good tunes always find a way back

cast of GLEE

by jack diablo
Rereleasing classic albums is by no means a recent phenomenon. Each new form of media that comes out creates a demand for everything that came before it find new life with the latest technology. It is practically a given that at some point, every piece of recorded music will be digitized and available as an mp3. But what about when an album is rereleased on the very same format it was originally?
Reissues of both timeless and modern classic albums have flooded the market at an increasing rate in recent years. The demand for repackaged goods is surprising, especially in light of the price tag many reissues carry. You could be looking at as much as $200 for an “ultra-deluxe” version of that life-changing album. So just what could possibly be so special about a CD that would make it worth so much money?
First of all, not all reissues boast such dramatic price points. Most, however, do cost more than a regular album. More often than not they include bonus material in various forms. Multi-disc sets typically feature the original material plus bonuses such as live performances, DVDs, books, etc. These packages are marketed towards the most fanatical of fans who, upon learning of such an item, will develop an obsessive compulsion and stop at nothing in order to possess it.
Audiophiles are also a target audience for remastered music. Using their high-end analog home stereo equipment, they can now hear that cough from Keith Richards in the second verse of ‘Gimme Shelter’ or point out the moment when Stephen Malkmus scratches his ear on ‘Summer Baby.’ All joking aside, recent advances in technology have allowed music that was recorded years ago to be manipulated and tweaked to realize its highest potential.
Bands like the Rolling Stones, Pavement and the Beach Boys are notorious for giving their albums the deluxe rerelease treatment. Recently, college rock band R.E.M. began releasing reissues of their albums to coincide with the 25th anniversaries of their initial release. So far they have released their debut, Murmur, and sophomore album, Reckoning (see album review below).
You may remember when The Beatles released their albums on CD back in 1987. Well, we’ve come a long way since then, baby, and Apple Corps / EMI plan on doing it all over again later this year with the promise of higher fidelity. It is unclear as of now whether or not digital media will be available.
Last month, the Pixies released a box set that included five of their early albums in two separate editions. The Deluxe Edition contains a Blu-ray disc of all five albums and a DVD with a live performance and music videos for $175. Chump change compared to the $450 price tag found on the Limited Edition, which adds 180 gram vinyl copies of the albums, a hardcover book and a Giclee print to the Deluxe Edition.
Pearl Jam released a whopping four different versions of their seminal album, Ten. The frugal fan can pick up the Legacy Edition, a two CD set, for around $20 or splurge for the Super Deluxe Edition for as much as $200.
It’s a trend that many find frivolous, but enough are willing to fork out the dough to own these collector’s items that a viable market remains.
Ultimately, whether or not shelling out extra bucks for an old album is worth the money is a personal matter. But reissues may offer music fans the opportunity to revisit or rediscover classic albums and expand upon the listening experience.