Artist: The Beatles
Title: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol)
Tell me more: Whether you picked up the 2-disc version or any of the other expanded versions of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band you quickly discovered the joy of rediscovering the enduring power and magic of the Fab Four's 1967 masterpiece. After 50 years, the power of the album remains and the new mix by Giles Martin (son of Sir George Martin) and engineer Sam Okell in stereo (sourced directly from the four-track masters at London's Abbey Road Studios) is a revelation. Looking at the 2-disc version, the first disc features the new stereo album mix; the second disc includes previously-unreleased alternate takes of each of the 13 songs on the original album. Additionally, there is a previously-unavailable instrumental version of "Penny Lane" and two unreleased alternate takes of "Strawberry Fields Forever." On The Beatles' official website, you can check out a number of different 50th Anniversary Editions of the release, including the 6-disc Deluxe Edition. Information: TheBeatles.com.
Artist: Peter Case
Title: On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On Folkscene (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: Singer-songwriter Peter Case's On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On Folkscene features live tracks captured on Los Angles radio station KPFK-FM' syndicated radio program in 1998 and 2000. This fantastic collection features Case singing a number of his stellar originals, including the Americana-styled "On the Way Downtown" and "Honey Child," Delta blues-flavored "Let Me Fall" and introspective "Green Blanket (Part 1)" from "Full Service, No Waiting" (released in 1998); the last nine selections on "On The Way Downtown" are weighted in favor of Case's 2000 LP "Flying Saucer Blues"; songs from that disc shine in the live setting including the Appalachia spirited "Something Happens" and wistful folk nugget "Blue Distance" (with lovely fiddle work from David Perales) and the playful acoustic blues chantey "Walking Home Late." The package also features liner notes penned by Case about the radio performances featured on the disc. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Artist: Game Theory
Title: 2 Steps From The Middle Ages (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: It's easy for discerning music fans to get angry when talented bands such as Game Theory never achieve the recognition and commercial success they deserve. Headed by brilliant singer-songwriter-guitarist Scott Miller, Game Theory issued five studio albums and two EPs in the 1980s. The band's jangly power pop-meets-baroque rock sound was combined with intricate musical arrangements and literate lyrics. The reissue of Game Theory's final studio album 2 Steps From The Middle Ages marks another reason to celebrate Omnivore Recordings' continuing commitment to shine a light on the band. The new expanded edition of "2 Steps From The Middle Ages' includes 11 bonus tracks, including original demos, live versions and radio broadcast sessions. The material includes some of Miller's most infectious and detailed songs. If you have not yet heard of Game Theory, check out tracks like "Room For One More, Honey," "Don't Entertain Me Twice," "Throwing the Election" and prepare to be hooked. A fully-illustrated 24-page booked adds a wealth of background and insight about Game Theory. The release also serves as a bittersweet tribute to Game Theory drummer Gil Ray, who passed away earlier this year. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Artist: Alvin Lee & Co.
Title: Live at the Academy of Music, New York, 1975 (Rainman Records)
Tell me more: When singer-songwriter/guitar great Alvin Lee died at the age of 68 in 2013, it fortunately didn't mark the end of commercial releases expanding his legacy. A fantastic concert featuring Alvin Lee & Co. recorded more than 40 years ago has just been released. Live at the Academy of Music, New York, 1975 features Lee's fiery and groundbreaking lead guitar work, but also showcases an expanded direction following his departure from Ten Years After. Sure there are blues-rock tracks here ("Got to Keep Moving," "Let's Get Back"), but those British blues are frequently adorned with gospel vocals, soul, jazz and R&B. The beautiful baroque folk ballad "All Life's Trials," an authentic reading of the 1930s blues classic "Baby Please Don't Go" and rocking lead guitar-anchored "I'm Writing You a Letter" are among the lovely surprises here. Fans of Lee will want to get this two-disc treasure. Information: rainman-records.com.
Artist: Little Richard
Title: Here's Little Richard (Craft Recordings/Concord Music)
Tell me more: To listen to the 60th anniversary edition of Here's Little Richard is to be joyfully transported to the early days of rock 'n' roll and gain a newfound appreciation of the artist born Richard Penniman. One of rock's founding fathers, Little Richard's debut (recorded in 1955 and 1956) more than holds up in 2017. The performances here are simply riveting, with Little Richard's signature vocals and pounding piano driving rockers such as "Tutti Frutti," Ready Teddy," "Rip It Up" and "Long Tall Sally" as well as New Orleans-flavored blues ("I Can't Believe You Wanna Leave," "Baby," "Slippin' and Sliding' "). A second disc on this essential deluxe edition features 22 must-hear demo and/or alternate recordings of the dozen songs on the original Here's Little Richard. Information: concordmusicgroup.com.
