The year in reissues is, again, another year in Bob Dylan — a body of work that keeps on giving in new instructive, desirable ways. That the biggest sets in this Top 10 of 2015, in sheer weight, are by Jerry Lee Lewis, from rock & roll's creation years, and the Isley Brothers, one of black American music's most successful family bands, shows that there is still much to learn from familiar history. There is also much here that is truly new in excavation and revelation: legacies that fall farther behind with every passing year — Jackson C. Frank, guitarist Rory Gallagher's new-Cream years in the trio Taste, the short solo tale of the Bee Gees' Robin Gibb — but feel utterly present in these releases, with renewing lessons.
Bonus Track: The Velvet Underground, The Complete Matrix Tapes
Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes here. But this is not promo: I have been asked to mention this set. And I would have bought it as a citizen. Recorded on November 26th and 27th, 1969 at the San Francisco night club originally founded by Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin, these performances are the second, classic Velvets — bassist Doug Yule, guitarist Sterling Morrison, drummer Maureen Tucker and Lou Reed on guitar, vocals, songwriting and attitude — at their live peak, in a compelling intimacy caught on the Matrix's in-house four-track deck. Songs that would soon appear on the Velvets' last studio album, Loaded — "Sweet Jane," New Age" — are still in lyrical and structural development. Concert standbys during Yule's tenure like "I Can't Stand It" and "What Goes On" go long; ballads such as "Pale Blue Eyes" resonate in the small room and respectful applause. A few Matrix tracks first surfaced on the 1974 double album, 1969: The Velvet Underground Live. This set is all that survives from those nights and it is arguably the last truly revelatory addition to the Velvets canon: the most provocative rock group of its day, heard as a working band.