The 21 Best Album Re-Issues of 2017

In 2017, the music world saw amazing reissues from all over the genre map, spanning rock titans to indie upstarts and jazz to soul.

21. Can – The Singles (Mute)

Not only is a compilation a good way to offer an overview of an artist’s best work, as a summation of a career and a primer for new listeners, but in the case of this hugely entertaining collection, showcase a side of a band that’s gone rather unappreciated. The influence of German innovators Can towers over the rock and electronic music landscape to this day, with – justifiably – the lion’s share of attention being paid to such landmark albums as
Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. What this new singles collection does so well, however, is showcase the band’s more playful side. Comprised of 23 tracks released between 1969 and 1990, it’s a wildly eclectic journey that takes the listener through garage rock, classic early-’70s krautrock, funk, disco, and jazz. As serious musicians as Can were, they weren’t above having fun, and The Singles is a whimsical, valuable document for longtime fans and curious neophytes alike. – Adrien Begrand

20. Rush – A Farewell to Kings (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Mercury)

Rush were never hip. The Canadian, all-polymath power trio have felt the full force of a critical lambasting, but have still managed to sell a staggering 65 million albums worldwide. Their sixth album, A Farewell to Kings is 40 this year and has aged remarkably well. This was their transitional album, from an all guns blazing aural assault, to a more reflective, measured pomp/prog band. Geddy Lee’s keyboards play a significant role and Alex Lifeson puts down his Gibson and picks up a selection of acoustic guitars. Neil Peart added a selection of improbable percussion instruments to his ever expanding drum kit and off they went. They even had a hit single from it, “Closer to the Heart”, got some pop radio airplay and gave the band a leg-up to arena stardom. The 2017 re-release features the album along with a live recording from London in early 1978, available for the first time. There’s also a super deluxe version with all manner of bells and whistles, but for most of us, the original album is enough. Consistent, surprising, diverse and beautifully produced, A Farewell to Kings is a must have hard rock album. – Ian Rushbury

19. Elliott Smith – Either / Or (Expanded Edition) (Kill Rock Stars)

In early 1997 it was still possible for Elliott Smith fans in the Pacific Northwest to feel like the former co-leader of Heatmiser belonged to them alone as one of the biggest secrets in indie music, but Either / Or was never going to go overlooked by the outside world. Little more than a year later, he was the best dressed man at the Oscars. A confluence of events led to that surreal moment, but the rapid development of Smith’s songwriting had been perfectly, succinctly captured by his third solo album.

It was his last Portland-based affair before relocating to pre-hip Brooklyn, the crucial step between the grainy black-and-white magic of the first two albums and the full color palette he would have at his disposal from then on. It was also, song for song, both his strongest and most vulnerable record, and remains so. Remastered and expanded under the guidance of Portland-based Jackpot! Studios owner and editor Larry Crane, who is also the archivist of Smith’s Estate, this 20th anniversary reissue offers a cleaned-up listen to the original tapes, as well as extras that expose some of Smith’s underappreciated attributes such as his fingerpicking prowess (“My New Freedom”) and sense of humor (“New Monkey”). – Ian King

18. The Verve – Urban Hymns (20th Anniversary Edition) (Virgin)

The last great album of the Britpop era and the first great album of what’s been labelled the “post-Britpop” rise of downbeat and heartfelt balladeers like Coldplay and Travis was made by a space rock band from Wigan who never fit into either scene – or any mold other than their own, for that matter. It also very easily could have never happened. Drained by the emotional purging and sonic outpouring of their second album, A Northern Soul, the Verve suddenly said farewell in 1995. Fortunately, they just as suddenly changed their minds. Inimitable guitarist Nick McCabe was the last to rejoin the group as they went into the studio, and singer Richard Ashcroft’s continuing pivot into the role of primary songwriter is clear on Urban Hymns. At the core of big singles like “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man” was the sound of one lonely soul and his acoustic guitar (a few of the songs that didn’t make the cut would end up on Ashcroft’s first solo album, Alone With Everybody), and on louder psychedelic ventures such as “The Rolling People” and “Catching the Butterfly” the band are conscious of the clock in a new commercially-minded way. The Verve recognized they had one more shot, and they nailed it, and soon enough found themselves triumphantly downing shots on stage in American arenas they could have never filled before. – Ian King

