Best Reissues of 2020

Dig The Old Breed

A few stray thoughts on the reissues and archival releases of 2020 before the list of my best/favorite reissues of the year

  • On the whole, it's felt a little bit like the reissue market softened a bit this year. Some of this certainly is pandemic related. Titles were delayed—to cite two prominent examples, the Beatles' Let It Be anniversary set didn't come out this year, there was no entry in Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series—but some of this apparent softening could be due to a scattered attention span on my part. 

  • Despite this softening, there have been some labels and artists who have been very active in 2020. Neil Young, for one, is spinning out records from his Archives at a rapid clip, then there were reissue series from PJ Harvey and LIttle Richard, not to mention two relatively rare archival dives from both Elton John and Bobby Bare. Because of this, I decided to group artists with multiple entries under one entry instead of scattering their selections throughout the list. The lists within the subentry are arranged in order of preference. 

  • I remain a complete mark for the collections Bob Stanley produces and compiles for Ace Records (he has collaborators on many of these; I've attempted to share credit by presenting the complete titles but there may be an oversight). What I like best about Stanley's comps is their specificity: they capture a particular time and space, digging into the byways that have been left forgotten by conventional pop histories. The six here are essentially tied for number one—today, I would choose to put on 76 in the Shade first. 

  • I'm very happy to see 1980s American underground get a pair of extraordinary reissues in the form of Pylon Box and, especially, Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987, which is effectively a college rock Nuggets

  • I'm growing a little tired of super deluxe editions of classic albums. There are certainly exceptions to the rule—neither the heavily-anticipated Sign o the Times or Wildflowers disappointed—but they're often feeling a little too padded, more about the packaging than the content. That said, I found the packaging of The Complete Armed Forces amazing and wound up getting sucked into the live material on the set, so maybe I'm a hypocrite.

  • It's been a quarter century since Blur Vs Oasis, so it's time for super deluxe Britpop sets. The all-inclusive Supergrass and Menswe@r sets spoke to me, but the mammoth Divine Comedy set is also noteworthy and I assume the similar Gene and Mansun boxes are the same. I especially liked Super Sonics: 40 Junkshop Britpop Greats, a double-disc collection of also-rans and obscurities, as I always favor comps that excavate music that I've missed.

  • It was a close call with Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987 but I chose the Super Deluxe Edition of Prince's Sign o the Times as my top reissue of the year because it's the rare expanded edition that delivers a wealth of strong unreleased material that never feels like a retread of the original record. If anything, all of the outtakes and alternate takes prove Prince knew precisely what he wanted to achieve with Sign o the Times, since the double-LP contained all the very best songs from these sessions.

  • As always, if an album isn't here, I either didn't hear it, forgot it or disliked it, or some combination of the three. 

BEST REISSUES OF 2020

  1. Prince—Sign o the Times [Super Deluxe Edition]

  2. Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987

  3. Bob Stanley Compilations for Ace Records

    1. Bob Stanley Presents 76 in the Shade

    2. Saint Etienne Presents Songs For The Fountain Coffee Room

    3. Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present Occasional Rain [Ace]

    4. Cafe Exil: New Adventures in European Music 1972-1980

    5. Tea & Symphony: The English Baroque Sound 1968-1974 [Ace]

    6. Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present The Tears Of Technology

  4. Pylon—Pylon Box

  5. Ready Or Not: Thom Bell's Philly Soul Arrangements & Productions 1965-1978 [Ace]

  6. Richard & Linda Thompson—Hard Luck Stories 1972-1982

  7. Supergrass—The Strange Ones 1994-2008

  8. Bobby Bare

    1. Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein

    2. Great American Saturday Night

  9. Neil Young

    1. Neil Young Archives, Vol. II (1972-1976)

    2. Homegrown

    3. Return to Greendale

    4. After the Gold Rush [50th Anniversary Edition]

  10. Super Sonics: 40 Junkshop Britpop Greats

  11. The Land of Sensations & Delights: The Psych Pop Sounds of White Whale Records 1965-1970 [Craft]

  12. Elvis Presley—From Elvis in Nashville

  13. White Stripes

    1. De Stijl XX

    2. White Stripes XX

    3. Greatest Hits

  14. Tom Petty—Wildflowers…And All The Rest

  15. The Stooges—Live At Goose Lake, August 8th 1970

  16. Iron City Houserockers—Have A Good Time…But Get Out Alive (40th Anniversary)

  17. Doug Sahm—Crazy, Crazy Feelin’: The Definitive Early Doug Sahm [Jasmine]

  18. Elvis Costello—The Complete Armed Forces

  19. Kursaal Flyers—Little Does She Know: The Complete Recordings [RPM]

  20. Cream—Goodbye Tour Live 1968

  21. Menswe@r—Menswe@r Collection

  22. Surrender To The Rhythm: London Pub Rock Scene Of The Seventies

  23. Elton John

    1. Jewel Box

    2. Live from Moscow 1979

  24. The Replacements—Pleased to Meet Me [Deluxe Edition]

  25. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers—Just Coolin’

