Faith no more did everything right. Following their break up after the amazing album ‘album of the year’, the band retained a dignified silence which was only broken, periodically, by various greatest hits compilations, few of which had any input at all from the band. There was no rarities collection (although two of the aforementioned hits albums offered bonus discs with various offcuts), no posthumous live album and, up until now, no expanded ‘deluxe’ reissues. Now, however, with interest in the band riding high once more in the wake of the stunning ‘sol invictus’, along come Rhino with not one, but two reissues. The timing may seem just a touch cynical, and certainly the band were quick to distance themselves from such shenanigans, but for long-time fans of the band do these reissues actually offer value and are they worth picking up? The answer is a cautious ‘yes’.
Going back to the beginning of Mike Patton’s tenure (apparently poor old Chuck Mosely is to be airbrushed out of the band’s history, at least as far as reissues go), Rhino have gone with reissuing the evergreen classics ‘the real thing’ and ‘angel dust’ Both have been issued as 2 CD digi packs and both feature liner notes from that ever-readable scribe Malcome Dome whose reviews over the years have done so much to introduce me to some truly wonderful bands. Tastefully designed, the digi packs retain the original album cover and rear shots whilst adding the single covers to the panels and a selection of live shots to the booklets. It’s not exactly Pink Floyd, but the packaging has been tastefully done and it looks neither cheap nor rushed. In both cases the first disc offers up a carefully remastered version of the original album (with no extras or offcuts tacked onto the end, so more brownie points there) whilst the second disc offers up a treasure trove of b sides and rarities, basically gathering together a complete set of b sides in one place and throwing in a few truly rare gems at the same time.
There’s really nothing to be said about either ‘the real thing’ or ‘angel dust’. These are classic, classic albums which have stood the test of time remarkably well thanks to the sheer level of invention that Faith no more deployed at any given time. If you have heard the albums, then you almost certainly love them. If you’ve not heard them, then trust us, do yourself a favour and buy them both now, because your collection is sorely lacking. Perhaps my biggest fear, in terms of those first discs, was sonic tinkering, but in both cases Geoff Pesche (beavering away at Abby Road Studios) has done a fantastic job. Neither disc sounds overtly loud or compressed, rather Geoff has bought out some of the nuances of the discs and ‘the real thing’ in particular sounds a touch beefier than my original, well-worn copy whilst ‘angel dust’ just seems a touch more spacious with keyboards, in particular, seeming far clearer than I remember. It’s not an overwhelmingly revelatory experience, but then with albums of this stature you’d hope not, rather Geoff has comfortably polished up the two records so that they sound, to these ears at least, the best that they ever have. Fans can, therefore, breathe a sigh of relief.
The real reason for buying these issues, however, is the bonus disc on offer. Like so many fans of the band I did own various singles, but across three different formats (tape, CD and, of course, vinyl) and many of those singles seem to have long vanished through various moves so the chance to have all the tracks at my fingertips (and not simply tacked onto the end of the album as with the Nirvana reissues) is particularly appealing.
Starting with the ‘real thing’, the bonus disc offers up a relatively generous eleven tracks. Opening up with ‘sweet emotion’ (not a cover of the Aerosmith classic), we immediately get a hard-to-find track from an old Kerrang flexi disc (remember those?!) which offers up a little more of that eccentric rap-rock sound which typified the album. This is followed by two remixes, a rather odd radio remix of ‘epic’ which accentuates the drums and a Matt Wallace remix of ‘falling to pieces’ which does little but bring up the backing harmonies. Next we get two fine tracks which aren’t, sadly, particularly rare – ‘cowboy song’ and ‘the grade’, both of which were added to the ‘live at Brixton’ album – then another remix (an oddly extended ‘from out of nowhere’) and a clutch of live tracks, including a supercool run through of ‘as the worm turns’ which made the ‘live at Brixton’ VHS but not the CD for some bizarre reason. The quality is variable with the studio tracks sounding as perfect as technology allowed and the live tracks, on the whole, standing up well, although ‘war pigs’ sounds a little bit weedier than the ‘Brixton’ version, although it benefits form Mike remembering the bulk of the words this time round! It is, therefore, something of a grab bag of tracks, the desirability of which will depend entirely upon your love of the band. For me, the tracks are a vital compendium to a near perfect album, but to the uninitiated the reality is that the album itself is all you’ll ever need.
‘Angel dust’ fares better in the extra department for newcomers and fans who failed to get a hold of the many singles released alongside the album, although the disc still lacks anything truly exclusive. The offerings here include a full studio recording of ‘as the worm turns’ (YES!!!!), a rare outtake form the ‘angel dust’ sessions (‘the world is yours’), a brace of b sides including remixes and German language songs and, best of all, a selection of live tracks from 1992. Baring in mind that Faith no more released only one official live album – the ‘Brixton’ set – these live tracks are manna from heaven and include visceral takes on the like of ‘midlife crisis’, ‘land of sunshine’ and even, weirdly ‘rv’. It’s a shame, however, which the powers-that-be couldn’t dredge up a full set, and it must be noted that all of the tracks on the disc have appeared previously either on singles, import albums or rarities collections, so the real draw here is having these tracks all in one place, rather than thrill of hearing something truly new.
So all in all Rhino have produced little that is truly special with these ‘deluxe’ reiussues. They’re not bad, and the remastering has, thankfully, been sensitively done (a job for which Geoff Pesche genuinely deserves credit) but the bonus discs, you can’t help but feel, could have been so much more. Faith no more fans are a rabid bunch (and I count myself amidst their number) and it is a shame that the label saw fit to release a selection of B sides but not, for example, a remastered DVD of the Brixton show (still unavailable on DVD in the UK) or a full show from the ‘Angel Dust’ era. For completists like myself the Discs do offer a chance to hear tracks that are hard to find (or are long lost), whilst the remastering certainly has polished up the albums, but ultimately this is more a labour of financial gain rather than love and it’s a shame that these deluxe editions didn’t dig a little deeper into the band’s archives to really offer something special for the fans.