THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 1.
THE A-Z OF THE BEST REISSUES OF 2013 PART 1.
As the year draws to a close, I’ve been compiling my lists of the best releases of 2013. So far, I’ve chosen the thirty best box sets of 2013 and the fifty best compilations of 2013. Now I’ve decided to turn my attention to reissues, and choose my highlights of 2013. That’s not going to be easy. After all, I’ve listened to a mountain of reissues during 2013. This includes everything from classic albums to lost hidden gems. There’s familiar faces who have been released a number of times before, plus albums that have lain unreleased for over forty years. Some of these albums make a welcome return and have been lavishly remastered. Many of these albums feature on my A-Z of the best reissues of 2013. There are sixty albums on my list. Some are from artists you’ll have heard of. Others are from artists that’ll be new to you. The same goes with the albums. You’ll have heard of some, but some you won’t. They each have one thing in common, their quality and would make a welcome addition to your record collection. So without further ado, here’s my A-Z of the best reissues of 2013.
AL GREEN-LET’S STAY TOGETHER.
There’s a certain irony that just after the release of Al Green’s third album, 1971s Al Green Get’s Next To You, critics thought that his career was in decline. Al Green Get’s Next To You, his second album for Hi Records, stalled at a disappointing number fifty-eight in the US Billboard 200 Charts and number fifteen in the US R&B Charts. Given Al’s debut for Hi Records, Green Is Blues had reached number nineteen in the US Billboard 200 and number three in the US R&B Charts, critics wondered if Al Green’s career was over before it had began. How wrong they were.
What followed was a run of unmatched commercial success and critical acclaim. Between January 1971, when Al released Let’s Stay Together, which was recently released by Fat Possom Records and Al Green Explores Your Mind in October 1974, Al released five albums. Four of these were certified gold and the other was certified gold. Al also enjoyed a run of six consecutive number one US R&B albums. The album that marked a run of critically acclaimed and commercially successful music was a stonewall Southern Soul classic.
Although Let’s Stay Together was only Al Green’s fourth album, it’s a highly mature and polished album. From the opening bars of Let’s Stay Together, right through to the closing notes of Ain’t No Fun For Me, Al never lets the quality drop. He’s forever the consummate professional. On each track, he breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics. Often, the lyrics Al sings, he wrote. Of the the nine tracks on Let’s Stay Together, Al Green wrote five and cowrote two, including the Magnus Opus that is, Let’s Stay Together. Despite that being a million selling single, there’s much more to the album than one song. Ironically, How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, one of two cover versions features one of Al’s most emotive and captivating performances. These are just two of nine reasons to discover or rediscover Let’s Stay Together, a classic album.
ARETHA FRANKLIN-I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVED YOU.
After her 1967 single, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You reached number nine in the US Billboard 100 and number one in the US R&B Charts, Aretha received the first gold disc of her career. Following this she recorded eleven tracks which became I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, which was released by WEA Japan. It became the most successful album of her career when it reached number two on the US Billboard 200 and number one in the US R&B Charts. This lead to the album being certified platinum, having sold over one million copies. Since then, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You has been seen as a soul classic.
Having released ten albums before signing to Atlantic Records, I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You was a career defining album. It saw Aretha on her way to being crowned Queen Of Soul. However, this was just the start of a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. From 1967s Aretha Arrives, Lady Soul, Aretha Now, through 1969s Soul ’69 and 1972s Young Gifted and Black Aretha Franklin was the undisputed Queen Of Soul. Nobody else came close. These were the best albums of Aretha’s long and illustrious career. However, the album that started Aretha Franklin’s career was I Never Loved A Man the Way I Loved You, which transformed her career and deserves to be called a classic.
ARETHA FRANKLIN-LADY SOUL.
Lady Soul, which was released by WEA Japan, was Aretha Franklin’s third album for Atlantic Records. It was also the most successful of her career. Two of the singles, Chain Of Fools and Sweet Sweet Baby (Since You’ve Been Gone) were certified gold. So was Lady Soul, which was released in 1968. Since then, it’s been recognised as one of the most important albums in the history of popular music. No wonder.
