Happy 2022! Welcome, friends, to Part Two of The Second Disc's 12th Annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards!
Once again, we've all faced unprecedented challenges over the past twelve months. A year that began with hope and promise has ended with further uncertainty for many of us. But music continues to fill a significant role in our lives, providing solace, comfort, and escape in a time unlike any other. With that spirit in mind, The Second Disc wishes to recognize 2021's cream of the catalogue music crop - those exemplary reissues and box sets big and small that proved to be truly outstanding for music lovers worldwide. Despite the many delays caused by COVID-19, there was no shortage of worthy reissue titles in 2021.
After much deliberation, we're excited to unveil our favorites. This isn't your run-of-the-mill Top 10, however. To cover as much ground and spotlight as many titles as we can, we've organized 26 of our favorites from A to Z, and included some additional titles that were just too good to leave out. (And while our own Second Disc Records releases such as Michael Nesmith's Different Drum: The Lost RCA Victor Recordings and the Toomorrow soundtrack) were, of course, ineligible, we hope those made your own personal best-of lists!) It was a very good year across multiple genres: we've got rock, pop, jazz, soul, hip-hop, classical, soundtracks, musicals, and more here.
As always, The Gold Bonus Disc Awards are dedicated to the artists, labels, and behind-the-scenes producers, engineers, and writers who continue to prove the value in physical releases of catalogue music. We also want to thank all the brick-and-mortar stores who have endured countless hardships over the last twelve months but still remain dedicated to bringing these fantastic titles to listeners everywhere. Most importantly, we want to recognize you, our readers, for your lasting support and good conversation. Our hearts are with the first responders, healthcare and essential workers, and families of all whose lives who have been impacted by the scourge of COVID-19.
Without any further ado, here's Part Two of TSD's A-to-Z list of our favorite reissues of the year, spanning N-Z. If you missed Part One (A-M), just click here!
- Joe, Mike, and Randy
Olivia Newton-John, Physical: 40th Anniversary Edition (Green Hill/Primary Wave)
Olivia Newton-John was taking the world by storm by 1981, after her previous year's role in Xanadu and in 1978's Grease, both of which yielded singles with vast chart success. That wave continued with 1981's Physical which saw her reteam with producer-songwriter John Farrar. The album spun off three successful singles, including "Make a Move on Me" and "Landslide." Of course, the most famous and successful single was the title song, which despite some controversy over its suggestive lyrics (or maybe because of it!), became a worldwide smash hit. It hit the top of the Billboard charts and stayed there for 10 weeks and was accompanied by an equally famous music video. Over the years, fans have clamored for deluxe reissues of Olivia's albums, including Physical. This new anniversary edition gave them reason to rejoice, as it was promised to be the first in a series. The original album was expanded to two discs with 21 bonus tracks including Olivia's material from the soundtrack of the 1983 film Two of a Kind, her new songs from Greatest Hits Vol. 2, and various live versions, alternate mixes, and single edits. Also, a DVD was included featuring the Physical video album and the Olivia in Concert special. All of that added up to making this an unexpected treat this year. Read more here. - RF
Eugene Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Columbia Legacy (Sony Classical)
In 1936, Eugene Ormandy became a joint conductor with The Philadelphia Orchestra and would be the sole music director in two years, a post he held until 1980. His 44-year tenure is one of the longest a conductor has enjoyed with an orchestra, and the tenure produced hundreds of recordings on various labels. The most long-lasting of these associations was with Columbia Records from 1944-1968. While many of his albums with The Philadelphia Orchestra have been reissued over the years, 2021 saw Sony Classical finally decide to approach the catalogue in a chronological fashion. The result was this gargantuan 120-disc (the second-largest box Sony Classical has ever produced!) featuring all of the mono material from Ormandy and The Philadelphia Orchestra through 1957. Over the course of the box, you will hear a litany of the most famous composers in the classical world from Bach and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, all conducted in Ormandy's lush style. The set features all of the CDs in replica album jackets and a 200-page hardcover book. While the advent of stereo was certainly a boon to classical recordings, these early mono efforts have an energy to them which made this box a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating listen. (That said, we do hope that Sony Classical will continue with a box representing Ormandy's stereo albums with The Philadelphia Orchestra. The conductor and orchestra were so prolific that The Columbia Legacy only represents half of their output for the label.) Read more here. - RF
