Reissue Roundup: Fall Sets From Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and More
Fall is usually the biggest season for reissues and archival releases. But, like most everything else in 2020, COVID-19 slowed down the typical hectic pace of end-of-the-year collections.
Still, there are plenty of great holiday gift ideas for music fans in the below roundup of reissues that came out over the past three months.
The best of these archival releases include best-of collections, expanded editions of classic albums, previously unreleased live recordings and box sets devoted to entire careers.
The Grateful Dead show up with the second 50th-anniversary title released this year (the rootsy Workingman's Dead preceded the similarly themed American Beauty), there's another Jimi Hendrix concert recording from the vault, U2 celebrate 20 years of one of their most heralded albums with a box set filled with extras and Lou Reed does the same with one of his greatest records.
Meanwhile, Elton John dusts off his past with an eight-disc set of B-sides and rarities, the Kinks continue their annual tradition of beefing up one of their classic LPs for its golden anniversary, a new John Lennon collection remixes his most-loved songs and Joni Mitchell dives into her archives for a massive box of pre-fame live and radio recordings.
Grateful Dead, American Beauty (50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: The Dead's second album of 1970, and their all-time best studio record, gets expanded for its golden anniversary to three discs with a complete concert from the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y., from February 1971.
What's on It: The newly remastered original album highlights some of the band's greatest songs, including "Box of Rain," "Friend of the Devil," "Sugar Magnolia," "Ripple" and "Truckin'."
Best Song You Know: The concert is filled with songs from both American Beauty and the similar-sounding Workingman's Dead, which came out less than half a year earlier. Older songs like "Dark Star" and covers (a chill "Me and Bobby McGee") are here, too.
Best Song You Don't Know: This is is the first official release of this fan-favorite show, so unless you're into trading tapes, this is probably all new to you. The live version of "Truckin'," performed early in the set, stretches to more than nine minutes.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Live in Maui
What It Is: In 1970, Hendrix went to Hawaii to film scenes for a movie called Rainbow Bridge. He ended up performing at the foot of a volcano. The film, released two years after Hendrix's death, included only 17 minutes from the show.
What's on It: The three-disc Live in Maui features the two complete sets Hendrix played that day plus a DVD, Music, Money, Madness, that chronicles the trip with new interviews and archival concert footage.
Best Song You Know: "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" showed up on 2000's The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set as part of a medley also included here, but this set marks the first full appearances of the Maui concert.
Best Song You Don't Know: A seven-minute "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is powerful despite the weather-assisted obstacles Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox faced that day. Hendrix died less than two months later.
Elton John, Elton: Jewel Box
What It Is: Eight CDs explore the songs that weren't hits for the legend over the course of his half-century career. There are B-sides, outtakes and album tracks you haven't heard hundreds of times before.
What's on It: John had a hand in picking some of the 148 tracks - spanning 1965 through 2019 - on Jewel Box. "Border Song" and "Philadelphia Freedom" are here, so it's not all obscurities. But most of it is.
Best Song You Know: "Border Song" was an early songwriting triumph for John and Bernie Taupin - Aretha Franklin even covered it. And "(Gotta Get A) Meal Ticket" was a tough rocker buried on Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
Best Song You Don't Know: Before his debut album came out in 1969, John toyed with the idea of a Beatlesque record stuffed with nostalgic references and whimsical sounds. "Regimental Sgt. Zippo," from 1968, achieved this best.
The Kinks, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One (Box Set)
What It Is: After a few years of great but underselling albums, the Kinks kicked off the '70s with a concept album about the music industry and its pitfalls - something the band was more than familiar with.
What's on It: This 50th-anniversary edition includes a new remaster of the original 1970 LP plus two discs of singles, B-sides and alternate versions. The album included "Lola," the Kinks' first Top 10 hit in years.
Best Song You Know: "Lola" is the classic here, but "Strangers," "Get Back in Line," "Apeman" and, especially, "This Time Tomorrow" are all here, too. It's one of Ray Davies' last great works - he still had Muswell Hillbillies the next year, though.
Best Song You Don't Know: A new remix and medley by Davies called "The Follower - Any Time 2020" features the Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One outtake "Anytime," which is also included in an unaltered version.
