Monday, June 27, 2022

On Bonus Tracks

By The cover art can be obtained from Arista., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3613286 

A million years ago I decided that I liked The Alan Parsons Project. It was the song "Eye In the Sky" that got me. Such a catchy song, driving and melodic, yet mellow and thoughtful. It was one of my favorite songs during my childhood, and still is.

Over thirty years later, I decided to buy the LP Eye In the Sky that contained the single. Then I was faced with a choice of buying the original LP as it was released in 1982, or a special edition with "bonus tracks." The bonus tracks included early demo versions of some of the songs as well as a guide vocal track, which is what a songwriter records for the vocalist or lead singer to go by to achieve the desired final product. In other words, the bonus tracks consisted of material that was imperfect or not intended for release due to lower quality. I decided to buy the special edition.

While it is interesting to hear what early versions of songs sounded like before they were perfected, the presence of these songs in the playlist messes up the flow of a carefully compiled album. When you get an LP, you are getting something that has been prepared by professionals. Experts listen to the playlist before the consumer does, and make sure the end product is good. It's carefully curated.

With modern software, it is fairly easy to curate your own track list to recreate the original album. In this case, the extraneous tracks are wisely appended to the end of the LP, which makes it easier. But even so I think it's a mistake.

Don't get the special edition with bonus tracks unless you already have the original. You lose the effect of listening to the original, historical version, and it isn't usually better.

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