17. Elvis Presley – A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings (Legacy)

Before Elvis Presley was the King of Rock & Roll, he was a young kid from Tupelo, MS looking to discover his voice. Presley tried crooning in different styles and sang everything from the sophisticated Rodgers/Hart ballad “Blue Moon” to the gut bucket honker Kokomo Arnold’s “Milkcow Blues Boogie”. This three-CD anthology here has it all: early Sun masters, outtakes and fragments from the studio, live performances and radio broadcasts, and a 120-page illustrated book that describes the history of the recordings, whose playing what instrument, and more. It’s a treasure trove of information. One could examine this collection as an artifact from a previous period in history: a road map of American music styles mid-century, or as the ur-story of the young Elvis. But one would be better off just kicking back, listening, and enjoying the magic of the King as he discovers his powers. – Steve Horowitz

16. Ramones – Leave Home (40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

As important a role the Ramones played in the evolution of punk rock, when the band was at its best the music evoked classic rock ‘n’ roll better than anyone in the late ’70s. Arriving on the heels of the band’s groundbreaking 1976 debut, Leave Home still had the band’s wicked, irreverent sense of humor on tracks like “Carbona Not Glue” and “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”, but the bulk of the record expands upon the band’s preoccupation with the 1960s, from the girl groups, to the Beatles, to garage rock. This wonderful reissue dives headfirst into late 1976 and early 1977, presenting the album in two distinctly different mixes, as well as boasting a bevy of rehearsal tracks, B-sides, and alternate mixes. And just to reassert the band’s stunning power as a punk rock live act, a complete live recording from CBGB in April 1977 is included, the band blowing your ears out right after Leave Home wins over your heart. – Adrien Begrand

15. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

If there is to be a pinnacle in the fleeting sunburst that was the Smiths’ brief career, The Queen Is Dead is often identified as it. To be sure, the Oscar Wilde-worshipping lyricist/vocalist, Morrissey, and the Keith Richards-worshipping guitarist, Johnny Marr, never came more consistently closer to the lofty ideals set by their idols. Morrissey’s merciless wit was balanced with levity and a gentleness of spirit, and Marr’s guitar alchemy was enhanced by digital samples and layers of studio overdubs. The energy of punk and the sparkle of glam were tangible, but so were the grace of folk and the limberness of soul. The rhythm section closed the deal on all of it. The Queen of Dead embodied the experience of disaffected youth every bit as much as Never Mind the Bollocks… had a decade before. This new edition only reconfirmed that fact. The included live set, meanwhile, was a timely reminder that on stage the band’s raw power was formidable. – John Bergstrom

14. The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986 (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

The Mats had a reputation for wild live shows. This 29-cut double CD documents why. The band was at the point where they were leaving the confines of an indie label and a cult following to reach for major label commercial success. In fact this recording was made by the new label on state of the art equipment, presumably for use as a future release. But it never was issued, although the show has been widely bootlegged. The band rocks hard, playing everything from breezy pop like Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” and the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” to their own early self-penned punk rock raves such as “Otto” and Taking a Ride” to soon to be classic gems from their forthcoming Tim including “Bastards of Young” and “Kiss Me on the Bus”, as if each song was a house on fire. Much of this was due to Bob Stinson’s scorching guitar, who was soon to exit the band because of his substance abuse. – Steve Horowitz

