Archive for June 23rd, 2011
At first I thought there wasn’t much to post about this article from MusicWeek. Queen and Universal are throwing their support behind the iTunes LP for the band’s upcoming reissues (the next batch of which is out next week). Big deal, right?
But then I thought about a few paragraphs from the middle of the piece, that really seem to tell a more intriguing story than the idea of a band trying to promote their catalogue titles:
Universal’s commitment to iTunes LP could prove a shot in the arm for the format, which has yet to really break through since launch in September 2009, despite acts like Gorillaz experimenting with the format and The Beatles’ albums being available as iTunes LPs.
Criticisms of iTunes LP have included the price – they can be as much as twice the price of a standard digital album – and the fact that they only work on the iTunes desktop, so consumers don’t get the full experience on an iPad or iPhone.
I think, in a nutshell, these paragraphs pretty accurately sum up the issues of the format. Look, here’s the problem (and I realize I’m not saying anything groundbreaking, but here it is): nobody seems certain of which demographic the iTunes LP (never a favorite format at The Second Disc) is meant to cater to. As with even physical products, older fans aren’t going to spring for it if the content isn’t totally excellent and deserving of the deluxe treatment (that’s not even taking into consideration the whole “older consumers will stick to physical product” argument). And younger fans aren’t going to see any value in bonus content, since they’ve been trained by years of downloading to not see a whole heck of a lot of intrinsic value in any kind of music.
There are certainly exceptions on both sides, but the majority of people who would even be interested in the offerings of an iTunes LP would just as soon buy them in a physical format. Labels owe it to themselves to cater to that market share as long as it’s around while still figuring out some sort of strategy that will honor a deluxe package in a non-physical format – all the better for younger music fans to get hooked on.
Have you ever bought an iTunes LP? What are your thoughts on the format? What might sensibly replace them?
It appears 20th anniversary music reissues come in threes. Yesterday had words on Nirvana’s Nevermind and U2′s Achtung Baby; now, there’s word from Legacy Recordings that August will see an expanded edition of…Spin Doctors’ Pocket Full of Kryptonite.
Sure, giggle all you want, but it’s hard to deny that Spin Doctors had quite a moment in the sun in the early 1990s. Formed in New York City in the late ’80s, Spin Doctors were initially known more for their jam-friendly live shows (often performing alongside Blues Traveler, whose frontman John Popper was originally a member of the band and a friend of Spin Doctors frontman Chris Barron) than their studio work. But after increasing their fan base through the first-ever installment of the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, and heightened attention from MTV thanks to the videos for singles “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” Pocket Full of Kryptonite skyrocketed, ultimately sending two singles into the U.S. Top 20 and going triple platinum.
And hardcore fans of the band are going to have plenty to enjoy on this new reissue. The album is augmented with 17 bonus tracks, including a non-LP B-side version of closing track “Hard to Exist” and a sampling of tunes from the band’s first demo tapes, Can’t Say No (1989) and Piece of Glass (1990). The disc features several tracks from Kryptonite (including demo versions of “Two Princes” and opening track “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues”), a few tracks that ended up on future Spin Doctors LPs and some outright unreleased material. The bonus disc closes with two live tracks from the band’s lengthy tour in support of the record.
Looks like Universal’s Nevermind box set isn’t the only such package coming from the label this year. Rolling Stone‘s newest issue reports some progress on the long-expected 20th anniversary edition of U2′s Achtung Baby - and it looks like there’s going to be a few surprises in store.
The article – which
isn’t is now available online but was duly reported by @U2 and Slicing Up Eyeballs - indicates that both Achtung Baby (1991) and its follow-up, 1993′s Zooropa will be remastered and incorporated into some sort of box set, likely to be paired with other audio and video artifacts of the Zoo TV era. While the writing was on the wall for Achtung Baby - the band had been reported to have been remastering the album last year, and last month was spotted shooting documentary footage as their 360 Tour went through Canada – including Zooropa is a surprise.
