6. Fields of the Nephilim, 5 Albums:
The great thing about all these multi-album box sets major labels are putting out is that they serve as tremendous primers for bands that some people might not have had time to get into in the past. Fields of the Nephilim is definitely one of those bands for me. They were always on the periphery of my musical radar, back in the days when I used to see all the UK gothic bands get airplay on CityLimits on MuchMusic in the late-1980s. But because they weren’t as single-driven as bands like The Mission or Sisters of Mercy, they didn’t have as big an impact in North America. So this collection of their first four studio albums (all remastered) and a new singles compilation could not have come at a better time, and it’s a pleasure to finally, at long last, delve into such albums as Dawnrazor and The Nephilim. Of all the sets released by Beggars this past year – Love and Rockets’ 5 Albums is also excellent – this one is easily the best.
7. Iron Maiden, Maiden England ‘88:
Another year, another Iron Maiden release to mention in my year-end list. But how could you blame this Maiden fan when they so consistently put out great products? And besides, this particular CD/DVD release fills a welcome hole in the collection, revisiting the 1988 Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour and expanding the original Maiden England VHS. This is the last document of the band’s ascent, which climaxed in 1988, and say what you will about the Seventh Son album (I love it to this day) as a live act they were in peak form, as this live set – expanded to the full 18-song concert instead of the 15 on the original release – proves, highlighted by such classics as “Still Life”, “Die With Your Boots On”, “Killers” and “Infinite Dreams”. If that wasn’t enough, the DVD comes with the latest chapter in the band’s History Of documentary series, as well as the old 12 Wasted Years VHS, which I paid a very steep price for back in 1987. It was worth every penny then, and it’s worth revisiting now.
8. Killing Joke, The Singles Collection 1979-2012:
For years the definitive Killing Joke compilation was the excellent Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!, which was a perfect overview of the band’s career up to a certain point, but with their last decade’s worth of work, not to mention their post-2011 renaissance, this is as good a time as any to expand on the whole career retrospective idea and to give the band a product to plug before they put out their next album. And to be fair, they’ve never put out a proper “singles collection” before, and as this collection of 33 tracks and 10 bonus tracks prove, they’ve had an incredible run. And continue to. It’s a career that ranges from the innovation of their early work, to the experimental, more melodic sounds of the mid-‘80s, to their experimenting with industrial a decade later, to their more metallic post-2000 work, to the rich, all-encompassing sound of their current incarnation. It’s a phenomenal collection of songs that appeals to longtime fans and new listeners alike.
9. Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Part 10: Another Self Portrait:
Bob Dylan’s 1970 album Self Portrait baffled critics when it first came out, and although it’s easy to understand why Dylan’s attempt to reinvent himself met with such a strongly negative reaction, that album, while a bit sloppy, has never seemed all that bad to those of us a generation younger. What makes this latest chapter in the ongoing Bootleg Series so interesting is that it feels like a reinvention of a reinvention, a completely different take on a quirky era of Dylan’s career. Comprised of alternate versions of songs from Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning and loads of unreleased material – recorded between February 1969 and March 1971 – this yet another example of how valuable the Bootleg Series is, not only by shedding new light on a misunderstood period of a genius’s career, but somehow, miraculously, sounding even better than the original albums that represented that era.
10. Accept, Balls to the Wall/Metal Heart:
These reissues of Accept’s popular fifth and sixth albums are the sort that always seem to surface without the band’s permission or even knowing, but no matter how “authorized” they are, these swanky new versions of Balls to the Wall and Metal Heart were far too enticing for me to pass up. The classic 1983 album (1984 here in North America) Balls to the Wall has been given a nice spit and polish, and comes with a bonus disc of the live album Staying a Life, recorded in Japan in 1985. Meanwhile, 1985’s less consistent but still very good Metal Heart, which is a pretty hard album to find these days for some reason, is accompanied by the Kaizoku-Ban live EP, which was recorded on the same Japanese tour as Staying a Life. In 1984 and 1985 Accept was one of the biggest bands in metal, and though it’s sad they couldn’t sustain that, it’s great to revisit these two albums once again.