Best Reissues Of 2015

Friday, 01 January 2016 06:50 AM Written by 

We did my Top 10 New Releases of 2015 last week on the PG Music Podcast.   Now, my Best Reissues of 2015, with video to illustrate more about each.

Wes Montgomery: In The Beginning

Rare live and studio material from the years before he became the cutting edge of jazz guitar, covering the years 1949-1958. Encompasses rare recordings made as a sideman during his days with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra, home recordings, live performances from venues in Indianapolis and Chicago, as well as his first formal recording session in 1955 for Epic Records with Quincy Jones producing.

Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert By The Sea

This 1955 live concert in California, recorded by a fan on home recording equipment, went on to become one of the best selling jazz albums of all time, with Pittsburgh native Garner tearing up the piano with fire, passion and humor, driving his rhythm section as much as the drive him. The original album consisted of 11 songs, but the entire concert consisted of 22 numbers. Here, for the first time are all of them, the original album, and a recorded interview done after the concert. Geri Allen, Director of Pitt's jazz studies program, co-produced the set and wrote an essay for the booklet. She's seen in the video below.

The Lovin' Spoonful: Do You Believe In Magic/Daydream/Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful

This 60's folk-rock quartet included plenty of jug band and goodtime overtones during its brief glory days, fronted by singer-guitarist John Sebastian. Their tight, simple songs brought together tunes that became classics ("Do You Believe In Magic," "Daydream," "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind," "Nashville Cats" and "Summer In the City."). This material's long been available but the mono mixes here provide a clarity that even later stereo recordings lack. The music remains timeless.

"Do You Believe In Magic" with a false start—no lip synch

Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air: 1935-1955

Amid the 2015 celebration of the Chairman's Centennial Year comes this four disc collection of radio performance starting with his first appearances with the Hoboken Four on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour (a prehistoric version of Idol) and comic Fred Allen's NBC radio show. He's heard on radio airchecks with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras before going solo, heard in a variety of World War II-era programs alone and with guests, swinging and pouring himself into ballads. It's a compelling collection good humored enough to include some of his singing commercials.

Jeff Healey-Vintage Jazz, Swing and Blues: The Best of the Stony Plain Years

Healey (1966-2008) the blind Canadian guitarist known for his unorthodox style of playing a standard guitar (flat on his knees like a Dobro), was known for blazing, volcanic blues-rock. His other passion, however, was singing and playing vintage 1920's-1940's swing, blues and straight ahead jazz numbers, especially old-school jazz guitar material he learned from his massive collection of 78 rpm recordings. He recorded four albums worth of this music, anthologized on this sampler revealing both his virtuosity and his love for this era.

"Sweet Georgia Brown"

Dylan, Cash & The New Nashville Cats: A New Music City

The cultural divide between 60's rockers and and conservative country music in Nashville often seemed more vast than it really was. The musical divide was negligible. When Dylan began recording there in 1966, other rockers followed who made some remarkable recordings with the city's versatile studio musicians. This collection samples tunes from Dylan's days there (starting with his Blonde On Blonde album), as well as songs by Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Gordon Lightfoot, The Monkees, John Hartford, Simon & Garfunkel ("The Boxer"), George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Leon Russell, Wings and Neil Young ("Heart Of Gold"). More importantly, it puts the whole thing into historical context.

Bob Dylan: "If Not For You"

Doc Watson: Live At The Bottom Line

Released as part of the Bottom Line Archive, a series of onstage recordings made at the famous club in Manhattan, Watson and two sidemen recorded 42 songs recorded at two appearances there in 2002. It's a marvelous document of Watson (1923-2012), rolling through a relaxed set of country , bluegrass, blues and traditional tunes spiced up by his between-song story telling. Nearing 80 when he made these appearances, his flatpicking and fingerstyle guitar remained flawless.

"Trouble In Mind"

Bob Dylan The Bootleg Series Volume 12 1965-1966: The Cutting Edge

This made the list but I won't elaborate because I'll be reviewing this six-CD anthology of his (almost) complete recorded output during these years, that produced Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, complete with demos, alternative versions and outtakes with the final released versions.

Art Pepper Quartet: Live At Fat Tuesday's

One of the musicians who defined the postwar "cool" sound of California, alto sax virtuoso Pepper was also known for his turbulent personal life which included heroin use, four prison stays and extended stays at Synanon when it was known as a drug treatment program. His gripping 1980 autobiography, Straight Life chronicled his battles and for some time he remained drug free. He eventually relapsed yet his drug use did not impair his playing much. These 1981 recordings at the Manhattan club Fat Tuesday's are blazing tributes to his late-life virtuosity. He died of a hemorrhagic stroke in 1982.

Dion: Live At The Bitter End, 1971

Dion DiMucci, who has just recorded a new album in 2015, began his career in the late 50's as lead singer of the Belmonts, then became a swaggering rocker with tunes like "The Wanderer" and "Ruby Baby" and "Runaround Sue," only to embrace the blues and turn to a rootsier sound, reinventing himself as an acoustic folk blues singer-songwriter. His 1968 hit single "Abraham Martin and John" put him back on top. This 17-tune 1971 concert, never released in its entirety reveals the depth of DiMucci's repertoire of 44 years ago with acoustic remakes of his rock hits, blues, folk and pop tunes.


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