Music

The 25 Best Album Re-Issues of 2013

From '90s-era defining musical heroes and legendary singer-songwriters to the great soul and jazz artists of the '60s and glorious '70s rock, 2013 was a great year for new re-issues and compilations.

Artist: The Swimming Pool Q's

Album: 1984-1986: The A&M Years

Label: Bar None

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Display Width: 200The Swimming Pool Q's
1984-1986: The A&M Years

The Swimming Pool Q's started off as a darkly humorous, literary band with a penchant for songs with titles like "Rat Bait" and "The A-Bomb Woke Me Up". By the time of 1984's self-titled release and the follow up Blue Tomorrow in 1986, they were streamlined, melodic and accessible with a batch of first rate songs. With Anne Richmond Boston's crystalline vocals and the chiming guitars of Bob Elsey and band mastermind Jeff Calder, they should have conquered the world. Or at least the college rock circuit then frequented by well-remembered contemporaries like R.E.M. and 10,000 Maniacs. It looked like they might for a while, getting rave reviews and opening for Lou Reed. But record label indifference (no money fronted for videos, for one thing) and the comparative unevenness of Blue Tomorrow translated to low sales and an undeserved descent into obscurity. Fueled by a Kickstarter campaign, the band re-released the two albums in 2013, with a bevy of bonus tracks and a DVD collection to boot. You can't go wrong discovering, or re-discovering, the smart and snappy jangle-pop of the Q's on 1984-1986: The A&M Years. Rob Caldwell

 
Artist: Unwound

Album: Kid Is Gone

Label: The Numero Group

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Unwound
Kid Is Gone

Unwound called it a career over a decade ago, but their influence seems stronger than ever. That state of affairs is all the more surprising since much of their work has been out-of-print in the intervening years. Now thanks to a licensing deal with Numero Group, it will soon all be available in a series of four vinyl boxed sets. The first of these re-issues, the triple-LP Kid Is Gone, was released this fall, and covers their initial burst of activity with recordings made between July of 1991 and May of 1992. It's packed with unreleased demos, singles, compilation tracks, live recordings, and the material that became the 1994 album Unwound. It's the sound of teenagers discovering their own path through punk and noise and emerging, hesitantly, into the abrasive post-hardcore band their fans hold dear. That the journey is this worthwhile and rewarding hints at the peaks Unwound would soon climb. But make no mistake, this set is for the fans. No re-issue of this magnitude and scope was ever meant as a beginner's guide. It's a statement. Erik Highter

 
Artist: ZZ Top

Album: The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990

Label: Rhino / Warner Bros.

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ZZ Top
The Complete Studio Albums 1970-1990

A gimmick has quietly crept into the music industry, and it's a brilliant one: if record store shelf space is limited, why not issue multi-album sets in neat, tidy, inexpensive compact box sets? Add the attraction of new remasters or rare versions, and you've got something fans won't hesitate to scoop up. ZZ Top's chronicle of its first 20 years is particularly noteworthy because, unbelievably, it marks the very first time the original mixes of the albums ZZ Top's First Album, Rio Grande Mud, and Tejas have been issued on CD, complete with Frank Beard's original drum tracks, which were so heinously replaced by drum machine on 1987's Six Pack box set. No, there are no new remasters of Degüello or the classic Eliminator (still the most successful image makeover in rock 'n' roll history), but this is nevertheless a tremendous chronicle of a career that went from a humble Texas boogie band to international superstars. Adrien Begrand

 
Artist: Françoise Hardy

Album: Midnight Blues: Paris London 1968-72

Label: Ace International

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Françoise Hardy
Midnight Blues: Paris London 1968-72

It's almost too much for my puny human brain to comprehend... Françoise Hardy almost made an album with Nick Drake. Just imagine. Though that beautiful dream never materialised, the music Hardy did make during her late '60s/early '70s 'Imperial phase' is still eternally wondrous. With '68 Paris aflame, Hardy -- the elusive muse of Dylan, Jagger, Gainsbourg and Godard -- sensibly bid "Adieu" to her toe-tapping 'Yé-Yé' years at Vogue and decided to get real. For Françoise 'Real' meant independence and poetry but also a shy, enigmatic loneliness. The exquisite Midnight Blues compiles her English language recordings from 1969's One Nine Seven Zero and 1972's Françoise Hardy. The sound is timeless, delicately dreamy folk, brushed lush and velvety rich with romantic, dramatic orchestration and Hardy's honey sweet vocals. An elegant, sparkling treasure trove of original material and expertly chosen covers from the likes of Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Randy Newman, it fragrantly opens a door to another world. One sweet caress of "Sunshine", "If You Listen" or "Bown Bown Bown" and you'll be smitten. But buy this and Hardy's 1971 'En Francaise' masterpiece La Question and you'll be hooked for life. Matt James

 
Artist: Drive-By Truckers

Album: Alabama Ass Whuppin'

Label: Caroline

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Drive-By Truckers
Alabama Ass Whuppin'

Though by now Drive-By Truckers is rightly considered a ferocious live act, the band captured on Alabama Ass Whuppin' is of a different family. These 1999 shows display a band young and hungry and chomping at the bit, roaring from punk-rock influenced numbers like "Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus)" to penultimate ballad "Love Like This". At this point in their career, Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood had been circling the country in a van for years in bands like Adam's House Cat, and though it may have become a gut-punch of a live act, Drive-By Truckers were still two years away from their breakout in Southern Rock Opera, and the band sounds like it's broke as hell and way too drunk to even remember. This reissue of the long-out-of-print original pressing completely revamps the sound, adding increased clarity and removing layers of grime that plagued the original release. Welcome to the rock show. Robert Rubsam

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