It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of new releases in stores in a given week, and even more daunting to stay on top of archival reissues. In addition to straightforward LP pressings capitalizing on the vinyl boom, labels are banking on love of physical product and nostalgia when they plan out their release schedule.
This year’s crop of reissues, archival releases, and boxed sets were particularly worthwhile, mainly due to their quality: These releases were clearly assembled with great care, and offered rarities and bonus material that provided revelatory insights into familiar music. With streaming’s continued popularity, preserving corners of musical history that might get overlooked or forgotten feels more crucial than ever.
Bash & Pop – Friday Night Is Killing Me (Omnivore Records)
On the heels of a new record from Bash & Pop — Tommy Stinson’s freewheeling, post-Replacements band — Omnivore Records issued an expanded version of the group’s heart-on-sleeve, ragged-rock debut, Friday Night Is Killing Me. Disc two is chock-full of alternate takes and home demos that underscore the music’s raw-nerve quality — and why the album deserves to be more than a cult classic.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary Edition (Apple Corps Ltd./Capitol/UMe)
The Fab Four celebrated the 50th anniversary of (what many say is) their crowning achievement in a big way: an anniversary edition featuring a meticulous new stereo mix by Giles Martin — the son of the Beatles’ late producer, George — and Sam Okell. Modern mixes of older material can be hit or miss, but the buffed-up Sgt. Pepper’s is worth it: The new mix is full of crisp sonic detailing that underscores the band’s adventurous spirit and kaleidoscopic creativity. A multi-disc, deluxe edition of the reissue throws in a heap of demo sessions and studio ephemera.
Ornette Coleman – Crisis/Ornette At 12 (Real Gone)
Stereogum’s Ugly Beauty columnist Phil Freeman named this physical-only release his Archival Find Of The Month back in September. These records –
which are remastered from the original tapes and are appearing for the first time ever on CD (!) — mark an intriguing period in the jazz great’s career. “Ornette plays violin and trumpet as well as alto, and on both instruments he’s going for feel more than technique,” Freeman writes. “He lets loose bursts of sound that don’t blend with what the other musicians are doing so much as challenge them to consider why they’re playing what they’re playing, and if there’s an alternate approach available.”
Alice Coltrane – World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane (Luaka Bop)
This collection represents music Coltrane recorded and released in small batches between 1982 and 1995, while living in an ashram outside Los Angeles. In addition to featuring her first vocal performances and striking solo harp work, this reverent music incorporates hypnotic synthesizers, ebullient choirs and textured percussion.
Common – Electric Circus (Vinyl Me Please)
Fifteen years after its release, Common’s hip-hop milestone Electric Circus, which was reissued on wax via Vinyl Me Please, still sounds like the future. With production from J Dilla, the Neptunes and Questlove — and musical contributions from all-stars such as Prince, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and Stereolab’s Lætitia Sadier — the album mixes and matches sounds and eras with surgery-like precision.
The Creation – Action Painting (Numero Group)
During their mid-’60s heyday, the Creation crafted impeccable tunes that threaded together inspirations from garage, psych, mod and blues rock. This collection compiles the UK band’s complete studio recordings, which have inspired the Who, the Jam, Ride and (of course) the formation of Creation Records.
D’Angelo – Brown Sugar (Deluxe Edition) (Virgin/UMe)
A straight reissue of D’Angelo’s 1995 debut would have been tantalizing enough. That this neo-soul landmark comes packaged with 21 bonus tracks — including a King Tech remix of the title track featuring Kool G Rap and a heavenly a cappella version of “Me And Those Dreamin’ Eyes Of Mine'” — makes it absolutely essential.
Dear Nora – Mountain Rock (Orindal Records)
The quiet urgency of Dear Nora, the moniker under which Katy Davidson recorded spare, introspective indie-folk in the ’00s, feels more resonant than ever. This vinyl reissue of 2004’s Mountain Rock reveals music that’s equal parts hopeful and heartbreaking.
Def Leppard – Hysteria (30th Anniversary Edition) (Bludgeon Riffola/Mercury/UMe)
Most of Def Leppard’s catalog is still unavailable on streaming services, which makes the various versions of this reissue — highlighted by a massive, super deluxe release with five CDs and four books — a solid bet. Plus, it’s always a good time to crank the riff-heavy goof “Armageddon It,” a song that still splits the gleeful difference between glossy pop and glammy hard rock.
Brian Eno – Here Come The Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), Another Green World, Before And After Science (UMC/Virgin EMI)
Brian Eno’s ’70s work certainly deserves luxe reissues. These heavyweight, double vinyl editions of four classic LPs were mastered at half-speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios and
come with elaborate gatefold packaging.
Flat Duo Jets – Wild Wild Love (Daniel 13)
This two-CD retrospective package features the band’s self-titled 1990 album — a landmark of garage-blues chaos and gothic Southern rock ‘n’ roll — their cassette-only 1984 mini-album, In Stereo, and studio outtakes chosen by producer Mark Bingham.
Fleetwood Mac – Tango In The Night (Rhino)
The band’s blockbuster 1987 record — a gauzy display of sparkly synthesizers, sugary harmonies and digital detailing — finally receives a proper reissue. As expected, the bonus material on the deluxe edition is a treasure trove of retro-fabulous remixes and contemporary demos.
