If there were a blueprint for a deluxe reissue, Craft Recordings would likely possess it with their release of Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde. While the 2008 Delicious Vinyl reissue sounds pretty great, this massive 5xLP collection should give no reason to ever spin previous presses again.
It’s remastered, first of all, and if you’ve listened to “Passing Me By” as often as I have over the last 25 years, you’ve still never heard it like this. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s like somebody dropped the needle on Quincy Jones’ “Summer in the City,” and then Bootie Brown starts rapping in your living room. It sounds that good. The horns on “Soul Flower (Remix)” might well mark the point where I stopped doing everything else to sit in front of my speakers, absolutely rapt with attention.
The appeal of a remastered album such as this is the ability to find joy in hearing something familiar in a whole new way. Flipping sides, swapping LPs, reading liner notes: it was here I discovered the cyclical nature of Bizarre Ride, wherein it kicks off with the absolute intense joy of “Oh Shit,” then working through some seriously thoughtful stuff on Side B, getting really introspective on Side C with “Passing Me By” (with a brief interlude of the still-hilarious “Ya Mama”), then winding its way out with the just-as-joyous “Return of the B-Boy” and its fantastic throwback flow and use of “The Show.”
Seriously: this is the essential version of an already-essential record, and if you follow along via the WhoSampled interactive site created as part of the reissue, there’s a chance you might play nothing else the week you purchase it.
The first LP is transparent yellow vinyl, and the second on transparent blue — mimicking the color scheme of the original artwork, as well as this deluxe edition. It’s also how the original vinyl release was pressed. The cover is the image of the group from the rear of the original jacket, but remixed for the quad-fold packaging of the deluxe reissue. Bizarre Ride’s original front and back cover artwork, along with the liner notes and lyrics, are reproduced on the printed sleeves for the first two LPs, which are in the first pocket of the package. The new packaging also features LA Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss doing liner notes, which are surrounded by artwork and advertisements from the original release of the album back in ‘92.
Speaking of reproductions, three 12″ singles are recreated, complete with original sleeves as part of this release. “Otha Fish,” “Ya Mama,” and “Passin’ Me By” all get the treatment here, packing this foldout with enough wax to keep a party jumping for hours. Interestingly enough, the LPs come packaged in separate poly-lined sleeves, rather than in the printed sleeves themselves. It prevents everything from getting scratched and seam-split, but it certainly means there’s a lot of material to move around if you want to dig things out and take a look through the package.
Of the three singles, “Ya Mama” is maybe the least necessary, containing as it does three album cuts, with the title track also available as a clean “Cosby Mix.” “Passing Me By” is the only single to offer up a true b-side in the form of “Pork.” That track is a skittering beat, overlaid with a series of boasts and rhymes which are scattershot and — in a few instances — maybe a little harder-edged than most of the tracks on Bizarre Ride. It’s solid enough to hear in this form, but it’s pretty obvious as to why it didn’t merit inclusion on the album itself.
“Otha Fish” features a couple of the best remixes available, with the L.A. JAY remix of the title track and the Fly As Pie remix of “Passing Me By” making a strong case for the Pharcyde as jazz heads. They’re chill as hell, with a looseness to them that’s really only matched on the album by the Brand New Heavies’ production on “Soul Flower (Remix).” Still, all three of the 12″ singles, with their video edit versions, along with instrumental tracks for several songs, make the entirety of Craft Recordings’ reissue that much more of a a very-necessary overview of one amazingly-productive period in hip-hop creativity.
Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde is available on vinyl from Fatbeats.