Reissue Roundup: Winter Sets From Def Leppard, Tom Petty and More
The best reissues and archival releases of the past few months don't really shed much new light on old favorites, like the best reissues and archival releases often do.
But there is some of that. Van Morrison revisits a 1997 album and beefs it up, Humble Pie dust off some long-lost recordings from the vault and Linda Ronstadt finally releases her first live record.
Others – like Def Leppard and Tom Petty – go down a more familiar route, collecting some of their best and best-known songs while tossing in a handful of new tracks to entice old fans.
Plus, one of the Eagles' bestselling albums gets its first-ever vinyl release, cult hero Alex Chilton's later period is reevaluated and soon-to-be-inducted Rock & Roll Hall of Famers the Zombies gather their '60s studio recordings in a new box set.
Alex Chilton, From Memphis to New Orleans, Songs From Robin Hood Lane
What It Is: Two new archival releases featuring the late Box Tops and Big Star leader. From Memphis to New Orleans collects material he recorded in those cities during the mid and late '80s; Songs From Robin Hood Lane comes from the '90s.
What's on It: Memphis includes 15 songs from the period when Chilton became a college-rock hero, thanks to Big Star's rediscovery and the Replacements' song about him. Robin Hood's dozen songs are standards from the Great American Songbook.
Best Song You Know: Besides the No. 1 Box Tops hit "The Letter," Chilton never sold a lot of records, so you probably don't know many of these songs. "No Sex," his song about the Reagan-era AIDS dilemma from a 1986 EP, is the sharpest track here.
Best Song You Don't Know: Robin Hood Lane features four previously unreleased tracks, including a low-key cover of Buddy Johnson's smoldering “Save Your Love for Me."
Def Leppard, The Story So Far - The Best Of
What It Is: Two-disc compilation summing up the band's four-decade career as it heads into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Like past collections, all the favorites are here; unlike other sets, there's more recent material too.
What's on It: Thirty-five songs – ranging from 1981's High 'n' Dry through 2015's Def Leppard, plus some live tracks, a soundtrack recording and a couple of new cuts, including a Christmas song.
Best Song You Know: More than half of the tracks on the first disc come from Pyromania and Hysteria. Pick your favorite.
Best Song You Don't Know: A cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," which was originally released as a Spotify single last year. It's one of three covers, but the only new one included on The Story So Far.
Eagles, Hell Freezes Over
What It Is: The first-ever standalone vinyl release of the Eagles' 1994 reunion album, culled from their first show together in 14 years. The double LP was previously available as part of last year's Legacy vinyl box.
What's on It: Fifteen songs that span the band's career – from "Take It Easy" to Don Henley's solo hit "New York Minute." Eleven of the tracks are live versions of classics; four new songs are also here.
Best Song You Know: The epic "The Last Resort" gains even more resonance in the stage setting. The closing "Desperado" is poignant too.
Best Song You Don't Know: There's nothing new on this remastered vinyl reissue. The four new studio cuts open the set, but you probably know them since the album debuted at No. 1 and has sold more than 9 million copies in the U.S.
Humble Pie, Joint Effort
What It Is: Humble Pie recorded some songs at their Clear Sounds studio in 1974 and 1975, but the album they assembled was rejected by their record company. Now, Joint Effort has finally been hauled out of the vault.
What's on It: Ten songs recorded by the band, which was dormant while frontman Steve Marriott tried out for the Rolling Stones. When that didn't pan out, he and bassist Greg Ridley reshuffled a project they were working on into a new band LP.
Best Song You Know: A cover of the Beatles' "Rain" eventually found its way on 1975's Street Rats, an album the record company didn't shelve made by the same lineup found on Joint Effort.
Best Song You Don't Know: A cover of James Brown's "Think" opens the record and rocks harder than the seven originals here.
Van Morrison, The Healing Game (Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: Van Morrison's 1997 album is expanded to three discs, including single mixes, alternate versions, previously unreleased tracks and live songs from a 1997 gig at Montreux.
What's on It: The singer-songwriter's first album of all-original, self-penned material since 1989's Avalon Sunset was made with former James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and British jazz legend Georgie Fame.
Best Song You Know: A couple of tracks recorded with John Lee Hooker were originally on the bluesman's 1997 album Don't Look Back. They're included on the "Sessions & Collaborations" disc here.
Best Song You Don't Know: New takes on earlier classics "Full Force Gale" and "St. Dominic's Preview" were recorded around the same time as the album.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Best of Everything
What It Is: Two discs spanning Petty's work with his full-time band the Heartbreakers, with his part-time band Mudcrutch and as a solo artist. It's billed as the "definitive career-spanning hits collection," as opposed to last year's obscurities-filled box.
What's on It: Thirty-eight tracks, ranging from the obvious ("Breakdown," "Learning to Fly") to the underrated ("Walls [Circus]," "Southern Accents"), make this a good introduction to the late Petty. But you'll eventually want to dig deeper.
Best Song You Know: "American Girl," "Free Fallin'" and "Refugee" are all here. So is "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" with Stevie Nicks.
Best Song You Don't Know: There are two previously unreleased songs on The Best of Everything, "For Real" and an alternate version of the title track, an unheralded gem from the Southern Accents LP.
Linda Ronstadt, Live in Hollywood
What It Is: Linda Ronstadt's first-ever live album, culled from a HBO special. The dozen tracks were recorded on April 24, 1980, at Hollywood's Television Center Studios, and hand-picked by the singer.
What's on It: Concert versions of some of Ronstadt's biggest and best-known songs, including "It's So Easy," "Blue Bayou," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me" and "Desperado." Plus, a six-minute take on her only No.1 single, "You're No Good."
Best Song You Know: That extended "You're No Good" is pretty good. So are her spirited renditions of "I Can't Let Go," "Hurt So Bad" and "How Do I Make You" from the album she was promoting at the time, Mad Love.
Best Song You Don't Know: Ronstadt's version of Little Feat's "Willin'" (from 1974's career-best Heart Like a Wheel LP) was never a hit single. But it should have been.
The Zombies, The Complete Studio Recordings
What It Is: Almost everything the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band released in the '60s, including its two U.S. albums, an unreleased record and an LP of stray cuts – collected on five vinyl records.
What's on It: The Zombies' first album, the legendary follow-up Odessey and Oracle, a record originally released only in the U.K. and Japan, an album recorded after Oracle but never released and an LP of of singles and U.K.-only album tracks.
Best Song You Know: Their breakthrough single, "She's Not There," is included on She’s Not There / Tell Her No, the first LP in this box.
Best Song You Don't Know: Even though "Imagine the Swan" was released as a single in 1969, it stalled outside the Top 100. It's the centerpiece of R.I.P., a never-released album made by the band after "Time of the Season" was a surprise hit.