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The 10 Best Reissues of 2020 (So Far)

Pale Saints' The Comforts of Madness reissue

5. Nina Simone, Fodder on My Wings (Verve)
Originally recorded for the French indie label Carrere Records after relocating to Paris, Nina Simone’s 1982 LP Fodder on My Wings mourned her dad’s death and lamented the unease of living in a new city. But when you listen to this oft-overlooked chapter in Nina’s oeuvre, the way she channeled her sorrow through the rhythms of Calypso and Trinidadian soca transforms sadness into rhythmic jubilance, at times even predicting Talking Heads’ Naked. Three bonus tracks from the original sessions are included in this version as well, including ‘They Took My Hand,” “Stop,” and Simone’s searing lyrical improvisation about the loss of her father on a remake of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’.

4. Andrew Gold, Something New: Unreleased Gold (Omnivore)
If there was one complaint to be had about the amazing Linda Ronstadt documentary The Sound of My Voice, it was how little we heard about Andrew Gold, who collaborated with her on such acclaimed works as Heart Like a Wheel and Hasten Down the Wind. You’d be most familiar with him as the composer of the world-renowned Golden Girls theme “Thank You for Being a Friend.” (Imagine if they were named for him??) But the proverbial gold exists in the late songwriter’s unsung output on Asylum Records. This excellent Omnivore set culls together demos Gold worked on with producer Chuck Plotkin that predate his eponymous 1975 debut and exhibit the raw purity of his songcraft. “Let us not overlook Andrew’s extraordinary ability as a songwriter,” writes Gold’s longtime collaborator Peter Asher in the liner notes, “…something the demos in this collection make abundantly clear.”


3. Prince, Up All Nite With Prince: The One Nite Alone Collection/The Rainbow Children (NPG/Legacy)
This spring marks 20 years since Prince made the announcement that he’d revert back to his birth name after spending most of the 1990s with a mysterious, possibly androgynous glyph as his official moniker. Nearly simultaneously, the Purple virtuoso converted from a Seventh Day Adventist to a Jehovah’s Witness, the religious organization that has also counted Patti Smith, Selena, and Donald Glover among its ranks. So it’s no surprise that The Rainbow Children, released in November 2001, is the closest thing we ever got to a musical document of Prince’s spirituality. But it’s also the jazziest Prince LP as well. And the combined result of these forces proved to be an underrated and misunderstood source of healing and comfort in the immediacy of 9/11. Listening to both this beautifully remastered edition of The Rainbow Children and the accompanying box set chronicling the 2002 One Nite Alone… Tour takes on an entirely new level of hope and purpose that Prince’s vision of cultural unity could finally win out over racism and hate come November, in the wake of George Floyd’s infuriating murder in the late legend’s home of Minneapolis.


2. Jon Hassell, Vernal Equinox (Ndeya)
Nobody balanced on the pyramidion of ECM jazz, global beat, and experimental drone music like British trumpet great Jon Hassell, now 83 and recently fallen on hard times in the wake of a frightening and deadly pandemic. He referred to his signature sound as “fourth world,” signified by a horn drowned in filters and effects pedals that he introduced to modern music in 1977 with his first commercial work, Vernal Equinox. Originally released on the Lovely Music imprint, Hassell, along with master Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, and synth player David Rosenboom created a siren song for the future that pulled from the Hassell’s unique work with Terry Riley and La Monte Young, yet also found its way into the DNA of Brian Eno and David Byrne’s 1981 summit My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Listening to this remastered version of the original Equinox on Bandcamp alongside such modern shapeshifters as Moor Mother and No Base Trio (not to mention Hassell’s own recently announced new album!) only further highlights its importance to avant and far-reaching music over the last 43 years.


1. Pale Saints, The Comforts of Madness: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (4AD)
As fellow Leeds natives Gang of Four did for punk with Entertainment!, The Pale Saints redefined the dream-pop genre in 1990 on their debut LP The Comforts of Madness. The way the trio infused their love for American power-pop into the hazy shimmer of shoegaze continues to reveal bold new paths blazed by original lineup Ian Masters (bass / vocals), Chris Cooper (drums), and Graeme Naysmith (guitar). Madness‘ cover of Opal’s neo-psych “Fell From the Sun” indicates the Saints’ impeccable grasp on the delicate balance of atmosphere and aggression that would come to help define alternative rock in the 90s. This incredible 30th anniversary edition, featuring a top-notch remaster of the original Gil Norton production, and a disc of demos and the band’s Peel Session, will hopefully cement them as peak 4AD alongside their more well-known labelmates.