30 DAVID BOWIE
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Ziggy’s 50th birthday saw a riot of celebrations, from international cosplay fan conventions to Barbie special editions and Brett Morgan’s kaleidoscopic biopic Moonage Daydream. But the flash and bang of glam would have gone nowhere without the tunes, as this half-speed vinyl remaster amply demonstrated, reminding us of how Bowie fused Judy Garland, Lou Reed and the Legendary Stardust Cowboy to kickstart the 21st century from the back streets of Beckenham, 1972.
Live In Cuxhaven
Compared with the sprawling sets captured on the first two archival releases in Mute’s Can live series, the third instalment was almost shockingly concise at 30 minutes. This performance in Cuxhaven, Germany, also documented a later stage in the band’s trajectory, the music here less evocative of the mantric grooves of mid-’70s albums like Soon Over Babaluma than it was of the funk and Afrobeat influences that came to the fore later in the decade.
28 ARTHUR RUSSELL
Calling Out Of Context/Instrumentals
Welcome reissue of two posthumous compilations that first brought the full scope of Russell’s singular output to wider attention. Calling Out Of Context showcased his knack for spry outsider pop, accompanying himself on keyboard, cello and drum machine. Instrumentals leaned more towards minimalist composition, but still infused with a rare, innocent wonder.
27 FERKAT AL ARD
A couple of years ago, Habibi Funk reissued a fine solo album by Beirut’s Issam Hajali – but this 1978 follow-up with his band Ferkat Al Ard was something else again. Recorded at the height of the Lebanese civil war, it transmitted a deep sense of longing for a better world via richly orchestrated songs that seemed to combine baroque pop, Tropicália and Arabic jazz.
26 DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS
Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded
UMC – MERCURY
Let’s make this precious! Having twice before revisited Don’t Stand Me Down, Kevin Rowland now presided over a “director’s cut” of Dexys’ 1982 opus. Rowland’s plan, it transpired, was to reframe specific moments – backing vocals brought down an octave, a female speaking role replaced by Rowland, a trombone instead of a pennywhistle – as well as a general clean-up that added warmth and intimacy to their creator’s Celtic soul vision.
25 DAVID MICHAEL MOORE
Flatboat River Witch 1994 – 2015
Where was this guy hiding all these years? In the heart of Delta blues country as it turned out, making cosmic, zydeco-infused folk-jazz on a range of homemade instruments including the “schizoid zither” and the “dogbone xylophone”. As a result, his music sometimes had an outsider-ish, Moondog quality. But when he sang it was in a warm, raconteurial style redolent of JJ Cale and Kurt Wagner. Heartily recommended.
24 SON HOUSE
Forever On My Mind
EASY EYE SOUND/CONCORD
These recordings came from a private collection of quarter- inch tapes made by House’s one-time manager, Dick Waterman, during the 1960s. Assiduously curated by Black Key Dan Auerbach, they captured the Delta blues titan at the peak of his abilities, delivering songs that showcased his emotive vocals and his dextrous, emphatic bottleneck style of guitar playing, preserving House’s repertoire as part of vital historical record.
23 ROXY MUSIC
For Your Pleasure
All of Roxy’s albums were reissued as half-speed masters this year, yet it was hard to beat the first two, released as a pair on April Fools’ Day. While the self-titled debut was a ragged explosion of inspiration, especially on the careening, postmodern glory of “Re-Make/Re-Model” and the lunar balladry of “Ladytron”, For Your Pleasure was, from the opening “Do The Strand” to its diffuse, Eno-fied title track, the very epitome of stylish British art-rock.
The intervening three decades since Ride’s first trio of EPs have seen the Oxford quartet go from floppy-fringed inky darlings to respected elder statesmen, whose legacy increasingly owes more to their songcraft than their sonics. This compilation of their first four 12” EPs, however, reminded us of their breakthrough at the start of the ’90s, where their meticulously textured noise located them at the more accessible end of the shoegaze spectrum.
21 NORMA TANEGA
I’m The Sky: Studio And Demo Recordings 1974–1971
It’s been rewarding to observe, over the past half decade, blossoming interest in the songs and life of Norma Tanega. Her body of work was slight – two solo albums, plus a third, unreleased – but as this anthology confirmed, there was a lot there: an elliptical writer, with songs that mosey and meander, her tenderness and grasp of melody was nonetheless effortless.
20 PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION
Working through the slew of official Prince releases over the last few years has often felt like a daunting prospect. Fortunately, this live set from the Purple Rain tour needed little introduction. Now in its fourth edition – following VHS (1985), DVD (2017) and digital (2020) – this latest release on vinyl or CD captured Prince and his fêted backing band at the peak of their powers, climaxing with an 18-minute “Purple Rain”. A potent, exhilarating set.
