Last week we put up a list of our favorite records of 2017 so far. This week we continue the list-making with our favorite reissues of the year. These titles, for the most part, are available in our brick-and-mortar shop in Oxford as well as online.
In no particular order:
Alice Coltrane The Ecstatic World of… (Luaka Bop)
“Coltrane self-released the songs on cassette, producing only a few hundred copies of each for ashram members: 1982’s Turiya Sings, 1987’s Divine Songs, 1990’s Infinite Chants, and 1995’s Glorious Chants. Turiya Sings—the finest among them, with appealingly distant strings, as if Coltrane were mystically levitating above her lo-fi arrangements—marked the first time she sang on tape (because, she said, God had asked her to). Made with the humble intentions of nourishing her community, Coltrane’s ashram music was naturally lost in time.
With the Luaka Bop label’s Ecstatic Music compilation, selections from the tapes are widely available at last. These sublime ensemble recordings reflect not just the result but the process of deep enlightenment. Coltrane, performing with ashram members, illuminates Hindu devotionals with meditative Indian instrumentation, a sparkling Oberheim OB-8 synthesizer, droning Wurlitzer lines, and full-bodied singing evoking the Detroit church choirs of her youth. This was one of the greatest composers of the 20th century bringing a completely unusual confluence of experience (classical training, Baptist church playing, jazz, improv) to prayer songs worshipping Krishna and Rama. With their widened musical scope, they feel more like prayers for humanity.” – Pitchfork Best New Music
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds Lovely Creatures (Mute)
“A grand sweep of material that shows their evolutionary flights and remarkable consistency.” – MOJO
“The 45 songs, presented chronologically, exhibit a somewhat expected musical maturing–from the raw piano attack of 1984’s “From Her to Eternity” through to 2013’s contemplative mantra “Push the Sky Away.” … It’s the DVD, which jumps around in time, and includes both professionally shot official concert footage and fuzzy bootleg gems, that’s the prize here.” – Exclaim
“Compiled by Nick Cave and founding member Mick Harvey, the three-disc editions offer 45 tracks to explore the thrilling journey of one of the planet’s most uncompromising and enigmatic groups. All your standards are here.” -Clash Music
The Creation Action Painting (Numero)
“We were supporting The Walker Brothers on a string of dates around the UK,” recalled Creation guitarist Eddie Phillips. “We had just recorded ‘Painter Man’ and were really excited about it, and wanted to make it the central focus of our live performance. We were in the van, traveling to Great Yarmouth for a show and we came up with the idea of Kenny creating some artwork in the instrumental break of the song. It was a Sunday afternoon so when we arrived in Great Yarmouth, nearly everywhere was shut, but we found some wood, and our roadie Bill Fowler started making it into a six foot by six foot frame in the car park. He found an old decorating shop open and got some wall paper to make the canvas. The band, all in their purple and black finery, were bent down and bashing nails into it. No paint shops were open so we went to a garage and they had aerosol touch up spray paints. We started extending the break. I’d be playing away and the violin bow would get wrecked, so I’d chuck it at the screen like an arrow, and it would get stuck in there. The aim was to create a visual madness to illustrate the music. Then we got smoke effect powder from a joke shop and made a smoke screen around it, and eventually Kenny started setting the canvas alight.”
The Creation were a go. A dynamic band with an equally engaging image, they would burn brightly for less than two years, yet would leave an indelible mark upon music history. With producer du jour Shel Talmy at the helm (The Who, Kinks, Easybeats, Cat Stevens, et al) the Creation went on an incredible two year tear of singles, including “Making Time,” “How Does It Feel To Feel,” “Tom Tom,” and “If I Stay Too Long.” By 1968 it was over. Eddie Phillips’ trademark guitar bowing would be nicked by Jimmy Page and Boney M would cheese-up “Painter Man.”
Over the nearly five decades since, the Creation has seen a tremendous resurgence in interest. First it was the Jam flossing “Making Time” on the inner sleeve of All Mod Cons. A few years later Alan McGee formed the band Biff Bang Pow and his Creation record label. By the turn of the century a new generation had discovered the band via a strategic placement in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.
Presented here for the first time are the complete Creation studio recordings. All 42 tracks have been remastered from the original tapes by Shel Talmy, and given fresh stereo mixes where previously unavailable. New essays by Dean Rudland and Alec Palao tell the band’s story and dive into their complete studio sessions. Scores of previously unpublished photographs adorn the accompanying 80 page hard bound book. We’ve rounded the whole package out with four tracks by pre-Creation freakbeat quartet the Mark Four, making Action Painting the definitive collection of this legendary UK band.
Three 6 Mafia Most Known Unknown (Omerta Inc.)