Arthur Baker Presents Dance Masters: The Shep Pettibone Master Mixes (Edsel/Demon)
This expansive salute from one legendary remixer to another is on 4 CDs (47 songs in one box set) or 2 LPs (32 tracks across two releases), inaugurating the Dance Masters series. Within a hardcover book-style format, the CD et brings together vintage Pettibone 7- and 12-inch mixes of classic songs (big hits and deep cuts alike) by a true "Who's Who" including Whitney Houston, George Michael, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Belinda Carlisle, Elton John, Lionel Richie, The Salsoul Orchestra, and Sananda Maitreya (the former Terence Trent D'Arby). That's to say nothing of more chart-toppers from Narada Michael Walden, Alisha, The Flirts, Phyllis Nelson, Thompson Twins, Lisa Stansfield, Sinnamon, and more. Compilation producer/sequencer Wayne Dickson assembled an A-team for this release, with liner notes from Arthur Baker, DJ Bruce Forest, and former Billboard Dance Music Editor Bill Coleman; the 32-page booklet also boasts track-by-track annotations. This is a classy, loving tribute to the sound(s) of '80s dance-pop: "Ooh, I Love It!" Read more here! - JM
Quartet Records expanded soundtracks including The Pink Panther: The Final Chapters Collection
Soundtrack aficionados have come to count on Quartet Records for lavish presentations of classic scores, and 2021 proved no exception to the rule. 2021 saw the label surprise with a number of essential releases including The Pink Panther: The Final Chapters Collection, a deluxe 3-CD box expanding Henry Mancini's final three scores for Blake Edwards' series of comedies (including the remastered/expanded premiere of Son of the Pink Panther); a mono/stereo expansion of the original soundtrack album to John Barry's epic Zulu; a return to print for John Williams' 1972 score to Robert Altman's Images; a 2-CD exploration of Nino Rota's score to Federico Fellini's Il Bidone; and a single-disc expansion of Ennio Morricone's score to Jerry Kawalerowicz's film Maddalena. Quartet didn't leave vinyl fans out in the cold, either, with lavish LP presentations of Barry's Midnight Cowboy, Jerry Goldsmith's Total Recall, and Burt Bacharach's Casino Royale plus themed collections from Italian maestro Piero Picconi and Spain's Alberto Iglesias. We can't wait to see what Quartet has planned for 2022. In the meantime, watch this space for a round-up of the label's recent titles! - JM
Various Artists, R&B in DC (Bear Family)
Nowadays, there's not much harmony in Washington, DC. But this massive box set from Bear Family - one for which even "comprehensive" and "expansive" seem to be understatements- happily paints a very different picture! Perhaps no 2021 release provides more hours of immersion than R&B in DC: 1940-1960, packed with 16 CDs, 472 songs (or roughly, 20 hours of music) and a nearly 400-page hardcover book. This definitive study of the rhythm and blues, swing, doo-wop, boogie-woogie, gospel, rock-and-roll, and soul sounds coming out of America's capital city is a museum-quality piece that digs deep and unearths not just the music, but the stories behind the music.
It's difficult to imagine a more thorough, engrossing exploration of Washington, DC's African-American music community in those segregated times. These are the alternately romantic, tortured, hot, cool, joyful, melancholy, sophisticated, primal sounds that emanated from vaudeville houses, nightclubs, restaurants, bars, roadhouses, churches, amateur hours, record shops, and even cruise boats sailing the Potomac. The term "rhythm and blues" was first used by the RCA Victor label for marketing purposes in 1948 and adopted the following year by Billboard; the box set begins before the term was in usage and as such, spotlights the antecedents of the now-familiar form. The nation's capital was clearly a melting pot; unlike Chicago or Philadelphia, to name two, there isn't one "Washington, DC Sound" highlighted here. Instead, the producers have scrupulously represented the various strains of African-American music that pulsated throughout the city.
While the songs are helpfully organized in chronological order, the book's essays are thematically organized. One can read chapters on record-making in DC; television and radio; the local nightspots; and even the music of the area's beaches. The text introduces readers to local heroes including Lillian Claiborne of DC Records, Ben Adelman of Empire Records, and Bill Boskent of KRC Records, and also traces appearances in the area by such well-known figures as future Atlantic Records founders Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. (Atlantic is just one of the major labels that took notice of DC; other tracks here first appeared on RCA, Mercury, Dot, Okeh, and MGM, to name a few.) No stone has been left unturned. The book has remarkably detailed biographies of even the least-known artists represented, hundreds of photos and memorabilia images, and exhaustive track-by-track annotations.
