Hate to dispel yet another music industry myth, but the CD is not a dying format. Not even in the slightest.
Perhaps the firmest argument for the vitality of the CD format is the staggering number of incredible reissues and box sets that have come out this year, making the task of finding only 20 to choose from incredibly arduous especially for a carnivorous collector like myself, which is why it’s been bumped to 25.
As long as there’s old people like me, there will be a market for the compact disc as much as there’s a market for “the vinyls,” as the kids are calling it. Here’s our picks for the 25 Best Reissues of 2016.
25) My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade/Living With Ghosts (Reprise)
2006’s The Black Parade was the album that separated the New Jersey group from its counterparts on the screamo scene of the day, looking to classic glam albums as Queen’s News of the World and Ian Hunter’s You’re Never Alone With A Schizoprhenic to give their sound a sheen that glistened quite handsomely against the aggressive tones of their prior works.
This 10th anniversary edition of the album takes you deeper into the process of their sonic transition with a collection of live demos and rough mixes called Living With Ghosts that is pretty much a lost MCR LP just waiting to be discovered by those who of us who missed the boat in the mid-00s.
24) Mother Love Bone, On Earth As It Is: The Complete Works (Monkeywrench)/Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Universal Music Group)pink floyd
Had Andrew Wood not died in 1990, chances are you’d never hear your girlfriend or wife drool on and on about Eddie Vedder or Chris Cornell for all these years, two men who would go on to pay tribute to their dear compatriot as the vocalists for Temple of the Dog. As the frontman for the pre-Pearl Jam group Mother Love Bone, Wood embodied both the bravado of the Sunset Strip and the rebellion of the Seattle Sub Pop scene with a star power that would have made him an icon by 2016.
Andy’s spirit and star power is palpable across these two box sets that graciously expand upon both Mother Love Bone’s lone studio LP Apple and the Temple album his bandmates Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament would form with Eddie, future PJ guitarist Mike McCready and Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron. Bursting at the seams with bonus live and rare material, it’s about time Wood’s name was included in the conversation of rock legends who died way too young.
23) Various Artists, Close to the Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984 (Cherry Red)
The very concept of electronic music is anti-establishment. By that definition, Steve Reich and Raymond Scott might just be the first strains of punk rock, but it wasn’t until 1975 that synth-based compositions began raging within the machine. This four-disc set from Cherry Red chronicles the development of electronics into the language of punk, post-punk and new wave with unparalleled beauty.
While deep within this collection you will find such familiar names as The Human League, OMD and Throbbing Gristle, it’s the artists you might not be so up to snuff on that will truly surprise you, especially if you are a fan of early synth-pop and industrial.
Acts like Blacmange, John Fox and Zorch will certainly appeal to anyone with a healthy amount of Wax Trax in their stacks, while the likes of Storm Bugs might fans of the minimalism of early Warp Records.
22) Sweetback, Sweetback 20th Anniversary Edition(Legacy Recordings)
Sade isn’t just the name of a singer. Sade was a band. But it took her mates in the group—guitarist Stuart Matthewman (who also is responsible for those super creamy sax solos on such hits as “Smooth Operator” and “Paradise”), keyboardist Andrew Hale and bassist Paul Spencer Denman—to branch out as Sweetback for many people to recognize their talents as a distinct band.
When the trio came together following the wrap of the massive tour in support of Love Deluxe, they proved they were so much more than merely hired guns, but rather the architects of that unmistakable hybrid of jazz and R&B that helped make Diamond Life and Promise such essential albums of modern R&B.
Released in October of 1996, Sweetback’s eponymous debut embodied the cool of groove music of the day, recruiting such key new voices as R&B upstarts Leroy Osbourne, Maxwell and Amel Larrieux of Groove Collective as well as Philadelphia rhyme queen Bahamadia to create this strong, steady bridge between college and urban radio that still sounds fresh AF 20 years on.
21) TAD, 8-Way Santa (Deluxe Edition) (Sub Pop)
My introduction to Sub Pop came about not in the form of Bleach but rather the second album from Tad, released in February of 1991. Produced by Butch Vig, who was sought out because he worked on the Killdozer albums, few records clearly draw such a distinctive image of why they called this music “grunge” to begin with; Tad quickly distinguished themselves as one of the most uncompromising bands to ever bear the Sub Pop logo.
The lawsuits from both Pepsi and the couple depicted on the original cover art that mired this title in unnecessary baloney are ancient history, and thanks to this dynamic remastering job by Sub Pop’s new guard I can finally hear raging faves like “Giant Killer” and “Trash Truck” at the volume they should be played at.
