Reissue Hell

The hits -- and misses -- of yesterday still haunt us today.

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Kiss is back -- for no apparent reason --with yet - another greatest-hits collection.
Kiss is back -- for no apparent reason --with yet another greatest-hits collection.

The SWV Platinum and Gold Collection was the final straw. But who wouldn't be fed up with how low the bar has fallen for best-of records and other reissued music? This year has seen an unprecedented number of greatest hits, live albums, and special-edition LPs; they're cheap to produce and turn a profit quickly -- which is exactly what the major labels need amid the industry's prolonged slump. Last week alone, more than 70 reissues dropped (more than the number of new albums delivered during that time), which means a cut-out bin near you will soon feature fresh material from the likes of Slaughter, Neil Sedaka, and Taylor Dane.

Not surprisingly, we've quickly progressed to the bottom of the barrel, with plenty of one-hit blunders -- like SWV -- getting career retrospectives of their own. And it gets worse. Read on for the most ridiculous reissues of 2003.

Sophie B. Hawkins, The Best Of (Columbia/Legacy) -- Not only does Hawkins wish she was your lover, she also wishes she had more than two hits in an 11-year career. She's had a few solid albums of hard-edged adult contemporary songs, but for the $15 cost of this record, you could pick up all three of her albums at the Record Exchange. Trust us, there'll be plenty of copies.

Kiss, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection (Mercury) -- Gene Simmons's profiteering prowess, like his band's penchant for farewell tours, knows no end. Following the Kiss coffin and the Kiss MasterCard, the band is back -- for no apparent reason -- with yet another greatest-hits collection of the same old chestnuts. This from a band that hasn't released a good record since 1983, and that already put out three best-of albums in two years during the late '90s. Keep robbing your fans, Gene, and maybe someday your bank account will be as big as your ego.

Vince Neil, Live at the Whisky -- One Night Only (VNS/Image Entertainment) -- We don't know what's more ludicrous: a Vince Neil live album, or a Vince Neil live album with only one Vince Neil song. That's right, this 12-song collection contains but a single tune from Neil's solo career. And after listening to the lame-ass "Look in Her Eyes," we understand why Neil stuck to Crüe classics. But what we can't understand is why anyone would even think of buying this record. Even more egregious: The CD's photo of a trim, taut Neil looks to be about 15 years old, before the dude got to looking like a sausage stuffed in spandex.

Mariah Carey, Charmbracelet Special Edition (MonarC/Island) -- The record execs at Island/Def Jam are off their rockers as much as Carey is these days, with their decision to repackage this toe-tag on her career -- inexplicably being reissued with a couple of B-sides and remixes. Great. "Special edition" albums are one of the biggest rip-offs in the music biz. It's just a way to soak the diehards for every last penny, in exchange for one or two "bonus" cuts that weren't good enough to get on a bad album in the first place. Considering how godawful Charmbracelet was to begin with, this platter promises to suck harder than a Hoover.

Johnny Cash, Too Many Albums to Name (Columbia) -- The prolific Man in Black is living up to his name, with 20 reissues so far this year (and it's only half over!), heaped on a catalog that already includes more than 100 greatest-hits albums. We love Johnny -- we'd pay good money to hear him recite the ingredients on a toothpaste tube -- and he's made so much music over his 45-year career that compilations are to be expected, but we don't need a reissue a week from anybody. Even Cash's four most recent albums of "new" material consist mainly of covers of his own songs alongside hits from other artists. Enough with the repackaging. Columbia Records needs to give Johnny a rest -- he's earned it.

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