The National Geographic Channel did a special miniseries a little while ago called The ’90s: The Last Great Decade, and it chronicled a lot of events from my youth that are actually really interesting with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. They interviewed lots of well-known people for it — including Monica Lewinsky, who has famously refused to do interviews over the years — and one early quote from former UK prime minister Tony Blair stood out: the decade was, as he put it, “a vacation from history.” He’s so right. The ten years or so following the end of the Cold War in 1991 and 9/11 were remarkably, even impossibly, carefree. And I’m not sure any artist captured this spirit better than Oasis did from ’94 to ’97; 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was their peak.
Worldwide, the album’s reach was vast, selling more than 22 million copies, including more than four million in the US and UK — each. Somehow, Oasis never quite caught fire here in the States like they did everywhere else (though of course a 4x multi-platinum from the RIAA is nothing to be sneezed at). Part of the issue lay in the American method of consuming music — buying singles was dead here by 1995, and if you weren’t buying the individual CD singles Oasis released, you were missing most of the picture. I didn’t discover until long after beginning to listen to Oasis that there was a treasure trove of material already released from their initial period during mid-’90s Britpop mania. The problem: it wasn’t readily available, though a serviceable 1998 compilation called The Masterplan rounded up some of them.
Beyond that, you had to purchase the out-of-print singles via eBay or the Amazon marketplace, since the single B-sides weren’t available on iTunes or streaming. Finally, though, Noel Gallagher has launched an extensive reissue campaign for 1994’s Definitely Maybe, 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and 1997’s Be Here Now that corrects this longstanding problem. The Morning Glory reissue follows the same structure as the Definitely Maybe reissue: three discs total, with disc one featuring the remastered album, disc two featuring all of the B-sides from the singles, and disc three featuring the rarities. It’s a solid structure, though as a listen it still feels pretty loose as you go through it. As with the Definitely Maybe reissue, it’s simply staggering that so many incredible B-sides were cast aside — seriously, it’s an entire album’s worth. (It will be fascinating to see the quality drop on the next reissue, since Noel finally hit a wall after an infamous bout of writer’s block.)
Overall, the B-sides for Morning Glory are better than the ones for Definitely Maybe. The rarities disc is significantly less substantive or is significantly more substantive, depending on your point of view. If you were already familiar with the B-sides, then the rarities disc is the scope of the new material here. If, like me, you missed out on the B-sides all these years, then you’ll find yourself spending much more time with the B-sides disc, and will probably treat the rarities, which are demos and live cuts of songs you have already heard, more as novelty versions. The rarities are welcome, obviously, even if they aren’t the main course. Overall, this is another winner — like all good reissues, it helps you experience a classic album like never before.