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More Great 2016 Reissues and Finds: David Fricke’s Picks

Expanded classics, unearthed obscurities and other historical gems

Fricke's bonus reissues list

Read David Fricke's bonus list of 2016's best reissues and archival finds.

What qualifies as "deeper" in a reissue year when it seems like all rock & roll history is out there, in box sets large enough to qualify as checked luggage? It is the listening and learning that kept bringing me back to these 15 releases, as much as the top 10 Reissues of 2016 – even to records, artists, epochs and scenes I thought I knew so well. Size matters more and more in the reissue game. But depth, even on a single disc, matters most.

Steve Hillage, ‘Searching for the Spark 1969-1991’

This English guitarist, best known for his mid-Seventies tenure in the galactic-rock troupe Gong, may seem an unlikely subject for a box of such weight and documentary scope. But Hillage has more than enough of his own lineage, canon and success in British progressive rock to fill and justify these 22 CDs, starting with the first two: a 1969 psychedelic one-off Arzachel, by Hillage's first serious band Uriel, and 1972's Space Shanty, a highly regarded prog curio by his next group Khan. After Gong, over eight solo albums for Virgin Records, the guitarist extended that band's spaced-case aesthetic into a surprisingly commercial blend of acid-rock jamming, jazz-funk fusion and early electronica, notably in effective throwback covers (the Beatles' "It's All Too Much," Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away"). Rarities inevitably abound in a set of this dimension, but Hillage dug deep, with a sharp ear, through his archives. And the two accompanying books make you feel as if you've fallen into a long-locked closet of old Melody Maker and NME cuttings.

Lou Reed – The Complete RCA and Arista Album Collection

For two months in the summer of 2013, Reed sat in a New York studio attending to the remastering of his Seventies and early Eighties solo catalog. It was his last creative work, completed before his death that October. That is one reason to revisit these 16 albums; you hear them the way Reed believed they should stand after he was gone. Here are some others: his 1972 debut, Lou Reed, immediately eclipsed by its rapid follow-up, Transformer, but loaded with unreleased songs from his last two years with the Velvet Underground; The Bells from 1979, a chart disaster that initially sounded like an R&B pastiche gone awry ("Stupid Man," "Disco Mystic") but turned dark, personal and uncompromising at the end; and the shotgun effect of the confessional force and stoic jangle on 1982's The Blue Mask and overlooked '83 sequel Legendary Hearts. "I do Lou Reed better than anybody," the legend crows on the 1978 live brawl Take No Prisoners. This is how he did it – one last time.

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