29 December

Morrissey's oeuvre, including that with The Smiths, has been poorly presented in reissues at least since his second singles compilation, World of Morrissey [1995]. Things started alright: the first solo-Morrissey compilation, Bona Drag [1990], includes most of the tracks only available on singles released prior to its release, excluding 'I Know Very Well How I Got My Name', 'Oh Well I'll Never Learn', 'Sister I'm a Poet'; 'Michael's Bones', 'East West', 'Girl Least Likely To', 'Get Off the Stage', and 'At Amber'; four of these tracks ('Poet', 'Bones', 'Girl', and Amber') were included on the third singles compilation, My Early Burglary Years [1998]. Morrissey's discography soon enough got more complicated; the jumbled World and Burglary compilations reflect that sad state of affairs, as do the re-sequenced versions of Kill Uncle, Southpaw Grammar, and Maladjusted released in recent years. We only hope that a sequel to The H M V/ Parlophone Singles '88-'95, covering his recent years more thoroughly than the fourth singles compilation, Swords [2009] (which, granted, is at least comparable to Bona Drag in focusing on a particular period: namely, the Sanctuary comeback), surfaces at some point. However, that three-disc Singles box should not only expand to include the Maladjusted singles of 1997. It also ideally would have the few U S-exclusive singles that unfortunately were excluded, so that 'Let the Right One Slip In', the alternate U S versions of 'My Love Life', 'I've Changed My Plea to Guilty', and 'Tomorrow', and two of the three At KROQ tracks find their rightful place. The discography at the exemplary fan site, Morrissey-Solo, can clarify all these matters.

As for the Smiths, the Complete boxed set, which should be called Nearly Complete, finally gave us proper, but not great, digital remasters (in other words, it should've come out around 1995, and by this point we should've had even-better remasters; while you can hear the details of Johnny Marr's many overdubbed guitars more than before, they could definitely be coming in clearer). The greatest problem with the Complete set, though, is that other B B C recordings were not included. Ideally, we would've had a deluxe version of Hatful of Hollow, featuring the rest of the Peel-session tracks from 1983 and the other non-album tracks from the years, 1983-84 (namely, the live version of 'Handsome Devil' that served as 'Hand in Glove''s B side; 'Jeane'; and 'Wonderful Woman'; also, the 'This Charmless Man' remixes and 7-inch edits of several of the singles could be dumped in as bonus tracks). Since Morrissey seems to enjoy re-sequencing albums, perhaps he could re-order Hatful into these two halves. And of course, The World Won't Listen/ Louder Than Bombs needs its own reshuffling: more 7-inch edits, the Strangeways singles, and a few other stray tracks.

The Complete set annoys for another reason: while keeping the original, British nine-track sequence of Meat Is Murder (not the U S version with 'How Soon Is Now?' added), it uses the U S sequence of the debut album, with 'This Charming Man' added to the original ten tracks. This choice was made, of course, because without that 'Charming' bonus, the set would not have one of the band's legendary songs; the version of 'Charming' on Hatful is a B B C recording. In short, because the compilers didn't include the tracks from singles not on Hatful, The World Won't Listen, or Louder Than Bombs, they had to take an inconsistent approach to the studio albums as well. These are all minor matters, of course, but they attest to the importance of definitive compilation and archival releases, sequenced and presented clearly--a task that even labels dedicated to reissues (Rhino, Rhino, Rhino) have difficulty with.

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Here's my own (longish) single L P of Morrissey essential tracks from the first phase of his solo career (that is, through 1997). No Southpaw Grammar or Maladjusted tracks make the cut, though 'Reader Meet Author' from the former came close ('Southpaw' is a great song, but the extended instrumental passage that ends the track is a bore--tastes like meatloaf leftovers of U 2 demos). The live version of 'Jack the Ripper' from Beethoven Was Deaf (also included on both World of Morrissey and My Early Burglary Years) is included, not the inferior studio original.

Suedehead
Glamorous Glue
Certain People I Know
The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get
Interesting Drug
The Last of the Famous International Playboys
Sing Your Life
Everyday Is Like Sunday
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Jack the Ripper
Late Night, Maudlin Street
Such a Little Thing Makes a Big Difference
Tomorrow
I Know Very Well How I Got My Name
Billy Budd
The National Front Disco