If there is a theme linking most of these picks, it’s that they offer us something we probably have not heard before. Or, in the case of acts like The Beach Boys and Otis Redding, they provide die-hards a treasure trove of previously unheard renditions. Obviously, the material in reissues has already been recorded, which means that they definitely belong in a separate category than albums recorded in the present. Regardless, there is no question that the painstaking work put in by record labels into unearthing the material, remastering, and packaging it deserves recognition. Here at Glide, we think that reissues often get swept under the rug when it comes to end of the year “best of” lists, which is why we have once again decided to put together a list of notable reissues from the past year. By no means have we scratched the surface, and we realize that there are tons we have left out, but based on the work done to release each of these and the quality overall, we think each of these fifteen are worthy additions to any music lover’s collection.
NRBQ – High Noon – A 50-Year Retrospective (Omnivore Recordings)
When considering the great underrated bands of all time, NRBQ easily ranks near the top. Since 1966 this rotating cast of merrymakers have been choo-chooing along with their own style of rock and roll. In that time the band has released numerous studio LPs, live recordings, and compilations. Even though the lineup of NRBQ today is almost totally different than the founding lineup, the band is still going strong. In honor of the band’s fifty-year anniversary, the folks at Omnivore Recordings have just released the five-disc box set High Noon. It would be hard to thoroughly capture five decades in any one box set, but for die-hards and first-timers alike, High Noon is a perfect encapsulation of the magic that is NRBQ and is therefore a must-own.
Egyptian Lover – Egyptian Lover 1983 to 1988 (Stones Throw)
There are loads of artists both in the realm of hip-hop and dance music who have cited the influence of Egypt’s music in their own work, or have simply acknowledged him as a pioneer. One of his biggest fans is Chris Manak, better known as Peanut Butter Wolf, the producer and DJ behind venerable hip-hop label Stones Throw Records. It was Wolf who worked with Egyptian Lover to compile the recently released anthology Egyptian Lover 1983 to 1988, which celebrates the West Coast electro hip-hop pioneer’s early catalog. The anthology features 22 classic and unreleased recordings that were all taken from the original master tapes, and it captures a period that was especially fruitful for Egypt. While all of these songs have what we would now probably see as an “old school sound”, even all these years later they still make a perfect party soundtrack.
Professor Longhair – Live at the University of Chicago Folk Festival – February 1, 1976 (Orleans Records)
By the mid-1970′s Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd aka Professor Longhair was in the midst of a career resurgence. Well, maybe resurgence isn’t the best word for a musician who, despite being a piano legend in his hometown of New Orleans, had spent his life evading or simply missing any chance at success. Nonetheless, by the year of 1976 “Fess” as he was affectionately known by his friends and fans, was enjoying a nice run of gigs around the U.S. and Europe. Just a couple months after his 57th birthday, Fess found himself onstage at the Chicago Folk Festival. He had yet to record what would be considered his first U.S. LP, Crawfish Fiesta, which was recorded in 1979 and would be released posthumously after his death at the age of 61 in 1980. Though the appearance in the Windy City on February 1, 1976 was originally broadcast by WFMT-FM Chicago, it had remained unreleased and in the hands of Fess’ lead guitarist Billy Gregory for 25 years before he gave it to New Orleans native, musician, and founder of Orleans Records Carlo Ditta. The performance in Chicago was recorded almost exactly four years before Fess died, but it captures him and his band during an impressive period, and every member of the band is absolutely on fire throughout a set that features some of his best known tunes.
Wayfaring Strangers – Cosmic American Music (Numero Group)
The music on Wayfaring Strangers speaks for itself, but the set is worth owning if you want to learn the backstory behind these Cosmic Country bands. Long before the term “indie rock” was ever uttered, most of these bands were taking a DIY approach to getting their music to the people. Considering that you probably haven’t heard of any of the bands, those approaches – ranging from selling albums at shows to peddling them to strangers while hitchhiking – usually didn’t lead to mainstream success. Luckily for us, Numero has shined a light on the underdogs behind Gram Parsons’ dream of Cosmic American Music. The modern popularity of Americana and alt-country owes everything to Cosmic American Music, and Wayfaring Strangers is a refreshing reminder that’s as informative as it is enlightening. These are bands that deserve a second life, and after hearing the gems featured in the set, you will probably want to go and hunt down the full albums of each act.
