Drama Week pt 5: The Bonus Post

Alrighty, here’s the final piece of Drama Week (which, incidentally, took three weeks). I hadn’t intended to write this one – but while doing a little web-research about Drama, I found out about and downloaded a “special edition” of Drama released by Rhino. The contents of said “special” record inspired this post. I suppose you could say that this post is the Drama Week’s Hidden Track. Woo Hoo!

The Special Edition is essentially a digital phenomenon – once the labels had resold their vinyl catalogues as ridiculously overpriced Compact Discs, it made sense to then find other ways to sell the same record again – by offering Extras – remastered recordings, rare tracks, b-sides, live recordings, demos. DVDs do the same thing, to (I think) an even more ridiculous extent – there’s a reason not everything shot becomes part of a film – and I swear to god it’s started with books – some paperbacks of late have included “scenes from xx’s next novel!” at the back.

Like everything else in this old universe, this is both good and bad. Bad: true fans get gouged; many of the extras are crap; Disney marketing campaigns with copy that says “now on two-disc DVD for the first ever time”. Good: true fans dig this stuff; some of the extras are fun; every generation of three year olds gets its own commemorative Little Mermaid.

I’m into minutiae as much as the next geek, but I’m not a die-hard grabby consumerist – so I’m particular about how extras are shared. I do not appreciate – I hate, I object to – tracks being tacked onto the end of an album. I’ve ranted about this before, so I won’t say much except this quick two-paragraph blurt: An album is a work of art, with a wholeness and integrity that matters. To me. The last song is the album’s ending, and its position on the record matters. So to follow it with four tracks is cheapening and degrading.

It irks me that a kid buying Imagine now might easily be led to believe that it was released in 1999, since that’s the only date listed on it. I also believe that the sound of a record is a part of what it is – so cleaning up an old record is, well, rude. A remastered album shouldn’t replace the original. Extras should be on a separate disc. The end.

The extras that I appreciate most of all are the ones that give insight into how a record was created – especially demos. Demo recordings give insight into the process of engineering and production, of the studio-as-instrument and how it influences the overall sound, and I’m very interested in this. It’s comparable to why I like covers.

The special edition Drama has both my pet peeve and favourite aspects. The album sessions started with old Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman still in the band. So several of the extra tracks feature the aborted old-Yes album. These tracks, plus a few exploratory jams, are tacked onto the ending. Included in these, however, are a couple of worthy demo recordings that bring home how well-written, played, and produced Drama is.

Tempus Fugit – Tracking Session

Tempus Fugit – from Drama

Well, childrens, that’s it for Drama Week. Hope it was fun. I’ve listened the shit out of the record now, and will likely search out something less wizardly and precise for my next orgy of fascination. Guided By Voices is a contender. Maybe Captain Beefheart. Thanks for bearing with me.

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