Bad Company, the Beatles + Jethro Tull: Questioning Classic Rock Reissues

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So, what’s the point of reissues anyway?

There are those who might say albums from the classic-rock era are entering their 40th and 50th anniversaries these days, and some of them could use a sonic upgrade. After all, at the time pop music was usually understood to be of the moment, a hit being defined as a quick run to the top of the charts and accompanying massive sales. However, there was often little thought of how those analog recordings might sound in some as then-unimaginable future digital age.

Of course, if you’re a cynical type, reissues are nothing more than a great marketing tactic for selling aging baby boomers yet another copy of the cultural comfort food that fed their youthful rebellion.

So, ready for a refreshing stroll down memory lane, or happy just to plod along with musical zombies who refuse to die? Let’s put that discussion aside for another time, and look at some recent restorations and resurrections …

BAD COMPANY – RUN WITH THE PACK (1976); BURNIN’ SKY (1977), DELUXE EDITIONS: In 2015, Bad Company started their reissue program with deluxe versions of their first two releases, Bad Company and Straight Shooter. Both exemplified what should be found in any definitive reissue: good remastering, interesting alternate takes, and unreleased gems.

The reissues of Bad Company’s third and fourth long players, Run With the Pack and Burnin’ Sky, have the requisite fine remasters of the original albums, but are sorely lacking in the bonus-material department. In that respect, they more closely resemble last year’s Led Zeppelin updates. If you need to complete your Bad Company collection, fine; otherwise, feel free to stick to your current LP or CD.

JETHRO TULL – SONGS FROM THE WOOD (1977), 40th ANNIVERSARY EDITION: Jethro Tull have had quite a few of their old albums given the Steven Wilson update treatment of late, and with great results. But one would have expected those early platters, recorded in relative antiquity, to be greatly improved by any kind of aural massage. On the other hand, Songs From the Wood was always a good-sounding album, so how much better could it actually get?

Predictably, Steven Wilson tweaks everything just enough to smarten it all up without changing the original vibe, a talent he’s employed with catalogue material from other prog rock artists like Yes, King Crimson, and Emerson Lake and Palmer. In other words, it really does sound a little better.

As well, the eight bonus tracks are worthy additions to the Jethro Tull canon, particularly the unreleased, nearly nine-minute-long “Old Aces Die Hard.” There are also 2 discs of a 1977 concert, and 2 DVDs that contain more audio mixes and video footage, and detailed notes and interviews.

Highly recommended, particularly to Jethro Tull fans who thought the archive cupboards might have been emptied by now.

THE BEATLES – SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1967), DELUXE EDITION: As I’ve always admitted, I came to the great Beatles’ shindig late. Part of it was just bad timing, being just a little too young to feel their impact as it was unfolding. But part of it was that compared to the ’60s counter-cultural revolutionaries from California, the early ’70s English hard rockers, and the late ’70s punks, the Beatles and their legacy seemed to be always about trying too hard to stay relevant.

Such was the perspective of an aspiring teenage metal head, anyway. But even after I was old enough to know better, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the one album with which I never connected. It always seemed overrated, full of lightweight filler to pad out two great numbers: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “A Day in the Life.”

Given that, I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much better the album sounded on the Beatles massive 2009 remastered mono box. And now, this year’s 50th anniversary stereo remix by Giles Martin goes one step further. It shows the Beatles were still a pretty fine band, regardless of the concept album context in which they placed themselves. In particular, Ringo Starr really shines. On the original stereo version, he always sounded like he was simply along for the ride; instead, in the new mix, he sounds like he’s the one driving the bus.

The two CD set also contains some mildly interesting alternate versions, as well as updated mixes of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane,” both from the same Sgt. Pepper sessions but at the time released separately as a single.

Overall, it’s a pretty solid package, but some hard core Beatlemaniacs will probably quibble over whether it’s definitive. Personally, I’m all for it; but then again, I prefer the remixed Let It Be… Naked to the sloppy, dull flatness of the original Let It Be artifact. Maybe in another 50 years, the Beatles’ great-grandchildren will release the 5-Dimensional Quantum Holographic Mix of Sgt. Pepper… Naked and settle that argument once and for all.


JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at
JC Mosquito
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