XTC – Mummer
(Ape House UK)
If you were ever a follower of the British band XTC, you’ll know that they continually got the short end of the stick business-wise. Under Virgin, the band’s earnings were so bad that they eventually went on strike just to get out of their contract. So when you saw a flurry of XTC reissues after their disbandment, you could tell it was mostly to create the payday that they deserved but never received. Like their 1986 masterwork Skylarking, XTC’s initial idea for the cover art to 1983’s Mummer was shot down by their label.
Now, 39 years on, Andy Partridge’s vision of having the members of the band pose as actors in a mummers’ play on the cover of their most pastoral album has become a reality. Although this reissue of Mummer does not come with the six bonus tracks like the 1990s Geffen edition on CD, this 200G vinyl remaster coaxes the nuances out of the mix, helping Mummer take its rightful place among XTC’s finest works. The singles “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages”, “Wonderland”, and “Great Fire” are still worthy of any greatest hits collections, but it’s the deep cuts on Mummer that truly demonstrates the band’s majesty, like “Ladybird”, “Deliver Us from the Elements”, and “Funk Pop a Roll”. – John Garratt
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (20th Anniversary Edition)
Today, when fans recap a Wilco show from the night before, a commonly-uttered phrase is usually “and of course, they played some stuff off of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot“. It’s probably said with the same “of course they did” tone as someone would say “…and they played some stuff off of The Joshua Tree” or “…and of course, they come off of Ten and Vs”. It’s a common post-Wilco concert recap, made all the more surreal given that more than 20 years ago, Reprise Records was convinced that YHF was a career-ending album from Wilco.
The 20th-anniversary collections (take your pick: the modest two-disc CD deluxe edition, the seven-LP Deluxe Edition, or the massive eight-disc Super Deluxe Edition) includes future A Ghost Is Born tracks, stripped down, deconstructed versions of tracks like “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” and “Ashes of American Flags”, not to mention a version of “Kamera” that would have fit right at home on Summerteeth. In all, the collection contains more than 80 unreleased tracks. Fans have plenty of versions to sort through, and plenty of incentives to upgrade as these tracks sink further in a listener’s ear. – Sean McCarthy
The Staples Jr. Singers
When Do We Get Paid
The Luaka Bop label added a critical piece to the obscure, raw gospel puzzle by bringing the Staples Jr. Singers’ lone LP When Do We Get Paid back from obscurity. The Staples Jr. Singers – clearly honoring their primary influence in their name – were also a family band based in Aberdeen, Mississippi. Their earliest line-up featured vocalists Annie and Edward Brown and guitarist RC Brown, all of whom were between 11 and 13 years old at the time of the group’s formation.
When Do We Get Paid is a recording of fragile beauty and turbulent groove. Opener “Get on Board” eases us in with a dangling, slow-paced guitar lick and vocals so haunted they seem to nearly come undone. A good comparison here is Famous L Renfroe’s obscure 1968 DIY gospel album Children. But by track two, the uptempo “I Know You’re Gonna Miss Me”, the band hits with the kind of swamp-funk that would have sent any audience to its feet. From here on out, the template is set. There’s infectious party gospel (“I’m Going to a City”) and slow, bluesy trance (“Somebody Save Me”), all written by the group and driven by RC’s pugnacious electric guitar churn. For 13 tracks, they hold tight to these grooves, adding a bit of wah-wah or organ here and there. – Bruce Miller
Ride – Nowhere
The 30th-anniversary reissue of Ride‘s seminal 1990 debut, Nowhere, should have come out in 2020, but, of course, stuff got in the way. Here it is in 2022, though, on vinyl, with a gatefold sleeve and embossed artwork, and on CD. So time again to marvel at a defining work of British shoegaze. Time again to dance moodily to jangly guitars and mopey harmonies, interjected by moments of sheer psychedelic distortion, and pedal-enhanced guitar solos.
The confidence the Oxford four-piece, barely out of their teens, had in merging elements of the Byrds and My Bloody Valentine is astounding. That they had truly hit on something special is also evident from the fact that post-Britpop, post-Radiohead, and post-Coldplay these songs sound fresher than ever. The opener, “Seagull”, is still both thunderous and trippy, “Polar Bear” is still surging and ferocious, and “Vapour Trail” is still simply immense and spell-bounding. All hail an album as important to the development of British rock as (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – Adam Mason
It’s a Shame About Ray (30th Anniversary Edition)
It’s the early 1990s in New England. You’ve got a free afternoon, so you round up your friends, one of whom you have a crush on, to get a little high and walk around until something happens to you. That’s the rough plot of the Lemonheads‘ It’s a Shame About Ray. Released in June of 1992, the album was the band’s fifth overall but second for Atlantic Records, eventually being certified gold in the US, the UK, and Australia. Its 30th-anniversary deluxe edition, courtesy of Fire Records, offers the remastered record plus B-sides, demos, and covers.
The 30th-anniversary reissue includes demos of nine of the album’s 12 songs. They sound like exactly what they are, and most of the songs benefit from studio production, but they also plainly show what a gifted songwriter Evan Dando is. The raw material here is so strong that it’s a shame about “Mrs. Robinson”, the band’s breakout Simon & Garfunkel cover that features an audible bong rip and is easily the most disposable track on the record. Recorded to celebrate the 25th anniversary VHS release of the 1967 film The Graduate, the song was tacked on to a re-release of It’s a Shame About Ray after it became a massive hit. (The first Lemonheads single with a semi-wide audience was another cover: their 1989 version of Suzanne Vega’s “Luka”.) – Lydia Pudzianowski
Before they were leading global ambassadors of the Saharan blues scene, tichoumaren group Tinariwen made music for a nearer audience. The new Wedge release of Kel Tinariwen brings the group’s 1992 debut to the wider world for the first time. Originally available only on cassette in Mali, Kel Tinariwen shows a different side of the group, one marked by the synth-heavy aesthetics of early 1990s pop from Algerian raï to Talking Heads. After so many albums of rugged, stinging desert rock, it’s a bit of a shock to the system, to be sure.
