Back in 1991 somebody at Sony made a boo-boo and pulled the wrong tapes from the archives for the first CD issue of Sly & the Family Stone's Fresh. As a result, the entire CD (except the first track) consisted of alternate takes. Sony quickly realized its mistake, recalled the CD, and reissued it with the correct takes. An acquaintance that worked at Tower Records in Annapolis told me what had happened, and I picked up a copy before the store returned its recalled stock.
No one seems to know exactly what the deal is with these alternate takes. Did they constitute an alternate version of the album approved by Sly, but rejected by Epic? Were they demo takes? Were they different takes altogether, or merely alternate mixes? How did the mistake happen in the first place? What happened has been the subject of much speculation and debate, little of it informed by any actual facts. Those who know aren't saying (and probably couldn't remember anyway).
One thing is for certain; the takes issued on the 1991 CD are radically different from the versions that were originally issued on LP. The "official" version of Fresh has a much more compressed "AM radio" sound than the alternate takes, while "Version B" (as it came to be known) has wider stereo separation and a spacier feeling closer in sound to There's A Riot Goin' On. One could probably write a book on the differences between the two versions, but suffice to say, they're quite different.
Many people prefer "Version B" to the official album, and I would count myself among them, although both versions have their charms. When Sony/BMG reissued Fresh this year, five of the alternate takes from "Version B" were included as bonus tracks, marking the first time these takes were issued legitimately.