The Omerta Inc. reissue of Most Known Unknown is an absolutely gorgeous package. It comes in a textured sleeve which reproduces the original album art, but the texture and matte finish add a little something extra to the whole thing. When you open up the sleeve and take out the LPs, though, that’s when things get really impressive. The promo photos of the deluxe vinyl version — limited to 300 copies, individually hand numbered in gold pen — on 180-gram purple splatter looked nice, but the product is so amazing in person, it’s hard to do it justice. It’s one of the best-looking splatters I’ve ever seen. Really, I’m half-convinced I keep spinning it because I just want to look at it on the platter.
Elliott Smith Either/or Expanded Edition (Kill Rockstars)
Either/Or: Expanded Edition features the original tracks carefully remastered from original tapes under the supervision of Larry Crane. The second disc features five live multi-track recordings from the Yo Yo A Go Go Festival in Olympia WA in 1997, as well as three previously unreleased studio recordings and one b-side gem. The double LP is packaged in a gatefold jacket that includes an insert of the original liner notes, a postcard of the original master tapes, and several never-before seen photos. This gorgeous collection is an essential listen for longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Blaze Foley The Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings (End of an Ear)
Reissue of the first album recorded by the legendary Austin singer-songwriter who was tragically murdered in 1989. Recorded with Muscle Shoals studio musicians in 1984, the album was never distributed due to “some trouble with the law” resulting in the confiscation of most of the 500 copies originally pressed. These recordings find Blaze in a rare studio setting performing ten of his well-known compositions including the apparently timeless resistance song, Oval Room, originally written with Ronald Reagan in mind. The outstanding production values and musicianship breathe fresh air into these classic Blaze compositions. The original recordings have been digitally mastered by Austin engineer Mark Hallman.
Foley’s songs have been recorded by Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Lyle Lovett and others. Lucinda Williams’ “Drunken Angel,” and Townes Van Zandt’s “Blaze’s Blues,” personal tributes to their good friend Foley, have added to a legacy once nearly forgotten. A major motion picture on Blaze directed by Ethan Hawke is in production and scheduled for theatrical release in 2018.
R.L. Burnside Long Distance Call: Europe 1982 (Fat Possum)
Record Store Day 2017 official release
For the first time, the 1982 recordings in Groningen, Netherlands with Leo Bruin have arrived on vinyl. Here you find R.L. Burnside, alone with only his guitar and his voice. Showing off his skills even in his younger days, in the vein of John Lee Hooker and Fred McDowell.
The Original Sound of Mali (Mr Bongo)
‘The Original Sound of Mali’ compiled by David ‘Mr Bongo’ Buttle, Vik Sohonie (Ostinato Records) and Florent Mazzoleni. As featured as ‘Compilation of the Week’ on Lauren Laverne’s BBC 6Music show.
Malian music is a deep, lyrical form of African music. Those of us deeply entranced by Malian culture, and, in particular, the immense hypnotic beauty of Malian music, have put together a selection of songs from across the country.
CD and LP include a 24 page booklet on Malian Music written by Florent Mazzoleni. Vinyl LP includes MP3 download.
The Grateful Dead Cornell ’77 (Rhino)
“…the single best rock performance anywhere, anytime, by anyone.”
“There was just some kind of magical connection this night between the band members and the band and the audience – some texture, or some type of cosmic or celestial force is in the room.”
“This show is, was, and always will be Mecca.”
The Grateful Dead played more than 2,000 concerts, but none continues to spark interest and provoke discussion quite like the band’s performance at Cornell University’s Barton Hall on May 8, 1977. It is one of the most collected, traded, and debated concerts by any band ever, has topped numerous fan polls through the years, and was a favorite of the group’s longtime archivist Dick Latvala, who stated: “Enough can’t be said about this superb show.” Even Uncle Sam got into the act in 2011 when the recording was “deemed so important to the history and culture of the United States” that a copy was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Midori Takada Through the Looking Glass (Palto Flats)
Considered a Holy Grail of Japanese music by many, “Through The Looking Glass” is Midori Takada’s first solo endeavor from 1983, a captivating four-song suite capturing her deep quests into traditional African and Asian percussive language and exploring contemplative ambient sounds with an admirably precise use of marimba. The result is alternatively ethereal and vibrant, always precise and mesmerizing, and makes for an atmospheric masterpiece and an unparalleled sonic and spiritual experience.
The fully licensed reissue is available both in its original form as a single 33rpm LP and a limited 45rpm 2×12″ (this version is exclusive to WRWTFWW,) both cut directly from the original studio reels (AAA), at Emil Berliner (formerly the in-house recording department of renowned classical record label Deutsche Grammophon) for the 45rpm DLP, and at the equally famous Frankfurter SST Studio for the LP. It is also available in CD format for the first time. All versions come with liner notes, with extended quotes from Ms. Takada.
