David Bowie | via NME.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributor A.D. Amorosi looks back over the best repackaged and reissued classics from 2017.

The Residents once said, collectively, that “ignorance of your culture is not considered cool.” As a large part of our culture happens to be musical, genre specific, reminiscent and product driven, there’s no reason – with the advent of the mega-reissue – to miss out on the drama of that which came before you, or at least came before the immediate now. That said, this is not a game for the timid or the down-sound-cloud-loading digital type. This is for the tactile luddite who like things heavy and touchable.

With that sense of wonder, physicality and oddity, there are packages of single album rarities re-mastered for the present, such as Light in the Attic’s heavy vinyl series on angular cosmopolitan country 60s composer-producer-turned artist Lee Hazlewood. It collects releases as 1969’s The Cowboy & the Lady with Ann Margret (!?!), as well as the Good Housekeeping seal of approval that Hazelwood lent to the sweetheart of the Rodeo Drive, Lynn Castle, for her Rose Colored Corner LP. That same label also bundled together several 70s LPs by Americana twang bar guitar king Link Wray such as Be What You Want To, Mordicai Jones, and Wray’s eponymous-titled 1971 effort.

If you’re looking at bundling as a means to an end, Brian Eno’s early Island label vocal years of the mid-70s – the bent glam of Here Comes the Warm Jets and Tiger Tiger Mountain by Strategy, the masterful move into fretless space jazz of Another Green World, the blobby Before and After Science – got the 45RPM vinyl re-master treatment of four, 2-LP packages that sound deep, warm and gorgeous. On a godfather/godson tip, Eno’s spiritual synth-bit scion, video game classicist Geinoh Yamashirogumi found his computer-clicking Akira masterwork re-mastered and tickled by the Milan label.

From that point forward, however, it’s all big weighty box sets that if you dropped on someone’s foot, you’d wound them.

Johnny Cash’s Unearthed, The Vinyl Collection of American/Rick Rubin recordings left off their trio of modern day classics recorded in one decade is a weighty kit, literally and figuratively. Exploiting everything from murder ballads and soulful gospel to flinty, fired-up rockabilly, the project is spread over nine albums bound like a family’s treasured bible with cloth bound book of photos and stories to go with it. Holy, American and gospel-ish in its own unique manner is Bob Dylan’s Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13/1979-1981 (Legacy) that examines his brief but potent reach into Christianity.

David Bowie’s A New Career in a New Town (Rhino) is an insightful 13 LP re-consideration of his experimental Berlin years with Eno (and NYC with the inclusion of Scary Monsters), but a distinct lack of rarities is a blinding omission. One of Bowie’s finest partners during his Germanic ride, guitarist Robert Fripp, is celebrated (or buried, hell this is 27 CDs) with the grand King Crimson: Sailors’ Tales, a road map that follows Fripp & his floating membership ensemble through the art rock of its first 1969 album through to free jazz and big brass of albums that followed in the wake of the Poseidon. Further escapades in avant-garde and early prog rock of the 70s – The Brain Box: Cerebral Sounds of Brain Records, 1972-1979 captures the moment when wild European psychedelia became metronomic Krautrock and space boogie with Popul Vuh and Klaus Schulze ruling that particular, peculiar roost.


Fairport Convention’s ‘Come All Ye – The First 10 Years (Universal) at 7 CDs is a delightfully dark and sprawling listen through the early, pertinent catalog of Richard Thompson’s first ensemble (with haunted and haunting vocalist Sandy Denny), a series of albums that exquisitely blended exclusively British and ancient folk with the bourgeoning rock sound of its era. Just as this Fairport period influenced most U.K. rock that followed (Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull) in its wake, the youthfully ebullient but world weary hardcore pop of Minneapolis’ Hüsker Dü would inspire generations of punks that followed. The hissy live tape and scuffed-up studio collection of the trio at its infancy fills the handsome Numero box, Savage Young Dü with love and sheer loudness.