Best Reissues Of 2012
This reissue phenomenon is an interesting one. I understand why, over the last few years, the industry has seen fit to repackage, remaster and reissue every band that ever released an album. It’s pure economics. They’re sucking the tail pipe at the moment and are trying to squeeze every last red cent out of those of us foolish enough to buy these things. I am one of those fools, to a degree. Once I buy a remaster, or deluxe edition of an album, well, that’s the last one. I don’t care how many rare live disks you include. You get me to open my wallet only once. Or twice, as the case may be. Or whatever.
I actually enjoy the majority of these reissues, and understand the need for them. The old jewel cases are archaic and clunky, the sound quality of the cd’s suspect and dull, and the liner notes and credits in most cases are non-existent. In addition, some of these albums that are being reissued are extremely hard to find, and are too pricey to justify at their import prices. So these can be a good thing.
I asked myself the other day if I was collecting these reissues for the sake of collecting, because a few of the one’s I’ve gotten have gone from the store bag directly to the cd shelf. I answered in the negative, because I know that I will listen to them all in good time. The ones listed below for 2012 are all really great albums and worthy of this treatment. The cost for these has come down some in the past few years, which has helped.
The third reason I enjoy these are the fact they make me hear old friends with new ears. Stuff I had written off back when (Blur’s Think Tank, for one) I adore now, and stuff I used to love but forgot about is now back in rotation. I was pleasantly surprised by the way most of these sounded to my 2012 ears. The love’s still there.
Lastly, I don’t care who you are or what you think you know, but the sound of a real CD blows away the sound of an MP3 any day of the week.
20. The Doors, LA Woman: Whatever your personal opinion about the Doors music you’ve got to admit they were an important band. Take Morrison’s admittedly pretentious poetry out of the equation and you’re left with some really fantastic music, with LA Woman, their last before the death in the French bathtub ‘incident’, being their 2nd best album next to the debut. Riders On The Storm still sounds great while driving on a rainy afternoon in the desert (yes, I’ve done that).
19. The Blue Nile, Hats: A band I’ve heard much about but only started exploring this year, late, thanks to a thrift store copy of their debut album. They have an amazing cult following, not unlike the incredible Prefab Sprout, and only release an album like, every 10 years or so. The remasters do their smooth sound stylings justice with these remasters.
18. Various Artists, Nuggets: Probably THE best ‘oldies’ compilation of all time, definitely the most influential. Compiler and Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye lovingly selected these 27 obscure tracks from ‘the first psychedelic era’-’65-67- and in turn coined the phrase ‘punk’ in the liner notes and in turn turned thousands of people on to amazing tracks such as the Count 5’s Psychotic Reaction. The Cramps and the Fuzztones were listening…
16. Roxy Music Reissues: A total discography reissue campaign box set from one of the greatest, and mostly unheralded bands, of all time. They were, arguably, as influential as The Velvet Underground, in both their earlier, more experimental stuff (ENO) and in their later incarnation as smooth new romantics (Ferry).
#15. Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ultimate: A 3 disc anthology (one live disk, fairly useless) that supplants the old Chronicle, with far superior sound quality and 40 songs that delve deeper than the hits. CCR are one of the more anthologized bands, some would say excessively so, but this is a really decent one and will remind you what an important band these guys were.
#14. Steve Miller Band, Sailor: A real gem from the 1st psychedelic era and sounding nothing like the ’70’s hits Miller is known for. More like Pink Floyd meets Muddy Waters, if that gives you an idea. Miller’s late ’60’s material was all reissued this year and most of it is worth seeking out. The sound is better and, if you’ve never heard this version of Steve Miller Mach I, then you’re in for a treat.
#13. My Bloody Valentine, Loveless: I appreciate this album more than I like this album, truth be told. I probably need to listen to nothing but this for about a month to fully understand the massive cult following this album has enjoyed over the years. Maybe I will. That’s what good reissues are supposed to do, right? Let you hear an album in a different light?
#12. Frank Zappa, Freak Out!: Zappa’s discography is soooooo massive that I have yet to commit myself to making the big plunge into the man’s back catalog. I vow to change that this year, and next, and possibly the next after that. This one is my favorite so far. Of course it’s weird, and the playing is magnificent, and it’s funny, and it’s scatological, and it’s maniacal, and…next up: Joe’s Garage.
#11. Paul Simon, Graceland: I’ve never been too fond of World Music, and I don’t really know why. So when Paul Simon’s Graceland came out I was not that impressed. I mean, I liked the title song, and that one with the Chevy Chase video was ok, if a little annoying. But my wife wanted this, so I bought it and gave it another listen, and was fairly impressed with it. More than impressed, actually. It really is a good listen, and the remaster sounds terrific.
#10. Yaz, Upstairs At Eric’s: An early and very chilly synth-pop classic from ex-Depeche Mode-er Vince Clarke. Upstairs… introduced the smoky pipes of Alison Moyet to the world and pretty much blew the doors off anything the Mode did at that time, although they would regain their footing in a very short while. Great cover, too.
