The third part of a roundup of the gift-giving season’s best box sets.
Quadrophenia: The Director’s Cut
Pete Townshend has always preferred his 1973 rock opera over the more celebrated Tommy. It’s easy to hear why on this remastered box. The story’s central theme – basically teenage angst split into four distinct personalities — isn’t as straightforward as the one about the deaf, dumb, and blind kid, but it’s a richer work, filled with some of his most mammoth songs (like “5:15” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”). The four-disc box tags on two CDs of Townshend’s original demos, before the rest of the Who added heft to them. Many songs didn’t change much from the bedroom to the studio, but there are whole chapters here (most of them centering on the protagonist’s troubled home life) that didn’t make the final cut. They don’t add much to the story, but like the director’s cut of a movie, they offer some new perspective.
Wish You Were Here: Experience
Pink Floyd’s 1975 opus — and follow-up to The Dark Side of the Moon, which made them global stars – features more musings on fame, psychoses, and alienation. But the songs here, especially “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and the title track, are stronger and more focused. The latest special-edition release in the overhaul of Pink Floyd’s catalog is available in a couple of different versions. You can lay down more cash for the pricey five-disc Immersion set (which includes bonus songs and a photo book), but the two-CD Experience reissue is all you really need. The original remastered album reveals new ear-blowing details tucked away in the corners, but it’s the second disc of alternate mixes and live cuts that are truly eye-opening, especially the two leftover songs that were later reworked for the band’s next album, Animals.
The Smashing Pumpkins
Gish: Deluxe Edition
Siamese Dream: Deluxe Edition
The Smashing Pumpkins celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album with expanded versions of their first two records. Gish is still a messy introduction, overcrowded with fuzzy guitar attacks, songs that go on past their breaking points, and Billy Corgan’s incomprehensible ramblings. The follow-up, 1993’s Siamese Dream, is much better, pulling back on most of the things that make Gish so exhausting at times. These three-disc sets add concert DVDs, but the real draws are the bonus CDs, which include early demos, rough sketches, and alternate versions of songs that ended up on the albums and some that never left the vaults. It’s an interesting trip through the band’s past, and, especially with Gish, they reveal a workmanlike side to the band that often got buried in the alt-nation noise that helped Corgan fulfill his rock-star dreams.