Fall Sets From David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, More
As the final part of 2022 comes to a close with the holidays right around the corner, the usual onslaught of box sets, reissues, archive recordings and general gift-giving options are now available.
The mix is a typical one of expanded classic LPs, rarities pulled from the vaults, remastered reissues and sets that chronicle a certain period in an artist’s life. The below list of the best reissues from fall 2022 includes a dozen collections that vary in length from single LPs to multi-CD boxes.
Artists include some of rock’s biggest and most important artists from the ’60s and ’70s, like David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix and Joni Mitchell, as well as ’80s and ’90s favorites the Cure and Guns N’ Roses.
The list also features a trio of various-artist compilations that collect everything from psychedelic folk rock to obscure library music used as stock backgrounds for movies and TV shows. There’s also a huge box set dedicated to one of the most significant records of the past 20 years (Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) and another Frank Zappa collection, this one documenting his earliest moves toward more challenging and complex music.
David Bowie, Divine Symmetry
What It Is: Five discs chart the development of Bowie’s breakthrough album, 1971’s Hunky Dory, through demos, BBC sessions, alternate takes and early versions. It’s a fascinating trip into a landmark work that helped launch the career of a legend.
What’s on It: Divine Symmetry looks at the year leading up to Hunky Dory‘s release, with work-in-progress versions of “Quicksand,” “Life on Mars?” and “Changes.” Four dozen of the tracks on the four CDs and one Blu-ray have never been released before.
Best Song You Know: The Blu-ray audio includes 2015’s Hunky Dory remaster, with an added “Life on Mars?” remixed in 2016. It’s a defining song for Bowie, a prototype of Ziggy Stardust (the character and the music) and shimmering in this HD version.
Best Song You Don’t Know: A radio session from Sept. 21, 1971, on BBC’s Sounds of the ’70s includes “Kooks,” penned for Bowie’s son and included on the album three months later. This intimate version features just Bowie and guitarist Mick Ronson.
Can, Live in Cuxhaven 1976
What It Is: The third record in the experimental German band’s live series collects songs from a 1976 performance in its home country. Typically, they use the pieces as mere starting points; curiously, this time around, the jamming is trimmed to a minimum.
What’s on It: Live in Cuxhaven doesn’t have the sprawl or depth of the preceding albums from Stuttgart and Brighton shows. This LP clocks in at only 30 minutes and includes abbreviated versions of four songs. They still manage to burrow into corners.
Best Song You Know: Can rarely played concerts that repeated their recordings, preferring instead to take off from set grooves or rhythms. The four songs here were also on the inaugural Stuttgart album released in 2021 but in vastly different forms.
Best Song You Don’t Know: The opening “Eins” runs six and a half minutes on Cuxhaven, down from 20 on Stuttgart and 13 on Brighton, and starts with the song already in progress. But the pulsating funk doesn’t take long to kick into motion.
The Cure, Wish: Deluxe Edition
What It Is: The Cure celebrates the 30th anniversary of their ninth album with three discs of era-related material, much of it never released before. This became the band’s biggest album in 1992, reaching No. 2 in the U.S. and topping the chart in its native U.K.
What’s on It: In addition to the original LP remastered by Robert Smith, the set includes a disc of previously unreleased demos and instrumentals and a CD of outtakes, B-sides, remixes and live tracks that sharpen the group’s most commercial period.
Best Song You Know: “Friday I’m in Love” is one of the Cure’s best and best-known tracks and anchors the hit album, which also includes “High” (Wish‘s first single) and “A Letter to Elise.” All three songs appear in different versions – skeletal to extended – here.
Best Song You Don’t Know: “Uyea Sound (Dim-D Mix)” is one of four songs from a 1993 mail-order cassette called Lost Wishes that collected stray tracks from the album sessions. These rare cuts anchor the “Deluxe Edition” and its bounty of extras.
Guns N’ Roses, Use Your Illusion I & II Box Set
What It Is: Guns N’ Roses’ two 1991 albums have been remastered and boxed up with a pair of shows and a Blu-ray performance from the band’s tour in support of the records. The “Super Deluxe” version features seven discs of material from the era.
