And the Top 15 of our 100 Greatest Reissues list begins! We’ve taken Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest albums of all time and investigated their many pressings and expansions over the years. Today, we’re rocking in the 1960s, take a jazz detour to 1959, and remember a 1976 compilation of material circa 1955!
15. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced (Reprise, 1967)
If you weren’t experienced before listening to the 1967 debut of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, it’s safe to say that you certainly were by the time you finished the LP! Its blend of era-defining psychedelia, hard rock and blues sensibilities were like nothing that had come before, and it launched the career of one James Marshall Hendrix into the stratosphere.
Its history on CD has been a checkered one, however, thanks to the standard record company practice of the 1960s of devising different editions for different territories. While making a name for themselves in England, Messrs. Hendrix, (Noel) Redding and (Mitch) Mitchell released three singles: “Hey Joe/Stone Free” (actually released in the waning days of 1966), “Purple Haze/51st Anniversary” (March 1967) and “The Wind Cries Mary/Highway Chile” (May 1967). When the Track Records album was released in the U.K. in May, the singles were not present on the LP. The Hendrix phenomenon didn’t crystallize in America until his incendiary performance – both literally and figuratively! – at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. Reprise Records then prepared Are You Experienced for North American release. As was its wont, Reprise removed three tracks (“Red House,” “Remember” and “Can You See Me”) to make way for the three British A-sides. The running order was shuffled, reportedly with Hendrix’s approval, though he was uncomfortable with the blues “Red House” being omitted from the LP. A new stereo mix was prepared, as well as a new, more overtly psychedelic cover (as seen above), and Are You Experienced took the U.S. by storm, peaking at No. 5 after its August release.
The original Reprise CD (W2-6261) was identical to the label’s original stereo LP version, and the first European CD release (Polydor 825 416-2) used the original U.K. track list, but in the Reprise stereo remixed versions (except for “Red House” in mono, and “Remember” in electronically-processed stereo). The 1993 reissue (MCA 10893), as supervised by the controversial Alan Douglas, began the album with the first three U.K. A- and B-sides, but otherwise adhered to the original U.K. track listing and sequence. (The stereo mixes were again used except for “Stone Free”, “51st Anniversary”, and “Highway Chile.”) The version of “Red House” included on Douglas’ remastered CD was the 1969 Smash Hits LP version, not the original AYE recording.
Under the aegis of Experience Hendrix, AYE was reissued again in 1997 from MCA Records (MCAD- 11602) and again in 2010 from Legacy Recordings (88697 65478 2), this latest time with a bonus mini-documentary on DVD. These last two editions standardized the album at 17 tracks, including all of the singles and the original album tracks in a cohesive sequence. (The original “Red House” was also restored.) The mastering by George Marino and Eddie Kramer is not substantially different between the 1997 and 2010 editions. There have also been numerous international pressings; one of the most notable is the 2008 SHM-CD edition from Japan (Universal Japan UICY-90757).
14. The Beatles, Abbey Road (Apple, 1969)
Although released prior to Let It Be, Abbey Road was the final album recorded by The Beatles. When it was released on September 26, 1969 in the U.K., it shot straight to No. 1 and eventually became the fourth best-selling album of the decade there. Upon its U.S. release one week later, it met with further success, reaching No. 1 in its third week. All told, it spent 11 non-consecutive weeks atop the U.S. chart, and 17 weeks in the U.K. (interrupted for just one week, by the Rolling Stones and Let It Bleed.) One of the group’s most cohesive albums ever, the critical and commercial acclaim was a just reward for the collective work of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Harrison shone brightly with both “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun,” while both Lennon and McCartney crafted an intricate song suite with producer/arranger George Martin for the album’s second side. Even Ringo got into the act with the infectious “Octopus’ Garden.” Abbey Road offered a fitting epitaph for The Beatles’ career with the final line of “The End,” the last proper song on the album: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” (The brief, 23-second “Her Majesty” appears as a hidden track, some 14 seconds after “The End.”) So pervasive was the album that even its cover art launched the famous “Paul is Dead” hoax!
