In 2018, the music world saw amazing reissues spanning rock titans to indie upstarts and electronic to pop of all stripes.
14. Love - Forever Changes (50th Anniversary Edition) (Rhino/Warners/Elektra)
Although it charted in the UK Top 40, Love's third album, released in 1967, took its time to become a hit. Its reputation grew year on year after it was issued on CD in the 1990s. The 2000s brought a double-disc expanded edition, but this anniversary box is the ultimate tribute to the stroke of genius that Arthur Lee experienced but could never quite repeat. Building on their brilliant second album, Da Capo, Love created a beautiful, menacing, semi-psycedelic masterpiece. It's worth pointing out that the contributions of Bryan McLean and orchestrator David Angel helped enormously; Forever Changes wasn't just Lee's baby. The music works on all sorts of levels; leaving aside the big statements one can make about its cultural import and its poetry, it's full of gorgeously catchy pop-noir moments. In a format similar to the one they've used for their expanded Fleetwood Mac reissues, Rhino present the album in multiple ways; stereo, mono, alternative mix, outtakes and extras, vinyl, and DVD. There are plentiful notes and photographic content. Da Capo deserves the same treatment. Maybe in 2019? - Charles Donovan
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13. Frank Sinatra - Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (60th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol)
Back in 1958, Frank Sinatra made what many fans and critics consider his greatest album, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely. The record went to number one and stayed on the charts for two years. The disc has been celebrated and available for 60 years. What's new is Capitol Records has managed to improve the masterpiece. It is now available as a two-CD deluxe package (also available in a 180-g two-LP vinyl edition) that features the album's remastered original 1958 mono mix with a new 2018 stereo mix. In the liner notes, recording engineer Larry Walsh explains that the original was recorded in mono and stereo with two microphones suspended high over the studio orchestra while Sinatra's voice was recorded onto a third track.
The double CD contains four unreleased studio tracks including Sinatra's attempt to record Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life". Sinatra begins credibly enough but gets bogged down by the unusual song structure and gives up in frustration before finishing. This reveals while the Sinatra may sound natural on the rest of the disc, his artistic genius was in making it seem that way. The relaxed vibe was both a conscious and intuitive creation. This latest release of Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely only reaffirms Sinatra's reputation as the most majestic vocalist of his time. - Steve Horowitz
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12. Fleetwood Mac - Fleetwood Mac (Deluxe Expanded Edition) (Rhino)
Forever the little sibling when placed alongside the world-conquering Rumours, Fleetwood Mac is well-deserving of the reconsideration that this collection invites. Even as they were still finding their feet as a new band with new creative focal points, the sound and style that would soon dominate radio airwaves and arenas across the country are very much on display. The duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks make their presence known immediately with a handful of instant classics, and the environment they created allowed Christine McVie - heretofore a poppier foil for the likes of Bob Welch - to really come into her own. Even though the band were still in the process of excising their bluesier tendencies (as evidenced by the otherwise searing live set included here), the Buckingham/Nicks/McVie-led iteration of Fleetwood Mac arrived fully formed on this self-titled effort that is just as much of a classic as what would eventually follow. - Kevin Korber
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11. R.E.M. - Live at the BBC (Craft Recordings)
It's tempting to call Live at the BBC a specialty collection, given how relatively narrow its focus is. However, it plays to the heart of who R.E.M. were at their height and how their fans appreciated them. This is, after all, one of the most bootlegged bands in the history of modern rock music; why shouldn't they unleash this breadth of live material from the vault? What's more striking is how the collection shows an appreciation for R.E.M.'s unheralded later material, which had a more receptive audience in Europe than it did in the U.S. Hearing the band play stately, beautiful renditions of "Imitation of Life" and "At My Most Beautiful" to a rapt audience underscores the power they still had, even as their relative popularity waned. That, combined with full concerts from their early years and their commercial dominance, make Live at the BBC surprisingly essential listening. - Kevin Korber
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10. Kate Bush - Kate Bush Remastered (Fish People/Rhino)
There are multiple presentation missteps diminishing the overall impact of this long-awaited remaster campaign, from misprints to design glitches to anachronistic photographs to the domineering Fish People branding to just one previously unreleased extra. And, as ever, Bush confounds the public with no promotional interviews or liner notes. But there is a saving grace – Bush has used one of the industry's A-teams for the remastering – and her landmark albums (The Kick Inside, The Dreaming, Hounds of Love) have never sounded better. It's arguable that, alongside David Bowie, she's the most inventive and creative singer/songwriter (dancer/producer/pianist/synth-wunderkind) ever produced by the UK and consequently even her less favored albums (Lionheart, but it's time that verdict was reconsidered) are better than most people's best ones.
There have been mutterings of a Kate Bush reissue campaign for years and it's a shame the packaging prompts such a sense of bathos. But the most important aspect – the music – has been handled brilliantly on both CD and vinyl. Consequently, this is the definitive Kate Bush not only for newcomers but also for die-hards wanting to hear what remastering engineer, James Guthrie, who handled the Pink Floyd catalogue, has made of Bush's work. - Charles Donovan
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9. Tom Petty - An American Treasure (Reprise)
It's a mystery that Tom Petty was regarded of a "singles" artist, and not an "album" artist by critics, and even casual fans. It's one of the reasons why his greatest hits collection is so beloved. It's even a bigger mystery given that he and his band the Heartbreakers were responsible for three of the best sounding rock albums ever: Damn the Torpedoes, Full Moon Fever, and Wildflowers. Petty's studio perfectionism is beautifully reflected on An American Treasure, which was curated by both his family and bandmates. Even with a previous six-disc box set of outtakes and rarities (Playback), there was still enough material to house this latest collection - much of it would have worked just fine on Petty's full-length albums.
"The Apartment Song" is further proof that Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks were one of the best duos in rock when they crossed paths. "Lonesome Dave" is a bracing jolt of bar band boogie that makes you wonder what kind of album Petty could have churned out of if he could have dedicated one album to just "rocking out" over studio perfection. An American Treasure is just that - a tribute to an artist whose understated songwriting was just as stellar as the hooks that went along with them. - Sean McCarthy
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8. David Bowie - Loving the Alien (Rhino)
The '80s were not kind to a lot of established musical artists, and even a gifted chameleon like David Bowie was not safe. While he seemed to hit his commercial stride in 1983 with the pop smash Let's Dance, it was followed up with what's generally regarded as the worst one-two punch of his career – Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987). Undeterred, Rhino continued their retrospective boxed set series of Bowie's work by spotlighting this problematic era with Loving the Alien (1983-1988).
In hindsight, it's easy to see why Let's Dance was such a huge hit – generous pop hooks, lively production from Nile Rodgers, bluesy guitar leads from then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan – but the set is also a great opportunity to revisit the other two albums, which have plenty of highs ("Blue Jean", "Loving the Alien", "Time Will Crawl") amongst the cringe-inducing lows. Plus, there's a ton of bonus material here to keep Bowie fans of all stripes busy, including live discs, remixes, one-off singles and a generous helping of soundtrack work from the period. Completists will eat this stuff up, but Loving the Alien is also a helpful and enjoyable reassessment for casual fans. - Chris Ingalls
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