Each year brings thousands upon thousands of new albums, as well as scores of reissues. Despite this, we can't help but continue to think of other older releases, both obscure and popular, that have either slipped out of circulation or have remained in-print but neglected compared to deluxe reissues pressed on high-quality vinyl and/or in multi-CD configurations. Here, a few of our editors dream about hypothetical reissues of albums from cult and platinum-selling artists alike, across a range of genres and decades, that they would love to see. Years back, we presented some reissue desires in smaller, semi-regular servings, and a fair portion of the subjects have been reissued since then. Hopefully we'll have similar luck with the titles featured below.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Many great albums have slipped out of print in recent years -- more than you'd think, actually, due to vagaries with licensing and the shifting nature of the music business. Plenty of these merit reissues but for my purposes today, I'll stick with selections from two old favorites: Nick Lowe and Bob Seger.
Seger's catalog is in sorrier shape than Lowe's. At the very least, all of Nick's records have seen the light of digital day at some point in the past but, as of 2014, only two of his solo records prior to 1990 are available as discs or downloads: 1978's Jesus of Cool and 1979's Labour of Lust. Great records both and, in 2008, the former received the kind of expanded reissue that all great records should, when an additional 10 tracks -- almost all originally reissued on the Wilderness Years comp -- were added to the disc. As much as I'd love to see the rest of Lowe's '80s catalog fleshed out with B-sides and outtakes, there just doesn't seem to be that much in the vaults -- a few things popped up on the Doings box -- and the real imperative is getting these albums back in circulation. Some of these records have their flaws -- despite the perfect "Ragin' Eyes" and "Mess Around with Love," 1983's The Abominable Showman feels frazzled, and the Huey Lewis production on 1985's The Rose of England contains an unnecessary coat of gloss -- but they're all good. In particular, 1982's Nick the Knife and 1984's Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfits are corkers, with the '82 LP finding Lowe coming down from his Rockpile bender and the '84 record the first hint of the country gentleman he'd later turn out to be.
The number of missing Nick records amounts to five, which is one shy of the total of Seger records that are out of print. Of these six, three have been out of print since their original release: 1969's Noah, 1971's Brand New Morning, and 1973's Back in '72. Seger has long been reluctant to reissue these three, claiming either distaste or dissatisfaction with the recordings. In the case of Noah, he has a strong argument as roughly half of the record features Tom Neme as the vocalist for the Bob Seger System, a move spearheaded by the label that did no parties any favors. Nevertheless, the songs that are Seger's aren't bad and the same could be said of his tunes for Brand New Morning, an OK excursion into straight sensitive singer/songwriter territory. These two LPs are for the diehards but Back in '72 is for everybody, the first record where Seger found the voice that would turn him into a star three years down the road with Live Bullet, where one of the showpieces was the Back in '72 ballad "Turn the Page." Seger reinvented the Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider" here and wrote "Rosalie," a rock & roll anthem so good Thin Lizzy covered it.
That Back in '72 hasn't been reissued is a rock & roll tragedy and a similar situation is playing out with the three missing LPs, 1969's Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, 1970's Mongrel, and 1974's Seven. At least the debut has its title track in circulation, but the rest of its thick Detroit rock & roll should be heard too. Mongrel rocks even harder--the single "Lucifer" is ferocious--and Seven finds Seger consolidating the gains of Back in '72 by taking some musical risks, adding a bit of polish and writing terrific songs, the best of which is "Get Out of Denver," a breakneck Chuck Berry homage that has seen countless covers, all of them good. Reportedly, Seger still has issues with this second batch of missing albums -- the only one of his early records that's in circulation is 1972's covers LP Smokin' O.P.'s, which is fine, but not as good as any of these other records, with the exception of Noah and Brand New Morning -- and, in a way, it's hard not to have a grudging respect for the rare star who knowingly keeps albums in the vault when he knows that they'd sell. Nevertheless, by having these records (and the singles that came just before Ramblin' Gamblin' Man!) so hard to find, Bob Seger is doing himself something of a disservice; he may be a staple of classic rock and he may be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but his story is so much richer than those headlines suggest.
The Heatin' System, a 1972 jazz-funk killer produced by the great Esmond Edwards, is not to be confused with the 1995 Concord title of the same name. Most tunes on this double-length are long, hard jams, with nasty grooves and breaks ("Ain't No Sunshine" is a slow, soulful exception). Brother Jack plays not only his trademark B3 here, but piano and melodica as well, backed by Chess session aces, including bassist Phil Upchurch, guitarist Marty Roberts, horn men Don Myrick, David Young, and Bobby Alston, and drummer Greg Williams. Many of its tracks have appeared on compilations but there still hasn't been a proper reissue.