13. Judas Priest – Turbo 30 (Remastered 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Sony)

A commercial success upon its 1986, Judas Priest’s tenth album Turbo was nevertheless a divisive one among hardcore metal fans who took issue with the band’s focus on mainstream-friendly songwriting and production, as well as reliance on the Roland GR-20 guitar synthesizer. More than three decades later Turbo has aged surprisingly well, its exuberant party rock offset by some daring songwriting choices, namely on the two standouts “Turbo Lover” and “Out in the Cold”. What makes this reissue particularly strong is the inclusion of a complete live performance from the summer of 1986. Contrary to the sleek, overproduced double live album Priest…Live! released in 1987, this show is raw, energetic, and powerful, a snapshot of the heavy metal legends at their most uncompromising. – Adrien Begrand

12. Nick Lowe – Reissues, 1982-1990 (Yep Roc)

Although he’s now enjoying the deservedly acclaimed “60-something crooner” stage of his career, Nick Lowe has always been respected as a power-pop singer/songwriter (not to mention lyrical genius) of the highest order. What better way to prove this than with simultaneous reissues of six of his albums from 1982 to 1990 that have been out of print for years. Not only is this a goldmine for longtime Lowe fans, it’s also a terrific introduction for newbies unaware of Lowe’s talents as a singer/songwriter. From the McCartney-esque pop/funk of “Let Me Kiss Ya” (from Nick the Knife) to the shimmering soul of “Time Wounds All Heels” (from The Abominable Showman) to the hilarious, confessional twang of “All Men Are Liars” (from Party of One), 80 tracks spread across eight years would be enough artistic high points to define an entire career. Fortunately, he’s still at it. – Chris Ingalls

11. Metallica – Master of Puppets (Deluxe Edition) (Blackened Recordings)

Universally regarded as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time, Metallica’s third full-length Master of Puppets has gained such stature among fans that its deification is something the band has had to come to terms with. As frustrating s it may be for any artist to live under the shadow of work they created in their early-20s, the members of Metallica grew up as heavy metal fans themselves, and they knew that an expanded reissue of Puppets would have to be done with great care and attention to detail. And to the band’s great credit, no stone was left unturned on this glorious, 15-volume set that examines the band’s evolution from 1985 to 1987: riff tapes, rehearsal footage, rough mixes, live recordings, the final performance by the late, great bassist Cliff Burton, audition tapes featuring replacement bassist Jason Newsted, and of course, a beautifully remastered version of the classic album. It is a veritable treasure trove, arguably the finest expanded reissue heavy metal has seen thus far. – Adrien Begrand

10. Radiohead – OKNOTOK (XL Recordings)

A great album reissued for its 20th anniversary with the effect that the reissue emphasizes the album’s greatness. OK Computer turning 20 is the most surprising quality of this reissue, OKNOTOK, and Radiohead elected to mark that anniversary by remastering the album with modern qualities and included three unreleased tracks and the B-sides from the album’s singles. Reviewers (including PopMatters’ own) noted the irrelevance of the reissue to the band’s catalog, and the only measure worth considering were the three unreleased tracks, “I Promise”, “Man of War”, and “Lift”. All told, the three tracks compliment OK Computer well and document the album’s construction and Radiohead’s direction away from its predecessor The Bends and other musicians of the 1990s. Each received a new, complimentary music video, too, equally placing the tracks in their recording time of 1997 and release date of 2017. OKNOTOK illustrates that reissued albums can provide nostalgia and repetition, but here the reissue succeeds beyond those qualities precisely because it celebrates Radiohead’s shifting musical style, marketing efforts, and cultural dynamism of the past 20 years. – Richard Driver

9. Alice Coltrane – World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane (Luaka Bop)

In the decades after her husband’s death, Alice Coltrane devoted much of her life to deepening her spiritual side, changing her name to Turiyasangitananda in the 1970s and composing songs based on devotional chants performed at her ashram. During her lifetime, these songs were largely circulated only on cassettes through the ashram; now, with the help of Coltrane’s children, Luaka Bop has begun to compile and release them to the world at large. Within this first collection are signs of tremendous depth as Coltrane whips up a gospel-flavored frenzy on track “Om Rama” and soothes the troubled soul with the soft echoes of “Om Shanti”.She melds thick layers of new age synths with Indian classical strings on “Rama Rama” and leads rounds of handclaps over background hums on “Rama Guru”. Coltrane’s explorations of spirituality lend themselves to truly immersive music, and to think that this first collection is only scratching the surface of her musical output in life is almost overwhelmingly wonderful. – Adriane Pontecorvo