Abbey Road was released on CD in 1987 along with the rest of the Beatles’ catalogue from Capitol in the U.S. and Parlophone in the U.K. (CDP 7 46446-2), and this edition remained the standard CD edition until the much-heralded Abbey Road Studios remasters of 2009 (0946 3 82468-2) which was “enhanced” with a mini-documentary on the CD. This remastered version was also available as part of the complete Beatles in Stereo box set (EMI/Parlophone/Apple 5099969944901).
Hit the jump and you’ll find yourself Underground…
13. The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico (Verve, 1967)
Uncompromising, stark and rough-hewn, the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut on the Verve label (of all places!) remains as iconic as its cover artwork of a banana, supplied by the band’s nominal producer, Andy Warhol. In a year still dominated by big, bright pop sounds, The Velvet Underground & Nico anticipated punk, glam, noise and even goth while still nodding at traditional pop, rhythm-and-blues, jazz and garage rock. Primarily written by Lou Reed with contributions from bandmates John Cale and Maureen Tucker, the Velvets dealt with drugs, sex and violence in a frank and bold way, while Nico’s deep, odd, gothic vocals lent themselves to the general feeling of unease that permeates the record. Has the seamy side of New York ever been so vividly illustrated?
The first CD edition of the album was released in 1986 (823 290-2) with an alternate mix of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” which featured a single track of lead vocals as opposed to the double-tracked version on the original LP. The subsequent 1996 remastered CD reissue (Verve 31453 1250 2) reverted to the original LP artwork and mix. The album was then released in its entirety on 1995’s Velvet Underground box set, Peel Slowly and See. The box also offered demos of many album tracks, and the single mix of “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” In 1997, Mobile Fidelity gave the album its limited edition Gold CD treatment (UDCD 695).
In 2002, Verve and Universal released a two-disc “Deluxe Edition” set (314 589 624-2) containing both stereo and mono mixes of the entire album, along with five songs taken from Nico’s Chelsea Girl (“Little Sister”, “Winter Song”, “It Was a Pleasure Then”, “Chelsea Girls”, and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”) album, all of which were written or co-written by members of the Velvet Underground. The single versions of “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, “I’ll Be Your Mirror”, “Sunday Morning”, and “Femme Fatale” were also included. In 2010, Universal released the second disc of the “Deluxe Edition” as a single CD “Rarities Edition” (B0013874) making an affordable way to purchase the mono mix on CD. A standard SHM-CD was issued in Japan in 2009 (UICY-93894/5) with a stereo SHM-SACD following in 2010 (UIGY-9028).
12. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959)
Can any single record be truthfully called the definitive album of its genre? If such a designation is possible, Kind of Blue may very well be the quintessential jazz record of all time. It’s accessible to even the most casual listener, yet may be the groundbreaking apotheosis of modal jazz, i.e. the solos build from the key, not (as is traditional) from chord changes only. Bandleader and trumpeter Davis was joined by an all-star aggregation of Bill Evans (piano), Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Paul Chambers (double bass), and Wynton Kelly (piano on “Freddie Freeloader”). Evans even contributed the original LP’s liner notes, taking pains to explain that the band didn’t rehearse any of the pieces before producer Teo Matero set the tape to rolling. Davis laid out the themes, and once recording began, the group intuitively improvised to each other’s strengths. A one-of-a-kind classic, crossing traditional genre lines in its effect on musicians from rock to classical, was born.
As befitting an album of its stature, Kind of Blue may be the most-reissued jazz album of all time. We’ll humbly endeavor to cover the most important releases here. The original Columbia CD (CK 40579) was supplanted in 1997 by a remastered and expanded edition on Legacy (CK 64935), though a gold Sony MasterSound edition appeared in between, in 1992 (CK 52861). The 1997 Legacy remaster added an alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches” to the album’s original five tracks and was remixed by Mark Wilder. In 2004, Kind of Blue was released in the short-lived DualDisc format (Columbia/Legacy CN 90887); the CD side featured the expanded edition while the DVD side offered the album in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and also included a 25-minute documentary on the making of the album, Made in Heaven. 2009 brought both a 2-CD Legacy Edition and a 2-CD/1-DVD/vinyl Super Deluxe Edition for the album’s landmark 50th anniversary. The former (Columbia/Legacy 88697 27105 2) added nine more tracks of session material to the original five songs and previous bonus track on Disc One, and six more studio and live cuts on Disc Two. The latter (Columbia/Legacy 88697 33552 2) contains those two discs plus a DVD and 180-gram vinyl pressing of the original LP.
