging albums have been a tricky ploy for some time now. I'm sure my friend Merritt knows a few things about all the times David Bowie's catalog has been reissued in the last decade. The rarities included on these packages are what the die-hard fans want, so why does this feel like abuse? Do the labels think we're completely stupid and don't remember when definitive reissues come out?

I've heard that U2 will be releasing another 'greatest hits' package this holiday season. Let's see, the last time U2 issued a greatest hits package, it was before How to Dismantle An Atom Bomb came out in '04. Now this new package is coming out in '06, what more could we possibly get that wasn't on the separate Best of 1980-1990 and Best of 1990-2000 collections?

It's one thing for a label to reissue some crappy mall emo band's album a year after it came out, but I'm talking about acts who have stood the test of time. Elvis Costello's music is still as fresh as it was in the late-'70s (the same with Bowie and U2), so when is enough truly enough? What about all sorts of other artists that have yet to receive the deluxe reissue treatment? Is it too much to ask for Tom Waits' or Neil Young's back catalogs to get the reissue treatment once?

1 comment:

Treblephone said...

I love Elvis Costello. Like you, I've bought the last two reissues.....but no more. This has more to do with catalog rights acquisition than anything.

And when Bowie reissued everything on Virgin, I kept my Ryko reissues. The 'thrill' of a bonus video and remastering wasn't enough to make me give up the bonus tracks which were subsequently deleted from the Virgin reissues. [He did, however, get me on the 30th anniversary double disc ones of ZS, AS, and DD; I don't see how anything of worth can come past a double-disc set.]

Oh, the U2 will most certainly be a single-disc set spanning the whole career for the casual fan, that they can sell perenially at Wal-Mart....mark my words. And I bet it comes in 'limited' packaging with a DVD, which will subsequently be issued separately.

The modern-day major record company has turned into a cross between a museum curator and a carnival huckster. Even moreso now than ever.