Record labels have been busy this year digging through the vaults to assemble dozens of box sets and deluxe reissues. They make great holiday gifts for family, friends — or yourself. Here are my top picks for 2022.
The Beatles: “Revolver” — “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is the Beatles album that revolutionized rock, but the album that preceded it, “Revolver,” was also stellar and provided a bridge between the band’s earlier impeccably crafted but more basic pop and the creative leap that was to come. This new six-disc set shows how songs like “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Yellow Submarine” were built over multiple takes, revealing musical elements within these songs that were buried in the final mixes. Along with the original album, this box has a mono version of “Revolver” and stereo mixes of a few songs.
Wilco: “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (Super-Deluxe Edition) — This superb eight-CD includes four discs — each essentially an alternate version of the album — that explore the many iterations the “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” songs went through during the sessions. The alternate versions are often markedly — even radically — different and just as valid, as the album versions. The filler-free set also includes an informative radio show and full concert from St. Louis.
Norah Jones: “Come Away With Me” 20th Anniversary Edition — Jones’ blockbuster debut album gets an extensive expansion in this three-CD set. Disc one is the original album, followed by a disc of demos and early takes and a third disc that is the first version of the album she recorded with producer Craig Street, but shelved. Many of the unreleased songs were easily good enough for release.
Blondie: “Against The Odds: 1974-1982” — This 128-song box includes all six albums from this vital original period of Blondie plus lots of alternate takes that offer interesting contrasts from the album versions.
Joe Strummer: “The Mescaleros Years” — The late rocker will justifiably always be seen as having done his best and most important work in the Clash. But this four-CD set demonstrates Strummer’s later stint fronting the Mescaleros produced some strong, thought-provoking and very diverse music, too. All three of Strummer’s albums with the Mescalaros are included, but the real find is the fourth disc of demos and unreleased outtakes.
Tragically Hip: “Fully Completely” — The great Canadian band’s third full-length album — one of the Hip’s best and a million seller in Canada — gets a reissue on high quality vinyl. The set adds an energetic and musically tight 1992 concert at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern and some bonus tracks.
Various Artists: “Pop Aid” — Earlier this year, the great power pop label Kool Kat Musik and many of the best power pop acts worldwide united to assemble this three-CD, 63-song set to raise funds for the Ukraine. Rockers by Deadlights, Arvidson & Butterflies, Thrift Store Halos and Lolas, along with Beatles-esque pop from Rogers & Butler, Richie Mayer and The Overtures, are among the many gems on “Pop Aid.”
Various Artists: “Tales From The Australian Underground 1976-1989” — This punk/alt-rock-leaning set offers songs mainly from Australian acts that never made waves beyond their home country, but showed the country was deep in quality music acts.
Various Artists: “Bubblerock Is Here to Stay Volume 2 — The British Pop Explosion 1970-73” — This three-CD set examines what was a musically diverse and rich early 1970s British pop scene with mostly pleasing results.
Some other worthy box set reissues include: Elton John: “Madman Across The Water” (adds demos, BBC concert); Guns N’ Roses: “Use Your Illusion” and “Use Your Illusion II” (adds two concerts); The Cure: “Wish” (adds demos, remixes); Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: “Live at the Fillmore 1997” (four discs of live performances); Flaming Lips “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (adds outtakes, two radio concerts and more); Little Feat: “Waiting For Columbus” (adds three full 1977 concerts); Queen: “The Miracle” (adds unreleased tracks, numerous alternate takes); Rory Gallagher: “Deuce” (adds alternate versions; radio performances); The Monkees: “Headquarters”(adds unreleased tracks, demos); Kiss: “Creatures of the Night” (adds demos, alternate takes, live tracks); Dexy’s Midnight Runners: “Too Rye Ay As It Should Have Sounded” (new mix and unreleased tracks, live cuts); Rush: “Moving Pictures”(adds 1981 concert); Imagine Dragons: “Night Visions” (adds unreleased tracks, concert, remixes); The Beach Boys: “Sail On Sailor 1972” (includes the albums “Carl and the Passions — “So Tough” and “Holland,” outtakes and 1972 concert); Frank Zappa: “Waka/Wazoo” (includes the albums “Waka/Jawaka” and “The Grand Wazoo,” outtakes, alternate takes, full concert); David Bowie: “Divine Symmetry” (1971 demos for “Hunky Dory,” live radio performances); Frank Zappa: “The Mothers 1971” (The four legendary 1971 Fillmore East concerts plus the 1971 Rainbow Theater concert that ended when Zappa was pushed off the stage and seriously injured); Frank Zappa: “Zappa/Erie” (three 1976 concerts from Erie, Pennsylvania and bonus cuts).
Two-disc deluxe reissues have become a popular, less pricey alternative to box sets. The deluxe reissues listed here come with generous amounts of bonus material that nicely supplement the original albums: Rolling Stones: “El Mocambo;” John Mellencamp: “Scarecrow;” Michael Jackson: “Thriller;” Soul Asylum: “Grave Dancer’s Union;” The Clash: “Combat Rock — The Peoples Hall Special Edition;” Spice Girls: “Spiceworld;” The Fall: “The Light User Syndrome;” INXS — “Shabooh Shoobah;” The Communards: “Red;” Third Day: “Third Day;” Christina Aguilera: “Stripped;” Ellie Goulding: “Halcyon Nights;” The Muffs: “Really, Really Happy;” Ultravox: “Rage In Eden;” Supergrass: “Supergrass;” Amy Grant: “Behind The Eyes;” Diesel: “Hepfidelity;” The Chemical Brothers: “Dig Your Own Hole;” Redd Kross: “Neurotica;” Collective Soul: “Disciplined Breakdown;” Eminem: “The Eminem Show;” Pavement: “Terror Twilight;” Regina Spektor: “11:11;” Roxette: “Look Sharp!;” Waterboys: “A Rock In The Weary Land,” “An Appointment With Mr. Yeats” and “Egyptology.”