The lion's share of artists may well have languished in obscurity (until now!) but the set also boasts some familiar names including Billy Eckstine, The Clovers, Billy Stewart, Don Covay, and Lloyd Price, plus early recordings featuring Van McCoy, Harvey Fuqua, and Marvin Gaye. Similarly, there are dozens of fascinating original songs as well as local renditions of tunes (reflecting the diversity of interests in the DC scene) popularized on the Broadway stage or by the likes of Bing Crosby, Duke Ellington, and even Eddy Arnold. The quality extends to every aspect of the box; though master tapes have been utilized when possible, hundreds of recordings for which no master tapes survive have been transferred and restored by Doug Pomeroy expressly for this release. Produced by Jay Bruder with Bear Family founder Richard Weize and annotated by Bruder with editorial assistance from John Broven, Dan Kochakian, Dick Lillard, and Colin Escott, R&B in DC is a jaw-dropping achievement that couldn't have come at a better, or more serendipitous time, as the nation reckons with representation in the arts. This box celebrates the unsung African-American heroes who created the sounds that are at the bedrock of popular culture today; it couldn't be more timely or more powerful. - JM
Barbra Streisand, Release Me 2 (Columbia/Legacy)
Barbra Streisand has been notoriously reluctant to open the vaults of her musical legacy, with the most significant projects in that regard being 1991's Just for the Record... box set and 2012's Release Me. This year saw Streisand release a follow-up to that album with a further 10 (11 if you bought the Target exclusive edition) tracks being made available for the first time. The songs span a long period of her storied career (1962-2014) with Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Carole King, Randy Newman, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, Michel Legrand, Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher, and The Bee Gees among the songwriters who benefited from Streisand's powerful delivery. While new production has been added to many of the songs (it is not known if all of the tracks were in release-worthy form previously), the strength of the material and scarcity of Streisand vault material made this a standout 2021 release. One only hopes it does not take another nine years for the next volume to surface when there is still so much quality material in the Streisand archives. Read more here. - RF
The Beau Brummels, Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970 (Now Sounds/Cherry Red)
Cherry Red's Now Sounds label returned in 2021 with its most impressive release yet: a gorgeous 8-CD box set from San Francisco's Beau Brummels. With both hit singles ("Laugh, Laugh," "Just a Little") and albums that have stood the test of time (Bradley's Barn, Triangle), the Brummels' 1960s discography stands as a miniature history of American pop music. Sal Valentino and Ron Elliott (together with, at various points, Ron Meagher, John Petersen, Declan Mulligan, and John Irving, plus a host of collaborators from Sly Stone to Van Dyke Parks) fused rock and roll, folk, and country into an unmistakable whole.
There's something here for everyone, from the casual fan to the most devoted Brummels collector who might already own the Magic Hollow box or expanded edition of Bradley's Barn. Turn Around features all five of the band's studio albums for the Autumn and Warner Bros. labels, each impressively housed in a mini-sleeve with lovingly recreated labels, plus three packed discs of bonus material (including a definitive survey of the band's As and Bs, all in their proper mono mixes), within a sturdy slipcase. This all adds up to a whopping 228 tracks - all freshly remastered by collection compiler Alec Palao - including two dozen never-before-released tracks. The full-color, squarebound, 88-page booklet designed by Now Sounds' Steve Stanley boasts an essay by Palao, an interview with producer Lenny Waronker, detailed album-by-album notes, a heavily annotated song-by-song index, rare photos, and copious memorabilia images.
