What are you doing New Year's Eve? As we count down to that big celebration, we've been holed up at Second Disc HQ readying another year's Gold Bonus Disc Awards for you! We consider our annual awards a companion piece to Mike's round-up over at Popdose (essential reading, I might add!) and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year's most amazing reissues as possible as well as to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2011. These ladies and gentlemen (some of whom we were privileged enough to interview this year) have proven, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world, and The Gold Bonus Disc Awards are dedicated to them.
Let's get on with it! And don't forget to please share your thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2011? Without further ado, let's celebrate 2011′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!
Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out!
All winners are in bold, and we've linked to our original reviews and features in the body of each category's text.
Nat "King Cole", ongoing reissue series (Capitol/Analogue Productions)
Derek and the Dominos, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs: 40th Anniversary Edition (Universal)
Jethro Tull, Aqualung: 40th Anniversary Collectors' Edition (EMI)
Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here: Immersion Box Sets (EMI)
The Who, Quadrophenia: Director's Cut (Universal)
A small but steady stream of reissues utilized the surround-sound format in 2011 to make music more immersive than ever. Most often, audio DVDs appeared as part of "super deluxe" box sets, but some labels still offered dedicated reissues for audiophiles with surround capabilities. Although Rhino U.S. didn't follow up its first two fantastic Quadradisc releases this year, Warner Music Japan tapped into the reserve of DVD-Audio titles released years ago, and now commanding high prices on the secondhand market. These DVD-Audio titles such as Eagles' Hotel California and Deep Purple's Machine Head were among those titles reissued in the SACD format, making them available to collectors who may have missed out the first time. Analogue Productions continued its acclaimed series of Nat "King" Cole reissues in three-channel surround. As far as the Super Deluxe versions go, Derek and the Dominos bettered a previous surround mix of their seminal Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs thanks to Elliot Scheiner's stunning new remix, and The Who offered up select highlights from Quadrophenia in revelatory sound. Jethro Tull offered a stunning array of surround versions on Blu-Ray and DVD in the 40th Anniversary Collectors' Edition of Aqualung. But the Gold Bonus Disc Award goes to Pink Floyd for supporting surround (both 4.0, where applicable, and 5.1) on the Immersion Box Sets of both Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, and bringing a new dimension to those classic albums. Though the Immersion Box Set of The Wall isn't slated to include a surround mix, we can only hope that the band continues to include surround "reinterpretations" as integral components of future collections.
Louis Armstrong, Satchmo: Ambassador of Jazz (Universal U.K.)
Tony Bennett, The Complete Collection (Columbia/Legacy)
The Louvin Brothers, Satan is Real (Light in the Attic)
Elvis Presley, Young Man with the Big Beat (RCA Victor/Legacy)
Simon and Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water: 40th Anniversary Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
Louis Armstrong's Satchmo: Ambassador of Jazz received some unexpected publicity earlier in 2011 when Elvis Costello implored his fans to buy the 10-CD box set rather than Costello's own Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook. Costello accurately described the Russ Titelman-produced box as "a cute little imitation suitcase containing ten remastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived - Louis Armstrong," adding that the music was "vastly superior" to his own. Good on Mr. Costello for acknowledging the debt to which he, and every other popular musician, owes to Mr. Armstrong. Though the set is far from complete, even at ten discs (such an undertaking might even be too daunting a task for the specialists at Bear Family!), it touches on each aspect of the trumpeter's titanic, influential career in the first-ever set assembled from a vast cross-section of labels. It takes home the Gold Bonus Disc Award for putting Armstrong's remarkable discography in historical and cultural perspective. Mention must be made, however, of our other nominees. Legacy's exhaustive boxed chronicle of Elvis Presley's year in music of 1956 did more to contextualize the significance of those early recordings than any previous release. The same label's 1-CD/1-DVD edition of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water lacked audio extras but compensated with two valuable documentary films, one current and one vintage. Tony Bennett's The Complete Collection, though lacking certain key tracks to make it truly "complete," makes the impressive case for the singer's hard-earned place in the annals of popular singing over a staggering 76 discs. Finally, Light in the Attic's remaster of The Louvin Brothers' notorious Satan is Real, combined with a present-day selection of the duo's best as compiled by a "Who's Who" of artists, proved that the country pioneers' music deserves a place on the shelf of every fan of American popular song.
