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15 Best Reissues of 2017

The return of ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ Bob Dylan’s gospel-years trove, Metallica’s deluxe ‘Master of Puppets’ and more

15 Best Reissues of 2017

Read David Fricke's round-up of 2017's best reissues, including Bob Dylan's latest Bootleg Series set, and a new edition of 'Sgt. Pepper.'

In a reissue year loaded with round-number anniversaries – the Beatles’ psychedelic apex in 1967; the Jam’s avenging-mod blitz a decade later; U2’s ’87 voyage of American-desert discovery – Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series scores again with a vivid, compelling reappraisal of his brief, Christian fury. Large boxes stand at the extremes (vintage country radio, America’s hardcore uprising); missing links are found (Montrose, Artful Dodger); and the Rolling Stones play the blues on jump street in the first official release of their Brian Jones–era BBC sessions.

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Artful Dodger, ‘The Complete Columbia Recordings’

This two-CD set contains three albums by a mid-Seventies power-pop quintet that, if fortune had been the least bit kinder, you would find listed in the historical record with Big Star, Badfinger and the Raspberries. Instead, Artful Dodger hit every possible landmine in the road out of Fairfax, Virginia: booking agents that put them on shows with Iron Butterfly and Ted Nugent; a label distracted by the sudden, runaway success of another artist (Bruce Springsteen); a parade of surefire FM-radio hits – three alone on 1975’s Artful Dodger: the Aerosmith-from-Liverpool action of “Wayside,” the ’67-Who-ish “Follow Me” and the ballad-with-balls “It’s Over” – that couldn’t get past the station receptionists. This story should have turned out differently; here is everything you need to understand why.

Tim Buckley, 'Venice Mating Call' / 'Greetings From West Hollywood'
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Tim Buckley, ‘Venice Mating Call’ / ‘Greetings From West Hollywood’

These companion releases – the first on two CDs; the second on two LPs – revisit a September 1969 engagement at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, previously treated on a 1994 set. There is no duplication here with the earlier album. And these packages, while sharing a body of songs, are mostly comprised of different performances, reflecting Buckley’s improvising will and the restless momentum of his singing and writing that year: out of baroque psychedelia, through folk-jazz trance; on the verge of the dramatically experimental LP, Lorca, recorded two weeks after these shows, and the impressionist delicacy of Blue Afternoon, out that November. There are passages of instrumental turbulence suggesting the electric Miles Davis; “Gypsy Woman,” taken at varying lengths in Venice and West Hollywood, is Buckley in thrilling vocal flight. He soon turned again – into a perplexing white-soul convention – before dying in 1975, at 28. This music, in comparison, is rarely easy listening – and never less than ascension. 

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