Uncut’s Best Reissues & Compilations Of 2021

The 30 best reissues of the year

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30 SUPERGRASS
In It For The Money Remastered Expanded
ECHO/BMG

The Oxford quartet’s terrific second album returned on plush double vinyl, but also as a deluxe set featuring a host of previously unheard extras. Among the highlights were the power-driving “Charles II” and the smoky, Canterbury psychedelia of “Silver Lining”, fascinating early versions of album tracks such as “It’s Not Me” and “Late In The Day”, and a set of live tracks that captured the manic propulsion of Live At Leeds.

29 VARIOUS ARTISTS
Edo Funk Explosion Vol 1
ANALOG AFRICA

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This essential collection documented the sounds emanating from Joromi Studio in Benin City, in Nigeria’s Edo State, during the ’80s – and in particular the pioneering work of Joromi’s founder Victor Uwaifo alongside Akaba Man and Osayomore Joseph. Their fusion of traditional rhythms, highlife horns and funk, along with cheesy keyboards and flashes of psychedelia, made Edo Funk Explosion one of the year’s most vibrant and revelatory finds.

28 NANCY SINATRA
Start Walkin’: 1965–1976
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC

A supreme collection of Sinatra’s first decade, the best of which only seems to shine brighter as the years go by. “Bang Bang” and “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” open the set, of course, but there are some lesser-known treasures to explore too: from the early “So Long Babe” and the hallucinogenic grandeur of Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood’s “Arkansas Coal (Suite)” to 1972’s post-Lee “Machine Gun Kelly”. Throughout, Sinatra inhabits each song to perfection.

27 JOHN LENNON
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: The Ultimate Collection
CAPITOL/UMC

In its most expansive form, this lavish boxset of Lennon’s first proper solo album is a fascinating deep dive into his writing and recording process; his warm studio chats with Ringo are especially captivating. Best of all, though, are the complete sessions for Yoko Ono’s own Plastic Ono Band, tucked away on Blu-ray in all their future-shock savagery, with Lennon, Ono, Starr and Klaus Voormann inventing myriad genres as they jam at Abbey Road.

26 ROGER WEBB
Bartleby: Original Soundtrack Recording
TRUNK RECORDS

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Jonny Trunk celebrated his silver jubilee by doing what he does best: rescuing a fruity library-funk gem from obscurity. If you’d only heard Roger Webb’s soundtrack to the long-forgotten 1972 British film adaptation of Herman Melville’s famous short story, you might conclude that Bartleby was a suave turtlenecked PI rather than a stubborn clerk – although there were also moments of lush, Midnight Cowboy-esque poignancy.

25 THE FALL
Live
At St Helen’s Technical College, 1981
CASTLE FACE

In keeping with their prolific output, The Fall have never been short on live albums, ranging from the good, the bad and ugly – here, though, rescued from bootleg status by Marc Riley and Castle Face, was one of the greatest. Released on LP+7”, Live At St Helen’s… captures a crucial, magical period in the group’s history, with furious, super-tight cuts from Dragnet, Grotesque and Slates, and even a taste of the following year’s classic Hex Enduction Hour.

24 NIRVANA
Songlife 1967–71
MADFISH

An Irish-Greek duo plunging cape-deep into Swinging London, Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos made some of the most imaginative psychedelic pop of the era, even if they only really troubled the charts with the bombastic “Rainbow Chaser”. Songlife compiles their delicate, delirious work, from 1967’s orchestral concept album The Story Of Simon Simopath to ’72’s bizarrely Vegas-y Songs Of Love And Praise. Enticingly, the package includes Secrets, a collection of previously unheard and fleshed-out demos.

23 RADIOHEAD
Kid A Mnesia
XL

Twenty-one years after its release confounded (some) critics, the game-changing Kid A officially entered the ‘deluxe reissue’ canon alongside its slightly more congenial twin, Amnesiac. The bonus disc dredged up evanescent near-classic “If You Say The Word” and some fascinating alternate versions – including another piece in the lifelong Radiohead puzzle that is “True Love Waits”.