There are a number of great Sun Ra albums that still need to be properly reissued and one from the top of that list is Discipline 27-II. It was recorded in Chicago in October of 1972 at the same sessions as Space Is the Place, but it was not optioned by Impulse! Records at the time. Instead, it was released on Saturn (and has yet to be issued on CD). Sun Ra did some marathon sessions in his day, and it's said that four albums worth of material were recorded during the Streeterville Studio sessions, but only two have been released. These are not only high-quality studio recordings, but both Space Is the Place and Discipline 27-II were issued in quadraphonic sound and presumably the other material was also mixed for quad. The amount of unreleased material from these sessions and existing quad mixes that could be used for surround sound today make this an excellent candidate for an expanded reissue, but alas, no one seems to know where the master tapes are.
One of the many out-of-whack aspects of the music industry is the availability of certain albums rescued from obscurity and treated with lavish packaging, while commercially and artistically successful releases remain neglected by major-label catalog departments. Take Scritti Politti's brilliant second studio album. On Cupid & Psyche 85, Green Gartside and his associates made some of the most advanced and charming R&B-pop of the era, worthy of release on progressive labels like Tabu and ZTT. A remastered and expanded set would hopefully include all the non-album mixes and versions from the singles, as well as earlier sessions with Nile Rodgers that were scrapped once Gartside split with Rough Trade to sign with the more financially accommodating Virgin. In June 2015, the album will be 30 years old.
Make It Last Forever, Keith Sweat's debut album, won't turn 30 until November 2017, so Warner Music Group has plenty of time to get its act together for an anniversary tie-in. Co-written and co-produced with fellow new jack swing maverick Teddy Riley, Make It Last was the source of four Top Ten R&B hits, while the cuts not released as singles were hardly filler. It was a landmark release; virtually all male contemporary R&B artists who have followed, including Jodeci, R. Kelly, Usher, Trey Songz, and The-Dream, have drawn from it. As with Cupid & Psyche 85, one can still obtain this album's original and thin-sounding CD version, but it too needs remastered and expanded treatment with the 7" and 12" mixes. A nice touch would be the addition of Sweat's '84 and '85 singles for the Stadium label.
I'm morbidly fascinated by legendary bands in their latter years with depleted lineups, or when a band has an era that has grown to be reviled over time. A third-tier singer? Bring it on. Ill-advised collaborations with other genres in a stab at relevance? Absolutely. Only the bass player remains? My catnip. The perfect embodiment of this is Black Sabbath from the late '80s through the mid '90s, with albums like Headless Cross, Tyr, Cross Purposes, and especially Forbidden. For the most part, these would be Tony Iommi & Friends affairs, with bassist - and, also importantly, lyricist - Geezer Butler only showing up on Cross Purposes, still hanging around after the band's solid but brief 1992 regrouping with Ronnie James Dio, Dehumanizer. Eddie Van Halen even stopped by to help out with a track on Cross Purposes, but couldn't be credited due to contractual issues. Forbidden is the biggest head-scratcher of the bunch, produced by Ernie C - the guitarist for Body Count - and featuring a guest spot from Ice-T on the opening track. The fact that these albums were all on I.R.S. Records, best known as the '80s home of R.E.M., adds another layer of delightful absurdity. These are all so out of print in America and deleted from the band's history that it's possible you could get Tased for bringing them up in interviews, which is all the more reason to celebrate their strangeness.
Another band that would break your jaw for bringing up their out of print material is Pantera. They had too much invested in leading the "great Southern trendkill" of '90s metal and being aggressively anti-image to be able to revisit their teased hair and headband days, even with a shrug and sense of humility. Pantera was about a lot of things, but one thing they definitely were not about was humility. Growing up in Dallas in the '90s, it wasn't wildly rare to stumble across Projects in the Jungle or I Am the Night at a record store, but always at wildly inflated prices. I once found a signed promo glossy of the band from their Power Metal days (their first album with frontman Phil Anselmo) at a used bookstore, priced at $400. If just for the awesomely awful artwork, the first four Pantera records would be wonderful to have. They could even just reissue the sleeves.
Finally - and although this would qualify as an more of an archival release and not a reissue, per se - I refuse to believe that the complete sessions for Metallica's Load and Reload aren't buried in the band's vault, surrounded by Rambo traps. The band has gone to great lengths to document all of their albums since 1991's Metallica, releasing full-length films on the creation of both that album and St. Anger, and operated a pay-to-access site during the making of Death Magnetic. The old school fans whine and moan about Load and Reload being the point where the band turned the corner into irrelevance and eschewed their abrasive, ass-kicking roots, but for every guy who will get spittle on your face while extolling the virtues of "Phantom Lord" are 30 people who think that "The Memory Remains" is a pretty good song, but are rather chill about it. Wouldn't it be amazing to hear discussions like, "Hey, we should totally get Marianne Faithfull on this song," or, "You know, what this track really needs is some hurdy gurdy." And it's not to be a hater, I'm legitimately fascinated by the decisions that went into making these records that I think have some pretty great songs, as long as you're not expecting 190 bpm and lyrics about warfare. What level of control did producer Bob Rock have over things? Was bassist Jason Newsted even there? He only has one credit across 27 songs. We'd also get to hear the dawn of James Hetfield's affectation when he started adding the syllable "-ah" to the end of what felt like every line of every song.
Is there an album you'd like to see reissued, remastered, or expanded? Join the discussion in the comments.