Music

The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums

Nine years' work, 31 tracks, some ridiculously luxe casing and just one copy, Wu-Tang Clan’s long awaited Once Upon a Time in Shaolin might just be the most extravagant album release of all time.

And we might never get to listen to it either, as that sole copy has just been snapped up for “millions” by a private US collector, who will get to hear the tracks now but doesn’t have the right to release it for another 88 years.

And while this one big sale won't exactly cure the steep decline of physical sales, it is comforting to know that artists are seemingly responding to the digital age by getting creative and exclusive with their releases, rustling up all manner of crazy limited edition oddities. 

Here's a list of 20 releases where "novelty" was the watchword...

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums

    1

    Artist: Various

    Release: Ghostbusters OST

    Year: 2014

    Format: Marshmallow-scented vinyl

    Last year it was announced that the Ghostbusters soundtrack would be re-released on scented vinyl. Marshmallow-scented vinyl, to be precise, in honour of the 'busters Stay Puft aggressor. Next up we're hoping for scented soundtracks of Forrest Flump and the Jack Black/Gwyneth Paltrow classic Mallow Hal...

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 1

    2

    Artist: Julian Casablancas + The Voidz

    Release: Tyranny album

    Year: 2014

    Format: Lighter "sleeve" USB

    Julian Casablancas is as punk as they come. So punk, in fact, that his debut album with The Voidz, Tyranny, came available as a lighter. Whilst the combustible bits are not actually included (presumably to make them safe for postage), for $22 (£13) you can buy a new skin for your Bic lighter that includes a copy of the record on USB.

     

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 2

    3

    Artist: The Flaming Lips

    Release: F*ck You Frog

    Year: 2013

    Format: A toy frog

    It's hard to know which novelty Flaming Lips release to pick. Wayne Coyne's band of weirdos have put out 12" vinyls full of their own (and others') blood, as well as full-size skulls made of chocolate containing brain fluid-flavoured candy. Next to those, releasing their second-ever cassette demo via the medium of a toy frog seems almost dull.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 3

    4

    Artist: Jack White

    Release: Lazaretto, the Ultra LP

    Year: 2014

    Format: Special edition vinyl

    Jack White's Third Man Records have been responsible for many vinyl curios in recent years. This special edition version of his last big LP was stuffed with extras - side A plays from the inside out, there are secret tracks hidden beneath the label in the centre of the record and, depending on where you drop the needle, you'll either get an electric or an acoustic intro to Just One Drink.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 4

    5

    Artist: Wu-Tang Clan

    Release: The Wu - Once Upon A Time In Shaolin

    Year: 2014

    Format: Speaker/Single-copy CDR/Ornate hand-sculpted silver box

    Where better to start? Wu-Tang Clan recorded only one copy of ...Shaolin, which comes in a box made of actual silver. The band took the album (singular) on a "tour" of museums last year and now one rather rich person has it all to themselves. Their next record will be mildly more tangible. Titled A Better Tomorrow, it's set for release on a limited run of 3,000 wearable speakers, priced $79.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 5

    6

    Artist: Max Tundra

    Release: Parallax Error Beheads You

    Year: 2008

    Format: A soup can

    Max Tundra - aka electronic musician Ben Jacobs - released his 2008 album Parallax Error Beheads You via soup cans. As well as containing some delicious Kosher Chicken Soup, the cans also bore a download code on their labels. An entirely new way to consume digital music.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 6

    7

    Artist: Black Moth Super Rainbow

    Release: Cobra Juicy album

    Year: 2012

    Format: Latex mask-housed USB

    Pennsylvanian nutjobs Black Moth Super Rainbow funded their fifth album, Cobra Juicy, via Kickstarter. Fans were offered the chance to own a glow-in-the-dark latex mask containing a copy of the record on a USB, hidden inside a tooth. The band raised over $100,000.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 7

    8

    Artist: Beck

    Release: Song Reader album

    Year: 2012

    Format: Sheet music

    Beck Hansen originally released Song Reader in December 2012 as a book of sheet music. However, a recorded version, with all 20 songs performed by various artists including the man himself, was released earlier this year.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 8

    9

    Artist: Chilly Gonzales

    Release: Working Together 7"

    Year: 2008

    Format: Chocolate

    In 2008, Chilly Gonzales had a sweet idea. The Canadian produced a limited run of 7" singles made of chocolate. Though perfectly playable, the plain chocolate records did deteriorate after ten or so spins. Something of a success, given an earlier mint pressing wouldn't play after eight. (Cheers.)

