Reissue Roundup: Spring Sets From Fleetwood Mac, the Who and More
The past three months haven't delivered a huge bounty of reissues and archival recordings, but there have been some great records nonetheless.
The usual assortment of deluxe editions, super deluxe editions and vinyl-and-multi-disc-stuffed box sets arrived. But there are also sets dedicated to a lost '60s band's entire recording output and an album including the last U.S. concert by one of the 20th century's most adventurous artists.
In the below Reissue Roundup for spring 2021, you'll find expanded albums by Black Sabbath (their sixth LP, from 1975), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (the first from the trio-turned-quartet) and Fleetwood Mac (a career-first live record, a dozen years after their debut).
You'll also find a remastered, updated and rarities-packed box centered on one of the Who's most celebrated albums, as well as a concert recording by Frank Zappa that ended up being the final performance he played in his homeland. All of these are worth hearing.
Black Sabbath, Sabotage (Super Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: Following the recent and excellent reissue of Vol. 4, the band's sixth album from 1975 and the last listenable record by the original quartet gets expanded to four discs, including live tracks and single edits.
What's on It: In addition to a newly remastered version of the original Sabotage LP, the new collection features live cuts – like classics "Iron Man" and "Paranoid" – from Sabbath's North American tour from 1975.
Best Song You Know: "Symptom of the Universe" is not only the last great song recorded by the Ozzy Osbourne-fronted band, it's one of their Top 10 all-time best. It's even more powerful thanks to the remaster.
Best Song You Don't Know: "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" was on the album, and it was even released as a single, but the tighter edit included here gives it more focus and energy. The vinyl edition of the box even replicates the Japanese 7" single.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Deja Vu: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
What It Is: David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash added Stills' old Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young to the group for their second album. It's even better than the first.
What's on It: This excellent four-CD box includes a remastered version of the original 1970 album, plus a whole lotta demos, outtakes and alternate versions – many of them previously unreleased.
Best Song You Know: Young's "Helpless" has always been a highlight of the CSNY catalog, but the freshly remastered version included on this set's first disc and vinyl LP sounds positively exquisite now.
Best Song You Don't Know: "Birds" ended up on Young's 1970 solo album After the Gold Rush, which came out six months after Deja Vu. An unheard demo version recorded with Nash is a highlight of this new collection.
Fleetwood Mac, Live (Super Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: The band's 1980 album was its first concert LP and came at the end of a whirlwind five years that started with a self-titled, No. 1 record that pretty much introduced Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to the world.
What's on It: This Super Deluxe Edition expands the original two-album Live to three CDs with more than an hour of previously unreleased concert music plus demo versions of two of the album's new songs.
Best Song You Know: Nicks' "Fireflies" – a meditation on the band turmoil that heightened during the making of 1979's Tusk – was one of those new tracks. Released as a single, it stalled outside the Top 50.
Best Song You Don't Know: Extra live songs range from the Peter Green-era "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)" to Buckingham's thorny Tusk track "What Makes You Think You’re the One.” But best is the band-penned "The Chain."
Gang of Four, 77-81
What It Is: Four-disc box set documents the first years of one of post-punk's all-time greatest bands. That era includes their first two albums: 1979's groundbreaking Entertainment! and 1981's undervalued Solid Gold.
What's on It: In addition to those two LPs, this set includes discs featuring Gang of Four's great singles from the period and a previously unreleased concert from San Francisco recorded in 1980.
Best Song You Know: "Damaged Goods" was both the band's first single and the anchor of its debut album. More than 40 years later, it still sounds little like anything that's come out since, even the many bands it's influenced.
Best Song You Don't Know: The entire live show, recorded between albums but still a productive time for the group, envelops everything from the Gang of Four's signature groove-oriented punk and new wave to art-rock and noise.
The Palace Guard, All Night Long: An Anthology 1965-1966
What It Is: This 12-song compilation features every single released by the California-based garage rockers during their short existence. Drummer Emmit Rhodes went on to form the Merry Go Round before launching his cult solo career.
What's on It: The band released only six singles in the mid-'60s, and one of them was as a backing group for My Three Sons' Don Grady (he played Robbie on the TV show). All Night Long collects the dozen A- and B-sides, all remastered.
Best Song You Know: "Falling Sugar," their third single, is featured on the excellent Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968 box set. It's the highlight here, but other tracks are in the same vein.
Best Song You Don't Know: The opening "All Night Long" is a terrific intro to the Palace Guard's primitive but tuneful stomp. No surprise they were the house band at Los Angeles' Hullaballoo Club for a while. This is definitive '60s club music.
The Who, The Who Sell Out: Super Deluxe Edition
What It Is: The Who's 1967 LP, their third, was a concept album of sorts, combining Pete Townshend's most accomplished songs to date with a theme based around a pirate radio station, complete with fake commercials.
What's on It: This Super Deluxe Edition includes five discs: original remastered stereo and mono mixes, outtakes from the sessions, songs recorded the next year before Tommy came out and Townshend demos. Almost 50 tracks are previously unreleased.
Best Song You Know: "I Can See for Miles" was the hit single. It's featured here in five different versions, including the original single mix, an unheard full version and an early demo. It's also included on a 7" single in the box, the best of recent months.
Best Song You Don't Know: The band's 1967 single "Pictures of Lily" is included here as a bonus track in its original U.K. mono single mix, but Townshend's demo – almost a minute longer – shows just how formed the song was even in its skeletal form.
Bobby Womack, The Poet, The Poet II
What It Is: Bobby Womack, the guy who wrote the Rolling Stones' first U.K. No. 1 hit "It's All Over Now," kicked off his fourth decade in music with a pair of albums that spotlighted and divided hard and soft tracks between respective LP sides.
What's on It: The Poet (from 1981) and The Poet II (from 1984) returned Womack to the top of the charts. The first album was his only No. 1 R&B LP; the follow-up is his all-time greatest record. Both get stellar new remasters for the original's 40th anniversary.
Best Song You Know: "If You Think You're Lonely Now" made it to No. 3 on the R&B chart, his best showing since the solo "Lookin' for a Love" made it to No. 1 seven years earlier. Mariah Carey later sampled it for her No. 1 "We Belong Together."
Best Song You Don't Know: Neither reissue contains bonus tracks, so you may know everything if you're a longtime Womack fan (his career stretches back to the '50s group the Valentinos). But check out The Poet's "Lay Your Lovin' on Me" for vocal fireworks.
Frank Zappa, Zappa '88 - The Last U.S. Show
What It Is: Zappa played his final stateside concert on March 25, 1988, in Uniondale, N.Y. Within a week, he and his band were in Europe performing shows across the continent. In 1990, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer; he died in 1993.
What's on It: The two-disc set includes 29 songs from that last U.S. show as well as a pair of covers from the same tour: the Allman Brothers Band's "Whipping Post" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."
Best Song You Know: The performance hasn't been released before, so everything here is new, including "The Beatles Medley" featuring “Norwegian Wood,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” with new Zappa-penned lyrics.
Best Song You Don't Know: "I Ain't Got No Heart" dates all the way back to Zappa's debut, 1966's Mothers of Invention album Freak Out! But the version here is reworked to include a five-piece horn section.