Trials and Tribulations (II)

In our first look at the many things that can drive a collector bonkers, we discussed terrible box sets, maddening stickers, irritating packaging, generic covers and stupid or incomplete liner notes, small print, and the hidden track of doom. If you thought that was all, think again …

(11) Freak Programming: Not all collectors agree, but I prefer chronological sequencing on boxed sets collecting all the recordings by any one artist. Jumping between sessions or from 1952 to 1973 and back to 1964 just gives me headaches. Add to that the sometimes very in consistent volume between tracks and you have a maddening ride that feels more like an excursion on the Titanic than gliding along in a sailboat.

(12) Alternateritis: Some labels just try to do their job too perfectly. They include every single recording snippet that was ever put on tape while that artist was on their roster. So, you get Billie Holiday talking about her shopping list, you get Lester Young blowing some completely out-of-tune stuff to some song he was hearing in his drug-infested mind (and the sidemen were trying their best to cover up) and you get false starts (“Hey, is the tape rolling? – Yes, it is. – Good, let’s start over again then. – (groaning from engineering room)”). Or you get 15 alternate takes of the same tune. Some CDs start to sound like Stan Freberg’s “I ain’t playin’ that cling-cling-cling-jazz no more” skit. But that one probably nobody but me remembers.

(13) The Missing OBI Tragedy: You don’t know what an OBI is? You think it’s Star Wars related? Nope. It’s those folded cardboard thingies that often come with Japanese reissues. Collectors are VERY insistent when it comes around to these. They need them. They start thrashing around when someone selling a CD on eBay previously trashed the OBI. Yikes! If I had a cent for every buyer’s question “What about the OBI?” posted on eBay, I would not be sitting in zero-degrees Germany right now. And Mosaic Records invoices and catalogs? Don’t even get me started on those.

(14) Translations: It’s something I notice in Europe, especially. Some Spanish reissue labels and some German ones just do not have the cash to hire someone remotely familiar with the English language. Gibberish at times. Proof-reading? Don’t ask.

(15) Printing Errors: How many people work for a global player? And why can’t any one of those read? How many hands does a CD cover pass through before it is OK’ed by the management? One? Misspelled artists’ names, wrongly attributed instruments, simple typing errors, color mismatches, fluorescent green print on glowing red backgrounds, missing pages. You name it, I’ve got it in my collection. The mind boggles. In the 60s Jethro Tull released an unsuccessful single entitled “Sunshine Day”. I guess the reason for it being unsuccessful might have been that the name on the cover was, wait for it … “Jethro Toe”. I kid you not.

(16) The Incredible Shrink-Wrap Machine: Who came up with the idea of shrink-wrapping digipacks and other collector’s items? And why is he still alive? The machines suck the air out of the packaging and the life out of the digipacks. They start bending up- or downwards, the corners are shot to hell and the plastic cracks. Too much pressure, too little air. Sometimes the packaging is so tight that you need a Swiss army knife to open it up. Try finding a spot at which to insert the knife. Rrrrrip. Yep. You just cut into the cover.

(17) Non-Standard Sizes: There was a reason the jewelcase was invented. It helps keep a collection neat and makes it easy to store lots of CDs. But no, some produc design departments just love adding the extra two centimeters to the digipack, making the boxed set twice as deep or three times as tall as any other on the market, ensuring that the whole thing falls apart when standing upright, fitting CDs into a package in a way that they simply roll out when lifted, etc. The storage system able to handle these kinds of misfits has not been invented yet. Solution: Remove the CDs, put them into jewelcases and forget about the original packaging (I’ve got a whole cupboard full of misfits).

(18) Uneven Volume: There it is – the collection you’ve always been looking for. All the artist’s early recordings, his first 10 years on one handy double-CD. You pop it into the player and turn up the volume because track one seems a bit quiet. You relax on the sofa, maybe even forget to take the remote along, and then … track 2 comes around. You try to find/reach the remote before the tweeter of your $3000 speaker rips but, alas, too late. If every PC newbie can normalize a burned CD, why can’t multinational labels do it?

(19) The Remastering from Hell: This one is a biggy. I don’t know when the remastering craze started, but it did produce an incredible amount of absolutely horrifying, overly eq’ed and no-noised reissues that looked good in the shop but don’t even qualify as coasters. God-awful remastering jobs that unfortunately suggest to those unaware of the original recordings that the 70 minutes of eardrum-splitting treble was actually good music when first released. Makes your ears bleed.

(20) Reissues of Reissued Reissues: One of the worst and also familiar to the film-buying public. You buy the original at full price because you want it straight away and you think you might actually be supporting an artist by doing so. Then, four weeks later, the improved version with the extra tracks on a bonus CD comes out. Two months later that is followed by the collector’s disk which has a full concert on a bonus DVD (that one is cheaper than the first two, of course). Then, about half a year later, when all the complaints have finally died down, the extra special edition comes out. That one has the three lost tracks, the alternative longer versions and the sixteen remixes. Do like me: Wait a year before buying anything. In case it ‘s jazz you’re interested in, wait 50.

That wasn’t it either. There’s more to comesoon.

Posted by Volkher Hofmann

Volkher Hofmann (deus62) has been blogging on and off since the 1990s and is all that is left. He loves music, literature, drumming and, most of all, real life. He thinks the open web is much more important than social networks, closed-in ecosystems and other severely commercialized online endeavors.

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