Endtroducing: Deluxe Edition

Endtroducing: Deluxe Edition, complete with snappy plastic sleeve.

So, one of my favorite musicians, DJs, and hip-hop artists, DJ Shadow, re-released his first full-length album, Endtroducing as Endtroducing: Deluxe Edition, back in June and I promptly snapped it up on its release day. The re-release is a two-disc set, the first of which is the original album and the second is rarities, remixes, and alternate takes. There’s also a booklet included in the new packaging that contains: an excerpt from the Continuum book on the original Endtroducing, a hello from Shadow, and some brief notes on each new track. If you’re an avid Shadow fan, then it’s worth it. If you’re not, or you spend a lot of time on whatever file sharing service isn’t being closed down at the moment, then you may have heard most of it before, or won’t care enough to invest the cash for the new disc.

If you’ve been living under a sound-proof rock, or avoid hip-hop out-of-hand (which you shouldn’t), or don’t listen to bands who started later than the 80s, or you only listen to mainstream radio, then you probably don’t know about Endtroducing. When it was released in 1996, Shadow’s first album rippled outward across various music scenes, and ended up influencing a whole generation of DJs, hip-hop fans, electronic music fans, and helped to further the strength of DJs as artists in their own right and their creations as music and art. Some have dubbed Endtroducing as the birth of trip-hop (along with Massive Attack). I’m not qualified to judge the veracity of that statement, but I’ve still never heard anything before it that sounds quite like it. Years later, it even made the top spot on Urb magazine’s ’Top 100 Albums of All Time’ list. Part of this is Endtroducing’s genre-bridging sound. Shadow is a hip-hop head, but he’s shooting for somthing more ethereal on this album, and the result ended up falling squarely into territory that electronic music was poised to delve into. As a result, you’ll find his stuff on a lot of listeners’ shelves, and always in different music store sections.

Overall, I think the second disc is great (no reason to go on about the original material). But who’s surprised by that, really? I’d heard about four of the tracks already (thank you Napster of 5 years ago), and a few of the tracks sound very similar to the album cuts. There are a few tracks that are completely new to me and I either really enjoy them, or they’re a fascinating peak under the hood. ’Midnight in a Perfect World (Gab Mix)’ is yet another take on ’Midnight’ and the monologue/rap that Gift of Gab did for the track. It’s funny to me how little of it made it on the album. Bits and pieces of it have made it onto a lot of other versions and remixes (Q-Bert’s Preemptive Strike remix Camel Boblsed Race is a good example), and this track shows what I would assume is an alternate mix that was in competition for the album. It’s great. ’Napalm Brain (Original Demo Beat)’ is an example of how much a song can change through the course of its development. Hearing the song’s early, raw form is just fun, particularly for those of us so familiar with the album cut (too bad it’s 34 seconds long).

The greatest value of this album is in the twelve and a half minute live track from a performance in Oxford in 1997. First off, it opens with an ’Organ Donor’ remix, so you know the track is going to sonically love you over and over again. And it does. I won’t bore you with a minute-by-minute, but it’s gorgeous and rockin’ and all that. It’s Shadow live, which is an experience everyone should have.

If you’ve never heard Shadow, or don’t own Endtroducing, then get the deluxe edition. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it. Without a doubt.

Typography Note: By the way, if you’re going to include a lengthy, multi-page essay on your album, don’t set it in bold, condensed, knocked-out type. I know that it’s the font used on the original album, but the original album wasn’t a book. It was an album. Reading pages of bold, condensed, knocked-out type is about as fun as reading pages of bold, condensed, knocked-out type. Get it?

Holy crap, that's a lot of hard-to-read type.

You try reading pages of this stuff, at text size. The counter forms are about one micron wide.