The Staple Singers – Faith & Grace: A Family Journey 1953 – 1976 (Stax)
Faith and Grace is an essential collection of songs from one of America’s most vital musical groups. It also raises the question of whether there will ever be another act capable of using music as such a powerful instrument of change. Is it even possible to have such a clear purpose in a time when we all face a deluge of information coming at us from every angle? Luckily, this box set is proof that, even in 2016, the message and power of the Staple Singers is not only loud and clear, but may be more relevant than ever.
Bob Dylan – The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert (Sony Legacy)
The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert is not an entry in The Bootleg Series of Bob Dylan’s, but it achieves the same effect as the most significant releases in that archive project. That is, it definitively clarifies one of the pivotal points in the 2016 Nobel Laureate’s long career. This two-CD set is actually a cull from a massive box of thirty-six discs released in the fall of 2016, capturing every known recording of Dylan’s fifty-year old concerts with the Hawks, nee the Band, during a tour of the world. As one of the most famous bootlegs of our time, The Royal Albert Hall Concert was actually taped in Manchester England’s Free Trade Hall, formally released in 1998 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 4. Dylan’s quick but gracious ‘Thank you’ at the end of the show suggests the pleasure he took in playing with the group, not to mention the obvious relish he savored in offering fresh material from the just-released Blonde on Blonde. In fact, it’s the exultant abandon he shares with these kindred spirits of his on stage that make The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert worth owning, even apart from its historical significance.
Queen – Queen On Air: The Complete BBC Recordings (Virgin EMI/Hollywood Records)
Queen has been issuing an array music and video from their vaults in spades over the past few years, including Live at the Rainbow ’74 (CD/DVD/Blu Ray), A Night at the Odeon(CD), Forever (a double CD of singles that feature a couple of the long sought after recordings of Mercury with Michael Jackson), and most recently a treasure trove of recordings from the BBC. This sensational six CD box set that includes 24 incredible studio recordings, 24 live tracks from three different concerts and over three hours of interviews with all four members of the band. The tracks, re-recorded solely for the BBC broadcasts, are selections from the band’s following albums: Queen (’73), Queen II (’74), Sheer Heart Attack (’74) and News of the World (’77). After a recent rash of impressive releases from Queen, none can top this collection. On Air culminates a most eclectic combination of studio recordings, live concert recordings and interviews that, once again, demonstrate how and why Queen became one the greatest bands in rock and roll history. This royal package should not be overlooked!
Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta (Numero Group)
Much has been written about the rich musical culture of West Africa. However, with a certain emphasis on countries like Mali and Ghana, we rarely hear about the land-locked country of Burkina Faso, which isn’t to say they haven’t made their own contributions to the sounds of the region. Lucky for us, the folks at Chicago label Numero Group have once again unearthed a treasure trove of previously forgotten music originating from the tiny country during a particularly inspired period in the 60’s and 70’s. The bands represented in Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta somehow managed to absorb a globetrotting mélange of musical influences, no easy feat at a time when communication across the world was complicated, especially in war-torn Western Africa, making this collection a remarkable artifact. The acts featured in this 3-LP set and book tapped into a range of genres such as salsa, jazz, rock and roll, tribal African, Malian, and good old rock and roll, showing through it all that hard times would not be a deterrent from enjoying life. There are moments of transcendent greatness throughout.
The Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South (Universal Music Group)
The two CD ‘Deluxe Edition’ of the Allman Brothers Band’s Idlewild South achieves what so very few such archive titles accomplish: placing the original work in a context that illuminates the artist’s evolution. Arguably the finest studio recordings this iconic Southern band ever completed are further refined in this package by remastering that also benefits the concert that’s appended to them, Live at Ludlow Garage. Finishing touches on this deluxe (named after a bucolic Southern retreat rented by the Brothers in their early days) include period photos and detailed credits, the sum of which more than makes up for the slightly kitschy color scheme of the booklet and the somewhat bland overall graphics that prevent this package from looking and sounding like a true collectors item. But then the Allman Brothers Band never traded much in cosmetic appearances, so this double disc set, on its own terms, constitutes an ever-so-accurate accurate representation of a band passing through a creative crossroads and, as such, is essential entry into their discography.
My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves (ATO Records)
It might be unreasonable to expect the expanded reissue of My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves to represent the same quantum leap in archiving as the original 2003 studio production did within the band’s discography. But even though titular leader Jim James professed publicly he sought improvements by overseeing the remixing & remastering of the original dozen tracks, adding content and reconfiguring alternative artwork and graphics, in releasing this two CD deluxe package, he and the band implicitly acknowledges their third album as a high point of their career. Yet some in-process recordings with the rest of the quintet or early live renditions of this same material might’ve shed even more light on the MMJ creative process; as it stands, given the roughly hour-long playing times of each CD, such content might well have been presented. And if that had been the case, this deluxe edition of It Still Moves would stand as a pinnacle of accomplishment, comparable to its counterpart, on its own terms.
Them – The Complete Them 1964-1967 (Sony Legacy)
If Van Morrison’s career had never progressed past his years with Them, he might still deserve his own chapter in the history of contemporary rock and roll. And that’s because his galvanizing presence transcends the familiar trademarks of mid-Sixties stylists: a knowledge and reverence for blues roots and, at his/Them’s best, an intuitive grasp of the power of brevity intrinsic to the great pop song. The inclusion of Van Morrison’s own essay within The Complete Them 1964-1967, during which he shares vivid recollections from these early days, represents tangible proof of his commitment to the extensive archiving of his vast catalog, of which project this handsomely-designed three CD set is the first release.
RUSH – 2112 – 40th (Mercury)
Following the dismal reaction to Rush’s third album, Caress of Steel, Rush bet their careers on the ambitious follow-up 2112 with its epic seven-part title suite. 2112 would hit all the marks and then some. Dubbed 2112 – 40th, this reissue was released in a variety of formats including a 2CD/DVD edition featuring a newly remastered version of the album with the second disc housing live outtakes and the 2112 covers from Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins and Nick Raskulinecz (“Overture”), Alice in Chains (“Tears”), Billy Talent (“A Passage to Bangkok”) and more. The DVD captures Rush’s 1976 performance at the Capitol Theatre as well as a video for Grohl/Hawkins/Raskulinecz’s “Overture” and a retrospective look at the album 2112 – 40 Years Later, featuring a Q&A with Rush’s Alex Lifeson. While the holy triumvirate has called it a career from the stage, 2112 still lives on in new forms.
The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Capitol)
Ask anyone what their favorite Beach Boys album is and you can bet on two words – Pet Sounds. While Brian Wilson has been on the road over the past year playing Pet Sounds in its entirety under his own name, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (courtesy of the brilliant mind of Wilson) was released as a 50th anniversary edition of the classic LP. This expanded collection that presents the remastered album in both stereo and mono forms alongside studio sessions outtakes, alternate mixes and unreleased live recordings from the era. Available in a variety of formats, include a 4-CD/1-Blu-ray “collectors edition” that comes in a hardbound book, one can relive the studio mastery as Wilson directs in the studio along with ringer musicianship of “The Wrecking Crew.” Check out the fourth CD which features a capella versions of the songs on the album, creating a mesmerizing trip to the root of the sound.
Big Star – Complete Third (Omnivore Recordings)
#1 Record and Radio City are undoubtedly fixtures in any rock fans vocabularies but the lesser known and harder to find Third finds Big Star equally as a fantastic collection featuring 69 tracks, 29 unheard recordings plus demos, rough mixes, vocal guides is a treasure trove for a band that only released a limited amount for the ears anyhow. While the band was in turbulent times during the recording, the pending release was a challenge enough, let alone the supreme results. Featuring essays from s R.E.M.’s Mike Mills, Wilco’s John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, the Jayhawks’ Gary Louris – the plusses are many. Check out Volume One of the reissue which includes Chilton’s demos alongside vocals and rough mixes. Volume Two: Roughs to Mixes highlights producers Jim Dickinson and John Fry’s early mixes for the Third tracks – for some more complete listening of this last 70’s statement from the champions of power pop.
Otis Redding – Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings (Stax)
There’s much to be debated about what exactly is the greatest modern soul live album ever made, but Otis Redding’s Live at the Whiskey A Go Go:The Complete Recordings gives James Brown’s Live at the Apollo a run for its power. The seven sets, recorded Friday, April 8th – Sunday, April 10th, 1966, feature the singer’s popular songs of the time, including “Respect,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and his cover of The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Redding’s ten piece band was on fire over the course of these recordings as the 24 year old frontman was making for some soulful mayhem. But its the in between song banter by Redding that gives us the listener a more revealing and truthful listening experience of just what exactly an Otis Redding performance felt and sounded like.