19 FRANK SINATRA
On its release in 1970, Watertown’s sales were considered so disastrous that the setback briefly prompted Sinatra to retire. But over the decades this brilliantly mordant concept album about an abandoned single dad stuck in the sticks, written with Bob Gaudio from The Four Seasons, has gathered a burgeoning cult fanbase, and it received a luxurious 50th-anniversary remaster and reissue this year, complete with unheard session tracks and a couple of radio ads, trying to forlornly find an audience for a resolutely unclassifiable masterpiece.
Pulse Of The Early Brain [Switched On Volume 5]
DUOPHONIC UHF DISKS
It’s testament to the breadth and quality of the ’Lab’s output that this fifth compendium of non-album tracks was still turning up tunes as strong as “Magne-Music” and “The Nth Degrees”, not to mention the slamming Autechre remix of “Refractions In The Plastic Pulse” and a pair of gloriously discombobulating Nurse With Wound collabs. Surely a new album is next?
17 HAROLD BUDD
The Pavilion Of Dreams
A useful companion release to Eno’s ongoing reissue programme, this 1978 album – produced by Eno for his own Obscure imprint – found the West Coast avant-gardist sloughing off his past in favour of abstract forms of musical expressionism. Aided by fellow Obscure cohorts Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman, Budd devised an enduring minimalist masterpiece, receiving a vinyl reissue here for the first time.
16 BRANKO MATAJA
Over Fields And Mountains
Born in 1923, this Yugoslavian guitarist and luthier ended up in Hollywood, where he built guitars and recorded his own versions of the folk songs of his childhood land, unheralded as an artist in his lifetime. This first compilation of his wildly inventive work, however, revealed it to be strikingly ahead of its time, with the likes of “Duboko Je More” delay-drenched instrumentals that deserve to stand alongside the work of Eno, Lee Perry and Vini Reilly.
15 VARIOUS ARTISTS
Gotta Get A Good Thing Goin’: The Music Of Black Britain In The Sixties
This diverse, long overdue 4-disc set documented the musical impact of post-war Caribbean and African immigration on Britain in the ’60s, from Winifred Atwell to The Foundations, via ska, R&B, doo-wop and jazz, also finding space to include the African Americans who moved to London in the late ’50s and 1960s. Throughout, the stories of the players proved as compelling as the music itself.
14 NANCY SINATRA & LEE HAZLEWOOD
Nancy & Lee
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC
Remarkably it took until 2022 to see the first official reissue of this 1968 high-water mark of screwball pop, the album where eternal maverick Lee Hazlewood found his truest muse in Nancy Sinatra, finally hit paydirt and, in “Summer Wine” and “Some Velvet Morning”, composed two of the strangest, most sublime pop songs to ever hit the Billboard charts. Though the reissue appends just two bonus tracks, it’s a fine new edition of an enduring classic.
13 JONI MITCHELL
The Asylum Albums (1972–1975)
After the bittersweet success of Blue, Mitchell edged away from the spotlight to find new ways of working. As collected here, the run of albums from For The Roses to The Hissing Of Summer Lawns found Mitchell discard folky introspection for jazz – a creative environment at once progressive and changeable, digging deeper into less explored territory, with shifting time signatures, unexpected instrumentation and more complex harmonies.
12 DAVID BOWIE
As this month’s cover feature makes abundantly clear, there were many jewels to be found in this deep dive into Bowie’s pivotal 1971, of which Hunky Dory itself was only part of the story. A trove of demos, live recordings, notebooks, radio sessions and alternate versions that illuminated the inner workings as Bowie began his ascent to superstardom, it left us hoping that similar archaeological explorations of his storied ’70s albums will follow.
11 MAVIS STAPLES & LEVON HELM
Carry Me Home
Recorded at Helm’s Woodstock barn during summer 2011, this run through songs by Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Nina Simone and others was a joyful affair. That these turned out to be Helm’s final recordings before his death adds a particular poignancy – especially during closer “The Weight”, which recalled their showstopping performance in The Last Waltz. A truly wonderful record: you might well wish they’d made more music together.
Terror Twilight: Farewell Horizontal
“Let’s lethalise our slingshots and swallow propane…” To tee up their latest reunion jaunt, Pavement reissued their underrated final album, restoring producer Nigel Godrich’s favoured tracklisting – gnarly jams on Side 1, wistful jangles on Side 2 – and adding three LPs of extra tracks, including impish Southern rocker “Be The Hook”.
9 THE CURE
In the absence of a new studio album from Robert Smith and his cohorts, perhaps the next best thing: a bells-and-whistles deluxe edition of one of their most successful records, augmented by no fewer than 24 unreleased tracks. While the full package reflected the depth of Smith’s songwriting – then enjoying a 12-year-long streak that began with Seventeen Seconds – Wish itself proved remarkably durable: the perfect mix of the band’s trademark light and shade.
8 T. REX
Bolan’s annus mirabilis at length, via studio recordings, radio sessions, live performances and more. If there was any doubt that this was Bolan’s year – despite stiff competition from Bowie, Roxy et al – the Wembley Empire Pool show, included here, caught T.Rextasy at its glorious peak, underscoring the band’s formidable gifts, all rhythm section, as resourceful as they were mighty.