Neil Diamond, The Bang Years: 1966-1968 (Columbia/Legacy)
Ben Folds, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective (Epic/Legacy)
Daryl Hall and John Oates, The Atlantic Albums...Plus (Edsel)
Matt Monro, The Singer's Singer (EMI U.K.)
Loudon Wainwright III, 40 Odd Years (Shout! Factory)
The "greatest hits"-style compilation will always be alive and well, but anthologies by a single artist have branched out in recent years to "complete" sets of varying degrees and sizes, as well as compilations reflecting on just one period of an artist's career. Though Shout! Factory's audio releases have slowed down, the label created by the original Rhino Records team proved that they still have what it takes with Loudon Wainwright III's 40 Odd Years. Designed in a simple, classic box format of yesterday (with discs in individual jewel cases!) this set treated the offbeat artist with care in song selection, sound quality and annotation. Across the pond, EMI celebrated another venerated artist with The Singer's Singer, feting the late, great Matt Monro. Monro's daughter Michele teamed with remastering engineer Richard Moore to reissue the 2011 4-CD box set of the same name, but with a difference: sound quality was meticulously addressed, with the set's contents completely remastered and upgraded. Two tracks released in error in 2001 were even replaced with the correct originals, and best of all, this loving retrospective was priced at less than 10 GBP! There was no better bargain in 2011, and we're already looking forward to the Monro estate's plans for 2012! 2011 was also the year that Neil Diamond finally acknowledged the early recordings that gave him his start, and although The Bang Years left off a couple of tracks, it made for a vibrant listening experience, especially when coupled with Diamond's own frank liner notes. The U.K. Edsel label treated fans to a 2-CD set collecting all of Daryl Hall and John Oates' recordings for Atlantic Records (singles, outtakes, albums) on one set, making it a must-have for fans of the blue-eyed soul team. But Epic and Legacy take home the prize for Ben Folds' The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective, a 3-CD set that truly offered something for everyone, from the most casual fan to the most hard-to-please collector. He told me in September, that in addition to the main "greatest hits" disc, "There's a live disc and a rarities disc and as we discovered more and more and more and weeded out, it was a really heavy process. I would find something that was competitive or better or in some way illuminates something about the song that the studio version didn't. I would take the studio version off the main disc and use the alternate version on the second or third disc. A lot of stuff got changed in that way and had an effect on the main disc." You can read the full interview here; Folds' care and concern in assembling this definitive release earns him this year's Gold Bonus Disc Award.
Bossa Nova: The Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960s (Soul Jazz Records)
The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973 (Ace)
Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads and Beyond: The Arhoolie 50th Anniversary Box Set (Arhoolie)
Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's Mowest Story 1971-1973 (Light in the Attic)
Where the Boys Are: The Songs of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield (Ace)
2011's anthologies by various artists covered every conceivable genre, but the five examples above were among those titles that succeeded most in presenting their contents in an entertaining and illuminating fashion. Soul Jazz Records' Bossa Nova traced the genesis of the Brazilian music with an emphasis on formative tracks, lesser-known artists and a "pure" style. The music was accompanied by a hardcover book explicitly paralleling the music itself to the political and societal upheavals in Brazil at the time, making an argument that bossa nova is much more than just "The Girl from Ipanema." (Soul Jazz unfortunately did not deign to include discographical information in the otherwise-excellent book, and that remains this set's biggest failing.) The Bay Area's small independent Arhoolie Records label, founded in 1960 by Chris Strachwitz, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a book-style box set including many diverse artists across a wide number of genres; this makes a fine "underground" companion on your bookshelf to Rhino's excellent 2007 Love is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets. Light in the Attic offered a tantalizing taste of Motown's West Coast output with the beautifully designed and compiled Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's Mowest Story 1971-1973, and Ace celebrated another famous Brill Building team, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, with the comprehensive retrospective (the first-ever of their work) Where the Boys Are. That U.K. label takes home the Gold Bonus Disc Award for another release, however. The Fame Studios Story: 1961-1973 is the most illuminating look yet at the Muscle Shoals Sound, taking in tracks by Aretha Franklin, Lou Rawls and even The Osmonds over its three discs. Simply put, this soulful set is indispensable.
The Beach Boys, The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol/EMI)
Aretha Franklin, Take a Look: Complete on Columbia (Columbia/Legacy)
The Monkees, Instant Replay (Rhino Handmade)
The Smiths, Complete (Rhino U.K.)
Dusty Springfield, Goin' Back: The Definitive Dusty Springfield (Universal U.K.)
