Wednesday, December 27, 2023

My Favorite 25 special editions (Reissues, Concert Recordings and Multi-Format Titles) of 2023

What a year 2023 was for music lovers. A myriad of fantastic reissues, concert recordings and multi-format anniversary editions provided a non-stop parade of riches. Here is my review of my favorite 25 titles of 2023..Robert Kinsler





Artist: 
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Title: What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears? (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Blood, Sweat & Tears, early Chicago, classic rock
Tell me more: The first American band to perform behind the Iron Curtain, Blood, Sweat & Tears performed a string of dates in Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland in June and July 1970. Many of the concerts were recorded using a portable 8-track machine; an American film crew filmed the shows for a planned documentary as well. However, the film company that financed the project closed its doors during post-production and members of BS&T didn't know how to to retrieve the materials. Fast forward 50 years and director John Scheinfeld and a tenacious team tracked down many of the recordings for the newly-released 2023 documentary "What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?" and accompanying 10-track soundtrack. The depth and diversity of the troupe's material (encompassing rock, jazz, R&B, classical and more) shines across the soundtrack, with the fiery opener "Something's Coming On," soulful "God Bless The Child," dazzling "Spinning Wheel" and blues blaster "Something' Goin' On/Blues - Part II" among the early standouts; a bluesy "And When I Die," symphonic "Sometimes In Winter," the romantic "You've Made Me So Very Happy" (bolstered by David Clayton-Thomas' top-tier vocals) and powerful closer "I Can't Quit Her" entice on the second half of the collection. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.


Artist: 
The Doors
Title: Live at the Matrix, 1967 (Rhino)
You might like if you enjoy: The Doors, Robby Krieger, classic rock
Tell me more: Anytime fans get treated to a new release featuring The Doors there is reason for celebration. The release of the Live at the Matrix, 1967 is truly one of the great audio titles of 2023; the limited edition 3CD box set features the complete and original recordings captured during the band's five-night engagement in March 1967 at the small San Francisco nightclub known as The Matrix. The recordings featured on Live at the Matrix, 1967 were taken from the first-generation 7-inch reels that captured singer Jim Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore just prior to their explosive emergence as one of the most successful and important rock bands of the late 1960s. Standout performances abound across the sets recorded by Peter Abram between March 7-11, 1967 that are featured on the box set. The band's first set on March 7, 1967 features a freewheeling and dynamic version of "Back Door Man," a previously unreleased take on the psychedelic rocker "My Eyes Have Seen You," a mesmerizing run through the Miles Davis-penned instrumental "All Blues" and potent 12-minute take on the classic "When The Music's Over." There are so many incredible moments to be heard across the three discs; a blues-drenched take on Willie Dixon's "Close To You," fiery version of the John Lee Hooker classic "Crawling King Snake" enhanced by Krieger's signature guitar work, the wistful "I Can't See Your Face In My Mind," Baroque pop-meets-blues ballad "The Crystal Ship," several powerful versions of "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" and a otherworldly performance of "Light My Fire" are just a few of the stellar cuts to be heard. Detailed liner notes written by Joel Selvin provide a comprehensive look at the inspired performances and what led The Doors to journey to San Francisco to appear at The Matrix just prior to their impending stardom. Information: thedoors.com. 



Artist:
 Mark Farner
Title: Rock 'N' Roll Soul: Live 1989 (Liberation Hall)
You might like if you enjoy: Grand Funk Railroad, Randy Bachman, Blood, Sweat and Tears
Tell me more: The "1989 Woodstock Revisited" Festival was staged at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson, CA in August 1989 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. Among the celebrated classic rock favorites to perform at the event were Mark FarnerEdgar WinterHumble PieCanned HeatMelanie, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Now Farner's complete set from that event has been issued on both audio CD and DVD. Farner  founding member, lead singer and guitarist for Michigan's Grand Funk Railroad  delivered a powerful 15-song set backed by guitarist Arnie Vilches, bassist Lawrence Buckner, keyboardist Mike Blair and drummer Mike Maple. The set list is a mix of Grand Funk Railroad's beloved hits and Farner's strong solo material. Farner is an energetic and riveting frontman who shines on the mix of material; he even trades in his electric guitar to play electronic keyboards on several cuts ("Footstompin' Music" and "Mean Mistreater"). Farner and company immerse the crowd in blues on "Judgement Day Blues," which features the notable guitar work of Farner and Vilches. The soulful "Some Kind of Wonderful" features Buckner and Farner sharing lead vocals. Other highlights of the set include the tuneful sing-along "Bad Time," ambitious "I'm Your Captain/Closer to Home," riff rocker "Heartbreaker" and festive closer "The Loco-Motion." Information: liberationhall.com.


