Best Album Re-Issues of 2023
Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

The 30 Best Album Re-Issues of 2023

The year’s best album re-issues include rock legends, essential R&B/soul artists, classic pop, jazz, alternative rock, global beats and so much more.

Hamza El Din – Al Oud (Real Gone)

In 1965, Egyptian-born performer Hamza El Din released Al Oud, an album that introduced the world to his oud technique and repertoire, based primarily on the traditions of his home region of Nubia. For audiences around the world, it was a revelation to hear the instrument—long construed in the mainstream as primarily Arabian—in a new light, and El Din made for a graceful introduction to this body of folk sounds. Almost six decades later, Real Gone Music’s American LP release of the album puts El Din’s work back in the public ear. 

It holds up well. El Din’s stripped-down arrangements resonate with a quiet clarity, oud and voice in minimal and very effective combinations that leave space for imagination and immersion. He shifts from mood to mood, sometimes pensive, sometimes joyful, and always at least a little rapturous as he strums nimbly away at cultural intersections. Lengthy pieces like the 11-minute long “Grandfathers’ Stories” and seven-minute long “The Fortune Teller” tell intricate stories; shorter and more concentrated pieces range from intense to gently ecstatic. El Din has long been cited as a favorite of artists like Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, and the riveting abilities on display throughout Al Oud leave no question as to why. – Adriane Pontecorvo

The Folk Implosion – Music from KIDS (Domino)

An initial point of clarification: this is not a reissue of the soundtrack released with the controversial film Kids in 1995. It is a release of archival material from the recording sessions the Folk Implosion did for the soundtrack, much of which Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, the makers of Kids, ultimately decided not to use. In short, this music has either not been heard or heard in this way before. The unexpected hit “Natural One” is included, of course, but the strength of this new album rests on the other compositions that Lou Barlow and John Davis put together. With ample studio funding, the lo-fi duo gleefully experimented with the possibilities of blending trip hop with indie rock. Tracks like “Insinuation” and “Checking In” that were not on the original soundtrack provide a more complete sense of Barlow and Davis’s visionary experiments. The film’s loss has become our gain. – Christopher J. Lee

The Free Music – Free Music (Part 1) (Habibi Funk)

Throughout the 1970s, Libyan group the Free Music released some ten albums of dance music drenched in soul, funk, disco, and reggae grooves. With high production values, catchy tunes, an impressive instrumental ensemble, and experienced composer and producer Najib Alhoush on lead vocals, the group’s repertoire was a powerful one. Amid regional political changes of the decade, though, Free Music’s audience stayed largely local until the last few years, when a chance encounter with Alhoush’s cover of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” led German archival label Habibi Funk directly to the group.

For those of us outside Libya, the resulting compilation, Free Music (Part 1), is likely our first brush with the titular group, and it’s a good one. This is full, well-crafted funk of the best kind, with bright horns against thick basslines and wailing guitars, constant drums, and the occasional spiraling flute. The warmth and consummate professionalism of Alhoush’s voice brings it all together. While it’s unclear when (or if) Habibi Funk plans to release a second installment—Libyan policies today mean it can still be difficult to sustain this kind of international project—Free Music (Part 1) is one of the most exciting international reissues to emerge on an archival label in quite some time, especially for fans of prime disco. – Adriane Pontecorvo

Lush – Spooky (2023 Remaster) (4AD)

Lush had no intention of making shoegaze music. They were merely inspired by gothic rock, post-punk, and dream pop bands, and it fed into the music they made. That’s not to mention that they came into prominence at the right time to be shoehorned into the shoegaze craze. Still, despite avoiding the genre, they unintentionally rode the popularity wave while releasing some of the most darkly sweet guitar-driven music of the early 1990s, slipping the band under the mainstream spotlight. Eleven years after the release of Lush’s first proper full-length album following 1989’s Scar (considered a mini-album), we now have a remastered version that emboldens the band’s effects-soaked sound.

