I’ve been listening to Pet Sounds a lot lately. Maybe it’s the dreary weather; whenever I put on some Beach Boys things feel a bit sunnier. But it’s a heck of a record (as I’m sure most of you know) – one of those rarified few that’s hard to chop down entirely.
It’s also fascinating that it’s one on a rather short list of pop albums that have supported its own box set. The sprawling The Pet Sounds Sessions, released in 1997, chronicles the process of the album through alternate mixes, outtakes, other session excerpts and – perhaps most notably – the first-time stereo mix of the record. It was and is a fascinating listen.
So much so, in fact, that I’ve scoured many a discography lately trying to think of some albums that are worthy of such a treatment. There are already several album/box sets out there I can immediately think of. The Stooges had a few album boxes: Rhino Handmade released the massive 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions box in 1999, and Raw Power was tackled twice (one six-disc set by Easy Action Records in 2005 and the triple-disc box coming from Legacy this April).
Legacy has done a few album boxes based on some of their best-known singer-songwriters. Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run got the deluxe treatment in 2005, adding two DVDs to the mix. A similar approach was taken for Billy Joel’s The Stranger in 2008, which added an unreleased live set and a DVD. (Lightning will strike again soon, as Springsteen has discussed plans to do a similar box set for Darkness on the Edge of Town.)
I’m sure there are more. But as with most remastered-music discussions on The Second Disc, I’m interested as much in what can be as I am in what already is. To that end, I offer just a few ideas to the album/box set idea pile. As always, though, I would love to hear your ideas, too. Read on after the jump.
- Michael Jackson, Thriller: yes, it’s the best-selling record ever. Yes, it’s been reissued twice. No, none of those reissues have gotten anywhere near to definitive status. In addition to the many demos they could include (heck, the many demos they could re-include – why did the 2001 reissue only include 90 seconds of the “Carousel” demo?), there are plenty of alternate takes and mixes in the vault. (Fascinating facts: the original lineup for Thriller lacked many of the classics we know and love today – no “Beat It,” no “Billie Jean,” etc. What could the other songs possibly have been?!)
- Prince, Dream Factory/Crystal Ball/Sign “O” the Times: when the double-LP Sign “O” the Times came out in 1987 it was hailed as a masterpiece by critics. If only they knew what it took to come out. The album – Prince’s first after dissolving The Revolution in 1986 – was rooted in project from two years prior called Dream Factory, a double-album credited to Prince and The Revolution. After Prince sidetracked himself with the Parade album and disbanded his band, he sought to issue an expanded, triple-disc version of Dream Factory, now known as Crystal Ball, but Warner Bros. forced him to cut the set to a double album, which became Sign. Parallel to that, there was the infamous Black Album as well as a planned side project, “Camille,” which called for songs sung by Prince and sped up to sound as if a woman had performed them. Were all of this to be released on one box set, you’d have quite a compilation on your hands.
- The Beatles, Get Back/Let It Be: it may not be their absolute best album, but perhaps more than any of The Beatles’ albums, this one would be interesting to give a full box treatment. If one could track through all the sessions and mixes that ended up on this record – not to mention the Let It Be film, one of the biggest rockumentaries unavailable on DVD – well, it wouldn’t make up for splitting the stereo and mono boxes, but it would be something indeed.