From deep jazz spiritualism to big dumb rock, Summer 2021 has been chockfull of archival releases of old favorites, obscure discoveries and newly unearthed recordings that will appeal to a vast array of music fans with ice cream money to burn. I keep hearing about how the CD era is dead and all that stuff. But this current cache of archival titles continues to prove the compact disc is very much a format that continues to bring joy and happiness to a large swath of the music-buying public. So yes, CD players still belong in cars, you savages!
Stone Temple Pilots
Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop Deluxe Edition (Atlantic/Rhino)
Third albums are the ones that tend to cement an act’s career in a way that either helps them ascend to new heights or sink like a stone.
For Stone Temple Pilots, their incredible third LP, Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop, confirmed to the critics what their ride-or-die fans knew from the start: This band from San Diego were no third-wave grunge poseurs. To the contrary, this quartet — comprised of singer Scott Weiland, guitarist Dean DeLeo, his bassist brother Robert and drummer Eric Kretz — were doubling down on their penchant for gracious melodies that made 1994’s Purple such a creative and commercial triumph, exhibiting tremendous growth as a pop group par excellence. There were the Stereolab-evoking jazz maneuvers of “Press Play” and “Adhesive,” the New Wave stomp of “Big Bang Baby,” the Bossa Nova-adjacent harmonies on “Art School Girlfriend” and the Bowie-isms of “And So I Know.”
This deluxe edition of Tiny Music includes the remastered original LP on CD and vinyl, augmented by a refreshed fidelity that accentuates Brendan O’Brien’s understated production work. The second disc contains a cache of 15 early versions and alternate mixes of all 12 album cuts, plus the previously unreleased “Kretz’s Acoustic Song.”
Disc three contains the remastered audio from a March 1997 show STP performed during MTV’s notorious Spring Break event in Panama City Beach, Florida, where they performed one of their best shows of the ’90s to an undeserving crowd. STP turned in epic performances of such faves from Core and Purple as “Wicked Garden,” “Plush,” “Vasoline” and “Big Empty” alongside supercharged takes on Tiny Music material like “Tumble In The Rough” and “Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart.”
Despite the tales of heroin horror that might have plagued this period in the STP timeline, Tiny Music remains the record most fans would hail as the lineup’s singular masterpiece.
All Things Must Pass: 50th Anniversary Edition (Capitol/UMe)
When Capitol reissued All Things Must Pass in 2001 for the album’s 30th anniversary, they colorized the cover art and buried some of the triple LP’s finest moments in the mix, while punching up the absolute worst qualities of Phil Spector’s production. Under the auspices of George Harrison’s only son Dhani, this 50th anniversary edition of ATMP beautifully reimagines the best Beatles solo record in a way that provides true clarity for the stunning musicianship on display across all six sides. That sense of improved fidelity no doubt crosses over into the 42 previously unreleased (outside of infamous bootlegs like Awaiting On You All and Beware of ABKCO) outtakes, demos and scorching studio jams featuring Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Billy Preston, Peter Frampton, Bobby Keys, Alan White of Yes, Dave Mason, the future Derek and the Dominoes and a cast of thousands. This 50th anniversary edition of All Things Must Pass wholly achieves George’s longtime desire to de-Spectorize his greatest studio achievement.
The Montreux Years (BMG)
Little Girl Blue (BMG)
Nina Simone’s fiery sermon was one of the great highlights of Questlove’s acclaimed documentary Summer of Soul. But some of the music icon’s most inspired performances occurred on the Montreux Jazz Festival stage, where she was often accompanied by only her own exquisite piano playing. This brand-new collection, released as part of BMG’s The Montreux Years series, compiles the finest moments from her appearances in 1976, 1981, 1987 and 1990, along with a second disc containing the full set from her festival debut on June 16, 1968. Also newly available from the Nina-verse is a stunning remastered edition of her 1959 studio debut for Bethlehem Records, Little Girl Blue. Signed by the label after establishing herself on the New York City club circuit, Nina cut most of these 11 songs in one take, including her famous versions of “My Baby Just Cares For Me” and “I Loves You, Porgy” as leader of a stellar piano trio flanked by bassist Jimmy Bond and living legend Albert “Tootie” Heath on drums. Released across multiple formats through September (including an exclusive Barnes & Noble edition on clear blue vinyl), LGB remains a significant title in Simone’s catalog and one of the most powerful debuts to emerge from the jazz idiom.
Bad Brains (Bad Brains Records/ORG Music)
No other debut LP set the scene for hardcore and punk rock heading into the 1980s like the first Bad Brains full-length. Originally put out by Neil Cooper’s cassette-only ROIR imprint in February 1982, “The Yellow Tape” gave us peak Brains straight out of the gate with their most brutal tunes — “Sailin’ On,” “Attitude,” “Big Takeover,” “Pay To Cum” — counterbalanced with their headiest reggae jams, “Jah Calling,” “Leaving Babylon” and “I Luv I Jah”. The second title to emerge from the new band-sanctioned reissue series in conjunction with ORG Music, Bad Brains –– also known as the “ROIR Tape” — has never sounded better thanks to the massive mastering of Dave Gardner. With revamps of such other Bad Brains faves as Rock For Light, Quickness and The Youth Are Getting Restless on deck, it’s beautiful to see the catalog of this most important American band finally come back into the hands of its creators.
Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller
In Harmony (Resonance Records)
You may not know the name Roy Hargrove if you aren’t huge into jazz, and that’s okay. Yet if you’ve listened to such albums as D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun or even A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975, you’ve definitely experienced the brassy cool of this dearly departed trumpet great. In Harmony is an archival title culled from a pair of concerts in the mid-’00s alongside another heavenly figure from the ‘80s/’90s jazz world, pianist Mulgrew Miller. Each show — one from New York City’s Merkin Hall on January 15, 2006, and the other at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania on November 9, 2007 — combine to form a peaceful, gracious conversation between the piano and the horn in a mood akin to the finest moments of Chet Baker and Paul Bley’s timeless duets.
No Sleep ’til Hammersmith: 40th Anniversary Edition (BMG)
No other band roared the way Motörhead did with their pair of back-to-back bangers in 1979’s Bomber and 1980’s Ace of Spades. The band’s Short Sharp Pain in the Neck tour was just as incendiary, finding Lemmy, Fast Eddie and Philthy Animal blitzing across the United Kingdom in the span of a week for a live album that would be released just three months later. That document, 1981’s No Sleep ’til Hammersmith, gets an incredible box set treatment for its 40th anniversary. It contains an expanded edition of the original live LP along with three bonus discs featuring three more full concerts never commercially released: Leeds Queen Hall (March 28, 1981) and both nights from Newcastle City Hall on March 29 and 30, the shows that made up half the original LP. Also included is a 28-page book, poster, plectrum, tour pass, ticket, flyer, and badge, making this box set as epic as the band it represents.
Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge 30th Anniversary Edition (Sub Pop)
While their contemporaries on the Pacific Northwest underground scene were content in smashing the wall between punk and metal, Seattle’s own Mudhoney were happy keeping the fire of their city’s Sonics-induced garage rock movement choogling into the 1990s. Released just before the grunge bomb dropped on the American mainstream, the band’s second LP served as a refreshing alternative to the hype surrounding their pals in Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. The combo of fast hooks and fuzz on top of fuzz gave the era some of its most relentless anthems in “Generation Genocide” and “Into The Drink.” This 30th-anniversary edition of EGBDF features a 15-track bonus disc containing rare demos, alternate takes and non-album tracks like “Overblown” from the Singles soundtrack.
Get On Board The Soul Train – The Sound Of Philadelphia International Records Vol 1. (United Soul/Legacy Recordings)
Motown brought the groove. Stax brought the grit. But it was Philadelphia International Records that brought grace to the construction of R&B and soul music since its founding by Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1971. In honor of the label’s 50th anniversary comes this brand new box set, which contains remastered versions of the label’s first eight releases including such certified masterpieces as The O’Jays’ Backstabbers and 360 Degrees of Billy Paul along with deeper treasures like The Intruders’ Save The Children and the eponymous LP of Hawaiian song stylist Dick Jensen.
The Beach Boys
Feel Flows – The Sunflower and Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 (Capitol/UMe)
Everyone loves to throw themselves at the twin altars of Pet Sounds and SMiLE when it comes to The Beach Boys. Yet for those who go deep in their worship of the Wilsons and co. will cite this more low-key period in the group’s catalog as their most creatively fertile era. And this beautiful, book-bound five-CD box set is by far the best argument yet for this case. Put together by the same team who brought the mystical, magical 2013 SMiLE Sessions set, Feel Flows offers the same attention to this period in the Beach Boys’ career, a time-framer that arguably merits more appreciation than it gets. Assembled by Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, Feel Flows boasts a mammoth 135 tracks, 108 of which are previously unreleased, and a 48-page book loaded with unreleased and rare photos, lyric sheets, tape box images, recording artifacts and revelatory liner notes by noted radio veteran and Beach Boys expert Howie Edelson. Also included are new and archival interviews from all members along with key associates like Van Dyke Parks, who helped Brian Wilson raise his teenage symphony to young manhood with the glistening title track for Surf’s Up. Despite all the set’s extras, it’s the original “Surf’s Up,” that remains the centerpiece of this set.
Merci Miles! Live in Vienne (Rhino)
Since playing in Paris as part of the Ted Dameron Quintet in May of 1949, Miles Davis harbored a deep love for France. And the country loved him as one of their own as well. So it was fitting that one of his final performances was at the Vienne Jazz Festival just days after French Culture Minister Jack Lang knighted Davis into the country’s Legion of Honour. This magnificent, previously unreleased set, recorded two months before Davis’ untimely passing on September 28, 1991, finds the horn maestro and his last touring band — highlighted by saxophonist Kenny Garrett and DC Go-Go pioneer Ricky Wellman on drums — cooking up a dazzling set signifying Sir Miles’ love for contemporary pop, not only via his famous interpretations of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” and Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” but also in the two songs given to him by his friend and muse Prince — ”Penetration” and “Jailbait.”
