The music industry has an insatiable appetite for the reissue, also known as the re-edition, special edition, repackage or re-release. While some fans think that reissues are mostly a cash grab, in many cases they are the product of new technology. Music tech is evolving at such a fast clip that reissues can add new dimensions to old music, and can even restore original sound that was missing when the music formats changed from records to cassettes to CDs, to finally, MP3s.
Let’s take a look at the best reissues from the last year.
Digable Planets: Reachin’
Digable Planets epitomizes a key feature of the reissue game: the anniversary special. The highly influential early 1990’s jazz-rap trio released their first album, Reachin’, in 1993. Thus 2018 marks the album’s 25th anniversary. The album is a double LP available on vinyl, the first time their music has been released on vinyl since 1993. Digable Planets had a hit on their hands by blending rap’s harder edges with the smoother samples of jazz. Although they only made one more album, their influence has lasted much longer. The reissue is a fitting tribute.
Minnie Riperton: Perfect Angel
Minnie Riperton’s second album, Perfect Angel, was something of a surprise to her. After semi-retiring from music to live in Gainesville, Florida, with her disc-jockey husband, Ripperton was not looking to record. But Steve Slutzah, a college rep for Epic Records, had been hunting her down since the breakup of her band, Rotary Connection. He persuaded her to sign with Epic, resulting in Perfect Angel. The album was secretly produced by Stevie Wonder, who was then on a major creative run. He invented a name and company to produce the record and the result was a memorable ode to love in the last throes of the flower power era. The reissue includes a 24-page packet of rare photos and liner notes by her husband, Richard Rudolph, about how the album came to be. Riperton influenced artists like Erykah Badu, and she has been sampled by Kendrick Lamar, making this reissue a welcome addition to 2018.
Sonny Rollins: Way Out West
Saxophone legend Sonny Rollins is getting a reissue of his classic 1957 album, Way Out West, recorded when he was just 26 years old. The jazz impresario was making his first visit to California, and found himself inspired by its far-west cowboy vistas of the era. The album is released in a two-LP box set, including unreleased outtakes and some dialogue from the studio. It’s also available on digital.
Metallica: Master of Puppets
Metallica’s 1986 release is one of the towering achievements in heavy metal. It has now been remastered and sounds better than ever. Metallica emerged from a hot Bay Area metal scene with a sound that merged punk with metal. The reissue of this album is a box set that includes studio outtakes and live performances from a band at its peak. The music treads territory familiar to all metalheads – addiction – yet expresses it as something new, savage and beautiful.
R.E.M – Automatic for the People
The year 2017 marked the 25th anniversary for one of the most popular records of all-time: Automatic for the People. Despite the fact that this makes a large number of people feel very old, the album has now been re-released. The transitional album sounds better than ever. It was released at a time when the sudden-onset of grunge threatened to make carefully-crafted power pop like R.E.M. irrelevant. But the band managed to craft an unsparing look at middle age right in the midst of an era marked by teenage angst.