Better the Second Time Around

The Who, Bob Marley and Sonic Youth re-release their finest work, a wealth of new material

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The hottest new trend in the music industry? Reissues. Classic albums by the Who, Marvin Gaye and the Byrds are being rereleased with dramatically improved sound, previously unpublished photos and in-depth historical essays – and they're selling. "The concept is to create a unique package that elaborates on the original," says Andy McKaie, senior vice president of AU+0026R at Universal Music Enterprises, which has found its biggest success with a "Deluxe Edition" of Bob Marley's Legend. "We're telling the story of the album by bringing in outtakes, live versions, B sides and remixes."

Sometimes, the new versions include an entirely different take on the album. The reissue of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On appears both as it was originally released and as an unreleased earlier mix done by Gaye during his initial Detroit sessions. Another classic, The Velvet Underground and Nico, offers contrasting mono and stereo mixes, plus tracks from Nico's obscure solo album Chelsea Girl.

500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground and Nico

Other labels are increasing their plans for reissues. Sony Music's Legacy series will release a double-disc expansion of Jeff Buckley's Live at Sin-é, more than quadrupling the number of original tracks. Also on tap is the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, which places Gram Parsons – the country-rock pioneer who was briefly a Byrd, only to have most of his vocals wiped from the official 1968 release – more at the center of the recording.

Sales for reissues can range from 20,000 to more than 80,000 copies, the latter reached by Marley's Legend reissue. With a list price near thirty dollars, reissues have become a solid investment for record companies.

Music fans seem happy about the trend. "They're a collector's dream," says Marc Weinstein, of the California indie record stores Amoeba Music. "It really takes advantage of the medium."

This story is from the August 21st, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 929: August 21, 2003
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