Who doesn’t love anniversaries? The music industry sure does. So far this year, untold oodles of deluxe reissues have been released to celebrate milestones—that is, 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 40th, or 50th anniversaries—in an attempt to stir up nostalgia and critical reevaluation. Some of this year’s crop of deluxe anniversary reissues, like A Tribe Called Quest’s People’s Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm (25th anniversary) and The Flaming Lips’ Clouds Taste Metallic (20th anniversary) seem wholly warranted. Others, like Goo Goo Dolls’ A Boy Named Goo (20th anniversary) or Black Mountain’s self-titled debut (10th anniversary), feel ever-so-slightly gratuitous—especially considering there are so many stellar albums that hit anniversary milestones this year but won’t get a deluxe reissue.
Case in point: Martha And The Vandella’s Dance Party. Released in 1965, the album contains the classic “Nowhere To Run” as well as the group’s most indelible hit, “Dancing In The Street,” a song that became so central to the civil rights movement that not even David Bowie and Mick Jagger’s clunky version from 1985 could impugn its greatness. The entire album is solid, including the sublimely danceable “Wild One,” and a rare foray for a Motown group into funky Southern R&B, “Mobile Lil The Dancing Witch.” Granted, Motown was known far more for its singles than its albums at the time, and that hasn’t changed. But Dance Party is proof that even Motown’s LP filler outshines most pop made before or since.
The Zombies are best known for their immaculately crafted, 1968 masterpiece Odessey And Oracle; the surviving members of the group have even been touring this year to perform the legendary album in its entirety. Before Odessey, though, the English band released The Zombies. The group’s 1965 debut didn’t make a huge dent in the public consciousness (this was, after all, the year The Beatles released Rubber Soul and The Who released My Generation), but it did yield the hits “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”—and the rest of it holds plenty of glimpses of greatness to come, including a haunting version of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” that foreshadows the shadowy sophistication of Odessey’s biggest single, “Time Of The Season.”
By 1975, the soul group The O’Jays were not only veterans of the music scene, but flush with the recent blockbuster success of the band’s 1973 hit “Love Train.” But as the ’70s dragged on in its post-Watergate slump, the sunny, uplifting message of “Love Train” was replaced by something darker and more outspoken—namely 1975’s Survival. The album’s lead single, “Give The People What They Want,” drew from the same deep wellspring of funk as Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters (who, in fact, released an album in 1975 titled Survival Of The Fittest). The O’Jays sang bluntly about poverty and Social Darwinism on the tracks “Rich Get Richer” and “Survival”—although they took time out for sumptuous love ballads like “Let Me Make Love To You,” which renders Survival a vivid and enduring snapshot of soul circa the mid-’70s.
It wasn’t clear in 1975 what kind of future Neil Young And Crazy Horse might have. The group’s guitarist, Danny Whitten, had died in 1972, and the powerhouse trio that backed Young was left with a gaping hole—filled by Frank Sampedro, who made his Crazy Horse debut on the band’s 1975 album Zuma. Young had nothing to worry about. One of his most distorted, epic albums of the ’70s, Zuma features sad-sack rockers like “Don’t Cry No Tears” and “Barstool Blues” alongside sprawling guitar workouts such as “Danger Bird” and “Cortez The Killer.” The album followed the unofficial Ditch Trilogy that featured the more harrowing territory of Time Fades Away, On The Beach, and Tonight’s The Night. Zuma, though, stands as a testament to shaky strength and soulful grit.
It’s been a long time since LL Cool J placed his music above his thespian pursuits—but Radio is a forceful reminder of exactly what made him a star in the first place. Recorded and release while LL was still a teenager, it captures rap at a pivotal point, just as the movement was enjoying a fresh surge of mainstream acceptance that would carry it through its Golden Age. That said, LL doesn’t take too much on his shoulders on Radio; lean, fun, and anthemic, the Rick Rubin-produced album resulted in hits like the ferocious “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Rock The Bells.” LL Cool J may have later cried, “Don’t call it a comeback,” but after setting the stage with Radio, everything he did was destined to be measured against it.
