Deluxe schmucks

In the face of declining CD sales, it's interesting how a new format for music has emerged. Namely the hardcover-style packaging for albums that seems to often hold the deluxe version of the stuff that also exists as mp3, vinyl maybe and presumably standard-issue jewel case CD.

I confess to owning a couple of these and, to be honest, they mess with my storage space for CDs a bit as they're about four times the size of the others. It's like the upsized version of a CD, the boutique flavour of beer, the superlative of words or something.

I've bought two so far: Angus and Julia Stone because I was curious about the packaging and, Beck's Guero for the extra content.

The extra content is a defining characteristic of the deluxe edition, an incentive for the would-be collectors. With the Beck came a couple remixes and an over-designed DVD, the latter oft freezes up while playing these sorta interesting designs.

In fact, Beck seems to be strongly associated with the idea of a deluxe edition album. Odelay has recently been re-released in this format and I think The Information, with its DIY cover and accompanying DVD, was a kind of blueprint for the concept.

However, on this occasion I'm going to disagree with Beck. IMO the deluxe album concept would be better served by having people dream up new content as much as repackage it.

Here's what I mean:
  • Imagine your favourite album.
  • Now think about a similar and perhaps massively popular album. Say, Massive Attack's Protection album.
  • Now think about how excellent the massively popular Massive Attacks's Protection album was in the Mad Professor's No Protection interpretation of it.

That's the deluxe album I want.

Let me suggest some possible deluxe album releases, starting with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' BloodSugarSexMagik. In a recent interview with Tape Op magazine, John Frusciante said that album came back from being mixed with Rick Rubin and sounded different to how Frusciante had envisaged it. I would like to hear his version of the album. (And, while they're at it, they should include the track Soul to Squeeze since that was a strong single in its own right even after they squandered it on the Coneheads soundtrack album.)

Even though I often thought the success of Nirvana's Nevermind was largely due to the sparkling production of Butch Vig, it would be interesting to hear those seminal tracks reworked with a drier sound like that on their other albums.

Fugazi would provide great material for a remix. I liked what Luke Vibert did with Tortoise, so he'd be a good starting point. (BTW, the guitar picks below came from Kris Novoselic and Ian McKaye when they played the ANU Bar, Canberra in the '90s.)

EMI should think about splitting up the Radiohead master tapes amongst some talented producers. I'd like to hear Brian Eno take the edge off the electronic sessions that became Kid A and Amnesiac. Or it would be good for Photek to add new programming. Hell, I'd be happy if their greatest hits package had come with an album of remixes like the best of Prince CD I've got.

And Dub Side of the Moon has already shown the massive potential for Pink Floyd to be reworked. If the Mad Professor weren't available then Massive Protection could do something fascinating. Or that producer who did so many great remixes for them, I think the name was Underdog. Hell, I'd guess Pink Floyd could pick and choose by doing something like Radiohead and offering up the stems from their recording sessions. That could be interesting.

There are so many opportunities for recording artists to be given a new life through this sort of repackaging. It's a shame that all I see is new packaging in the shops when it's what's inside that counts.