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.

The Replacements – Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) (Sire)

The conventional wisdom is that the Replacements never fulfilled their promise. The problem with this assessment is that it never spells out what success for them might have looked like. Success like their peers R.E.M. or Hüsker Dü? The Replacements never became financially lucrative in the way some bands did, but artistically and as a paradigm of rock ‘n roll insouciance, they influenced countless musicians that came in their wake. Reaffirming their status, Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) is the latest in a series of important archival reissues. The original Tim was their major label debut and intended to be their (first) breakthrough. It didn’t happen due to crap production. Tim (Let It Bleed Edition) provides a new mix by Ed Stasium that brightens their sound while retaining the edges. Paul Westerberg’s iconic anthem “Left of the Dial” stands as both their statement of purpose and their epitaph. Legends forever. – Christopher J. Lee

Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah (Luaka Bop)

If Karma is the Ulysses of Pharoah Sanders’ catalog, then Pharoah is the late jazz great’s Finnegans Wake. In the 1970s, Sanders was regarded as one of the most forward-looking jazz artists of that decade, but Pharoah confounded the jazz world in 1977, only to grow a dedicated and enamored audience over the decades. Few Sanders fans will claim it as their favorite album of the composer, but the reissue, including a phenomenal live performance, gives listeners plenty to reassess. 

The sprawling “Harvest Time” takes up the majority of the space on the two-disc reissue. At 20 minutes, it’s a near-perfect encapsulation of Sanders’ otherworldly talents as a saxophonist and as a jazz composer. While not an ideal starting point for new Sanders listeners, its long-awaited return from bootleg purgatory makes Pharoah a must-purchase for experimental jazz enthusiasts. – Sean McCarthy

Nancy Sinatra – Keep Walkin’: Singles, Demos & Rarities 1965-1978 (Light in the Attic)

Nancy Sinatra‘s music career has been overwhelmed by her classic hit “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’” – even the title of this compilation, Keep Walkin’, references that song. But a deeper dive into Sinatra’s oeuvre shows that the singer had a solid career of hitmaking throughout the 1960s and 1970s, scoring nine top 40 hits between 1965 and 1967, including two number ones, “Boots” and “Something Stupid”, a duet with her dad, Frank. Her sultry good looks and self-possessed singing made her an icon of mod 1960s coolness.

After her run as a hitmaker, Sinatra continued to record and perform, leaning into her camp image and becoming a queer pop icon in the process. In 2004, she returned after a hiatus from recording with a self-titled collection that, in some ways, mirrored the later-day work of her father and Marianne Faithfull. Keep Walkin’: Singles, Demos & Rarities 1965-1978 is yet another compilation that looks to collect her work. However, this set is different – and essential – because it steps away from her chart hits. Keep Walkin’ shows that Sinatra was more than just Frank’s Daughter or the “Boots” singer, and it’s an enjoyable peek into songs that would otherwise be overlooked. – Peter Piatkowski

Slum Village – Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2 (2023 Remaster) (Ne’Astra Music)

The new digital remaster of Slum Village’s highly acclaimed sophomore LP comes from Ne’astra Music Group, a little-known record label to which Slum Village is signed. They’ve been working hard to re-release the group’s earliest work, which includes rapping and production by the late J Dilla and rhymes from T3 and Baatan, making up the three original members.

As opposed to the 2010 reissue, this version returns to the original arrangement of the album except for the middle track, “Fall N Love”, which is placed at the very end. A pristine remaster that upholds J Dilla’s production, much of the album’s appeal comes from its oddly timed beats and choppy, unconventional jazz rhythms. It runs through the same vein as A Tribe Called Quest and even includes a feature from Q-Tip as well as from similar close ties, including Busta Rhymes, Common, D’Angelo, and more.

Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2 is a cult classic that epitomizes the category of backpack rap. Although not weighted with socially conscious lyrics, the album is underground hip-hop made with heart. Slum Village encompasses the soulful flavors and specialty elements of Detroit’s hip-hop culture. You can hear that, for the three of them, having fun was the most crucial aspect of making this record. You can listen to them laughing at the end of tracks and feel the smiles in the words they speak, and the fact that they didn’t bother to re-record or trim these parts from the final product speaks for their capricious principles. – Andrew Spiess

Soft Machine – The Dutch Lesson (Cuneiform)

Long heralded for being one of the lead acts to combine psychedelic jazz with progressive rock, Canterbury, England’s own Soft Machine has had a tumultuous history, with members coming and going with such frequency that by the time they released 1976’s Softs on the tenth anniversary of their formation, none of the group’s original members remained. The Dutch Lesson carries on a long legacy of live records that almost rivals their studio output, as the band’s chemistry on stage attracted a fandom almost separate from their regular discography.

Shortly after the release of 1973’s Six, a Rotterdam record store owner was in the front row of a small 400-capacity venue with a portable tape machine in hand, capturing the group at perhaps their most rocking, with John Marshall’s drumming proving so furious that it overwhelms the tape recorder at times. The songs from Six bend and stretch into exciting new forms in this hustled (and honestly sometimes frantic) live set, giving us a peak at another side of the group fighting over just how fuzzed out their guitar pedals should be. Even with the band’s legacy secure in the big book of rock history, there’s still much to be learned from this scintillating Dutch Lesson—Evan Sawdey

Steely Dan – Aja (Ultra High Quality Recording) (Analogue Productions)

Any attempt to anoint one specific album as “the greatest album of all time” is a moot point. After all, how can you make a measured, logical argument, stating that Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is a better album than John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, or vice versa? That said, many audiophiles will have no problem arguing that Steely Dan’s Aja may be the best-sounding album of all time.

Remastered by Bernie Grundman, who handled the mastering of the original 1977 album, Aja’s  UHQR mix on 200-gram clear vinyl may pack a punch on your wallet (for which you get beautiful, limited-numbered packaging with two vinyl LPs), but sound-wise, if there term “worth every cent” applies to music, it certainly fits for this release of Aja. You don’t need to shell out $150 to hear Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s studio wizardly and obsessive perfection but for Steely Dan fans or any person wanting to test out that first new stylus on your turntable, this would be the record to use for such an occasion. – Sean McCarthy

Swayzak – Snowboarding in Argentina (25th Anniversary Edition) (Lapsus)

David Brown and James S. Taylor were operating under their tech house moniker, Swayzak, for over a decade before somewhat parting ways. While their glitchy brand of mid-tempo electronica found a following in their active years, their debut album, Snowboarding in Argentina, was a strange beast. The band created 12 tracks for the record, but the CD release only featured nine of them, while the vinyl release showcased only seven, with the two formats only sharing four songs between them.

This “25th Anniversary Edition” rectifies this decades-old problem by putting all 12 songs in place with a fresh remaster, remixes, and even a nascent demo version of the opening track “Speedboat”, which is as different from the album version as you could possibly imagine. Swayzak were experts at finding a groove, keeping the waves of synths hitting your ears at a regular pace while also knowing precisely when to pivot and change. While Swayzak never reached the same commercial heights as their peers, this powerful re-release rewrites history the way it was supposed to be heard. —Evan Sawdey

Ali Farka Touré – Voyageur (World Circuit)

Legendary guitarist and performer Ali Farka Touré performs alongside a wide range of stars on recently released Voyageur. Oumou Sangaré, Afel Bocoum, Hama Sankaré, Pee Wee Ellis, and son Vieux Farka Touré (also the album’s co-producer alongside World Circuit’s Nick Gold) all feature in this set of pieces pulled from the elder Touré’s 1990s recording archives. Each track feels fresh and sounds crystal clear; Touré’s nimble fingers are always impressive as they roll along with what seems like total ease, and his collaborators bring their fair share of star power as well (especially Sangaré, who matches Touré in terms of energy, skill, and confidence).

Put together from tracks from a number of different recording sessions, Voyageur is a rich tribute to Ali Farka Touré. It comes only half a year after Ali, another Vieux Farka Touré-helmed project in conjunction with buzzy US dub rockers Khruangbin consisting of Ali Farka Touré covers. It’s clear that Vieux intends to keep his father’s legacy burning bright in as many ways as he can, and deservedly so. Voyageur is yet another generous gift he brings us as part of honoring a musical titan and one that makes Ali’s presence feel immediate on every single track. – Adriane Pontecorvo

Various Artists – Wattstax: The Complete Concert (Craft Recordings)

In 1972, Stax Records co-opted the Watts Summer Festival, an annual commemoration of the 1965 Watts Uprising that sprang from a controversial traffic stop of a Black man. With that, a regional arts festival became a day-long concert and cultural event held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In an effort to reach the underprivileged, tickets were sold for just a dollar, and over 100,000 people attended. In an admitted marketing coup, every musical performer was from Stax, which had recently opened a West Coast office.

What a roster it was, with the likes of the Staple Singers, the Bar-Kays, Albert King, and many others delivering a loose but infectious mix of soul, rock, blues, and gospel. Previous soundtrack releases were incomplete and substituted studio recordings for live ones, but The Complete Concert sets the record straight with six discs’ worth of material capturing all of the days’ events, culminating in an electrifying set from Isaac Hayes, at the time an absolute superstar. With plenty of photos, essays, first-hand accounts, and moment-by-moment annotation, The Complete Concert provides an unmissable chance to become immersed in an event that was historic in multiple ways. – John Bergstrom

Neil Young – Official Release Series Volume 5 (Reprise)

In 1989, after almost a decade of disappointing album sales and musical experimentation that confused the record-buying public, Neil Young decided to initiate a hard reboot that just so happened to coincide with a seismic generational shift in rock music. Starting with the roaring protest anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World” – performed with legendary intensity on Saturday Night Live – and continuing through two raucous albums and a reunited Crazy Horse tour that coincided with Operation: Desert Storm, Young was suddenly relevant again at the dawn of the 1990s, with younger indie rock fans gravitating to “the godfather of grunge” in droves.

Young reciprocated with the loudest, angriest, yet hopeful work of his career, which has been beautifully memorialized in the fifth volume of his Official Release box set series. An endearingly sloppy collection of leftover material and newer compositions, 1989’s Freedom was a manic burst of creative energy that ranged from seething social commentary (the still-pertinent “Crime in the City”) to tender balladry (“Sail Away”). 1990’s aptly named Ragged Glory, on the other hand, reunited Young with his old pals in Crazy Horse after nearly a decade, and its collection of scruffy garage jams is arguably the happiest, most comfortable-sounding album of Young’s long career.

The Weld live album – accompanied by the feedback experiment Arc – captured Crazy Horse at their absolute loudest – and, might I say, best – a cathartic scream into a void that was dominated by war, Republicanism, and uncertainty. Especially when coupled with 2021’s wonderful Down in the Rust Bucket live set, this is a lovely look back at a time when Shakey could do no wrong. – Adrien Begrand