Artist: 
Ella Fitzgerald
Title: Live At Montreux 1969 (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Ella Fitzgerald, vocal jazz music
Tell me more: A truly historic and essential recording, Ella Fitzgerald: Live At Montreux 1969 was released by Mercury Studios on both audio CD and LP on Jan. 20, 2023. Originally released on DVD in 2005, this marks the first time this concert recording was made available on audio formats. Live At Montreux 1969 captures the "First Lady of Song" in the first of her five legendary performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Fitzgerald's breathtaking singing and complete command of a diverse set of 14 songs thrills with every note. There are classic jazz favorites already familiar to audiences of the time ("Give Me The Simple Life," "I Won't Dance," "That Old Black Magic"), as well as her artful versions of classic rock material (including a soulful take on Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" and joyful reading of The Beatles' "Hey Jude"). Her signature scat delivery is featured on the dazzling "Useless Landscape," a number further defined by the virtuoso playing of pianist Tommy Flanagan (along with bassist Frank De La Rosa and drummer Ed Thigpen). Her bewitching version of Dionne Warwick's "This Girl's In Love With You" and an explosive performance of "A Man And A Woman" are other highlights on the enthralling collection. The concert encore includes the impressive rapid-fire "Scat Medley" and beautiful "A House Is Not A Home." Information: mercurystudios.co.


Artist: Rory Gallagher
Title: All Around Man  Live In London (UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, Alvin Lee, Joe Bonamassa
Tell me more: Rory Gallagher is widely regarded as one of the greatest electric guitarists of all time. The incredible talents of the late Irish artist  who sadly passed away in June 1995 at the age of 47  are fully on display across the recent release All Around Man  Live In London. The 23-track live album available via triple LP (180 gram heavyweight vinyl) or as a double CD focuses a bright spotlight on a previously undocumented period in Gallagher's career; the tracks were recorded across a two-night run at the Town & Country Club (now known as The O2 Forum) in London in December 1990. These performances were staged in the wake of the release of Gallagher's 11th and last studio album Fresh Evidence that had been released in May 1990. All Around Man  Live In London has been mixed from the recently discovered multi track recordings and was mastered at Abbey Road Studios. The hard charging opener "Continental Op," British blues foray "Heaven's Gate," amped Chicago blues sortie "Don't Start Me Talking'," and Southern fried rocker "Kid Gloves" are among the highlights on LP1. The breathtaking classic rock mining "Moonchild," acoustic Americana nugget "Out On The Western Plains," instantly irresistible "Shadow Play" and Delta blues track "I Wonder Who" shine on LP2. The bluesy "Middle Name" and "Ghost Blues," dazzling "Messin' With The Kid," breakneck "Keep A Knockin'," and meteoric blues-rock closer "All Around Man" excite on LP3. Across the 23-track release Gallagher's top-tier lead vocals and stellar guitar work impress at every turn. Information: rorygallagher.com




Artist: 
Howdy Glenn
Title: I Can Almost See Houston (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, George Jones
Tell me more: Before I slipped I Can Almost See Houston in my CD player in early 2023 I had never heard of country music singer Howdy Glenn. Indeed the 2023 release (available Jan. 20 via Omnivore Recordings) is the first-ever collection of songs from Glenn available on audio CD and it's a wonderful introduction to the talented California artist. Featuring all known recordings from Glenn, an impressive array of 23 selections recorded between 1975 and 1980 span the 78-minute disc. As detailed in Scott B. Bomar's instructional liner notes, Glenn was among a handful of Black country music artists who made a mark on the national charts or the public consciousness in the 20th century. A full-time firefighter in Southern California, Glenn won the 1974 "Trucker's Jamboree" at the Hollywood Palladium and scored a recording career; his wonderful cover of Willie Nelson's "Touch Me" spent six weeks on the charts, and he was nominated for the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist award. But even the most talented of artists sometime never find the acclaim or national recognition they are owed. I Can Almost See Houston showcases Glenn's top-tier vocals that draws comparisons with some of the 1970s greatest country music singers ranging from Charley Pride and George Jones to Merle Haggard. Standouts include the yearning title track, honky tonk-mining "You'll Remember Me," beautiful "Where Did The Years Go," a soaring "That Lucky Old Sun" (an especially emotional performance), and tender "When You Were Blue and I Was Green." Along with the previously-noted liner notes, the 20-page booklet that comes with the audio CD includes a wealth of historic photos and ephemera. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.


