Features

The Best Re-Issues of 2007

From '60s soul to bluegrass and Krautrock to post-punk, PopMatters counts down the year's best re-issued albums.

Artist: Fennesz Album: Endless Summer Label: Editions Mego Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/f/fennesz-endlesssummer.jpg US Release Date: 2007-01-09 UK Release Date: 2006-12-11

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List number: 20

With great releases by acts like the Field and Burial and Stars of the Lid, 2007 has been a pretty great year for electronic and ambient music fans. But, with all that is going on the present, it never hurts to delve back into the past. And though its original release happened only six years ago, Endless Summer is a classic record that deserves to be revisited. In light of what's going on now, it might be difficult to see just how ahead of its time this record really was. Coming after the Elephant 6 movement, which had all those Athens bands lacing their Brian Wilson jones into indie pop tunes, Fennesz took his love of the Beach Boys in a wholly different, expansive direction. Endless Summer, in all its fuzzed-out, blissful glory, really does sound like a preamble to the electronic records we're hearing now. It's warm and inviting, but on tracks like "A Year in a Minute" and "Badminton Girl" it can really challenge you to follow along with its ramblings. Those that did six years ago were richly rewarded, and now a whole new batch of fans gets the chance to dive into one of the most innovating and inviting electronic records in recent memory. Matt Fiander

Fennesz - Caecilia

Fennesz: Endless Summer

Artist: John Phillips Album: Jack of Diamonds Label: Varese Sarabande Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/j/john_phillips_jack.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-10

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List number: 19

It’s not a cohesive pop-rock novel like John Phillips’ first solo album John, the Wolfking of LA, reissued in 2006, but Jack of Diamonds’s release is nonetheless an important event. As a grab-bag of early ‘70s songs that might have been on his second album, it’s musically all over the map, from jazz-rock to drunken blues to attempts at rock theatre. But that fits the central subject matter: the wandering life. In this period Phillips was a wandering soul, personally and artistically. Jack of Diamonds is an extended meditation on the pains and pleasures of that freedom. It’s a treasure from the past that’s as rough as the years it covers. Dave HeatonJohn Phillips: Jack of Diamonds

Artist: Lee Perry & the Upsetters Album: Ape-ology Label: Trojan Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/p/perryleetheupsetters-apeology.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-10 UK Release Date: 2007-06-18

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List number: 18

After establishing himself in the early 1970s as a star reggae producer, Lee "Scratch" Perry stepped out from behind the boards to record his own classic dub albums. The two-disc Ape-ology collects remastered versions of his three best late ‘70s LPs, along with a fine batch of bonus tracks. On 1976’s Super Ape, beats seem to spill over one another, spare bass lines burble up and duck out mid-measure, and horns flow hazily into the mix. This set also offers Perry’s first album as a lead singer, 1978’s Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread. This platter features a fuller mix, but the arrangements and production are just as inventive, as Perry's sounds vibrate and sproing. His vocals can sound unhinged at times, but that just adds to the crazy appeal. Stylistically, Return of the Super Ape falls in between its two predecessors and is equally great. Ape-ology is essential dub. Michael KeefeLee Perry & the Upsetters: Ape-ology

Artist: Various Artists Album: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 Label: Rhino Image: http://images.popmatters.com/features_art/l/love-is-the-song.jpg US Release Date: 2007-09-18 UK Release Date: 2007-09-24

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List number: 17

The fourth volume of Rhino’s Nuggets series was heresy to more than a few listeners. While volumes two and three had their tangents into freakbeat and power-pop, they managed to keep one foot in the garage guitar slop that was synonymous with the series. But San Francisco? Hippies? Be not afraid: this box is as addicting to the ear as its older brothers. In fact, by widening its lens, this volume is more listenable at high doses than the others ever were. Folk, jazz, blues and soul rub shoulders with the occasional garage rock track (The Count Five’s first volume favorite “Psychotic Reaction” makes a curtain call). The Nuggets series can now be appreciated for what it is: a lovingly assembled collection of rare gems (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Santana notwithstanding) with detailed liner notes. Here’s to hoping that they tackle New York City 1975-1980 next. Robert Short

