Pirates and Producers

A decade ending, a new generation metaphorically taking power in the person of Barack Obama [and, being a member of Generation X - yes, being born in 1961 pretty much places you in such category - appropriately this shift in power has meant next to nothing], deaths unsettling but not surprising...

Perhaps it's fitting that the phonographic legacies of some of the major artists of the Twentieth Century have finally been addressed: namely, The Beatles, Neil Young, and Kraftwerk.

For all the justified critiques coming their way, the two Beatles boxes, taken together, present the recordings made by the band during their actual existence in their entirety (except, apparently, the fan-club Christmas records) as clearly as they've ever been organized, and sounding as good as they ever have. The only glaring mistake about the whole operation is that the mono set - though with fewer discs, and not featuring the short films about each album included with the stereo set - costs more.

Of course, one could ask why the stereo and mono versions can't be put on the same discs, especially as most of the band's albums are shorter than 40 minutes. However, by giving such mainstream attention to the mono mixes, McCartney and co. have given hope to listeners who want proper re-masters of mono versions from other pre-stereophonic era. Here and there, mono versions have been included (such as the deluxe versions of Village Green Preservation Society, Da Capo, or Odyssey and Oracle) but they're certainly exceptions.

I'd assumed that the Young Archives would only feature previously-unreleased tracks. Apparently, I believed so because I wanted so: after all, Young stated clearly enough that Decade provided the model, and that triple L P had mostly been previously-released material. My mistake! Meanwhile, Young's also reissuing his past albums (the Official Release Series), though one wonders if On the Beach, American Stars 'n Bars, Hawks and Doves, and Re-ac-tor will be remastered again, having already been properly done so when finally released digitally in the '90's. And what happened to the soundtrack for Journey Through the Past?

In other words, Young's presenting us with two different versions of his musical biography: the first consists of the Archives sets: album tracks interspersed with rare and previously-unreleased material; but with the live discs (the Performance Series) not always included (or at least disc 0 not included) and being released separately either way, the series having been initiated before the first Archives box. The second consists of the albums themselves, no bonus tracks attached. For those who are purchasing the Blu-Ray versions, perhaps the extra material made available to them will eventually include the album tracks not included on the Archives discs, as well as other rare tracks so far excluded (this latter task is what the Blu-Ray updates have offered so far). One would assume, though, that Young would let potential Blu-Ray purchasers know if such was the case, so that these hardiest of spendthrift fans don't feel inclined to buy the remastered original albums only to find they weren't being ripped off after all. For now, those who want all the material - no matter how they go about it - are indeed being ripped off.

While I've not listened to the Kraftwerk Catalogue yet, it is of course closer to the Beatles sets in that they aim to present the official releases of the time (that is, beyond the first, second, and third albums...) in pristine form; no rarities, nothing new. The original C D's of their albums already sounded decent, so given the apparent care with which Ralf Hütter has remastered them, surely plenty sonic wonders await. As with The Beatles, two alternate versions of the music are presented - in this case, though, the difference comes with the vocals: English- and German-language versions, as the albums were originally released. While one could say that the mono mixes are primary in the case of the Beatles because they were done first, with greater input from the artists, in this case the notion that the German vocals come first is not so clear. On the broader, "meta" level, the band had such a remarkable effect on the music of English-speaking peoples, among many others. And for the individual English-speaking listener, the song being significant even with a band famous for its electronic instrumentation, personal listening experiences of the song in their language reign supreme (unless of course one now listens to the German-language versions so many times the memories of the other versions dissipate).