BY SIMON SWEETMAN
Those double-disc and multi-set reissues where a "classic" or "forgotten" album is re-released, under the tag-line of improved sound, a whole new "re-mastered" experience...with a slew of extras, the demos of songs in their earliest shape, a handful of moments not good enough for the finished album, live versions of the same songs from the album - and alternate takes or remixes (and sometimes you can't at all spot the difference)...yes, they're designed to milk money, to get people to buy albums they already have, or buy into hype around something long forgotten. Most obviously anniversary editions...
But every now and then a reissue of an old album comes along and does the job - not merely because the bells and whistles and shiny things attached make it seem nice/r - sometimes it's about the timing, all of a sudden the chance (presented right in front of you) to hear an album again and maybe - somehow - hear it properly means you're sold when previously you weren't.
That's a long, awkward intro when all I wanted to say was the Wings album Venus and Mars never meant much to me but now I love it! There's an extensive Paul McCartney/Wings reissue project underway and in most cases I've been collecting up the reissues because I loved the original albums but am left with scratchy old vinyl from my parents. The first time the post-Beatles work of Paul McCartney was put on CD it was, in most cases, totally botched. Weak-sounding, thin, those lazy transfers - and in the case of Venus and Mars I could never really get on board with the original album because it didn't sound great to me. Sonically, I mean - not so much song-wise. But I just never gave it a chance at any rate.
Venus and Mars was recently reissued in tandem with Wings At The Speed of Sound - that was a Wings record I always liked; the reissue is good too, fine, happy to have it but it was no revelation to hear it (although there's a track with John Bonham on, so that's of interest). But all of a sudden Venus and Mars feels like a brand new album, like a record I never gave anywhere enough time.
There are the sweet, twee, nearly hokey songs that Macca does, there are soulful tunes and some flat-out rockers, it's a great survey of almost all of the songwriting styles he had to offer post-Beatles.
Maybe I was just hooked on Band on the Run as a kid and wrote this off as an inferior follow-up. I don't know what it was - can't answer it actually - but this was always the weakest Wings album in my mind. Now it's some long-lost gem, shining jewel in the crown, one of Sir Paul's finest - complete - albums. It also really cements the idea of Wings as a band, a unit, an entity, not just the new name that Paul McCartney was using. The perfect bridge between Band on the Run and Speed of Sound.
Anyway, I'm sure I've lost many of you at the mention of Wings or McCartney - and that was never the point of today's (hoped) discussion.
The point, simply, was to get you discussing similar examples - times when, even if it's some sort of record-company con-job, you've suddenly discovered an album 20, 30, 40 years old that you never gave the time of day all those years ago and the thing that sold it to you was the chance to hear it again, maybe the shiny new package lured you in, maybe the bells and whistles weren't, in the end, anything special, but you saw through those, ignored them even, and heard the magic of the original album - finally.
It's sometimes just about timing. I guess an enthusiasm towards this Wings/McCartney reissue program had me curious to finally sit down - properly - with the Venus and Mars album. Anyway, I found songs likeWings Letting Go to be magic, where previously they had just passed me by, meant nothing.
It's nice to find something new out of something old like that.
What examples do you have of a reissue of a classic or perhaps cult-classic/underrated/forgotten album finally making sense to you - or seeming like the greatest new discovery - when you bought (into) the reissued version?
Postscript: Tom Doyle's excellent book about Paul McCartney's 1970s work first sold me on the idea of going back to Venus and Mars, a really great book. Thoroughly recommended.
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