10. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Lovely Creatures – The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Mute)
Here’s a great example of how great a best-of compilation can be. Although Nick Cave’s sterling career is far from over – last year’s Skeleton Tree was resounding proof – this 45-track set offers a comprehensive overview of his work over the past 35 years. It’s a perfect introduction to new listeners, featuring all of his most famous tracks, from “The Mercy Seat” to “Higgs Bosun Blues”, but even for longtime fans it’s an immensely rewarding experience hearing Cave and his band evolve over the years from a savage blues/noise hybrid to a singular, formidable presence in rock and pop music.
9. Celtic Frost, Morbid Tales / To Mega Therion / Into the Pandemonium / Vanity/Nemesis (Sanctuary)
Although Tom Gabriel Fischer wasted no time disowning the reissue project of his old band Celtic Frost over an issue with the liner notes – typical of the mercurial Mr. Warrior, to be honest – it’s impossible for any listener to find any fault with these splendid re-releases. Fischer oversaw the remastering of each album, and the sound quality is outstanding, but most importantly, it makes these key Celtic Frost albums available to the public in beautiful, definitive physical formats. Morbid Tales remains a primitive heavy metal classis, To Mega Therion is a towering masterpiece, and Into the Pandemonium dared to steer metal music toward the avant-garde. I wish the much-maligned Cold Lake was reissued as well, but considering Fischer’s hatred of that record, its omission is understandable, if a bit frustrating. Such is genius.
8. Iron Maiden, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter (Iron Maiden LLP)
Another year, another Maiden live album! Some folks think it’s tiresome of a band like Iron Maiden to release a live album after every world tour, but personally I love it. It serves as a great little time capsule from every era, and it’s a terrific memento for the hundreds of thousands of people who got to see the band in person. This live album takes a different approach from past efforts, in that each track was performed in a different city on the band’s 2016-17 tour. The album, which is modeled off the setlist from the Book of Souls tour – save for “Tears of a Clown” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, bafflingly – ties all the tracks together nicely, with no gaps. Of course you get the standards like “The Trooper” and “Wrathchild”, but the real treat is hearing performances of Book of Souls tracks.
7. Rammstein, Paris (Live) (Universal)
I have no idea why Rammstein has such a negative stigma among music critic circles. All they’ve done over the last quarter century is revolutionize industrial heavy metal, completely rewrite the rules of arena rock, and amass a gigantic following across the globe. Well, the elitists can keep fellating fad bands like Car Seat Headrest and The War on Drugs while the rest of us can enjoy some truly great heavy rock music. Recorded in Paris in 2012, this live Blu-ray/CD set is stunning. In fact I’d go as far to say it’s one of the coolest concert films I have ever seen. Using at least a couple dozen cameras, director Jonas Åkerlund does a dazzling job capturing the intensity, ferocity, humour, and heat of a Rammstein show. And give the band full credit too, their performances are tight and throttling.
6. Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition) (Sony)
The Singles soundtrack was one of the biggest albums for me in 1992, a perfect snapshot of grunge and alternative rock at the time. In fact, its legacy has long outlasted the likeable Cameron Crowe movie it originally accompanied, introducing many young people to the likes of Screaming Trees and Smashing Pumpkins, let alone showcasing some of the best songs Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden would ever record. Toss in a pair of pretty, poppy Paul Westerberg compositions and a classic Mother Love Bone track, and you’ve got as good an album as any that came out that year (I think I had it at #2 that year, between REM and Faith No More). This expanded reissue is wonderful, featuring a remastered soundtrack album and a bevy of bonus tracks, including a bunch by the late Chris Cornell.
5. Bob Dylan, Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 (Sony)
Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series continued motoring along in 2017, this time with a collection I’ve been craving for a good 25 years. His Christian rock era remains greatly misunderstood, and has been something I’ve taken a very long time warming up to, but it’s a crucial era of the man’s music. This is Bob Dylan at his most defiant and confrontational: at a time when audiences were expecting the same old Dylan standards, he instead forced everyone to hear a couple hours’ worth of praise songs. And for all the controversy, these performances are absolutely smoking. Dylan had assembled a wicked backing band, and you hear renewed vigour in his voice. He would ditch the Christian tunes for good in 1983, and that fleeting flirtation makes you wonder is it was either a passing interest or a gigantic put-on, but it remains fascinating to hear, and this collection, no matter the format, is a fitting document of Dylan at his most wackadoo.
4. Ramones, Leave Home: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
As important a role the Ramones played in the evolution of punk rock, when the band was at its best the music evoked classic rock ‘n’ roll better than anyone in the late-‘70s. Arriving on the heels of the band’s groundbreaking 1976 debut, Leave Home still had the band’s wicked, irreverent sense of humor on tracks like “Carbona Not Glue” and “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”, but the bulk of the record expands upon the band’s preoccupation with the 1960s, from the girl groups, to the Beatles, to garage rock. This wonderful reissue dives headfirst into late-1976 and early-1977, presenting the album in two distinctly different mixes, as well as boasting a bevy of rehearsal tracks, B-sides, and alternate mixes. And just to reassert the band’s stunning power as a punk rock live act, a complete live recording from CBGB in April 1977 is included, the band blowing your ears out right after Leave Home wins over your heart.
3. Judas Priest, Turbo 30 (Sony)
A commercial success upon its 1986, Judas Priest’s tenth album Turbo was nevertheless a divisive one among hardcore metal fans who took issue with the band’s focus on mainstream-friendly songwriting and production, as well as reliance on the Roland GR-20 guitar synthesizer. More than three decades later Turbo has aged surprisingly well, its exuberant party rock offset by some daring songwriting choices, namely on the two standouts “Turbo Lover” and “Out in the Cold”. What makes this reissue particularly strong is the inclusion of a complete live performance from the summer of 1986. Contrary to the bloated, overproduced double live album Priest…Live! released in 1987, this show is raw, energetic, and powerful, a snapshot of the heavy metal legends at their most uncompromising.
2. Can, The Singles (Mute)
Not only is a compilation a good way to offer an overview of an artist’s best work, as a summation of a career and a primer for new listeners, but in the case of this hugely entertaining collection, showcase a side of a band that’s gone rather unappreciated. The influence of German innovators Can towers over the rock and electronic music landscape to this day, with – justifiably – the lion’s share of attention being paid to such landmark albums as Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi. What this new singles collection does so well, however, is showcase the band’s more playful side. Comprised of 23 tracks released between 1969 and 1990, it’s a wildly eclectic journey that takes the listener through garage rock, classic early-‘70s krautrock, funk, disco, and jazz. As serious musicians as Can were, they weren’t above having fun, and The Singles is a whimsical, valuable document for longtime fans and curious neophytes alike.
1. Metallica, Master of Puppets: Deluxe Edition (Blackened)
Universally regarded as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time, Metallica’s third full-length Master of Puppets has gained such stature among fans that its deification is something the band has had to come to terms with. As frustrating s it may be for any artist to live under the shadow of work they created in their early-20s, the members of Metallica grew up as heavy metal fans themselves, and they knew that an expanded reissue of Puppets would have to be done with great care and attention to detail. And to the band’s great credit, no stone was left unturned on this glorious, 15-volume set that examines the band’s evolution from 1985 to 1987: riff tapes, rehearsal footage, rough mixes, live recordings, the final performance by the late, great bassist Cliff Burton, audition tapes featuring replacement bassist Jason Newsted, a hardcover book, and of course, a beautifully remastered version of the classic album. It is a veritable treasure trove, arguably the finest expanded reissue heavy metal has seen thus far.