❉ Our series on noteworthy recent reissues, including the new Prince collection.
PRINCE – 4Ever (CD, November 2016, NPG Records/Warner Bros Records)
This is nothing less than the definitive collection of Prince’s greatest hits and album tracks from his peak Warner Bros era.
After the unexpected loss of a musical icon, certain things become expected. Their catalog sales will soar for a while, as people who count themselves as fans suddenly feel the urge to own more of the artist’s work, and new hits compilations will be released that either appear to be cash-grabs or loving testimonies to the artist’s oeuvres. This year has seen prime examples of both types: The cynical and lazy ‘Bowie Legacy’, which is just a very slight rejiggering of the 2-CD version of David Bowie’s own hand-selected ‘Nothing Has Changed’ compilation, and ‘4Ever’, the first new Prince collection in ages, which provides for the first time on CD the 7” mixes and edits of many of Prince’s greatest hits, plus a legendary unreleased but oft-bootlegged outtake from the ‘1999’ sessions, the gorgeous Moonbeam Levels. Sound quality throughout is generally superb and avoids “loudness wars”-style compression. This is nothing less than the definitive collection of Prince’s greatest hits and album tracks from his peak Warner Bros era, providing an excellent overview of the Purple One’s genius to neophytes and value to long-time fans alike.
ALICE COOPER – Billion Dollar Babies (LP, October 2016, Rhino/Warner Bros Records)
This beautiful 4,000-copy limited edition of what is arguably the Coop’s greatest album featured as part of Rhino’s first “Rocktober” initiative in 2016. Kind of a month-long Record Store Day, Rocktober featured colored vinyl reissues of some highly sought-after titles which hadn’t seen reissues in recent years, such as The Faces’ ‘First Step’ and Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head.’ The jewel of the program was this loving reproduction of ‘Dollar Babies’, in a perfect reproduction of the original textured gatefold sleeve, complete with punch-out photos and the famous billion-dollar bill mini-poster. The LP is a gorgeous multicolored green, yellow and orange perfectly complementing the shades on the sleeve. And the best part is that it sounds like a billion dollars, babies. I swear unto you that I have never noticed the cannon blasts toward the end of Hello, Hooray before this edition. Buy it if you see it.
R.E.M. – Out of Time (LP, November 2016, Concord Bicycle Music/UMG)
R.E.M. recently moved their Warner Bros-era catalog to Concord Bicycle Music, and this reissue is the first fruit of that new relationship. A desirable slab of wax from 1991 selling for between $50-$90 in recent years, ‘Out of Time’ had avoided vinyl reissue for years, which made this a highly anticipated return to print in an affordable edition. Sad to say, unlike Rhino/Warner Bros vibrant reissue of R.E.M.’s ‘Green’ a few years back, this reissue is simply not that exciting. There seems to be compression throughout that has lessened the music’s dynamics. When a longtime favorite song like Losing My Religion can’t draw me in with its dramatic power, something is wrong. Not a bad reissue, but not nearly as good as it could have been, I think.
DEAD CAN DANCE – Garden of the Arcane Delights/Peel Sessions, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun, Toward the Within (LP, November 2016, 4AD)
This latest batch of Dead Can Dance reissues from 4AD continue in the same vein of quality as the first trio I reviewed a couple months back. Perhaps the most welcome to fans is the expanded edition of the ‘Garden of the Arcane Delights’ 45RPM 12” EP, which is now housed in a gatefold sleeve and features an extra LP of the eight tracks they cut for John Peel’s radio show, including a couple that have never featured on an official release before. This is fan service! Meanwhile, the studio ‘Within the Realm of a Dying Sun’ and the live ‘Toward the Within’ are both big, gorgeous recordings, with immense mood, dynamics and power, well-presented on these new vinyl pressings.
❉ Next Column: Several new early Frank Zappa reissues, and the next set of Pink Floyd LPs.