(Again, no real order. See last year’s here.)
Lee Hazlewood / There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving
First off: most fantastic packaging EVER. The level of quality Light in the Attic put into this is beyond amazing. Cowboy in Sweden and Requiem for an Almost Lady are two of the best Hazlewood album crop, both are included here along with: the Ann-Margret album, 40, two discs worth of the LHI music stable, and the strangely-non-mustached-Lee in the “movie”: Cowboy in Sweden.
The Fall / 5 Albums
A budget package of the Fall’s late 80’s output. While current criticisms cites the early Warner Fall albums (Nation’s Saving Grace, Wonderful and Frightening) as the keepers, there are so many buried treasure on Kurious Oranj and the Frenz Experiment (Cab It Up, New Big Prinz, Carry Bag Man, Athlete Cured, the Steak Place (!?!) to name a few). Plus you get a half-live album, all the singles and b-sides of the era, and a whole disc of Hit the North mixes (that works far better than it should).
Ilaiyaraaja / Ilectro!
Finders Keepers has been doing a terrific job of giving Ilaiyaraaja his due. This collection of dancefloor-friendly soundtrack cuts from 80’s is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Think of Bollywood breakdance music that changes rhythm, tone and instrumentation every 40 seconds. Confusingly adventurous and so fun.
Bob Dylan / Another Self Portrait
In 1972 I was probably still bumping Sesame Street Disco, so I didn’t really have time to get up in arms over the original Self-Portrait. If (for some odd reason) we ever wanted to take stock of Dylan’s majesty, let’s remember this is an album of outtakes from one of his crappiest albums, and its probably on 9 out of 10 Best of Lists.
Roky Erickson / The Evil One * Don’t Slander Me * Gremlins Have Pictures
Many times reissues become attractive because of extra cuts, demo recordings and other value-added selling points. These 3 Roky albums have no extras, and it matters so little. First off, the Evil One is a near perfect album of unhinged chaos and genius, it still gives me goosebumps. It’s also great having terrific-sounding versions of the other two. All come with super-copious linear notes that provide more details to the Roky story we all thought we knew.
Francoise Hardy / Midnight Blues
Everybody’s favorite ye-ye girl gets deeper. Singing in English, this collection collects tracks from 1968-72. Even if the lyrics are light, the arrangements are incredible. Comparable to what Mickie Most did for Donovan, in terms of turning an ok song into an immaculate cut.
Various Artists / Good God! Apocryphal Hymns
Numero (as usual) had many noteworthy releases this year, but this was my favorite. A collection of private-press gospel records doesn’t sound that exciting, but the sheer variety within is incredible. From the seemingly broken drum machine of Otis G. Johnson’s “Walk with Jesus” to the stoney-basement vibe of the Sprititual Harmonizer “God’s Love“, this proves real people are the funkiest of all…
Mountain Goats / All Hail West Texas
The fidelity is the same cassette quality as before, but I totally forgot how fun, honest and heartfelt these songs are. MANY bands tried this formula in the 90’s but this is one of the best examples of home-recorded, end-of-the-century blasts of localized ennui.
Miles Davis Quintet / Live In Europe 1969
This is the In A Silent Way Miles band, the Third Great Quintet, and there are only a few shows with this line up. Late-period-electric-Miles is a universe unto itself, so let’s call this one of the larger moons of Saturn. I guess the best thing I can say about this music is that it NEVER feels familiar, it’s dense, sometimes overwhelming, but never boring…
Townes Van Zandt / Sunshine Boy: The Unheard Studio Sessions
I have to admit, I don’t really like the TVZ studio albums, they’re overproduced and bury the majesty of his songs in unnecessary over-production. Little of that is here. Instead we get some sparse out-takes, and most-importantly: the demo versions that trump many of the originals.