Kind of Blue has also been released in the high-resolution SACD format at least four times; Columbia CS 64935, Columbia 649359, Sony Japan SICP-10083 and Sony SRGS-4501. CS 64935 is the U.S. issue, and was available as both a stereo single-layer and a stereo/multi-channel single-layer disc. Columbia 649359 is the European issue. Both include the alternate take of “Flamenco Sketches” and utilize Mark Wilder’s remix. SRGS-4501 is the first Japanese issue, and it is also a single-layer disc. SICP-10083 is a Japanese stereo/multi-channel hybrid issue from 2007 with only the original five-song sequence.
A “K2 HD” mastering for standard CD has already been announced as an import release for January 2012; the Kind of Blue train just keeps a-rollin’.
11. Elvis Presley, The Sun Sessions (RCA, 1976)
In 1976, Elvis Presley couldn’t have known that he was but a year away from his own death at the age of 42. The once-lithe entertainer had put on weight, and no longer exuded the dangerous sexuality and adventurous musicality that he did some twenty years earlier. The British division of RCA Victor realized that it was time to remind audiences of the trim, super-charged entertainer who had played such a major role in liberating American sensibilities. The 1975 LP release of The Sun Collection reminded buyers of Presley’s earth-shattering performances rather than his alleged, tabloid-chronicled exploits with women and drugs. Under the revised title The Sun Sessions, the 16-track compilation of Elvis’ earliest recorded performances hit the U.S. market in 1976. These were the songs (including “That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight”) produced by Sam Phillips at Memphis, Tennessee’s Sun Studios that provided the cornerstone of the Presley legend, and signaled RCA Victor that the young singer was worth the label’s major investment. (As a result of RCA having acquired the singer’s Sun catalogue, the last six tracks on the LP never actually appeared on the Sun label.)
In time, The Sun Sessions was replaced by other, more comprehensive and “complete” looks at Presley’s brief but historically important tenure at Sun Records. The original 1976 compilation has been released on CD as part of BMG Japan’s Elvis Paper Sleeve Collection in 2000 (BVCM-37101) with the original cover art. The 1987 RCA CD (RCA 6414) similarly entitled The Sun Sessions CD (with unique cover art) bolstered the track line-up to 28 songs, including outtakes and alternate takes. This edition was itself based on a 2-LP set from 1987, The Complete Sun Sessions, minus four tracks from those LPs. The 1999 double-disc Sunrise (RCA/BMG 67675), produced by longtime Elvis curators Ernst Mikael Jorgenson and Roger Semon and mastered by Dennis Ferrante, then brought the total to a whopping 38 songs including six previously unreleased live performances. Elvis at Sun (RCA/BMG 61205) arrived in 2004 from RCA and mastering engineer Kevan Budd, who utilized DSD technology on its 19 tracks for what is likely the best sound quality yet…until Sony’s Legacy Recordings decides to release to general retail another edition of these seminal recordings with the latest mastering by Vic Anesini! All 19 cuts on Elvis at Sun appeared on Disc 1 of Sunrise, this time in recording order rather than release order.
It’s just a matter of time before the Sun material gets another makeover, but as one of the most important caches of music in rock and roll history, the attention hardly seems unwarranted. In fact, though an upgraded collection has been promised for the collector-oriented Follow That Dream label, this observer wouldn’t mind a commercially-available set in the style of the comprehensive Young Man with the Big Beat, collecting all of the previously-released Sun sides and alternates in one place. Time will tell!
Tomorrow: The Top 10 begins with three remarkable bands, an electric poet and a socially-conscious soul man!