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.


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.

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