Happy 2023! Welcome, friends, to The Second Disc's 13th Annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards!
A lot has happened in the last twelve months, but as we look to a new year with optimism and a hopeful spirit, we recognize the many roles music has played in our lives. With that spirit in mind, The Second Disc wishes to recognize 2022'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 the lingering effects of COVID-19, there was no shortage of worthy reissue titles in 2022.
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 Liza Minnelli's Live in New York 1979 and Stoney and Meatloaf's Everything Under the Sun: The Motown Recordings) 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 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 year-round.
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. Click here if you missed Part One!
- Joe, Mike, and Randy
Good things apparently come to those who wait. One of the year's most surprising reissues was this 2-CD, 4-album anthology from Neil Sedaka at last bringing his Elektra albums into the digital age. With the George Martin-helmed A Song (1977) joined by All You Need Is the Music (1978), In the Pocket (1980), and Now (1981), this set presented a heaping helping of melodic pop at its finest: the kind "they don't write anymore," except Sedaka did - and does. A fine companion to this release is the U.K. collection Essential Tony Christie, featuring the singer's hit version of Sedaka and Howard Greenfield's "Is This the Way to Amarillo?" (heard in the composer's own rendition on A Song) among its three discs of treasures. Read more here! - JM
Even nearing 91, legendary film composer and conductor John Williams is still very much in demand. Most recently, the maestro scored Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans, which just hit theaters a few weeks ago and continued his long-term association with the director. Some of that association is explored on this comprehensive 20-CD set which came out in early 2022. Williams became the conductor of The Boston Pops in 1980, taking the baton for the orchestra's recordings on the Philips label. This set contains 22 albums recorded by the group over the next decade before their move to Sony Classical (a period chronicled on a 2018 box). The repertoire covers Williams' own work but also has discs dedicated to film, Broadway, British, Christmas and other genre tunes. It is a true treat for Williams collectors, fans of the Boston Pops, or just anyone who likes stirring music. Get more info here! - RF
Quadraphonic releases were alive and well!
Four-channel quadraphonic releases continued to have a moment in the spotlight thanks to Dutton Vocalion and Sony Music Japan. In the U.K., the Vocalion team reissued numerous surprising titles on quad SACD including Broadway cast recordings to Candide (1974), No, No Nanette (1971), and Threepenny Opera (1976), classical and pops from Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler, R&B from The Friends of Distinction, rock from Ted Nugent and REO Speedwagon, and country from Mac Davis and Kris Kristofferson. Over in Japan, Sony continued its series of oversized, deluxe surround SACD reissues with a pair of quad classics from Santana (Live! with Buddy Miles and Caravanserai) as well as Toto IV in 5.1 surround. All of the above were essential for fans of music in surround. - JM
Barbra Streisand, Live at the Bon Soir (Columbia/Legacy)
For sheer vocal virtuosity and thrilling invention, no release of 2022 came close to Barbra Streisand's Live at the Bon Soir. The two dozen songs on this disc (available on CD and digitally from Legacy and on vinyl and stereo SACD from Impex Records) were captured at the tiny New York club on November 5-7, 1962 and intended for release as the artist's very first Columbia album. But the decision was made to re-record selections from this repertoire in the studio, and those studio recordings comprised her debut, The Barbra Streisand Album. 60 years later, this material has been freed from the vault (and from the realm of dodgy bootlegs) in beautifully remixed, sonically stunning form. It's now possible to hear just how extraordinarily different Streisand was as she made the medium of popular song her own for the first time. If the decidedly non-period-evoking cover art was a disappointment, everything else about this release was like the singer herself: nonpareil. Read more here! - JM
Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus (Super Deluxe Edition) (Warner/Rhino)
Originally released in 1978, Little Feat's live double-album Waiting For Columbus became one of the best-selling albums in the band's catalogue. Recorded over a series of dates in August, 1977 in Washington, D.C. and London, Feat was backed by the Tower of Power horn section and the album featured re-worked versions of several of their best-known songs to that point. To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the concerts, Rhino expanded the LP into an 8-CD box set, with a remastered original album and three full shows: Manchester at Manchester City Hall (7/29/77), London at The Rainbow (8/2/77), and Washington, D.C. at Lisner Auditorium (8/10/77). The set lists are fairly similar, but the performances are varied enough to make it interesting and this is the original Little Feat at their peak. Definitely a must-purchase for fans of the group. Read more here. - RF
