by Michael Popke
Record labels seem to be trying anything these days to get fans to shell out for songs they already own: They’re re-releasing recent albums with additional “bonus” content, reissuing titles multiple times and repackaging much of the same content. The latest example of this comes in the form of Legacy’s “Setlist” series — bargain-priced collections of live songs drawn from the extensive archives of 11 artists on the Columbia, Epic and RCA labels. The first round of Setlist titles arrived in stores on Tuesday and includes such safe-bet artists as Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, Alabama, Johnny Cash, Cheap Trick, Jefferson Airplane, Judas Priest, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent and REO Speedwagon.
Most of the songs have been previously released on live albums or as bonus tracks on expanded editions. Like Legacy’s “Playlist” series, Setlist titles come in eco-friendly, plastic-free packaging (which means these things are flimsy), digital booklets must be downloaded, and the cover art is drab and disappointing. At first glance, they seem like another poorly conceived marketing ploy. And they are.
But, at least in the case of the Kansas entry in the Setlist series — officially titled The Very Best of Kansas Live — the band’s performances are edgier than they are in the studio, and this 10-track disc opens with several lesser-known songs captured in 1977 and 1978 — arguably the strongest period for both Kansas and Steve Walsh’s voice. “Child of Innocence,” “Paradox,” “Lonely Street” and “Cheyenne Anthem” preface “Dust in the Wind” (a previously unreleased version featuring a boisterous 1980 crowd in Chicago), a crisp and tight version of “Carry On Wayward Son” from Pine Knob, Mich., in 1980 and the unexpected but welcome “Play the Game Tonight,” a previously unreleased performance from a 1982 gig in Kansas City, Mo., featuring John Elefante on vocals.
In some fan circles, Blue Oyster Cult may qualify as prog; in others, it may not qualify at all. But BOC’s 12-track live disc is the closest the Setlist series comes to prog after the Kansas entry. More Setlist titles are on the way, though, and Legacy could plunder its Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons Project and Chicago vaults. I would suggest making the packaging more appealing, though. After all, one of the primary targets of the Setlist series is hardcore fans who want the previously unreleased material; shouldn’t they at least get a booklet?
For related items that you may enjoy in our Goldmine store:
• Get the invaluable record collector’s resource: Goldmine® Record Album Price Guide, 6th Edition
• Check out “The Everything Music Composition Book with CD, A step-by-step guide to writing music
• Read the informative “The Everything Rock Drums Book: From basic rock beats and syncopation to fills and drum solos—all you need to perform like a pro” (with CD)