Friday, January 05, 2007

Vinyl Tap: Best Reissues of 2006

Pick your format. Remastered, Enhanced, Extended, Limited, Legacy, Deluxe, Dual Disc, Box Set, Special, Live, Essential, Best of, Anthologies, Greatest Hits, Retrospectives.

There's even "Sordid Sentinels."

I hope they're Assorted and Sundry Sordid Sentinels - somehow that would seem to make my list of 2006's best-revisited recordings something complete, and alliterative, to boot. Whatever the case, and whether in compilation or repackaged compact disc-incarnation, squeezed of all traces of once-ubiquitous vinyl, this special year-end edition of Vinyl Tap has by necessity RPM'd for present purposes into The Polycarbonate Plastic Tap Top 10:

1. The Pretenders [Original Recording Remastered]

Yes, they‘re the great Pretenders. “I was feeling kind of ethereal ’cause I’m precious…” Chrissie Hynde may have tongue in cheek and in check, but you don’t know the half of it. She declares on this 1980 release that “I Love Pretending,” but there’s not a lot of reading between the lines needed on one of the most absorbing and vigorous debut albums from anyone at any time, lyrically and musically. From the pointed “anger and lust my senses running amok” to the poignancy of seeking forgiveness from a child who doesn’t understand as “You’ve turned your head / You’ve dropped my hand,” Hynde runs an emotional gamut on the self-titled album’s widely-varying touchstones.

2. Al Green - The Belle Album

When Elvis Costello was once asked if he had ever had a religious experience, he responded, "No, but I have heard Al Green." Whether Costello was referring to Green’s early R&B hits or his later gospel-oriented songs, or both, the transitional Belle from 1977 could be a contender for either view. Coming along at a time of Green’s personal problems and religious re-conversion, this 1977 album bridges the gap from the sinewy sublimity of the soulful Willie Mitchell-produced recordings to albums more in line with his emerging role as an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle. As it turned out, the tracks on Belle comprise the best of both musical worlds.

3. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend [Original Recording Remastered][Special Edition]

Love lost and love lumbering and lurching toward new possibilities makes for a bittersweet emotion that finds musical expression in the inherent tensions of Sweet’s most fully-realized album, a crisp and commanding poptopian masterwork. Irresistible harmony-bedecked vocal melodiousness lands fab foursquare in a Big Star-light, star bright soundscape, set off against the assertive bite and crunch of the front-and-center guitars of Richard Lloyd and the late Robert Quine.

4. The Byrds - There Is A Season [Box Set]

So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star? “Then listen now to what I say / Just get an electric guitar / Then take some time and learn how to play…” They make it seem so easy. Chances are, however, you can’t do it half as well as one of the most preeminent American Bands, the Byrds, musically or harmonically, in whatever of their incarnations. This 99-song box set chronologically sequences the history of the Byrds from their folk-rock flights to their influential countrified landing, and whether you’re hearing an old favorite that really never grows old, or a new-spin of an outtake or oddity, a Byrds’ LP or CD never seems too out of season for another turn, turn, turn.

5. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road [Original Recording Remastered]

    Broken down shacks engine parts
    Could tell a lie but my heart would know
    Listen to the dogs barkin’ in the yard
    Car wheels on a gravel road...

As alternately sensuous and venomous as it is ever-vivid and evocative, the conscientious Williams’ remastered dual-disk deluxe edition of her masterfully crafted 1998 release, itself a laborious consequence of a revolving door series of producers, cities, and studios, almost seems like too much of a good thing, as if she’s out-perfected perfection - and in grand and glorious fashion.

6. Fats Waller - If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It! [Box Set] [Original Recording Remastered]

And if, after three discs and 66 songs of instrumental swing and striding and sly vocals, you still got to ask, you never will get it.

7. The dB's - Like This

The heart-surging “Love Is For Lovers” and the brooding “Lonely Is (As Lonely Does)” highlight a 1984 power-pop confection, Southern-style.

8. John Lee Hooker - Hooker [Box Set]

A comprehensive, career-spanning four-disc box set. For breadth and depth, things don’t get bluesier than this.

9. Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys - Legends Of Country Music [Box Set] [Original Recording Remastered]

With dance-floor style Western swing and its embrace of blues, jazz, country, and pop standards, this four-disc anthology shows why Wills distanced himself from the limitations of the “hillbilly” label.

10. Spoon - Telephono & Soft Effects [Enhanced]

Long lost Pixie-lated punk-pop from ‘96 and ‘97, jagged and jarring yet accessible and melodic.


Honorable Mentions:

Bangles - We Are The '80s

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds 40th Anniversary CD+DVD [ENHANCED] [LIMITED EDITION]

Captain Beefheart - Doc At The Radar Station [Original Recording Remastered]

The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me [Original Recording Remastered]

Los Lobos - Wolf Tracks: the Best of Los Lobos

Roy Orbison - The Essential Roy Orbison [Original Recording Remastered]

Pavement - Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition

The Replacements - Don't You Know Who I Think I Was?: The Best of the Replacements

Sebadoh III

T Bone Burnett - Twenty Twenty: The Essential T Bone Burnett

That's Entertainment [BOX SET] [SOUNDTRACK]

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