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Our Record of the month this month is Moby's Play. Here, you can learn everything about our package that makes it special.
Andrew Winistorfer: I think what’s interesting listening back to this album now, is that there’s this perception that Play is this big, pop electronica album, a “mainstream” album--which I think is because the album was licensed so much-- but when it came out, it was not mainstream. It was a weirdo electronic album in the peak boyband, peak Eminem, post-grunge era.
For most of the ‘90s, if you look back at Rolling Stone or Spin’s archives, it’s all these stories that are like “electronic music is going to be the music of the ‘90s, baby!” and “It’s the music of the new millenium!” that kind of thing. But nobody in Middle America actually cared until electronic music was in our car commercials, you know?
Cameron Schaefer: Yeah, or in Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio [laughs].
That was the smartest move ever. People are like “Oh, it was in gum commercials” or whatever, but in a way, it was this major backdoor into making electronic music a mainstream music. You were never going to hear Aphex Twin in a Chevy commercial. My dad could understand electronic music once it was in commercials, you know? Play is easily the most influential album on the history of electronic music, because it made an entire audience for the music out of nothing. The Prodigy didn’t do that. The EDM boom does not happen without Play. An entire generation of music makers grew up hearing electronic music as the interstitial music in commercials and movies, where before it was all rock music with guitars. Moby made that happen. So much of modern music has just absorbed what he does on here.
So, how did we decide to reissue this?
I always have a running list of albums that, from a vinyl collector’s point of view, are a hit list of albums that have never been on vinyl--like Fiona Apple’s Tidal--or it’s never been reissued, or for whatever reason it’s hard to find, or a limited run, or a less than stellar package. As far as Moby’s Play, it’s been on my list for a really long time; it hadn’t had a reissue, and it was going for insane amounts on Discogs. It then got reissued, but it was a U.K-only reissue, that was pretty under-the-radar. I mean, maybe I missed it, but that’s all I do, is look at vinyl reissues that are coming out. So it felt like this thing that even though it got reissued, whether it was just that they didn’t get word out, or a limited run, it felt like there was still an opportunity to do something special with it.
It was one of those albums that when I started bringing it up to people in the office, and when we played it on the Sonos, I think most people that know the album have the same reaction, especially if you haven’t listened to it in a long time, is that you forget that it’s a total hit factory.
Yeah, I was surprised myself at how many songs I completely remember.
Yeah, we put the album on, and it was like, “Oh yeah! This one!,” “Oh yeah! This one!” time after time, and you realize that it was a really defining album for the times, and it was really ahead of its time. It really pushed music in a new direction. I think it’s one of those albums that instantly sends you back to that time in music history, which is a period we maybe haven’t explored much as a company. That late ‘90s electronic music era.
I got connected with Moby’s management, and they let us know that he had gotten the rights back to the album, and in the process, had re-recorded it and remastered it, and they were trying to figure out what they were trying to do with it. So timing-wise, it was a perfect opportunity for us. And from my perspective, the fact that it was re-recorded and remastered, it was the perfect opportunity for us to release this.
Something that was different for this album, is that Moby himself was the one who was approving test pressings on this reissue. And you said he heard a test pressing, and it turned it down early in the process too, right?
Yeah, the first version.
And I think people should know that this is not generally the case, that the actual artist was the one who approved on the final test pressings. Most of the time it’s somebody at the label or something.
Yeah, and it was really an honor for us to be the people that got to be part of this process with him.
So to be clear, this is remastered and re-recorded from the U.K. version, and the original vinyl version.
Right. And this is the ultimate vinyl edition of this album. We often do color vinyl around here, obviously, and I think I’m at a point where I’ve seen virtually every color and splatter combination that’s possible, because I sit and try to figure out new things to do all day. This one is a turquoise color, and when I pulled out the first pressing, even though I’ve seen turquouse vinyl before, this is one that that is a unique shade. I've never seen this color before.
There’s some 12 x 12 art prints in the package as well; they took the artwork from the original 12-inch singles when they came out and turned those into art prints in the album. It has classic diecut innersleeves, and the innersleeves have photos of Moby on them, and the center label of the album actually lines up with the pictures on the inner sleeves.
We also did some embossing on the cover; the title is raised off the cover. It’s got all the record collector details that you want. It’s a lot like our package for Biggie, really; it’s filled with a lot of minor details that make the package the best it’s ever been on vinyl.
This is really the premiere reissue of this then.
Yeah, the last version was done by the label in the last window they had before Moby got his masters back, and he really wanted to take Play and do something really special with it. And I think we did that.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.