Our rundown of the year's finest archive releases
If SFA’s first album showed their breezy way with classic indie-rock tropes, its follow-up, Radiator, revealed the real extent of their ambitions. The 20th-anniversary deluxe edition covered the whole gamut – prog, powerpop, techno and beyond – chucking in the outstanding “Ice Hockey Hair” EP and a daft rave cover of “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”.
29 THE REPLACEMENTS
For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s 1986
A characteristically messy phase in the ’Mats’ career – just after the breakthrough of Tim, just before Bob Stinson was fired – was revisited on this evocative live set. Westerberg and co’s attempt to play Sweet’s “Fox On The Run” – a song they clearly did not know – captured the unruly spirit of proceedings; a masterclass in turning rock’n’roll sloppiness into something romantic and even noble.
Leave Home: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Rhino’s ongoing, exhaustive Ramones project again rendered one of their brisk classics into an unlikely epic – hence a remastered version and a thunderous new mix of the whole album, plus extra discs featuring outtakes and a ’77 CBGB’s show. Glue, mental illness, horror movies were par for the course, but here was where Joey’s cute, romantic streak came to the fore, too.
27 JON HASSELL
Fourth World Volume Two: Dream Theory In Malaya
Hassell’s heavily processed trumpet tone became a signal of the exotic and unearthly through the late ’70s and ’80s, as he took on
a role as the art/ambient scene’s Miles Davis. Two albums with Brian Eno cemented his reputation; this second, from 1981, also featuring kindred spirits Daniel Lanois and Michael Brook. Reissue the pre-Eno albums next, please!
26 LIFT TO EXPERIENCE
The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads
Reuniting just in time for the apocalypse they predicted back in 2001, perhaps, Texas’ Lift To Experience restaged their sole album at shows in 2016, prefacing this deluxe reissue. Critically, the whole Biblical space-rock masterpiece was remixed to the greater satisfaction of Josh Pearson and his bandmates. A debut album and fiery Peel session completed the tale of a band whose time, finally, was now.
Overshadowed a little by its predecessors – Second Toughest In The Infants and Dubnobasswithmyheadman – on release in 1999, the third album of Underworld’s techno phase may well have aged the best of all of them. Here was reliably encyclopaedic evidence, the original prog-disco marvels augmented by a deluxe boxload of remixes.
24 THE SMITHS
The Queen Is Dead
With Morrissey’s latest comeback a familiar combination of average music and problematic politics, it was a comfort to return to the third Smiths album, now complemented by a hearty 1986 concert (Craig Gannon on second guitar), B-sides and demos, plus the unedited version of the still-thrilling title track. “All those people, all those lives/Where are they now?”
23 VARIOUS ARTISTS
Soul Of A Nation
As usual with Soul Jazz comps, the subtitle told the whole story: “Afro-Centric Visions In The Age Of Black Power: Underground Jazz, Street Funk & The Roots of Rap 1964-79”. And as ever, their superb curatorial skills mixed canonical picks (Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”) with deep cuts from Phil Cohran, Horace Tapscott and Phil Ranelin. A soundtrack to the superb Tate Modern exhibition of the same name.
22 TONY CONRAD
Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain
To rock fans, Conrad was mostly known as a pre-Velvets cohort of John Cale. In other circles, however, the musician and filmmaker (who died in 2016) was revered as an avant-garde superstar, and this previously unreleased soundtrack performance was greeted as a holy grail of minimalism: an unyielding 90-minute violin drone, reminiscent of Conrad’s collaboration with Faust, Outside The Dream Syndicate.
21 MIDORI TAKADA
Through The Looking Glass
Another minimalist gem unearthed in 2017, the Japanese composer’s Through The Looking Glass was a more approachable work than that of Conrad: a polyrhythmic Asian response to Steve Reich and Terry Riley, on which Takada overdubbed herself playing everything from a marimba to a Coke bottle. The missing link between Olivier Messiaen and Boards Of Canada?