Friday, July 05, 2013
It’s The Journey As Much As The Destination
We tend to think of our favourite albums as something fixed and monumental, their genius-like qualities having arrived in the studios fully-formed and immutable.
Every beat and every note has been inextricably bound into our lives from the day we first heard it. There’s a feeling that these songs and tunes were always meant to be this way.
Of course it’s not like that. What we’re hearing is usually the result of painstaking rehearsals and run-throughs.
Having been lucky enough to work on a couple of re-issues of what I would regard as classic albums, I’ve heard hours and hours of alternate takes where the players are clearly after something else other beyond clinching the structural mechanics of a composition.
Hearing them makes you vividly aware that the moments you thought of as fixed and cast in tablets of stone - every beat and every note - are simply there as a result of how an artist or producer was feeling on the day it came to make a choice.
Take 13 might be just as good as Take 22 but it’s the latter that won out over the former, and that’s the version that gets to be hard-wired into your life.
Some regard the inclusion of alternate takes and outtakes in these reissues as a cynical attempt by the record company to wring more out of the wallets of long-exploited fan who has already bought the album several times in the past.
Others subscribe to the view that if we’d been meant to hear these things then they would’ve been on the finished record in the first place.
Yet the further away from the original recording and release dates we get, these albums realign to become historical events. They invite a form of assessment and scrutiny that’s qualitatively different from the kind of critical evaluation they received when first making their way into our world.
Just as the letters of writers and politicians or the preliminary sketches of painters provide a glimpse behind the curtain into creative or judgmental processes, the inclusion of such outtakes don’t take away from the brilliance of the original work in question but tell us something about how they came to arrive there.
Back in the day, all we cared about was the destination. With hindsight we sometimes come to realise that the journey itself can be just as important.