Ten years ago someone sent me a radio broadcast of Red House Painters playing at Hultsfred Festival in Sweden the previous summer. At the time most of the set was new material, and it was another three years before studio versions of those songs surfaced on the Old Ramon album. In that time I got used to the live versions, and Old Ramon was a big disappointment when it was finally released in 2001. RHP were always a fairly mellow and somber band, but much of Old Ramon was downright lethargic, lacking momentum and direction when compared to the live set. "Michigan" in particular was completely reworked, retaining only the lyrics. The update tried to sound cheery but instead ended up lifeless (somewhere there exists a 23-minute studio version that must be either the pinnacle or nadir for the song). Excellent demo recordings of other songs follow suit, highlighting the disappointing nature of the album.
Since then I've come to appreciate Old Ramon a lot more for what it is, but after revisiting the Hultsfred set recently I was reminded of how those are still the definitive versions of the songs for me.
Red House Painters, live at Hultsfred Festival, Sweden (June 1997)