What’s on It: In addition to the pair of 75-minute-plus albums, shows from the Ritz Theatre in New York from May 1991 – four months before Use Your Illusion I and II came out – and a Las Vegas arena in January 1992 bristle with energy.
Best Song You Know: “November Rain” (from Use Your Illusion I) remains an overloaded, dramatic and definitive power ballad that distills the band’s lean toward excess and the theatric into almost nine rain-swept minutes. It’s lost none of its pull.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Of the box’s 97 songs, 63 are previously unreleased versions, including an updated “November Rain” that now features a real 50-piece orchestra and a couple of live songs with late Blind Melon singer Shannon Hoon.
Jimi Hendrix Experience, Los Angeles Forum – April 26, 1969
What It Is: Recorded just two months before the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s last show, this Los Angeles Forum concert has never been released in its entirety. The band was in full power-trio mode, plowing through songs with room-shaking force.
What’s on It: The set doesn’t stray far from the group’s usual mix of early favorites (“Foxey Lady,” “Purple Haze”) and marathon readings of later jam-based songs (“Tax Free,” “Voodoo Child [Slight Return]”). Originally recorded for a scrapped 1969 live LP.
Best Song You Know: Many of these performances have shown up on the various Hendrix compilations like Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection and West Coast Seattle Boy that have surfaced since his 1970 death. This is the show’s first full release.
Best Song You Don’t Know: In addition to a great, seven-minute “I Don’t Live Today,” Los Angeles Forum includes a three-part medley launched from “Voodoo Child [Slight Return]” that detours to Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” during its 16 minutes.
Bert Jansch, Bert at the BBC
What It Is: This eight-CD set raids the BBC’s vaults for the folk legend’s sessions, on-air spots and full concerts spanning 1966 to 2009. Many of the 147 tracks haven’t been released in any form, making Bert at the BBC the definitive word on the subject.
What’s on It: In addition to Jansch’s first and last appearances at the BBC, the set includes performances with Pentangle bandmates John Renbourn and Jacqui McShee, the Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and British bass master Danny Thompson.
Best Song You Know: Jansch, who died in 2011 at 67, covered several American (“This Land Is Your Land”) and British (“She Moved Through the Fair”) folk classics during his many BBC performances. He also found room for “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Best Song You Don’t Know: Most of these tracks are new to CD. The best songs inspired everyone from Simon & Garfunkel (who covered his reworked “Angie”) to Led Zeppelin, who covered “Blackwater Side” as “Black Mountain Side” on their debut album.
Joni Mitchell, The Asylum Albums (1972-1975)
What It Is: The latest volume in the Joni Mitchell Archives series collects four albums from her tenure with Asylum Records: For the Roses, Court and Spark, the double live Miles of Aisles and The Hissing of Summer Lawns – all gloriously remastered.
What’s on It: Blue, from 1971, set a template for singer-songwriters going forward, but Mitchell shifted away from it on 1972’s For the Roses, steering in a jazzier and less personal direction. By 1975’s Summer Lawns she was exploring all new territory.
Best Song You Know: “Help Me,” from 1974’s Court and Spark, was Mitchell’s only Top 10 hit, signaling an even greater turn toward jazz-oriented material. That record is the key work on The Asylum Albums, but all four LPs mark her greatest creative leap.
Best Song You Don’t Know: There’s nothing new here, just the remastered sound. But exploring Mitchell’s body of work in this context – the Joni Mitchell Archives is working its way chronologically through her career – gives you a new appreciation for her music.
Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Super Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: Wilco’s landmark fourth album is expanded for its 20th anniversary to include alternate versions and live recordings that give fans before and after glimpses of one of the century’s most important works. The original LP is remastered, too.
What’s on It: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘s history is now legendary: Wilco was set to release the LP in 2001 but their label rejected it. By the time the record came out in 2002, it took on a whole new meaning post-9/11, with songs about America, war and heartbreak.
Best Song You Know: “Jesus, Etc.” combined the band’s past (traces of Americana) and future (layers of texture and noise) but became a thorny issue after 9/11 because of the line “Tall buildings shake.” Still, the most accessible moment on their masterpiece.
