The best music reissues of the year, from The Beatles to Philly soul to The Roots
The best music re-issues of the year work nicely for last minute gift giving, but most of the music is also available to stream.
The best reissues of the year include a total-immersion Beatles experience, a panoply of 50th anniversary Philadelphia International Records releases, Joni Mitchell and John Coltrane rarities, a Latin Soul dance party, a Bruce Springsteen live show, a hip-hop classic by The Roots, and a Philly jazz iconoclast getting his due.
And much more. It’s last-minute gift-buying time, and the packages highlighted here would serve nicely as bundles of joy for music lovers who crave physical product, whose numbers are growing with vinyl sales rising 108% in the first half of 2021, according to industry analysts.
You can also shop locally at Philly-area record stores like Repo Records on South Street, Siren Records in Doylestown, Philadelphia Record Exchange in Fishtown, Main Street Music in Manayunk, Brewerytown Beats, Long in the Tooth in Center City, and Common Beat in West Philly.
But don’t think of these collections as only pricey gift options. Most of the music highlighted here is not exclusive to physical product buyers. You won’t get the fancy booklets without shelling out the cash, but you can still listen to all 34 tracks on the triple-LP expanded edition of The Roots’ Do You Want More?!!!??! on Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal. So buy one copy for somebody you love, then stream the music for yourself.
The Beatles, Let It Be (Super Deluxe). After living through Peter Jackson’s eight-hour Disney+ Get Back on the making of Let It Be, I won’t be needing to hear “I’ve Got a Feeling” or “Don’t Let Me Down” again for a while. But this six-CD box contains plenty of rare treasure, from fashion-plate producer Glyn Johns’ “Let It Be” mix to Billy Preston singing the 1929 chestnut “Without a Song” to an early “Something” with the lyric “Something in the way she moves me attracts me like a pomegranate.”
Beyond Get Back, it’s been a 50th anniversary reissue year for the two best Beatles solo albums. All Things Must Pass is the super-deluxe take on the spiritually searching 1971 opus full of songs that George Harrison’s bandmates weren’t particularly interested in during Let It Be rehearsals. (It’s also being promoted by the weird and whimsical celebrity-filled “My Sweet Lord” video that was recently released.) And John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band — The Ultimate Collection digs deep into Lennon’s 1971 masterwork that produced the raw, emotive “Mother” and “Isolation.”
Philadelphia International Records reissues. It’s also been a big year for the label founded by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971 whose sophisticated soul shaped the decade ahead.
PIR celebrated its 50th in various ways, from an online gallery of visual art inspired by the company that gave the world McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” to collections compiled in all sorts of physical configurations via Sony’s Legacy Recordings and partner labels.
There’s a single-LP The Best of Philadelphia International Records with tracks by Billy Paul, the Three Degrees and others. The double-LP Golden Gate Groove: The Sound of Philadelphia Live 1973 chronicles a showcase show in San Francisco. Best of vinyl dedicated to Lou Rawls, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and The O’Jays can be found at soundofphiladelphia.com.
British label Snapper Music-United Souls has an ongoing series of lavishly produced eight-CD box sets. So far, Get on Board the Soul Train, Vol. 1 and Satisfaction Guaranteed, Vol. 2 are available. And subscription service Vinyl Me, Please, has an eight-LP The Story of Philadelphia International Records box that’s scheduled to ship in February.
The Roots, Do You Want More?!!!??!. A three-LP reissue of the 1995 sophomore release that found the Philly hip-hop band truly coming into its own with jazz- and funk-textured poetic tracks like “Proceed” and “Mellow My Man.” Powerful and poignant, with an album cover picturing Black Thought, Questlove and rapper Malik B., who died last year. Bassist Leonard Hubbard died earlier this month at 62.
Hall & Oates, The Philly Tapes. This vinyl-only limited-edition release also goes under the name Daryl Hall & John Oates, Fall in Philadelphia: The Definitive Demos 1968-71, which is an accurate description of what it contains. This Record Store Day release collects of 20 early recordings from the band’s folk-rock period, with titles like “Perkiomen” and the prophetic “A Lot of Changes Comin’.”
The Replacements, Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash. There’s an ongoing reissue program of the catalog of the brilliantly unsuccessful Minneapolis 1980s post-punk band affectionately known as The ‘Mats — short for ‘Placements — spurred by Bob Mehr’s superb 2016 band bio, Trouble Boys. This fun, freewheeling four-CD single-LP set collects the inspired output connected to Sorry Ma, the band’s 1981 debut.
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle. A Love Supreme, the 1965 album by the jazz sax genius who spent his formative years in Philly went platinum — certifying 1 million copies sold — just last month. This single-CD double-LP live set is a an unearthed recording from October 1965 that adds to that legacy. NPR jazz critic Nate Chinen likened it to “a da Vinci scholar finding another Mona Lisa.”
Elvis Presley, Elvis: Back in Nashville. This four-CD set focuses on 1971 recordings and, as with the 1970 performances on last year’s From Elvis in Nashville, they are stripped of their original orchestral sweetening. Elvis, still in his post-comeback prime, again sounds focused and in charge, while also occasionally loose and joking. This time about half of the set consists of Christmas and gospel material.
Joni Mitchell, Archives, Vol. 2, The Reprise Years, 1968-1971. Joni Mitchell is being celebrated as never before with the 50th anniversary of her 1971 album Blue and as a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. The second volume of Rhino’s expertly curated series has five discs of live performances and rarities for fans to luxuriate in.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, The Legendary 1979 No Nukes Concerts. The live-wire performances of New Jersey’s $500 million man at Madison Square Garden with the E Streeters at their zenith are captured here in a DVD-plus-CD package.
It’s a Good, Good Feeling: The Latin Soul of Fania Records. This fabulously entertaining collection of either four CDs or a condensed two LPs collects Latin soul and dance music recorded from 1965 to 1975. Featured artists include Joe Bataan, Willie Colón, and Ray Barretto. More obscure treats come from bands like Butter Scotch, who show the prevailing influence of Philly Soul.
The Jimmie Vaughan Story. This five-CD, single-LP box is a lavish 70th-birthday celebration for a guitarist who’s known more as a complementary player than a guitar god like his late brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan, but the music backs up the care and attention given to it. The set covers the blues master from his early days in Austin, Texas, to his work with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and on to his current solo career.
Hasaan Ibn Ali, Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album and Retrospect in Retirement of Delay: The Solo Recordings. In 2021, the late Philadelphia jazz pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali, who died in 1980, finally got the respect he deserved. Metaphysics is the influential, idiosyncratic player’s 1965 solo album that was though to be lost in a fire. Retrospect is a unique set of standards recorded in Philly in the 1960s.
Nick Cristiano contributed to this article. For a full version, go to Inquirer.com.