Album reissue offers rebirth to the classics
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
To a small, music-centric minority, a new trend in music – the album reissue – is threatening the significance of albums that once held deep personal meaning. An album reissue is the re-releasing of an album, usually as a part of a promotional campaign. The purpose for an album reissue can range from upgraded audio quality to bonus material to new liner notes. While this may seem to be a proprietary idea to some, others feel that it symbolizes the money-mongering machine that has swallowed the music industry. However, in some cases album reissues can symbolize a second wind for a classic hit, and be a blessing, not a burden.
A common way we cope with uncertainty is labeling others as one of two extremes – those who say and those who do, givers and takers, lovers and fighters. But my dichotomy is much less profound. There are those who hear music and those who listen to music. And if you’re one of those that listen to music, you understand the significance a truly great album can have on a life. It can change perspectives, open doors, even save lives. But when an album is repackaged and released yet again, does the album undergo an artistic rebirth or lose its significance?
Album reissues have become commonplace over the past few years, especially among classic rock bands, including The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. But reissues are now occurring as soon as just one year after an album’s release, which occurred last year with Arcade Fire’s Grammy-winning album “The Suburbs.” Many complain that the reissues are marketing ploys meant to exploit music fans and that they pose no increased value compared to the original album. While this cynical point of view seems to dominate the music realm, the concept of re-releasing an album isn’t all inherently negative. For artists, album reissues can be a catalyst to resurrect the creative process.
Occasionally, album reissues are done without a band’s consent. Record label UMe/Bicycle Music Company reissued Nine Inch Nails’ “Pretty Hate Machine” last year despite lead singer Trent Reznor’s outspoken rejection to the repackaging. Under similar circumstances, EMI Records re-released 14 of The Beatles’ albums in 2009. Those reissues dominated the charts for months to follow.
When the band is involved in the reissue, as was the case with the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” box set, it can be met with great acclaim and profit. The reissue involved new packaging, DVDs and bonus material. Fans greeted the new packaging and material with approval, and, according to Rolling Stone, it is the most successful reissue of all time.
Pitchfork recently named Bright Eyes’ recent reissue of groundbreaking album “Fevers and Mirrors” the Best Reissue of the year thus far. They even increased their album rating by three full points to a perfect nine – an unprecedented occurrence from the nit-picking music critics. A truly great album can morph with radically changing times, rather than decay from irrelevancy.
So what changed? It was essentially the same album with the exception of a few bonus tracks. The album reissue thrusts bodies of work back into public domain and allows for it to be examined under new social contexts. What may have been a meaningless song 10 years ago could be the anthem of a nation now. It allows a fresh perspective regarding musical expression.
In the end, it’s still the song you screamed along with in your first car, the album that scored your first relationship – it’s all the same … just in shiny new packages.