THE BEST 50 REISSUES OF 2015-PART FIVE.

THE BEST 50 REISSUES OF 2015-PART FIVE.

RICK WAKEMAN-THE MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR AND THE KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE,

Following the success of Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, Rick Wakeman was getting ready to begin work on his fourth album. Then disaster struck. Rick had the first of three minor heart attacks. He was taken to Wexham Park Hospital, near Slough, in Berkshire.  The prognosis wasn’t good, and the doctor advised Rick to stop playing and touring. This wasn’t an option. Rick Wakeman was determined that his career continue. As his recuperation continued, his thoughts turned to his next album, The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table.

When The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table was released in 1975, it sold over twelve million copies worldwide, and was certified gold in four continents. Forty years later, and Universal Music Group reissued The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table as a double album. This is a very welcome reissue.  

 For far too long, Rick Wakeman’s music has been unavailable. That’s a missed opportunity. After all, Rick Wakeman was a musical pioneer, who pushed musical boundaries. That’s the case on The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table. Over seven songs, Rick combines everything from choral and classical to folk and funk, right through to classic rock and prog rock. The music is variously beautiful, captivating, cinematic, elegiacal, ethereal and graceful, right through to dramatic, rousing, stirring and urgent. The music on this prog rock classic, where Rick Wakeman paints pictures, and in doing so, transports you back in time, to another place, where you discover The Myths and Legends Of King Arthur and The Knights Of The Round Table.

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RICK WAKEMAN-THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII.

In early 1972, Yes were touring America to promote their fourth studio album Fragile. On a stopover  in Richmond, Virginia, Rick Wakeman, joined Yes in August 1971, and made his debut on Fragile, was perusing the airport bookshop. Eventually, Rick bought four books, including Nancy Brysson Morrison’s The Private Life Of Henry VIII. On the subsequent flight from Richmond to Chicago, Rick began reading. It was then that he remembered a recording he had made in 1971. Since then, Rick had done nothing with that piece of music. After recording the music, Rick had been struggling to come up with lyrics to accompany it. This being the age of the concept album, what Rick was looking for, was a theme that could run through the recording. Not any more. 

Suddenly, everything came together. The notes Rick made about Anne Boleyn on the flight to Chicago were just the start. Over the next few weeks and months, whether at home or on tour, Rick focused on each of Henry VII’s six wives. At his piano, he continued to make notes. Eventually, Rick’s notes became the thread that ran through his sophomore album, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, which was recently reissued by Commercial Marketing as a double album. Before its release in 1973, Neither critics, nor many of the staff at A&M Records foresaw the commercial success of The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.   

Since its release in 1973, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII sold over fifteen million copies. It’s now considered a stonewall prog rock classic; and Rick Wakeman is now perceived as a musical pioneer. After all, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII is also the progressive rock album that legitimised synths in progressive rock. Without Rick Wakeman and The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, maybe, things would have been very different? Rick Wakeman, a true musical pioneer, had the last laugh, when what many considered progressive rock’s ugly duckling, The Six Wives Of Henry VIII, turned into a swan. 

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ROGER WATERS-AMUSED TO DEATH.

Just like his two previous albums, Amused To Death was a concept album. Roger had been working on Amused To Death since 1987. It was remastered, remixed and reissued by Sony Music during 2015, and brings five years work to life. 

The inspiration for Amused To Death came from Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves To Death. By the time the concept was complete, it revolves around the a monkey who randomly switches between television channels. As channels change, different subjects are discussed. Among them are the Gulf War, World War I, the bombing of Jordan and Libya, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. A total of fourteen tracks feature on Amused To Death, which was recorded between 1987 and 1992.

The reissue of Amused To Death is an opportunity to either acquaint or reacquaint yourself with what was Roger Waters’ finest solo album. It was a case of third time lucky for Roger Waters, when he released the underrated Amused To Death in 1992. If I was to compare Amused To Death to a Pink Floyd album, it would be More. Both Roger Waters’ Amused To Death and Pink Floyd’s More are vastly underrated albums, that for far too long, many music aficionados will have overlooked. If that’s the case, the recent reissue of Amused To Death is the opportunity to right a wrong. Roger Waters would approve of that, in more than one way.

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SIMPLE MINDS-SPARKLE IN THE RAIN-DELUXE EDITION.