This is a true everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, and in this case, the kitchen sink includes just a handful of mono mixes and a small number of backing tracks and unfinished masters. Palao notes, "[Certain] mono mixes that have been available in the past (such as those featured on the mono issue of an album) are not included; if an outtake exists in mono and stereo, to avoid endless repetition, we have opted for the latter." Nobody will be disappointed by this decision, as many tracks appear here in stereo for the first time. Turn Around is a lovingly-curated, beautifully-designed, comprehensive, and luxurious collection that places The Beau Brummels into proper context, affirming their place at the vanguard of the '60s pop scene. We hope to see more career-spanning, all-encompassing packages from Now Sounds in 2022. - JM
David Bowie, Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) (ISO/Parlophone, 2021)
After a few years wait and much speculation as to what it would contain, Parlophone unveiled the fifth of the David Bowie "Era" boxes, covering five studio albums: Black Tie White Noise (1993), The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), Outside (1995), Earthling (1997), and 'hours...' (1999). It also features and expanded live show from 2000, three discs of bonus tracks, and, most excitingly, the premiere of the unreleased album Toy, which saw Bowie re-recording some of his earliest material. (Toy will receive its own, separate box set release this Friday in honor of Bowie's 75th birthday, featuring additional material not included here). While this box does omit more material than some previous entries (mainly dance remixes, of which there were many), what is here is still a great listen as Bowie produced some of his most challenging yet powerful music during this period. Gathering all of the material together in this way lets you experience and appreciate the artistic journey on which Bowie was embarking. The included hardcover book also contains commentary from the albums' producers and vintage magazine articles, making for a nice historical context. (As we received this box toward the very end of last year, we will have a full review shortly). Hopefully, Parlophone releases the next box soon, which should contain Bowie's remaining albums through his passing in 2016. - RF
Bill Evans, Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans (Craft Recordings)
Due to the improvisational nature of jazz, there's often a great deal to mine via live performances and alternate takes from the genre's heroes. 2021 saw a number of worthwhile releases including Craft Recordings' loving salute to late pianist Bill Evans. Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans was the title of his first-ever career-spanning box set, and indeed, there was plenty to dig. The thematically-organized 5-CD box covered many of Evans' label affiliations (including Riverside, Milestone, Fantasy, Verve, Warner Bros., and Elektra) and premiered a 1975 concert with the leader, supported by bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Eliot Zigmund, in fine form. Other noteworthy jazz releases this year included John Coltrane's A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (Impulse!/UMe) premiering a transcendent 1965 set, and Lee Morgan's The Complete Live at the Lighthouse, an 8-CD or 12-LP box with all of the late trumpeter's landmark July 10-12, 1970 sets at the Hermosa Beach venue. Read more here. - JM
Kim Wilde, Pop Don't Stop: Greatest Hits Collector's Edition (Cherry Red/Cherry Pop)
This 5-CD/2-DVD set from Cherry Pop was certainly a nice surprise this year. The box includes 89 audio tracks and 49 music videos spanning the entirety of Wilde's career from the early 1980s to the present day (three new songs, including a duet with Boy George, made their debut here). A 2-CD version with just the first two discs is also available. Wilde was successful right out of the gate when her first single "Kids In America" climbed to No. 2 in her U.K. home and hit the Top 40 in America. It would launch a career filled with hit songs, mostly co-written by her with her brother Ricky and father Marty (also a successful performer in Britain). Her biggest hit was a cover of The Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On," which went to No. 2 in the U.K. and No. 1 in several other countries, including America. Ironically, she never had a U.K. No. 1, but became the most successful solo female performer of the 1980s in that country. Pop Don't Stop includes many of the songs in various edits and remixes, several appearing on CD for the first time. The full-color 70-page book features a full discography and a new interview with Wilde. Listening through the expansive set takes you deep into the world of 1980s pop and is an incredibly fun experience. - RF
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Way Out West: The Lost Transcriptions For Tiffany Music 1946-1947: Volume Two (Real Gone Music)
To call Bob Wills (1905-1975) a pioneer in the genre of western swing is an understatement; Wills played the style of music before it was so named. With his group The Texas Playboys, the fiddler-songwriter-bandleader brought a new sound to the big band era by fusing acoustic and electric guitars, fiddle, and banjo with steel guitar, drums, piano, horns, and reeds. Between 1946 and 1947, Wills and The Texas Playboys made over 400 recordings for Tiffany Music. These transcription discs were made for syndication on radio stations all over the country. In 2014, our friends at Real Gone Music released their first volume in this series. They returned this year with this second set of 50 songs on two CDs in a DVD-style digipak. You hear the band perform ballads, blues, folk, and popular standards, sometimes in an even more energetic fashion than on their commercial studio recordings. As you would expect, these songs really do swing and it makes rediscovering them very much worth your time. Read more here. - RF
Bob Dylan, Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 16 (1980-1985) (Columbia/Legacy)
