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10 Best Reissues of 2016

The year’s best archival sets – from Pink Floyd’s early odyssey to Bob Dylan’s greatest tour, from deep funk to outlaw country

Read David Fricke's countdown of the 10 best reissues and archival releases of 2016, including massive new box sets from Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd.

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There is, amidst the ongoing doom and gloom, a literal growth industry in the record business: history. Reissues are coming in bigger physical sizes and grander retrospective scope, to the boon of collector-maniacs and at the expense of most wallets. But size is not everything. This survey of the 10 best archaeological releases of 2016 runs the weight scale from the truly spectacular – the audio-visual excavation of Pink Floyd's psychedelic and experimental eras – to single-disc concentrations of previously-unknown work by crucial, then-emerging voices. The result: something for every budget and obsession.

7

Kris Kristofferson, ‘The Complete Monument and Columbia Album Collection’

This Rhodes scholar and Army vet was country songwriting's first modern outlaw, a Dylan who spoke in the Grand Ole Opry vernacular. The 11 studio albums and bonus live and demos discs, covering Kristofferson's first decade on record, are an expansive lesson in acute emotional narrative and gritty melodic charisma.

6

Big Star, ‘Complete Third’

This three-CD set is the last word on one of the greatest – and most harrowing – rock albums ever made: demos, rough mixes, every final master. This is everything in nerve, sweat and tears that surviving Big Star members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens and their producer Jim Dickinson gave on the way to this willful fusion of avant-pop exploration, rattling funk and brutally direct, romantic candor.

5

Betty Davis, ‘The Columbia Years 1968-1969’

At this '69 session, the R&B singer – then Mrs. Miles Davis – was co-produced by her husband. The marriage ended; the music was shelved. But the funk, featuring Bitches Brew sidemen and Jimi Hendrix's rhythm section, still crackles with eros and edge.

4

R.E.M., ‘Out of Time: Deluxe Edition’

The best new American band of the Eighties took a striking turn into the next decade on 1991's Out of Time, a Number One masterpiece of folk-rock modernism and emotional complexity. This forensic examination of the record's genesis and glow, with demos and live-radio action, is a fitting 25th-birthday party.

3

David Bowie, ‘Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)’

The previously unreleased twist in this set is The Gouster, a 1974 white-soul project that evolved into 1975's Young Americans. But this box tells a bigger story of impulsive studio and live drive: Bowie's passage out of glam through apocalyptic obsession (1974's Diamond Dogs), crafty R&B and stark futurism (1976's Station to Station), on his way to Berlin.

2

Bob Dylan, ‘The 1966 Live Recordings’

The set lists were the same every night. But it was always a different shootout as Dylan took his transformations in singing, writing and electricity on the road – driving audiences to fury and ecstasy, reveling in the amplified power of the future Band. There are sterling acoustic sets too, like Sheffield, England, on May 16th, when Dylan's voice is pure, naked force. There has never been another tour like it. These 36 CDs tell the whole tale.

1

Pink Floyd, ‘The Early Years 1965-1972’

Here is the ultimate saucerful of secrets: the definitive alternate history of this band's odyssey from madcap psychedelia to megastardom in more than two dozen hours of rare audio and video, including film scores and unique collaborations. Early TV clips chart Syd Barrett's shocking psychic descent; the next five years with David Gilmour show the Floyd pressing through inner space, soon to land on The Dark Side of the Moon. A two-CD set collects 27 highlights.

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