Steve Rippon and Chris Aclund’s rhythm section sounds more voluminous. Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson’s voices soar gorgeously. Despite shoegaze’s deliberately murky nature, this remastered version of Lush’s sophomore and most famous album, Spooky, offers a sharper and cleaner sound. Produced by Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins, Spooky’s three singles – “Nothing Natural”, “For Love”, and “Superblast!” – are arguably the most important songs to hear on the album, presenting the catchiest melodies and smoothest, upbeat instrumentals. Lush did more than embody aesthetics specific to the 1990s. The shoegaze aspects of their sound are only stylistic elements topped over genuinely alluring pop rock. – Andrew Spiess

Dannii Minogue – Neon Nights (20th Anniversary Edition) (London)

Up until 2003, Dannii Minogue was destined to languish in her bigger sister, Kylie’s shadow. Though she amassed an impressive list of hit singles and successful studio albums, nothing compared to Kylie’s legendary hitlist. Things started to look promising with Dannii’s 1997 album Girl, which sought to mature her sound, bringing in elements of harder dance beats; however, it was clear from Minogue’s 2001 single, “Who Do You Love Now” (a collaboration with club duo Riva) that the singer found her sound. The pulsing electro-pop banger found the singer in a sleeker setting, her pop instincts prettying up the hypnotic trance tune. The follow-up single, “Put the Needle on It”, built on the strobe-lit power of “Who Do You Love Now” and added elements of Euro-dance, funk, and house. Neon Lights would become a minor classic and established Dannii Minogue as a significant artist in her own right. 

For the 20th anniversary, London Records paid tribute to the success of Neon Lights by releasing an exhaustive seven-disc set. For dedicated fans, this sprawling set is as much a tribute to dance culture as it is to Neon Lights and Minogue herself. There are rousing to-the-floor moments that capture Minogue’s dedicated allegiance to queerness and queer club culture, as well as dub versions that pull apart the pop-friendly original arrangements and reset the songs in new, intense EDM settings. 

This meticulously curated release gives due respect to a relatively underrated artist who had the burden of being related to one of the biggest pop stars of the past forty years. Neon Lights displayed an artistry that Minogue hadn’t shown before, and this mammoth project is a fitting tribute. – Peter Piatkowski

Joni Mitchell – Archives Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975) (Rhino)

Joni Mitchell was on fire during the years 1972, creating four of her best albums during that period: For the Roses (1972), Court and Spark (1974), Miles of Aisles (1974), and The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975). She went from being an introspective folk-pop singer-songwriter to a more experimental artist who incorporated everything from country to jazz into her rock ‘n’ roll. In keeping with Rhino’s past productions, the company has also put out previously unreleased material from the era. Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972-1975) contains 96 songs on five compact discs of demos, outtakes, concert tracks, and alternate versions from this period. This is truly a gold mine for Mitchell fans. There is a plethora of wonderful stuff here from beginning to end. 

Highlights include a medley of oldies (“Bony Moronie” / “Summertime Blues” / “You Never Can Tell”) with James Taylor, a version of “You Turn Me on I’m a Radio” with Neil Young & The Stray Gators, a solo medley of Mitchell of four songs (“Down to You” / “Court and Spark” / “Car on a Hill” / “Down to You”) here called “Piano Suite”, and two complete live concerts. The anthology contains a host of other goodies that would be of interest both to the casual Mitchell fan as well as completists.  The singer-songwriter is one of the most important composers of the 20th century. These archival recordings are further proof of her talents. – Steve Horowitz

Neutral Milk Hotel – The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel (Merge)

Neutral Milk Hotel‘s mythos is enshrined in their music in a way that has turned them into legends. Born out of the weirdo Elephant 6 collective housed primarily in Athens, Georgia, Jeff Mangum bounced around various acts (including the Apples in Stereo) before finally settling on Neutral Milk Hotel as his moniker and chief creative output. While that outfit’s 1996 debut On Avery Island got some attention from the press, it’s 1998’s sophomore set In the Aeroplane Over the Sea that has gone down as one of the greatest indie rock albums of all time, arguably setting up the template that modern “indie” is compared to and defined.

The 2023 release of The Collected Works of Neutral Milk Hotel mines the band’s legacy for all it’s worth. While the 2011 eponymous vinyl box set contained pretty much everything a fan would ever need, The Collected Works adopts the same sequencing and adds in a few small extras, specifically in getting takes of the rarity “Little Birds” onto streaming and adding the pre-Aeroplane live recording Live at Jittery Joe’s. There is some hubbub over the expanded edition of the genuinely excellent Everything Is EP, but this is the same expanded edition from the 2011 release.