Kirtan: Turiya Sings (Impulse! Records)
If you wanted to hear Alice Coltrane sing in 1981, you had to be her student at the Vedantic Center in Southern California, where she served as the Spiritual Director following her move from the Coltrane family home in Dix Hills, New York. Kirtan: Turyia Sings was sourced from a cassette that was sold at the center, and it is indeed a wonder to hear 40 years later. Accompanied only by an otherworldly Wurlizter, these nine deeply devotional hymns were sung entirely in Sanskrit by Alice, who at this stage of her career, used her spiritual name, Turiyasangitandada. “It was the first time we in the ashram community had ever heard my mother’s God-given celestial voice talent,” writes daughter Michelle Coltrane in the liner notes. Michelle, along with her brother Ravi, produced Turiya Sings, and she aptly describes her mother’s work on the album as “an offering to the supreme lord [which] left us in awe with its songs of praise and devotion.”
Encore: Unheard Recordings of Bahamian Guitar and Singing (Smithsonian Folkways)
If you thought Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart and Tom Waits had gruff croaks in their esteemed throats, wait until you hear Joseph Spence. The Bahamian guitar great’s unorthodox, scat-like vocalizations were balanced by his innovative style of guitar playing. He changed the direction of the Bahamas’ traditional music by pushing its boundaries with the adventure and improvisation of jazz, influencing the likes of Richard Thompson, The Grateful Dead and Ry Cooper along the way. Encore contains previously unheard archival recordings from 1965 — largely seen as the height of his career — recorded by archivist Peter K. Siegel. Spence was only 21 when these sessions were captured at the guitarist’s handmade cottage in Nassau, Bahamas and Siegel’s parents’ Manhattan apartment.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Uber Deluxe Edition (UMe)
Music has always played a key role in the films of Cameron Crowe. But for his 2000 semi-autobiographical Almost Famous, the director made music the full focal point for his story of a budding teenage rock journalist who goes on tour with the biggest (fictional) band in the land. And for this belated 20th-anniversary box set, it’s like the producers reconstructed the sonic brain of young William Miller across three CDs jam-packed with AOR acts both obvious (Led Zeppelin, Yes, The Who) and somewhat obscure (The Seeds, The Raspberries, Blodwyn Pig), not to mention deep cuts from universal faves (The Beach Boys’ “Feel Flows,” Jethro Tull’s “Teacher,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Future Games”). This magnificent collection, amended by a ton of visual goodies including tour posters, ticket stubs and a replica of William’s notebook, also includes a “reissue” of the full-length LP from the fictional Stillwater (along with demo versions) and the complete instrumental film score largely created by Nancy Wilson of Heart with Peter Frampton.
The Complete Live at the Lighthouse Complete (Blue Note)
Lighthouse was one of the very first Blue Note titles I picked up as a budding jazz fan in my early 20s, scoring a used copy of the three-disc set at Long Island’s famous Titus Oaks record shop. Little did I know this recording would be one of Lee Morgan’s very last. Assembled by the “Jazz Detective” Zev Feldman and the team at today’s Blue Note Records, this eight-disc set offers the trumpet master’s complete weekend-long run at the famed Hermosa Beach, California, jazz club, flanked by a quintet featuring such giants as tenor saxophonist Bennie Maupin and pianist Harold Mabern. “In a sense, it is holy music,” writes bassist Jymie Merritt, who along with drummer Mickey Roker made up the rhythm section of the group, in the box set’s liner notes. “And that was the thing I felt throughout the performances at The Lighthouse, this was totally uncompromised music in terms of the way it went down.” Two years later, he’d be dead by the hand of his common-law wife Helen, who shot him during an altercation at the NYC East Village jazz club Slug’s Saloon five days after Valentine’s Day in 1972. He was only 33.
In It For The Money: Deluxe Edition (BMG)
Few second albums in the ’90s — save for maybe Nevermind or Low End Theory — elevated a music act as quixotically as In It For The Money by mid-90s Britpop faves Supergrass. Following the runaway success of their Clueless-abetted 1995 hit “Alright,” Gaz, Mick, Rob and Danny eschewed the Top of the Pops in favor of creating a darker, heavier record that explored their love for deep UK psychedelia which remains their best album to date. And guess what, the album reached number two on the charts and surpassed platinum status regardless. A year ahead of its 25th anniversary next April comes this expanded edition of …Money adorned with two discs’ worth of bonuses, including a collection of B-sides and studio rarities and a live anthology covering the band in concert from 1995 to 1998. And much like the original LP, this definitive edition was produced by Supergrass themselves.