The quickly moving parts here, though, make for an exciting, almost neon-colored palette. Underneath swirling keys and tinny drum machines, the bones of Tinariwen are still strong: poignant vocals, lightning-fast guitars, and lyrical pathos. Kel Tinariwen is a crucial part of the full Tinariwen story, one that allows us a look into their inception, the early roots and rhythms that have led to their contemporary successes. What a difference a decade makes—especially when the target audience shifts from mostly local to utterly global. – Adriane Pontecorvo
Moving Pictures (40th Anniversary)
For the longest time, the remastering and reissuing of Rush albums were pretty no-frills affairs. The sound was improved, and the font of the song titles were sleeker, but there was never any bonus material or new photos to show off inside the sleeves. Then that all changed. The reissues of A Farewell to Kings, Hemispheres, and Permanent Waves opened the floodgates of exclusive live material, turning each of the progressive rock band’s monumental works into box sets. Moving Pictures, long considered the band’s creative and commercial peak, celebrated its 41st birthday in style with a glossy remaster, a hefty live show that has eluded both record and video collectors over the years, and new cover art that pays homage to the Moving Pictures’ self-referential title.
Even if you already own the 1981 live album Exit…Stage Left in its various formats, the show that graces this reissue, named Live in YYZ 1981, comes armed with everything you expect from a Rush show, including unshakable musicianship and an even more determined sense of energy. Rush were never a b-sides band, but they were a live band through and through, making the Moving Pictures reissue a perfect encapsulation of the band striking the perfect balance of, well, everything. – John Garratt
Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings
Life after the wool hat was not always easy for former Monkee Mike Nesmith. One of the made-for-TV d group’s most serious musicians, it took time for the rest of the music world to take him seriously. Different Drum, a compilation of 22 Nez tracks from his early 1970s RCA Victor recording sessions, makes a compelling case in that regard. Nesmith is a self-aware performer with serious composing and songwriting chops, as in his hit title track, most famously recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys and rendered here as a deliberately callous country-rock take.
Holding together his expansive worldview—Texas meets Nashville meets California—are the talented compatriots of his First and Second National Bands, who add some cohesion to Nesmith’s penchant for experimentation. Listening to the rugged melancholy of “Texas Morning” against the psychedelic deadpan of “Dedicated Friend” and fuller versions of Monkees songs like free-spirited “Circle Sky”, it’s clear how crucial the whole team is to Nesmith’s sound. Tongue-in-cheek radio spots for the 1970s release Loose Salute add to the charm of the Real Gone reissue, a perfect finishing touch on this fitting tribute to the late, great Papa Nez. – Adriane Pontecorvo
Animals (Deluxe Edition)
(Sony / Warner)
Delayed for years thanks to the interminable and insufferable feud between Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the 2018 remix of Pink Floyd’s most polarizing album finally saw the light of day in late 2022, and its timing could not have been more perfect. Modeled after George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm and fleshed out into a savage satire of capitalism, consumerism, and fascism, 1977’s Animals sounded as oppressive as its lyrical themes: muddy, claustrophobic, imposing, uncomfortable. Brilliantly so, as Waters, Gilmour, Richard Wright, and Nick Mason pieced together three lengthy progressive rock epics focusing on the empty lives of businessmen (“Dogs”), corrupt police and politicians (“Pigs”), and the cultural malaise among the numbed proletariat (“Sheep”).
What this new remix does so well, however, is open up the mix of the album just enough to let a little air in without sacrificing the visceral power of the music. “Dogs” is a revelation, as Mason’s percussion sounds so much cleaner than the original. Gilmour’s guitar work, already his most aggressive tone ever laid to tape, has even more bite than ever. Animals has given just enough of a clean-up to draw in new listeners more easily, and at a time when democracy, bipartisanship, and the greater good are being swallowed by greed, disinformation, and cynicism, the lessons of Pink Floyd’s most rewarding album desperately need to be heard, not to mention heeded. – Adrien Begrand
Musicasión 4 1/2
Founded in 1969, the concert series Musicasión was a short-lived showcase of Uruguayan rock that produced one full recording: Musicasión 4 ½, a release of music curated by singer-songwriter Eduardo Mateo and poet-actor Horacio Buscaglia. It’s since become a cult classic for many, including experimental rocker Juana Molina. For its 50th anniversary in 2021, Molina gave the album a rerelease on her label Sonamos, along with a whole additional record of previously unreleased tracks from Musicasión sessions. The Sonamos release restores the politically-charged poems censored quickly after the initial printing, shining new light on the importance of the candombe beat movement spearheaded by bands like Mateo’s El Kinto, which features especially prominently here.
Alongside the Afro-Uruguayan and British Invasion sounds of candombe beat on Musicasión 4 ½ are moments of jazz, folk, tango, and bossa nova, among other styles. El Kinto’s psych and garage rock songs stand the test of time as the most memorable on the album, but other tracks are just as compelling, whether smooth, moody, or acidic. Musicasión 4 ½ emerges from one of the most fruitful times in South American rock history, an underrated and irresistible gem of classic sonic subversion. – Adriane Pontecorvo