Title: Purple Rain Deluxe - Expanded Edition (NPG Records / Warner Bros. Records)
Tell me more: Released as both a "Deluxe" 2 CD version and a "Deluxe - Expanded Edition" featuring three CDs and a DVD, the re-release of Prince's masterwork Purple Rain recently captured the #1 on the Top Soundtrack Albums Chart and the top spot on the Top Vinyl Albums Chart, as well as returned to the Top 5 of the Billboard Top 200 too. More than three decades after the release of the film and the accompanying soundtrack, "Purple Rain" continues to cast its magic via dynamic recordings blending rock, soul, funk and pop (both newly-released versions are anchored by the official 2015 Paisley Park Remaster of the original tapes from the soundtrack). Of the most interest to hardcore fans of the late artist (Prince died in April 2016) is a CD full of rarities and a slew of previously-unreleased tracks, and a DVD featuring a concert with Prince and the Revolution captured in Syracuse, NY on March 30, 1985. That concert features restored audio and video from the original production master tape, and offers a real glimpse into Prince as a groundbreaking performer at the beginning of his career. Information: warnerbrosrecords.com.
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Tell me more: On May 20, 2015, a fortunate group of lucky fans were treated to an intimate concert featuring the Rolling Stones at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood. Now that already-legendary live event has been released as part of the Rolling Stones' "From The Vault" series. Available in a variety of formats, the terrific Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015 marked the first time in the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers' career that the Rolling Stones performed the entire 1971 album Sticky Fingers. Additionally, this concert marked the official kick-off of the band's North American Zip Code Tour. The audience is treated to terrific versions of many classics including the Americana-styled "Dead Flowers" and "Wild Horses," the fiery rocker "Bitch," jazz-tinged blues rocker "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," and a Chicago blues romp through B.B. King's "Rock Me Baby" featuring a lively harmonica solo courtesy of Mick Jagger. Bonus tracks include "All Down The Line," "When The Whip Comes Down" and "I Can't Turn You Loose." In addition to the top-tier performances of many of the Stones' best songs, the DVD includes insightful interviews positioned before the band performances. For example, in one of the most revealing segments, guitarist Ronnie Wood discusses his respect for guitarist Mick Taylor (whom Wood replaced in the band). A must have film for Stones fans, From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015 is available on DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, DVD+3LP and digital formats. Information: eagle-rock.com.
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
Tell me more: One of the most interesting and insightful rock 'n' roll documentary films in memory, director Paul Dugdale's Olé Olé Olé! A Trip Across Latin America chronicles The Rolling Stones' historic 2016 tour through 10 Latin America cities. This is a multi-layered film; while the obvious focus of the documentary is to champion the legendary British band's legacy and the complex bond shared between the members of the group, the film provides a simultaneous look at the challenging logistics of setting up a free concert in Cuba amidst an ambitious tour attracting massive and adoring audiences from Argentina north to Mexico. The film is beautifully shot and really captures the colorful places and people throughout the Rolling Stones' tour. In addition to the full-length film, bonus features on the title include seven full-length performances caught along the way including an incredible version of "Out Of Control" in Buenos Aires, Argentina and free wheeling "Miss You" delivered in Lima, Peru. Information: eagle-rock.com.
Title: Rosebud (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: A masterwork even in its original form, Rosebud's self-titled 1971 album has been reissued with 10 bonus tracks and is ready for the world to discover this classic anew. The range of material encompasses a number of styles of the day and then some, thanks in part to the fusion of well-crafted songs written by Judy Henske (vocals) and Jerry Yester (vocals, bass guitar, banjo), as well as the vocal and instrumental contributions of everyone in the quartet (rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Craig Doerge and drummer John Seiter). There is beautiful folk rock ("The Yum Yum Man"), an exquisite Continental European-flavored ballad ("Le Soleil"), psychedelic-tinged rock ("Reno"), Laurel Canyon country pop ("Western Wisconsin," "Roll Home Cheyenne") and lounge pop ("Lorelei," "Flying To Morning"), all of it delivered with a creative and independent spirit that infuses both the lyrics and music making. The bonus material bolsters the set, with the previously-unreleased "Mercury Of Fools" a progressive delight. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Title: Pop Art Live (Omnivore)
Tell me more: Anyone who wants to get fully immersed in shimmering songcraft that exudes undeniable melodies, catchy choruses and stellar songs that get stuck in your head should check out the Raspberries' glorious 2004 reunion that was released as a must-have 2 CD audio set. Pop Art Live (also available digitally) boasts a pristine recording of the rock quartet's reunion concert captured at House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio on Nov. 26, 2004. The material here is delivered with power pop precision and heft by the original lineup of singer-guitarist Eric Carmen, lead guitarist-vocalist Wally Bryson, bassist-vocalist David Smalley and drummer Jim Bonfanti. Highlights on disc one include a driving "I Wanna Be With You," a spirited take on the Who's "I Can't Explain," baroque pop-styled "Don't Wanna Say Goodbye" and harmonies-filled prize "Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)." The second disc features just as many essentials, with the lush "I Saw The Light," wistful folk rocker When You Were With Me" and anthemic "Go All The Way" sure to impress. Beatles fans (and who isn't?) take note; the Raspberries kill it with incredible takes on the John Lennon/Paul McCartney classics "Baby's In Black," "No Reply" and "Ticket To Ride." As if all that great music wasn't enough, the booklet includes reflections and notes from filmmaker/rock critic Cameron Crowe, author James Rosen and other high-profile fans of the Raspberries. Information: omnivorerecordings.com.