This year saw a new release in Bob Dylan's long-running Bootleg Series, and it was another fine entry. This box focuses on the early to mid-1980s and covers the recording period of three albums: Shot of Love, Infidels, and Empire Burlesque. It also directly follows and slightly overlaps the period explored in the 13th Bootleg volume, 2017's Trouble No More, chronicling Dylan's gospel period. Springtime in New York finds him returning to the more typical type of material one would normally expect, but, as usual, there are unexpected turns making this a fascinating listen. From a cover of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" to alternates of familiar songs like "Jokerman" to unheard classics such as "New Danville Girl," there is something to discover on each disc of the box. Listening might even make you see the oft-maligned Empire Burlesque in a new light. As our review said: "The music on Springtime in New York is among the most captivating to emerge from the seemingly endless Dylan vaults." Read the rest of that review here. - RF
Trini Lopez, The Rare Reprise Singles (Omnivore)
Along with its series of Buck Owens reissues, Omnivore proved that there's life in the single-CD release yet with this entertaining and enjoyable chronicle of Trini Lopez's non-LP sides recorded in the 1960s for Reprise Records. The set is a trip back to the days when pop was all-encompassing, and as such, is a blast from start to finish. It kicks off with the studio version of Lopez's rousing take on the Bernstein/Sondheim West Side Story classic "America" (stylized by the artist as "A-Mer-I-Ca") in which Lopez sings both parts of the musical dialogue himself. With Stephen Sondheim's recent passing and the release of Steven Spielberg's beautiful film remake, the timing couldn't be better. The set also features a Bob Gaudio-helmed single of Randy Newman's wry "Love Story," both sides of a Christmas 45 ("El Niño Del Tambor (The Little Drummer Boy)" b/w "Noche de Paz (Silent Night)"/"Let There Be Peace"), Trini's funky reinvention of The Vogues' "Five O'Clock World," and Paul Anka and Bobby Gosh's groovy "You Make My Day." Other highlights include the movie theme "Made in Paris," one of the most rocking songs Burt Bacharach and Hal David ever wrote, and Frank DeVol and Mack David's "The Bramble Bush" from the 1967 war film The Dirty Dozen. Lopez was one of the titular twelve (No. 10, to be precise) and he also recorded his own tie-in song to the movie. That track, "The Ballad of The Dirty Dozen," is also here. The Rare Reprise Singles plays like a mini-history of '60s pop from a too-often unsung musical hero. Read more here! - JM
Frank Zappa, 200 Motels: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - 50th Anniversary Edition (Zappa Records/UMe)
Off-the-wall. Over-the-top. Irreverent. Ingenious. All apply to 200 Motels, a deliriously zany, altogether surreal 1971 film written, composed, and co-directed by Frank Zappa. The surreal musical chronicled life on the road with Zappa, The Mothers of Invention (including The Turtles' Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman), and a cast of characters including Ringo Starr as a dwarf who dresses like Frank Zappa, Keith Moon as a depraved nun, and folksinger-actor Theodore Bikel as the Master of Ceremonies. While the filmmaking was innovative - the movie was shot with $650,000.00 in just 10 days on videotape at Pinewood Studios and incorporated offbeat special effects and animation - its most enduring aspect remains Zappa's ambitious, majestic, and eclectic score as played by the Mothers and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The original double-album soundtrack to 200 Motels was first released by United Artists Records in 1971 but remained unreleased on CD until Rykodisc teamed with UA successor MGM in 1997 for its slightly-expanded premiere in the format. Now, it's back - and there's nothing slight about it whatsoever. This splendid 50th anniversary box set features six discs. That's the original album plus previously unreleased demos, outtakes, work mixes, interviews, movie dialogue, and advertisements. It's exhaustive but hardly exhausting as the prolific Zappa was at his creative best. A thick hardcover book and amusing swag (a motel key and Do Not Disturb door-hanger) are both in the spirit of the movie. It all adds up to an unforgettable trip with the iconoclastic composer. Watch this space for an in-depth look at 200 Motels! - JM
Don't see one of your favorites listed above? While we hope the above list represents a wide array of the remarkable releases offered in 2021, we stress that there were many, many other titles equally worthy of inclusion. This is a mere sampling of what the year had to offer on the catalogue front. Among the many titles deserving of an "Honorable Mention" are the many releases from the various Beatles, including deluxe reissues of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, not to mention the somewhat-controversial box dedicated to the Fabs' Let It Be. Of course, the Get Back documentary film (which inspired a terrific coffee table book) might be the worthiest catalogue-related title of the year, even though it's yet to see a physical release.
We'd also like to make note of a few of our favorite new albums of 2022. ABBA's powerful Voyage (Polar), Burt Bacharach and Steven Sater's poignant Some Lovers, and Micky Dolenz's Dolenz Sings Nesmith (7a Records) were just a handful of the year's albums that are still happily occupying our CD players and turntables.
Thank You for Being a Friend: Lastly, we'd like to take a moment to remember all of the greats who left us in 2021; their music will live on forever in our hearts. Here are just a few of the artists, entertainers, songwriters, producers, musicians, and industry leaders whom we will never forget, beginning with five cherished friends of The Second Disc whom we'll miss terribly. Their legacies will live on.
Pee Wee Ellis
Tom T. Hall
Sally Ann Howes
Lee "Scratch" Perry
Melvin Van Peebles
Samuel E. Wright