Top 10 B-Side Albums
B-side albums are much like the spurs on a mountainside. Conspicuous and connected to the same ridgeline as their peak, they’re also marked by imperfection and can often be red herrings for those intent on exploring the surrounding terrain.
In an ideal record industry collections of B-sides wouldn’t exist, but for one reason or another – be it a band’s interest in artistic fidelity or a label’s bottom line – they’re jettisoned upon an eager listening public, providing definition and context to a band’s ultimate work.
Of course, in the singles-led, all-content-everything digital age, the glory days of the B-side album are likely behind us. With that in mind, TheVine dug deep into the archives and rooted out ten essential examples of the format.
10. Talk Talk
A blatant late 90s EMI cash-in, that doesn’t mean Asides Besides isn’t a double-album worth owning. Listen to the first set of 12” remixes and you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about. But the second LP is phenomenal, being made-up of 1980s EMI era demos, singles and some stunning B-sides, many of which provided a preview of the experimental band Talk Talk would later become once they’d given the label the flick (EMI tried to sue them for making an uncommercial album with 1988’s Spirit of Eden). If you’re a fan, this is all but essential.
9. Roots Manuva
Dub Come Save Me
More a dub reworking of Roots Manuva’s Run Come Save Me than an actual album of B-sides, this 2002 release nevertheless packs in an intimidating amount of new material. The British rapper has a habit of drilling down into the personal with his official full lengths, which can make his work heavy going. But it means Manuva’s B-side collections – this, and also Alternately Deep – are much more laissez-faire records, as fun as they are often frivolous. Regardless, Dub Come Save Me is arguably up there with the best of his work, the bass-laden propulsion of cuts such as ‘Man Fi Cool’ and ‘Revolution 5’ making the record a pleasantly clean listen when compared to its dark, analogue progenitor. Dub Come Save Me’s great strength is a firm investment in its own concept – it’s a fully-fledged artistic statement rather than some collection of casual cast-offs.
8. The Who
Odds & Sods
Odds and sods indeed. The story behind this 1974 LP is reasonably straightforward – bass guitarist John Entwistle was charged with compiling an album to supposedly counter the bootlegging that would often take place at Who concerts – but the collection of rarities and off-cuts he decided upon is totally eclectic. It includes the Entwistle-penned ‘Postcard’, which tells of the band’s often-ludicrous life on the road (with references to an infamous 1968 tour to Australia); the jumbling ‘Now I’m a Farmer’, which at one stage was considered for inclusion on Tommy; and ‘Little Billy’, Pete Townshend’s anti-smoking song, commissioned and later rejected by the American Cancer Association. Thrown together, it often makes for an uneven listen, but there are no clunkers and Odds & Sods’ real beauty is in its piecing together of early Who history. Essential for fans – particularly the 1998 reissue.