Jan 5, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part III: The Reissues / Compilations

Rolling along here, let's move on to my ten favorite reissues and compilations of 2015.

10. Iron & Wine - Archive Series Volume 1 (Black Cricket)
Even though I've liked the growth we've heard from Sam Beam over the years, I still love the material he first recorded under the Iron & Wine name back in 2002 and 2003. Which is why I was very excited to see the first entry in his Archive Series, which collects rare and unreleased tracks from the recording sessions of The Creek Drank The Cradle and The Sea & The Rhythm. If you are at all a fan of those records, this will be a worthwhile addition to your collection.

9. Ty Segall - Ty Rex (Goner Records)
As I mentioned in my EP wrap-up when talking about the Mr. Face double 7", there has been an element of glam rock creeping into Ty Segall's work over the past few years. This compilation helps explain why, as it pulls together two EPs worth of T. Rex covers. While he doesn't go for the obvious hits, it's still a lot of fun and easy to hear just how compatible the two artists are.

8. Swans - Filth (Young God)
I've really loved following the resurgence of Michael Gira's Swans over the past half decade or so, even though I missed out on their original run by being too young and in the wrong place at the wrong time. So I was pleased when Young God put together this lovely multi-disc reissue of their debut album from 1983, which adds on EP material and live performances from the era. Even without where the band would go, it's an important document of the noisy New York scene from the early 1980s.

7. Kenny Knight - Crossroads (Paradise of Bachelors)
The private press record from Colorado's Kenny Knight has been a highly prized collector's item for those interested chasing down those particular dark alleys of the music collecting world. Fortunately Paradise of Bachelors rescued the album from private shelves and in doing so proved that sometimes these private press records are very much worth reaching a larger audience. After spending many years in garage rock bands, Knight recorded this record in 1980 under the heavy influence of American Beauty-era Grateful Dead. Full of melancholy and pedal steel, this is a great time capsule.

6. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks / His Band and the Street Choir (Warner Bros.)
Growing up, I was never much of a Van Morrison fan. I'd heard "Brown Eyed Girl", "Moondance" and "Domino" so much that I thought I never needed to explore any further. Yeah, that was pretty wrong-headed, but fortunately these two reissues turned me around. Astral Weeks in particular won me over, particularly the lengthier tracks. Even Street Choir sold me on his R&B side. Probably not necessary for his diehards, but much appreciated for those of us just dipping in our toes.

5. Faces - 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing or Anything (Rhino)
I'm not sure that this presents the definitive versions or remasters of the band's work, but this was a much appreciated way for me to get all of their essential material for less that $40 - and it sounds just fine for me. This retrospective set collects the band's four studio albums (each including bonus live cuts, outtakes and session tracks), as well as a bonus disc of non-album singles and other stray droppings. For a guy (like me) that grew up hating Rod Stewart, it's been fun discovering just how great this band was.

4. Sun City Girls - Torch of the Mystics (Abduction)
As I've explored various corners of the musical world, particularly in those that tie back to folk and psych rock, I've kept coming across the name Sun City Girls as a touchstone. Add in discovering Sir Richard Bishop through his work in Rangda with Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano, and I started to feel like his former band was some missing chunk of my musical life. Their work isn't all that easy to track down these days, so I was happy to see a reissue of what many consider their most seminal work. And it's easy to see why, this reveals a group that never ceased searching and absorbing influences from, quite literally, all over the globe.

3. The Velvet Underground - Loaded Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic)
The fantastic reissue campaign for The Velvet Underground's studio output concludes here, unless they're seriously seeing big money for a fat Squeeze era package, with the band's final album with Lou Reed. The album itself is terrific. Even if it never gets as experimental or "out" as their earlier releases, it's still a handful of some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever recorded. This deluxe box set adds in mono versions, demos, outtakes and an entire live set from Max's Kansas City. Essential for VU fans, almost as essential as their other archival release from 2015 (but more on that later).

2. Miles Davis - At Newport: 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy)
I waffled on which list to include this with. While it technically is live material, it just seemed to make more sense in this category (complaints about this decision can be sent directly to the editor at the address on the tin). This collection does pretty much what it says, collecting a series of Miles' performances at the Newport Jazz Festival between 1955 and 1975. Most from the original Rhode Island location, but the later sets come from the German, Switzerland and New York variations. Anyone familiar with Miles' career knows exactly how much he evolved in those two decades and the music within is very reflective of that, ranging from an all-start jam with Thelonius Monk and Zoot Sims in 1955 to the extended "Funky Tonk" workout of 1975. Essential stuff.

1. The Flaming Lips - Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)
When The Flaming Lips issued the three-disc Finally the Punk Rockers Are Taking Acid collecting back in 2002, it was an essential piece of my expanding musical universe. While this rounding up of that weird period after they broke into the alternative nation and crashed into Beverly Hills 90210 isn't quite as definitive, I've still found it to be a thrilling trip through a confusing point in the band's history. The EP material from this era is really nice to have, but what won me over was the blown-out fuzz and noise of the live disc included. This material won't be for everyone, not even some of the Lips' biggest fans, but I enjoyed the hell out of it.

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