Click here for the Magazine. Updated June 7, 2013
In 1974, the Who released an album called Odds ‘n Sods, a collection of songs from throughout their career up to that point that were either rare or had never been released. That event prompted many other such surveys of outtakes from the careers of various prominent groups and artists.
But while Odds ‘n Sods and other rarity collections were honestly titled, some groups and solo artists actually released albums that were billed as being new collections, but were actual trawls through the scrapyard, though not without some buried gems. Here’s a few examples of those who have released such albums:
• The Rolling Stones — a) Tattoo You. On cursory examination, this collection looks like a regular studio album, and a very successful one it was with such big hits as Start Me Up and Waiting On A Friend. But in reality, despite the similarity in sound between tracks, this was actually the Stones finishing up unreleased songs that went as far back as the Goat’s Head Soup sessions from 1973. Funnily enough, this pile of leftovers was one of the band’s last albums to receive lots of critical raves.
The Stones have been finishing up old tracks once again in the past few years, but this time as part of deluxe editions of the Exile on Main Street and Some Girls albums.
b) Flowers — This 1967 album was a U.S. initiative, and was actually a mixture of previously released tracks (some from the previous album Behind the Buttons), songs that were only released on the UK versions of Aftermath and Behind the Buttons (my favourite is Back Street Girl) and three exclusives — a clumsy, string-laden version of the Temptations’ My Girl and the 1965 outtakes Ride On, Baby and Sittin' on a Fence.
•The Beatles: Yesterday and Today: This U.S. album is most famous for briefly having the band on its cover in butcher smocks and with decapitated dolls, and for being perhaps the most collectible album of all time for the original cover. But it was also a closet cleaning exercise, featuring singles (in stereo for the first time), songs that were only featured on the UK versions of Help and Rubber Soul and three preview tracks from the then-upcoming Revolver (which were sent so quickly that the U.S. only received mono, alternate mixes, mixed into fake stereo for the 1966 pressing stereo albums).
•Elvis Presley a) A Date With Elvis and For LP Fans Only: These two, very brief (10 songs each) 1959 albums were released during Elvis’s army stint, to keep his name in the public eye on a continuous basis. They were actually useful collections for those who did not bother buying singles or extended play discs. The tracks included singles from the 1954-55 Sun sessions, single B-sides and EP-only tracks including regular songs and soundtracks recordings never on an LP.
b) Elvis for Everyone: This was yet another stopgap measure, to have the public believe Elvis recorded a new studio album in 1965, when in reality he was only recording soundtracks for a fast succession of movies for much of 1964, all of 1965 and the beginning of 1966. The tracks here included leftovers going as far back as the Sun sessions — Tomorrow Night with background singers added as overdubs.
c) Elvis Now: This 1972 LP is actually one of the more dishonestly titled albums of all time. Only some of the tracks were recorded for what was then recently — in 1971. Other tracks were scraps from 1969 and 1970 — in fact, the 1969 outtake Hey Jude was the worst song from the otherwise stellar Memphis sessions. Elvis never wanted it to be released — he didn’t even know all the lyrics!
d) Back in Memphis, Love Letters from Elvis and Promised Land: These albums did not survey a period of more than two years, but instead comprised the second and third choices from very prolific album sessions in 1969, 1970 and 1973.
e) Crying in the Chapel: This 1965 single was Elvis’s biggest hit in several years, and was a gracefully sung relief from the increasingly silly, indifferently sung and poor sounding soundtrack songs he was recording. There was a good reason for the great quality — the song was recorded in 1960.
f) Burning Love — This 1972 album on the Camden budget label was especially exploitative, capitalizing on the success of the title track by surrounding it and its B-side with ‘60s soundtrack songs. Burning Love was actually supposed to be released on the planned half-live, half-studio Standing Room Only album, but that was cancelled in favour of a recording of the heralded Madison Square Garden show in June 1972.
• The Platters: Each successive album by the wonderful doo-wop/rhythm and blues group had new material, including songs by new lead singer Sonny Turner, who had replaced Tony Williams. But many singles released after Tony Williams left still had his vocals, as they were leftovers from older sessions. And bizarrely, a post-Williams album had new Williams solo vocals, with the Platters’ vocals added afterwards. Ah, the record business...
• Heart — Magazine: This album was an unauthorized 1977 release from the band’s first label, to whom they owed a second album. It included several unfinished songs, and an early B-side and live recordings. The first pressing was so unfinished-sounding that the band went in and (unwillingly) did some re-recording and remixing to fix it up.
Not much of this type of chicanery goes on these days, but gap-filling albums were common at a time when new albums were expected every few months.
Click here for the Magazine. Updated June 7, 2013
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