Thursday, 28 July 2005

B-Sides and Rarities compilations

On the way to work this morning I gave a listen to Nick Cave's B-Sides and Rarities compilation triple CD that was released recently.

Now normally I am an album guy all the way (which is one of the reasons I haven't purchased an iPod yet), but I definitely think there is room in any good CD collection for rarities compilations.

It's different to "Greatest Hits" or "Best Of" releases which essentially become redundant when you end up liking the band and buying all of their albums. Not only does it become redundant because you end up having multiple copies of the same track, but it can deter from the enjoyment of the proper albums when you get them, because you already know so many songs from them.

With classic British band The Jam, I made the mistake of buying two (!) compilation albums before buying any of their albums. The first one I got was Beat Surrender, a sub-par compilation of pretty average Jam tracks with a few exceptions like the brilliant A town called malice and That's entertainment. I should have gone for one of their albums at this point, but instead I stupidly decided to go for another compilation, The Jam Collection. This was a much better compilation, but by the time I got around to purchasing their best album All mod cons, I already had six out of the twelve tracks on it! Considering one of the remaining six tracks was a Kinks cover (David Watts), it definitely detracted from my initial enjoyment of the album. It's like seeing bits of a movie in a hotel room at different times, and then trying to watch it all from start to finish. Why not just watch it from start to finish up front?

But, I digress. I don't see B-Sides and Rarities compilations as having the same issues as best-of compilations. Firstly, there's generally the lack of redundancy. Even if there are album tracks on it, they are generally scarce and usually they give you a different version than the album track (e.g. a demo or acoustic version). Listening to the first disc of the Nick Cave set this morning, there were acoustic versions of two of his classic cuts - Deanna and The mercy seat. I have both of these on the Best of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds CD, but it's great hearing these different versions of the songs. Whether they are works in progress, or just alternate versions, they give you a window into the artistic process that the artist goes through when recording music.

I think Nick Cave is one of those artists who suits the "rarities" compilation format really well. His music has such a rustic and shambolic feel to it, and hearing bits and pieces on a compilation like this is a great way to experience his music. There's also an alternate version of The moon is in the gutter from his debut album From her to eternity. I always loved this song when listening to that album even though I wasn't a huge fan of the album as a whole. But hearing the alternate version on the rarities compilation made me start to appreciate the song again.

Finally, here are some of my favourite "B-side and rarities" compilations:

Oasis - The Masterplan

Quite honestly, this B-Sides compilation has some of Oasis' best ever songs on it. Their B-Sides are better than many band's A-Sides. And the trilogy of Listen up, Rockin' chair and Half the world away could be the best set of three consecutive songs that I know on almost any album.

Suede - Sci-fi Lullabies

In hindsight, disc two is pretty shite (with a few exceptions). But disc one has many of the best Suede songs ever released. Some of my personal favourites are To the birds, and The living dead and the best of the bunch -- the utterly beautiful My dark star.

The Smiths - Louder than bombs

Amazingly this actually comes close to being the definitive Smiths "album". So many classics on this one, I don't know where to start. Of course, there's Please please please let me get what you want (which could have been a contender for one of the longest song titles until Sufjan Steven released his recent album Illinois), Half a person, Girl afraid, William it was really nothing, You just haven't earned it yet baby -- the list goes on. With only one dud in the bunch (the shocking cover Golden lights), and only one song that overlaps with their albums (a different version of Hand in glove from their debut) -- this compilation is a great complement to their four proper studio albums.

Crowded House - Afterglow

It was sad when Crowded House broke up, but luckily this compilation was released shortly afterwards to help ease the pain. Sacred cow, Help is coming and Recurring dream are all classic Crowdies songs. My telly's gone bung (written and sung by the late Paul Hester) is not without its charm. A very solid compilation.

Beatles - Past Masters Volume One & Two

For conservation of space I have only included the album cover from Volume One, but no list of classic B-Sides and Rarities compilations would be complete without mentioning these. Technically they don't really fit into this list, as they are a collection of non-album singles, but since they also include the B-sides of said singles, it can make the cut. Past Masters Volume Two almost reads like a Greatest Hits CD: Day tripper, We can work it out, Hey Jude, Revolution. Rain is a great B-Side, and Ringo thinks that this is his finest drumming performance.

Manic Street Preachers - Lipstick Traces
[A secret history of]

Looks like it isn't such a secret anymore, because you can buy this in CD stores now (and for a bargain price!). This compilation contains many underrated tracks in the Manics' oeuvre. Some of my favourites are 4 ever delayed, Socialist serenade and Democracy coma.

The Stone Roses - Turns into stone

Some stone-cold classics on this compilation of non-album singles and rarities. It's the only place you can get the definitive Roses cut Fools gold (unless you have the dodgy import version of their debut album). But there's lots of other great cuts on this compilation including Elephant stone, Mersey paradise and their paean to oral sex, the appropriately titled Going down.

Air - Premiers symptomes

Solid compilation of early non-album tracks from these French dudes who are more laid back than Paris Hilton was in One night in Paris. This compilation is notable for including my favourite Air track, the sublime J'Ai Dormi Sous l'Eau.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Cool post Jiggy. I rarely dabble with compilations or b-sides so I'll have to give some of these a go.

    But just get an iPod already! :) I don't really understand this reason for not purchasing - practically all of my listening is via Mr Pod album-at-a-time...

    Oh, and hey! I'm not much of a soundtrack fan but there are some exceptions. I'm listening to the Garden State soundtrack at the moment (which is great), maybe a soundtrack blog entry is called for?

  2. Forgot to mention that I rate Premier Symptomes as my second-favourite Air album (behind Moon Safari, just ahead of Talkie Walkie). Über sweet.

  3. Thanks for the comments Matt - greatly appreciated. While I don't want to defend my decision not to purchase an iPod in this comment (that is the subject of another thread entirely), I'd like to reply to your other comments.

    Firstly sorry if there are any typos as I've just had a Coopers Pale Ale on an empty stomach and it's gone straight to me head :-)

    Soundtrack post would be a great idea, will try to do so soon. Have many ideas for posts as soon as I finish my top 10 list.

    Regarding Air's Premiers Symptomes, I must say I agree with Amazon's editorial review when they comment that the 2 bonus tracks Californie and Brakes on feel a bit tacked on and don't fit in with the rest of the album. But the first 5 tracks are top-notch.

  4. I'd just like to welcome you to my RSS feed reader.

    I'm sure this is as exciting to you as it is to me.

    Music is cool. I'm listening to it right now!

  5. Welcome to my blog, Dave. Let me know if I can't get you anything.

    I too have added your bug to my RSS aggregator. I look forward to many interesting posts in the future.

  6. I can't believe I forgot to include Super Furry Animals' brilliant 1998 B-sides and rarities compilation Out spaced in this list.

    So many great cuts on this one, including the classic The man don't give a fuck. Dim bendith is a personal favourite of mine on the compilation.


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