Each year, the "Super Deluxe" term becomes more ubiquitous, as labels turn to increasingly larger collections of familiar titles to capitalize on the collectors' market (one area which hasn't been as greatly impacted by the digital revolution). Rhino collected the complete albums of The Smiths in both Super Deluxe and standard packages; both centered around all eight of the seminal band's albums, newly remastered under the supervision of Johnny Marr to sound as sharp as the band's cutting lyrical observations. Another complete set was produced for Aretha Franklin's oft-overlooked tenure at Columbia Records. And though the Queen leaned more towards jazz and popular vocals than Soul at Columbia, those who decided to Take a Look were rewarded with a revealing study of an artist on the rise. Rhino Handmade continued its acclaimed series of Monkees box sets with one dedicated to the band's late-era Instant Replay, leading fans to shout "Hey! Hey!" with pleasure. (We'll weigh in on this exciting collection in a full review soon!) Universal U.K. offered a truly hefty set in the form of Dusty Springfield's Goin' Back; its four CDs, three DVDs and two hardback books added up to a collection that lived up to its subtitle The Definitive Dusty Springfield. (And it's bigger than a breadbox!) Only a complete studio albums set could better this stunning collection. But the best box set award goes to a Super Deluxe set that lived not only up to the hype, but up to nearly 45 years of expectation: The Beach Boys' SMiLE. More on that one later.
The Critters, Awake in a Dream: The Project 3 Recordings (Now Sounds)
Lesley Gore, Magic Colors: The Lost Album with Bonus Tracks, 1967-1969 (Ace)
Henry Mancini, The Moneychangers: Original Soundtrack Recording (Intrada)
Nino and April, Hey Baby! The Nino Tempo and April Stevens Anthology (Ace)
The Two Things in One, Together Forever: The Music City Sessions (Ace/Omnivore)
Although the reissue biz thrives on re-releases of classic and popular material, one of the pleasures of covering this beat is the discovery of rarely heard music from artists of whom you might or might not have heard. This group is just a small sampling of some of the best "hidden treasures" of 2011. If you know The Critters at all, chances are you know "Mr. Dieingly Sad," still an oldies radio staple. But the Now Sounds label (home of the dazzling reissues of The Association and Harpers Bizarre's catalogues, among others) showed that the band from Westfield, New Jersey had a lot of life in them even after the departure of Don Ciccone and their move to Enoch Light's Project 3 records. Awake in a Dream showcased gorgeous vocals, inventive production and strong songwriting on a couple of "could-have-been" LPs joined on one CD. In his too-short lifetime, Henry Mancini was one of the most prolific composers in Hollywood, so it's inevitable that some of his finest accomplishments would fall by the wayside compared to the continued popularity of work like The Pink Panther and Peter Gunn. So Intrada's 2-CD premiere soundtrack recording to the 1976 television miniseries The Moneychangers finds Mancini at the top of his game, writing in an eclectic variety of orchestral styles on one of his longest scores ever. This was pure gold. The Ace label may be the foremost compilation specialists today, and its family of labels didn't disappoint in 2011. Lesley Gore's Magic Colors finally assembled a version of her lost Mercury album and surrounded it with bonus tracks from the same era, while Hey Baby! anthologized the pop pleasures, together and separately, of Nino Tempo and April Stevens. Ace's BGP division teamed with new label Omnivore Recordings for Together Forever, the recordings of the Bay Area's long-forgotten The Two Things in One. It takes the Gold Bonus Disc for revealing this precocious quintet's deft blend of pop, soul, rock, jazz and funk as one groovy whole which left listeners wanting more!
Carnival: Original London Cast Recording (Kritzerland)
Do Re Mi: Original London Cast Recording (Sepia)
Godspell: 40th Anniversary Edition (Arista/Masterworks Broadway)
Gone with the Wind: Original London Cast Recording (Kritzerland)
Inner City: Original Broadway Cast Recording (RCA Victor/Masterworks Broadway)
Each year, the category of original cast album reissues narrows, but the Masterworks Broadway, Kritzerland and Sepia labels all proved that there was still gold to be mined. Despite largely concentrating on a digital-only campaign, Masterworks joined the Original Cast Recording and Original Soundtrack of Godspell on one 2-CD set with new liner notes by composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz in addition to newly-remastered sound. The result was a surprising and welcome release. Among the titles receiving digital-only makeovers from Masterworks, Inner City's unique, gritty pop/soul sound proved that it's stood the test of time. The British public domain label Sepia remains a notch above other similar labels with well-researched editions of titles unlikely to see reissue from the majors, and among these was the London Cast Recording of the Jule Styne/Betty Comden/Adolph Green musical Do Re Mi. It was expanded with rare demo recordings as well as pop single versions of the score's songs. Kritzerland kept the cast album alive with its reissues of highly sought-after London cast albums of musicals like Camelot and Carnival, but takes home the prize for Gone with the Wind, Harold Rome's surprisingly good musical adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's famous novel. Few expected this release, which turned out to be one of the year's most unexpected delights. We can't wait to see what the label has coming in 2012!
