Besides staying away from anthologies and boxed sets and such, I really had no methodology here. Even the order is not airtight, and could be subject to change. But I’m not going to stress out about it — at least not as much as I am going to about the forthcoming Best Vinyl Reissues of 2008, which are numerous, and choice, and tough to narrow down. Watch this space, then, for my Top 127 LPs of the Year.
1. The Replacements - Tim
Expanded / Remastered / Bonus Tracks
With Tim — which gets a makeover and added tracks — the 1985 major label debut that sported enough throwback indie attitude and rough-around-the edges raucousness of its own, the Replacements didn't go the traditional route when it came to showcasing their new material. Indeed, the group expands upon the versatility and promise of its previous release, Let It Be, and solidifies that power and passion with a more cohesive and coherent end result. Tim spotlights songwriter Paul Westerberg's ever-emergent development as a craftsman — musically and lyrically rowdy and romantic, melodic and madcap — on this newer production by former Ramone Tommy Erdelyi — who cleans up the sound without sacrificing too much of the sonic slapdash immediacy of previous Replacements albums. Westerberg's artistic growth is evident throughout, so, for example, an aptly intentional and barely articulated "why don't you all f-f-fade away"-style frustration at the heart of 1984’s "Unsatisfied" finds clearer, more articulate expression in Tim's "Bastards Of Young": "The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please…" Westerberg has that healthy sense of cynicism to complement his affecting sensitivity, while Tim remains the all-purpose album of no muss no fuss brilliance from the Replacements. Accept no substitutes.
2. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River [40th Anniversary Bonus Tracks] Remastered / Bonus Tracks / Digi-Pak
“Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah / Let me remember things I love…” It’s that kind of celebratory spirit that makes CCR in general, and Green River in particular, among the best road trip music ever. But what’re those deeper currents about finding “the world is smolderin’”? Or about a “Bad Moon Rising,” or a “Sinister Purpose”? Keep your eyes on the road, son…
3. Nick Lowe – Jesus of Cool
Bonus Tracks / Digi-Pak
And Jesus of Cool said unto them, Hear ye not all these songs? Verily I say unto you, let there be Pure Pop for Now People.
4. Dennis Wilson – Pacific Ocean Blue [Legacy Edition]
“Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen,” states the so-called “untalented” Beach Boy brother in the liner notes. Now you can get to know this capable underachiever better — his wistful, brooding music and gruff but affecting vocals — with this reissue that not only contains Dennis Wilson’s only 1977 solo album but also the unreleased tracks from his Bambu album which remained unfinished and unreleased at the time of his 1983 drowning death.
5. Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby/Berlin
Take a walk on the paradoxical side with a Lou Reed twofer, the dark Berlin from 1973 about a drug-addled doomed romance – though those were different times. 1976’s Coney Island Baby, however, hits us with a flower as Reed kicks it all off with the floating-on-air “Crazy Feeling,” sounding pretty giddy and gaga in love. Though he gives sway to sardonic pointedness and delves into underbelly character studies and the transfixing six-minute saga of drugs and death, “Kicks,” Reed ultimately regains a substantial chunk of compassion and grace with the title cut, a stellar blend of melancholic introspection and pensive lyrical evocation.
6. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville [Deluxe Edition] Bonus Tracks / Bonus DVD
I have a theory about that Liz Phair: She loves to shock. Oh wait… that’s Dave Letterman’s theory about Madonna. My thinking about Liz Phair is that I love a gal who can cuss up a storm and set it within a compelling lyrical framework and infectious and fierce musical direction.
7. The Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me [Expanded Edition] Expanded / Remastered / Bonus Tracks