Reissue Roundup: Barleycorn Lives!

How much do I love reissues? Let me count the ways. Well, let me NOT do that, else I’ll never get around to the subject at hand…

Anyway, this is the first in a regular series of postings about cool reissues that are coming down the pike — or ones that have already come down the pike and may have passed you by.

In this initial outing, I’m gonna focus on something that recently emerged from the UMe/UMC portal — that is, one of the recent Deluxe Editions to come from the Universal umbrella: Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, initially issued on Chris Blackwell’s ever-innovative Island label in July 1970 (in the U.K., that is; it came out on United Artists here in the States before Island added it to its domestic catalog).

Before I get to Barleycorn’s potent content, a word or five about packaging — a super-important aspect of any physical product to us collectors and audiophiles. It appears Universal is moving away from including the slidable protective plastic sleeve for their multidisc Deluxe Editions, a trend I began noticing last year when I picked up the double-disc version of Supertramp’s Breakfast in America over the holidays. (Brief sidebar — the second disc for that Breakfast set includes live tracks from the band’s 1979-80 tour, not included on 1980’s double-live Paris [not all of ’em here are from that Paris show, BTW; four come from Wembley and one’s from Miami]. Highlights for me are the 5-minute stab at “Even in the Quietest Moments” and a galloping 7-minute take on “Child of Vision.”)

The lack of perma-sleevery is probably a green/environmentally motivated decision, which I can certainly get behind. But it does come at a cost. The way the Deluxe Edition logo/banner appears on some of these newer packages isn’t necessarily the best thing for the sake of permanency and collectability. Some of these double-disc digipak-style sets have a contiguous two-plus–inch tall band/sticker across the full circumference of the bottom — it’s opaque white on the front to left and right spines, and totally see-through on the back where text (song titles, copyright credits, etc.) tends to appear. Problem is, the opaque white on the main spine obscures any type that appears at the bottom, which can include things like catalog numbers and label logos. (Depending on any given spine design, it’s certainly possible that band/artist names and album titles could be covered up down there too.)

You have to break the seal where the two halves/sides meet at the bottom right spine to get inside to the discs and booklets, and the corners of that then-broken sticker tend to pop up and not stay stuck down, or just rip the cover — neither particularly desirable effects. This presentation may be changing with forthcoming reissues, however, as a smaller Deluxe Edition sticker plus a separate blue (for Blu-ray) or red (for DVD) “content explanation” sticker appear on the removable crinkly plastic on Rush’s Moving Pictures reissue. You can, of course, retain them inside or stick them directly on the cover wherever you want them to appear — your choice, in this case. I hope this option becomes the norm, replacing the band-across-the-bottom approach. Ever-vigilant, I will monitor this pressing Deluxe Edition sticker issue as time goes on. Yes, there’s no end to the lengths I will go for you, dear S+V enthusiasts… ;)