8. Chris Bell – Looking Forward (Omnivore)

Omnivore’s Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star offers revelatory insight not only into its featured figure of Chris Bell but also into the time and place that incubated the power pop miracle that was Big Star. The time was 1969-1971 and the place was Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. There, Big Star co-founders Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, and Jody Stephens, along with a cast of like-minded musical misfits including Tom Eubanks, Terry Manning, Alan Patmore, and Steve Rhea, burned hours in the studio experimenting with a stubbornly Britpop sensibility counter to the dominant soul vibe of the region and era while recording under a number of monikers such as Icewater and Rock City. Listening to these tracks, which include Bell’s original version of “My Life Is Right”, it becomes obvious that the groundwork for Big Star had been laid before Alex Chilton had ever set foot in the studio, and for all his own genius, his was not the lone vision that guided Big Star’s power pop perfection. Chris Bell deserves to be more than a rock and roll footnote, and this release, along with Omnivore’s deluxe reissue of Bell’s post-Big Star recordings on I Am the Cosmos, makes that argument convincingly. – Ed Whitelock

7. Prince – Purple Rain (Expanded Edition) (Warner Bros.)

In the 33 years since its release, Purple Rain ceased being an album and became one of the manifestations of Prince as a cultural monolith. But once you cut past the purple guitars, puffy shirts and bizarre films, you’re left with an absolutely amazing piece of music. Refreshed as a result of this long-overdue remaster, Purple Rain remains Prince’s masterpiece, an amalgamation of funk, gospel and rock star swagger that lesser artists have spent their careers trying and failing to replicate. But what makes this new collection truly worth it are the extras, some of which is the first material to leave Prince’s vault of unreleased recordings since his passing. The picture it paints is that of a genius at the peak of his powers; even his cast-offs here could make a good-to-great album on their own. This more complete version of Purple Rain doesn’t diminish the magic of the original; it only reinforces it. – Kevin Korber

6. Thelonious Monk – Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (Craft)

The original album Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane remains one of jazz’s landmark albums. The collaboration corresponded with new explorations from the pianist and helped send the saxophonist into a period of explosive growth. This collaboration has been fussed over before, but this reissue from Craft not only compiles all the recordings from the group’s sessions, but the extensive liner notes from producer Orrin Keepnews add considerable insight into the music and the accordion folder packaging for the vinyl makes for a lovely physical set. The music, of course, is the highlight. Many jazz fans will find familiar terrain here, but tracks like “Trinkle, Tinkle” and “Crepuscule with Nellie” don’t get old. The sequence provides the chance to listen to a batch of locked-in artists try various workings of remarkable compositions, providing musicological study as well as pure entertainment. It’s a fitting collection for hearing old music anew. – Justin Cober-Lake

5. Hüsker Dü – Savage Young Dü (Numero Group)

If Hüsker Dü were the Beatles (to the Replacements’ Rolling Stones), then Savage Young Dü is the equivalent of the first Beatles Anthology 1995 release. It may not be exactly what most Hüsker fans have been clamoring for (like the first Beatles Anthology release, most of the material is of a band still figuring out what they want to be), but it’s the re-release that fans need right now. Lovingly and meticulously assembled by Numero Group, Savage Young Dü is a sprawling collection of 69 live, b-sides, and unreleased tracks, spanning from 1979 to 1982. Most of the tracks still had the Hüskers trying to sound louder and faster than any other band on the planet, but tracks like “Can’t See You Anymore” and “All I’ve Got to Lose Is You” offer early glimpses of songwriting genius from Grant Hart and Bob Mould. Their best works were still about three years away, but in terms of an archeological find, Savage Young Dü is an indispensable marriage of brutality and melodicism. – Sean McCarthy

4. Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (Numero Group)

A welcome and overdue sonic resurrection, Numero Group’s collection offers not just a blistering set of late ’60s/early ’70s soul by a pioneering transgender performer but a fascinating story as well. Jackie Shane, a strong black woman born in the body of a man in Nashville, Tennessee, became a legend in the Toronto nightclub scene of the 1960s, with her recording of “Any Other Way” becoming an outsider anthem throughout the northeast extending to Boston. Her career put her into proximity with Little Richard, Etta James, and Jimi Hendrix, each of whom she met as equals. This two-CD box set contains all of the singles Shane recorded during her heyday along with a generous collection of live cuts that reconstruct what it would have been like to experience Jackie in her prime time and smoky space. Rob Bowman’s excellent accompanying essay serves to shed further light on a star that burned brighter than most but was confined to a far periphery of the charted sky. – Ed Whitelock

3. Underworld – Beaucoup Fish (UMe)

What was once known as “electronica” produced a lot of imitative dross, sure, but Underworld had been around long before the late ’90s, and they’re still kicking today. There’s a reason for this: Despite the fact that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith happened to bring a bona fide DJ into Underworld at just the right time, Underworld has never chased trends. Rather, in the mid-’90s, they helped to drive and create the electronic music boom. Beaucoup Fish is the third of three albums with DJ Darren Emerson, released at a time when the trio was at its most prolific even if Emerson’s discomfort with Underworld’s success was starting to bubble over. This year’s reissue is a remind of just how much variety Underworld managed to fit into its electronic soundscapes, everything from frenetic house (“King of Snake”) to strange atmosphere (“Winjer”) to skewed hip-hop (“Bruce Lee”). The deluxe edition contains three more discs of era-specific material, one disc of alternate takes and B-sides that demonstrate what a different (not better, not even worse, just different) album Beaucoup Fish could have been, and two discs of remixes by a variety of artists that offer a solid overview of the varied electronic sounds of the late ’90s. Sure, it’s nostalgia, but it’s also a reminder of just how vital and varied electronic music can be. – Mike Schiller

2. R.E.M. – Automatic for the People (25th Anniversary Special Edition) (Craft Recordings)

Automatic for the People is a massively successful record that sounds like it shouldn’t have worked at all. It’s a rumination on mortality, loss, grief, and the struggle to keep going as performed by a band that had until that point traded in abstract images and translucent verbal sketches. Yet nothing about Automatic is alienating: its approach to the darkest areas of life is one of empathy and relatability. As the music scene they came out of broke into the mainstream by embracing loud guitars and adolescent angst, R.E.M. were contemplating their impending middle age with quiet, introspective folk ballads. That it was a commercial success in the era of Nevermind is something remarkable. However, the embracing, universal way it approached its subject matter is what lends Automatic resonance 25 years later. R.E.M.’s fans can (and will) argue over the quality of the rest of their expansive discography, but the low-key brilliance of Automatic for the People is indisputable. – Kevin Korber

1. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (50th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol)

During the half-century since its release, the standing of Beatles’ eighth studio album has been the subject of some revisionist theories. The concept did not hold up. The psychedelia was of its time and had become dated. Many of the songs were too slight. The Beatles “White Album” was their true masterpiece. None of those criticisms were without merit. But within any 30-second snippet of this meticulous 50th Anniversary edition, influences on entire genres of music could be heard. Quite simply, no other Beatles album and possibly no other album at all had a more revolutionary effect on the idea, composition, and production of popular music. That was a lot of weight for the 13 original songs to bear, and they held up perfectly well. The tens of studio outtakes gave an unprecedented glimpse into their creation. Giles Martin’s painstaking new stereo mix, however, was the true highlight. Given a modern yet tasteful retouching, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band still sounded like it might have been recorded tomorrow.