Music

The 20 Best Re-Issues of 2012

This year's best reissues were forgotten favorites and unquestioned classics, some packed to the gills with obscure goodies and others with little more than what 'em great to begin with.

15 - 11

Artist: Various Artists

Album: The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973

Label: Kent

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Various Artists
The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973

During some of the most contentious uprisings in the modern Civil Rights movement, a group of music-loving geeks decided to open a recording studio above a drugstore in Florence, Alabama. In a state that gave us both Fred Shuttlesworth and Bull Connor, Fame Studios was engaging in a social experiment of its own: white "house band" musicians serving as backup for some of the hottest new talent in soul and R&B. Soon, Nashville and Memphis were having to compete with Muscle Shoals. Kent Records' expansive three-disc collection masterfully captures that almost unclassifiable Muscle Shoals sound. With 75 tracks by Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Wilson Pickett for starters, The Fame Studios Story gives listeners an intimate look into a sound that deserves to be placed up with Motown and Stax in terms of cultural importance. Listening to the beautiful, sparse piano accompanying Aretha Franklin's voice in "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)", you can see why musicians made the road trip to this little spot in Alabama. Sean McCarthy

 
Artist: Various Artists

Album: The Return of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Label: Yazoo

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Various Artists
The Return of the Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Chances are you've already got some of these singles from the 1920s sitting around the house. Charlie Patton's roaring "High Water Everywhere -- Part 1", Bukka White's chugging proto-rap "The Panama Limited", and J.P. Nester's amazing "Train on the Island", where fiddle and banjo meld into what resembles an electro-minimalist maelstrom -- these are oft-compiled elsewhere. But unless you're one of the demented dedicated collectors depicted in this compilation's 50-page booklet, you don't have them all in one place, and you probably don't have some of the other Stuff. Maybe you need Joe Evans & Arthur McClain's deadpan "Two White Horses" (a.k.a. "See That My Grave is Kept Clean"), complete with church bell and coffin sound effects. Or "Old Molly Hair" -- which, according to Fiddling Powers himself, was "lost in the building of King Solomon's temple," and concerns the shooting of a bear and cuckleberries caught in hair. Smattered with Irish and Polish rarities, these 46 exuberant oldies invite you to dance away your death obsessions. Josh Langhoff

 
Artist: Joni Mitchell

Album: The Studio Albums 1968-1979

Label: Rhino

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Joni Mitchell
The Studio Albums 1968-1979

Most music fans might be looking for bells and whistles in their reissues -- songs that spelunkers found buried deep somewhere -- but there's something to be said for presenting the original music cleanly, in the original context. Collected here in a box are the 10 studio albums Joni Mitchell released between 1968 and 1979; no more, no less. We shouldn't need anything more. To listen to them straight through is a remarkable journey, as we follow her rise to commercial success and her artistically fruitful efforts to shake it, letting her muse carry her through increasingly strange jazzy passages. If it seems like Mitchell is in the air again in 2012 -- talks of a Hollywood biopic, the release of Katherine Monk's attractive if disappointing book Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell -- we still seldom are getting a true picture of her as the artist she is. It seems the perfect time to revisit the music itself, and here's a good starting place for doing it. Dave Heaton

 
Artist: Ride

Album: Going Blank Again: 20th Anniversary Edition

Label: Ride

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Ride
Going Blank Again: 20th Anniversary Edition

We're at peak anti-shoegaze now. It became chillwave then it became seapunk, maybe? Kind of? Then it became alt-J, which is to say it became nothing. A weird time for Ride reissues, for the slow-motion car explosion that is "Leave Them All Behind". On top of that, Going Blank Again was a particularly weird Ride album, one that would start them down the long road of renouncing heavy, hazy, shoegaze kingdom. They'd later overshoot and try to become a dance rock band, of all things, which might be part of the reason they've influenced as many bands as '80s U2 has. But Going Blank Again has a newly triumphant Ride curious about their the scope of their abilities, letting harmonious vocal soar into the Great Beyond ("Mouse Trap") and a lighter, more accessible touch mark their second album. I can't think of a band today that's interested in the defiant coolness wrapped up inside a track like "Cool Your Boots". Of all the '90s reissues lately, Going Blank Again is among those that feel the freshest. Davd Grossman

 
Artist: Manic Street Preachers

Album: Generation Terrorists: 20th Anniversary Edition

Label: Sony

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Manic Street Preachers
Generation Terrorists: 20th Anniversary Edition

"This one is for all the bands backstage you fuckin' c*nts!!" -- James Dean Bradfield, Headline Stage, Reading Festival '92. Listening to their furious, wildly ambitious debut in 2012 it's perhaps difficult for Manic virgins to fully appreciate quite how brilliantly odd the Manics once were. Or how insanely divisive. There was simply nothing like them on Planet Earth. They could have been aliens. Four scrawny punks (WELSH punks at that!) in the era of "Baggy". "Feminized males" resplendent in eyeliner and white Levi's. Working class valley boys freshly empowered by the molotov vitriol of Debord, Rimbaud and Burroughs. Like Rotten Johnny, anger was their energy not Madchester's "Es and Whizz". Generation Terrorists is the sound of the last gang in town, all guns a blazin', frozen forever in sepia Butch & Sundance style. They never did "Destroy Rock n' Roll" but they still blew a lot of impressionable young minds. This writer included. One Generation on it's sweet victory to see Terrorists still kicking against the pricks. Matt James

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