22 COME
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
FIRE

Welcome retouch of a grunge-era highlight, more dirty churning blues than angsty alt.rock, led by Thalia Zedek’s throaty rasp and penchant for addictively doleful melodies informed by Eastern European folk and film noir. A second disc of ‘Wrong Sides’ offered the gloriously pummelling “Car” and covers of X and Swell Maps.

21 WHIPPING BOY
Heartworm
NEEDLE MYTHOLOGY

The Dublin band’s second album fell between the cracks when it was originally released in 1995 – it just wasn’t Britpop enough, it seems. Given a second lease of life, however, Heartworm’s core strengths came into focus: it’s a brooding, powerful record, driven by Fearghal McKee’s bleak vignettes about characters on the brink, while the music – somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and Bends-era Radiohead – remained vividly intense.

20 PASTOR TL BARRETT
I Shall Wear A Crown
NUMERO GROUP

A Baptist pastor by his early twenties, this Chicago gospel musician, often joined by his 45-piece Youth For Christ Choir, has experienced a belated global fame in recent years. This 5LP box collected four of his albums, each imbued with irresistibly soulful grooves and socially conscious lyrics, plus a set of rarities – listen to his take on “The Lord’s Prayer” and marvel at how it can have taken the world so long to catch up.

19 DAVID BOWIE
Brilliant Adventure (1992–2001)
PARLOPHONE/ISO

The big news in this fifth boxset of Bowie’s catalogue albums was the inclusion of Toy – his abandoned album from 2001, featuring re-recordings of material from his pre-fame years. Around Toy, the set helped map Bowie’s way back after his career foundered at the end of the ’80s. At the other end of his career, meanwhile, The Width Of A Circle box illuminated The Man Who Sold The World for its 50th anniversary.

18 NEIL YOUNG
Carnegie Hall 1970
REPRISE

After the Archives 2 motherlode last year, 2021 was relatively quiet for Neil Young. Aside from two Crazy Horse projects – one old (Way Down In The Rust Bucket) and one new (Barn) – he also launched his latest archival strand, the Official Bootleg Series, beginning with this vaunted concert recorded not long after the After The Goldrush sessions. Although Young has already released live material from this period, Carnegie Hall had its own distinctive vibe.

17 THE REPLACEMENTS
Sorry Ma, ForgotcTo Take Out The Trash Deluxe Edition
RHINO

This 40th-anniversary set captured the birth of the ’Mats in all its messy glory. Not quite punk, not quite rock, Sorry Ma… was groundbreaking for the way in which it brought the band’s gifts for speed, melody and humour together in one exuberant package. Outtakes, demos, live and even an alternative version helped underscore the indomitable brilliance of Westerberg and co as they began their ascent.

16 JAPAN
Quiet Life Deluxe Edition
BMG

A giant leap forward, in 1979, for David Sylvian’s glam futurists, Quiet Life found Japan finally defining their sound – the opiated chic of late period Roxy, the haunting abstractions of Bowie’s Low and The Velvet Underground’s noir glamour. Emboldened, Japan maximalised their Quiet Life achievements on Gentlemen Take Polaroids and the fearlessly ambitious Tin Drum. This edition complied assorted 7” and 12” remixes and a live set – but Quiet Life itself is testament enough.

15 GANG OF FOUR
77 – 81
MATADOR

While the unexpected death of guitarist Andy Gill in early 2020 put an end to one chapter of this questing punk-funk group’s history, the impressive boxset 77–81 chronicled another. There was the pivotal Entertainment and Solid Gold, both remastered, a singles LP and a live 1980 gig, plus a cassette of 26 unheard demos and outtakes. Their fight never seemed more vital, or more exciting to listen to.

