The Highway Star has a good feature on the remasters of Deep Purple’s Burn album, criticising the choice of bonus tracks and recommending that buyers avoid the European pressing:
The European pressing of the remastered Burn is plagued by a Copy Control system that the record labels seem hell-bent on shoving down our throats. No, illegal copying of music is not endorsed, but manhandling the music that is the very livelihood of these companies is offensive, annoying and counterproductive. Throw the remastered Burn CD into your PC’s CD-rom drive and it’ll start up a mini media-player window (of sorts) which will only play back compressed versions of the music on the disc. Fine. Anyone should be able to live with this – that is, if the music hadn’t been encoded at a measly 64 kbps! This postively ruins any listening experience as it makes the music sound like it came drifting in from a remote AM station broadcasting with stolen pre-WWII equipment. Yes, it’s that bad.
The low quality of the pre-ripped files shows EMI Europe’s lack of seriousness about the remaster program and their contempt for their consumer base. Fans buy remastered editions expecting the sound quality to be better than the original release. While Deep Purple’s core audience consists of baby boomers who probably have CD players, their records are also bought by people now in their teens and early twenties, many of whom only play CDs (the ones that buy and play CDs at all are a highly desirable market within the youth demographic) on their computers*). If, when you sell a remastered CD to them, what they actually get for their € 19 is a much inferior sound quality than the original release, you have cheated a kid or a student out of their allowance, student loan or MacJob wages. Way to go, EMI!
My fear is that EMI will see any lack of interest in the remasters in Europe as evidence that buyers aren’t interested in Deep Purple material after the Mark II era. Record companies have a habit of grabbing the wrong end of the stick when it comes to interpreting sales results. For example, the remastered editions of the second, third and fourth King Crimson albums were under-printed because Virgin concluded, based on low back catalogue sales of the previous editions of those albums, that few people would want to buy the remasters. It took them a while to find out that the reason people didn’t buy the previous editions because they were waiting for those remasters, which had been in the pipeline for a year!
Back to the Deep Purple reissue. I disagree with Highway Star writer Rasmus Heide’s criticism of the bonus tracks. I would not have opted for hissy, jangling rehearsal tracks instead of the remixes. I would have opted for leaving the rehearsal tracks and the remixes off the album, leaving only the original mix of “Coronarias Redig” as a semi-bonus track (it’s available from a few other sources). On nearly all the remastered records that I discussed in last week’s barrage, I found the bonus tracks eminently skippable, and this is also my opinion of the bonus tracks on Island’s Richard Thompson reissues, and most of the bonus tracks on the previous Deep Purple remasters for that matter. Less is more when it comes to altering the running order or track selection of a classic album.
*). Not that this is only the case with youngsters. For a while, I was in the position of only being able to play CDs on my computer, and the DVD player I bought to replace my broken CD player has a lot of problems with Copy-Controled disks. And there’s BoingBoing‘s Cory Doctorow who doesn’t use a CD player, and he’s older than me.