Radiohead - Pablo Honey, The Bends, and OK Computer - Collector's Editions
You probably own some great "Deluxe," "Legacy," or "Collector"'s Editions already, like those by U2, Bob Marley, The Who, Weezer, Nine Inch Nails, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bruce Springsteen, and Marvin Gaye. The now standard configuration is two CDs, the first disc containing the original album, and the second featuring demos, b-sides, stray singles, live material, and rarities. (Some replace the second CD of bonus audio material with a DVD of promo videos and live footage.)
Every label has their variation and have created such good products that the bar has been set pretty high on what comprises an excellent double disc. That's no problem for Radiohead whose initial triumvirate of albums -- Pablo Honey, The Bends, and OK Computer -- join the ranks of well-done expansions. In fact, Radiohead (in the larger sense, the group did not participate) delivers not just one version of their Collector's Editions, but TWO, with that additional configuration including a DVD. Sounds too good to be true? Well, let's take a pithy look at what each of these Collector's Editions offer...
Thom Yorke & Co.'s first, Pablo Honey, gives us a second disc featuring the Drill EP's demos "Prove Yourself," "Stupid Car," "You," and "Thinking About You" that showcase the band in a more raw form (a couple of these tracks' arrangements even survive their Pablo-ization). The disc moves on to the single "Creep"'s b-sides, "Inside My Head," "Million Dollar Question," "Yes I Am," its live tracks "Vegetable" and ""Killer Cars," an acoustic version of the title track, and a "Blow Out" remix. Next comes "Anyone Can Play Guitar"'s "Coke Babies" and "Faithless, The Wonderboy," followed by the non-album single "Pop Is Dead" with its acoustic version of "Banana Co." and live "Ripchord." "Stop Whispering"'s US mix that was U2'd-up for the States is included, as well as the band's rare and revealing BBC Radio One session from '92. On the DVD, we get all four promo videos, a '93 Top Of The Pops version of "Creep," and a '94 concert performed at The Astoria in London, England.
The Bends -- named one of Rolling Stone's essential albums of the '90s (and #110 of 500 all-time greatest) -- took the pace down, and expanded its alt-vibe with more melodic and acoustic-laced adventures (firmly establishing Yorke's falsetto-style on tracks such as "High And Dry"). Radiohead's sophomore outing nicely set up their huge breakthrough, OK Computer, and The Bends' bonus material follows the course, focusing on its singles' b-sides and rare tracks like My Iron Lung's "The Trickster," "Punchdrunk Lovesick Singalong," "Lozenge Of Love," "Lewis (Mistreated)," "Permanent Daylight," and the "Colour My World"-ish guitar waltz, "You Never Wash Up After Yourself." Next comes "High And Dry"'s "Maquiladora" (with the memorable line "beautiful kids in beautiful trouble"), and the studio version of "Killer Cars." "Fake Plastic Trees"'s hypnotic "India Rubber" and "How Can You Be Sure" follow, and "Street Spirit"'s melancholy "Talk Show Host," "Bishop's Robes," another version of "Banana Co." and the Beatles chord-patterned "Molasses" lead to BBC Sessions snapshots of "Just," "Maquiladora," "Street Spirit" and "Bones." The DVD is overflowing with single promo videos (including the US and UK versions of "High And Dry"), an eight-song run from '94 at The Astoria, four songs from 2 Meter Session, "The Bends" and High And Dry" as played on Later With Jools Holland, and three Top Of The Pops performances.
That brings us to the Grammy-winning OK Computer's second disc with its own gaggle of goodies. It starts off with "Paranoid Android"'s fan fave "Polyethylene," "Pearly," "A Reminder" (or more like the first foreshadowing of the next album, Kid A), and the mellow "Melatonin" that join "Karma Police"'s proggy "Meeting In The Aisle," "Lull," and two mixes of "Climbing Up The Walls." "No Surprises"'s "Palo Alto" and "How I Made My Millions" set up the two live tracks "Airbag" (from Berlin) and "Lucky" (from Florence), and the audio disc closes out with the three BBC Radio One tracks "No Surprises," "Climbing Up The Walls," and "Exit Music (For A Film)" from '97. The DVD features the promo videos "Paranoid Android," "No Surprises," and "Airbag," as well as a '97 Later With Jools Holland airing of different performances of the same three titles.
Pearl Jam - Ten - Legacy Edition
Though most folks credit Nirvana's breakthrough album Nevermind as being the role model for grungy Seattle-scene alt-rock, Pearl Jam's twelve-times-platinum-selling Ten is every bit as seminal. Beyond Ten's monster radio staples (like "Even Flow," "Alive" and "Jeremy"), many tracks from this landmark album have had extensive college and FM airplay for the almost two decades post its release. The combination of Eddie Vedder's growling, angst-drenched vocals backed by bassist Jeff Ament, and guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready created a sound that immediately was original, successful and often imitated by pikers who couldn't mimic a tenth of what this band expressed in one verse. Getting a two-disc celebration of their now classic album is a pretty special event, and Sony's various configurations allow fans to experience their memories of Ten in various ways.
Ten's Legacy Edition uses the double disc format a bit differently. Of course, its first disc is the re-mastered, original '91 vision of the group. But the second disc advances the story a little, offering a remixed version of the album by Brendan O'Brien who was involved with the group's next few projects. At first, he was hesitant to touch the classic, but the band eventually convinced him to take a swing at re-engineering it. "The band liked the original mix of Ten," O'Brien recently stated, adding, "but also was interested in what it would sound like if I were to deconstruct and remix it." Following O'Brien's album remixes come six era-centric revisited recordings: "Breath And A Scream," "State Of Love And Trust," "Brother" (with vocals), "Evil Little Goat," "Just A Girl," and the Stevie Ray Vaughn-ish jam, "2,000 Mile Blues." The "Deluxe" Edition's additional DVD features the whole album, once again, but this time in 5.1, plus the band's previously unreleased (at least commercially) MTV Unplugged performance from 1992 that includes the rare "Oceans." Those who can afford the ultimate Ten experience can grab the "Super Deluxe" Edition (with a super deluxe price tag) that includes all of the above plus vinyl records, more musical rarities on a cassette, associated memorabilia, and a Vedder notebook of photos and musings from the period.
For most great bands, an expanded or two-disc exploration of its seminal albums can be an immensely revealing revisit of roots, influences, raw talent, and charm. And in this case, it also can mean a flash-forward, a "what if" that spotlights a project in a new light. No matter how one feels about Pearl Jam these many years after Ten's release, you've got to give the devil its due for helping to pioneer a sound that took charge of rock for over a decade, and credit for allowing such a culturally important album to be showcased in such a deconstructed, reconstructed and respectful way.