Paperlate: A Pause For Quiet Reflection

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Along with the LP revival we’re now being offered all these limited edition box sets to eat into our (limited) shelf space. So I have to ask: are they worth it?

There’s no doubt that there are some wonderful (and thoughtfully-produced) sets out there, but some, to me, are blatant cash-ins. All this music has been sitting in the record company’s vaults earning next-to-nothing, sometimes for decades, before someone realises what an asset/goldmine/ka-ching they’ve got on their hands. They turn up the volume a bit (calling it a remaster), maybe bung in a few rare photos, a few work-in-progress tracks, possibly a live track or three, and put everything into an expensive and lavish-looking box that they charge the earth for. Take, for example, the Yes 16-disc High Vibration SACD set which was only released in Japan and, at the time of writing, could be found on Amazon for almost £530. Thanks, but no thanks, I have all the albums on CD anyway.

Examples of the good stuff are the Jethro Tull sets, featuring remixes from the must-be-working-his-arse-off Steven Wilson, and the nice-if-you-can-afford-it Steve Hillage 22-disc set which has some genuine desirables (although I have all the albums, so it’s of little interest to me). Then, at the other end of the scale according to some people, are the Pink Floyd Immersion Edition box sets. I bought Wish You Were Here and The Dark Side Of The Moon both for the 5.1 Blu-ray. I also bought The Wall, which was going cheap, for completeness sake. But now we have Pink Floyd’s The Early Years set, which I’m sure is of interest to some, but too rich for my blood. However, if a 5.1 mix of Meddle, especially Echoes, appeared one day…

And that’s just on CD. The LP sets range from the desirable-but-pricey mono Beatles LPs (worth it for the microgroove cut, which means they’ll play properly on a modern stylus) and the very nice Queen LP box set, to the overpriced reissue of certain albums just to cash in on the vinyl revival. I hold my hand up again as I bought The Division Bell box set, but that came with some lovely vinyl along with a Blu-ray of the album in 5.1, so that’s my excuse.

Maybe I’m too cynical. Maybe this is the way forward; a way to get nostalgic people re-engaging with the music market, instead of buying a mag like Prog and realising there’s a lot of new music out there just begging to be bought and listened to.

I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, having bought all the Genesis albums on SACD, but if you’ve not got the audio set-up, then maybe these box sets and special editions will pass you by. Sometimes they can simply be old leftovers presented as a sumptuous new meal, along with a price tag to match.

Having said all that, I don’t go to live gigs any more – due to the cost and rip-off ticket resellers – so maybe the occasional self-indulgence is good for the soul.

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