Reissue Roundup: Spring Sets From Stevie Nicks, Rolling Stones and More
It's a varied bunch this time around, with box sets, career-spanning retrospectives, expanded versions of classic albums and even a couple of Record Store Day exclusives rounding out the best reissues from the past few months.
In addition to the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers mentioned above, there's a couple of remastered punk essentials, a long-shelved R&B follow-up to one of the greatest records ever made, a vinyl box set collecting a classic band's golden-era output, a vault-cleaning Frank Zappa live box and a compilation of psychedelic rarities from that genre's golden age.
Some of the reissues this time around offer new and or unreleased material, but many of them merely repackage albums you already know in remastered or freshly pressed vinyl forms. Either way, all of them spotlight great works that belong on your shelves.
Buzzcocks, A Different Kind of Tension, Singles Going Steady
What It Is: The last two albums released by the band during its glorious late-'70s run. A Different Kind of Tension arrived in 1979; the great singles compilation, Singles Going Steady, came out around the same time. These new reissues clean up the sound.
What's on It: Singles Going Steady, particularly, is an essential punk album, collecting 16 of Buzzcocks' greatest songs, including "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)," "Orgasm Addict" and "What Do I Get?"
Best Song You Know: You should know every single song on Singles. It's that good. Tension falls together more like an album, but highlight "You Say You Don’t Love Me" could easily be on Singles Going Steady too.
Best Song You Don't Know: There's nothing new here, but with the recent death of frontman Pete Shelley and remasters of the band's first two albums, these new additions are worth rediscovering. One of punk's all-time greats.
Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks – Original New York Test Pressing
What It Is: Back in late 1974, Dylan was all set to release a new album. Then he had second thoughts, went back into the studio and re-recorded the songs with a new band. By then, some test pressings of the original record had already been sent out to label executives.
What's on It: This Record Store Day exclusive replicates the late-1974 version of the album, which included some stripped-down takes of songs that didn't end up on the released LP. Last year's More Blood, More Tracks box collects most of these.
Best Song You Know: Five of the songs recorded at the New York sessions – including "Simple Twist of Fate" and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" ended up on Blood on the Tracks when it was finally released in early 1975.
Best Song You Don't Know: The version of "Idiot Wind" included here features haunting organ that didn't make it to the original album (a Minneapolis recording replaced it) or on the More Blood set. Other slight variations can be heard throughout.
Marvin Gaye,You're the Man
What It Is: Gaye recorded an album's worth of songs in 1972 as the follow-up to his classic What's Going On. But after the title-track single stalled, the LP was shelved. This new double vinyl collects the "lost" album, as well as alternate versions and remixes.
What's on It: Like its predecessor, You're the Man is a socially conscious work that weaves in similar musical and lyrical themes. It sounds tentative at times, which may be one of the reasons it was never released.
Best Song You Know: Even though this marks the first vinyl collection of the material, many of the songs have found their way onto other Gaye compilations and reissues over the years. The title track from 1972, which couldn't crack the Top 40, is the best.
Best Song You Don't Know: "The World Is Rated X" first came out on a 1986 compilation of unreleased Gaye tracks and was then released to radio. Few people heard it. The alternate mix here is a highlight, a "What's Going On"-style message song.
Stevie Nicks, Stand Back: 1981-2017
What It Is: Three-disc, 50-track career-spanning compilation spanning the solo career of the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Disc 1 includes the favorites, disc 2 collects duets from throughout the years and disc 3 gathers various live recordings.
What's on It: It's all solo Nicks, so no Fleetwood Mac songs ... at least in their original studio versions. Live takes of her best band cuts – "Dreams," "Rhiannon" and "Landslide" are all here. So are duets with Tom Petty, Don Henley and Sheryl Crow.
Best Song You Know: Two great declarations of independence – "Edge of Seventeen" and "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" – are included in their single versions. So is the Prince-assisted "Stand Back" and the '80s-closing "Rooms on Fire."
Best Song You Don't Know: Live tracks range from early performances on her first solo tour in 1981 in support of Bella Donna ("Dreams" and "Rhiannon") to another duet with Petty and the Heartbreakers. Stray soundtrack songs round out the set.
