Graham Reid | | 5 min read
In recent years with the extensive programme of reissues (with additional songs) or the release of albums you never knew existed, the vaults of record companies and recording studios seem like Aladdin's Cave.
Here we just single out 10 which we found important and interesting, just the ones we wrote about. We have set aside the Beatles' Red and Blue albums but you can read about them here.
Bob Dylan's many releases get their due here.
The Auckland rock band which broke up in 1999 and left its debut album in tape boxes.
They'd had a creditable career with strong songs and plenty of live work, and their album was recorded at Revolver Studio with seriously professional assistance and guests.
But until this year very few outside the band knew of the album's existence. It is an excellent album (on release it charted at number four) so we draw attention to it.
Our story about the band and the album is here
Neil Young: Chrome Dreams
The much vaunted but (sort of) unreleased album – tracks and alternative versions scattered around – finally got pulled together for an official release by the man who releases so much that good ones like this can go past you.
If you were a fan of Seventies Neil Young in a mostly acoustic mode then this is for you.
The album that should have been but just slightly delayed. . . only by half a century or so.
Our story about the background and the album is here
Grim Ltd: Shakin' It Up at the Nicoberg
Perhaps the most unexpected New Zealand album of the year because very few outside of Palmerston North is the mid-Sixties had even heard of this raw, raucous and explosive r'n'b garageband rock.
And even those few wouldn't have known their final gig at the local coffee lounge where it had all started just 18 months previous had been recorded.
But here it on CD and vinyl for the very first time. The CD is perhaps a bit long but the vinyl is the perfect artefact for a band that gave British and all other local bands along the axis of the Pretty Things, Who and Downliners Sect – a run for their money. Stunning.
Our story about the band and album is here
Golden Harvest: Golden Harvest
The band which arrived at the time of punk but bridged pop, disco, dance and Jimi Hendrix-rock, wrapped it all up in great originals and won over a broad section of the listening public with hits.
This year given vinyl reissue for the first time.
And you might want to check the vinyl reissue of the Space Waltz album while you are digging through the past. We wrote about that here.
Our story about Golden Harvest and their album is here
John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy: Evening at the Village gate
Another recording no one knew existed until it was prised out of the New York Public Library Archive.
Two great innovators recorded live in 1961 which captures them in the full flight of taking improvisation to new heights and greater depths.
A moment in time that would not be captured on recordings again as Dolphy left the band not long after and died three years later.
Our story on the album and the music is here
Various Artists: Proud
Expanded to double vinyl (the first time on vinyl) this cornerstone collection of music out of South Auckland has long been one of the essential albums in any understanding of the unique culture of the suburbs under the pylons.
It sprung the hit In the Neighbourhood for Sisters Underground.
But that just scratched the surface of what was in these tracks.
Our story about the album and its background is here
Gramsci: Permanence, Object and Like Stray Voltage
Paul McLaney was busy this year, reissuing on vinyl these three albums from the first incarnation of his band Gramsci and also releasing two other albums the self-titled one by An Arrow Made of Air and another under his own name, As the North Attracts The Needle, the latter in our best of the year selection
But the background and reviews of those three earlier albums is worth pointing you to.
Our story about them is here
U2: Songs of Surrender
Not a reissue but a rethink as U2 reverse-engineered many of their songs in an exercise which seemed to take them back to quieter demo tracks (albeit well produced).
This allowed a new appreciation of the melodies behind the bellowing, and the lyrics which could often get drowned out by the passionate intensity.
Another step in U2 dreaming it all up again and – even for those who never much liked them for their bellicose pontificating – quite a discovery if you give it a fair hearing.
Our story about the band in 2023 and this album is here
Mdou Moctar:Niger EPs Vol 1 and Vol 2
We are cheating a bit here but this pairing of two smaller collections by the astonishing guitarist out of Niger.
But they are excellent . . . and they allowed us to point the Elsewhere spotlight on him again.
And refer back to his album 2021 Best of Elsewhere album Afrique Victime.
Our story about the artist and the EPs is here
Nina Simone: You've Got to Learn
Recorded live at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966, the great Simone took her audience on a tour of soul, blues, politics, pain, a show tunes and romance, all in just half an hour.
Previously unreleased but one of the great live albums.
Our story about the context and the music is here
There were many other reissues and vault-clearing albums during 2023 but those were the 10 that we managed to cover and would draw your attention to.
SOME EXTRA TEXTURE?
MUSIC BOOK OF THE YEAR
We haven't finished Thurston Moore's equally fine-focused Sonic Life or even started on the great Bob Dylan, Mixing Up the Medicine tome . . . so we'll get back to you on those.
Or . . . or . . or Bill Janovitz' huge and remarkable Leon Russell; The Master of Space and Time's Journey Through Rock & Roll History.
Treat yourself, go with what subject interests you the most.
All are excellent on the bedside table or shelf.
For other books of all persuasions (including more music) go to Writing at Elsewhere here