The Best Reissues/Live Albums/Compilations of 2015, 10-6

zappa10. Frank Zappa, Roxy: The Movie (Eagle Rock)
I’m not going to fake being a Frank Zappa authority at all. In fact I only have a passing knowledge of the man’s work, fully aware of his gonzo style and his massive influence over the course of nearly 30 years. However it’s something I’ve been wanting to get into for a long time, especially his most complex jazz fusion/progressive rock material from the early 1970s. The arrival of this concert film in my mailbox could not have been more perfectly timed. And it has an amazing story, too, how Zappa and the Mothers were to film four shows in Hollywood in 1973 but five seconds into the first performance on the first night the audio recording device failed to sync with the four film cameras, something nobody would learn until after the film was processed. So with four cameras recording four 80-minute shows, it would take meticulously going through 81 hours of film and audio to sync everything back up again. Finally 40 years later this legendary concert film has been completed, and the results are astonishing, the intricacy of Zappa and his backing band a marvel to witness. (Amazon) (YouTube)

fnmreissue9. Faith No More, The Real Thing / Angel Dust (Rhino/Warner)
In 1989 heavy metal was splitting into two different directions: extremity and adventurousness. There was death metal like Death and Morbid Angel, but that bored me to tears. On the other side were weird, progressive-minded bands like Voivod, Jane’s Addiction, and Faith No More. Faith No More grabbed me the second their new singer Mike Patton made his peculiar, nasal appearance on “From Out of Nowhere”, and I ordered the tape from my local record store. Next to Voivod’s Nothingface, The Real Thing was a favourite that year, and three years later the band outdid themselves with the eccentric masterpiece Angel Dust, an album that helped define my summer of 1992. I’ll never forget my first listen while driving through the mountains of Montana. I was wowed. Although Rhino/Warner clearly put these expanded reissues out to cash in on the band’s first new album in 18 years, they’re still wonderful to have. The remasters are minimal – why mess with perfection? – but the bonus discs are loaded with B-sides, remixes, and live tracks, much of which I personally had never heard before. If you’re going to buy these classic albums for the first time, these deluxe editions are the way to go. (Spotify 1) (Spotify 2) (YouTube)

dbtlive8. Drive-By Truckers, It’s Great to Be Alive! (ATO)
As consistently great as the Drive-By Truckers are on record, with nary a dud among their studio albums, their forte has always been their live performances, and considering it’s been six years since their Austin City Limits performance and 15 years since the classic Alabama Ass Whuppin’, it was high time the band created what they would consider to be their definitive live document. While they’re not the raw, ferocious band that you heard on Alabama, and the likes of Jason Isbell, Shonna Tucker, and John Neff have all since left the band, there’s still plenty of bite to the DBTs. Besides, it’s always been the baby of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, and as this whopping three-CD live album proves, the current lineup absolutely scorches. Recorded in San Francisco over three nights, it’s a sprawling look at the band’s vast discography. This is a more mature version of the Drive-By Truckers too, sounding much more in control and tighter, but they’re plenty capable of rocking hard, too. Hood and Cooley are masterful throughout, in their element, cranking out story after story, whether raucous, soulful, wry, or in the case of the classics “The Living Bubba” and “Grand Canyon”, tragic. This live album is three hours well spent. (Spotify) (YouTube)

francoise7. Françoise Hardy, Tous Les Garçons et Les Filles / Le Premier Bonheur du Jour / Mon Amie La Rose / L’Amité / La Maison Ou J’ai Grandi (Light in the Attic)
Every time I go to Paris I do the same thing: I walk from Montparnasse Cemetery to the Jardins du Luxembourg, cutting through a side entrance, walking past the apiaries, the old men playing boules, the tennis courts, to the big fountain, where I drink in the sun, watching kids sail their sailboats in the water. I save the best for last, though, walking to the adjacent shady corner where the Medici Fountain is hidden, sit in one of the two dozen or so chairs, put on some Françoise Hardy on my phone, and absorb the prettiest spot I’ve ever seen. I’ve become very fond of Françoise Hardy over the past five years as I’ve explored French pop music of the 1960s, so the timing of these five reissues of her first five albums could not be more perfect. The simple, quaint power of her iconic debut album from 1962, with that umbrella cover photo which melts my heart, is stunning to this day, and over the course of these crucial five albums you hear her mature, culminating in 1966’s La Maison Ou J’ai Grandi, which ranges from the cinematic, gut-wrenching “Je Changerai d’Avis” to the hushed poetic waltz of “Si C’est Ça”. I don’t know if I’ll make it back to Paris in 2016, but I know I will do my best to return as many times as I can, but whether I can make it back or not, Françoise will always accompany me wherever I go for the rest of my life. (Light in the Attic) (YouTube)

priestdefenders6. Judas Priest, Defenders of the Faith: 30th Anniversary Edition (Sony/Legacy)
Judas Priest in 1984 were incredible. Five black leather-clad dudes playing music that, to my 14 year-old ears anyway, was the most extreme-sounding stuff ever. The Defenders of the Faith album was my introduction to the band that year, and it’s since gone on to my sentimental favourite in the band’s vast discography. I love everything about it: the speed, the screams, the searing twin lead guitar solos, and especially that dense, steely production by Tom Allom that made the music exude leather and chrome. It was cold, impersonal, mysterious. Judas Priest had mystique to us kids back then, long before Rob Halford would call me on the phone saying, “Hi Adrien, it’s Rob.” No, they were true metal gods then, and this album was relentless. It might have lacked the breakthrough single that Screaming For Vengeance had two years earlier, but this sucker was taut, and still is.  It’s not as if it needed another remastering, but it was given a nice spit and polish for this deluxe reissue, and not only that, but it comes with a brilliant complete, two-disc live performance that shatters 1987’s glossy Priest…Live! Clearly a favourite of the band’s, it’s wonderful to see this classic record get the reissue treatment it deserves. Rock Hard, ride free. All day, all night. (Spotify) (YouTube)

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