14 JOHN COLTRANE
A Love Supreme: Live In Seattle
IMPULSE!

Like all masterpieces, A Love Supreme feels a bit like a sacred text carved in stone. But for the ever-restless Coltrane it was just a brief stop on the way to somewhere else. On the rare occasions it was revisited live – as on this astonishing discovery from late 1965 – it was in a radically different form: stormier, wilder, and with the addition of a significant new collaborator, the free spirit Pharoah Sanders.

13 SUN RA
Lanquidity Definitive Edition
STRUT

Sun Ra’s sprawling discography can seem daunting, but this 1978 effort would be a good place to start. Lanquidity is his mellowest and most accessible offering, but there’s still plenty of trademark celestial roaming. This ‘Definitive Edition’ added an entire album of alternate versions, including four extra minutes of the luscious “That’s How I Feel”.

12 THE WHO
Sell Out Super Deluxe Edition
UMC/POLYDOR

Maximalised mod! This hefty package celebrates The Who’s 1967 pop-art experiment, capturing the band as they transition from power pop to rock opera. Alongside various mono and stereo mixes and studio offcuts, a fifth disc collects Pete Townshend’s scratchy, awkward solo demos, locating the source of Townshend’s increasingly ambitious plans for the band as his own creative powers fully come into focus.

11 FAUST
1971–1974
BUREAU B

Faust’s always been tricky to get a handle on Faust, krautrock’s surreal tricksters, as happy with cut-up musique concrète as tender balladry, often within the same song. 1971–1974 collects their prime-era work, from the self-titled debut to Faust IV, throwing in extra tracks and a whole unreleased album, Punkt, for good measure. The box might not unlock the collective’s inherent mystery, but it certainly presents an incredible, endlessly fascinating body of work.

10 VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR
The Charisma Years 1970–1978
VIRGIN

Light on unheard material, but heavy in almost every other way, this CD boxset compiled the unique work of Peter Hammill’s band in their first iteration. From early prog folk to the supremely ambitious Pawn Hearts, then onwards with the driving, stripped-down Godbluff, The Charisma Years collected a labyrinthine world in which to get lost. Difficult, perhaps, but worth the trip.

9 SPIRITUALIZED
Lazer Guided Melodies
FAT POSSUM

Clearing the decks for a new album in February, Jason Pierce reissued Spiritualized’s first four albums in deluxe vinyl editions with new artwork, giving us the chance to wallow afresh. And while Ladies And Gentlemen… and Let It Come Down remain his most staggering realisations of ambition over ability, it was all there on the band’s 1992 debut of sublime gospel-drone and garage-rock absolution.

8 THE BEATLES
Let It Be Special Edition
APPLE CORPS LTD/CAPITOL/UME

As with its original 1970 release, this reissue of The Beatles’ swan song proved to be too big for just an album: it came accompanied by Peter Jackson’s three-part documentary and a coffee-table book. This box set drilled down deep into the music, via remixes, rehearsal tapes and jams. What they often reveal is a band trying to figure out a musical future; that they didn’t shouldn’t eclipse the frequent brilliance on display here.

7 BOB DYLAN
Springtime In New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol 16 (1980-1985)
COLUMBIA/LEGACY

Amidst his Shadow Kingdom livestream, an Uncut covers CD and his 80th birthday, the Bard Of Hibbing also found time to mark the 30th anniversary of his storied archival programme. This instalment shed light on Dylan’s maligned ’80s – the period from Shot Of Love, Infidels and Empire Burlesque, in other words – via revelatory outtakes and new mixes. Another essential Bootleg release, then.

6 GEORGE HARRISON
All Things Must Pass: 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
CAPITOL/UME

It wasn’t de-Spectorised, exactly, but the fog did lift a little on this box celebrating arguably the greatest Beatle solo LP. Harrison’s vocals are clearer than ever on these many-layered (and, indeed, many) songs of devotion, desire and pain, while the extra discs elevate folky, soulful and jammy session highlights from bootleg hiss to hi-fi enlightenment. A deep set for a deep album – even if its remixing has proved controversial for those enamoured by the murky original.

