Yet another Jimi Hendrix album on the way but at least nothing more from Tupac:
Oh…Hold up. Nothing more since October I mean:
Anyways, the point here is about the kind of legacy we wish an artist to leave behind. In the case of Jimi Hendrix his death was followed by a raft of albums across the next decade, of varied quality to say the least, including overdubbed session musicians and a lot of unstructured jamming. Tupac’s death resulted in a similar flood of material ranging from early demos verging on beat poetry, to bawled out live tracks, unnecessary remixes, and lots of soul-heavy production and ill-matched collabos.
In each case, the artist concerned had a tendency toward incontinent recording with every last thought or improvisation committed to tape to be sifted at a later date for lines worth tweaking and guitar parts worth reprising. By contrast The Notorious B.I.G. left nothing more than a few stray verses and sketches requiring substantial ‘heavy lifting’ by other artists to create anything approaching song length. The Beatles’ vast six disc, three volume Anthology project laid bare a paucity of genuinely unheard originals but at least an awful lot of practice covers and variations.
Nirvana could never leave an archive like the former examples; prior to fame they didn’t have the money to spend lengthy sessions in studio and post-fame they didn’t want to do so. The resource that could, potentially, be delved into in more detail would consist of any surviving rehearsal tapes (so expect Boombox Demo sound quality and clarity) or remaining home demos of which there’s little proof any exist after 1992 that are anything other than alternatives to known renditions. In a post a few weeks back I pointed to ‘The Empty Cupboard’; a studio archive with a few alternative takes and a few jams left to go. Meanwhile the only visible hint at rehearsal material is With the Lights Out’s first shot at Scentless Apprentice indicating there’s worthwhile In Utero era demos and Gillian G. Gaar’s comment that a couple of brief shreds from a 1987 rehearsal are still unreleased. As far as home demos go, well, there are a number of more experimental pieces still to emerge officially but well bootlegged — I discuss these in more detail in the Post-Mersh chapter of Dark Slivers. Then finally there’s the rumoured 1994 demos described in the Dry as a Bone chapter released as a sample on here the other week.
So what we’re seeing instead is a continued discography bearing greatest similarity to The Beatles’ treatment. The custodianship of the Nirvana legacy, I would argue, has actually been in relatively good hands — there have been no ludicrous attempts to ‘improve’ (i.e., corrupt) the remaining recordings with unnecessary guest appearances, remixes, artificially created acapella or instrumental renditions. The most that has happened is some typical modern day remastering work involving compressing everything at the expense of dynamic range and beauty. Some complaints were aimed at the one disc Sliver release with three new tracks slammed on to sweeten the compilation but that release did have a purpose for those unwilling to sift the entire box set and, so far, that approach hasn’t been reprised.
What it does mean, however, is that the kind of jumbled releases seen thirty years after The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix ceased to be (e.g., Anthology, West Coast Seattle Boy) are actually what we’ve already seen in the form of With the Lights Out. They’re also what we’re more likely to see in future. The absence of a strong studio archive leaves it more likely that future releases will rely on effective gathering of live material (we’re seeing it already with the Live at Reading, Live at the Paramount releases) to create something approximating an official equivalent to Outcesticide.
…But at least we won’t see that bloody awful Duets album that they put together for Notorious B.I.G. It’s my vote for the worst album I’ve ever heard. I whipped it out of the laptop, slotted it back in the case, walked out into the cafeteria area at work and began offering it to passersby. Nirvana’s post-finale releases may not have scaled the heights at all times but at least they haven’t been an open insult to fans and to the artists concerned. We should be grateful they haven’t plumbed these depths…