With artists as successful as David Bowie, whose own long recording history has moved the performer through a multitude of musical styles, it’s only natural that immense bodies of work would be revisited, time and time again, to provide every nuance of packaging and enhancements to the truly dedicated fan. Despite some shouts of “double-dipping” and “opportunism,” labels continue to re-supply the market with new ways of presenting the music of high-profile artists. I, myself, have never had a problem with multiple reissues of the same title. If I’m a fan, and I want the new reissue, I’ll buy them. If I don’t find a use for the reissue, I ignore it. It’s a simple perspective and should always guide fans in their purchasing decisions.
The recent US importing reissue of the popular Japanese form of reissue (LP-styled replication that has always interested import devotees) capitalizes on that growing interest. Japanese reissues of titles have carried a sense of respect for decades; ask any collector of imported music. Many bands have had their music remastered and re-released in packaging that is faithful in many ways to the title’s original LP release. Designed mini-cardboard sleeves with the CD sheathed in disc-protecting plastic will be familiar to anyone who has purchased a vinyl LP. It is completed by foldout inserts that contain lyrics (in Japanese and English), and credits. The entire CD package is, itself, protected by a resealing plastic cover with an inserted paper spine to provide a measure of retention as well as identification (if you can read Japanese).
CDs have outgrown the industry standard of bulky, boring, and useless jewel casings. Over the decades, the packaging of CDs have started to lean toward the more artistic digipaks and other methods of packaging, thus returning (or evolving) to a new era of artistic creativity in presenting music. I applaud this because I hate jewel-casing. With Japanese mini-LP formats, storage becomes a dream. For addicted collectors, a “shoebox” like storage system allows the entire CD package to fit nicely into an easily retrievable format without compromise of any assembled pieces, i.e. booklet, lyric sheet, CD.
EMI (US) has provided easy access to David Bowie’s large Japanese mini-LP reissues/remasters (1999) catalogue beginning with Bowie’s first album on through his first with Tin Machine, releasing them in three waves rather than dropping them all at once on a buyer. These sets of releases are a desirable approach for fans, providing easy – but limited – domestic access to otherwise expensive Japanese reissues. While these import introductions into the US domestic market will only attract solid fans and collectors, it would still be nice to see this type of domestic access revisited more often with a wider variety of bands.