Mix Six: “The Re-Record”

DOWNLOAD THE FULL MIX HERE You can thank both members of the Popdose staff and Styx for this mix. Styx streamed tracks off their new album Regeneration Volume 1 on their Facebook page a couple of weeks ago, and there was a press release promoting “the event” that circulated to all the writers at Popdose – which started a lengthy thread about the merits of the re-records and why artists bother doing them in the first place.  So why do artists take the time to re-record their hits? The best answer was given by Chris Difford from Squeeze, who said in a Huffington Post interview:  “Well, Squeeze has never owned our own copyrights because, obviously, they’re owned by a major record label. We thought it might be fun to re-record our songs to make it possible for us to own a little bit more of our own history.”  Even if you’re just a casual music fan, you probably know that artists rarely own the music they create.  Rather, the labels structure album deals so they get the gravy and the artist gets a few drips from the label’s plate.  It’s all very sad and unfair, but when you’re starting out as a band, you’re often desperate to make a deal, and the labels know this and use it to their advantage.  Artists who have staying power can try and purchase the rights to their music (which can be very expensive), or they can do a re-record as a way, to use Difford’s phrase, to own a bit more of their own history.  The result, as you’ll hear, is uneven, but it’s interesting to hear an artist try and recreate the magic.

[My thanks to Scott Malchus, Dw Dunphy, Matt Wardlaw, Jeff Giles, and Dave Steed for the song suggestions. ~ Ted]

“Hourglass,” Squeeze (Download)

Glenn Tilbrook seems to think that he and Chris Difford sound exactly the same as they did back in the day.  And while many of the songs sound very close to the original on Spot the Difference, Tilbrook’s voice is sounding a bit weathered on “Hourglass.” Still, this song has always been a kind of sleeper favorite of mine — even though it did very well for the group back in 1987.  Nowadays? Well, it seems most radio stations are only interested in playing “Tempted,” “Cool for Cats,” or “Black Coffee In Bed.” “Hourglass,” however, has a lovably quirky quality that manifests itself in the chorus.

“Sister Christian,” Night Ranger (Download)

“Sister Christian” is the biggest hit for Night Ranger, and they re-recorded it. Why?  Well, maybe it was for similar reasons as Squeeze re-recorded their hits. But I gotta say that they really did their fans a disservice by doing so.  Kelly Keagy tries to capture the power and the magic of when he first laid down the master vocal track for this song back in the early ’80s, but I think you can hear that there’s something missing from this recording.

“Come Sail Away,” Styx (Download)

Yes, yes, yes, we all know that Dennis DeYoung left the Styx corporation years ago, and their current lead singer (Lawrence Gowan) has been with the band for 11 years and singing their hits for audiences around the world.  So one would presume that a re-recording of “Come Sail Away” wouldn’t stray too far from from the original — but it does at times.  The song has always been a cheesy anthem (that I love, by the way), but the weird synth bleeps and burps, stacked drum fills, and uninspired vocals by Gowan make me wonder why the band bothered to re-record this song. Say what you will about DeYoung, but the guy could really sell heartfelt emotion in a song — even when he was singing about robots. Gowan hits all the right notes, but to me he’s emotionally divorced from the song and is just going through the motions from start to finish.

“Stone in Love,” Journey (Download)

I’m not a Steve Perry purist, so it doesn’t bother me that Journey decided to re-record their hits. Arnel Pineda does a fine job of singing “Stone in Love,” and brings a seasoned voice to the table.  And much like Steve Augeri, Pineda had some mighty big shoes to fill when he got tapped to front Journey.  But I think both vocalists rose to the occasion and have given the band a second and third life.

“Detroit Rock City,” KISS (Download)

Knowing Gene Simmons’ love of money, it was probably his idea to package Sonic Boom with “Kiss Klassics” that were re-recorded.  “Detroit Rock City” is a song you don’t mess with. I mean, it’s a piece of work that represents the band at the pinnacle of their career.  And if there were ever a KISS song that achieves perfection, it’s “Detroit Rock City.”  So why mess with perfection?  It’s difficult to say, but the more I hear this version, the more I hear Gene Simmons’ saying: “I think I’ve found a way to freeze out Peter Criss and Ace Frehley even more!”