5 LAURA NYRO
American Dreamer
MADFISH

Lavish 8CD boxset that finally allowed the extraordinarily talented – but all-too-often overlooked – singer-songwriter to take her rightful place at the top table between Aretha and Joni. There were riches everywhere, from the soulful opulence of Gonna Take A Miracle to the stripped-back bluesy longing of New York Tendaberry, plus a disc of rarities, live tracks and fascinating demos.

4 ALICE COLTRANE
Kirtan: Turiya Sings
IMPULSE! /UME

A companion piece to Luaka Bop’s 2017 compilation The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, Kirtan: Turiya Sings collects Coltane’s ashram consciousness-expanding recordings. Here the concentration is on solo songs, stripped of the strings and synthesisers from their original incarnations, leaving just Coltrane’s voice and her Wurlitzer organ. The beauty of Coltrane’s work, and the way she could transform a personal system of belief into the highest accessible art, remains striking.

3 JONI MITCHELL
The Reprise Albums 1968–1971
RHINO

An album as beloved as Blue deserved two Golden Jubilee releases. In June, a vinyl box brought together Mitchell’s first four studio albums, followed in October by Archives Vol 2: The Reprise Years (1968–1971). It’s hard to top Blue, of course, but this second release yielded a trove of home recordings and live cuts, fleshing out Mitchell’s working processes and contextualising her performance skills during this critical period.

2 THE BEACH BOYS
Feel Flows
The Sunflower And Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971
CAPITOL/UME

This weighty boxset uncovered the full extent of a wonderfully fertile transitional period for “America’s Top Surfin’ Group” as they rose to meet the challenges of the ’70s. Across five CDs, these live cuts, outtakes, demos, alternate mixes and isolated backing tracks demonstrated the full extent of The Beach Boys’ endeavours at a critical point in their history.

1 CAN
Live In Stuttgart 1975
SPOON/MUTE

For a band whose legendary propulsion derived from the almost telepathic interplay between its four main instrumentalists, it’s odd that an official single-show Can live album has never existed… until now. Live In Stuttgart 1975 is just the beginning of a whole Can Live series, for which we can thank bootlegger extraordinaire Andrew Hall, who recorded many Can shows in the mid-’70s with AKG mics concealed up the sleeves of his dufflecoat; when the band eventually rumbled this practice, rather than kick him out they invited him up to the sound console for improved fidelity. Sometimes Holger Czukay would even send Hall his own mixing desk recordings, including this one from Stuttgart’s Gustav-Siegle-Haus on Halloween night 1975.

Buffed up by Irmin Schmidt and long-time Can sound engineer René Tinner, the contents are a revelation – somewhat familiar but also brand new. Is that the “Vitamin C” drum shuffle? The bassline from “Mushroom”?  A snatch of “Dizzy Dizzy”? A faint premonition of “I Want More”? All those suggestions seem to quickly crest and fade within the music’s relentless tide, and pretty soon it makes a lot more sense to stop playing spot the riff and just go with the flow (motion). “Zwei” is loosely based on parts of “Bel Air” from Future Days, emphasising the divergence between Can the studio band – who would regularly splice together sections from various different jams – and Can the live band, who would keep forcefully excavating the same idea in a more direct and muscular fashion. On record, Michael Karoli’s wailing guitar heroics are sometimes buried in (or edited out of) the mix, whereas here he’s given free rein to spray all over the canvas. And while Jaki Liebzeit’s rhythmic stamina was previously evident only in glimpses, on Stuttgart 75 you get the full picture as he rattles on unrelentingly for the full 90 minutes.

Some of the drum patterns he conjures up are almost superhuman, but he never stops to bask in applause; a quick breath, then onward towards the horizon. The next instalment of the series is Live In Brighton 1975, due for release in December. Occurring just three weeks after Stuttgart, the set is almost completely different. For Can fans – which these days seems to mean everyone with more than a passing interest in music – the journey is just beginning…

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