Burt Bacharach, Casino Royale (Kritzerland)
John Barry, The Black Hole (Intrada/Walt Disney Records)
John Barry and Michel Colombier, The Golden Child (La-La Land)
Jerry Goldsmith, Gremlins (Film Score Monthly)
Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Kritzerland)
Why two winners in this category, you might ask? Each year, despite the well-publicized travails of the music industry in general, a small but dedicated group of soundtrack labels presses onward. These labels will be familiar to any regular reader of The Second Disc: Film Score Monthly, Intrada, Kritzerland, La-La Land, Varese Sarabande and Quartet Records are some of the most familiar names. These labels serve a passionate group of individuals usually via an Internet-only, limited edition model, and continually set new standards with packaging, sound quality, bonus material and all of the elements that collectors of physical product crave. Each and every title above raised the bar, as did so many more released by these labels. With releases like Gremlins and The Black Hole having materialized in expanded form, the number of film score "holy grails" gets smaller and smaller each year. Kritzerland's deluxe Casino Royale proved that even a much-released title can be vastly improved with a sonic and content makeover. So why have we chosen two winners? Kritzerland's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was exemplary in every regard, expanding the film's original soundtrack recording in its best-ever sound, but also adding an entire second "studio cast" album of the score and a wealth of bonus material that even the film's most ardent fans couldn't have imagined would see the light of day: on-set playback tracks, composers' demos and the like. This release was one of the most exciting of the year, in any genre, and the perfect gift for the kid in all of us. But as it's a musical, with most of its tracks dedicated to songs and not orchestral cues, it's in a different category than the others, each a stellar example of the art of film scoring. So, to honor traditional film scoring, we've selected La-La Land's 3-CD reconstruction of the score to Michael Ritchie's 1986 film The Golden Child. This set unearthed an entire (and revelatory) unheard score by John Barry, expanded the final soundtrack by Michel Colombier, and added a wealth of bonuses, from every one of the film's pop songs to an unheard collaboration between John Barry, Jackie DeShannon and Randy Edelman! Like Chitty, The Golden Child is the kind of release that can make a hardened collector grin with wide-eyed amazement.
Tony Bennett, The Complete Collection (Columbia/Legacy)
Miles Davis, The Bootleg Series Volume 1: Live in Europe 1967 (Columbia/Legacy)
Judy Garland, Smilin' Through: The Singles Collection 1936-1947 (JSP)
Frank Sinatra, Ring-a-Ding Ding!: Expanded Edition (Concord)
Various Artists, First Impulse: The Creed Taylor Collection (Impulse!/Hip-o Select)
Adult-oriented genres like jazz and vocals lend themselves to the deluxe reissue treatment, and 2011 was no exception to the rule. Legacy Recordings offered a number of no-frills box sets exclusively through Sony's PopMarket website, and these boxes collected album replicas of the complete albums (either of an entire career or one period) of a particular artist. Among the best of the jazz-themed sets brought together the studio albums of The Dave Brubeck Quartet; hopefully a live box set will follow! In the same vein, though, was Tony Bennett's The Complete Collection, a higher-ticket item that nabs a slot here. The Bennett box compiles almost all of Bennett's albums in complete form, plus various singles, outtakes, video footage and one-offs in a sensational, and important, package. Hip-o Select boxed the first six albums on the historic Impulse! label, all produced by Creed Taylor, in one attractive set with an 84-page book and a disc of unreleased and rare bonus material. Concord and Frank Sinatra Enterprises continued their series reissuing the Chairman's finest albums in remixed form with bonus material where applicable, and 1960's Ring-a-Ding Ding! might have been the finest entry in the series yet, with illuminating liner notes by Frank Sinatra Jr. and even more illuminating session material appended to the original album. British public domain label JSP Records compiled Judy Garland's Decca Records singles on one compact 4-CD set, including virtually every released alternate take along with the core tracks. Smilin' Through quickly became a must-have among devotees of the legendary singer and actress, and indeed, among devotees of great and timeless singing. Our Gold Bonus Disc Award goes to Columbia and Legacy's first release in what's hopefully a long-running series for jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Chronicling his Second Great Quintet at their peak on a series of European concert dates, The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 sounds so fresh and so inventive, it could have been recorded yesterday.
