The Ledge #598: Best Reissues, Compilations, etc. of 2023

It's the time of year for everybody to unveil their various lists of the best records of the year, so here is the unveiling of the first part of my lists. This week's show features a countdown of my 20 favorite reissues, box sets, live albums, compilations, and tribute albums of 2023. Look for a similar countdown of my 40 favorite new albums of the year in two weeks.

But that doesn't mean we're ignoring the "52 Weeks of Teenage Kicks" series. Once again, we're opening and closing the show with covers of the classic. The opening version is by Superchunk leader Mac McCaughan, recorded live on May 16, 2015. The closing remake is by a Canadian band called 63 Monroe who released a couple of EP's and singles back in the early 80's.

Like I do every week, however, I must again plead with y'all for more versions of "Teenage Kicks". If you are a musician, or have any contact with artists that could record their own take on the classic, please contact me!

20. Various Artists, Blank Generation: A Story Of U.S./Canadian Punk & Its Aftershocks 1975-1981. Cherry Red Records, along with its affiliate label, Grapefruit Records, continues to put out themed box sets dedicated to genre, location, era and/or any other possible way to combine both obvious and obscure tunes. This list could have included as many as five of these sorts of compilations, but I’ll always pick a set that includes Minneapolis faves like Curtiss A and The Suburbs.

19. Sonic Youth, Live In Brooklyn, NY. Simply put, this record is a document of the historic band’s final show in 2011, and includes songs from every aspect of their career.

18. Iggy & The Stooges, Raw Power (50th Anniversary Legacy Edition). The Stooges were never happy with David Bowie’s mix of their legendary third album. Iggy Pop attempted to “fix” it with his own mix 20 years later. This box combines both mixes, along with another disc of outtakes and demos. 

17. The Dream Syndicate, History Kinda Pales When It and You Are Aligned: The Days of Wine and Roses 40th Anniversary Edition. Arguably the greatest album of the “Paisley Underground”, this box seemingly includes every second of tape rolled during the creation of The Days of Wine and Roses. And it’s all worth hearing.

16. Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense. Watching the 4k restoration of arguably the greatest concert movie of all time was a wonderful moment for me, and this reissue that for the first time includes the entire performance reminded me of just how much I loved this band.

15. The Who, Who’s Next Life House. The long journey traveled by Pete Townshend and the rest of The Who that led to their masterpiece, Who’s Next, has been the subject of many books and magazine articles. This massive box attempts to tell that story. Originally designed as a concept album called Lifehouse, this box goes from Townshend demos to early recordings to the finished product, with a couple of live shows as a lengthy coda.

13. Various Artists, Goo Goo Muck - A Tribute To The Cramps/Various Artists, Jem Records Celebrates Ray Davies. (tie) Tribute records saw a bit of a comeback in 2023, highlighted by these compilations celebrating The Cramps and Ray Davies of The Kinks.

12. Exploding Hearts, Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remixed). The Exploding Hearts were all set up to be the next great punk-inspired power pop band when a vehicle accident tragically killed three members of the band. Twenty years later, the master tapes of their one official album, Guitar Romantic, have been restored, along with the addition of a couple of recently-discovered outtakes

11. The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sunset 666 (Live at Hollywood Palladium). A great live album by a great band. I mean, what more can be said?

10. The Ramones, Pleasant Dreams (The New York Mixes). When the sixth Ramones album, Pleasant Dreams, was released in 1981, many noted that the band’s sound was a bit muted due to its glossy production. This Record Store Day release of an earlier mix does away with much of that muck, focusing instead on the band’s patented raw sound.

9. Husker Du, Tonite Longhorn. Minneapolis’ second greatest band of the 80’s sees a compilation of early shows at the legendary Longhorn released as a special Record Store Day release. While the band is clearly still finding their legs, there are moments that seem to indicate that there is something special about this young trio.

8. Various Artists, Nuggets. The greatest 60’s garage rock compilation gets an expanded look to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and it sounds as fresh today as it did in 1974.

7. Cat Power, Cat Power Sings Dylan: The 1966 Royal Albert Hall Concert). What an audacious move. Cat Power decided to recreate the infamous 1966 “Dylan at Royal Albert Hall” at that very venue (although that famous bootleg was actually recorded in Manchester). It’s to Cat Power’s credit that this experiment actually worked. No, her band is not quite as fiery as The Band was for Dylan, but she powers through both the acoustic and electric sections with gusto.

