The Best Reissues/Live Albums/Compilations of 2014, #10-6

lw6. Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams (Thirty Tigers):
Looking back, Lucinda Williams’ 1988 self-titled album was simply too far ahead of its time. Too gritty, bluesy, and confessional to fit in with mainstream country, lacking the college radio cachet of the Paisley Underground, it was too weird a fit to make a real commercial impact. But the real impact of this landmark Americana happened in the wake of its release, as the years went by. Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 1993 cover of the perfect “Passionate Kisses” was a massive hit, the venerable Emmylou Harris covered “Crescent City” that same year, and Tom Petty covered “Changed the Locks” in 1996. As the ‘90s wore on the influence of that album grew and grew, to the point that when the almost-as-great Car Wheels on a Gravel Road came out in 1998, critics and audiences alike, yours truly included, were waiting to give Williams her due. This album remains her defining statement, full of songs by a master storyteller, with tough exteriors but with an incredible sense of vulnerability, sensitivity, and poetry, and it’s been given a welcome spit and polish, wonderfully remastered with loads of live bonus tracks. A classic album just got even better. iTunes

met7. Metallica, Heavy Montreal at Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC (LiveMetallica):
Okay, this one’s for strictly personal reasons. I was looking forward to seeing Metallica for the fifth time in 28 years, headlining Heavy Montreal this past August, but something about this show, more than when I saw them in 2004 or 1997, reignited my love of this band. The show itself was eye-popping, a sensational, lavish feast for the eyes that did everything it could to involve the crowd of 40,000, the biggest audience for a show I have ever been a part of. My vantage point couldn’t have been more perfect, too, an unobstructed view from a terrace beside the stage. However it was the four fellas onstage that got to me. Notorious for some somewhat shaky live sets in recent years, they were on on this night, perhaps buoyed by the fact that it was their last big show of the year, tearing through an all-request set that featured such old-school classics like “Ride the Lightning” and “Orion” that left this geezer very pleased. By the time they started playing Black Album snoozers like “Nothing Else Matters” and “Enter Sandman”, I began my slow crawl out of the huge venue, strolling behind the stages, through the VIP area, past the press tent, and on the path that led to the subway station, “Creeping Death” echoing gloriously in the background as I exited very, very happy. LiveMetallica

trubblegum8. Therapy?, Troublegum (Commercial Marketing):
Therapy?’s 1994 album was big in Britain, and did decently over here, but it should have been even huger than it actually is today. In fact it’s a rather forgotten record in North America, out of print and unavailable on iTunes and Spotify. It’s a real shame, too, because few albums 20 years ago, aside from perhaps Helmet, were able to marry alternative rock, extreme metal, and punk rock hooks as well as this Northern Irish band did. Tracks like “Screamager” and “Nowhere” were bold exercises in pop aesthetics, and never for a second compromised the band’s heaviness, instead enhancing it dynamically, flashes of bubblebum amidst dark, sharp riffing (“Trigger Inside”) that felt a world removed from the post-grunge drudgery that was dominating American rock at the time. This deluxe reissue – only available as an import here, sadly – is a wonderful celebration of a classic record, packed to the gills with bonus tracks and featuring a brilliant remaster of the original album. This is essential 1990s heavy music. Amazon UK

mould9. Bob Mould, Workbook 25 (Omnivore):
I’ll never forget hearing the gentler, more introspective Bob Mould in 1989, which was a far cry from the raucous melodic punk rock he made with Hüsker Dü. Even though he’d assembled a trio with the potential of sounding as formidable as his old band (with Feelies bassist Tony Maimone and Pere Ubu drummer Anton Fier), Mould turned the volume down, going for a cleaner, more acoustic sound as he worked through his personal problems through his music, hence the title Workbook. Today it remains a rather underrated part of his discography, but it’s a crucial record, as he started to shed the baggage and drama of his own band and take control of his life and career. The new remaster sounds lovely, while the copious bonus material includes a 1989 live solo set that has him stripping down a classic like “Celebrated Summer” to its skeletal form. For me, though, it’s all about the album, namely tracks like “See a Little Light” and “Poison Years”, whose minimalism, polish, and cello accentuation beat R.E.M. and Nirvana to the punch but never properly got its due. Amazon

meshuggah10. Meshuggah, The Ophidian Trek (Nuclear Blast):
The chance to see Meshuggah in person doesn’t happen very often for yours truly, but I consider myself very fortunate to have seen one of the absolute best metal bands in the world three times over the past dozen years. The most recent time was in early 2013 when I hitched a ride to Edmonton to see the band play one of the most violent metal shows I have ever been a part of. It’s a strange situation where you’re enthralled by the power, intricacy, and shocking delicacy of the music, while at the same time always mindful of the fact that some idiot is going to slam you in the back at any second. It’s not my favourite way to experience a show, but that environment gave it all a tension that I still sense upon hearing this spectacular live album from the same tour. iTunes Spotify