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20 Best Reissues of 2014

The Beatles in mono, Led Zep’s alternate takes, history’s greatest bootleg and more of the year’s best boxes rereleases and excavations

20 Best Reissues of 2014

Reissues are now, more and more, like airplane flights: an à la carte experience. Historical releases this year by Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young came in multiple iterations, with the level of bells, whistles and deep tracks varying according to price. The best scholarship of 2014 ran the same gamut, from monster boxes of encyclopedic detail (Chuck Berry, King Crimson) to single-disc primers on the Seeds' classic garage-rock 45s, Sly Stone's missing-link productions and David Bowie's taste in covers. In short, something for every taste and paycheck.

The Beatles
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The Beatles, ‘The Beatles’

Dense, eclectic and fractious, wrapped in an enigmatic snow-white sleeve, the Beatles' longest studio album was the last to be mixed by them in mono and issued that way, although only in Britain. Finally available in that form, on vinyl, in the U.S., "The White Album" retains its capacity for surprise, discovery and intimacy, especially in this vintage warmth. The concentrated vertigo of the guitars and John Lennon's singing in "Dear Prudence"; the balled-up bar-band punch of "Birthday"; the heightened tenderness of the acoustic ballads: The 1968 mono mix was the way the Beatles wanted to hear themselves. In that sense, this remastered vinyl reissue is the definitive edition.

Bob Dylan and the Band, the Basement Tapes Complete
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Bob Dylan and the Band, ‘The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11’

In 1967, Dylan was as far off the grid as a Voice of a Generation could get: writing and recording with the Hawks, his '66 road warriors, in upstate New York seclusion. The rough clatter of bar-gig covers, acutely reflective ballads and apocalyptic surrealism that emerged became the first commercially successful bootleg, then the greatest accidental album ever made. This box set is that season of discovery complete: Dylan in extended, pivotal rebirth as a singer, songwriter and, with the future members of the Band, collaborator. Rock's greatest songwriter was, after a rocket ride through protest and electricity, becoming a voice for all America.

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