This year, VMP continued its quest to bring a wide range of the finest music to vinyl enthusiasts. Its four subscription tracks -- Classics, focusing on soul, blues, and jazz; the cross-genre Essentials; Hip-Hop; and Country -- offer a host of excellent releases, with a title sent out monthly for the track(s) of your choice. Whether it be Patsy Cline's Showcase, Ornette Coleman's Shape of Jazz to Come, and Dylan's Blonde on Blonde presented in their original mono mixes; definitive reissues of more recent instant-classics like J Dilla's The Diary and Sigur Ros's Agaetis Byrjun (both with full liner notes, restored artwork, and colorful vinyl); or welcome represses of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska and Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth, the label has cranked out quality.
VMP's Anthology box set series also continued this year, re-examining and contextualizing some of the most important labels and figures in music. Willie Nelson, Quincy Jones, and the legendary Vanguard Records were among them. But it's not all past masters. Exclusive pressings of brand new releases abound, alongside a less-frequent Rising series which shines a light on up-and-coming talent.
No matter your individual inclinations, VMP had you covered in 2022. And with their own pressing plant on the way and Story of Impulse! Records box already announced, it seems 2023 will be similarly rich in musical explorations. Keep an eye on TSD for more. - SS
In 2022, box sets and deluxe anthologies proliferated at Cherry Red's many labels. One of the finest was this 8-CD compendium of SOS's first three studio LPs (1987's It's Better to Travel, 1989's Kaleidoscope World, and 1992's Get in Touch with Yourself) alongside their first live album and four discs of rarities, remixes, and more. The ultimate chronicle of Swing Out Sister's early years, Blue Mood, Breakout, and Beyond is a potent and enjoyable reminder of how deftly the group balanced the retro and the contemporary while finding a sound of their own. This set is filled with "sophisti-pop" at its best. Get more details here! - JM
Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Super Deluxe Edition) (Nonesuch)
Created during a period of transition for the group and famously rejected by longtime label home Reprise and then released for free on the internet, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot would eventually garner critical acclaim and become Wilco's best-selling album when picked up the next year by Nonesuch. This massive box set (11-LP/1-CD or 8-CD) explores all angles of Yankee's creation with the remastered original album, alternate takes and mixes, a collection of demos and rough sketches, and two live performances: a live-in-studio, five-song appearance and interview on Chicago's WXRT-FM in 2001 - the day the album was first made free to the public - and a celebrated 2002 concert at The Pageant in St. Louis, Missouri. Beautifully designed with great liner notes, this in-depth look at the album's creation is one not to miss. Read more here! - RF
Cheap Trick - Live at the Whisky 1977 (Real Gone Music)
1978's live At Budokan album broke Cheap Trick into mainstream success when it was released in the U.S. in 1979 and chronicled the power of the band's live performances. But devoted club attendees already know about their incendiary live shows from years prior and now some of those earlier shows have been released to the public. While Cheap Trick was recording their second studio album, In Color, they booked a series of five shows at the famed Sunset Strip nightclub. Four of those shows were recorded and all of those are presented on Real Gone's limited edition 4-CD set. A listener can imagine being in the small venue 45 years ago and experiencing the manic energy of the up-and-coming band. The set was limited to 2,000 copies and may be a bit hard to track down now, but it is essential for Cheap Trick fans. You'll find more info here. - RF
Paul McCartney, 7-Inch Singles Box (UMe)
Without a doubt, Paul McCartney's 7-Inch Singles Box was one of the year's most controversial releases. With a hefty price tag to match its hefty weight, the 80-single, 163-song set limited to just 3,000 copies seemed expressly designed to become a collectible; try finding one now for less than twice what it originally cost when it was first announced less than two months ago. Yet, the box (inpired by the artist's love of the 45 RPM single format) is undeniably beautiful, with replica and original picture sleeve artwork and labels for each 45, all of which are housed in a heavy wooden crate along with a handsome hardcover book. As has been well-documented at other sites around the 'net, the choice of which mix was used for each song isn't always clear, and this is an alternative history of McCartney on 45 rather than a "complete" chronology accurate to the original releases. But it's nonetheless a stunning package filled with some of the greatest pop and rock tunes, silly love songs and all, of the latter part of the 20th century (and well into the 21st). While the absence of a presumably trimmer CD package is frustrating, Macca did release the entire contents to digital and streaming services, so the box's hours of music can be enjoyed even by those who didn't or couldn't plunk down their hard-earned cash on the mega-box. - 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 2022, 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. We do, however, have a handful of Honorable Mentions which we would like to share.