#9. Nick Cave, Dig Lazarus, Dig!!: I could have picked any number of Nick Cave reissues (Lyre of Orpheus being the most glaring example), but this one just happens to be my favorite. He sounds like a grizzly biker shaman on this record, and the band is as tight as it’s ever been. His songs are some of the best of his career and the album has a flow that’s quite rare in the Cave Discography.
#8. Paul McCartney, RAM: McCartney’s 2nd best solo album. I’ll leave what’s #1 to your imagination. Great package design, no liner notes, great vintage photos and a second album’s worth of songs that are pretty darn decent. The original album sounds better than ever and has retained it’s homespun charm over the years.
#7: Sugar,Copper Blue: This one totally passed me by when it came out in 1992, even though it was dubbed Record Of The Year by NME, a magazine I devoured back in those days. I guess it was due to it being lumped in with the grunge scene, a scene I had little to no interest in. Still don’t, but luckily this album doesn’t have much to do with the sound of Seattle. Yo me it sounds like a poppier, sunnier and more professional version of Mould’s old band Husker Du. Elements of ’60’s psychedelia and some of the best songs of his career make this the only Sugar album you’ll ever need. This deluxe version comes with the Beaster EP, some b-sides and a concert disk.
#6. Talk Talk, Colour Of Spring: The last 2 albums are the critical darlings of Talk Talk’s short but influential discography, but Colour Of Spring remains that perfect balance between the band’s poppier synth beginnings and latter jazzy and experimental overtones. It’s often the forgotten one, but it shouldn’t be.
#5. Aztec Camera, Knife and High Land Hard Rain: The ‘80’s reissues continue! Roddy Frame is the main dude in Aztec Camera, and boy can the lad pen a tune and play the geetar! Aztec Camera albums, the early ones anyway, have aged really well because Frame wasn’t beholden to the technology of the time like a lot of other bands from that era. His was a proper band, with guitars, drums and everything. And songs like Just Like The USA, Oblivious, Walk Out To Winter and Still On Fire still resonate with thousands who grew up in the Greed Is Good decade. High Land…is the standout and an essential purchase.
#4. Underworld, Anthology (3-CD): Kings of the electronic slow-burn. Underworld have been around for well over 2 decades and have released some of the most groundbreaking and atmospheric electronic music of those 2 decades. This edition contains 3 CD’s of the best of the best from Underworld, and since the last 3 or so albums have been kind of hit and miss, this set is most welcome.
#3. The (English) Beat, Complete Beat: It’s about time! Expanded editions of The Beat’s 3 proper albums, plus a double disk set that includes all the remixes, additional B-sides, live tracks and 3 great Peel Sessions. Comes with an oversized booklet with great information and pretty terrific liner notes. One of the most underrated bands of the ‘80’s and, dare I say it? Better than The Specials.
#2. Simple Minds, X5: I hadn’t listened to a Simple Minds album for probably 5 years when this came out early in the year. I had always loved the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6th albums by Simple Minds, as they were a very large part of my life back in the early ‘80’s. Back then the band were edgy, electronic, experimental and very weird. To me, they were on a par with The Cure and New Order. They were a top 10 band for me back then and I devoured every 12”, single and album of theirs I could find. The one after their best, New Gold Dream, was called Sparkle in the Rain, and is pretty good. It is, however, the start of the BIG decline in quality. I lost interest after that, moved on. But these early records have retained their charm and, besides the debut, have not seemed to age a day. Packaging is minimal: a hard lift off box that holds the mini-LP cover replicas, with no liner notes. But for $35 buckaroos, that ain’t too bad.
#1. Blur 2-CD Deluxe sets (All): When all’s said and done it was really no contest. There was no way I was going to buy the box set for $170, so I decided to pick up a couple of the 2-CD ‘deluxe’ editions (Parklife and Modern Life Is Rubbish). Well, I was so impressed with these two (the B-sides were great, the packaging and sound fantastic) that I ended up with the whole discography, minus Leisure. The biggest revelation for me was the band’s last LP, Think Tank. Without Graham Coxon I didn’t hold out any hope that it would be any good, but you know what? It’s freakishly good. Maybe not a Blur album, but certainly an excellent Gorillaz album. These are worth your while, and your money, folks. It doesn’t matter which one you pick they are all unconditionally fantastic. Blur were a band that mattered, and these 2-disk reissues will tell you why. Absolutely essential.
And the most pointless reissue goes to, once again, the Stones, with Grrr . I mean, if you haven’t already got everything you need by The Rolling Stones by now, well I can’t help you. Pointless cash in. And the SECOND most pointless reissue program goes to…
The Beach Boys! Cheap packaging, no liner notes, the whole Mike Love vs Brian Wilson thing…I’m just sick of it, and I’m a fan! But you’re much better off searching out the ‘two-fer’ packages of a few years ago. They’re remastered as well, have extensive liner notes and bonus tracks! Much nicer.
Next up: Best NEW Albums Of The Year!!