Top Ten Reissues of 2002
By: Matthew Greenwald
- Bob Dylan / "The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: The Rolling Thunder Revue" (Columbia/Legacy C2K 87047)
1974 and '75 found Bob Dylan returning to a creative place that was on a par with his finest work. Following Blood On The Tracks (and just before the release of Desire), he brought together a band of musical geniuses and rouges, heroes & villains (including Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn, Jack Elliott, Bobby Neuwirth, Mick Ronson, et al.), and this became the legendary autumn 1975 'Rolling Thunder Revue' tour. All of the tumult, power and most importantly, spontaneity are captured brilliantly here once and for all. Aside from the inexorably superb music, this set is butressed by some extraordinary liner notes by Larry 'Ratso' Sloman, who also wrote the (recently re-published on Three Rivers Press) definitive tour book, On The Road With Bob Dylan. The limited-edition version of the package also includes a bonus DVD disc, which contains some rare gems from the Renaldo and Clara film, particularly an almost bloodthirsty version of "Isis".
- Jack Nitzsche / "Three Piece Suite" (Rhino/Handmade RHM2 7787)
Just for his work arranging records for Phil Spector and Neil Young, Jack Nitzsche should be canonized. But this man, all but forgotten in the record industry's sell-by-date mentality, was also a brilliant and adventurous solo artist. This CD collects his 1972 orchestral masterpiece, St. Giles Cripplesgate, as well as a stunning unreleased 1974 self-titled solo album that Nitzsche co-wrote with fellow industry renegade Robert Downey (Senior. This album, which combines an intense singer-songwriter thrust with an exploratory classical flavor, may just be the greatest lost musical artifact of the 1970's. Four early 70's demos round out this exquisite (and unfortunately, limited edition) collection.
- The Who / "My Generation-Deluxe Edition" (MCA/Universal 088 112 926-2)
One of the greatest debut albums in the rock & roll idiom, The Who Sings My Generation was the one Who album that had been yet to be reissued at the dawn of the 21st Century. The whole story of Shel Talmy (the album's producer) owning - and hoarding - the master tapes is available for anyone who wants to find out; but in the end, it's the music that matters. The original album, as well as over a dozen bonus tracks capture The Who in all of their early fury and ferment, making this collection a brilliant snapshot of the band's explosive 1965 period.
- Beau Brummels / "Triangle"/"Bradley's Barn" (Collectors Choice CCM-317-2 / CCM-318-2)
Although these two reissues contain no bonus material, the fact that they are now available on CD in America is enough for me to celebrate. The Beau Brummels are primary remembered for their sparkling, Beatlesque Top-40 hits such as "Laugh, Laugh" and "Just A Little". But the point of fact is that during 1967-8 the band matured beyond all expectations with a pair of boundless and enterprising albums that should, in fact, be mentioned in the same breath as Forever Changes and Sweetheart Of The Rodeo for starters. Excellent notes by Richie Unterberger round out these sterling re-releases.
- Gene Clark / "Gene Clark" (aka 'White Light') (U.K. only - A&M/Universal 493 209-2)
One of the foremost singer/songwriter albums ever, White Light is, for me, right up there with such magnum opuses as Harvest and Sail Away. Gene Clark was a master of time, space and poetry, and he proves it in every track on this often-neglected masterpiece, which just may be his finest solo work. Co-produced by Jessie Ed Davis (who also, of course, plays effulgent guitar throughout the album) the record remains a watermark of the singer/songwriter genre. This spectacular reissue also includes five bonus tracks, all of which would have fit the integrity of the original issue, as well as a set of inspired liner notes by me amigo, Sid Griffin.
- The Spencer Davis Group / "Gimmie Some Lovin'"/ "I'm A Man" (Sundazed SC 11103 / SC 11104)
Virtually everything you need by the Steve Winwood-led Spencer Davis Group is contained on these two CD's. Built upon the mono editions of the band's two U.S. albums, they also feature tracks from the U.K. albums' Autumn '66 and Their First Album. There is also a generous selection of B-sides and oddities such as the scorching "High Time Baby" and, from the posthumous U.S. Heavies album, an emotionally-flooded version of the gospel meltdown, "Drown In My Own Tears". To be sure, "Gimmie Some Lovin" and "I'm A Man" are indeed the groups finest singles, but you'll find so many more worthwhile tracks here that you'll wonder why you didn't have these all in one place before.
- The Byrds / "The Columbia Singles '65-'67" (Vinyl only/mono) (Sundazed LP 5130)
For a band that sounds positivily resplendent in stereo, The Byrds took special care in creating their mono radio singles, and this 2-LP set amasses every A and B side from their classic 1965-7 period. Also included -- for the first time -- are the mono single mixes of "Bells Of Rhymney" and "Chimes Of Freedom", the pair being a 'withdrawn' single in 1965. To quote the liner notes, "There's just something about the way mono drills you in the chest -- leveling the playing field by compressing everything into one iridescent, glorious, Captain Marvel-like bolt of lightening -- that remains addictive." That said, the additional fact of having these thirty sides on 180-gram vinyl is just, well, too bloody much.
- Louis Armstrong / "Best Of The Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings" (Columbia/Legacy CK 86539)
Essentially a 'Best Of' the Grammy-award winning 4-disc box set (The Complete Hot Five & Hot Seven Recordings), this 18-track collection condenses that experience brilliantly, giving the consumer a sort of 'Cliff's Notes' version of these groundbreaking recordings, cut between 1926-8. Ragtime, blues, jazz, and even comedy (check out "King Of The Zulu's" for a quick laugh & a buzz) come into play on most of the tracks, and surround some serious playing with an undeniable warmth and atmosphere.
- The Dillards / "Wheatstraw Suite/"Copperfields" (Collectors Choice CCM-280-2 / CCM-281-2)
Another pair of albums that, by sheer virtue of their existence on CD, are well deserving of making this list. Both albums show that The Dillards were indeed, just slightly ahead of their time. Utilizing their well-earned Bluegrass stripes, the band moved into a pop (and sometimes rock) sphere before many of their contemporaries made it fashionable. The weave of acoustic guitars, mandolin and banjo provide an acoustic core to the songs, and meet a rock rhythm section and three part harmonies in a burnished marriage. Although Wheatstraw looms larger in legend, Copperfields may be an even better record, loaded with a slightly broadened eclecticism. The bottom line is that if you're planning on picking up one of these discs, do yourself a favor and get both.
- Bobbie Gentry / "An American Quilt" (Raven Records/Australia RVCD-130)
To be sure, one song comes into most minds when Bobbie Gentry's name is mentioned, but it's important to note that she made many other records that were as good (or even better) than "Ode To Billie Joe". This excellent Australian compilation, put together with loving care by John Dowler, screams that fact out loud. From the Stax-like funk of "Mississippi Delta" (one of Gentry's finest rock tracks) to the erotic pillow talk on "Mornin' Glory", this superb set shows off Bobbie Gentry's wide-ranging artistry brilliantly. Available via http://www.ravenrecords.com.au.
Bert Berns "The Heart And Soul Of Bert Berns" (Universal 440 064 795-2)
Jeff Buckley "The Grace EP's" (Columbia 5011782000)
Hearts And Flowers "The Complete Hearts And Flowers" (Collectors Choice/EMI CCM-321-2)
Laura Nyro "Eli And The Thirteenth Confession" (Columbia/Legacy CK 85763)
Love "Da Capo" (U.K.-only Elektra 8122 73604-2)
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