I tend to gravitate toward reissues and compilations. It’s not that I want to hear the same material over and over again – I don’t – but I do enjoy the recontextualizing and re-evaluation that reissues invite. And the bonus tracks are often fun. Here are my five top reissues for 2011. Note that many other narrowly missed making the list, and that the Beach Boys‘ landmark SMiLE wasn’t reviewed here (though I have and treasure it).
The Long Ryders – Native Sons – Many artists have attempted to combine country & western with rock, and while a few have pulled it off amazingly well (The Byrds), for every one of those, there are a dozen Eagles (meh). In the 1980s nobody did it better than these guys.
Ray Charles – Singular Genius – Worth having if only for the previously-unreleased-on-CD tracks and Billy Vera‘s essay, this 5CD set is ultimately much more than that. It’s a history of a side of Charles’ music that hasn’t been presented in such a manner before.
Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow – Sadly, pop music’s history is littered with tales of fragile souls who created wonderful music but who (for one reason or another) couldn’t cope with daily life. Material Issue’s Jim Ellison was one of these. But on this album he and his bandmates made some of the best music of their lives, and of the 1990s.
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak – This is the album that best combines hard rock with troubadour/storytelling imagery. Tough as nails yet deeply emotional, it’s one of the best albums of the entire 1970s. The bonus tracks on this reissue only add to the album’s quality.
Various Artists – Dirty Water – Esteemed British DJ/authorty/collector Kris Needs presents the first volume of his skewed and highly idiosyncratic compendiums. What he considers punk likely won’t match your own definition, but he makes a compelling case for his POV, and backs it up with some fantastic music. Some of it’s quite rare, as well. There’s since been a second volume as well.
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