Lady Soul features two songs that Aretha made her own, Chain of Fools and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Not only have both songs since become synonymous with Aretha, they’ve become two of her best known, and best loved tracks. On Lady Soul, Aretha also gave stunning interpretations of People Get Ready, Come Back Baby and Groovin.’ Demonstrating her talents as a songwriter are two tracks Aretha cowrote with her husband Ted White for Lady Soul. These are the US R&B number one single Since You’ve Been Gone (Sweet Sweet Baby), and Good To Me As I Am To You. Then on Money Won’t Change You and Come Back Baby, Aretha breathes life, meaning and emotion into the tracks. She transforms these tracks, in a way only Aretha could.
Whether its sadness, hurt and heartache, frustration, anger or emotion, or confidence, sass and sensuality, Aretha Franklin could bring all these things and more to a song. She has you believing she’s lived and survived the lyrics. Lady Soul is one of Aretha Franklin’s classic albums. As such, Lady Soul belongs in every record collection. Quite simply, it features Aretha Franklin at her very best. To me, Lady Soul is the perfect introduction to the career of one of the greatest female soul singers of all time.
BAKER, HARRIS, YOUNG-B-H-Y.
By 1979 Ron Baker, Norman Harris and Earl Young were still the hardest working and most in-demand rhythm section in music. They were currently part of The Salsoul Orchestra and accompanying artists like the undisputed Queen of Disco Loleatta Holloway, First Choice and Double Exposure. They’d done everything, from writing, arranging and producing artists. Norman Harris was even running his own record company Gold Mind Records, a subsidiary of Salsoul Records. Sadly, Gold Mind Records was in trouble, and soon, would become part of Salsoul. However, although the greatest rhythm section in music had done pretty much everything in music, the only thing they still had to do was release an album. This was soon to change, when Baker, Harris, Young released their debut album B-H-Y in 1979.
B-H-Y, which was released by BBR Records was released at the wrong time. Disco had almost died at Comiskey Park in Chicago, at Disco Derby night. Maybe if B-H-Y had been released a year earlier, it might have been a bigger success. WIth its combination of disco, funk, Philly Soul and jazz, it showed how versatile Baker, Harris, Young were. Indeed in some songs, they seamless flit between genres, incorporating three genres within a song. Despite their undoubted talent and B-H-Y’s quality, it wasn’t a success.
Sadly, there was no followup to B-H-Y and it’s the only album Baker, Harris, Young ever recorded for Salsoul or any other label. It’s a fitting memory to soul, funk and disco’s greatest rhythm section. Tragically, Norman Harris died in 1987, aged just forty and Ron Baker died in 1990, aged just forty-three. Both of hugely talented men died way too young, but left an everlasting legacy that is their music, including some of the best music of the Philly Sound and also the disco era. Of Baker, Harris, Young, only Earl Young is left, a true musical giant and the man who single-handedly invented the disco beat and with Ron Baker and Norman Harris created some of the greatest music of the disco era on disco’s greatest label Salsoul.
BEN E. KING-I HAD A LOVE.
After releasing Supernatural in 1975, Ben E. King’s career looked as if it had been rejuvenated. Despite that, Atlantic Records decided to bring in a new producer, Norman Harris. Norman had established a career as a successful producer and his services were constantly in demand. For I Had A Love, which was released in 1976, Norman produced five tracks. Bert De Coteaux and Tony Silvester produced the other four tracks. Despite bringing onboard two successful producers, plus some of the most talented musicians of the seventies, I Had A Love, which was released by failed to chart. However, I Had A Love is something of a hidden gem in Ben E. King’s back-catalogue.
Especially on the tracks Norman Harris produced. Norman’s Philly makeover of Ben E. King could’ve transformed his career. It didn’t. Maybe the problem was the production was split between two producers, giving the album two identities.t would’ve been best if Norman Harris produced all the tracks on I Had A Love. Norman seemed to get the best out of Ben E. King.