Game Theory – 2 Steps From The Middle Ages (Omnivore)
It’s always been heartbreaking that a Game Theory reissue campaign didn’t begin in earnest until after songwriter Scott Miller’s sudden death. However, 1988’s Mitch Easter-produced 2 Steps From The Middle Ages is a fine way to round out the power-pop band’s resurgence, especially because of 11 bonus demos and live tracks.
Lee Hazlewood – Forty (Light In The Attic)
Light In The Attic’s Lee Hazlewood Archival series continues with a reissue of the orchestral country-pop record Forty. Recorded in England with producer Shel Talmy and ace session musicians — including frequent Rolling Stones collaborator Nicky Hopkins on piano and organ — the album is eclectic and sentimental, and shows off Hazlewood’s versatility as a vocalist and performer.
Helium – Ends With And (Matador Records)
In addition to bringing Helium’s The Dirt Of Luck and The Magic City back into print on vinyl, Matador released an extensive odds ‘n’ sods collection, Ends With And. More than anything, the LP’s stray b-sides, singles, demos and other obscurities illuminate the ’90s indie rock band’s breadth and depth.
Hüsker Dü – Savage Young Dü (Numero Group)
Hüsker Dü’s catalog has been woefully unrepresented in reissue circles, until now: Savage Young Dü compiles the post-punk band’s early studio output and a generous selection of smoking live songs from their vast archive — all of which show off the group’s ferocious chemistry and power. A 108-page book with input from each band member is just the icing on the cake.
Metallica – Master Of Puppets (Blackened Recordings)
Metallica’s painstaking reissue campaign now turns to their 1986 thrash totem, Master Of Puppets. As always, there are multiple versions of the reissue available, with varying amounts of demos, alternate mixes, blazing live songs and even a hilarious radio interview with the late Cliff Burton. Colloquially referred to by the band as “Obey Your (Re)master.”
Yoko Ono – Approximately Infinite Universe, Feeling The Space (Secretly Canadian/Chimera Music)
The ongoing Yoko Ono reissue campaign unsurprisingly preserves the albums like an archivist would a piece of great art. In addition to remastered audio, the records given the 2017 reissues (1971’s Fly, 1973’s Approximately Infinite Universe and 1973’s Feeling The Space) also come with gorgeous packaging.
Prince – Purple Rain (Reissue) (NPG Records/Warner Bros.)
Prince’s estate dipped into the vault for this long-awaited reissue of Purple Rain, compiling unreleased songs, various remixes and edits across bonus disc(s). Remastered audio of the main album culled from the original tapes — which was completed in 2015, before Prince’s death — makes this a worthy collection addition.
R.E.M. – Automatic For The People 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Craft Recordings)
R.E.M.’s monumental 1992 release Automatic For The People — which, like 1991’s Out Of Time, reimagined what alternative rock could look like — receives an appropriately lavish reissue. Bonus material includes a generous selection of rare demos and photos; the band’s landmark November 19, 1992, show at Athens’ intimate 40 Watt Club; and a new remix using the cutting-edge Dolby Atmos sound technology.
Minnie Riperton – Perfect Angel (Deluxe Edition) (UMG)
Riperton — Maya Rudolph’s mom — made this record with Stevie Wonder in 1974, and it shows: Perfect Angel is sublime R&B-pop infused with funk and soul. The album’s deluxe edition is chock full of extended versions that enhance the funkiness.
Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (Numero Group)
Numero Group’s commitment to giving unheralded (but deserving) artists a spotlight continues with this stellar collection of music from transgender ’60s soul singer Jackie Shane. Any Other Way includes all six of her singles, as well as live sessions.
The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (Deluxe Edition) (Rhino Records)
The long-awaited reissue of the Smiths’ 1986 high-water mark has been tainted somewhat by Morrissey’s recent interview quips. However, there’s no denying The Queen Is Dead’s influence and enduring appeal — and the demos are the real carrot here, as they give a rare glimpse into how the magic came together.
Midori Takada – Through The Looking Glass (Paleo Flats/WRWTFWW)
This reissue of Japanese percussionist Midori Takada’s 1983 LP is a revelation, a stunning (and pristine-sounding) display of intricate composition and rhythmic innovation.
Various Artists – Soul Jazz Records Presents BOOMBOX 2: Early Independent Hip Hop, Electro And Disco Rap 1979-83 (Soul Jazz Records)
The title of this compilation says it all: Esteemed British label Soul Jazz gathers together rare early cuts from New York City’s nascent hip-hop scene to create a richer perspective on the genre’s evolution.
Various Artists – Singles Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Reissue) (Sony Legacy)
The expanded version of the soundtrack to the grunge-era chestnut Singles is stuffed with goodies: several unreleased Paul Westerberg songs, Chris Cornell’s Poncier EP — a real tape he recorded in the guise of his character in the movie — and “Touch Me I’m Dick,” a wink to Mudhoney sung by the movie’s fictional band, Citizen Dick.
Wilco – A.M., Being There (Rhino)
As Wilco started gaining steam in the ’90s, Jeff Tweedy worked diligently to carve out a sound that acknowledged — but built on — Uncle Tupelo’s legacy. These expanded, remastered versions of the band’s debut (1995’s A.M.) and follow-up (1996’s Being There) show how quickly the band developed their voice. The deluxe version of Being There is notable for including a raucous (but self-assured) November 12, 1996, Wilco concert from the Troubadour.