“School’s Out,” Alice Cooper (Download)

What do you think?  Is Alice riding the trend of re-recording one’s hits to boost his bottom line? Well, if we’ve learned anything from professors Difford and Tilbrook, it’s this:  it used to be a big no-no to sell out, but in this age of diminishing profits from record sales, selling out is a big yes-yes.




  • Anonymous

    On the Journey track, Pineda is so good. The real glaring difference to me is in the drum seat — I really miss Steve Smith’s swing.

  • Rob

    I really like this idea.

    And I sort of want to riff on it: How about a list of songs that never should have been re-recorded?

    I nominate “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by the Police and “25 or 6 to 4″ by Chicago.

  • Rich

    I played a lifetime’s worth of Squeeze albums while mowing lawns for a couple of summers as a teenager. Bought ‘Spot the Difference’ just to support the band. I can ‘spot the difference’ in no time, on all the tracks, but my wife (a causal fan – knows the bigger hits from 80s radio) cannot.

    The reason I mention it is, at least 2 music services I subscribe to or use seem to have updated the metadata on Squeeze hits to read “Spot the Difference,” but I’m 99% confident that the song being streamed to me is the older ‘original.’ I have no problem with this whatsoever, if it means D&T are getting a larger slice of the per-track pie. Just find it interesting.

  • skip isley

    I can actually recommend a re-record. The first single ever for the Doobie Brothers was a song called ‘Nobody”. You can hear the genesis of the Doobie’s sound, but it sounds rough, almost like a demo. On their new album that came out this week, they re-did that song with Ted Templemen and sounds 1000 times better.

  • Matt

    Agreed, Skip. First time that I heard it, I didn’t recognize that it was an old song. And when I went back and listened to the old version, it was clear that they really were legit in their reasons for wanting to re-record it (feeling like they hadn’t captured it the first time around, blah blah blah

  • Matt

    Ted – It’s funny that you picked “Sister Christian.” I didn’t even have a chance to dig out my CD after we had the conversation, but this one is interesting and was on my mind, not only because it is a re-record, but also because they did something during the recording to somehow make Kelly Keagy (who can still sing this song very well, btw) sound very un-Keagy like. You hear the vocal and you’re goin’…..WHO is that? Seeing this posted here, I had to listen to it again to see if it still would sound as weird/awful as I remembered it. Yep. The rest of this CD is actually pretty solid, but do you REALLY need it? Probably not.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Smith is an awesome drummer who was underused on many of Journey’s songs. But the guy had a way of weaving in some really good spice in his drumming. It was subtle at times, but it was a nice surprise to those who were really listening to their songs.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Agreed!

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I wonder if those music streaming services got a better deal from D&T and that’s why they are streaming the tracks off of Spot the Difference?

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I know. I wasn’t sure it was Keagy until I found the song credits. One would think if they were going to re-record the song, they would at least use the original for guide vocals.

  • Matt

    I think there’s also an acoustic version of “Sister Christian” on that same
    disc, where he sounds fine. But that song and at least one other studio
    re-record on that same disc find him sounding quite weird vocally for some
    reason.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    It’s probably a way of them saying, “At least we didn’t make a by-the-numbers duplicate” which seems might have backfired this time out.

    Regardless, I don’t see a lot of music coordinators scrambling to license “Sister Christian” now. Boogie Nights capped that one pretty well.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    It’s probably a way of them saying, “At least we didn’t make a by-the-numbers duplicate” which seems might have backfired this time out.

    Regardless, I don’t see a lot of music coordinators scrambling to license “Sister Christian” now. Boogie Nights capped that one pretty well.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    The stations I work for still play the song, but I don’t hear it on other Bay Area stations…

    Sent from Ted’s iPhone

  • Rich

    I hope it is true that they get more cash when services play the tracks. But what I was trying to say was that I don’t think certain services are actually bothering to go into their databases and delete the (say) 1981 song and insert the 2010 version of the same song. I think they’ve left the ’81 track itself, and merely changed the Album Title from the old album name to Spot the Difference.

  • skip isley

    By the way, the reason for most of these re-records is money. They don’t own the masters for the originals, so they re-do them when they release independent records where they own the masters.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    Got it. These music services are being sloppy with the cover art.

    Sent from Ted’s iPhone

  • Rich

    In ’92, INXS re-recorded some of their early tunes with a lot more crunch and a lot less quasi-disco. Now, I generally prefer guitars to disco, but these “1992 Capri Re-Recordings” are really really not fun to listen to.