One of the great things about Oasis in the ’90s was the treasure trove of extra material they packed into singles — each one effectively was expanded into an EP, filled with non-album cuts, demos, and live takes. Usually, CD singles from artists were complete throwaways and generated little interest, and as a result they gradually disappeared from the marketplace as the ’90s wore on. But make no mistake, Oasis’ singles were something special, and were collectibles in their own right. I didn’t become a true Oasis fan until the very early 2010s, and I was shocked to learn of the existence of these singles a couple years back, since they were pretty much never discussed anywhere. (Britpop never was particularly big in America, though Morning Glory did very well.)
I was immediately interested, naturally, but the songs weren’t available on iTunes, and I really didn’t feel like buying the CDs — there were just too damn many of them. (And I don’t buy on CD anymore and haven’t for a couple of years now.) And then, earlier this year, an Oasis reissue campaign was announced, and once the full details emerged, I was ecstatic to learn that the material from those singles was being collected and presented in one place, namely the second disc of this three-disc set. The first disc is merely a newly remastered version of the original album — don’t get your hopes up if you’re hoping this master is quieter than the notoriously loud 1994 master — and the third and final disc is a collection of still more rarities that have never seen the light of day until this reissue. It’s a pretty effective tactic to package it that way, since it still offers plenty of room for discovery for every kind of fan the album has. I have already written about Definitely Maybe before — it weighed in at #86 on my 100 favorite albums list — so I won’t go into specifics about the music itself much here, but I would like to elaborate on the extras.
To be frank, if you haven’t experienced at least the second disc of this reissue, you haven’t experienced Definitely Maybe. Some of this material — “Fade Away,” “I Am the Walrus,” “Listen Up,” “Half the World Away” and “(It’s Good) To Be Free” — wound up on the 1998 B-side compilation The Masterplan, but most of it has only been previously heard by hardcore fans. As for disc three, these cuts have been bootlegged over the years, but have never been heard in high quality audio by anyone. What becomes immediately apparent when listening through these two bonus discs is how much Oasis was Noel’s band. His little brother Liam may sing lead vocals on every track on the finished LP, but Noel sings on a lot of the songs that ultimately didn’t make the cut (“Sad Song,” “Take Me Away,” “D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?”). Digging through the bonus material unveils a whole new band; the other side of the same coin.
The third disc is not essential listening, but is still nice to have, particularly if you’re crazy about disc one and love disc two. I enjoy listening to all of it, though to be honest, I generally find myself skipping straight to disc two since I have heard the original album a million times and though it’s been newly remastered for this release, it sounds pretty much the same as it did twenty years ago. It still has that charmingly non-dynamic, “blown-out” sound (think of a film image that has been overexposed for a visual equivalent), and so does the bonus material, for that matter. But there’s so much good material here, enough to last a long time. In the case of the second disc, it’s far better than any bonus material should be (a lot of it is near-A-side in terms of quality), and it’s not likely we’ll ever see a band jettison this many top-notch tracks onto singles in this fashion ever again. Even though the album era is drawing to a close and we’re already seeing artists work more with EPs and singles these days, we still won’t see a band record an album and then essentially throw another album’s worth of songs away on singles only the hardcore fans will hear. Quality tracks are simply too hard to come by these days to waste them.