Monday, March 28, 2011

Layla, You've Got 'Em On Their Knees!

I just finished reading a four page exercise in tedium on one of the web’s more prominent music forums about the forthcoming super-expand-o-reissue of Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.  I understand fully that the resulting headache is my own fault; if I had half as many brains as I like to claim, I’d have surfed away to something more enriching – like, say, last night’s lottery numbers in Kazakhstan.  Still, there’s something magnetic for me about grouchy old music collectors who never met a pointless reissue they couldn’t bitch endlessly about.  Let’s take a look at what we won’t be buying, shall we?

Like all modern product rehashes, there are no less than three variations of this nonsense to choose from.  The first two are negligible: one is a single-disc just-the-album straight remaster, and the second is that plus a bonus CD of outtakes, alternate mixes, and other assorted detritus.  Likely, no one will really bite on either of these: they’re aimed at the type of casual listener who long since defected from physical product to downloads, legal or otherwise.  Forget ‘em.  The third variation is the big kahuna, the one that the angry boomers have their panties all simultaneously twisted and wet about.  For just under $100 (Amazon pricing at publication time), you get all of the above plus:

** A SURROUND SOUND DVD of the album plus one of the goofy out-takes!
**A REMASTERED VERSION OF THE IN CONCERT ALBUM, itself already nothing more than an ancient profit-taker from a band destined to never record a second album, and…

But wait, that’s not all!  You also get a whole boatload of booklets and tchotchke, none of which you’re likely to look at more than once!  “So, what’s the problem?”, I can hear you asking, “This is the kind of thing that’s meant to be gawked at more than enjoyed or, god forbid, listened to, and it looks like there’s plenty of goodies for the coffee table in this big ol’ hundred-dollar conversation piece.”  Well, that’s a rational way of looking at this thing, but angry record collectors aren’t fun because they’re rational.  Witness some of the more popular complaints:

**I haven’t heard it yet, but the mastering is probably compressed and terrible.
**There’s not enough previously unreleased material on this.
**There’s more previously unreleased material on this than I wish to pay for.
**Too much junk in the super deluxe box.  I don’t need to pay for vinyl that I won’t ever listen to.
**Not enough junk in the super deluxe box.  What about the super rare Argentinean mono promo single of “Bell Bottom Blues”?
**I’ve bought the previous five reissues of Layla.  Why do I need to buy it again?

Obviously, all but the last complaint are whiny collector-goof idiocy.  Japan is receding into the ocean, spewing radiation all the way, but they’re far more concerned with the repackaging of a forty year old rock album.  That last complaint, though: that’s the essence of it all, gentle readers.  I’m neither here nor there about Layla: I like about half of it, and think the other half is dated blues-wank.  Still, the good half is pretty great, and it is the last thing Clapton did that I have any interest in at all; the rest of his solo career is elevator music to me.  As such, I have some CD or other of it that I picked up along the way.  Whichever version it is, it sounds fine; this album was never an audiophile-grade recording anyway, so whatever you’ve got is probably about as good as it’s going to get, and that's fine.  It gets the job done, as they say.

My darling Rhea loves this album dearly.  For whatever reason, she finds it particularly soothing to listen to while she does her Graduate School homework.  She listens to it either from a scratchy, common-as-muck used LP, or whatever MP3s are on her hard drive.  Either way, it works a charm; after all, she’s looking to be soothed by the music, not awed by a hundred dollar doorstop.

For you, my angry record collecting friends, there is a lesson in that: if you already have this music in a form that brings you pleasure, then your hunch that you don’t need this new product is correct.  Follow it: vote with your wallet and enjoy music that you do, in fact, already own.  Conspicuous consumption does not make you the WORLD’S #1 FAN.  There is not a thing in the world wrong with saying “nah, this is just yet another cash-grab, and I don’t actually need it.”  Y’all know that, right?

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