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The Big Hurt: Deluxe buyer's guide

The word on seasonal box sets
By DAVID THORPE  |  November 2, 2010


Record labels used to be content to slap a "remastered" sticker and a few B-sides on an album and call it deluxe, but that kind of lackluster package won't fly in 2010. These days, we're getting it all: live tracks, alternate mixes, behind-the-scenes video, more alternate mixes, and a hardbound book of never-before-seen photos. A glance at a calendar of holiday releases reveals previously unheard-of levels of deluxeness escalation — single-disc LPs are being stretched into the kind of hefty box sets that once summarized entire careers. Here are a few of the year's most intense reissues:

KING CRIMSON | IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING: LIMITED EDITION | 5 CDs + 1 DVD: $69.99 | Nowadays, albums are something we buy on iTunes (if at all). If you're going to persuade people to buy physical music products, said products had better be physical. King Crimson get it right: "This extraordinary 12"x12" box set is the ultimate perspective on one of the defining albums of British rock." See that? Dimensions are front and center. This is a square-foot slab of prog, and King Crimson's devotees are definitely down. "As long as catalogue items are put out like this," reads a customer review on Amazon, "the CD will live on for many of us."

The six discs are mostly packed with different mixes: there's a new stereo remaster, the 2004 remaster, two 5.1 surround mixes, and a cleaned-up transfer from the original first-edition vinyl pressing. One might argue that nobody really needs that many slightly different versions of the same album, but let's not forget that King Crimson fans are huge nerds.

PAUL MCCARTNEY & WINGS | BAND ON THE RUN: DELUXE EDITION | 3 CDs + 1 DVD: $74.99 | Here's a fine example of how to stretch meager bonus material into an impressive disc count. Disc one is the UK version of the album. Disc two is bonus stuff: the single "Helen Wheels," which was already included in the original US issue, plus some in-studio live recordings of album tracks. If you're looking for songs you've never heard, you're stuck with the two B-sides — no outtakes or rarities. The third CD is an audio documentary on the making of the album, and the DVD is mostly the same live sessions from the bonus CD.

You do get a lovely box, though, and a hardbound, 120-page book with plenty of shots of Paul's adorable face.

DAVID BOWIE | STATION TO STATION: DELUXE EDITION | 5 CDs + 1 DVD + 3 LPs: $149.49 | One album, nine discs: this shit is deluxe. Two stereo mixes, a disc of single mixes, four DVD-Audio mixes, a two-disc live show, and then all of it again on vinyl — this beats even King Crimson in the department of redundancy department, especially when you consider that Station to Station is only a six-song album. If you listen to this whole set, you're gonna hear the title track 10 times. TEN fucking TIMES. Isn't this an unrealistic listening burden for even the biggest Bowie fan? There can be no compelling argument made that anyone needs this, but can we even imagine that anyone wants this?

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