The Count Five - Psychotic Reaction

Various Artists: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970

Artist: Charles Mingus Sextet Album: Cornell 1964 Subtitle: with Eric Dolphy Label: Blue Note Contributors: Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, Clifford Jordan, Johnny Coles, Dannie Richmond Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/m/minguscharles-cornell1964.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-17 UK Release Date: 2007-07-02

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List number: 16

On this frequently brilliant and warmly recorded concert from March 18, 1964, Charles Mingus reasserts his intense genius. His bass playing, sprightly yet forceful, fast yet tempered, is a wonder to behold. Yet it’s almost impossible to take your attention off everyone else. Jaki Byard, perhaps the most underappreciated pianist in the history of jazz, plays with a flourishing grace that feels like dancing on water. Dannie Richmond’s drumming pays attention to ride, hi-hat, snare, tom, and kick with equal focus, and provides an equal level of striking and skittering. Then there’s Clifford Jordan and Johnny Coles, whose sax and tumpet, respectively, blow and bleat with a tendentious ease usually reserved for Coltrane and Miles. Never mind that they have to play next to Eric Dolphy, whose work on the bass clarinet and flute are mind-blowing. And never mind that nobody knew this concert was recorded, nor that anyone but the people there even knew it existed. Tal RosenbergCharles Mingus Sextet: Cornell 1964

Artist: Lewis Taylor Album: The Lost Album Label: HackTone Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/t/taylor-lewis-lost-album.jpg US Release Date: 2007-01-30 UK Release Date: 2005-02-21

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List number: 15

Autonomy never sounded as majestic as on Lewis Taylor's The Lost Album. Many years after Island Records dismissed a batch of early '90s demos, Taylor re-recorded the songs and released them in 2004 on his own imprint in the UK. The US-based HackTone gave The Lost Album a stateside release this year, which perked up the ears of those who knew Taylor for his excursions into psychedelic soul. In comparison to the critically acclaimed Stoned (2005) album, The Lost Album is something gloriously different. Lewis Taylor orchestrates sprawling, vivid soundscapes that owe much to late '70s Boston and Supertramp yet still retain Taylor's own distinct style. From the sparkling keyboards that open "Listen Here" to the incendiary guitar solos on "Yeah", The Lost Album is a masterful work that stirs sensations in the listener long after the last note. Christian John WikaneLewis Taylor: The Lost Album

Artist: Various Artists Album: The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 7: 1967 Label: Hip-O Select Contributors: diana ross & the supremes, the temptations, the four tops, marvin gaye, tammi terrell, stevie wonder, smokey robinson & the miracles Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/c/complete-motown-singles-vol-7.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-31 UK Release Date: Available as import

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List number: 14

Forty years ago, Aretha Franklin arrived, Otis Redding died, and Motown, the pop-soul juggernaut with an obscene amount of contracted talent, entered its eighth year. Behind Motown's façade of factory-line efficiency, things were changing: greater emphasis was placed on the emergence of the superstar at the expense of the collective, edging Florence Ballard out of the Supremes, and the company's premier songwriting and production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, left due to royalty disputes and started their own label. At the same time, 1967 saw artists like Stevie Wonder begin to assert some artistic independence, Marvin Gaye found his musical soul-mate in Tammi Terrell, and Motown's if-it-ain't-broke philosophy was challenged numerous times by songs like the Supremes' "Reflections", which recognized the influence of psychedelic experimentation. As a comprehensive account of the year's music, The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 7 places the well-known next to the lesser-known, offering equal time to the staples of oldies radio, the B-sides that have led unjust lives in obscurity, and the tracks that haven't held up so well over the years. Here, in a box of five CDs, is one of the most distinctive pop methodologies of the 20th century, caught in a flux and at a crossroads. Zeth Lundy

The Supremes - Reflections

Various Artists: The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 7: 1967

Artist: Faust Album: IV [Remastered] Label: Caroline Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/f/faust_iv.jpg US Release Date: 2007-09-18

