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The Reissue Section: September 2020

From the Shaggs to the Zombies, Whitney Houston to Lou Reed

The whole reissue concept didn’t come across my obsession desk until my first tour of duty at SPIN as an editorial intern in the fall of 1997. 

One of my tasks during my two days in the office — back when it was on 18th St. near Academy Records — was opening the editors’ mail. I’ll never forget ripping open Sealed Air envelopes for Charles Aaron and just being so amazed at all this cool stuff he’d get sent to him. Now, this was during the time when both Rhino Records and the Sony Music catalog division, Legacy Recordings, were really busting out the big guns: We’re talking the soundtrack to Zabriskie Point with a bonus disc of rarities from the Pink Floyd sessions, that gang of Miles Davis reissues that included Dark Magus and Live-Evil. Island Records released the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry box set Arkology and an expanded edition of Dusty In Memphis. 

For a music collector, it was information overload, and it made me a lifelong fan of archival releases. They are my comic books, my gaming consoles. This is a testament to the reputation SPIN’s reissue coverage harbored in the mid to late ‘90s. Whether it was Robert Christgau’s deep dive into Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music in the October 1997 issue, Suzanne McElfresh’s review of three essential Ornette Coleman reissues in the November 2000 edition or anything recommended in the reissue column helmed by the likes of Will Hermes and Sean Howe in the last 10 years of the print publication, this coverage was essential in getting the word out. 

So with all that in mind, it is humbling to continue this publication’s lineage of reissue coverage with this new bi-monthly column, showing you what to explore from your favorite local record shop, Bandcamp or wherever you purchase your music these days. Thank you for reading.

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston 35th Anniversary Edition
(Vinyl Me Please/Legacy Recordings)

As former Arista Records exec Mitchell Cohen writes in the liner notes of Whitney Houston 35th Anniversary Edition, her debut was the first to feature so much manpower in its creation. “This was not how blockbuster albums were supposed to be made, by creative committee,” he explains. “Whitney Houston, with worldwide sales of over [20] million albums, tossed out that blueprint.”

Revisiting the project, you may find yourself with a deeper appreciation for the musicianship behind the hits: The crack team constructed by Gerry Griffith and Clive Davis included Narada Michael Walden, Jermaine Jackson, Michael Masser, “La La” Cope, a young Richard Marx on guitar and the B.T. Express’ late, great Kashif. This formidable VMP edition teems with vintage imagery, exclusive essays from Cope, Walden and Davis and the long-awaited stateside reissue of the 1986 Japanese import Whitney Dancin’ Special, which contains remixes of “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love,” “Thinking About You” and “Someone For Me.”

The Zombies
The Zombies / I Love You / R.I.P.
(Craft Recordings)

Most of the British Invasion bands fell under the alluring spell of the Motown sound evolving before them in real time. But nobody understood the full DNA of Berry Gordy’s baby like the Zombies — albeit in their own distinctly English way, with flourishes of jazz complexity and Canterbury whimsy added in.

Craft Recordings’ trilogy of vinyl-only reissues — including their classic first U.S. album, The Zombies; a 1966 singles and flip-sides set called I Love You only issued in Europe and Japan by Decca at the time; and an originally unreleased final album, R.I.P., recorded largely by Rod Argent and Chris White before scrapping the sessions to focus on Rod’s post-Zombies rock group Argent — might be superfluous to serious fans who own most of this material already. But for young bloods curious about these recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees — whether through their favorite indie band raving about the group’s 1967 magnum opus, Odessey and Oracle, or from Daniel Ralston’s revealing Buzzfeed story about the “Fake Zombies” — these crisp, dynamic remasters are well worth the investment. 

Lou Reed
New York: Deluxe Edition
(Rhino)

For all the fans Lou Reed earned from 1972’s Transformer, even more were introduced to the Bard of Freeport when he signed to Sire Records and released 1989’s New York, thanks in part to MTV’s decent rotation of lead single “Dirty Blvd.” Flanked by a stellar band featuring bassist Rob Wasserman, guitarist Mike Rathke and drummer Fred Maher, Reed offers a perfect timestamp of New York City in the Dinkins era.

This unexpected and most welcome deluxe edition is supplemented by The New York Album, an ultra-rare home video of Lou and his band from the ’89 tour on DVD for the very first time, two CDs of unreleased studio and live material from Lou’s private archives and a vinyl-sized book with new liner notes from music journalist David Fricke and archivist Don Fleming of Gumball and Velvet Monkeys fame. This project, which also includes a beautiful remix of the original LP on 180-gram double vinyl, was also one of the last projects of the great Hal Willner before his passing from COVID-19 earlier this year. 

The Shaggs
Shaggs’ Own Thing
(Light In The Attic)

Hailed as “better than the Beatles” by Frank Zappa, championed by the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Jonathan Richman and signed to a record deal by Terry Adams and Keith Spring of NRBQ, the Shaggs were a bizarro take on the Beach Boys story. Only the Wiggin sisters and their father didn’t have a somewhat troubled relationship, like Brian and Murry Wilson. Instead, while Austin Wiggin, Jr. was hungry for a semblance of fame, he essentially let his daughters — Dot, Betty, Helen and later Rachel — do their own thing: an artful, off-kilter version of garage pop similar to fellow East Coast contemporaries the Velvet Underground and the Fugs.

