Bonus Tracks

Musical Fodder For Suckers....
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OK, I am going to complain about something that I buy into every time it is offered – reissue/remastered CDs with bonus tracks and box sets. It happens to every “Legacy” (i.e., old), artist to get suckers like me who bought the original versions to buy the latest format to get those rare B sides and demos on CD for the first time.

By my count I have bought five different versions of The Byrd’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo. The original LP at age 12, (not counting a replacement due to overplaying the first one), the 8 Track at 14, the CD at 28, the premastered CD with bonus tracks at 45, the “Deluxe” Legacy Edition at 50. And this does not even count the TWO Byrd’s box sets that like a heroin addict, I bought on release. I have enough and I don’t even care if Roger and the ghost of Gram play it live in my living room, I ain’t buying it again.

I can give you more examples of culprits:

The Who – sure I love them, but do I really need another version or mix of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” just to get a song that deserved to be off the original LP in the first place? Pete Townshend’s first solo record was pretty bad on it’s own but John Lombardo, guitarist with 10,000 Maniacs, made the best comment after we visited the Ryko office years ago: “Do we really need to hear a song that was not good enough to be on this record in the first place?” By my recollection there are five different versions of Live At Leeds including the ultra-expensive box set.

Van Morrison is next. Full disclosure, I loathe this person as a man but think his catalog of music is as close to heaven that mere mortals can stand. That was a personal statement. His recordings are not based on sound; they are based on feelings so why do we need to re-buy his catalog every five years?

THE Freaking BONUS TRACKs!!!

Possibly the worst culprit is Elvis Costello. I can remember the night I first heard him on the radio (WVOK-FM), in 1977 and my whole body shook. I could not believe that an artist on a major label can be this honest and open with lyrics and music to match. When he came to my hometown for the “Armed Forces” tour I made sure I was front and center and it was a religious experience. It was a couple of nights later Bonnie Bramlett twisted his arm over the drunken racist comment about Ray Charles. Elvis apologized and we accepted and continued to love him. His manager tried to present him as a bad-ass but anyone with intelligence could see this man as a genius – a too busy genius. Like Van Morrison, slow down man – less is more. In the intervening years I have met Elvis on several occasions and he really is a gentleman and possibly the best artist since The Beatles but why does he tempt me with these constant re-releases. I have not collected the numbers but I think Elvis puts out more tapes than Bin Laden.

Neil Young does it right: collect the songs, let them breathe and then sell them for a ridiculous price. Who is this guy fooling? I would like to know how many people actually bought the $250.00 “Archives” and listened to the whole thing. I have a feeling we could count them on 2 hands. And he is threatening to bring out volume two. At this point does anyone care? I have Harvest, Time Fades Away, On the Beach and Zuma. Do I really need more?

That brings me to Bob Dylan. Bob never really cared about sonic quality in the first place so remastered CDs were just a marketing tool for Sony/Columbia Records. Yes, I have the new versions and they sound great but they sounded great the first time I bought them.

Neil, Bob. and The Beatles do the remasters right – no bonus tracks. They put the extras on separate releases. Of course, I had to have the 5th version of The Stones’ Exile On Main Street but all the bonus tracks were on a second disc – the way it should be. Were the bonus tracks worthy of the first release?