Spring is here and some of the big releases come in even bigger “deluxe editions”. So, if you pony up the dough, is it worth the extra show? POPDOSE places a few recent releases into the ring:
Madonna • Rebel Heart (Super Deluxe Edition)
I’ve been with Madge since day one and she rarely disappoints — but when she does, whoa Nelly. I blew $20 on the deluxe edition of MDNA thinking there is no way it could be worse than Hard Candy but boy was I in for a shock. Rebel Heart marks a move towards redemption. There’s a 19-track deluxe edition and a 25-track super deluxe edition (let’s just call it “Super” from here onward). If you buy the latter and trim the fat, you have Madonna’s best album since the criminally underrated American Life. Rebel Heart only misses the mark when Madonna is chasing her younger colleagues instead of leading them. The word “Bitch” shows up in three songs and is needed or welcome in none (same goes with Rihanna’s new single — seriously, everyone’s a bitch, we get it).
Like many of the discs below, Madonna reserved some of her best tracks for Super. ‘Beautiful Scars’ and ‘Borrowed Time’ are gorgeous uptempo ballads and ‘Addicted” just might be the best, most sinister Madonna dance floor packer in 10 years (someone commission a Victor Calderone remix stat). ‘Graffiti Heart’ in its final form here is way too fast — too many words crammed into too few bars. They should have left the much better leaked demo well enough alone. Madge made the same mistake on MDNA where the perfectly lovely ‘Gang Bang” demo was morphed into the worst song of her career. Two truly worthy remixes of the otherwise pedestrian ‘Living For Love’ round out the super bonus disc.
Add Super‘s the four official “rarities” to the slew of essential songs left off her five previous proper albums (Wiki and Google them, they are easy to find), and one begs to wonder just who is making these poor decisions when it comes to tracklisting her albums.
Packaging wise, you get no holograms (like with the MDNA deluxe). Nor do you get a lick of liner notes. What you do get is a stunningly photographed, multi-panel fold out digi pak that will sure to be a collector’s item someday.
Blancmange • Semi Detached (Limited Deluxe Edition)
As previously discussed in our album review and interview with Neil Arthur, Blancmange is back with a vengeance with Semi Detached, their fifth album of new material and first without co-founder Stephen Luscombe. Here, Arthur again bypasses the nostalgia act touring route and delivers a stellar electronic album that is as modern as it is new wave.
The limited deluxe edition offers the same booklet as the regular edition in a handsome foldout digipak. The real treats come in the form of three new songs and a stack of “extended versions”. The bonus tracks include an update and remix of “I Want Your Love”, the haunting ballad first heard on Arthur’s awp1 (Arthur, Warner, Pandit Version 1) project (‘Bloody Hell Fire’ on the regular album was also from this era). ‘Silk Sea’ and ‘That Worm’ sound like lost cuts from the Mange Tout era: short, sweet, wry and delightful, a bit of a tide turn from the delicious darkness of Disc 1. The Extended Versions are exactly that, eschewing major remixes or re-workings, just giving you more and more and more of a good thing. There’s also an alternate edit of the ‘Paddington’ single, but I’d need to bring in some audio forensic scientists to tell the difference.
Echobelly • Everyone’s Got One (Expanded Edition) / On (Expanded Edition)
Last fall, 3 Loop Music released two lovingly curated expanded editions of Echobelly’s first two albums. Thanks to pristine remastering, Echobelly has never sounded better. They fit in as easily to today’s modern rock scene (Echosmith, The Ting Tings, Charli XCX), as they did back in the day (Garbage, Sleeper, Republica, Elastica, Moloko).
The 1994 debut, Everyone’s Got Gone (aka: EGO), is padded with the complete versions of the era’s four EPs, plus a previously unreleased four track Steve Lamacq radio session. In the wistful liner notes, singer Sonya Aurora Maden ushers you through the band’s madcap first years, from the bar where she gave guitarist Glenn Johansson her phone number to the end of the first world tour when she was all alone in India. This is the band’s grungier album before moving on to On.
The breakthrough follow-up packs all of the goodies of EGO’s two discs (the remastered album and all of the era’s b-sides) onto disc one, leaving disc two for a complete concert recording and a radio session. On is more pop leaning, featuring the smash ‘King of the Kerb‘, but it still rocks hard and the guitars absolutely crackle. Maden returns with more recollections of the height of fame and the beginning of the end of the band. Among the 12 B-side treasures, a menacing clap along guitar instrumental, ‘On Turn Off’ and the same song with vocals, ‘On Turn On’ in both an electric and acoustic version.
Taylor Swift • 1989 (Target Super Deluxe Edition)
For the record, I hate it when retailers — who have all but given up on CDs — have forced label hands to secure exclusive content. Why put independent record stores out of business when you have no desire to sell records? Still, as a completist fan, I usually pony up. Target, unlike Best Buy, knows how to curate and actually stock an exclusive. Best Buy released some doozy special editions back in the day (Duran Duran, Amy Winehouse, Cee-Lo Green, Foo Fighters, etc.) but finding them in store on opening day was always a nightmare — I speculated the employees took what limited stock they received and sold them on eBay.
Target is usually generous with their special editions — great price and plenty in stock. You can still find special editions of Taylor Swift’s deluxe box for mega-hit 1989 in most stores and Target online. The Target edition includes three ‘voice memos’ — an exclusive that sounds stupid, but they’re actually a very interesting look into her songwriting process. TayTay sets up the stories behind the making of three tracks before revealing snippets of the demos she recorded into her phone and sent to producers.
The standard deluxe edition — also available in most record stores — is packed with 1989‘s best songs, including ‘Wonderland’ and ‘New Romantics’ are on or en route to iTunes as singles. You also get a randomly selected collection of Polariods and a super stuffed booklet of lyrics and liner notes.
Brian Wilson • No Pier Pressure (Deluxe Edition)
Mike Love might own the name of the band, but the true heart of the Beach Boys has always belonged to Brian Wilson. So while Love trots out the hits with hired guns on the casino circuit, Wilson assembled some of the Boys (Blondie Chaplin, Al Jardine and David Marks), plus Zooey Deschanel, Nate Reuss (fun.) and Kacey Musgraves to create the best Beach Boys album since Smile and Pet Sounds. The harmonies are huge, choruses roll in like waves and the sky is bright and blue. Trust me on this, ‘Sail Away’ (featuring Chaplin) and ‘Saturday Night’ (featuring Reuss) will be your songs of 2105’s (hopefully) endless summer.
A 16 track “deluxe edition” (the one I have for review) appears to be the main edition available for pre-order. The bonus tracks are sandwiched in the middle and are worth springing a few extra bucks for if need be. There is a Target-edition with one bonus track and a demo. The advance copy had no artwork so if you pick one up, tell us about it in the comments section.
For a track by track review, check out Ken Shane’s official POPDOSE review.