Sunday, December 29, 2013

My favorite reissues, retrospectives and special sets of 2013

Amidst a parade of wonderful new studio albums that saw their release in 2013 came an equally-strong number of reissues, retrospectives, historic live collections and more. Here are a few of my favorites…

1. The Beatles, Live at the BBC (Capitol)
In an age where seemingly everything ever recorded by the Fab Four has been issued (with the obvious exception of the band's Let It Be documentary), imagine the surprise of hearing dozens of live tracks recorded by the Beatles that were broadcast by the BBC in the UK between March 1962 and June 1965. Highlights on the reissued version of the original Live at the BBC (originally released in 1994) include a rollicking take on Chuck Berry's "Carol" and the only recording by John, Paul, George and Ringo playing the tuneful Lennon-McCartney composition "I'll Be On My Way." Volume 2 is also a gem, featuring a fiery version of Berry's "I'm Talking About You" that was a direct-to-airwaves performance that is thankfully heard again. A lovely performance of the standard "Beautiful Dreamer" is also a standout on the second volume.
Get On Air - Live At The BBC Volume 2
2. Humble PieRockin' the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings (Omnivore Recordings)
The late '60s and early '70s produced a number of fantastic British blues-rocks bands including Led Zeppelin and Ten Years After.  The recent release of Humble Pie's Rockin' the Fillmore: The Complete Recordings has cast a renewed focus on the British band co-founded by Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton. The four-disc set features all audio recordings pulled from Humble Pie's four shows played over the course of two consecutive nights at the legendary Fillmore East in May 1971. Highlights include the textured versions of "I Walk On Gilded Splinters" and bone-crunching rocker "I Don't Need No Doctor."
Get Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore-Complete Recording here

3. Three O'Clock, The Hidden World Revealed (Omnivore Recordings)
The so-called "Paisley Underground" was a psychedelic-meets-melody rock scene that struck Southern California in the early 1980s, and Three O'Clock was one of its most powerful proponents. The band's triumphant return to Coachella earlier this year may have been fueled by work on the newly-released "The Hidden World Revealed," which features 20 sterling tracks (10 of them previously unissued). Those who buy the CD also get a colorful booklet with liner notes from band members Michael Querico and Louis Gutierrez.
Purchase The Hidden World Revealed here

4. KeaneThe Best Of (Island Records)
Since catching Keane soar at Coachella back in 2005, I've been a fervid fan of the rousing English alternative outfit. Now comes the first-ever greatest hits collection from the group, celebrating the first decade of Keane's discography complete with two discs full of winning singles, sterling B sides, a live track and even three new songs (including the captivating new single "Higher Than The Sun").
Get Best of Keane [2 Disc Deluxe Edition]

5. Alex Chilton, Electricity by Candlelight (Bar None Records)
Although Alex Chilton originally achieved fame in his teens as lead singer of the Box Tops in the 1960s, it was his role as a member of the seminal '70s power pop band Big Star that earned him a permanent place among rock's elite. Now Chilton, who died at age 59 after suffering a heart attack on March 17, 2010, is being celebrated via the release of a powerful live solo performance recorded at the Knitting Factory in New York City on Feb. 13, 1997. After a blackout and loss of power, most of the concertgoers headed home. Those who didn't were rewarded when Chilton came out and proceeded to play an acoustic performance by candlelight that featured Loudon Wainwright III's "Motel Blues," the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "Surfer Girl," and more than a dozen other artfully reworked covers played with an authenticity  for the ages.
Get Electricity By Candlelight / NYC 2/13/97

6. Neil Young, Live at the Cellar Door (Reprise)
Neil Young has never stopped exploring or trying new things, but listening to the singer-songwriter's Live at the Cellar Door recorded in the fall of 1970, it's simply magical to hear potent performances of many of his finest early gems and realize he was among the original pioneers blending rock, folk and country into timeless masterworks. "Cinnamon Girl" was performed on piano (rather than the now-standard hard rock guitar version), lending the song a decidedly haunting vibe. Among the other classics captured on tape were "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," "Old Man" (which wouldn't be widely heard until "Harvest" came out two years later) and "I Am A Child."
Purchase Live At The Cellar Door here

7. Alvin Lee, The Last Show (Rainman Records)
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, no British band journeyed to America more often than Ten Years After. Indeed, the quartet visited the United States 28 times between 1968 and 1974. Led by trailblazing singer-guitarist Alvin Lee, the genre-busting band blended rock, blues and jazz in ways that remain relevant today. The band's mind-blowing performance of "I'm Going Home" at Woodstock in August 1969 showcased Lee's virtuoso skills on lead guitar and his powerful baritone vocals. Lee died unexpectedly on March 6, 2013, but his final concert performance recorded in Raalte, Holland 10 months before his untimely passing is now available on a wonderful 14-track audio CD. Featuring a version of the iconic "I'm Going Home" as well as other Ten Years After staples and solo gems, the packaging for the aptly-titled The Last Show includes photos taken at that final show as well as personal notes from his wife, band mates and even fans.
Get Last Show here

8. Emerson Lake & Palmer, Live In Montreal 1977 (Shout! Factory)
More than 35 years after it was staged, Emerson Lake & Palmer's epic Aug. 26, 1977 concert at Montreal's Olympic Stadium was released. Live In Montreal 1977 captures the legendary supergroup (Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Carl Palmer) performing with a mighty 70-piece orchestra in front of its largest-ever stadium audience, playing potent versions of classics including "Lucky Man" and "Karn Evil 9."
Buy Live in Montreal 1977

9. Tommy Bolin, Whirlwind (Purple Pyramid Records/Cleopatra Records)
Although he was only 25 when he died Dec. 4, 1976, guitarist Tommy Bolin nevertheless managed to make a lasting mark as a member of Zephyr (1969-1971), The James Gang (1973-74) and Deep Purple (1975-76). Now comes the aptly-titled Whirlwind, a 2-disc audio collection of rare, unreleased recordings recorded by the groundbreaking guitarist between 1972 and 1975. From the instrumental heavy blues rock of "Cucumber Jam" and free jazz-rock of "Heartlight" and YES-styled prog-rock tear on his instrumental "Hoka-Hay!," Bolin blended the groundbreaking trajectory of Jimi Hendrix with the speedy licks of Ten Years After's Alvin Lee.
Get Whirlwind 2Cd Edition here

10. The Lumineers, The Lumineers: Deluxe Edition (Dualtone Music Group)
Released in late August 2013, the expanded version of The Lumineers' 2012 debut features all of that album's tracklist as well as five additional songs and a bonus DVD featuring 25 minutes of music videos, tour footage and even interviews with members of the Denver-based ensemble. There is also a wonderful booklet with photos, song lyrics lyrics and more.

Purchase The Lumineers (Deluxe Edition)

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