Kill Rock Stars Announces The Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition Of Elliott Smith’s Self-Titled Album
I remember seeing Elliott Smith in concert at the Echo and other LA venues, and the ticket prices were always very low, around $10-15… I also remember hearing from several people that he was embarrassed when the tickets for his 2 concerts at the Music Box (now the Fonda theater) were on sale for $20 plus fees… He was apologizing because he thought it was too expensive! I know it was 17 years ago, but still, the average ticket price at the time was around $40 at the very least, and this anecdote says everything about Elliott Smith… So, what would he think about the prices of these new bundles that Kill Rock Stars is announcing for the expanded 25th Anniversary edition of Elliott Smith’s self-titled album?
The different bundles (from $249.99 to $1,849.99, yes you read this right) offer a remastered Elliott Smith LP, a limited edition ‘highlighter yellow’ colored vinyl, coming with a bonus disc of Elliott’s earliest known recording as a solo act, his performance from September 17th, 1994, at Portland’s café and ‘art salon’ Umbra Penumbra.
The LP also comes with double album MP3 download on the release date, prints signed by photographer JJ Gonson, and a 52-page cloth-bound coffee table photo book, which features two dozen previously unseen photographs from the era by JJ Gonson, and handwritten lyrics and reminiscences from his friends and colleagues. Preorders come with an instant download of ‘Big Decision‘ (Live at Umbra Penumbra, recorded on September 14th, 1994).
The only difference I see between the different offers are the 8×10 prints signed by JJ Gonson: you get one of them for the bundle at $249.99, you get 4 of them for the bundle at $899.99 and you get 4 signed larger prints (11×14) with a numbered and signed certificate of authenticity for the collector bundle at $1,849.99… That’s certainly the deluxe package! But again what would have Elliott thought about this insane pricing? And how could a certificate of authenticity justify a bump of $1000? I know that artists do not make a living anymore, but that’s quite a pricey one.
Photographer JJ Gonson was Elliott’s girlfriend at the time and she had unprecedented access to his private life before Elliott became such a hot commodity… Because this is exactly what he has become right? I would think so.
Kill Rock Stars insists that ‘the impact of Elliott Smith’s music holds no bounds,’ since he has recently been covered by Billie Eilish, sampled by Frank Ocean, two of the hottest artists of the moment, while his sound reverberates in the work of other respected musicians such as the National, Bon Iver, and Phoebe Bridgers, who basically cannot give an interview without dropping Elliott’s name.
Elliott Smith’s self-titled album was remastered by the official archivist for the Smith family, Larry Crane – or should I say by Adam Gonsalves with the help and supervision of Crane? – while the first version of the album was released in July 1995. At the time, its sound was so dramatically out-of-step with grunge-left-overs and the Riot Grrl scene, that the album was completely ignored by the press but championed by artists from the Beastie Boys to Fugazi. ‘I’ve always felt like this record is underappreciated,’ says Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon. This album marked the real debut of Elliott’s career and was a prelude to the bigger releases that were about to come. ‘I think that record gave me a reputation for being a really dark, depressed person,’ said Elliott of the album, ‘but I think I’m just about as happy as all the other people I know. Which is occasionally.’
Larry Crane also cleaned up the audio from the Umbra Penumbra performance, which came from a high-quality cassette provided by Casey Crynes. ‘There are fan-traded MP3s out there of this show, but when people hear what I was able to extract from this original tape, they’ll be shocked.’
This concert, which has been circulating among fans for a long time, is a truly nice one and Gonson even shares a few memories in the press release: ‘He was goofier on stage, making jokes and messing with his own words,’ she says. ‘He worked the words very carefully, he was very admiring of Joni Mitchell and how she wrote. So it was fun, you’d hear a song and then it would change.’
However, did we need a clean version? I have nothing against it of course unless it is a pretext to make an unjustified amount of money.
The news comes with a new website https://elliottsmith.co and to be fair, there is also a cheaper alternative, as the 2LP/2CD housed in the coffee table photo book is only $54.99 and other digital offers are possible on Elliott Smith’s Bandcamp page.
But you are left to wonder, why such overpriced bundles? Doesn’t this sound exploitative? And where is the money going?
Here is the tracklist of the expanded 25th Anniversary edition of Elliott Smith’s self-titled album, out on August 28th via Kill Rock Stars.
1. Needle in the Hay (25th Anniversary Remaster)
2. Christian Brothers (25th Anniversary Remaster)
3. Clementine (25th Anniversary Remaster)
4. Southern Belle (25th Anniversary Remaster)
5. Single File (25th Anniversary Remaster)
6. Coming Up Roses (25th Anniversary Remaster)
7. Satellite (25th Anniversary Remaster)
8. Alphabet Town (25th Anniversary Remaster)
9. St. Ides Heaven (25th Anniversary Remaster)
10. Good to Go (25th Anniversary Remaster)
11. The White Lady Loves You More (25th Anniversary Remaster)
12. The Biggest Lie (25th Anniversary Remaster)
13. Some Song (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
14. Alphabet Town (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
15. Whatever (Folk Song in C) (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
16. No Name #4 (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
17. Big Decision (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
18. Condor Ave (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
19. No Name #1 (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
20. No Confidence Man (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
21. Crazy Fucker (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)
22. Half Right (Live at Umbra Penumbra – September 17th, 1994)