Best Song You Don’t Know: An alternate version of the album titled The Unified Theory of Everything documents a different take on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. It’s the key to this new set. Check out “A Magazine Called Sunset” for what could have been.
Frank Zappa, Waka/Wazoo
What It Is: The 50th anniversaries of Frank Zappa’s 1972 albums, Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo (which was co-credited to the Mothers of Invention) are celebrated with a box set that features alternate versions, outtakes, demos and live tracks from the era.
What’s on It: The five discs (four CDs and one audio Blu-ray) document the making of Zappa’s hard steer toward the fusion-leaning sound exemplified on Hot Rats. His “electric orchestra” included keyboardist George Duke and drummer Aynsley Dunbar.
Best Song You Know: The Grand Wazoo‘s opening track, “For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers),” is included on Waka/Wazoo in outtake and alternate versions, as well as the original album version in 48kHz 24-bit Dolby Atmos on the Blu-ray.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Both albums were recorded during two months in the spring of 1972 at Hollywood’s Paramount Studios. An alternate take of “Cletus Awreetus-Awrightus” from Wazoo captures the frenzy of the sessions in five minutes.
Various, Deep in the Woods: Pastoral Psychedelia & Funk Folk 1968-1975
What It Is: Three discs of folk-oriented psychedelic music from the late ’60s and early ’70s tell the story of the genres’ shared DNA through artists both obscure (Knocker Jungle, Global Village Trucking Company) and slightly less obscure (Jade Warrior).
What’s on It: Most of these 54 songs blur the line between acoustic folk music and the more trippy aspects of post-Summer of Love freakouts. Nirvana (no, not that Nirvana) probably came the closest to this blurred aesthetic in their wandering “Nova Sketch.”
Best Song You Know: Bassist Noel Redding formed Fat Mattress during his last year with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band’s “Leafy Lane” kicks off Deep in the Woods and sets the pace for this genre-hopping collection that also wraps in jazz and R&B.
Best Song You Don’t Know: There are plenty of below-the-radar tracks here, even for students of the music. Mellow Candle’s “Silversong” arrived near the end of the movement, on 1972’s Swaddling Songs, but is a highlight worth discovering. Again.
Various, The Library Archive 2
What It Is: Subtitled “More Funk, Jazz, Beats and Soundtracks From the Archives of Cavendish Music,” this collection of 30 cuts from the vaults of U.K. music publisher Cavendish Music uncovers instrumental tracks that haven’t been heard in years.
What’s on It: Most of these songs were recorded for television and movie soundtracks as anonymous pieces used as incidental music. DJs Mr Thing and Chris Read tie together work by the Gentle Giants, Dennis Farnon and others for a sort of loose concept LP.
Best Song You Know: You probably don’t know any of the songs – or artists, for that matter – on this double LP, whose titles often reflect the zany playfulness of their contents: “Organ Grinders Swing,” “Crazy Legs,” “Blues for Boo,” “Cocoanut Cocktail.”
Best Song You Don’t Know: Want more titles? How about “Mad Mendoza” and “Shanghai Caper”? The fun here is discovering just how rich and textured these long locked-away tracks by the New Jazz Group and the New Percussion Octet are.
Various, Wind of Change – Progressive Sounds of 1973
What It Is: Prog-rock was in full swing by 1973, and this four-disc collection gathers some of its best-known names: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Hawkwind, Procol Harum and Yes all check in with some choice cuts from the peak year. All the greats are here.
What’s on It: More than five hours of music chronicle the rise of progressive music in a productive year. There are many revelations, too, on Wind of Change in the form of artists whose names may not recognizable but whose contributions rival their peers.
Best Song You Know: Yes’ “Starship Trooper” (from 1971’s The Yes Album) is the most popular song, but the version included is an exuberant live 1973 take that arrived after the band delivered a pair of classics with Fragile and Close to the Edge.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Al Stewart had been releasing records for almost a decade before Year of the Cat gave him a Top 5 hit in 1976. The pushing-10-minutes of “Nostradamus” from 1973’s Past, Present and Future helped shape the template.
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