John Lennon, Gimme Some Truth. The Ultimate Mixes
What It Is: Three dozen of Lennon's most popular solo songs - spanning 1969's "Cold Turkey" to tracks from 1984's posthumous Milk and Honey - remixed for his 80th birthday and handpicked by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon.
What's on It: The most obvious thing about these remixes is the more prominent placement of Lennon's vocals in the mix. It gives more depth to several of the songs, especially the ones you know by heart.
Best Song You Know: "Imagine" has never sounded more intimate than it does here, with Lennon's warm voice nuzzling against your ears. Other songs from the era sound just as cozy.
Best Song You Don't Know: You know these songs - they've been repackaged many times over the decades. It's the more upfront mixes that are the draw here, and his first huge solo hit, "Instant Karma! (We All Shine On)," has never sounded more powerful.
Joni Mitchell, Joni Mitchell Archives - Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967)
What It Is: The first volume of Mitchell's new Archives series covers the years leading up to her debut album in 1968. Many of Song to a Seagull's tunes are here, but so are covers of folk standards and later classics.
What's on It: The five CDs collect previously unreleased material from live performances, radio shows and Mitchell's home recordings. It's revealing, intimate and often thrilling to hear her without any instrumental backing except for her guitar.
Best Song You Know: None of these performances has surfaced before, so technically they're all new. But early takes on self-penned classics like "Both Sides Now," "Chelsea Morning" and "The Circle Game" hint at what's to come.
Best Song You Don't Know: A 1963 recording from a Saskatoon radio station of the singer-songwriter favorite "House of the Rising Sun" kicks off the box and is a perfect intro to the 100-plus-song survey of Mitchell's formative years.
Lou Reed, New York (Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: Lou Reed's 1989 album was more than just a comeback record after a half-decade of inactivity (and one totally forgettable LP); it's also one of his all-time best solo records. This three-disc set charts its creation and aftermath.
What's on It: The original 14-song album gets a spiffy new remaster, but it's the addition of live tracks, outtakes, rough mixes and single edits that propels this expanded New York to vibrant new territory.
Best Song You Know: "Dirty Blvd." hit No. 1 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart and is one of Reed's great post-Velvet Underground songs. "Romeo Had Juliet" is also a standout cut on an album filled with them.
Best Song You Don't Know: The various "Work Tape" and "Rough Mix" versions of New York songs offer early sketches of the LP's tracks. It's a pretty scaled-down work to begin with, but there's even more edge to these previously unreleased raw takes.
U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind: 20th Anniversary Multi-Format Reissue
What It Is: Expanded version of U2's career-resurrecting 2000 album includes discs of B-sides, outtakes, live tracks and remixes. Although released before 9/11, All That You Can't Leave Behind became tied with the day through its uplifting songs.
What's on It: In addition to a newly remastered version of the original album, the Super Deluxe Box Set features a 2001 concert from Boston filled with older classics, previously unreleased vault recordings and DJ-reworked LP tracks.
Best Song You Know: "Beautiful Day" remains one of the best songs in U2's long career. It sounded like a classic anthem when it debuted in 2000 but gained more resonance - along with the equally majestic "Walk On" - after 9/11.
Best Song You Don't Know: An acoustic version of "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of" adds even more weight to one of the album's best songs. The intimacy here pulls out its inherent feelings of heartbreak and hope.
Wilco, Summerteeth (Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: Wilco's third album, from 1999, is the one where they began a bigger move away from the alt-country and roots music that defined their debut. This four-disc set collects demos, outtakes and live tracks from the era.
What's on It: The experimental nature of Summerteeth essentially made the studio another instrument in Wilco's lineup, and they used it to great effect. Early versions and alternate takes reveal they had a plan in mind from the start.
Best Song You Know: "A Shot in the Arm" is a highlight, power-pop from an earlier time filtered through some turn-of-the-century tricks. "Can't Stand It" and "Via Chicago" are pretty great, too.
Best Song You Don't Know: A "Slow Rhodes Version" of the title track adds gurgling, '70s-style organ for a hypnotic, almost hallucinogenic, take. And a record-store appearance two days before the LP's release previews the band's stage update.