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2020: The Reissues That Rocked - 5 Of The Best

19 December 2020

With reissues this year, things became rather sketchy. Record stores were closed, RSD was played out over three days across three consecutive months, and a lot of purchases understandably went online. Nevertheless, some marvelous albums were touched up, remastered and some, for the first time,  became widely available. 

There are some reissues that are fit for anyone’s music collection. Albums which are skewed with bonus material, or simply became rare and expensive. Here are five of the best reissues (in my view), that this surreal year had to offer. 

  1. Bobbie GentryThe Delta Sweetie {Expanded} (Capitol/UMe)
    Released in February 1968, The Delta Sweetie is a concept album. One which predates the more famous rock concept pieces by the Who (Tommy), and Pretty Things (S.F Sorrow). But, unlike the aforementioned releases this is a personal album for Gentry, chronicling her life growing up in Mississippi, and how she then viewed the Deep South through adult eyes. Gentry reinvents the songs she heard on the radio as a child, such as “Big Boss Man” (Jimmy Reed), “Parchman Farm” (Mose Allison),  and “Tobacco Road” (John D. Loudermilk), recreates them with a bluesy, playful twist. While taking the themes of home life, and the religious church meetings in the self-penned numbers “Reunion”, “Sermon” and “Refractions”. On both vinyl and CD issues are ten bonus tracks, including the unreleased original demo of “The Way I Do”. While the CD version contains the same bonus tracks but with the original mono mix of the album. It is an exceptional album to discover. 

  1. Kevin RowlandMy Beauty (Cherry Red Records) 
    The album you needed but didn’t know existed. Originally released in 1999, this was the Dexys Midnight Runners frontman’s second solo release. My Beauty regrettably slipped under the radar the first time round. But, like a good wine it has aged  gracefully, and is without compromise a masterpiece. Made up of cover versions – “The Long And Winding Road”, “This Guy’s In Love With You”, Mister Rowland rewrote some of the lyrics to reflect his then life struggles. This in turn gave My Beauty a very personal atmosphere. The songs are performed with a majestic, blue collar soul, and as a reissue this year it appeared on vinyl for the first time. Along with this, the excluded cover of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road”, restoring it to the original twelve track release. It is, and will remain an extraordinary piece of work, one which is now gaining more than just a cult status. 

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  1. The Rolling StonesGoats Head Soup | {Deluxe Vinyl Box} (Interscope)
    A fully established retrospective such as this of Goats Head Soup is badly needed. Although the album has received numerous remasters over the years, it gets another overhaul. But, unlike last year’s Let It Bleed boxed set, which gave listeners only a stereo and mono mix, this set goes that extra step further, and that is welcomed. In the lavish vinyl box, you get the original album on one slab, plus a further ten bonus tracks on another. These include instrumentals, Glyn Johns mixes, and three new(ish) tracks, including “Scarlet” (included below) with Jimmy Page, “All The Rage” and “Criss Cross”. But, the real meat on the bones is the last two slabs of vinyl. These are made up of the heavily bootlegged The Brussels Affair, recorded live at the Forest National Arena in October 1973. It is a brilliant time capsule, capturing a band at the very height of their powers before addiction and egos took over fully.

  1. Lou ReedNew York {Super Deluxe} (Rhino)  
    This was the album that changed Reed’s career, and put him on a path of consistent quality releases for the remainder of his life. It really is an epic piece of work. Within these  finely crafted songs, Lou Reed managed to tear away the Velvet Underground’s legacy from his own muse, and point in a new direction. New York is a solid song cycle that pulls the listener into Reed’s hunting ground, and keeps them there enthralled and entertained within the lyrics. From the stuttering guitar opening of “Romeo Had Juliette”, to the contrast of poverty and wealth in “Dirty Blvd”, to “Halloween Parade” and “Busload Of Faith”. It is adult rock and roll, every song points forward, and New York becomes more cinematic than any of Reed’s previous adventures. Courtesy of Rhino fans received a massive deluxe edition on September 25th. A hardback book set contains two slabs of vinyl, three compact discs and one DVD, a salivating celebration by the late Reed’s finest, eighties moment. 

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  1. BMX BanditsC86 {White Vinyl} (Glass Records Modern)
    “If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits.” Kurt Cobain
    Unrelenting, unequalled, and wholly essential, the1989 debut studio masterwork by the influential BMX Bandits returned this year for the first time on vinyl since 1990. An epic treat for those seeking quality, C86 has become a cult of it’s own brilliance, a record which deserves a celebration thirty-years after its initial release. The Scottish BMX Bandits’ have a refined sound that exists somewhere between the Pixies and The LAs. Melodic attacks with swagger, mixing power pop, punk and alternative rock. All these cohesive styles remain in a mode of emotion, with an edge of menace even at their most reflective. A gathering of vicious melodic work against pounding drums, a zeitgeist for grunge, britpop and all that came after. Across the twelve tracks BMX Bandits let loose with a driving rhythm, and  C86 is still as fresh sounding as ever, not suffering from aging. Tracks such as “Disco Girl”, “Right Across The Street”, and “Top Shop Girl” sparkle with instrumentation and dreamy vocals. Whilst the haunting depth of “Rimbaud & Me” becomes poignantly painful with an optimism pulled from the abyss. This is a piece of work for lovers of music, regardless of genre. 

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