Last year, Sparkle In The Rain was reissued by Universal Music earlier this year. This was thirty-one years after Sparkle In The Rain was released in February 1984. It became Simple Mind’s most successful album, and reinvented the Glasgow band.

Eventually, Sparkle In The Rain was certified platinum in reached number sixty-four Britain. That wasn’t surprising. Sparkle In The Rain was peppered with hits, including Up On The Catwalk, Book Of Brilliant Things, Speed Your Love To Me and Waterfront. These tracks played their part in the reinvention of Simple Minds. 

They left their electronic and new wave roots behind. Now, Simple Minds were well on their way to superstardom. The album that started this off was their Glasgow album. It’s bold, stylistic and full of confidence. Simple Minds are almost gallus as they strut their way across Sparkle In The Rain, en route for stadium rocking, superstardom.

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TEN YEARS AFTER-STONEDHENGE.

When Ten Years After released their live album Undead in August 1968, it proved a game-changer. It was heard by legendary promoted Bill Graham. He championed Ten Years After in America. As a result, Undead reached number 115 in the US Billboard 200. This was the start of a six year period when Ten Years After could do no wrong in the eyes of the American record buying public. 

From Stonedhenge, which was recently released by UMC, right through to Ten Years After’s eighth and final studio album, Positive Vibrations, which was released in April 1974, Ten Years After spent much of their time in America. That wasn’t surprising. Ten Years After were much more popular stateside. They were the latest rock gods to make it big in America.

Stonedhenge was the start of America’s love affair with Ten Years After. The album has just been rereleased as a double album. Disc one features the mono and stereo version of Stonedhenge. On disc two, there’s six tracks, including B-Sides, live tracks and even a track from an Alvin Lee solo album. They’re be a welcome addition for anyone who wants to discover or rediscover Stonedhenge, Ten Year After’s second solo album and the latest stop on the road to commercial success and critical acclaim.

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TEN YEARS AFTER-TEN YEARS AFTER.

In October 1967, Ten Years After released their eponymous debut album. The album failed to make an impression on either side of the Atlantic. It was a disappointing start to Ten Years After’s recording career. Especially considering how well things had been going for Ten Years After.  

Ever since they had changed their name from Blues Yard to Ten Years After, their fortunes had changed. They had secured a residency at the Marquee, played a starring role at the Windsor Jazz Festival and then signed to Deram Records. It had been roller coaster ride. However, it was nothing compared to the next six years.

For six years Ten Years After could do no wrong, and were one of the biggest bands on both sides of the Atlantic. The album that launched Ten Years After on to the road to commercial success and critical acclaim is Ten Years After, which was recently reissued by Universal Music. The newly reissued version of Ten Years After features both the mono and stereo versions of the album on disc one. Disc two features eleven bonus tracks. They’re a welcome addition, and will especially be of interest to completists. However, the reissue of Ten Years After is a reminder of one of British music’s most successful exports, as they embark upon what would prove to be a career where commercial success and critical acclaim were constant companions.

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THE ROLLING STONES-STICKY FINGERS-DELUXE EDITION. 

When The Rolling Stones began recording Sticky Fingers with producer Jimmy Miller, it was a poignant time. Sticky Fingers was the first recording session without Brian Jones. His replacement, Mick Taylor, played an important part in the Sticky Fingers sessions, adding lead, rhythm and acoustic guitar. Somehow, he and the rest of The Rolling Stones dug deep, and recorded a classic album, Sticky Fingers, which was reissued by Polydor.

On its release in 1971, Sticky Fingers reached number one in Britain and America. Since then, Sticky Fingers is regarded as a classic album, from the biggest rock ’n’ roll band in the world. That took some doing. 

The last few years had taken their toll on The Rolling Stones. They had been arrested, lost Brian Jones and replaced him with Mick Taylor. Then there was the controversy surrounding Altamont. Somehow, The Rolling Stones had survived all this, and were still going strong, having just released a career defining classic album Sticky Fingers.

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THE VELVET UNDERGROUND-LOADED.

Having found themselves without a record company, The Velvet Underground’s luck changed when they signed to Atlantic Records. They were told to record an album: “loaded with hits.” The result was Loaded, the last Velvet Underground to feature Lou Reed, the group’s creative force. It was the end of era for The Velvet Underground. They essentially died on on 23rd August 1970, when Lou Reed left. 

