Critical 5: Reissue Labels That Rule
- Best of List
Imprints that plunder the past in a powerful way
Where would we be without the reissue labels whose archivist efforts continue to reacquaint us with pieces of musical history that might otherwise have been lost to the mists of time in today's hyperspeed cultural climate? Fortunately, that's a question we won't have to answer, at least not as long as we've got labels like these to keep us continually in touch with the sounds that powered the past.
Light in the Attic Records
The Seattle-based label started by Matt Sullivan in 2002 doesn't declare fealty to any particular genre when it comes to its reissue picks, preferring instead to cater to an eclectic crate-digger sensibility by diving for classics from the worlds of folk, pop, R&B, psychedelia, country, and more. Light in the Attic has reintroduced the world to the John Martyn-meets-Bert Jansch Britfolk of Michael Chapman's Rainmaker, the X-rated soul of Betty Davis's Nasty Gal, and the bluegrass noir of The Louvin Brothers' Satan Is Real, to name just a few, and on May 1 they'll unleash the quirky country-pop of late, great L.A. eccentric Lee Hazlewood on The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes, and Backsides 1968-1971.
New York DJ and post-punk spelunker Dan Selzer goes above and beyond the usual requirements of the reissue realm; he not only brings great, out-of-print albums back into the light of the day, he digs into the archives of artists who may never have even released a full album to begin with, bringing together rare and unreleased material in order to offer sonic snapshots of esoteric but important bands. Not only has Acute brought No Wave guitar god Glenn Branca's The Ascension and electro-punks Dr. Mix & The Remix's Wall of Noise back to life, he created collections by everyone from NYC synth minimalists Ike Yard to Athens post-punks The Method Actors. Look out for Music For Neighbors by Feelies offshoot The Trypes on April 24.
Real Gone Music
In his seminal 1982 book The Catalog of Cool, journalist Gene Sculatti definitively delineated the difference between "hip" and "cool." The flavor of the month is "hip," but the land of the cool is where labels like Real Gone reside. Spearheaded by Gordon Anderson after his departure from Collector's Choice Music, Real Gone ignores the boundaries of style, era, and commerciality, digging through the decades to come up with treasures by an eclectic array of artists including jazz giant Maynard Ferguson, country-rock pioneer Rick Nelson, blue-eyed soul man Bill Medley, composer David Axelrod, and tons of others. Part of the RG agenda is to turn out reissues at a furious clip, so keep an eye out for the new batch, including Little Willie John's Complete Hit Singles A's & B's, just released on April 17.
For decades, Rhino Records has been known as a premier name in reissues, but some projects require special care, and that's what Rhino Handmade is for. This limited-edition arm of Rhino specializes in small runs of mouth-watering niche-market releases that get expert attention in terms of both music and packaging. In the hands of Handmade, The Beau Brummels' underappreciated country-rock experiment Bradley's Barn became a dazzling double-CD with hardbound booklet, and swamp-pop hero Bobby Charles' self-titled, The Band-backed 1972 cult classic evolved into an amazing three-disc deluxe reissue. Their recent unearthing of the little-known recordings of singer/songwriter Tom Northcott on Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings is the kind of thing specialist labels were invented for.
Steve Stanley knows more about the sunshine pop/soft-pop/folk-rock/soft-psych/what-have-you scene of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s than just about anyone else on the planet, and he puts his knowledge to work in presenting carefully crafted deluxe reissues of the albums that exemplify his purview, with bonus tracks and informative notes aplenty. Stanley has not only delved into the catalogues of legends like The Association and The Cowsills, but also exposed undercover gems of the genre like Twin Connexion, Colours, Mark Eric, and The Holy Mackerel. Watch for the Now Sounds release of The Critters' Younger Girl: Complete Kapp & Musicor Recordings on May 8.
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