It’s time for another installment of our 100 Greatest Reissues list, taking Rolling Stone‘s list of the greatest albums of all time and investigating their many pressings and expansions as the catalogue industry has grown. Today, enjoy selections from three of the most beloved bands of all time, a pioneer in the blues field and our first selection, a singer/songwriter extraordinaire who proved that rock is not just for the guys.
30. Joni Mitchell, Blue (Reprise, 1971)
To read the entries that have come up thus far on the list, you’d think rock and roll was merely a man’s game. Not so, with Joni Mitchell’s fourth album Blue as an example. Inspired by a breakup with Graham Nash and a subsequent trip across the globe, Blue finds Mitchell embracing the most intimate arrangements and the most nakedly open feelings in her songwriting, from “Carey” to “River” to “A Case of You.” Add a host of legends from the 1970s West Coast music scene (James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Pete Kleinow, Russ Kunkel), and you’ve got an album that sounds as good as it looks on paper.
Blue bowed on CD in 1990 (Reprise 2038-2) and was remastered on gold CD by Steve Hoffman in 1996 (DCC Compact Classics GZS-1132); an HDCD version in mini-LP replica packaging followed in the 2000s (Reprise 7599-27199-2 (U.K.)/OPCD-8031 (U.S.)).
29. Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin (Atlantic, 1969)
Led Zeppelin’s debut is a quickly-produced, self-funded killer of a debut that employed a lot of advances in the studio, from the “backward echo” present on Robert Plant’s vocals to the album’s release solely in stereo. That wasn’t enough to impress critics at first, who, post-Cream, were probably tired of being delivered overhyped British bands on a silver platter. Of course, time has since been kinder to the band and the album, widely regarded as a monster of a first effort.
As with previous Led Zep albums on the list, Led Zeppelin bowed on CD in 1990 (Atlantic 19126-2) mastered for CD by Barry Diament. Jimmy Page and George Marino at Sterling Sound remastered the entire Led Zep catalogue not long after; the final products ended up in the 1990 box set (Atlantic 7 82144-2) and its 1993 sequel (Atlantic 7 82477-2), the 1990 two-disc compilation Remasters (Atlantic 7 80415-2) and 1993′s The Complete Studio Recordings (Atlantic 7 82526-2), which sequenced all the material back into album order, ten discs strong. (Physical Graffiti, as mastered by Page and Marino, was released on its own in 1994, as Atlantic 82632-2.) A Japanese SHM-CD remaster used the same remasters (Atlantic WPCR-13130, 2008); those SHMs were compiled into The Definitive Collection in 2008 (Atlantic WPCR-13142; later released on standard CDs in America as Atlantic R2 513820).
Give a “yeeeeeeeeeeah!” after the jump for a great album by a killer British band, a blues icon and four Irish guys who became the biggest in the world.
28. The Who, Who’s Next (Track Records, 1971)
Built from the ashes of a failed rock opera, Lifehouse, Who’s Next is a rough and ready rocker that kept old and new fans under the band’s spell, from opening number “Baba O’Riley” to killer album closers “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In typical Who fashion, it’s been reissued a few times. The first CDs came out on Polydor/MCA in 1983/1984 (Polydor 813 651-2 (U.K.)/MCA 37217 (U.S.)). Remasters from Andy MacPherson and Jon Astley followed in 1995 (MCA Records MCAD-11269), which featured seven bonus tracks (five of which were unreleased session takes and live tracks, two of which were previously released B-sides or outtakes from Odds and Sods). (That expanded program made it to a gold CD as well – Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD-754, 1999. MCA issued a gold CD in 1995 without any bonus tracks as release 11312.)
A 2003 Deluxe Edition (MCA/Chronicles 088 113 056-2) included all those bonus tracks (newly remixed, at that), adding two more studio outtakes and expanding the two live tracks from the Young Vic to an entire show. A Japanese SHM-SACD (Universal International UIGY-9022) followed in 2010. Future reissues are dependent upon location of presentable master tapes, as the originals are considered lost or destroyed (a fact that prevented the album from being included as downloadable content in the Rock Band video game series).
27. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues Singers (Columbia, 1961)
The two photographs and now-obsessively detailed mystique that surrounds blues legend Johnson, who died under mysterious circumstances at age 27, didn’t exist when Columbia hastily assembled King of the Delta Blues Singers in 1961. The image of the singer was merely a hazy painting, and the information provided in the liner notes was wildly inaccurate. But its popularity among a rising crop of British guitarists, including Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, can’t be understated. King of the Delta Blues Singers was the spark that lit a major flame under Johnson’s legend, which culminated in the Grammy-winning 1990 box set The Complete Recordings (Columbia C2K 46222), a double-disc set that featured all of these songs, as many alternate takes as could be found at the time and a far more academic stab at liner notes and discographical information.
While that was the definitive article, the original, 16-track King LP came out on CD twice: once in 1994 as a commemorative 24K gold disc (Columbia CK 52944) and again in 1998 (Columbia CK 65746) with – d’oh! – one alternate take that had been unearthed since the release of the box set. All 42 known recordings were compiled and released with new digital restoration and remastering by Seth Winner for The Centennial Collection (Columbia/Legacy 88697 85907 2, 2011).
26. U2, The Joshua Tree (Island, 1987)
It’s probably a coincidence that U2 were symbolically handed instruments by The Police – then the biggest rock band in the world – at a 1986 Amnesty International concert, one year before they released their iconic breakthrough The Joshua Tree. But there was no need for symbolism from the opening, ringing chords of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to the dark sorrow of “Mothers of the Disappeared.” This LP found U2 at a magical crossroad between European rock sensationalism and rugged American individuality, and the results were a gorgeous vista of sound.
The initial CD pressing of Joshua Tree (Island 7 90581-2) was known for one hideous visual anomaly: the striking, black and white panoramic shot of the band against the Mojave Desert was squished to fit most of the CD cover. That issue was first fixed with the 24K gold CD release (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 650, 1996), which also uncovered a bit of extra material from the master tape of “Mothers.” That extension remained on the remastered disc released for the LP’s 20th anniversary in 2007 (Island B0010285-02); that disc was also included in two deluxe editions: one (Island B0010286-02) which featured a bonus disc of non-LP B-sides and outtakes, and a box (Island B0010304-00) containing those two discs with a DVD featuring a live concert from Paris, a documentary filmed on the subsequent Joshua Tree Tour and several promo videos.
Monday: the final 25 kicks off with Joe and stone cold classics by Fleetwood Mac, James Brown, Chuck Berry and more!