Hudson's Best of 2011, Pt. 1: Reissues and Live Albums
1. Rolling Stones, Some Girls. You never forget your first. Some Girls isn't my favorite Stones album, but it was the one that took my Mick/Keith virginity. Almost everything that has musically happened to me since then can be traced to this Budget Tapes and Records purchase. This year's reissue adds a bonus disc of a dozen more tunes, and unlike most of these types of releases there isn't that much of a drop in quality in the outtakes (there's actually dozens of other tunes that could have been included).
2. The Kinks Reissues. Yes, the Kinks catalog has been reissued even more than Elvis Costello's. Yes, I have multiple copies of each of these albums, but these are the definitive versions of their 60's releases. Besides both mono and stereo versions of each album, the discs are filled with outtakes, demos, and BBC sessions, all wonderfully remastered by producer Andrew Sandoval.
3. The Jayhawks Reissues. Two of Americana's greatest albums, Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass, get the expanded reissue/remastering treatment. Tomorrow is the highlight of the two, with an extra disc of previously unreleased demos.
4. Archers of Loaf, Icky Mettle. A true underrated classic - one of the greatest college rock albums of the 90's - gets the double disc treatment. I loved it then; I love it even more now.
5. R.E.M., Life's Rich Pageant. R.E.M.'s fourth full-length album marks a pivotal point in the band's history, as Peter Buck's jangly guitar is replaced by power chords and Michael Stipe's vocals are pushed higher into the mix. This is also one of their most underrated albums, and a second disc of demos makes this essential to any fan.
6. The Beach Boys, The Smile Sessions. Forty-five years after the recording sessions a version of the infamous Smile has finally been released. Is this what Brian Wilson intended? I doubt if even he knows at this point, and while it's not quite the classic that could have changed the music landscape it is still an interesting curio of the era.
7. Crass Reissues. There's certainly something odd about the idea of expanded reissues of the Crass catalog. After all, they were anti-capitalist anarcho-punks; the original D.I.Y. punks (or close to it). I'm shocked at how great these low-fi albums sound over 30 years later, and anybody who calls themselves a punk should spend some time with these recordings.
8. Nick Cave Reissues. Cave's more recent albums were given the remaster/remix treatment, and since they all made my recent end-of-year lists it's automatic they're included here.
9. Nirvana, Nevermind. 20 years ago Nirvana changed the way radio AND record companies did business, and although they took back control by the end of the 90's there was a time when we all had a glimmer of hope. This box set includes tons of previously unreleased goodies, including an "unpolished" version of the album and a blistering concert recorded in Seattle.
10. The Jesus and Mary Chain Reissues. Like most of this list, the entire catalog gets the double disc treatment. Like most of this list, they're all essential.
11. The Who, Quadrophenia. The last great Who album gets the box set treatment, although for the price Townshend is a bit stingy with the extras. You get the original double disc set plus two discs of demos, and a surround sound version of about half of the album. Oh yeah, and a book. For over $150. They wonder why people download.
12. Giant Sand Reissues. Over the next couple of years, over two dozen albums by Howe Gelb and his Giant Sand collective will be reissued with bonus tracks. Few people need the entire catalog, but Chore of Enchantment, Black Out, and Valley of Rain are among some of the albums worth checking out.
13. Johnny Cash, The Bootleg Series. Another year, another set of "new" Johnny Cash releases. This year saw three double disc sets of previously unreleased material, and honestly they're all worth owning. The first two volumes consist of demos and outtakes, while volume three is live recordings from such settings as the Newport Folk Festival, Vietnam, and a special concert for President Richard Nixon(!).
14. Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here. I'm no fan of post-Barrett Pink Floyd...except for this one. While the rest of the world went nuts over expanded versions of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, this is the album I was waiting for.
15. Graham Parker, The Bootleg Series. Parker self-released his own bootleg series this year with two five-disc boxes of concert recordings spanning his entire career.
1. Rolling Stones, Some Girls Live in Texas '78
2. Rolling Stones, Brussels Affair. Despite their well-known love for money, the Stones have always resisted raiding the vaults for new product. Yet in the last two years we've seen expanded versions of two albums...and now these live releases. Some Girls Live in Texas is a blistering show that's heavy on SG material and light on "greatest hits", and as many have noted this was their "last great tour". Brussels Affair is one of the great Stones bootlegs, and producer Bob Clearmountain spent some time remixing it before allowing Google Music to sneak it into their store with little fanfare. It's only five bucks so nab it now!
3. Rhett Miller, The Interpreter Live At Largo. Now this is a fun release. Instead of the usual mix of solo and Old 97's tunes, this live album consists of nothing but covers. Wave of Mutilation as an acoustic track? American Girl? Brilliant Mistake? Waterloo Sunset? Oh yes, I'm there.
4. The Stooges, Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans. There was admittedly a deluge of live Iggy releases this year, including a box set of recordings from his entire career. I'll give the edge to this CD/DVD of the entire Raw Power album, recorded at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in September 2010.
5. The Cure, Bestival Live 2011. Although The Cure have a number of live albums, this is the first that has been an entire performance from beginning to end. I doubt that many people in the early 80's would have predicted that Robert Smith would still be donning the lipstick and poofy hair 30 years later, but it still works for him.