Went to see The Wedding Present tonight at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens, Georgia, performing half each of the compilation albums Hit Parde 1 and Hit Parade 2 (more on that half later). Those albums exemplify what a singles compilation should be: both the A-side and B-side tracks of a set of singles, the choice of singles to be included clearly defined conceptually or temporally. In this case, the project and the ensuing compilation albums were simple enough. One seven-inch 45 per month during 1992, each with an original song on the A side, a cover on the B side. The singles are also tracked perfectly on the two compilations. Hit Parade 1 features singles one through six, the six A-side tracks followed by the six B-side tracks; Hit Parade 2 features singles seven through twelve, the six A-side tracks followed by the six B-side tracks. If the listener has the L P version of the album he doesn't have an exact replica of the experience of listening to one single after another, but instead a slightly-different experience. This approach is superior, because it gives the buyer of the original singles the minor gift of letting him hear the tracks as they were initially released (ideally those individuals will also be rewarded by the item becoming a rare commodity). Meanwhile, the album assumes a distinct identity, however slightly, especially in this case because of the basic distinction of the A-side tracks being originals, the B-sides covers. If only most singles compilations would be so neatly put together.
Granted, more buyers of the Hit Parade albums got the C D's, allowing them to program the discs to play track 1, then track 7, and so on; thus more easily replicating the experience of listening to the singles in order. Still, the albums deserve their own identity. And, despite that many artists would insist otherwise, the A side of L P's often plays the same role as the A side of single, due to the temptation, so hard to resist, of putting the best tracks first.
This all brings to mind yet another database project I've wanted to do, and which I'll launch via this blog like I'm doing with the "great books" project. The "bonus" tracks nearly always featured on "deluxe," "expanded," "legacy," "anniversary," and other special editions of albums come from sources far more diverse than just the B sides of singles: unreleased live recordings, studio out-takes, radio sessions, side projects. But serious fans are rarely pleased with the selection; an obvious example to point to are the two-disc Cure reissues which, despite their length, excluded obvious choices (some of which had been released on an earlier boxed set). So, beginning with discs I personally own copies of, I will list the source of what's on those discs (not always given in the liner notes) and, more importantly, list other tracks that would have been included if the compilers were as thorough as those of the Hit Parades.