Granted Bert and Tony had revitalised Ben’s career with Supernatural, but Ben E. King and Norman Harris seemed a dream team. With Norman Harris, came his colleagues in The Salsoul Orchestra and The Sweethearts of Sigma. The five tracks ons Ben E. King’s I Had A Love produced by Norman Harris and his Philly friends, are the highlights of the album. While I Had A Love is one of Ben E. King best albums of the seventies, it could’ve been an even better album, if Norman Harris had produced the whole album. Maybe then, Ben E. King’s second album for Atlantic Records I Had A Love which was rereleased by WEA Japan March 2013, would’ve matched the commercial success of Supernatural?
BETTYE CRUTCHER-LONG AS YOU LOVE ME.
For Bettye Crutcher, getting a foothold in the male-dominated world of Memphis songwriting wasn’t easy. Her songs already been rejected by Willie Mitchell at Hi Records. Willie told her he’d already got Don Bryant signed to Hi Records. He’d already established himself as a successful and prolific songwriter. Undeterred, Bettye promised herself that one day, she’d make a living as a songwriter. That was her dream. Unlike many songwriters, Bettye never really thought about being a singer. She did enjoy brief recording career, when she released Long As You Love Me in 1974, which was rereleased by Ace Records. By then, Bettye Crutcher had established herself as a successful, award-winning songwriter.
Released in 1974, As Long As You Love Me, Bettye Crutcher’s debut album proved to be her only album. There was no followup. Certainly not on Stax. A year later, Stax Records was declared insolvent. Then somewhat belatedly, soul connoisseurs realised that Bettye Crutcher’s debut album As Long As You Love Me was a hidden gem. A true cult classic, As Long As You Love Me is a hidden musical gem, of the soulful variety, which at last, receiving the recognition it so richly deserves
The first thing that strikes you about BLO’s Chapter One is the cover. Naive, psychedelic, lysergic and surreal, it’s a min-masterpiece. It’s up there with some of the best album covers in music history. So good is the album cover, that I’m sure many people will buy the album just because of the cover. I genuinely hope that’s the case, because BLO’s Chapter One is an important album in African music. BLO are regarded as the first African rock band, while Chapter One is seen as the first African rock album. Released in 1973, by Lagos City EMI, Chapter One should’ve been the start of a brilliant career.
Hugely enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim in Africa, they never enjoyed they never enjoyed the same commercial success and critical acclaim further afield. Neither Europe nor America discovered BLO’s delicious, lysergic fusion of rock, Afrobeat, psychedelia, funk and jazz. Like so much great music, BLO’s music, including Chapter One, was lost to a wider audience, with only a small number of enthusiasts flying the flag for one of Africa’s lost bands. Not only were BLO one of Africa’s lost bands, but they were Africa’s first and best rock band. Proof of this was BLO’s first album, and Africa’s first rock album, Chapter One, which was recently released by Mr. Bongo.
BOB MARLEY AND THE WAILERS-KAYA-DELUXE EDITION.
Back in 1978, when Bob Marley and The Wailers released Kaya, critics and fans accused Bob Marley of selling out. Kaya was a much more laid-back album, whereas previous albums had been politically charged and crammed full of social comment. Previously, Bob Marley was seen as Jamaica’s social conscience. He was someone who spoke on behalf of Jamaica’s oppressed. So when Kaya was released in 1978, critics and fans discovered a was a very different album. Unlike previous albums, Kaya didn’t feature militant and outspoken music filled with social comment. Instead, Kaya had a much more relaxed, laid-back and optimistic sound. Many of the songs were about love, while others were about marijuana. This resulted in the cries of sell-out from critics and fans. They accused Bob Marley and The Wailers of going soft, being more concerned with commercial success than political problems. Given the backlash Kaya faced upon its release in 1978, not many people would’ve forecasted that Kaya would become one of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ classic albums?