The Velvet Underground were like a rudderless ship floundering in choppy musical waters. Loaded was resequenced and Lou Reed alleged, some of the song had been edited, Despite that, Loaded, like 1967 with The Velvet Underground and Nico, 1968s White Light/White Heat, 1969s The Velvet Underground are all classic albums. That’s why it’s fitting that Loaded was reissued by Rhino as a four disc box set to celebrate the forty-fifth anniversary of this classic album’s release.

Despite failing commercially in 1970, Loaded is nowadays, regarded as a classic album; and The Velvet Underground are remembered as one of the most important, influential and innovative bands in the history of music. Their musical legacy is one of the richest in music.

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TOM RUSH-TOM RUSH.

For many people, Tom Rush was a trailblazer. He was the first of the singer-songwriters. His career began in 1961, when Tom, who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire began singing in clubs. Back then, Tom was still a student at Harvard University, where he studied English literature. A year later, in 1962, Tom Rush released his debut album Tom Rush At The Unicorn. That was the start of a six decade recording career.

By 1965, Tom Rush was ready to release his eponymous third album. He had just signed to Elektra Records, which was well on its way to becoming home to many of the greatest singer-songwriters.

On Tom Rush, Tom breathes life and meaning into the lyrics of the ten songs. Sadness vies with excitement. So does trepidation and  hope. The music is beautiful and moving, and leaves you wanting to hear more from one of music’s best kept secrets, Tom Rush.

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VAN MORRISON-HIS BAND AND STREET CHOIR.

When Van Morrison began work on his fourth album His Band and Street Choir, he faced the biggest challenge of his career. His last two albums, 1969s Astral Weeks and 1970s Moondance, had been stonewall classics. Following these albums up wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to be the biggest challenge of Van Morrison’s career.

Van Morrison rose to the challenge, and His Band and Street Choir, the album became the most successful of Van Morrison’s four album career. That’s ironic, given Astral Weeks and Moondance are two of the most important albums not just in Van Morrison’s career, but the history of music. Every album Van Morrison went on to release, was compared to his two classic albums. This includes His Band and Street Choir, which was recently remastered and rereleased by Rhino.

His Band and Street Choir has always been overshadowed by Astral Weeks and Moondance. In 1970, Van Morrison was trying to followup an album of the magnitude of Moondance. It was almost impossible. Critics had said the same about Astral Weeks, and Van came back with Moondance. However, His Band and Street Choir is no Moondance. Despite that, His Band and Street Choir is  one of the finest albums Van Morrison released during the seventies.

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So that’s my list of the fifty best reissues of 2015. Just like the other best of 2015 lists, it’s an eclectic selection of albums. Countless musical genres are represented. There’s everything from ambient and avant garde through to experimental, free jazz and Kominische plus progressive rock, psychedelia and rock. Over forty artists and bands feature on the best reissues of 2015.  Some artists feature more than once. They’re not necessary the biggest names in music. Far from it. Michael Chapman is still one of music’s best kept secrets, but features three times. He’s just one of music’s best kept secrets. There’s several on the list, which features some lavish and lovingly compiled reissues.

It seems record companies are spending much more time on reissues. Many people still want to buy reissues on CD or vinyl. Downloads and streaming isn’t an option. Music lovers of a certain age like to own something tangible, either a CD or LP. Especially  the baby boomers. They are the ones with  a disposable income, and  want to buy the albums they grew up listening to. They’re willing to pay for deluxe versions, complete with bonus discs and sometimes, DVDs. However, they demand quality. Its improved during 2015.

One thing I have noticed, is that the quality of mastering has improved on reissues. Often, it’s stunning. The best mastered reissues were  Grönland Records reissues of Harmonia’s Deluxe and Musik Von Harmonia.  They set the bar high for remasters in 2016, which hopefully will be a good year for reissues.

Especially since 2015 was such a good year for reissues. Hopefully, 2016 will be just as good. Music lovers still have an insatiable appetite for reissues. It seems for music lovers of a certain age, who no longer pay attention to the charts, reissues is what they want to buy. Proof of that is the number of reissues released each year.  The reissue market shows no signs of slowing down, and for that, music lovers are thankful. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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