Music

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

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