Pink Floyd, A Saucerful of Secrets (Mono)
What It Is: A Record Store Day exclusive featuring Pink Floyd's transitional second album, which became David Gilmour's first with the band and original leader Syd Barrett's last. This original mono mix hasn't been heard in years.
What's on It: Seven tracks recorded over a year in 1967 and 1968. Barrett wrote and sang on only one song. And the mini-epic "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is the only Pink Floyd cut to feature all five members.
Best Song You Know: "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is the highlight; album opener "Let There Be More Light" is pretty great, too. Barrett's LP-closing "Jugband Blues" was his final song to appear on a Pink Floyd album.
Best Song You Don't Know: No bonus tracks or anything like that on this vinyl reissue, but the mono pressing features some different mixes than those found on the more common stereo version, including a more central and grounded sound.
The Rolling Stones, Honk (Deluxe)
What It Is: Another Stones compilation ... This one gathers 46 songs on three discs, from 1971's Sticky Fingers through 2016's Blue & Lonesome. The third disc includes 10 live cuts from the band's recent shows.
What's on It: Pretty much what you'd expect from the first Stones collection since 2012's Grrr!, including the two new tracks found there. That means everything from "Wild Horses" to "Miss You" to "Start Me Up."
Best Song You Know: Take your pick: "Brown Sugar." "Tumbling Dice." "Angie." They're all here. If you don't own any of the (many) other compilations covering this period, Honk gets the job done with most of the essentials and albums covered.
Best Song You Don't Know: Well, you know the songs. But the settings are new on the live tracks. The best of those feature guest stars like Dave Grohl, Brad Paisley and Ed Sheeran, with Florence Welch's "Wild Horses" the standout.
Traffic, The Studio Albums: 1967-1974
What It Is: Six albums, most of them classics, from the band's golden era: Mr. Fantasy, Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and When the Eagle Flies.
What's on It: All six LPs have been remastered and included in their original forms – including gatefold sleeves – in this new vinyl box. John Barleycorn from 1970 is Traffic's masterpiece, but their evolution from psych to prog runs a straight line throughout.
Best Song You Know: "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" can be found on their respective albums, but Steve Winwood, along with Dave Mason early on, pretty much loaded the LPs with classic tracks.
Best Song You Don't Know: Because this box features faithful replications of the original albums, there's nothing here you haven't heard before. But each record comes with a facsimile promo poster tied to its release.
Frank Zappa, Zappa in New York
What It Is: An expanded version of Zappa's 1978 album that was recorded at the Palladium in 1976. This new set includes five CDs documenting Zappa's four nights of shows from back in the day.
What's on It: In addition to the original, unused 1977 vinyl mix of the LP, Zappa in New York includes more than three hours of unheard performances from the concerts, as well as "Bonus Vault Content" – alternate and unused versions of some of the songs.
Best Song You Know: "Sofa," which former Zappa sideman Steve Vai recorded at a Zappa tribute show in 1993, the year Zappa died. The guitarist's version of the song won a Grammy, but Zappa's original here is an era highlight.
Best Song You Don't Know: “The Purple Lagoon/Any Kind of Pain,” which re-imagines the side-long "Purple Lagoon" (which ended the original New York LP) with a song first released on a 1988 live album. This previously unreleased track anchors the new stuff.
Various Artists, Poppies: Assorted Finery from the First Psychedelic Age
What It Is: A collection of psych- and garage-rock obscurities from the late '60s. Most of the songs come from the vaults and catalogs of a trio of record companies, including soul-music giant Stax. Most are a little more polished than what you'd expect.
What's on It: Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is probably the only name you're familiar with. Other artists – like the Frost and Circus Maximus – have cult followings among connoisseurs of the genre.
Best Song You Know: Seriously, you probably don't know any of the songs on Poppies: Assorted Finery from the First Psychedelic Age, not even the one by Sainte-Marie, the only artist here who had anything close to a Top 40 hit.
Best Song You Don't Know: Again, you probably don't know any of these songs. But the Human Jungle's "When Will You Happen to Me" is previously unreleased, so we'll go with that one. It's pretty good too.