Non-Commercial Highlights of the Week

This month I’ve picked up some absolutely outstanding non-commercial releases (which I prefer over “bootlegs,”) and I wanted to take the opportunity to differentiate between the two terms.

When I hear the word, “bootleg,” I picture a DVD-R in a paper sleeve with the word, “TITANIC” written in black sharpie across the disc.  Bootlegs are what people try to sell you for a fiver in a gas station parking lot.

China

“Bootleg”

When instead I use the term “non-commercial” or “unauthorized”  release, I have in mind something much different.  A wonderful example is the KLF Recovered & Remastered Ltd Ed EP series I highlighted in my last entry.  These are painstakingly and skillfully remastered works engineered by dedicated fans who fill the void left when the official label has left recordings ignored and unreleased for decades.

Two such LPs just arrived in the mail yesterday.

Crown Records issued unauthorized versions of Kraftwerk’s first two (sadly, forgotten) albums, I and II in 1994, albums which had not been available on vinyl since 1970 (other than a short run by Philips Records’ Japanese division in 1979.)  What made the Crown releases even more fun was that for the first time these LPs were issued on red and green wax matching their Warhol-esque cover art.

Crown - Kraftwerk I

Crown - Kraftwerk II
These two albums sound nothing like the electronic wizardry of their better-known recordings.  Here is a sample of side 1, track 1 – “Ruckzuk.”

But then, this week, I got my hands on an absolute gem – a remarkable example of a proper fan-produced album.

The Syd Barrett – Have You Got It Yet? box set produced by The Laughing Madcaps is a work of art.

This 22-disc box set includes over 200 rare and unreleased audio tracks with a total running time of over 13 hours.  But it doesn’t stop there.   The set is complete with deluxe fan-designed packaging and 8 bonus VCD discs including Syd’s First Trip from 1966, TV promotional footage from Sydney and Belgium, a complete collection of video interviews, the VH1 Legends special, a disc of rare photo galleries, PDF scans of books like The Pink Floyd Songbook, and so much more.

Box for A3 printing
Each disc comes with matching artwork and detailed production liner notes.  Many of the tracks are presented as OOPS (Out Of Phase Stereo) mixes.

From the liner notes:

These are fan-created remixes and NOT session outtakes. OOPS is a process by which a home user can remix a stereo track, thus revealing musical details that were less evident in the commercial mix.

Furthermore, every OOPS and mono track on discs 8-10 was rendered as a dual-signal expansion: one channel is a mirror image of the other. For the listener, this means a richer sound field and a more natural ambiance than could be expected from pure mono, yet without any obvious attempt at a stereo result from a mono source.

spines

The spines of Volumes 1 – 10

For the Pink Floyd fans out there unfamiliar with the phrase, “Have You Got It Yet?” the story goes like this:

Initially, the song, “Have You Got It Yet?” seemed like an ordinary Barrett tune. However, as soon as the other members attempted to join in and learn the piece, Barrett changed the melodies and structure, making it impossible for the others to follow.  For the chorus, Barrett sang, “Have You Got It Yet?” while the rest of the band answered “No, no!”.

Roger Waters was later interviewed about the incident and said that upon realizing that Barrett was deliberately making the song impossible to learn, he reportedly put down his bass, left the room, and never attempted to play with Barrett again.

Waters called it “a real act of mad genius”.

I will not endorse buying bootlegs.  But fan-remastered and remixed recordings of rare and unreleased 40-year old archival material?  Fine by me.

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