Despite the cry of sell-out, thirty-five years later, Kaya is seen as a classic album. Fittingly, a Deluxe Edition of Kaya, a double-album was rereleased during 2013. Disc one features the original version of Kaya, while disc two features the legendary Live At Ahoy Hallen concert in Rotterdam. This Deluxe Edition of Kaya pays homage to one of Bob Marley and The Wailers classic albums with a luxurious and lovingly compiled double album. While many albums are referred to as classics, Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Kaya truly is a classic. Kaya deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as Burnin,’ Natty Dread and Exodus. Quite simply, Kaya is hugely important and potent album which feature some intelligent, thoughtful, introspective and beautiful music.
COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH-ELECTRIC MUSIC FOR THE MIND AND BODY.
Classic is one of the most overused words in the English language. However, classic is the perfect way to describe Country Joe and The Fish’s 1967 debut album, Electric Music For The Mind and Body which was released by Vanguard Records. Quite simply, Electric Music For The Mind and Body is a psychedelic classic. Country Joe McDonald, not known for exaggeration, says as much. He says” “if you want to understand psychedelic music, and you haven’t heard Electric Music For The Mind and Body, then you probably don’t know what you’re talking about.” There’s a lot of truth in what Joe is saying.
After all, Electric Music For The Mind and Body was one of the first psychedelic rock albums released. Country Joe and The Fish, who were pioneers of psychedelic rock and now, are perceived as psychedelic rock royalty. They formed in 1965, and six months later, released their debut E.P. Talking Issue No. 1 on the Rag Baby label. This was a groundbreaking statement of intent. Country Joe and The Fish started as they meant to go on, releasing pioneering music.
Not only that, but here were a band whose music was full of social comment. Given their name was a reference to Joseph Stalin and a quotation from Chairman Mao, that’s no surprise. Known for their genre-melting, lysergic music, Country Joe and The Fish were at the vanguard of the anti-Vietnam war movement. Their highly politicized music played a huge part in the emerging counter-culture. Country Joe and The Fish played at the anti-Vietnam teach-ins in 1965 and four years later, in 1969, played at the legendary Woodstock Festival. By then, Country Joe and The Fish had released a trio of albums that today, are recognised as psychedelic classics. This includes Country Joe and The Fish’s debut album Electric Music For The Mind and Body.
COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH-I FEEL LIKE I’M FIXIN’ TO DIE.
Having released their debut album Electric Music For The Body and Mind in January 1967, Country Joe and The Fish watched as the album reached number thirty-nine in the US Billboard 200. Released to commercial success and critical acclaim, the five members of Country Joe and The Fish, started work on the followup, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die. This resulted in them releasing their second classic album within a year.
Despite not matching the commercial success of their debut album Electric Music For The Body and Mind, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die is an ambitious, adventurous and innovative album. Featuring thoughtful, poignant lyrics, some of which are full of social comment, the music on I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die is cerebral and intelligent. It’s music for the mind. Other songs seek answers to “big” questions, including Who Am I? Then there’s relationship songs and closing I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die, two peerless, inventive instrumentals. During these tracks, just like the album, musical influences and genres melted into one. Everything from acid rock, country, folk, jazz, psychedelia and rock was fused by Country Joe and The Fish on I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die. This was no ordinary album. Mind you, Country Joe and The Fish were ordinary bands. They were innovators, agitators and wanted social justice. Some people called them rebels. They were more than rebels, they were rebels with a cause.
That cause was stopping the Vietnam War. While they weren’t able to do that, they recorded one of the best protest songs of the sixties, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die. Ironically, nearly four decades later, the song is just is relevant. All that’s changed is the name of the war. In many ways, Country Joe and The Fish were music’s conscience. They proved this in 1969, when Country Joe and The Fish took Woodstock by storm with a show-stopping version of I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die. That was one of Country Joe and The Fish’s finest moments. Another of their finest moments was I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die, which was rereleased by Vanguard Records.