I love new music, but I’m also attuned to keeping up with the latest in reissues and archival releases. Sometimes those feature some of my favorite artists; other times they turn me on to music of the past that I’ve never even heard. In 2016 I’ve been able to select my Top Ten reissue and/or archival releases. I make no apologies for the fact that I was closely involved in a couple of these projects.
C.A. Quintet – A Trip Thru Hell
Quite the strange record, A Trip Thru Hell is one of the great obscurities of ’60s psychedelia. The music is just as eerie as the cover art, often featuring wordless female soprano vocals. But other times it’s more straightforward rock – even with occasional horn section blasts – and some wacked-out guitar work and studio trickery. A fun album, now widely available on vinyl. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
The Bangles – Ladies and Gentlemen … the Bangles!
Because of a gimmicky single (“Walk Like an Egyptian” ) and a syrupy power ballad (“Eternal Flame”), the Bangles aren’t as fondly remembered as they deserve to be. Set aside those outliers and most of what remains in their catalog is excellent pop-flavored rock ‘n’ roll. This album of early rarities shows them before they got packaged. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
Cannonball Adderley Quintet – The Price You Got to Pay to Be Free
I’m blowing my own horn (so to speak) here; I helped bring this long out-of-print double album to its first-ever CD reissue. I wrote the liner note essay, too, based on a conversation with Adderley’s drummer, jazz great Roy McCurdy. Adderley’s work of this period (also showcased on Music, You All, yet another reissue I worked on) deserves to be explored in the same frame of mind as Miles Davis‘ Bitches Brew.
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Live in 1967 / Live in 1967 Volume Two
While the godfather of British blues remains a powerful figure live onstage in 2016, much of his reputation is built upon the work he did in the 1960s. One of his most important lineups featured three musicians who would go on to Fleetwood Mac: Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. These two archival releases document that group live onstage. The sound isn’t always splendid, but the historical importance of the recordings makes it worth the extra bit of effort required to listen. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
Love – Coming Through to You
While it was roundly ignored at the time of its original release, Love’s Forever Changes was belatedly recognized as one of the best albums of its era. But a side effect of that praise was the dismissing of much of what came before and (especially) after from Love and/or Arthur Lee. This box set rights that wrong, and shows that there would be many treasures to come, even if they rarely sounded like the best parts of Forever Changes. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
Herbie Mann – Live at the Whisky 1969: The Unreleased Masters
My friend Pat Thomas is responsible for bringing this previously-unheard gem to listeners. Taken from a pile of live recordings jazz flautist Mann made, this 2CD set has no overlap with the album released decades ago. It shows just how boundary-pushing Mann really was. He’s often dismissed as a hack and/or opportunist, but his legacy deserves better. And this set goes a long way toward rehabilitating Herbie. Read the full story, with link to purchase.
Big Star – Complete Third
It’s reasonable to be suspicious of yet another posthumous Big Star release. Until, that is, when you discover that Omnivore Recordings is behind it. Big Star’s most difficult album – and its least immediate – is most assuredly not the best entry point for new listeners. But once you’ve dug in, Third can reveal its grandeur. And you’ll want to hear it all, including demos and working versions. This definitive release has all that and more. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
Velvet Crush – Pre-teen Symphonies
The “college rock” scene of the 1980s was littered with great bands that never caught on with the public like they should have. Velvet Crush is one of those; their Teenage Symphonies to God is a masterpiece. This album of demos and live cuts from that period – again from Omnivore Recordings – is very different from its studio counterpart, but splendid in its own way. If you like Velvet Crush even a little bit, you need both Teenage Symphonies to God and this set. Read the full review, with link to purchase.
Edgar Winter – The Definitive Collection
Another self-plug; deal with it. Real Gone Music released a 2CD set collecting the best tracks from Edgar winter’s successful run through the 1970s. Edgar was kind enough to sit for not one but two extensive and wide-ranging interviews with me; those formed the basis of my liner notes. The collection is filled to the brim with some of the best the 1970s had to offer. Read the full story, with link to purchase.
Henske & Yester – Farewell Aldebaran
Through his books, music journalist/historian/author Richie Unterberger is responsible for turning me onto a long list of musical artists, some of whom – Martin Newell, to name one – rank among my favorites. A hopelessly obscure act made a sole album in the late 1960s, and it sank without a trace. Fast forward 45-plus years, and cue Omnivore Recordings yet again. As weird and wonderful as you can imagine: that’s Farewell Aldebaran. Judy Henske and Jerry Yester discussed the record at length with me in a recent interview. Read the full story, with link to purchase.