The Best Re-Issues of 2009

PopMatters presents our 20 best re-issues of 2009, highlighted by the long overdue remastering of the Beatles oeuvre, a number of '80s and '90s classics, and one of the most storied catalogues in electronic music.

Artist: The Who

Album: The Who Sell Out Deluxe Edition

Label: Polydor


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The Who
The Who Sell Out Deluxe Edition

It's hard to imagine the need for yet another Who reissue. Although it'd been 14 years since the last release of The Who Sell Out, that issue had held up well. It's a revelation, then, to put on the 2009 Deluxe Edition and discover the wondrous remastering job. Even longtime fans will find new sounds. The first disc, the original stereo mix, separates each track perfectly, refreshing a 40-year-old record. Much of the bonus material (like some of the liner notes) has appeared before, but the various versions should satisfy the hardcore fan while still entertaining newcomers. Of course, it doesn't hurt that The Who Sell Out remains one of the great records of its period, with outtakes good enough to stand up on their own. The Who had just reached their potential with an album every bit as funny and expansive as it is intense and impressive. This new edition gives it exactly the sound it should have. Justin Cober-Lake


Artist: Dolly Parton

Album: Dolly

Label: Legacy


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Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton is an icon with a rich legacy in music and popular culture. Her discography is massive enough to transcend 'like' or 'dislike'. If someone says they dislike her music, you wonder which music they mean. Her duets with Porter Wagoner? Her glitzy '80s hits? "I Will Always Love You"? "Jolene"? It can't be all of those at once. Her impact as a songwriter, singer, and personality has been massive across genre and time. The four-CD Dolly captures that better than any single release yet. But more than just a history lesson, it's a treasure trove of songs abundant with stories, people, ideas and feelings, many of them carry the central themes of her music, which are the central themes of life: love and pain, death and birth, rejection and acceptance. In Parton's view, "everything is beautiful in its own way", and it's all here. Due to the vibrant nature of her songs themselves, this box set itself feels alive, one sprawling human drama. Dave Heaton


Artist: Radiohead

Album: Pablo Honey / The Bends / OK Computer / Kid A / Amnesiac / Hail to the Thief

Label: EMI


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Pablo Honey / The Bends / OK Computer / Kid A / Amnesiac / Hail to the Thief

Let's begin by saying what's not included in Capitol's Collector's Editions of Radiohead's catalog under their label. The albums are not remastered, the band had little to no input in the releasing of these versions, and there is an inexcusable lack of liner notes. We may not have expected any insight into the creation of these albums, but at least Capitol could have hired a few notable critics to write about the enormous impact of The Bends, OK Computer and Kid A.

So what would justify the purchase of these Collector's Editions? Aesthetic-wise, the packaging of each album is absolutely spot-on. The supplemental second disc for each recording is a mix of smartly-chosen live performances as well as some great b-sides (for OK Computer, many of these tracks are already available in Airbag, How Am I Driving?). Kid A's all-live (including a BBC Radio One Evening Session) content could have benefited from at least studio-produced b-side, but the live additions show just how easily many of the songs on the album could translate into a live setting, which was a major concern of many fans upon its release.

So with no band input, no liner notes and no attempts to remaster the original material (to the relief of many), will these Collector's Editions be the final statement from Capitol? Unlikely. Capitol knows what a fevered fanbase Radiohead has and many will likely pick up the next batch of "remastered" works. But don't let that deter you from passing over these collector's editions. If anything, your copy of OK Computer is probably so scratched to hell, it won't even play on your laptop anymore. Sean McCarthy


Artist: Sunny Day Real Estate

Album: Diary / LP2

Label: Sub Pop


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Sunny Day Real Estate
Diary / LP2

If you listen to Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary -- the most famous emo album in history -- hard enough, you can almost hear how it inspired a legion of ultra-mainstream pretty boys who turned emo into a dirty word. It's too bad, because Sunny Day Real Estate were after something else entirely: a knotty, artful, searching take on grunge, rooted in the underdog spirit of indie rock. (They were on Sub Pop, after all, not Atlantic.) Seen in this light, Sunny Day Real Estate may always be tied to the 1990s, as a group that that sits beside Nirvana, Hum, the Breeders and Green Day in a very particular manner. One thing's for darn sure: We haven't seen a vocalist like Jeremy Enigk since 1994. He possessed an asphyxiated yell that made him sound as though he were singing and crying at once, which would grow even more heartfelt as it was allowed to stretch out on LP2, SDRE's idiosyncratic, unvarnished peak. The rawness felt truthful and the truth felt raw, and this continues to be the fatal oversight of current emo bands, with their humongous budgets and pitch-perfect studio modulations. Sunny Day Real Estate reunited in 2009 after their second breakup, bringing some hope to those who think that emo lost its way, but we'll always come back to their glorious first records to hear the genre idealized. Mike Newmark


Artist: Neil Young

Album: Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972

Label: Reprise


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Neil Young
Archives, Vol. 1: 1963-1972

After an excruciating 20-plus year wait for the first volume of Neil Young's much-vaunted Archives project, the unthinkable finally happened this past summer: we finally got it. And it turned out to be just the kind of treasure trove that die-hard fans have been craving, a completely immersive multi-media experience, its expandable blu-ray format groundbreaking. Much has been made of all the video extras, press clippings, photos, record sleeves, lyrics, production notes, and seemingly endless ephemera, but at the heart of it all is the original music, the remastering of which sounding superb on CD, even better on DVD, and utterly spectacular on blu-ray. While we do get the odd curious inclusions and exclusions, Young's meticulously-arranged guided tour through his formative years is nonetheless enthralling, from his days with Winnipeg's Squires, to Buffalo Springfield, to his budding solo career, to Crazy Horse, to the Harvest-era Stray Gators. And to think this is only the tip of the iceberg; we'll gladly wait however long it takes for Volume Two. Adrien Begrand


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