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.

10 - 6

Artist: GZA

Album: Liquid Swords: Chess Box Edition

Label: Get on Down

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GZA
Liquid Swords: Chess Box Edition

Part of the first wave of Wu-Tang Clan solo records released on the back of the group's debut Enter the 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords stands out even from that quality-studded clutch of albums as the finest example of the Wu's sonic superpowers. The albums is built on some of The RZA's most vicious knuckler-duster beats, and the GZA wastes not one bar, coaxing a brutal side of his cousin's musicianship and draining any hint of melody from the Wu-Tang sound. Most tracks feature a fellow clan member or two, but there's no doubt that GZA is in control here, tying the record together with his dissonantly calm, ice cold drawl. Seventeen years on from its release, The Chess Box includes a bonus disc of instrumentals, new linear notes and, curiously, a mini chess set (one of The GZA's most beloved pastimes, apparently). Dean Van Nguyen

 
Artist: Sleep

Album: Dopesmoker

Label: Southern Lord

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Sleep
Dopesmoker

Southern Lord can do no wrong when it comes to high-quality vinyl, and the long-overdue reissue of Sleep's hesher metal masterpiece Dopesmoker is no exception. The woefully underpressed album, released in 2003, was Sleep's final document, and despite the strength of bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros' hypnotic doom project Om, the doom and stoner scenes are a little lacking in the duo's absence. Everyone involved in this reissue clearly feel this way, since no expense was spared in this luxurious package: the vinyl master captures the sound perfectly, and the Star Wars-inspired sleeve art is a clever way to pay homage to the plumes of marijuana smoke that were undoubtedly involved in the production of this epic. But, of course, the real reason to pick this up is for the music within: comprised of a single song clocking in at just over an hour, Dopesmoker is not for the faint of heart, nor those lacking time to spare. Rather, it's for those willing to sit down for a good hour and take in a weighty, lofty piece of music that's also a contemporary metal classic. Ten years may be too short a time for the majority records to get reissued, but Dopesmoker couldn't have come soon enough. Brice Ezell

 
Artist: Can

Album: The Lost Tapes

Label: Mute

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Can
The Lost Tapes

When German avant-garde band Can sold its famed Weilerswist studio in its entirety to Germany's Rock N Pop Museum, over 30 hours of long-forgotten recordings were discovered during the studio's dismantling. Distilled into a three-CD box set by Can's Irmin Schmidt (with assistance from Jono Podmore), the The Lost Tapes included studio, soundtrack and live recordings touted as 'unreleased' rather than outtakes. Covering the years 1968 to 1977, it was a treasure trove for devotees of the ceaselessly experimental band. The box set reaffirmed Can's eccentric brilliance, not that it was in doubt, with lengthy jams and shorter exploratory pieces running the gauntlet from throbbing cosmic jaunts to disorderly punked-up and funked-up Krautrock. Riches aplenty were scattered among the three discs -- with a few tracks containing alternate snippets of well-known songs reworked on previously released albums. There's no denying the continuing influence of Can, and The Lost Tapes showed exactly why the band is still hugely inspirational. Craig Hayes

 
Artist: Paul Simon

Album: Graceland (The 25th Anniversary Edition)

Label: Sony/Legacy

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Paul Simon
Graceland (The 25th Anniversary Edition)

Paul Simon's Graceland is timeless and knowing that it was released 25 years ago doesn't date its effect or, more importantly, its music in the least. Simon's songwriting on Graceland, a worldly mix of wartime reflections and utter appreciation for our home planet, is cradled by African rhythms and sophisticated guitar work. Critics accused it of watering down World music and Simon himself was taken to task for ignoring the cultural boycott against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, a subject detailed in the documentary, Under African Skies, included with the reissue. But the entire context clutters up the sheer perfection of songs like "Graceland", "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes", and "The Myth of Fingerprints". Graceland is an album to be shared with future generations as an important and relevant document of what music can be when someone as intuitive and observant as Paul Simon shares his vision. Scott Elingburg

 
Artist: Massive Attack

Album: Blue Lines (2012 Remix/Remaster)

Label: Virgin

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Massive Attack
Blue Lines (2012 Remix/Remaster)

A true game-changer Blue Lines is simply one of the greatest British albums of all time. This remixed and remastered issue, released to celebrate, gulp, the 21st anniversary of the original release date, reconfirms what most of us who heard this first time around thought: here is a stunningly brilliant album. Formed out of the club and underground music scene of Bristol, it melded reggae, soul, hip-hop beats and vocals, dub and rock and slowed it down a touch (a result of the amounts of weed being smoked?). Coming together in the Dugout Club, the Wild Bunch would experiment with these sounds testing out the audience, fine honing their skills and becoming the incredibly tight unit of Massive Attack fame. Added to this was the genius of bringing Shara Nelson and Horace Andy in on vocals, a trick they repeated throughout their career with other singers.

Tracks like "Unfinished Symphony", "Safe from Harm", "Be Thankful for What You've Got" and "Daydreaming" still sound as fresh and vital now as they did then, although to single out just these tracks fails to recognize the album as a whole coherent piece. It is one of those rare occasions that the re-issue, with the extras that are added, aren't really needed. The original album stands the test of time. Vital! Jez Collins

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