Though most of these reissues are replete with bells and whistles — extra tracks, remastering, super-duper deluxe editions, hot-and-cold runnning water — a few are of the no-nonsense refresher-course variety. All worth perusing and considering, however, to some degree.
1) Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True (Extra Tracks, Deluxe Edition, Original Recording Remastered)
Okay, we’ve had Columbia, Ryko, Rhino, a single disc edition of My Aim is True in a Digipak and now this release — so there may be nothing essential for everybody here, but then again it does include session out-takes, demos and live material, with 26 tracks previously unreleased, and the complete Live at the Nashville Rooms, August 7, 1977 concert recording, one of the Attraction’s earliest shows (and the appeal for me). Then there’s the main Aim itself: It’s more pub than punk, and pre-Attractions with pre- above-the-fold News. It has plenty of bite without the all-out venom of This Year’s Model, pervasive pop smarts without the richly-layered propelled-pop production of Armed Forces, and is rough-edged without the raw immediacy of Get Happy. But with such songs as the perversely poignant “Alison,“ and the spittle-in-the-grooves tracks like “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Miracle Man,“ and “I’m Not Angry,” Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True remains a classic of balladry and bristle, making it one of the best debut albums in the history of, um, debut albums. Now with the added attractions. And Attractions.
2) Warren Zevon – Stand in the Fire (Original Recording Remastered)
You’ll enjoy every sandwich listening to this ferocious and fiery concert album — one of the best live albums ever — filled with fervor and fun, amassed with cherry-picked cuts (“The dog ate the part we didn’t like,” states the liner notes). With Stand Zevon was at a peak performance level, trailing clouds of big-hit glory with radio staples like “Werewolves Of London” and “Excitable Boy,” and garnering critical kudos for such albums as a self-titled 1976 release and Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School. Zevon proves himself a commanding, expressive performer, and a strong personality adept not only at striking up the band but in revving up the crowd. At one point in the often gruesome “Excitable Boy,” during the point when our highly-strung titular psycho “dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones,” a blood-curdling Hollywood-style scream, off in the background, can be heard — right on cue. Send lawyers, guns, and money — the defecation has hit the oscillation!
3) The Dwight Twilley Band – Sincerely/Twilley Don't Mind (Extra Tracks)
The crossbred sonics of power pop meisters Dwight Twilley and the late Phil Seymour merged Beatlesque infectiousness with Sun Sounds rockabilly reverb with the initial and visceral no-nonsense wallop of the first album's first track, the hit “I’m on Fire,” setting an arresting tone for the 1976 12-cut debut Sincerely with its snarling vocals, propulsive percussion, British Invasion hooks, and swirling Byrdsian guitar. It’s a song that finds a counterpunch in the instrumentally taut but vocally frantic “England,” where indeed, “All you do is break my moods in two.” Alongside the terminally catchy and Searchers-styled “Three Persons,“ the folkish, mid-tempo “You Were So Warm” soars on exquisite mid-‘60s backing harmonies. The sublime and eerie title song pairs up Twilley’s double-tracked vocals with trippy guitar psych-outs that could’ve lent itself quite easily to some backward masking, unmasking a Walrus or two. Twilley Don’t Mind is not as consistent, but it does have its echo-chamber charms in such songs as “Looking for the Magic,” “Sleeping,” “That I Remember,” and the title song.
4) The Traveling Wilburys – Volume 1 and Volume 3 (2 CD / 1 DVD)
A group of nobodies make good. And they even avoid the dreaded “sophomore album syndrome” by coming out with two albums (1988, ‘90) without having a second release! Geniuses all!
5) Faces – Ooh La La (Original Recording Remastered, Import)
It was a tough call between this 1973 release and 1971’s raucous A Nod Is as Good as a Wink and even more ragged Long Player, but Ooh La La — the Faces last studio album as the group split in light of Rod Stewart’s solo superstardom — gets my nod for being one gloriously torn and frayed loose end after the another. From the boisterous “Borstal Boys” and the nudge-nudge “Silicone Grown,” to Ronnie Lane’s bittersweet and tattered title song, Ooh La La is a lively and rowdy I-declare for this remarkably ramshackle and raucous yet highly influential group.
6) Nils Lofgren
Glimmer Twins of the World Unite! Before Ron Wood from the just split-up Faces replaced guitarist Mick Taylor from the Rolling Stones, E-Streeter Nil Lofgren, after he had worked with Neil Young and disbanded Grin, was rumored to be under consideration as Rolling Stones guitarist. Instead, he signed as solo artist with A&M, and this 1975 album is the rollicking and affable result, though there still is the urgency contained in the message of “Keith Don’t Go.”
7) The Pretenders – Learning to Crawl (Original Recordong Remastered)
“Now we’re back in the fight.” Chrissie Hynde reinvents the Pretenders in 1984 with two new members, some great new songs and splendid results. “Our hearts were singing / It felt like Christmastime…”
8) U2 -Joshua Tree (Original Recording Remastered, Extra Tracks, Deluxe Edition)
Lots of bells and whistles in the reissue of this 1987 classic, including the fact that it contains a special essay by the Edge. Isn’t that reason enough?
9) Electric Light Orchestra - Out of the Blue (Extra Tracks)
It’s no Eldorado or A New World Record, but this double album, originally from 1977, has its moments of trademark ELO Beatlesque pop and classical arrangements.
10) Magazine – Secondhand Daylight (Original Recording Remastered, Extra Tracks)
Need the musical antidote to ELO’s terminally sunny “Mr. Blue Sky” when the “Sun is shinin' in the sky / There ain't a cloud in sight” and where “Everybody's in a play [and] It's a beautiful new day”? Howard Devoto and Magazine’s menacing and chilling Secondhand Daylight, originally from 1979, lets in sufficient gloom as “Thunder shook loose hail / on the outhouse again”:
- As the day stops dead
at the place where we're lost
I will drug you and fuck you
on the permafrost.
Ah, precious moments for singles going unsteady.