The Beach Boys, The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol/EMI)
The Beau Brummels, Bradley's Barn: Expanded Edition (Rhino Handmade)
Ben Folds, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective (Epic/Legacy)
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Album Reissue Series (Rhino U.K./Edsel)
The Kinks, Album Reissue Series (Universal U.K.)
Paul McCartney, The Paul McCartney Archive Collection: McCartney II (Concord)
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here: Immersion Box Set (EMI)
Phil Spector, The Philles Album Collection (Phil Spector Records/Legacy)
U2 , Achtung Baby (various editions) (Island)
The Who, Quadrophenia: Director's Cut (Universal)
Following suit of the Academy Awards, you'll notice that (for the second year in a row!) we have upped the number of nominees in our Reissue of the Year Award, simply because there were too many great releases to not recognize them! And these ten choices are still just the tip of the iceberg in a year that saw The Second Disc literally cover hundreds of reissues. Every fan hopes for the kind of reissues granted to The Kinks and The Jesus and Mary Chain from Universal/Sanctuary and Rhino U.K./Edsel, respectively. These 2-CD reissues compiled the original albums plus mono versions (in the Kinks' case!), related singles and ephemera, to create the final word on these beloved albums. Island gave fans the final word (and more!) with their various editions of U2's 1991 Achtung Baby. Rhino Handmade brought a lost country-rock gem to light with its lovingly designed and splendidly produced reissue of The Beau Brummels' Bradley's Barn, while Paul McCartney used his Archive Collection label for two comprehensive box sets devoted to McCartney and McCartney II, both solo efforts. Though both sets, housed in classy hardcover book format, offered a great wealth of unreleased material, McCartney II allowed the listener to rediscover a much-maligned album, and rounded up just about every last outtake and related track of any importance. The Who's Quadrophenia: Director's Cut revealed the enormous and varied pleasures of Pete Townshend's original demos for the 1973 album, and Pink Floyd's Immersion Editions of Dark Side of the Moon and the nominated Wish You Were Here included demos, surround mixes, live recordings and more, for a mind-blowing experience. Legacy's The Philles Album Collection restored to print a great number of long-unheard tracks in this joyful collection of the original LPs of The Crystals, The Ronettes and more. Piano man Ben Folds made art of the compilation form with his 3-CD The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective, which like any of these titles, would have made a strong contender for the top prize in any other year. But this was the year of SMiLE. The album nobody believed would ever see the light of day finally was released in the months leading up to the major announcement of The Beach Boys' reunion and new studio album. The box set revealed the magical, mystical glories of Brian Wilson's abandoned studio opus, examining it from every conceivable angle in a beautiful objet d'art that did justice to the legend. Though SMiLE premiered a great amount of rare and never-before-heard material, it's also a masterful example of how to present previously released material in a shining new light. Without a doubt, it is the Reissue (or Catalogue Project) of the Year and one of the high watermarks of the compact disc era.
As Frank Sinatra once sang, "it was a very good year." New labels such as Real Gone Music and Omnivore Recordings established themselves with a solid line-up of exciting reissues. We just know that 2012 will be even brighter for these two upstarts. We weren't able to recognize long-running indie labels like Friday Music, Sundazed, Iconoclassic and Funky Town Grooves, all of whom have delivered the goods in 2011. The accomplishments of our friends at Cherry Red and Demon Music Group are almost too many to detail here. And it's a testament to the enormous amount of good stuff that The Gold Bonus Disc Awards didn't get to recognize notable archival releases from The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, R.E.M., Nirvana, The Supremes, Queen, Sam Cooke, Rosanne Cash, Roy Orbison, The Hollies and so many more...the list goes on. There was truly an embarrassment of riches on offer in the past 365 days, and it's been our privilege to bring news and reviews of those releases to you.
We're raising a glass to you, our readers and friends, for another year of good health and great music! Happy New Year!
Coming next week: Mike and I are back in full swing with news and reviews of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, The Doors, Captain Beefheart, Louis Armstrong, Motörhead, Simple Minds, Pulp, Public Image Ltd. and many more!