This whole repackaging, done via longtime Neutral Milk Hotel distributor Merge Records, features everything from official unofficial music videos to pushing the truly rare “Where You’ll Find Me (Alternate Version)” as a college radio single of sorts. The joy of a group with such a limited oeuvre is that everything takes on such great importance, as the discovery of hard-to-find tracks like “Here We Are (For W. Cullen Hart)” from the Everything Is EP will mean something to a superfan, but if all this does is get people to recognize a song like “Tuesday Moon” as the sludge-pop classic that is, mission accomplished. – Evan Sawdey

New Order – Substance 1987 (Warner)

New Order have undoubtedly made some great albums since they emerged out of the ashes of Joy Division in 1980 (1985’s Low-Life and 1989’s Technique spring to mind). But on Substance 1987, the Manchester four-piece proved not only to be a singles band but the ultimate 12-inch singles band.

If you weren’t already convinced of that, this 2023 re-issue of the classic remix compilation, on all the usual formats, should help. If you were already convinced of that, this 2023 re-issue includes remastered versions of all the singles you’re familiar with, but notably also a four-CD format that incorporates all their B-sides that were previously only available together on cassette. That’s along with a unique contemporary live performance by the band at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, California, when they ran through the whole Substance track list in order.

There’s a dizzying abundance of material on offer here, then, from New Order’s commercial heyday. So it’s ridiculous to think this is just the first re-issue of Substance 1987 since it originally appeared in that fabled year of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and, of course, Rick Astley, in the interim of other state-of-the-art remix albums by Pet Shop Boys (“Disco”) and Madonna (“You Can Dance”). That’s because it can most emphatically lay claim to being essential, iconic, legendary, and all those other overused terms. – Adam Mason

New Order – Low-Life (Definitive Edition) (Rhino)

Originally released in 1985, New Order’s third album consolidates the strengths of its two predecessors and then adds some more. It is the album where the British quartet completely got out of the shadow of their forebearer Joy Division and staked a redoubtable case for themselves. Are they a rock band that makes danceable synthesizer music or a synthesizer band that makes gigantic sounds with guitars, bass, and drums? On Low-Life, they are both simultaneously.

“Love Vigilantes” and “The Perfect Kiss” are the tentpoles, the former an improbably affecting electro-folk anthem about the Vietnam War and the latter a kitchen-sink-employing, floor-filling celebration of ennui. But the surrounding material is nearly as good, never short on melody, inventive arrangements, or Bernard Sumner’s oddly charismatic musings about nothing and everything. Admittedly lazy, New Order didn’t produce a lot of studio leftovers, but the Definitive Edition gathers provides good context with some early takes and alternate versions. Low-Life is, quite simply, a high point in a career with more than a few. – John Bergstrom

Nirvana – In Utero (30th Anniversary Super Deluxe) (DGC)

Paying respect to original producer Steve Albini’s deliberately visceral influence, this remaster of Nirvana’s In Utero is derived straight from the source: the analog master stereo tapes from the Pachyderm Recording Studio sessions. Only two months have passed since its release, and both vinyl versions of the 30th Anniversary reissue are sold out, showing how in demand it has been for fans who remember Nirvana when they were still going strong. Attached to the original album and its five B-sides are two complete concerts from the tour supporting In Utero’s initial release: Los Angeles ’93 & Seattle ’94, plus six bonus live songs.  Additionally, you’ll hear Pat Smear – former member of the Germs, Nirvana’s touring guitarist in 1993-94, and a member of Foo Fighters – providing second guitar work and some backing vocals in the live performances.

The complete Super Deluxe package includes a buffet of decorative memorabilia, highlighting a slight feeling of seeing Nirvana live through replicated tickets, various VIP passes, and show flyers. Live video footage would have been a good addition, but that said, live footage is available on YouTube in copious quantities, and DVDs and Blu-rays are practically out of style. The reissue doesn’t provide new insights into the band or the album, but there may be nothing new to discover. 

In Utero hasn’t lost its edge or people’s interest in understanding it. It remains fascinating for its exceptional songwriting and contribution to the history of heavy music when a band was at its peak in popularity and creativity before its abrupt, devastating end. The 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe will spark nostalgia if you’ve been listening to Nirvana for 30-plus years, which is the kind of audience that will find this reissue most enticing. This is for lifelong Nirvana lovers, those who want to experience a masterfully designed album in a new way. – Andrew Spiess