Wednesday, December 24, 2014

2014 in Albums: Reissues and Rediscoveries

22) Arthur Russell - World Of Echo (Audika)
Not sure another reissue of this is strictly necessary, hence the low placing, but it's a very special album and if you don't own it - why not grasp the opportunity to own it on vinyl. Some of the most mysterious and weirdly affecting music I know.

21) Pye Corner Audio - Black Mill Tapes Vol. 1-3 (Type) 
All available via Bandcamp for easy and affordable Black Mill Tapes completion. Strange, haunting - refracted voices from a not too distant radiophonic past. 

20) Slint - Spiderland (Touch and Go)
An epic expansion of a key album. Only necessary to own physically if you're an obsessive - newcomers should head first to the album itself. 

19) Various Artists - Country Funk Vol 2 (Light In The Attic)
Another excellent compilation in the manner of the 'Country Got Soul' sets - a  reminder that this music can be groovy as well as emotional. 

18) Various Artists/Sly Stone - I'm Just Like You: Sly's Stone Flower (Light In The Attic) 
A set of cool productions from Sly Stone's sadly short lived Stone Flower label project. Some radical, forward-thinking music - including prototypes for There's A Riot Goin' On. Great to finally own the Joe Hicks version of Life & Death in G&A (the Chairmen of the Board expanded version is one of my favourite records of all time). 

17) Aby Ngana Diop - Liital (Awesome Tapes From Africa) 
The Awesome Tapes From Africa is a great source for unearthed music from the African continent. This is some thrilling mbalax music from Senegal in 1994 - fierce and inspiring.

16) Robert Wyatt - Different Every Time (Domino)
Very clever career spanning compilation to tie-in with Marcus O'Dair's biography (which is very high on my 'to read' list). This neatly combines a variety of Wyatt projects - Soft Machine, Matching Mole, collaborations with the likes of Grasscut (of whom O'Dair is a key part) and Hot Chip, the peerless body of work he has produced as a solo artist. It deftly avoids obvious choices too (Shipbuilding aside). 

15) The Brothers & Sisters - Dylan's Gospel (Light In The Attic) 
Light In The Attic have basically bankrupted me this year with a reissue programme that has been like a homing beacon towards the weird and wonderful. Made by a choir that includes Rolling Stones backing singer Merry Clayton, this is a brilliant, uplifting set of Dylan songs reinterpreted in rousing spiritual style. Not the evangelical stuff - this actually dates from the 60s and even manages to reconfigure Dylan at his most profane (Lay Lady Lay). The protest songs assume new life in this context. 

14) Lewis - L'Amour/Lewis Baloue - Romantic Times (Light In The Attic) 
Is all the myth making behind this Lewis character real, or a piece of elaborate hype? Who knows - but these supposedly 'lost' recordings are peculiar, mesmerising and lush. 

13) Charles Lloyd - Manhattan Stories (Resonance)
A wonderful live recording of a free-sounding Charles Lloyd with an unusual ensemble (Gabor Szabo, Ron Carter, the great drummer Pete La Roca) from Judson Hall in 1965. I increasingly feel that Lloyd is a really important musician.

12) Keith Jarrett - Hamburg 1972 (ECM)
How long can ECM continue the Jarrett industry? Here's a brilliant piece of early exploration with Paul Motian and Charlie Haden that genuinely is worth the typically steep ECM asking price.

11) Bobby Charles - Bobby Charles (Light In The Attic) 
More material for lovers of The Band or the country-soul compilations, this is deep and groovy music. Very underrated. 

10) Wilco - Alpha Mike Foxtrot (Nonesuch)
All encompassing, exhaustive box set drawing together bonus tracks, B sides, live performances and sessions from across Wilco's various career. It's a neat reminder of the key differences between the band's various configurations - but also of the remarkable consistency in Jeff Tweedy's songwriting. The only thing missing here is a capture of Wilco's cover of Bill Fay's Be Not So Fearful. 

09) Bruce Springsteen - The Album Collection Vol. 1 (Columbia) 
Some Springsteen fans (myself included if I'm honest) were a bit cynical about this - it felt like a cash-in, given that some of these albums have already been reissued more than once. Without any extras or additional vault-clearing, what exactly was the USP? Well, these are fresh remasters - and even the most casual of listens will suggest immediately that a great deal of time and care has gone into this project. There's an increased amount of sonic space, allowing nuance and detail to creep out from what was once a bit of a wall of sound. The River fares particularly well, although nothing can quite redeem the 80s production cliches on Born In The USA, which even now threaten to overpower some excellent songs. 

08) John Coltrane - Offering: Live At Temple University (Impulse!)
The Coltrane archive continues to provide some unexpected delights. A typically turbulent and inspired performance from 1966 - a reminder of just how radical and unrestrained an artist Coltrane was. Also intriguing for its unusual guest appearances from musicians in the audience - something completely unpredictable. 

07) William Onyeabor - Box Set (Luaka Bop) 
The Who Is William Onyeabor compilation last year provided a useful primer - this 9CD Box Set pretty much gathers together all you could ever need? Insistent, irresistible groove music from Nigeria. 

06) Sleater Kinney - Start Again (Sub Pop)
One of the finest catalogues in contemporary alt-rock gathered together in a majestic coloured vinyl package.

05) Bob Carpenter - Silent Passage (No Quarter)
This 1974 album from an under-recorded singer-songwriter is the great rediscovery of the year. Hints of Gene Clark in the cinematic arrangements, as well as the spiritual questioning of Bill Fay. The title track is just gorgeous - but there are many other beautiful moments here as well. A great lost album has re-emerged. 

04) Norma Winstone - Edge Of Time (Dusk Fire)
A key album in the history of British Contemporary Jazz - Norma Winstone's debut as a vocalist-leader. It's boldly experimental - not always clean and perfect, but with a real questing spirit and depth of feeling. It also includes the resounding, wonderful Enjoy This Day, a piece I have enjoyed during Norma's collaborations with Trish Clowes in concert this year. 

03) Miles Davis - The Complete Miles At The Fillmore (Columbia)
You can never have too much electric Miles. The sleeve notes also remind me that I was born at the wrong time - all those amazing double bills Miles played on with the likes of the Grateful Dead, Neil Young etc. It was a more open-minded time.

02) Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra Arkestra - In The Orbit Of Ra (Strut)
Sun Ra's colossal discography can be a bit foreboding - this is a judiciously selected and highly enjoyable primer for the centenary year. 

01) Bob Dylan and The Band - Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete (Columbia)
Given we were all primed for Dylan's new album of Sinatra covers (now due in Feb 2015), this came as a delightful surprise. Those of us without all the bootlegs have been waiting a long time for a complete unearthing of these crucial sessions. They are, of course, ragged and sometimes sketchy - but that is part of the point. This is Dylan discovering new dimensions to his work - with adventure and without boundaries.