20) Jack White, Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016 (Columbia Records)
For as much of a name Jack White has built for himself making such a racket on the electric guitar, his most beloved material seems to stem from those moments when he unplugs from the amp and focuses on his understated strengths as a songwriter.
This two-disc anthology does such a remarkable job showcasing the wide net of country, blues and pre-war folk vibes that permeates his acoustic work, both with the White Stripes and as a solo act.
19) Afghan Whigs, Black Love (20th Anniversary Edition) (Rhino)
There was always an element of R&B in the music of The Afghan Whigs. But with their second LP for Elektra, Black Love, the Cincinnati soul rockers slather it on to the cinematic bombast that made 1993’s Gentlemen such a breakout hit of the alt-rock age.
An album that served as the quintessential bridge connecting their roots on Sub Pop and their love for Paisley Park, Black Love has been expanded for its 20th anniversary to include an extra set of previously unreleased demo recordings from these sessions, highlighted by a gorgeous, piano-driven cover of New Order’s “Regret”.
18) Peter Case, Peter Case (Omnivore Recordings)
When Peter Case released his eponymous solo debut in 1986, it was quite a departure from the jittery punk of his first group The Nerves as well as the mercurial power pop he delivered in the New Wave era as leader of The Plimsouls.
Employing the powerhouse production duo of Mitchell Froom and T-Bone Burnett, Case and co. assembled a true wrecking crew of roots rock heavyweights, including Mike Campbell, Roger McGuinn, John Hiatt, Victoria Williams, Van Dyke Parks and Jim Keltner, to craft an album that would help spearhead the Americana movement.
This exceptional 30th anniversary edition expands the album to include five previously unreleased cuts and two tracks from a college radio promo EP released at the time. Three decades later, Peter Case still sounds like the master’s class in songcraft it’s always been.
17) The Scenics, In The Summer (Light in the Attic distribution)
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For those who’ve always felt that Canada in the ’70s was only about Rush, Triumph and SCTV, introduce yourselves to The Scenics.
Here is a group who were making a dynamic punk noise up in Toronto while the rest of the world was perseverating on London and the New York City Bowery, recording a collection of razor-sharp cuts that were never officially released until this year.
In The Summer, a 12-song set spanning the years 1977 and 1978, bursts at the seams with post-punk angularity and power pop fury that refuses to play by the house rules of conventional punk rock.
16) The Scientists, A Place Called Bad (Numero Group)
One of the truly unsung punk groups of the mid ’70s, The Scientists from Perth, Australia are the one band who truly should have gotten its due when the likes of The Ramones and The Clash were taking matters into their own hands, concocting a swampy, skronky strain of the punk rock idiom that would go on to inspire the likes of Mudhoney and Sonic Youth, both of whom took the band out on the road with them when The Scientists reunited in the mid-2000s.
Long out of print in the U.S., A Place Called Bad compiles the group’s full studio output from 1978 to 1982, plus a previously unreleased live recording from a 1983 show at the University of Adelaide, making this the perfect primer to educate yourself on this unheralded Pacific powerhouse.
15) Luna, Long Players 92-99 (Captured Tracks)
I’ve been waiting for the longest time to see if Rhino would ever do some kind of definitive box set of one of the most treasured catalogs of ’90s alternative rock they have in their vaults: the five albums released by New York City noir pop greats Luna for Elektra records over the course of the decade.
Apparently, Mike Sniper was wondering the same thing, and couldn’t wait any longer, thus providing us with this mouth-watering, vinyl-only box set that brings together remastered versions of 1992’s Lunapark, 1994’s Bewitched, 1995’s essential Penthouse, 1997’s vastly underrated Pup Tent, and 1999’s The Days of Our Nights as well as a set of rarities highlighted by the Penthouse bonus fave “Bonnie & Clyde” and a lilting cover of Blondie’s “In The Flesh” from their eponymous 1976 debut. Thanks, Blank Dog!
14) Gillian Welch, Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg (Acony)
It would have been a sin to have seen 2016 come and go without some kind of acknowledgment of the 20th anniversary of one of 1996’s important releases, which is why the arrival of this double-disc collection of rarities, outtakes and alternative versions from the sessions that created Gillian Welch’s stellar debut Revival was such a pleasant surprise.
Two decades later, this new collection featuring two discs of analog tape recordings personally selected by Welch still sounds as poignant as the day she and longtime creative partner David Rawlings recorded them.