November will see the release of Morbid Tales: A Tribute To Celtic Frost, an album that will feature numerous groups paying homage to the iconic Swiss metal band. It’s being issued to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Celtic Frost’s sophomore album, To Mega Therion; unfortunately, To Mega Therion itself is not being celebrated with a deluxe anniversary reissue. It was remastered in 1999, but since then, an entire new generation of heavy metal has risen in To Mega Therion’s shadow, which means the album is more than worthy of an expanded repackaging of its timeless, groundbreaking, vastly influential songs like the savage “The Usursper” and “Circle Of The Tyrants.”
Rosanne Cash’s marriage to fellow singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell was on the rocks when she released Interiors, an album that embraced her father Johnny Cash’s stark atmosphere as much as her own tenure as a Nashville hitmaker. But the haunting starkness and introspective simplicity of standout tracks such as “What We Really Want” and “On The Surface”—the latter a heartrending duet with Crowell, whom Cash would divorce in 1991—elevate Interiors to another level entirely. The ’80s were over, and the slick, processed country of that decade was being gently, strongly pushed aside by one of its royalty. The term “alt-country” had yet to come into use in 1990, but it’s hard to imagine that movement happening without Interiors.
Rap hit a peak of social and political consciousness in the early ’90s, and no one summed that up better than KRS-One. The MC of Boogie Down Productions had weathered the murder of BDP cofounder DJ Scott La Rock in 1987; subsequently, he turned increasingly toward themes of enlightenment, activism, and philosophy. Edutainment immediately followed BDP’s 1989 masterpiece Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip Hop, and while it succumbs in spots to a heavier dose of preachiness, KRS-One lives up to his nickname The Teacher by delivering some of his greatest lessons in rap form—from history-dropping “Blackman In Effect” to the album’s Skatalites-sampling title track.
Layne Staley still had seven years left to live in 1995, but none of those seven years would see the release of another Alice In Chains album. The singer’s final full-length with the band, Alice In Chains, featured searing, melodic songs like the blues-and-doom-soaked “Heaven Beside You” as well as the grunge it had helped pioneer (“Grind” and “Again” being not only hits, but some of the last spasms of grunge’s initial explosion in the early ’90s). The album, however, shows a band poised to transcend grunge, at the precise moment the genre was surrendering to self-parody. Alice In Chains is simply a fantastic rock record: deeply felt, beautifully written, and movingly delivered.
Britpop seemed like a flash in the pan in the mid-’90s. Bands like Blur, Oasis, and Supergrass made brief waves on this side of the Atlantic, but didn’t wind up causing the next British Invasion that some predicted at the time. Still, Britpop’s cult appeal has remained steadfast, with Supergrass’ 1995 debut I Should Coco receiving a deluxe, 20th-anniversary reissue earlier this year. The same can’t be said of Elastica’s self-titled debut, which produced a decent-sized American hit, “Connection,” as well as inspiring devotion for frontwoman Justine Frischmann and crew’s edgy, catchy take on vintage punk and post-punk (right down to a plagiarism lawsuit from Wire thanks to the naggingly familiar guitar riff from “Connection”). But Elastica as a whole has aged remarkably well and more than warrants the expanded retrospective treatment.
Frances The Mute is like the Tardis of prog-rock albums: far larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. The Mars Volta’s second full-length, it’s an endlessly startling and rewarding work of cosmic fantasia, densely layered with Omar Alfredo Rodríguez-López’s lushly textured guitar and Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s hallucinatory narrative. It’s also a bit much, which might be why The Mars Volta’s reputation for incomprehensibility became well earned as the band evolved throughout the ’00s. But Frances The Mute finds the band poised at the perfect spot between ambition and accessibility, relatively speaking. The album’s 32-minute “Cassandra Geminni” is the group’s crowning achievement, but it’s also an entire concept album unto itself—one that all but demands a thorough, 10th-anniversary unpacking.
Missy Elliott’s stage-stealing appearance with Katy Perry at this year’s Super Bowl only reaffirmed that Misdemeanor might be mostly absent from the spotlight, but there’s no way she can be forgotten. Her final album before her retreat from music (due in part to a diagnosis of Graves’ disease), The Cookbook is not her best work; her longtime producer Timbaland is barely present, although she does a fine job with a mixed bag of styles and approaches. A decade later, there’s plenty to love about tracks like “We Run This,” with its old-school, “Apache”-based bounce, not to mention the disc’s standout hit, “Lose Control,” a master class in electro worship. The Cookbook is ripe for a warm-up, if for no other reason than to help coax Elliott out of semi-retirement.