  26. Lou Reed—New York [Deluxe Edition]

  27. Paul McCartney—Flaming Pie [Archive Edition]

  28. PJ Harvey—Vinyl Reissues

    1. To Bring You My Love Demos

    2. Dry Demos

    3. 4-Track Demos

  29. Joni Mitchell—Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967)

  30. Girls Go Power Pop!

  31. Grateful Dead

    1. June 1976

    2. Workingman's Dead [50th Anniversary]

    3. American Beauty [50th Anniversary]

    4. Angel's Share: Workingman's Dead & American Beauty

  32. The Rolling Stones—Goats Head Soup [Super Deluxe Edition]

  33. Bobbie Gentry—Delta Sweete [Expanded]

  34. The Everly Brothers—Down In The Bottom: The Country Rock Sessions 1966-1968 [Cherry Red]

  35. Style Council—Long Hot Summers: The Story of the Style Council

  36. Looking Through A Glass Onion: The Beatles' Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72

  37. Fleetwood Mac—Fleetwood Mac (1969-1974)

  38. Southeast of Saturn

  39. Mojo Nixon—The Mojo Manifesto: The Original Album Collection

  40. Sam Cooke—The Complete Keen Years 1957-1960 

  41. Kraut! Teil 1 Der Norden [Bear Family]

  42. The Shoes—Elektrafied: The Elektra Albums 1979-1982 [Cherry Red]

  43. Johnny Cash

    1. A Night To Remember: May 5th, 1973

    2. The Complete Mercury Recordings

  44. The Kills—Little Bastards

  45. The Kinks—Lola Versus The Powerman and the Moneygoround, Pt. 1 (50th Anniversary)

  46. Stone Crush: Memphis Modern Soul 1977-1987 [Light in the Attic]

  47. Bobby Hatfield—Stay With Me: The Richard Perry Sessions

  48. Sonic Youth—Live at Cat's Cradle 2000

  49. Peephole In My Brain: The British Progressive Pop Sounds of 1971

  50. Def Leppard—The Early Years 79-81 

  51. Jimi Hendrix—Live in Maui

  52. John Lee Hooker—Documenting the Sensation Recordings 1948-1952 [Ace]

  53. Scott Walker Meets Jacques Brel  [Ace]

  54. The Honeycombs—Have I The Right: The Complete 60s Albums & Singles [RPM]

  55. Bubblerock Is Here To Stay! The British Pop Explosion 1970-73

  56. Andrew Gold

    1. Something New: Unreleased Gold

    2. Lonely Boy: The Anthology

  57. Iggy Pop—The Bowie Years

  58. Roy Clark—Greatest Hits [Craft]

  59. Thin Lizzy—Rock Legends

  60. Groovie Goolies—Groovie Goolies

  61. Jobcentre Rejects, Vols. 3 & 4

  62. David Bowie

    1. Ouvrez Le Chien (Live in Dallas 95)

    2. ChangesNowBowie

  63. Little Richard

    1. Southern Child

    2. The Rill Thing

    3. Second Coming

    4. Lifetime Friend

  64. The Harry Smith B-Sides

  65. The Staple Singers—Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection

  66. Rush—Permanent Waves [40th Anniversary]

  67. Van Duren

    1. Are You Serious?

    2. Idiot Optimism

  68. Soul of the Memphis Boys

  69. Little Steven—Rock N Roll Rebel: The Early Work

  70. Duke Ellington—Money Jungle [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  71. Herbie Hancock—The Prisoner [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  72. Big Joe Turner—The Complete Boss Of The Blues [Bear Family]

  73. Grant Green—Nigeria [Blue Note Tone Poet]

  74. Robert Plant—Digging Deep: Subterranea

  75. Kenny Carter—Showdown: The Complete 1966 RCA Recordings

  76. This is Fame: 1964-1968

  77. Steve Wynn—Decade

  78. Game Theory—Across The Barrier Of Sound: PostScript

  79. Bob Frank—Within A Few Degrees

  80. John Prine—Crooked Piece of Time: The Atlantic & Asylum Albums

  81. Right Back Where We Started From: Female Pop & Soul in 70s Britain

  82. Divine Comedy—Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time

  83. Bob Mould—Distortion: 1989-2019

  84. Dire Straits—The Studio Albums 1978-1991

  85. The Doors—Morrison Hotel [50th Anniversary Deluxe]

  86. Tears for Fears—Seeds of Love [Super Deluxe]

  87. Destination Lust—The World Of Love, Sex And Violence: 32 Erotic Fantasies From The Vault [Bear Family]

  88. The Coasters—Rocks [Bear Family]

  89. Destination Health: Doc Feelgood’s Rock Therapy, 30 Bop Pills for Your Recovery [Bear Family]

  90. U2—All That You Can’t Leave Behind [20th Anniversary Super Deluxe]

  91. Billy Walker--Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight

  92. Hank Williams—Pictures from Life’s Other Side

  93. John Lennon—Gimme Some Truth [2020]

  94. Bill Kirchen—The Proper Years

  95. Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks—Orange Crate Art: 25th Anniversary Edition