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List number: 13

I'm a sucker for expanded reissues, it must be said, but there's nothing at all superfluous about this package. Faust may be only the third most important German rock band of the 1970s, but if you consider that the first two are Kraftwerk and Can that's hardly a dishonor. (Fans of Amon Duul II, take heart.) Krautrock, for all its disrespectfully shaggy connotations, begins here -- more or less with the song of the same name, a 12-minute long epic of distortion, feeback and droning rhythm. "Krautrock" is offered twice, first on the pristinely-remastered album itself, and again on a second disc of rarities which include the group's BBC radio Peel Sessions. German noise rock may not be the most populist genre in the history of music, but listening to these 1973 recordings there can be no doubt that the music carries importance far beyond the rarified company of rock critics. This stuff still sounds pretty far-out, and the open-ended questions represented by these curious, investigative recordings still have yet to be answered. Whether you're talking about Japanese noise-pop or microhouse or prog rock or dub reggae, there's something irreducible in the DNA of modern pop music that can only be traced back to a handful of long-haired German mad-scientists. Faust IV is an essential album whose influence cannot be easily reckoned, and this carefully compiled package is a treat for old fans and new. Tim O'NeilFaust: IV [Remastered]

Artist: Robyn Hitchcock Album: Storefront Hitchcock Subtitle: Music from the Jonathan Demme Picture Label: Noble Rot Label: Collectors' Choice Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/s/storefront_hitchcock.jpg US Release Date: 2007-06-26 UK Release Date: 2007-07-09

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List number: 12

Storefront Hitchcock is a perfectly-timed document, as it shows Hitchcock's two biggest elements -- his quirky songwriting and his paranoid, pretentious persona -- rising and converging. In between songs in this performance from the 1998 Jonathan Demme film of the same name, Hitchcock treats the recording like an artifact, constantly talking into the camera to the people of the future. His ramblings on consumer culture and politics are hilarious and self-aware, but also revealing and heartfelt, using the same dichotomy that makes his songs so wonderful. And the set he plays here shows off both the height of his songwriting powers -- many of these songs come from his fantastic Moss Elixer album -- and his often overlooked guitar skills. While this album was not always that hard to find, it was often overpriced. So to have this lovely digipak reissue come with a reasonable sticker price, there's almost no excuse for any Hitchcock fans without this to go and pick it up. Maybe if we're lucky, people of the future, a DVD reissue of the film will follow. If not, at least we have this audio document to study. Let the poking and prodding begin. Matt FianderRobyn Hitchcock: Storefront Hitchcock

Artist: Nick Drake Album: Fruit Tree Label: Fontana Island Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/drakenick-fruittree.jpg US Release Date: 2007-11-20 UK Release Date: 2007-11-19

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Artist: Nick Drake Album: Family Tree Label: Tsunami Image: http://images.popmatters.com/music_cover_art/d/drakenick-familytree.jpg US Release Date: 2007-07-10 UK Release Date: 2007-06-19

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List number: 11

Before Elliott Smith, before Jeff Buckley, there was Nick Drake. In the period from '69 to '72, he modestly released three albums, then committed suicide at the age of 26. His albums hadn't sold particularly well, mostly due to his fear of performing live, and he died believing himself to be a failure. Ironically, his combination of rare talent and early death elevated Drake's name beyond cult figure to mythological hero; his genius acknowledged more each year, while Donovan, funnily enough, becomes more obscure. The underappreciated blend of orchestral sweeps, acoustic folk, and sweetly melancholic vocals exhibited on Nick's first two albums have become a template for all the Badly Drawn Boys to follow. His Pink Moon finale -- recorded in two hours during the last workable depths of his depression -- sent generations of disillusioned baby boomers running for their pills and acoustic guitars one by one. With Fruit Tree reissuing his three studio works this year, Family Tree compiles all of Nick's suitable work from before his first album, including special moments with his mother and playing the clarinet in a Mozart trio. Now fans finally have a definitive glimpse of the legend, his works, and his roots. Filmore Mescalito HolmesNick Drake: Fruit Tree|Nick Drake: Family Tree




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"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
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