REISSUE OF THE MONTH
1. Hank Williams
The Lost Concerts Limited Collector’s Edition
The first-ever release of actual concert recordings by country music’s livest, wiriest wire is a thrilling revelation. Compiled from two 1952 shows just before Williams’ death, the music is familiar classics, but the performances are uniquely fiery, soulful, and almost arrogantly breezy. Williams commands the stage with his iconic, raspy croon — the wounded wail of a man who was too crafty and badass for his own good — but there are also examples of his sly, cornpone banter, delivered with a seasoned hustler’s sentimental glint. His band, the Drifting Cowboys, tenderly wreck your heart or tear ass at breakneck speed, especially fiddle player Jerry Rivers, whose astounding blur on “Orange Blossom Special” could shame any death-metal guitarist into hanging up his horns. Also included is a rare, intriguing 1951 radio interview. All in all, an unexpected fresh look at one of pop’s greats at his poignant, masterful peak. CHARLES AARON
2. Various Artists
Eccentric Soul: Omnibus
After 10 years of globe-trotting crate-digging misadventures (and magically turning a profit in the Spotify age) the world’s most meticulous reissue label performs the most audacious victory lap imaginable. Their 45th release is a spiffy metal box containing 45 individually packaged 45s — the ideal format for your soul DJ night, a late night on the rug flipping records, or if you need something to put inside an actual jukebox. This odds ‘n’ sods singles bonanza (five hours of music spread across 90 sides of vinyl), the ultimate statement from the label’s flagship series, Eccentric Soul, telling story after story of artists who often didn’t release more than an A- and a B-side. The “eccentric” part is maybe a little misleading (though pan-racial, pan-gender Texas crew Tickled Pink does a sublimely twisted Sly Stone organ riff using only their voices) since any number of these sides could have been huge hits if given the right exposure. That isn’t to say some aren’t in-the-red, lowest-fi burners ready to grind a needle to a nub: The lone single from Florida’s Sag War Fare, “Don’t Be So Jive,” is gloriously demo-quality; and Kansas fuzz-blusterers Curtis Liggins Indications could probably tour with the Dirtbombs tomorrow if the frontman’s life wasn’t cut short in 1972. There’s a thick book with multiple indices to help navigate this tangle, which covers everything from Land-of-1,001-Dances latecomers of the mid-’60s to hip-hopping astro-disco of the early ’80s. Though if we can help, do start with the Temptations-gone-Edwin Starr of North Cakalakans Duracha, whose squealing saxes and apocalyptic moods would be perfect sample fodder for a Nation of Millions reboot. Everybody is a star. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN
3. Various Artists
Only 4 U: The Sound of Cajmere & Cajual Records (1992-2012)
The mind of Chicago producer/artist Curtis Jones has been a beautifully enigmatic, plainly pleasurable playspace for the past two decades. Operating where house music’s gospel-infused sensuality ebbed and flowed into rave’s more playful, kinetic bango, Jones, a.k.a. Cajmere and Green Velvet, helped define the second generation of his hometown’s storied dance-music history. This two-disc compilation of his label Cajual opens with the bubbly, lo-fi churn of “Percolator” (a key juke/footwork inspiration) and shifts into the artfully edited sunburst uplift of “Brighter Days” (Louie’s Masters at Work Mix) and “U Got Me Up (Danny’s Club Version),” all Cajmere productions, with the latter two featuring the unmistakable vocal wail of Dajae. Charting an edgier path was the spacy, pots-and-pans boom of “Feelin’ Kinda High” (Cajmere feat. Terrence F.M.), the dislocating stutter and searching beep of “Moments in Time” (Adam), and the pissy mischief-making of Green Velvet and first-wave Chicago house testifier Jamie Principle on “Lalalalala (Inside My Head).” It’s all innovation as raw, vibrant, blissful jackin’. C.A.
It’s Cosy Inside
British duo Woo make era-less electronic drone-jazz astrofolk that sounds like it beamed down in the 15 years between the pastoral pluckage of Pentangle and the minimal jangle-pulse of Young Marble Giants. In fact, their second album, It’s Cosy Inside, came out in 1989 and it’s a breezy no-jack-swing odyssey somewhere between freak-folk, post-punk, ambient jazz, hipster-friendly new age and space-age bachelor pad smoke-out. C.W.
5. The Lyres
On Fyre / Lyres Lyres
In the late 1970s, Jeff “Monoman” Connolly was the frontman for pioneering Boston hardcores DMZ, but he really found his voice — or more accurately, his primal growl and howl — as leader of wild-eyed garage-punk zealots the Lyres (who’ve also featured DMZ bassist Rick Coraccio and drummer Paul Murphy from time to time). With Monoman, leather jacket and sunglasses firmly fixed, convulsing over his Farfisa or obliterating his harmonica on timeless neo-Nuggets forces of nature like “Don’t Give It Up Now” and “Help You Ann,” the foursome was one of the most unrelenting, impassioned live bands of the ’80s. These first two studio full-lengths were also remarkable, full of the group’s coiled-tight urgency (1984’s On Fyre) and Monoman’s capacity to voice the most heart-wrenching depths of his emotional core (again and again), both in his own compositions (1986’s Lyres Lyres), and via deftly chosen covers (Kinks, Outsiders). C.A.
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.