Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Posthumous Music -- Cashing in or Remembering Our Heroes?

With this week's release of the first American Recordings posthumous release from Johnny Cash, ALIEN CORPSE has been pondering the cash cow of life after death in the recording industry.

Is this practice simply the record company giving the fans what we want; giving us a way to connect with our fallen/tortured/misunderstood heroes? Or are we being taken advantage of, manipulated into spending money on typically subpar releases because our beloved is no longer with us?

There is certainly a great amount of attention received after a musician passes away that encourages a record company (or the surviving members of the band) to polish and then push a release of a "not quite finished" record. There is also the "dead artist" mentality that maintains an artist's work is more valuable after the artist passes on.

Also, many times the artist was in process or nearing completion of a project when they die, and it just takes their producer adding finishing touches to release the record, sometimes (especially in the case of Elliott Smith) giving the listener insight into their state of mind prior to their death (suicide).

As one being that has tasted death, ALIEN CORPSE has decided to take this stance: Immediate releases of unfinished work are acceptable especially in the case of suicide, greatest hits are acceptale, whereas remixes/"from the vault"/B-sides/other crap are offensive to fans and should be treated as such.

Here are some posthumous examples:

  • Elliott Smith - From A Basement on a Hill(2004), Smith passed on October 22, 2003.
  • Johnny Cash - Unearthed (11/03) (!), My Mother's Hymn Book (4/04), The Legend of Johnny Cash (10/05) American V: A Hundred Highways(7/4/06), Cash passed September 12, 2003.
  • Elvis Presley - Too many to mention, the most notable is the FRIGHTENING 2002 remix of "A Little Less Conversation," Elvis passed August, 1977.
  • Russell Jones (aka ODB, Dirt McGirt) - A Son Unique (expected 06), ODB passed November 2004.
  • 2Pac - Greatest Hits (1998), Until the End of Time (2001), All Eyez on Me (2001), Better Dayz (2002), Ressurection (11/03), Loyal to the Game (12/04), 2Pac passed in 1996.
  • Nirvana - Nirvana (10/02), With the Lights Out (11/04), Sliver: The Best of the Box (11/05), Kurt Cobain passed April 5th, 1994.
What are we missing? What's your favorite or (even better) your most hated posthumous release?


danszombathy said...

I didn't become a Nirvana fan until after Kurt's death, so I definitely see value in doing something to perpetuate the music's legacy. But it is most certainly true that record labels are businesses, and as businesses they will do whatever it takes to make money. They're decisions just aren't motivated by artistic ambition, but by financial ambition. And that is what we should expect and we shouldn't criticize them for it. It's capitalism, man.

Having said that, what do I think of that Nirvana box set that came out a few years ago? It was amazing; great lo-fi rendering of some of my favorite Nirvana songs, and a ton of songs I'd never heard. Was Courtney Love putting the set out in order to make money? Yep. But that shouldn't make me enjoy the music any less.


Yes. We should expect record companies to try and make a profit. And yes, we should expect that the best way to make a profit sometimes is to release records by artists when the interest is very high. And yes, oftentimes an artists death usually creates an intrigue around the artist that makes us want to explore what was going on inside...BUT that doesn't mean we should be happy about record companies taking advantage of us.

ALTHOUGH we would probably be complaining if our favorite artist passed and the record company DIDN'T release their latest effort for us to hear.