6. David Ruffin
David Unreleased LP & More
The gritty, volatile catharsis of David Ruffin’s voice, whether in the Temptations or solo, was both revelatory and unnerving; and when his agitated, high-maintenance personal life impinged, Ruffin’s talent could take on a scary, toxic aura (at least for Motown execs, or so the mythology goes). Having scored with his first two solo albums in 1969 and 1970, Ruffin soon recorded another in ’70-’71, but it was shelved (perhaps due to the label’s focus on Marvin Gaye’s epic What’s Going On and/or their impatience with Ruffin’s druggy shenanigans). Certainly, the quality of the music, eventually titled David, couldn’t have been at issue, played with refined verve by the Funk Brothers house band. “I Can’t Be Hurt Anymore,” a rugged yet polished plaint, builds to a showstopping roar; the orchestral passion play “Each Day Is a Lifetime” and more high-spirited romp “Anything That You Ask For” match any number of Motown singles from the era. Among seven bonus tracks (plus four alternate mixes of songs from the album) is the beseeching, on-his-knees prayer call “Heaven Help Us All.” C.A.
Kick: Super Deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition
INXS’s Kick was as uniquely weird a product of the late-’80s as MTV’s Remote Control or Steven Soderbergh. Australian rock lifers (this was their sixth album) aiming for Madonna-level pop domination but wouldn’t have gotten over without R.E.M.’s college-rock groundwork; a rock band not afraid to mimic contemporary hip-hop production, a lead dreamboat who rather be Freddie Mercury or Frank Sinatra before he’ll be your Joey Ramone. Ultimately it sold six million copies and, currently, allows a band like fun. to occupy a similar plane (also don’t miss TV on the Radio’s excellent 2011 “Guns in the Sky” rip “Caffinated Consciousness”). The four-disc 25th anniversary celebration is jammed with documentaries, interviews, track-by-track commentaries, stickers for your locker, and, most importantly, tons of Kick-era musical ephemera. The official B-sides are incredibly revealing mostly because they’re funky, weird, goofs that show the band’s silly side: “I’m Coming (Home)” is a sex-starved Robert Palmer-level heavy nova, “Do Wat You Do” is like Kid Creole produced by “Mutt” Lange, and the Lounge Lizardy “On the Rocks” can be best be described as “cocktail synth-jazz.” The demos are notable because Michael Hutchence doesn’t always sing in key. The “Guns in the Sky Kick Ass Remix” actually kicks ass, sampling James Brown and Monty Python and a couple of INXS songs, and is probably a response to M/A/R/R/S from a band already responding to 20 other things. C.W.
8. Alfonso Lovo
Recorded in Nicaragua in 1976, Alfonso Lovo’s Latin-psych excursionLa Gigantona was the funkiest, trippiest, weirdest, polyrhythmatic parts of the early ’70s smeared into dubby, space-is-the-place bliss: equal parts Santana’s Abraxas, Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi, Funkadelic’s America Eats it’s Young, Miles Davis’ On the Corner, War’s The World is a Ghetto, with a little of that giddy Perry-Kingsley keyb-gloop for a cherry on top. However the second album from this politician’s son, recorded with drummer Jose “Chepito” Areas (whom you may recognize playing percussion with Santana at Woodstock) never saw the light of day. Record labels didn’t exactly jump at the chance to release this blunted masterwork (not to mention the Sandinistas were making Nicaragua a pretty awful place to live, let alone release records), but Numero has thankfully unearthed Gigantona‘s expansive 10-minute bursts of nuclear anxiety, porno funk, bizzonkers timbale work, snaky saxes, and political rhetoric as fiery its guitar solos. C.W.
Heaven’s End /Fade Out /A Gilded Eternity
At that late-’80s zoned-out zone between space-rock, shoegaze, and art-metal laid hazy hypnotists Loop. In the wake of today’s fuzzmo suffocators and cuddlegaze pedal-pushers (Deerhunter, A Place to Bury Strangers, Asobi Seksu), Loop’s enormous swirls of guitar and detached, too-cool-for-art-school vocals never sounded more vital. Their three studio albums are fully remastered — 1987 gritty Heaven’s End presage the blackened atmospheres of bands like Horseback and Nadja; while 1989’s Fade Out and 1990’s A Gilded Eternity look forward to the poptimist psych of Secret Machines. Obviously, the real finds here are the bonus CD packaged with each disc, all of which feature a wealth of Peel Sessions and B-sides ranging from the unnecessary (their Suicide cover is maybe a little too faithful for comfort) to the absolutely sublime — Fade Out‘s bonus disc ends with 13 solid minutes of spooky, unaccompanied scorched-earth guitar loops as ghostly and essential as anything the Spectral Spools label is doing in 2012. C.W.
10. Rites of Spring
Six Song Demo
If you only know Rites of Spring as a pre-Fugazi reference point via some lip-pierced emo-blogging bozo, strap on your hardcore helmet, junior. Relatively available for years as the “Mike Fellows Is Dead” tape (the echoed phrase can be heard on the fade-out, chanted by the band because bassist Fellows left during the session; he would return afterwards), the demo was recorded before Rites even played a show. Strung together with jokey, sonic jolts, it’s an exhilarating, tightly constructed, deafeningly sophisticated assault. Yes, the emotion herein can be overwhelmingly raw; no, it ain’t got shit to do with Chris Carrabba’s hair gel or Pete Wentz’s sexting. C.A.