Oh no, it’s that time of the year again; Christmas, and I hate it.  No sooner do we get Halloween out of the way than the compilation CD ads start to appear everywhere.  It’s bad enough that we have to listen to the usual festive dross without watching the unsavoury annual spectacle of music business grave robbery; it makes Burke and Hare look like Ant and Dec.  And who do you think is so potless this Christmas that they need to release a compilation to raise a couple of quid so they can enjoy the festivities properly this year?  Only the Rolling Stones, that’s who.

Do you know when the first Rolling Stones greatest hits package was released?  46 years ago in November 1966, just in time for Christmas market.  You won’t be gobsmacked to hear that every track on that album, “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)” , except “Lady Jane” (more about that one later) features on the new 3 CD set “Grrr”.  Now, I like to do my research, but I’m on a deadline here, so I’m going to say that the number of UK Stones hits packages must be in double figures by now, so how many copies of “Jumping Jack Flash” does anyone need?  As for “Lady Jane”, it is possible to get it on “Grrr” if you buy the 4 CD set, which is a bargain at about £100.  You do want Mick and Keith to get those deluxe mince pies, don’t you? Grrr indeed.

But, let’s be honest, the Stones aren’t the only offenders.  If you take a look at the most expensive box sets available from a well-known online and high street music retailer (see, research again), you can find Neil Young very near the top with an eye-opening (or watering) £230 for 4 vinyl albums.  If you’re buying that package I’m willing to bet you’ve already got them on the original vinyl, CD and probably a remastered CD.  What a great piece of marketing that is (please don’t tell me that you also paid to download them on iTunes as well), making the punter pay 3 or 4 times over for the same album.  Did you know you can get a 21 CD box set of Manfred Mann’s Earthband?  Can you name me 5 Earthband singles (not the Manfred Mann 60s stuff)?  No, thought not, and this is 200 or so tracks we’re talking about; how many Dylan and Springsteen covers can you possibly scrape together?

 How much quality control do you sacrifice to stretch out Rufus Wainwright’s work to 13 CDs?  Simple really, you bulk it out with live CDs, previously unreleased material (generally unreleased for very good reasons) and a CD of covers by other artists; all for the cost of a reasonably good guitar.  Who buys in to this nonsense?

And just to stray into unfamiliar contemporary territory, what about “Born to Die”?  It was originally released in standard and deluxe editions, but now Lana’s decided we need the “Paradise Edition” which will be released 2 weeks before Christmas.  It’s a great album but it’s gone beyond a joke now.  Instead of encouraging the media companies in their barrel-scraping, why don’t you go out and watch some live music instead; there’s loads of it out there and most of it affordable without selling any internal organs (unless you want to see the Rolling Stones).