Artist: The Searchers
Title: Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981 (Omnivore Recordings)
Tell me more: One of England's break-out bands following the Beatles, the Searchers scored a slew of hit singles in the early 1960s including "Needles and Pins," "Don't Throw Our Love Away" and "Sweets for My Sweet." But while the group's initial string of hits stopped coming in the late 1960s, there was a revival of sorts for the group when the head of Sire Records caught the band at a performance in the late 1970s and signed them to a new contract. These recordings – featured on the new compilation Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981 – are a delight. Spirited material penned by everyone from Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to John Fogerty and Big Star's Alex Chilton afforded the Searchers plenty of ammunition to put their distinctive vocals and musical stamp on songs that draw natural comparisons with Tom Petty, the Plimsouls, Great Buildings and other melodic rockers to emerge at the dawn of the '80s. There are 29 splendid tracks splashed across two discs, representing all the album tracks, B-sides and alternate mixes from the Sire era. Listening to winning material such as "Love's Gonna Be Strong," "Feeling Fine," "It's Too Late" and a shimmering reworking of Fogerty's classic "Almost Saturday Night," it's easy to hear why the Searchers are worth discovering. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.
Title: The Joshua Tree [Super Deluxe Edition] (Island Records)
Tell me more: The Super Deluxe Edition edition of U2's The Joshua Tree is a significant purchase, retailing for between $90 and $100. Yet, the newly-released box set marking the 30th anniversary of U2's 1987 masterwork is money well spent for U2's countless fans who filled stadiums for the band's recent 30th Anniversary Joshua Tree Tour that reportedly garnered $62 million in its first month (according to Billboard). The new box set includes the original 11-track album, a live recording captured during the 1987 Joshua Tree Tour at Madison Square Garden, a number of B-sides and rarities, and several 2017 remixes of several of the album's songs. There is also a a beautiful hardcover book featuring photographs taken by The Edge and a folio of eight 12-inch cooler prints from band photographer Anton Corbijn. Information: U2.com.
Artist: John Wetton
Title: Akustrika / Akustrika II (Primary Purpose / Red Cherry Red Records)
Tell me more: Fans of John Wetton continue to mourn the legendary rocker who died on Jan. 31, 2017 following a long battle fighting cancer. Now the lead singer/bassist of ASIA, U.K. and King Crimson (1972-1974) is featured on a fantastic 2CD set celebrating his legacy. Akustrika: Live in Amerika (featuring tracks recorded in October 1995) and Akustrika II: Return to Amerika (featuring a concert taped on Nov. 11, 2005) really highlight Wetton's gifts as one of rock's most emotive voices. The inspired "Voice of America," "Hold Me Now" (with Wetton's voice soaring) and a remarkable version of the ASIA classic "Only Time Will Tell" and a stirring "Battle Lines" are among this writer's favorites on the first disc, while the intimate "Walking on Air," driving "Sole Survivor" and a dramatic retelling of ASIA's hit "Heat of the Moment" are among the many standouts on the second disc. Accompanied by only his acoustic guitar or piano, the tracks on the release were selected for this collection by Wetton before his passing; Akustrika / Akustrika II is a powerful tribute to Wetton's enduring legacy. Information: JohnWetton.com.
Artist: Neil Young
Title: Hitchhiker (Reprise)
Tell me more: Neil Young continues to please his discerning followers with special releases that shed incredible insight into the tunesmith's wealth of brilliant songs. The latest example is the highly-anticipated release of Hitchhiker, a legendary 10-song disc of acoustic songs recorded in a single day on Aug. 11, 1976 at Indigo Studios in Malibu, California. Among the magnificent songs first put to tape in a studio that day were "Pocahontas," "Powderfinger" and "Ride My Llama" — three memorable works that wound up on the Canadian singer-songwriter's 1979 masterwork Rust Never Sleeps. Armed with nothing more than his glorious voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Young tracked 10 timeless nuggets that were further enhanced by their otherworldly ties to each other. Information: NeilYoung.com.