6. Bob Dylan, Fragments - Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997). It was a great year for Bob Dylan fans, as there were three different releases to pour through. Besides an official release of the Covid-era online concert he put on in 2021, “bootleg series” boxes also arrived focused on the controversial “Budokan” shows of 1978, and the recording sessions that led to 1998’s Time Out of Mind, my favorite of the three releases.

5. Various Artists, An International Tribute To The Muffs. Everyone misses Muffs leader Kim Shattuck, as this digital-only tribute proves.

4. The Feelies, Some Kinda Love: Performing The Music Of The Velvet Underground. Seemingly every alternative or indie band of the last 50 years has recorded a Velvet Underground song at some point in their career. For this record, The Feelies put together a live show of nothing but VU tracks. What makes this project work, though, is the simple fact that The Feelies have utilized every aspect of the band’s sound. The bombast is there when necessary, but the subtle idiosyncrasies are not ignored.

3. Superchunk, Misfits & Mistakes: Singles, B-sides & Strays 2007-2023. Besides a catalog of always-awesome full-length albums, Superchunk has regularly released a ton of one-off singles with multiple b-sides, along with regular contributions to various compilations. This box set compiles all of these “strays” from the past 16 years, and the quality of the vast majority of these tracks is spot on with those featured on their albums.

2. The Beatles, 1962-66/1967-70. I’m not even going to try to understand the wizardry that director Peter Jackson created for the Get Back documentary, but that technology is now being utilized to separate the instrumentation of all the old Beatles’ hits. These old songs have never sounded so great.

1. The Replacements, Tim (Let It Bleed Edition). For close to 30 years, I’ve always felt that while Let It Be was the better album, Tim had the best songs. The difference was the production. Let It Be showcased the band’s powerful, punchy sound. Tim’s production and mix was murky at best. For the latest box set, legendary producer Ed Stasium was brought in to fix the wrongs of the original album, and the results are revelatory. Tim is now the album it should have been in 1986. The guitars are explosive; little fills and additional instrumentation can now be heard. Add to that a disc of outtakes and an incendiary live performance, and you have the perfect box set.

Here are the tracks aired to represent these 20 picks:

1. Mac McCaughan - Teenage Kicks 

2. Replacements - I'm In Trouble

3. Curtiss A - I Don't Want To Be President

4. Embarrassment - Sex Drive

5. Crime - Hot Wire My Heart

6. Sonic Youth - Sugar Kane (Live in Brooklyn, Ny)

7. Iggy & The Stooges - I Got a Right (Outtake from Early Aborted Raw Power Session)

8. The Dream Syndicate - That's What You Always Say

9. Talking Heads - Thank You for Sending Me an Angel (Live) (2023 Remaster)

10. The Who - Pure And Easy (Lifehouse Chronicles / Home Studio Mix)

11. Nick Piunti - Til The End of The Day

12. The Brains / Rezurex - Goo Goo Muck

13. The Exploding Hearts - Modern Kicks (2023 Remaster)

14. The Jesus And Mary Chain - Sometimes Always (feat. Isobel Campbell)

15. The Ramones - I Can't Get You Out Of My Mind

16. Hüsker Dü - Statues

17. The Litter - Action Woman

18. Chocolate Watch Band - Let's Talk About Girls

19. The Lollipop Shoppe - You Must Be A Witch

20. Evil - Whatcha Gonna Do About It

21. Cat Power - Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 

22. Bob Dylan - Not Dark Yet (Version 2)

23. Geoff Palmer - Big Mouth

24. The Feelies - Sweet Jane

25. Superchunk - Learned to Surf

26. The Beatles - Day Tripper (2023 Mix)

27. The Replacements - Left of the Dial (Ed Stasium Mix)

28. The Replacements - Nowhere Is My Home (Alternate Mix)

29. The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait (Electric Demo) (Alternate Mix)

30. The Replacements - Color Me Impressed (Live at the Cabaret Metro, Chicago, IL, 1/11/86)

31. 63 Monroe - Teenage Kicks


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