13) Viven Goldman, Resolutionary (Staubgold)
Viven Goldman is widely known as one of the foremost female voices in music journalism, who at one time was a regular contributor to The NME, The New York Times and the Village Voice during the heyday of punk and new wave and also the author of acclaimed books on Bob Marley and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
But she also aimed to create the kind of music she was covering in the papers, and between 1979 and 1982 amassed a small but quixotic collection of recorded material, compiled together for the very first time on Resolutionary.
Her music, be it under her own name or as a member of the groups The Flying Lizards and Chantage, was the sum of its collaborative parts, which included John Lydon and Keith Levene of Public Image Limited, British dub titan Adrian Sherwood and Vicki Aspinall of The Raincoats. But it’s also a testament to the vision Goldman herself had for the music she was covering, laying the groundwork for a group like Warpaint to reign supreme in 2016.
12) Egyptian Lover, 1983-1988 (Stones Throw)
Before Ice-T and N.W.A, the final word in West Coast hip-hop was Egyptian Lover, whose pioneering electro-rap was as influential to the sound of Los Angeles as Afrika Bambaataa was to the South Bronx.
Combining his loves for Zapp, Kraftwerk and the power moves of a young Prince and channeling them through his 808, the man born Greg Broussard moved the masses with a unique style that’s finally been given its due through Stones Throw’s lovingly crafted two-disc anthology chronicling his prime years creating grooves that got an entire city spinning on cardboard.
11) Colin Newman, A-Z/Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish/Not To (Sentinent Sonics)
With all the praise music critics have heaped on the first three Wire albums over the years, it’s surprising there’s never been an equal level of buzz surrounding the solo work of frontman Colin Newman, released in the wake of the iconic post-punk group’s first hiatus in 1980.
Beautifully remastered and repackaged through Newman’s own Sentinent Sonics label, 1980’s A-Z, 1981’s instrumental Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish and 1982’s Not To were some of the earliest gems to define the direction of the 4AD sound.
While showcasing Newman’s multi-hued songwriting and compositional abilities far beyond “Three Chord Rhumba”, the collection also provides further evidence of Newman’s understated genius on the rarities-packed bonus discs that come with each LP.
10) Ravi Shankar, In Hollywood, 1971 (Northern Spy)
A morning concert held at Ravi Shankar’s house on Highland Ave. in the hills of Hollywood, this transcendent live recording was released as a Record Store Day exclusive this year.
The sitar master’s thoughts were with the victims of Cyclone Bhola, which decimated the region of Bangla Desh shortly before this performance, which with George Harrison in attendance that day inspired the legendary relief concert at Madison Square Garden later that year. If you loved Shankar’s set during The Concert for Bangla Desh, nothing should be stopping you from seeking out In Hollywood, 1971.
9) Terry Dolan, Terry Dolan (High Moon)
The catacombs of the Warner Bros. Record archives are littered with literal lost gems, cancelled or shelved for some reason or another by the label brass at the time. But none are more inexplicably deleted than the eponymous 1972 solo LP from Terry & The Pirates frontman Terry Dolan.
With the help of an absolute money session band comprised of Prairie Prince of The Tubes on drums, erstwhile Rolling Stones associate Nicky Hopkins on keys, Lonnie Turner and Greg Douglass of The Steve Miller Band, Quicksilver Messenger Service guitar giant John Cipolina and the Pointer Sisters on backing vocals, Terry Dolan would have been as big as Exile On Main Street had it seen the light of day upon its completion.
Forty-five years later, we are grateful for the High Moon label to finally rescuing it from the fog of music industry memory.
8) The Verve, A Northern Soul: Deluxe Edition (Universal)
No group in English rock has successfully established a link between shoegaze and the blues quite like The Verve.
And no other album, despite the assertions of those A Storm In Heaven diehards out there, is a more definitive testament to their successful compound than 1995’s A Northern Soul, a record that continued to add elements of that Between The Buttons-era flavor that would overtake them when they hit big with “Bittersweet Symphony” into their hypnotic swirl, offering a glimpse of their future while retaining the unruliness of their salad days.
This deluxe edition tells the complete story with a disc of b-sides and material from the This Is Music and On Our Own EPs, as well as a third disc of unreleased studio material and BBC Radio 1 sessions that showcase the band’s might as a live act in ’95. For my money, A Northern Soul has always been the one Verve album to own, and this fantastic edition fully confirms my allegiance.
