Perfect Sound Forever

The Vinyl Anachronist

by Marc Phillips
Part XXIX: Reissue Fever
(November 2001)

"Lemme say one more time... anyone who cries about how there isn't any good music anymore has their ears closed or is pitifully stuck in the past."

That's Jason Gross, our fearless PSF leader, again dispensing musical wisdom. And for the most part, I've always agreed wholeheartedly with him. In fact, just a few months ago, I found myself in a heated debate with a friend of mine who stated that there was nothing in the current world of popular music that could match the "complexity" of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" or Genesis' "Supper's Ready." At first, I threw out a few examples such as Yo La Tengo's "Night Falls On Hoboken," which he dismissed as an unending drone, and Radiohead's "Paranoid Android," which, at a bit over seven minutes long, was dismissed as not long enough. Then I realized I was taking the wrong approach. Since when was "complexity" a desirable trait in the world of rock and roll? Isn't the beauty of rock contained in its simplicity, its less-than-three-minutes of sheer celebration and booty-wigglin'? Wasn't "The New Wave" a solution to the cumbersome, plodding, so-called progressive monster that rock had become in the '70's?

My friend remained unshaken. "They just don't make them like they used to," he replied.

Usually, I am a staunch defender of new music, and I'm always on the lookout for something original, something challenging, and something new on the modern scene. But lately I feel that we blew our collective wad, creativity-wise, right around the turn of the millennium. 1999 was such a great year for the arts. It was the best year for film in a decade. Music was headed in some promising directions (I finally started hearing country music that didn't make me wince!). And the wife and I were able to got out and stick our noses within an inch or two of 75 of Van Gogh's most famous paintings. I spent almost an hour standing in front of "Wheatfield with Crows" alone! Yes, Art was good.

Then came Y2K, and we all heaved a sigh of relief that the world didn't implode under the weight of its... uh... "complexity." We all kicked back and relaxed. We became complacent. We forgot to create new things. Film became dreadfully mediocre, with every week producing a new candidate for "Worst Film of the Year." Fashion became unexciting, with the glaring exception of women's low-cut jeans (yowzah!). I can still get compliments on a shirt I bought a decade ago. And music... well, let's say we collectively looked back and said, "Music WAS cool in the '70's. Why were we so embarrassed about it before?" I know that Jason is going to hit me up for my year's best records any week now. And with the most interesting, satisfying releases coming from Marvin Gaye, Led Zeppelin, and George Harrison, my list is going to look like the Best of 1971 rather than 2001.

All is not lost, however. There are some promising new developments of late. Bob Dylan, at the age of sixty, can evidently still pull masterpieces out of his ass. Lucinda Williams still continues to hypnotize me with her earthy, direct songwriting. And even though some people object to the anti-rock direction Radiohead has taken with their last two albums, they're still the most interesting thing in alternative, and that includes the so-called twee rock movement. And it's great that I can get all this on LP still. But the news in 2001 is all about the reissues. We're not talking simple remasterings, but complete reworkings of great classic albums. So it's not "they don't make 'em like they used to," but "they don't make 'em like they used to so they remake them even better... we think." So let's talk about the most worthwhile new reissues, on both LP and (I know, I know) CD.

If this all sounds like good news to you, then it's about to get much better. All of the Beatles' original releases will be reissued on--get this--the Apple label before the end of the year. We also have the Allman Brothers' Brothers and Sisters coming out on LP, as well as Walter Carlos' Switched On Bach, Johnny Cash's The Fabulous Johnny Cash, The Damned's Grave Disorder, The Dead's Terrapin Station, Tom Petty's Hard Promises, X's Under the Big Black Sun and many more. And, scouting the reissue landscape right now, I see that Mott the Hoople's Mott and All the Young Dudes, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Simon and Garfunkle's Bridge Over Troubled Water, Yes's Fragile and Close to the Edge, Genesis' Foxtrot and Selling England by the Pound, Carole King's Tapestry, Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, and Steely Dan's Can't Buy A Thrill are currently available and selling well on LP.

Now if all this good news could translate to new vinyl releases, then I'll be happy. Between you and me, if I head to the record store one more time and see nothing in the new vinyl bins but "Techno Mixes," people are gonna get hurt.

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