Against The Odds 1974–1982
UME/THE NUMERO GROUP
Long delayed, this deep survey of Blondie’s golden years – covering their formation in 1974 to their hiatus in 1982 – doubled as a shadow history of New York’s creative heyday, ranging from ’60s girl group covers to outer-boroughs garage rock, Bowery punk to Studio 54 swank. Aided by copious demos and liner notes that proved as revelatory as the remastered studio albums, this showed that there was far more to Blondie than the hits.
Mother Is The Milky Way
Among a brace of Broadcast rarities reissued this year – also including a BBC sessions set and the Microtonics volumes – came Mother Is The Milky Way, originally issued in 2009 as a tour-only CD and, it transpired, Broadcast’s final release before Trish Keenan’s passing in 2011. An otherworldly suite, comprised of tripped-out field recordings, drones and spectral psych-folk, you couldn’t help but wonder where Keenan and James Cargill were heading next.
5 NEIL YOUNG WITH CRAZY HORSE
Sandwiched between two albums from the current Crazy Horse – Barn and World Record – came this mythic ‘lost’ album from 2000. Abandoned at the time, Toast finally emerged as one of its creator’s most fascinating 20th-century projects. There were rowdy, classic Poncho-era Horse jams, but also melodic, meditative grooves and flashes of unexpected candour: “If I could just live my life / As easy as a song / I’d wake up someday / And the pain will all be gone”.
4 THE BEATLES
APPLE CORPS LTD/CAPITOL/UME
Although the Fabs’ landmark album hardly needed improvements, this remixed special edition certainly presented it in a fresh way. That was mostly down to cutting-edge AI tech, separating instruments that had been conjoined since the tapes ran in Abbey Road. The usual selection of rarities also helped us understand this triumph a little better.
3 LOU REED
Words & Music
LIGHT IN THE ATTIC
The Velvet Underground And Nico was such a Year Zero moment that it’s hard to imagine its dissolute dispatches pre-existing as folky, Dylanesque strums. And yet here they were two years ahead of time, wisely copyrighted by a surprisingly giggly Lou Reed and his future VU conspirator John Cale, along with a number of previously unheard songs. Revelatory.
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Twenty years on, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot still commands a critical place in Wilco’s complex mythology, even as the band themselves have continued to expand their parameters. Fittingly, then, this comprehensive box presented different iterations of the songs – live, demo, session – that reinforced the durability of this groundbreaking work. A CD compiled exclusively for Uncut’s September 2022 issue brought together some of the highlights.
Neu! – 50!
In 2019, Michael Rother attempted to explain the secrets of Neu! to Uncut’s Tom Pinnock. “Creating beauty out of pain, that’s the story,” he concluded. “We started slow, but we always went wild!” The pain, of course, came from Rother’s fraught relationship with his creative partner, Klaus Dinger: two very different personalities (Rother: urbane technocrat, Dinger: hirsute wildman). Nevertheless, the tension between the pair – birthed during their brief time in Kraftwerk in 1971 and persisting until Dinger’s death in 2008 – was always strikingly at odds with the harmonious music for which Neu! became renowned.
Inevitably, Neu! were never destined to enjoy a long career: their output totalled four studio albums. Yet this slender body of work has proven musically robust, much as Neu!’s influence has increased. This 50th anniversary boxset assembles the band’s studio releases – the Neu! 86 album appears only on the CD version, however – alongside a newly commissioned album of remixes by admirers ranging from New Order to Mogwai and The National. Unlike the 2010 vinyl box – which included all four studio albums as well as a 1972 live set – Neu! 50! opted instead to focus on the band’s core legacy. The box, of course, still begins with their first LP from 1972, and with the effortlessly propulsive opening track, “Hallogallo” – the very definition of pristine motorik that Neu!’s work was associated with. But listening to the music gathered on Neu! 50!, a more complex picture emerged. The revelations of “Hallogallo” were immediately followed by the incorporeal squelch and fuzz of “Sonderangebot” and the pastoral psychedelia of “Weissensee”.
Further on into their career, the glam stomp of Neu! 2’s “Super” or the kosmische drift of “Seeland” and the proto-punk howls on “Hero” – both from Neu! 75 – reveal the wide creative distance travelled by Rother and Dinger. Certainly, the exceptional Neu! 75 showed how successfully Rother and Dinger could compete in an increasingly busy field, where Can and Kraftwerk had taken German music in new directions yet again, this time with Future Days (1973) and Autobahn (1974), while Brian Eno’s Another Green World (1975) seemed to double down on some of Rother’s ambient diversions. For its part, the remix album was a solid tribute – come for Stephen Morris’ sprightly take on “Hallogallo” and stay for Idles’ monolithic reworking of “Negativland” – but the main event was these three enduring studio albums. Spitzenqualität, then, by any standards.