Sunday, January 14, 2007

Albums: Top 5 Compilations & Reissues

One more time

As much as it pains me to say so, I love reissues. They are the double edged sword of the music world, of course: on the one hand, they often serve to introduce you to obscure, heretofore unheard sounds; on the other, you wind up paying for the same stuff again, only with more laudatory liner notes and slightly cleaned-up sound.

Regardless! My top pick only serves to reinforce what the music suits obviously know by now: that if Coltrane’s name is on it, I’ll buy it. But I stand by the choice, as it’s a fantastic collection of his Prestige recordings (and it’s available on eMusic).

As for R.E.M., the single disc edition of …And I Feel Fine hardly makes it worth replacing your old copy of Eponymous (though I probably would have anyway), unless you’re an audiophile. But the limited edition second disc collects the band members’ picks for songs that should have made disc 1, as well as live and rare stuff. The live version of “Life and How to Live It” makes it worth the slightly inflated purchase price, in my opinion.

The Rhino What it Is! set is an example of the best the Compilation/Reissue category has to offer, namely a ton of great music I almost certainly wouldn’t hear otherwise (short of some serious crate-digging). And those extensive liner notes – God Bless Rhino.

The Bobby Hutcherson is a recent favourite among the always-reliable Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note reissues. Too few of the vibraphonist’s leader recordings are readily available (the essential Dialogue, another RVG salvage project, being a happy exception), but this one, featuring Herbie Hancock (p), Bob Cranshaw (b) and Joe Chambers (d), is a nice addition to the catalogue.

The Matthew Sweet reissue is, of course, an obvious cash-grab on the part of Universal of the sort I tend to curse when the subject of the exercise isn’t an artist in my personal pantheon. When it comes to Girlfriend, though, as with Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, which received the Deluxe Edition treatment a few years ago (and I already had those “exclusive” live recordings as bootlegs!), I’m pretty much powerless to resist.

1. John Coltrane, Fearless Leader (Prestige Recordings)

2. R.E.M., And I Feel Fine…: The Best of the I.R.S. Years, 1982-1987 [2 disc Ltd. Ed.]

3. Various Artists, What It Is: Funky Soul and Rare Grooves, 1967-1977

4. Bobby Hutcherson, Happenings (RVG Edition)

5. Matthew Sweet, Girlfriend (Deluxe Edition)

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