Artist:
Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Hollywood Bowl: August 18, 1967
Tell me more: On Nov. 10, the highly anticipated Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Hollywood Bowl: August 18, 1967 was released via audio CD and vinyl. The concert recording captured more than 55 years ago features the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience performance at the Hollywood Bowl where the trio (singer-guitarist Jimi Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchel and bassist/backing vocalist Noel Redding) performed just five days before the U.S. release of their groundbreaking debut Are You Experienced. Indeed, Hendrix was extended an invitation by The Mamas & The Papas to open for them at the fabled Los Angeles venue. The two-track live recording of the nine-song set has never previously been released officially or even via bootleg; additionally, this landmark performance marked one of the last times the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed in front of an audience as relative unknowns. The setlist is a mesmerizing mix of amazing originals (notably "Purple Haze," "Foxey Lady" and "Fire") and masterful remakes of tracks from The Beatles ("Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"), Bob Dylan ("Like a Rolling Stone"), The Troggs ("Wild Thing") and others. This writer's favorite tracks on the concert recording are a nuanced, lovely version of the Hendrix original "The Wind Cries Mary" and riveting 8-minute version of Muddy Waters' Chicago blues gem "Catfish Blues." Information: jimihendrix.com.




Artist:
 Hot Tuna
Title: 3 CD Collection (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane, Jorma Kaukonen, Mississippi John Hurt
Tell me more: Fans of American blues-rock outfit Hot Tuna can pick up the 3 CD Collection. The 3-disc box set includes a trio of full acoustic band performances (no drums) captured at The Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA, two nights in a row as well as a concert date at Stove's in Yokohama, Japan. All three 1990s performances are housed in one colorful package complete with a poster. An offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna was launched in 1969 when singer-songwriter/guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady wanted to perform a mix of blues, folk, bluegrass and country while Grace Slick was recovering from vocal surgery. To be sure, the stellar performances featured on 3 CD Collection enhance Hot Tuna's legacy. Guests at the Jan. 27, 1992 recording include singer-guitarist Bob Weir (The Grateful Dead), keyboardist Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship) and singer Maria Muldaur; noted folk singer Happy Traum guests on the Jan. 28, 1992 show. Among the terrific tracks on the early part of the collection are the Delta blues flavored "Whinin' Boy Blues" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," breezy country blues nugget "Great Change," a breathtaking acoustic-flavored version of Jefferson Airplane's "Embryonic Journey" and riveting take on Bob Dylan's 1965 single "Maggie's Farm," the latter featuring Weir on lead vocals. The delights continue on the box set via wonderful cuts such as the joyful "Blue Moon of Kentucky," spirited "Folsom Prison Blues," infectious "Parchment Farm" and luxurious "Ice Age." Information: mercurystudios.co or hottuna.com.



Artists: 
Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: A Night At The Family Dog/Go Ride The Music/West Pole (Mercury Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Santana
Tell me more: Anyone wanting to travel back in time to glimpse the musical forces that launched the so-called "San Francisco Sound" in the late 1960s is in luck. Mercury Studios has just released an essential two-DVD set featuring "A Night At The Family Dog" (1970), "Go Ride The Music" (1969) and "West Pole" (1969); the trio of Ralph J. Gleason psychedelic-drenched television documentaries feature the groundbreaking artists who forged a new sound. Watching the three documentaries is a bona fide treat; the viewer will get to see freewheeling performances from SantanaQuicksilver Messenger ServiceThe Grateful DeadJefferson Airplane and others. Among the terrific performances from Jefferson Airplane featured on "Go Ride The Music" are a tuneful "We Can Be Together," rollicking "Volunteers" and reworked "Somebody To Love." Quicksilver Messenger Service showcases their rootsy Americana brew via the Gram Parsons-flavored "Somebody's Crying" and winning "Subway." "A Night At The Family Dog" finds Carlos Santana and his band firing up a sonic firestorm via "Soul Sacrifice," while the Grateful Dead performs a version of Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle" and their own "China Cat Sunflower" segueing into "I Know You Rider." Additionally, artist interviews shed additional insight into the important period in music history. Collectively, the three specials that fill the two discs provide an eye-opening look back at the late 1960s. Information: mercurystudios.co.



Artist: 
Jorma Kaukonen
Title: Live at the Bottom Line (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, acoustic blues
Tell me more: Recorded live on Aug. 23, 2003, Live at the Bottom Line is a fantastic concert recorded featuring legendary singer-guitarist Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson AirplaneHot Tuna) accompanied by Barry Mitterhoff (mandolin, octave mandolin, tenor guitar, tenor banjo) and Cindy Cashdollar (steel guitar). Captured not long after the release of his 2002 Grammy-nominated album Blue Country Heart, this is truly a flawless mix of Americana, country, blues and folk music performed by a trio of virtuoso musicians. The buoyant "Blue Railroad Train" (which includes terrific mandolin playing from Mitterhoff), countrified Jimmie Rodgers nugget "Waiting for a Train," his beautiful original "Do Not Go Gentle" (written for Kaukonen's father) and luxurious instrumental "Living in the Moment" are standouts on disc one. Disc two features an ambitious 11+ minute version of the traditional spiritual "Good Shepherd," an uplifting country blues cover of Reverend Gary Davis' "I Am the Light of This World" and masterful arrangement of the traditional "Hesitation Blues." Two decades after this magical performance was staged at New York's Bottom Line music venue, it's great that a wider audience gets to hear the magic again. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.



Artist:
 Little Feat
Title: Little Feat: Highwire Act in St. Louis (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: The Zac Brown Band, Traffic, the Grateful Dead
Tell me more: Originally released on DVD in 2004, Little Feat: Highwire Act in St. Louis has just been reissued as a wonderful Blu-ray+2CD collection (the concert is also available on digital video as well). The 2003 concert performance captured Little Feat in top form with the American band delivering 17 tracks blending rock, blues, soul, folk and Americana over 134 wonderful minutes. The line-up was among the ensemble's best, with Paul Barrere (guitars, vocals), Bill Payne (keyboard, vocals), Sam Clayton (percussion, vocals), Kenny Gradney (bass), Richie Hayward (drums, vocals), Fred Tackett (guitar, mandolin, trumpet) and Shaun Murphy (vocals, percussion) locked in and collectively showcasing their outstanding talents across the set. Highlights span the length of the concert, including the jazzy-rock opener "Time Loves a Hero," '70s-flavored rocker "Day Or Night," aptly-titled "Cajun Girl" bolstered by Tackett's inspired mandolin work, gorgeous Americana original "Willin'," and soulful "I'd Be Lyin'," the latter featuring Murphy's powerhouse soprano. Additionally, there are plenty of extended instrumental jams across the wonderful track listing that showcase the players' impressive musical chops to be sure. The Blu-ray Disc features a bonus 11-minute documentary titled "Little Feat Close Up In St. Louis" which features the band members discussing the colorful history and evolution of the group. Information: littlefeat.net.



Artist: 
The Mosquitos
Title: this then are The Mosquitos! (Kool Kat Musik)
You might like if you enjoy: The Monkees, The Beatles, The Dave Clark Five
Tell me more: Fans of melodic '60s-mining rock will want to get a listen to the wonderful this then are The Mosquitos! The Mosquitos' story is almost as compelling as the band's music; in the mid-1980s the rising outfit called it quits on the brink of stardom (indeed, the band was named Best New Rock Group at the New York Music Awards in 1986). Now fast forward to 2023 and The Mosquitos' infectious style blending songwriting elements spanning from the 1950s and 1960s to the 1980s can be heard by all. Standouts abound on the 47-track double CD that collects many of the Mosquitos' best studio and live recordings, with shining vocal harmonies a key part of what makes the outfit's sound so special. As noted in press notes released in connection with the collection: "Since the band only recorded a third of their original songs in the studio, the rest are represented in a live setting. Much care was taken to find the best versions, and some you'll swear are studio recordings." 

"Let's Stomp" is a hyper successful mix of 1950s rockabilly and Devo-like minimalist rock that connects with a single listen. "You Don't Give a Hang (About Me)" is fully original, with layers of shimmering guitars and immersive vocals. "Darn Well," "Quit It" and "I'm So Ashamed" are rousing garage rockers; "Wrong Side of Town" and "I'll Just Hide" conjure up the bona fide excitement of the British Invasion. The band's melodic power pop nugget "That Was Then, This Is Now" (a cover of that Mosquitos original was a comeback hit for the Monkees in 1986), sumptuous "I Know a Secret," propulsive "Standing In the Rain," tender "Stephanie Says" and affecting "Christmas Dream" are other wonderful songs on the essential collection. Information: koolkatmusik.com.



Artist: 
NRBQ
Title: Tiddlywinks (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: R.E.M., the Monkees' "Headquarters," The Minus 5
Tell me more: Originally released in 1980 via Rounder Records, NRBQ's album Tiddlywinks has just been reissued via a delightful expanded edition courtesy of Omnivore Recordings. The Louisville, Kentucky-spawned band has always been a genre-defying delight; Tiddlywinks showcases the troupe's eclectic sonic instincts in spades. Band mates Terry Adams (piano, clarinet, harmonica, vocals), Joey Spampinato (bass, guitar vocals), Al Anderson (guitar, vocals) and Tom Ardolino crafted some of NRBQ's most beloved tracks on their eighth album including two winning singles (the propulsive "Me And The Boys" and "Never Take The Place Of You," the latter a particularly lovely soul-mining original). Additional standouts include the buoyant opener "Feel You Around Me," Baroque folk ballad "Beverly," rollicking "That I Get Back Home," '50s-flavored cut "Want You To Feel Good Too" (featuring plenty of great piano work from Adams) and power pop nugget "You Can't Hide." The bonus track "Big Goodbyes" is very interesting with jarring blasts from guests The Whole Wheat Horns and Adams' own harmonica work providing a haunting delivery over the course of its almost four minute run. The reissue features updated artwork and liner notes from original engineer Tom Mark. Information: OmnivoreRecordings.com.


Artist: 
Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels
Title: The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia, 3/16//73 (Amoeba Music)
You might like if you enjoy: The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, Wilco, Merle Haggard
Tell me more: Fate is on full display across the two-LP live recording titled The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia, 3/16/73. The second release of the Gram Parsons Archive series, the vinyl release features the first new Gram Parsons solo material issued in 40 years (Parsons died at age of 26 at the Joshua Tree Inn in nearby Joshua Tree, CA on Sept. 19, 1973). The record chronicles a complete performance by Parsons and the Fallen Angels performed on March 16, 1973. In addition to Parsons (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) and the then-unknown Emmylou Harris (vocals), the troupe includes guitarist Jock Barkley, pedal steel guitarist Neil Flanz, drummer N.D. Smart and bassist Kyle Tullis. In a press release distributed in connection with the Record Store Day Black Friday release, Flanz (who sadly died in 2021) stated that he felt this was the ensemble's best performance of the entire tour so he requested a soundboard recording of the show; he held onto the cassette for 40 years before it was acquired by Amoeba Music. The tape was then lost for about 10 years, and recently rediscovered and restored to be used for The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia, 3/16/73. 

Although there are some limitations to the recording captured on a cassette more than 50 years ago, the power of the performance from an outstanding group at the height of their powers shines through across the recording. The version of "We'll Sweep Out The Ashes" is an early standout, showcasing the bewitching sound created when Parson and Harris sing together. A speedy version of the Flying Burrito Brothers' "My Uncle" displays the band's virtuoso chops and Parson's signature alternative country approach. Other early highlights on the title include a beautiful take on Parsons' Byrds-era Sweetheart of the Rodeo track "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," and wistful "Streets of Baltimore," the latter featuring incredible harmonies and pedal steel magic courtesy of Flanz. An energetic take on Merle Haggard's Bakersfield country classic "California Cotton Fields," rousing blues-country track "Cry One More Time," pedal steel- and lead guitar-adorned "The New Soft Shoe" and lovely acoustic original "Sin City" are all spectacular. My favorite selection is a haunting version of the Everly Brothers 1960 recording "Love Hurts," where Harris and Parsons sing in tandem with a palpable and poignant power that brings tears.
The only live club show of Parsons ever released, The Last Roundup: Live from the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia, 3/16/73 is truly an incredible chance to revisit the groundbreaking artist's legacy. Information: amoeba.com.




Artist: 
Genya Ravan
Titles: "Urban Desire" and "...And I Mean It!" (BFD/The Orchard)
You might like if you enjoy: Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Sass Jordan
Tell me more: Groundbreaking rock songstress Genya Ravan's incredible legacy is celebrated via two terrific reissues available now via Bob Frank Distribution (BFD). Armed with a powerful soprano, Ravan's self-produced solo albums Urban Desire (1978) and its follow-up ...And I Mean It (1979) showcase her mighty vocals and shining blues-harp playing. The reissues also serve as the perfect introduction to an artist who deserves more recognition. Born Genyusha Zelkowitz in Poland in 1940, Ravan survived the Holocaust. In America, she forged a path in the male-dominated music industry  including forming the first all-woman rock band (Goldie & The Gingerbreads) in 1963 and subsequently one of the first rock 'n' roll horn bands (Ten Wheel Drive) in 1969.  Urban Desire opens with the jubilant rocker "Jerry's Pigeons," with subsequent standouts on the album including the rollicking blues rock nugget "The Knight Ain't Long Enough," acoustic foray "Do It Just For Me," scorching take on The Supremes' "Back In My Arms Again" and rousing "Aye Co'lorado," the latter a wonderful duet with Lou Reed


...And I Mean It
 features an equally strong track listing, which includes gems like the heavy blues sortie "Pedal To The Metal," punkish "It's Me," infectious New Wave-tinged "Love Isn't Love," genre-smashing rocker "I'm Wired, Wired, Wired" and her poignant duet with Ian Hunter ("Junkman"). Both albums are available on audio CD and via vinyl. Information: genyaravan.com. 







Artist: R.E.M.
Titles: Around the Sun; Collapse Into Now (Craft Recordings)
Tell me more: The recent release of R.E.M.'s long out-of-print titles Around the Sun (2004) and Collapse Into Now (2011) on vinyl by Craft Recordings is the perfect opportunity to rediscover two outstanding full-length classics from the beloved Athens, Georgia-spawned band's second half of their incredible career.

Both casual and hardcore fans of R.E.M. will appreciate how amazing the albums sound (both albums were cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and were pressed on 180-gram vinyl at Memphis Records Pressing). Additionally, vinyl aficionados can find limited editions exclusively at REMHQ.com; the 2-LP Around the Sun is available on an Opaque White color variant, while the 1-LP Collapse Into Now can be found in Milky Clear vinyl. Other exclusive official merchandise is also available on the website.


Following the release of their acclaimed albums Up (1998) and Reveal (2001), R.E.M.'s 13th LP Around the Sun was released in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War; the 13-track album finds R.E.M. (singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Rieflin) tackling a troubled world with musical and literate depth. The album shines via the glorious opener "Leaving New York" (the single is bolstered by a sumptuous chorus), ambitious electronica-tinged "Electron Blue," wistful piano-anchored "Make It All Okay," luxurious "I Wanted To Be Wrong," soaring "Wanderlust" and longing "Around the Sun." Around the Sun topped the album charts in the UK, Sweden and Germany, among other territories, and landed at No. 13 on the Billboard 200.



Following the release of their 14th album Accelerate in 2008, the members of R.E.M. collectively decided to record their final album, Collapse Into Now. Produced by Jacknife Lee (The CarsU2Snow Patrol), the album was recorded between November 2009 and September 2010 in Berlin, New Orleans and Nashville. At the time of its release, Mills noted: "It's more of a personal record than a political one. Current events do come into our mind when we write, but the themes here are more universal." The purposeful track listing opens with the confessional rocker "Discoverer," one of Stipe's only autobiographical songs (the track includes guest vocals from Patti Smith). Early highlights abound on the 12-track masterwork; my favorites include the propulsive rocker "All The Best" (whose lyrics foreshadow R.E.M. disbanding in September 2011), the undeniably ravishing 
“Ɯberlin,” and driving melody-showered gem "It Happened Today" featuring guest vocals by Eddie Vedder and The Hidden CamerasJoel Gibb. Standouts on the last half of the album include the speedy "Mine Smell Like Honey," freewheeling rocker "Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter," and alluring "Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I." 





Artist: 
The Rolling Stones
Title: GRRR Live! (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones, John Mayer, classic rock
Tell me more: The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2012 and 2013 by embarking on the aptly-titled "50 & Counting Tour," a 30-show trek that took the legendary British troupe across North America and Europe. On Dec. 15, 2012, The Rolling Stones took the stage at New Jersey's Prudential Center for the final of four shows staged in the New York City area. That event was filmed and professionally recorded for a good reason; a number of notable guests joined the band further elevating the efforts of singer Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, drummer Charlie Watts and their strong touring troupe. Now that memorable concert has been re-edited and the audio remixed. GRRR Live! is truly a stunning event that focuses on The Rolling Stones as a live band and the stylish architects of many of the most beloved classic rock cuts of all time. The 23-track set includes a spirited "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)," "Gimme Shelter" (featuring Lady Gaga sharing lead vocals with Mick Jagger), a delightfully countrified "Dead Flowers," a rollicking take on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" with the Black Keys," and marathon run through "Midnight Rambler" with former Rolling Stones lead guitarist Mick Taylor. The event's final stretch included Bruce Springsteen adding firepower to a powerful "Tumbling Dice," a hard rocking "Brown Sugar," and remarkably nuanced performance of "You Can't Always Get What You Want." The DVD + 2CD edition reviewed in this column has several bonus performances filmed at the Dec. 13, 2012 show that add weight to the package, including a rollicking take on "Respectable" with guitar great John Mayer and a fiery reading of Chuck Berry's 1958 original "Around and Around." Released on Feb. 10, GRRR Live! is available in a number of different formats: 3LP black, 3LP colored white, 3LP red, 2CD, DVD + 2CD, Blu-ray + 2CD (the Blu-ray and digital versions include Dolby Atmos). Information: RollingStones.com.




Artist: 
Simple Minds
Title: New Gold Dream  Live From Paisley Abbey (BMG)
You might like if you enjoy: Simple Minds, U2
Tell me more: New Gold Dream  Live From Paisley Abbey captures the groundbreaking Scottish rock ensemble Simple Minds revisiting their beloved 1982 masterwork New Gold Dream on the occasion of its 40th birthday (the live album was recorded in October 2022). The anthemic opener "Someone Somewhere In Summertime," soaring "Promised You A Miracle" and infectious "Glittering Prize" are instantly luring, while other tracks offer an additional invitation to hear Simple Minds' singular magic. The rhythmic "Color's Fly and Catherine Wheel," urgent "Big Sleep," enticing "New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)," sumptuous "Hunter and the Hunted" and intense "King Is White And In The Crowd" are also key to the compelling full-length performance. Singer Jim Kerr's signature vocals remain a wonder, while guitar great Charlie Burchill offers up a myriad of glorious textures that bolster the live recording (just listen to the wonderful "Promised You A Miracle"). The band's other members — drummer Charisse Osei, bassist Ged Grimes, keyboardist Berenice Scott and acoustic guitarist Gordy Goudie — collectively add artful firepower to the track listing. Forty-five into their glorious run Simple Minds remains an important force in modern rock. Recorded late last year, the programme is part of Sky Arts’ ‘Greatest Albums live’ series, which captures iconic artists playing classic albums from their illustrious careers. 
New Gold Dream – Live from Paisley Abbey offers music lovers the chance to buy the audio of this special one-off performance, either as a digital download, audio CD or a limited edition red transparent marble vinyl LP housed in a gatefold sleeve
Information: SimpleMinds.com





Artist: 
Simple Minds
Title: Acoustic In Concert (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Simple Minds, U2, Coldplay
Tell me more: Although it has been more than 45 years since Simple Minds formed in Glasgow, Scotland, the troupe's music resonates with as much power as ever as on the Blu-ray+CD release Acoustic In Concert. Captured at London's legendary Hackey Empire on Nov. 10, 2016, Simple Minds' performance as part of BBC Radio 2's "In Concert" series is a revelation for those who love textured and artful melodic alt rock. While the band members use acoustic instruments this is definitely no easy listening affair. Singer Jim Kerr and guitar great Charlie Burchill lead the ensemble through a potent and impassioned concert that includes well-known hits such as "Promised You a Miracle," "Don't You (Forget About Me)," "Someone Somewhere in Summertime," "Alive and Kicking" and "Sanctify Yourself," as well as tributes to some of the group's own heroes (David Bowie's "Andy Warhol" and Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot"). The concert ends with Simple Minds being joined on stage by groundbreaking English singer-songwriter Steve Harley to perform a joyous "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)." The audio and visual elements on the Blu-ray are outstanding. Information: simpleminds.com and mercurystudios.co.


Artist: 
The Three O'Clock
Title: Sixteen Tambourines (Yep Roc Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Rain Parade, The Bangles, Big Star
Tell me more: As one of the leaders of the so-called "Paisley Underground" Los Angeles area music scene in the early 1980s, The Three O'Clock blended garage rock, psychedelic pop, college rock and power pop into a groundbreaking brew. The band's 1984 sophomore album Sixteen Tambourines has been reissued in celebration of its 40th anniversary, and has been remastered by Bill Inglot and Dave Schultz. The wonderful sounding reissue provides a fantastic chance to discover (or rediscover) this outstanding masterwork. Sixteen Tambourines features a myriad of wonderful tracks including the rocking opener "Jet Fighter," dreamy "Stupid Einstein," melodic "And So We Run," Baroque pop original "Tomorrow," dance-minded "When Lightning Starts" and scintillating "Seeing Is Believing." Information: https://thethreeoclock.bandcamp.com/music.



Artist: 
Toad the Wet Sprocket 
Titles: All You Want - Bonus Edition (Abe's Records)
Tell me more: Acclaimed modern rock outfit Toad the Wet Sprocket' 2011 greatest hits collection All You Want has been reissued on both audio CD and vinyl as an expanded limited edition bonus edition available via the band's official website. All the Southern California band's essential hits are here (including "Something's Always Wrong," "Fall Down," "Good Intentions" and "Walk on the Ocean"), as well as some of the troupe's other top-tier tracks including "New Constellation," "Crazy Life," "Brother" and the enticing new 2023 original "Best of Me." Information: ToadTheWetSprocket.com.




Artist: 
Violent Femmes 
Titles: Violent Femmes  40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Craft Recordings)
Tell me more: Violent Femmes' 1983 eponymous album is one of the great full-length debuts of all time. Now the masterwork has been reissued as a deluxe and expanded reissue that includes the remastered original album as well as a slew of rare demos, B-sides, live performances and more. Released on Dec. 1, the deluxe 2CD and digital formats feature newly remastered audio and more than a dozen demos, B-sides and live performances  including alternate versions of favorites like "Blister in the Sun," "Please Do Not Go," "Gone Daddy Gone" and "Add It Up." A special 4-disc vinyl box set is set to arrive on Feb. 9, 202, and that is limited to only 5,000 copies worldwide! Housed in a lift-top box with die-cut window detail, this collectible edition offers three 180-gram LPs  the original album alongside demos and live material (plus, a replica 7-inch single featuring "Ugly"/"Gimme the Car." The original album and single discs are cut from the original analog tapes, while lacquers for the complete set were cut by Kevin Gray at Coherent Audio. Both the CD and LP editions feature an expansive book with new liner notes by journalist/Rolling Stone senior editor David Fricke, complete with interviews with Violent Femmes members Gordon GanoBrian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo. Information: CraftRecordings.com.



Artist:
 Neil Young
Title: Chrome Dreams (Reprise)
You might like if you enjoy: Neil Young, Nils Lofgren, Dawes
Tell me more: One of the most remarkable new releases of 2023 is actually a long lost Neil Young album that was recorded between 1974 and 1977. Originally set for release in 1977, Chrome Dreams is every bit the masterpiece that surrounded the towering legend of the 12-track album prior to its long-awaited release on Aug. 11. The track listing of Chrome Dreams includes some very familiar titles, but the recordings featured here in the album's original form include some that were the first recordings of the Young-penned favorites. The album begins with a solo acoustic version of "Pocahontas" recorded on Aug. 11, 1976, Young's signature vocals soaring amidst his shimmering guitar (this is the same version that first appeared on Rust Never Sleeps, but without the overdubs). The acoustic guitar-driven "Hold Back the Tears" includes lyrics different than the subsequent version of the song featured on his American Stars 'n Bars album. Another highlight on the masterwork is the early  and first solo version  of his beloved original "Powderfinger," the power of the song's potent lyrics and evocative musical arch showcased via a mesmerizing performance. The album also includes the haunting and decidedly sparse "Will to Love," introspective "Star of Bethlehem," otherworldly romance-minded rocker "Like a Hurricane," sorrowful "Too Far Gone" and melancholy-adorned "Look Out For My Love." One of the most important releases of 2023. Information: neilyoungarchives.com.