7) Led Zeppelin, The Complete BBC Sessions (Rhino-Atlantic)
When the Zep sessions at the BEEB, recorded between 1969 and 1971, first came out in 1997, these explosive performances were celebrated as though it was a full-on new album from Plant, Page, Jonesy and Bonzo.
Now beautifully remastered nearly 20 years later as part of the group’s ongoing reissue campaign, the versions of “Dazed and Confused”, “Communication Breakdown” and “How Many More Times” still burn brighter than their studio counterparts, and the long-lost session from April of ’69 that includes the only known performance of the song “Sunshine Woman” is absolutely stunning.
6) Steve Reich, The ECM Recordings (ECM)
In honor of his 80th birthday this past October 2016 saw ECM finally doing justice to the first three Steve Reich albums he recorded for the label in 1978, 1980 and 1982.
These landmark recordings, Music for 18 Musicians, Music for a Large Ensemble/Violin Phase/Octet and Tehillim, not only look and sound better than they have in decades, but through the lens of time they also offer a stunning resolve to Reich’s immense influence on such dance music subgenres as microhouse, IDM and glitch-hop as well.
If these were released in the ’90s, one might even suspect them to be another trio of titles from the many personas of Aphex Twin.
5) Various Artists, C87 (Cherry Red)
When the NME released their mail-order-only C86 collection chronicling the best new sounds of 1986 in the U.K. (with contributions from such future greats as The Pastels, Primal Scream and the Wedding Present among others), little did the music tabloid know with that cassette they would be spearheading an actual sonic revolution that continues to inspire young bands to this very day.
In celebration of the tape’s 30th anniversary, Cherry Red put together this excellent sequel to C86, collecting three discs worth of tracks released in the months following the original compilation’s issue, including key tracks from such U.K. college radio faves of the time as The House of Love, The Darling Buds, The Inspiral Carpets, Kitchens of Distinction, The Vaselines and The Boy Hairdressers, who a couple of years later would become Teenage Fanclub.
4) Kris Kristofferson, The Complete Monument & Columbia Album Collection (Legacy Recordings)
Between 1970 and 1981, Kris Kristofferson released a library of albums that would help define the outlaw country movement of the day, with songs that brought the worlds of Leonard Cohen, Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash closer together than ever before with his one-of-a-kind blend of folk, C&W, gospel and longhair rock.
This essential reissue not only houses such country masterpieces as 1970’s Kristofferson, 1972’s Jesus Was A Capricorn and the underrated 1978 treasure Easter Island, but five discs of bonus rarities as well, including a sublime performance at the Big Sur Folk Festival in ’70 containing one of the best versions of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” you’ve yet to hear.
3) Fleetwood Mac, Mirage: Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
Following the edgy dalliances with new wave and post-punk on Tusk, the Mac returned to pop in 1982 with Mirage, with songs like “Love in Store,” “Only Over You” and “Oh Diane” and “Gypsy” returning to the pop shimmer of Rumours while retaining Tusk’s calculated weirdness.
In fact, for a whole generation, their introduction to Fleetwood Mac was through their video for Mirage’s smash hit “Hold Me” in heavy rotation on MTV.
This outstanding deluxe edition compiles a brim-fill CD of 19 tracks featuring outtakes from the sessions recorded at Château d’Hérouville outside of France and an additional disc compiled from live recordings captured during the band’s whirlwind tour of 1982. Mac fans have been waiting for this one a long, long time and it surely does not disappoint.
2) David Bowie, Who Can I Be Now? 1974-1976 (Parlophone)
Over the fall, Parlophone released the second volume of its excellent box set series chronicling the career of David Bowie. And with his passing in January, this deep dive into one of his most creative periods was welcomed with an extra air of sentimentality, especially for those who swear by this Station to Station era.
Entitled Who Can I Be Now? 1974-1976, this 14-disc collection offers the most exhaustive and complete overview of this particular period of Bowie’s career, where the ashes of Ziggy Stardust gave rise to the alien soul man known as the Thin White Duke, keynoted by the long-awaited public debut of the great lost Bowie LP, The Gouster.
1) Pink Floyd, The Early Years 1965-1972 (Legacy Recordings)
We already covered this ground, but it’s worth repeating: Pink Floyd’s The Early Years is 2016’s most essential reissue—and that’s really saying something.
In a year that produced some of the best releases the format’s seen in recent memory, The Early Years still sticks out as the rare exhaustive box set that should thrill obsessives just as much as casual Pink Floyd fans.
Simply put: Pink Floyd has never sounded better. Do yourself a favor, listen now, and get lost in the cosmic majesty that is vintage Floyd.