Originally released on Adams’ and Spring’s label Red Rooster in 1982 following the reissue of the sisters’ 1969 debut, Philosophy of the World, Shaggs’ Own Thing is largely culled from creative studio spurts throughout the 1970s. Strange and beautiful covers of country songwriting legend Tom T. Hall’s “I Love” and the Carpenters’ “Yesterday Once More” are interspersed among original Dot Wiggin compositions like “You’re Somethin’ Special to Me” and “My Pal Foot Foot,” which seemed align with the cutting edge output of European acts like the Raincoats and Kleenex. Remastered from the original tapes with liner notes by John DeAngelis, Light in the Attic’s excellent reissue features one bonus track in “Love at First Sight” on the LP version, while the CD boasts three additional cuts: “Sweet Maria,” “The Missouri Waltz” (initially released as a limited-edition Record Store Day 45 in 2016) and a previously unreleased cover of the indelible Surfaris instrumental hit “Wipe Out.”

The Doors
Morrison Hotel: Deluxe Edition
(Rhino)

Morrison Hotel is the most freewheeling of the six Doors studio albums. It’s also the band at their most sinister, which in future years drew the attention of Ian Astbury, Peter Steele and Glenn Danzig — all of whom owe a debt to the band’s blooming direction on this 1970 LP.

Morrison Hotel turned 50 in February, but COVID sadly pushed the release of Rhino’s anniversary deluxe edition to October. But it’s here, a set runneth over with rare studio material reflecting the strength of the band’s live interplay. In addition to multiple versions of “Queen of the Highway” and “Roadhouse Blues,” there are also rough takes on “Peace Frog” and “Blue Sunday” — not to mention studio versions of live staples like “I Will Never Be Untrue,” a jazzy blues number that originally appeared on the 1997 Doors box set, and B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby.”

L7
Smell The Magic
(Sub Pop)

In Sept. 1990, L7 cut through the camp of the L.A. rock scene like a buzzsaw with Smell The Magic, their second album and Sub Pop debut. Onstage, the group rivaled Wendy O. Williams with a feminist bravado that was more confrontational than conversational.

This 30th-anniversary edition includes all nine cuts from the 1991 edition, which expanded the original six-song EP. And it’s remastered and louder than ever, highlighted by the ferocious, Jennifer Finch-penned “Right On Through” and a defiant cover of The Fiends’ horror punk classic “Packin’ a Rod.” Even with a veritable generation of prominent all-women punk and metal groups that emerged in the initial wake of Smell The Magic, very few could still out-sass these original sisters of American sludge. 

Fleetwood Mac
The Albums 1969 – 1974
(Rhino)

For literal decades now we’ve been fed bad intel about Fleetwood Mac’s Bob Welch era. But now that younger ears are discovering this lost period for the English-American supergroup with the guitarist in tow, underrated Mac LPs Future Games, the classic Bare Trees, Mystery to Me, Penguin and Heroes Are Hard To Find are finally getting some shine. It’s a serious bummer for hardcore fans that these albums will likely not be receiving the rarities-filled deluxe edition treatment like such Buckingham-Nicks era essentials as Rumours, Tusk or Mirage had in recent years.

But all five titles from the Welch years are included in this handy new catchall box set from Rhino, which also includes 1969’s Peter Green swan song Then Play On and 1970’s Kiln House, the only Fleetwood Mac album to feature the transitional combination of guitarists Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan in the studio together. Hopefully a future rarities collection from this six-year period will pop up in time for the holidays.  

Orchestra Baobab
Specialist In All Styles
(World Circuit)

Many American pop fans got their first taste of Senegalese music from Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” which featured accompanying vocals from the African country’s prodigal son Youssou N’Dour. And N’Dour — along with renowned World Music producer Nick Gold — was at the controls when his fellow countrymen Orchestra Baobab hit the studio for their 2002 reunion album, Specialist In All Styles.

The project, a seamless blend of newly penned material and reworks of classic Baobab, helped make the 2000s the Orchestra’s best decade ever — following an acclaimed 2001 reissue of 1982’s Pirate’s Choice and a comeback show at London’s Barbican. The new Specialist marks the album’s very first vinyl appearance, and we strongly suggest fans of Beyonce’s Black Parade, Vampire Weekend and Burna Boy — whose latest album, Twice as Tall, also features a track with N’Dour — pick this up during their next record store trip.

Adam Wade
The Coed Albums: And Then Came Adam / Adam and Evening
(Omnivore Recordings)

If Adam Wade looks familiar, it’s because you probably caught his small roles on classic sitcoms like Good Times, The Jeffersons and Sanford & Son. He also played “Brother #1” in the original Shaft and was the first black game show host when he helmed the short-lived CBS series Musical Chairs.

But in 1960 and 1961, the golden-throated actor recorded two albums for the Coed Records label run out of New York City’s Brill Building. Those two LPs, And Then Came Adam and Adam and Evening, have been remastered as a must-have two-fer from Omnivore Recordings as part of the label’s revamp of the Coed catalog, which also includes updated singles collections from doo-wop legends like the Duprees, the Crests and the Rivieras. But the Wade set is the most intriguing of the lot, its subtle darkness a lost natural bridge connecting Johnny Mathis and Scott Walker.

Jason Molina
Eight Gates
(Secretly Canadian)

It’s hard to comprehend losing a talent like Jason Molina, who died at 39 on March 16, 2013. But Eight Gates is an archival gift from his longtime label Secretly Canadian. Culled from 2009 sessions while he lived in London, these nine songs coincide with Molina’s sparer, folk-rooted direction on 2004’s Let Me Go, Let Me Go, Let Me Go. Songs like “She Says” and “Whisper Away,” with its lyric of “hiss and the fading, the dying radio,” are only made more poignant in their unfinished forms. Eight Gates is Jason Molina as he left us eight years ago: a brilliant mystery.