    (Image: Discogs)

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 9

    10

    Artist: Various

    Release: Great Gatsby OST

    Year: 2013

    Format: Gold and platinum vinyl

    Given that The Great Gatsby is a story of excess, pomp and opulence, it seems appropriate that the film’s soundtrack got an equally lavish release. Jack White’s Third Man Records made two limited edition LPs available, one coated in platinum, the other in gold, both housed in lazer-cut wooden sleeves. A snip at a mere $250 (though they go for much more on eBay these days, of course).

    [Image: Freshnessmag]

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 10

    11

    Artist: Gwilym Gold

    Album: Tender Metal

    Year: 2012

    Format: BRONZE app. 

    After the dissolution of his old band Golden Silvers, Gwilym Gold's first move as a solo artist was hugely ambitious. Called Tender Metal, his debut album was distributed via an app called BRONZE which tinkered with the songs each time it played them, making sure they sounded different every single time. Complicated and a bit confusing, but pretty cool nonetheless.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 11

    12

    Artist: Fat Boys

    Release: Fat Boys 

    Year: 2012

    Format: 12" pizza vinyl in a pizza box.

    Legendary Brooklyn hip-hop trio The Fat Boys re-released their debut album in this spectacularly tasty-looking special edition format in 2012. Why pizza? Well, the original album sleeve featured mini versions of band members Prince Markie Dee, Buff Love and Kool Rock-Ski tucking into a giant slice of deep pan pepperoni. In prison garb. Observed by giant versions of themselves. Obviously.

     

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 12

    13

    Artist: Cheap Trick

    Release: The Latest

    Year: 2014

    Format: 8-track

    It's hard to know which is more surprising: that you can still buy new 8-track albums, or that you can still buy new Cheap Trick albums. The Illinois power pop band's 16th studio album was made available on this classic format in 2009.

     

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 13

    14

    Artist: Mos Def

    Album: The Ecstatic

    Year: 2009

    Format: T-shirt 

    In 2009, Mos Def had album releasing down to a tee. His fourth record, The Ecstatic, was available to buy as a t-shirt with a tag attached that carried a download code. Priced at $39 (£25) for both, it seems pretty reasonable too.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 14

    15

    Artist: Björk

    Album: Biophilia

    Year: 2011

    Format: App

    Björk's Biophilia app is much, much more than a normal album. A multimedia project, it includes video games and is interactive to the extent that you can actually play along at some points. It's also got David Attenborough on it. Bonkers.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 15

    16

    Artist: Datarock

    Release: Catcher In The Rye EP (aka The Most Extravagant Single In History)

    Year: 2011

    Format: Soft Toy

    When Norwegian electronic rock band Datarock released Catcher In The Rye in 2011, they declared it to be "the most extravagant single in history". This grandiose statement came in the shape of a translucent plastic toy (pictured left) containing 113 bonus tracks, 1500 photos, 20 videos and a 60-minute concert film on a USB secreted within.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 16

    17

    Artist: Hans Tanza

    Album: An Audience With Hans Tanza

    Year: 2011

    Format: Powerpoint 

    For 2011's An Audience With... electronic musician Hans Tanza got carried away with the idea of presenting his music as if it was the product of a faceless corporation. Rebranding himself as Hans Tanza, CEO of Tanza Consulting, this album is delivered via corporate videos and a PowerPoint presentation.

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  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 17

    18

    Artist: Bullet For My Valentine

    Release: Scream Aim Fire

    Year: 2007

    Format: Bullet-shaped USB.

    Aware of the idiom, "Somewhere out there, there's a bullet with your name on it," Bullet For My Valentine released 2007's Scream Aim Fire in a bullet with their name on it. The only other person we're aware of who has done such a thing is Baldrick in Blackadder Goes Forth.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 18

    19

    Artist: Nicolas Jaar

    Release: Don't Break My Love compilation

    Year: 2012

    Format: 'The Prism'

    Chilean/American dance music pioneer Nico Jaar is credited with moving the genre along a bit in recent years. In 2012 he tried out a revolutionary release format, too. Don't Break My Love, comprised of 12 Jaar recordings, was only available to listen to via this small aluminium cube.

  • The 20 Craziest Limited Edition Albums 19

    20

    Artist: You

    Year: Not for a few years yet, we hope.

    Format: Vinyl.

    For £3,000, the company And Vinyly will press your ashes into a vinyl record. The records, which play 12 minutes each side, will play the recording of your choice but it must be made by you - you can't just pick The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown's Fire and be done with it. Just don't record yourself reading from a really depressing book or something – it won’t help your friends and relatives with the grieving process.