“The Japanese composer Midori Takada’s newly reissued album is an assimilation of musical modes from around the world. It belongs in the pantheon alongside Steve Reich’s most notable works.” -Pitchfork
Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series: Rusty Bryant Fire Eater & Charles Kynard Afro-Disiac
The Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series is an album-centric program focused on delivering the best possible listening experience. From the quality of the music to the sonic purity of the pressing, we aim to deliver a hefty dose of aural couch-lock. Highlighting complete original albums from the Jazz Dispensary vaults with a focus on rare and previously unavailable titles, each album is pressed on 180-gram audiophile quality vinyl and housed in a faithfully reproduced old-school style jacket.
About Afro-Disiac: Flanked by a who’s-who of exceptional talent, which includes Bernard Purdie on drums, Jimmy Lewis on electric bass, Grant Green on guitar, and Houston Person on tenor saxophone, Charles Kynard turns in a soulful and sublimely understated set of purely grooving soul-jazz fare. Long out of print and never reissued in the U.S. on vinyl since its original release in 1970, Afro-Disiac just might be the musical panacea you’ve been looking for. Features the smoldering, deep-pocket Purdie showcase, “Sweetheart.”
About Fire Eater: An unsung monster in the pantheon of exceptional soul-jazz outings from the Prestige catalog, Fire Eater finds Rusty Bryant grooving hard in a combo that featured Idris Muhammad on drums, Wilbert Longmire on guitar, and both Bill Mason and Leon Spencer Jr. on organ. Included in this stretched-out, funky set of four originals is the title track, “Fire Eater,” which was sampled for “Swing Set” by Jurassic 5 (2000) and appeared on the 1999 collaboration between DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, Brainfreeze. While not as instantly recognizable by name as other greats of the tenor saxophone such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, Bryant’s fiery and athletic approach on this set sets him apart from his peers as a force to be reckoned with. In the strident groove and funky underpinnings of Fire Eater is the blueprint for generations of future groovers and funkateers. Essential.
Paris, Texas Soundtrack by Ry Cooder (Real Gone Music)
featuring Jim Dickinson and David Lindley
Suggestive of both the imagery of Wim Wenders’ movie Paris, Texas and the desert itself, Ry Cooder’s score is a peaceful, poetic journey into the soul of an acoustic guitar. “Paris, Texas,” “Brothers,” and “Nothing Out There” open the album as meditative blends of guitar twang and scratching ambient effects. The songs move at a pretty, slow place, and the opening track sees Cooderplucking his guitar’s strings and letting that sound vibrate into thin air; it’s a motif that he returns to repeatedly throughout the score. There’s a bit of both humor and mystery to the stillness and the echoing, edgy sound effects that crop up. “Cancion Mixteca” includes a memorable turn on vocals by Harry Dean Stanton, singing in Spanish. “No Safety Zone” is almost completely ambient in its ethics, with fleeting experimental guitar playing, as the song works more as a mood-setter than a traditional song. “I Knew These People” begins with an extended segment of dialogue from the film before Cooder’s somber guitar creeps in. The effect of the dialogue makes the track a fine, artistic statement, but the moment works better in the context of the movie than as a track on an album. The dialogue comes from a scene where the characters played by Stanton and Nastassja Kinski have a particularly emotional meeting. The majority of the score is delicate and stunningly pretty. The overall sense is that Cooder was reaching for spare, emotional movements. The score is stark, quiet, and as uplifting as it is sad. Cooder makes the music sound as modern and stylish as acoustic music can sound. The album is at once alien and organic. Since “I Knew These People” includes dialogue from Paris, Texas, the score works best for people who have seen the movie, but it’s still a powerful and immensely evocative journey for those whose experience with the material is the album alone.
…and a few others we can’t stop spinning:
Look Blue Go Purple Still Bewitched (Flying Nun/Captured Tracks)
The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary (Apple/Parlophone)
Willie Mitchell Hi Records Reissues (Fat Possum/Hi Records)
Alex Chilton Take Me Home and Make Me Like It (Munster Records)
Buzzcocks Time’s Up! (Domino)
John and Alice Coltrane Cosmic Music (Superior Viaduct)
CAN Singles (Mute/Spoon)
David Lynch’s Eraserhead Soundtrack (Sacred Bones)
Beach House B-Sides and Rarities (Sub Pop)
STAX vinyl reissues Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave, Albert King, and Rufus Thomas (Altantic/Stax)
Prince Purple Rain (Warner/NPG)
…and some that we are looking forward to later this summer:
Missy Elliott Supa Dupa Fly
Radiohead OKNOTOK Ok Computer 1997-2017
The Beach Boys Wild Honey
Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis