by Rick Krueger
I still have a few more albums to listen to before finalizing my favorite new releases of 2017. To warm up, here are the reissues from this past year that:
- I absolutely had to buy, and
- That grabbed me on first listen (whether I’d previously owned a copy or not) and didn’t let go through repeated plays. Except for my “top favorite” at the end of the post, I haven’t ranked ’em — in my opinion, they’re all equally worth your time.
Emerson Lake & Palmer — Works, Volume One: ELP’s bombastic, eclectic 1977 comeback record, with full orchestra on display throughout. Keith, Greg and Carl’s ambition outstripped the commercial results and ultimately blew up the band — but, given the album’s highlights, what a way to go. Full review here.
Allan Holdsworth — Eidolon: We lost Allan Holdsworth’s endless flow of melody this year, just after his solo work got the reissue treatment it deserves from Los Angeles’ Manifesto Records. Holdsworth idolized jazz legend John Coltrane, determined to do on the electric guitar what Coltrane did on the saxophone; this thoroughly listenable compilation is a fine sampler of the astonishing, moving results. A longer appreciation is here; the Spotify link to Eidolon is here.
Wilco — A.M. (Special Edition); Being There (Deluxe Edition): By the time I discovered Jeff Tweedy’s band in 2005, they’d landed in their sweet spot, an unpredictable melange of folky yearning, avant-garde noise and ragged-but-right rock a la the Rolling Stones. These new versions of their first two albums document a good chunk of the distance they had to travel to get there.
Rising from the ruins of alt-country pioneers Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy and company’s debut A.M. was lightweight, but impressively bipolar — the rockers (featuring guitarist Brian Hennemann of The Bottle Rockets) soared, the country tunes (complete with pedal steel by Texas legend Lloyd Maines) sobbed. For the double disc Being There, mad genius Jay Bennett came onboard with an assortment of guitars, keyboards and effects, and Tweedy’s songs headed for more ambiguous, contrarian territory. The lyrics got knottier as Tweedy probed the contradictions between rock life and adulthood from multiple angles, and the finished tracks felt splattered across the musical spectrum — from unmanicured grunge to Beach Boys-influenced dream pop, with uneasy mixes of folk, country and soul (and an uptempo rock celebration or two) along the way. A.M. includes bonus tracks on its single disc, while Being There adds a disc of outtakes and demos and two CDs of spectacularly sloppy, unrelenting, committed live recordings. I’m planning on a fuller Retroarchy of these beauties in the new year.
And, drum roll please …
Top Favorite Reissue: Bruford — Seems Like A Lifetime Ago (1977-80): Three great albums from one of progressive rock’s finest founding drummers. In four short years, Bruford the band (with Dave Stewart on keys, Jeff Berlin on bass, and Holdsworth or John Clark on guitar) traveled from idiosyncratic jazz-fusion through harder rocking instrumentals to quirky funk with loopily endearing vocals. Add two live sets that keep stretching the material in new directions and a disc of unfinished works in progress, and you have the ultimate package of some of Bruford the drummer’s finest work. Full review here.