Beach Boys, Sail On Sailor: 1972 (UMe)
The Beach Boys' latest deluxe box, Sail On Sailor: 1972, would be one of the year's finest titles if only for the inclusion of Live at Carnegie Hall, preserving the band's performance of November 23, 1972 on the venerable stage. But in addition to that live show, the box also celebrates the Carl and the Passions and Holland albums with copious outtakes and alternates including never-before-heard tracks from the era's new Beach Boys, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin. Though the unreleased material on Sail On Sailor wasn't quite as strong, collectively, as that which premiered on last year's Feel Flows box, each of these successive Beach Boys boxes manages to add something major to an understanding of the group's legacy. This set was no exception. Read our full review here. - JM
Dean Torrence and Friends, The Teammates: Twenty Years of Making Music 1965-1985 (Omnivore)
Of the many stellar releases from the Omnivore label this year including Linda Hoover's I Mean to Shine and The Left Banke's Strangers on a Train, this one stood out for just plain fun, fun, fun. Jan & Dean's Dean Torrence teamed with Endless Summer Quarterly's David Beard to curate this new collection of California gold. The Teammates: Twenty Years of Making Music 1965-1985 features 23 rare and unreleased tracks featuring Dean with pals Mike Love, Terry Melcher, Bruce Johnston, Flo and Eddie, Leon Russell, Harry Nilsson, and Jan Berry. These tracks - sometimes shimmering, sometimes silly - prove that good vibrations and sparkling harmonies never go out of fashion. Get more details here! - JM
For roughly the past four years, the Kritzerland label has reissued over 35 titles from the catalogue of the late Ben Bagley's Painted Smiles Records. That ambitious release slate came to a close late in 2022 with Oscar Hammerstein Revisited and the fifth volume of Cole Porter Revisited. Collectively, the Revisited series represents the finest of American popular song - the rarest songs by the greatest songwriters (Porter, Berlin, Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Bernstein, Kern, Gershwin, et. als.) matched with a host of great and distinctive voices (Blossom Dearie, Alfred Drake, Cab Calloway, Kaye Ballard, Karen Morrow, Elaine Stritch, Barbara Cook, Margaret Whiting) and a number of unexpected ones, too (Lynn Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton, Anthony Perkins, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Katharine Hepburn). It's all delightful, and Kritzerland's Bruce Kimmel can be thanked for bringing Bagley's oeuvre back into print in these splendid, must-have new packages. - JM
Thank You for Being a Friend: Lastly, we'd like to take a moment to remember all of the greats who left us in 2022; 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 cherished friends of The Second Disc whom we'll miss terribly. Their legacies will live on.
Rosa Lee Hawkins
Jerry Lee Lewis
Sister Janet Mead
Hargus "Pig" Robbins
Alec John Such