A Guide to Collecting "Extended Versions" Concert CDs
A Cheapskate's Delight
If you've ever browsed in the bargain-CD bin at your local big-box retailer, odds are that you've encountered at least one volume from Sony/BMG Music's long running series of budget priced "Extended Versions" live concert CDs. "Extended Versions" discs can be easily identified by their plain white packaging, which resembles an old fashioned live bootleg (or a generic brand box of cereal), their ultra-cheap price point (five bucks or less at most stores) and their extensive roster of "legacy" artists. Maybe you've added a volume or two to your CD collection, or perhaps you've merely sniffed at the sight of some has-been performer from days gone by on the front of an "Extended Versions" CD and wondered, "Who the heck buys these things, anyway?"
...well, I do... and I must not be the only one, because as of this writing there have been nearly a hundred "Extended Versions" CDs released over the past dozen years, from a wide variety of artists representing nearly every corner of the rock genre. Whatever style you're into, there's bound to be an "Extended Versions" disc out there by a band you like, from the classic rock of the '60s and '70s (Bad Company, Deep Purple, Foghat, The Yardbirds), to '80s new wave (Berlin, The Fixx, Go West), hard rock and heavy metal (Overkill, Megadeth, Anthrax), punk rock (the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop) and '90s alternative (Eve 6, Everclear, Soul Asylum).
So What's The Deal With These CDs?
The "Extended Versions" series was initially produced by BMG Special Products (the budget-price label imprint of music industry behemoth Bertelsmann Music Group, aka "BMG") in the early 2000s as a way to re-purpose some of the dormant/out of print material in their extensive vaults, while also providing retailers with a variety of low-priced "rack filler" CDs. When BMG merged with Sony Music a few years later, the series continued under the new company's "CMG" (for "Custom Marketing Group") imprint. Early BMG-only printings featured a subtitle on the front cover of each disc proclaiming that they were part of "THE ENCORE COLLECTION," whatever that was. This distinction was dropped from subsequent Sony-era releases. With Sony's vast catalog added to the pool of available artists, the "Extended Versions" series flourished, unleashing a steady flow of new titles that continue to this day. The discs can usually be found in the bargain-music bins at Wal-Mart or Best Buy, or from major online CD merchants, for only a few bucks apiece.
How I Got Hooked
I picked up my first "Extended Versions" disc when Quiet Riot vocalist Kevin DuBrow passed away in 2007. At the time I owned no Q.R. material on CD and figured that their "E.V." volume would be a quick and affordable addition to my collection. I had previously avoided the "E.V." series up to this point due to their el-cheapo reputation, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Quiet Riot recording, which I later found out was a previously-unreleased live tape from a radio broadcast. My curiosity was piqued and I began investigating other CDs in the series when I came across them in my travels. As of this writing, I've added more than a dozen of the discs by various hard rock and metal artists to my collection, and I have several more on my never-ending "want list." Be advised, collecting "Extended Versions" can become addictive, especially if you enjoy picking up CDs super cheap like I do!
Rehashes or Exclusives?
One of the major complaints from fans/collectors about the "Extended Versions" series is that the bulk of them are merely truncated re-hashes of previously released live discs. In other words, when Sony/BMG presses up a new batch of "Extended Versions" editions, they simply pull some out-of-print live albums out of their archives, pick ten tracks off of each of them, and push them back out into the marketplace in new wrappers. "Extended Versions" discs don't mention their source(s) on the CD packaging (aside from a not-very-helpful blurb on the cover telling you that they're "RECORDED LIVE"), so at first glance there is no indication that they may contain previously-released material. Naturally, this can be frustrating to a fan who buys one of these discs under the mistaken impression that he's getting a "new" release.
Therefore, if you own a lot of live albums, many of the "Extended Versions" series may be useless to you, because you might already own the album(s) that served as the original source material(s). In my particular case, I've never been a big live album collector, except for certain key live releases by my all time favorite bands. Therefore, I have no problem with picking up a condensed version of a gig as long as it's only going to cost me a couple of bucks. After all, if I haven't heard it, then it's new to me! In addition to being an affordable option for cheapskates like me, discs from this series can also provide an introduction to curious newbie fans who want to check out an artist for the first time, casual fans who simply want to hear an artist's "hits," or collectors who may have missed out on the original live album release(s). If nothing else, rock fans should at least appreciate the fact that Sony/BMG uses this series to "extend" the shelf life of vintage concert recordings by such a large number of out-of-vogue artists, rather than simply letting the material rot away in their vaults, never to be heard again.
Keep In Mind
Before dismissing the entire "Extended Versions" line, collectors should keep in mind that not every CD is a rehash of old goods. There are several "exclusive" performances available throughout the series (like the Quiet Riot disc I mentioned earlier)...you just have to know where to look for them. One of Foreigner's two "E.V." discs came from a previously-unreleased 2005 Las Vegas gig. Cinderella's edition (taped in 2005 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut) made its first appearance on CD in 2006 as an "Extended Version" before it was re-packaged by Frontiers Records with additional tracks and re-released in 2009 as "Live at the Mohegan Sun." The Alice Cooper and Damn Yankees discs both come from vintage live concert videos (1989's "Trashes the World" and 1993's "Uprising!", respectively) which were never released on CD. There are two Deep Purple "E.V." volumes, one being a rare 1976 tape of the short-lived "Mark IV" DP lineup with the late Tommy Bolin on guitar (recorded for the "King Biscuit Flower Hour" radio show), the other a recent vintage gig with current guitarist Steve Morse. Stryper's edition is a repackaging of their "7 Weeks: Live in America" album, but it features one track ("You Won't Be Lonely") that wasn't included on the earlier release.
Obviously it helps to be familiar with a band's back catalog before you blind-buy any "Extended Versions" albums. I've found that the reviews of "E.V." discs on Amazon have been very helpful to me if I'm not sure of the origin of a particular release. On the chart below I've compiled a selection of some of the hard rock/metal artists I've come across in the series, and the original source materials of the recordings. If you own any of the live albums on this list, then you don't need to buy the artists' "Extended Versions" disc because you'll just be paying for the same tracks twice.
Source Materials for Selected "Extended Versions" CDs:
Original Source Recording
"Everything Louder Than Everyone Else" (1998)
"Rude Awakening" (2002)
"Music Of Mass Destruction" (2004)
"Trashes the World" live video (1990)
"Live Evolution" (2001)
"Eternal Live" (1998)
Corrosion of Conformity
"Live Volume" (2001)
"7 Weeks: Live In America" (2003)*
Previously Unreleased Radio Broadcast
Previously Unreleased Radio Broadcast
"Uprising!" live video (1992)
"Live 86-97" (1997)
"Twisted Forever: SMFs Live" (1997)
"Replugged Live" (2001)
Previously Unreleased concert (2005)**
Deep Purple (Vol. I)
King Biscuit Flower Hour, 1976***
"Return To Paradise" (1997)
"Wrecking Your Neck Live" (1995)
"Live At Froggy's" (2002)
"Double Live Gonzo" (1978)
"Live Insurrection" (2001)
I hope I've intrigued you enough to check out some of the "Extended Versions" CDs the next time you're in a Wal-Mart or Best Buy, or even -- dare I say it? -- at your local record store (are there even any record stores left?). Not only can you stack up a pretty impressive collection of classic concert performances for a relatively small chunk of change thanks to this series, but you never know, you might rediscover an old favorite or find a long-lost goodie that you never even knew existed. Happy hunting!!