Also surprising is what some have perceived to be some cynical commentary from the band’s longtime manager Paul McGuinness. ”There will be multiple formats,” McGuinness said of the project. “If you pile a lot of extra material and packaging and design work into a super-duper box set, there are people who will pay quite a lot for it, so you can budget it at a very high level and pump up the value.”
Ouch. Considering U2 have done some of the best reissues of the past few years, it’s kind of harsh for McGuinness to sound as opportunistic as he does. Maybe the skepticism is coming from the concern that an Achtung Baby reissue may finally be the U2 expansion to not live up to the hype (anyone who has the Salomé bootleg – three discs’ of Achtung outtakes – might empathize). Maybe it’s the misguided bitterness from this one author that Rattle and Hum is getting left in the lurch as reissues go.
Of course, there’s not even a firm release date for the project yet (RS vaguely cites a fall release), so perhaps judgment should be reserved for firmer details. And of course, when those details arrive, you’ll find them here!
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we take a look at notable albums and the reissues they may someday see. Long before “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “From a Distance,” Bette Midler was blazing a path like few others before or since with her blend of outrageous comedy, musical invention and pure showmanship. Yet despite a treasure trove of unreleased material, Midler’s platinum debut, The Divine Miss M, has never been expanded on CD. What might such a reissue be like?
So responded Barry Manilow earlier this month to Vanity Fair when queried whether he was nostalgic for the bathhouses he played in the early days of the 1970s as Bette Midler’s musical director. But Manilow’s stint playing for Midler at New York’s Continental Baths has entered into show biz lore, as it launched not one, but two, superstar careers that endure to the present day. As Manilow explained, “[The Continental Baths] had a cabaret stage, and they hired me as the house piano player. They asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to play piano here full-time?’ And I was like ‘Sure, why not?’ I played with all of the acts that came through, all the singers. Bette was the best of them…so I stayed with her…She was fucking brilliant. I mean it. You never saw anything like it. It topped anything Lady Gaga is doing today. And she did it without any stage tricks or fancy effects. It was just Bette and me and a drummer.” And while Manilow may sound hyperbolic, many reports at the time confirm his recollections. Bette Midler was, and is, unquestionably an original.
Midler had played her first engagement at the Baths in August 1970, after she had already begun courting much larger stages with appearances on The David Frost Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and the biggest talk show of them all, Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The girl from Hawaii who had played a lengthy run as Tzeitel in Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof and then a stint in the off-Broadway rock musical Salvation had her eyes on mainstream success. She was an instant smash with Carson on her first appearance of August 12, 1970; she began at the Baths two nights later and returned to the Tonight Show and its smitten host on August 31. Barry Manilow came into her life in late 1970 or early 1971; though exact dates are fuzzy, he became Midler’s musical director by the time of the September 1971 stand at New York’s Downstairs at the Upstairs cabaret. Though she had become the toast of New York and television with her boisterous, outrageous stage antics and wild reworkings of old standards, novelties and rock and roll tunes, Midler naturally desired to become a recording star. A 1969 demo session including her then-trademark take on Harry Akst and Grant Clark’s 1929 “Am I Blue?” was shopped around but hadn’t led anywhere. Perhaps her bawdy persona and eclectic repertoire simply couldn’t be contained on vinyl?
That all changed with the release of 1972′s The Divine Miss M on the Atlantic label. Though it received a remastered edition in 1995 and last month was reissued as an audiophile LP from Mobile Fidelity, the album has never been expanded on CD. Yet there a number of riches that still remain in the Atlantic vaults that paint a fuller picture of the hungry young performer, equal parts singer, actress and performance artist. Today’s Reissue Theory imagines a 2-CD expanded edition of Midler’s eclectic, electric debut. Hit the jump for a story involving Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, music legend Ahmet Ertegun, Philly soul architect Thom Bell, jazz guru Joel Dorn, Brill Building stalwart Doc Pomus, and of course, Barry Manilow and Bette Midler! Read the rest of this entry »