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Best Of 2004: Reissues

1. THE BEATLES
The Capitol Albums Vol. 1
(Capitol/Apple)

Duh.

2. JOHN MELLENCAMP - Words & Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits (Island/UTV)
Everything a good compilation should be: comprehensive but not overbearing. It takes two discs to tell the Mellencougar story properly, and that’s how many they use. No shitty single edits, no shitty live versions in place of album versions, no shitty previously unreleased material from the vaults, and not a single hit missing. He’s been underestimated his whole career, and yet here he is, adding to his legacy with far better work over the past 15 years than Petty and Springsteen combined. Hell, even I don't want to admit it, but his music has an awful lot of things in common with R.E.M. Listen without prejudice.

3. CAPTAIN SENSIBLE - The Collection (Universal - U.K.) 2003
The former Damned bassist’s hits—yes, he had a bunch in the U.K.—are refreshing like a perfect pint of lager. An ex-punk who didn’t take himself too seriously throughout the ‘80s and crafted a lot of memorable singles along the way. His #1 U.K. cover of South Pacific’s "Happy Town" anchors a collection that is marred only by its inclusion of the standard version of "Wot" (the 12" mix is superior) and the unconscionable omission of his holiday staple "One Christmas Catalogue," which is only the eighth best Christmas song of all time.

4. THE FALL - 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats (Beggars Banquet)
The Fall’s 25-year catalog is so sprawling and confusing that this two-disc distillation of their best ranks as one of the most necessary compilations of all time. Those more schooled in the weird world of Mark E. Smith might be able to tell you what’s missing, but consider this an essential document of the sharpest moments by one of the oddest and longest-lasting post-punk bands.

5. TALKING HEADS - The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads (Sire/Rhino)
I got a rousing good kick out of all the cool, cool kids who gratuitously slagged Stop Making Sense in their reviews of this mondo double-disc reissue of the Heads’ first live release. Can we all please admit that Stop Making Sense is pretty great too? That out of the way, this earlier document of a band at its peak powers truly is a revelatory, polyrhythmic treasure trove of killers who are psycho, buildings on fire with love going inside them, and governments about which we need not worry. A quintessential post-modern escapist fantasy, and a timely one at that.

6. THE CURE - Three Imaginary Boys (Fiction/Elektra/Rhino)
7. NILSSON - Schmilsson (RCA/BMG Heritage)
8. BOB DYLAN - The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 - Live 1964: Concert At Philharmonic Hall (Columbia/Legacy)
9. FREEDY JOHNSTON - The Way I Were: Four-Track Demos 1986-1992 (Bar/None)

Sometimes youth isn’t wasted on the young.

10. JOHN LENNON - Acoustic (Capitol)
The sticker on the front cover announces that seven of the performances were previously unreleased, but nowhere on the inside packaging is it mentioned which seven. Gee, thanks. He’s my favorite singer of all goddamn time, but even I haven’t had the patience or time to consult the packaging of The John Lennon Collection, the 1998 chowfest of John stuff that was previously vaulted (except, oh yeah, when most of it was broadcast on FM on The Lost Lennon Tapes), and figure out which takes had already been released there. A nice collection of roughs and demos, but no one has any business buying it unless they already own Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Double Fantasy and Milk & Honey.

11. NAS - Illmatic: 10 Year Platinum Series (Sony Urban/Columbia)
12. THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G. - Ready To Die (Bad Boy)

The two best hip-hop albums to come out of New York City in the ‘90s, I think, but what do I know? Illmatic comes with a six-song bonus CD of useless remixes, the Biggie comes with a few videos on DVD, including the one where he mows down a bunch of suckas charging his house with machine guns; take your pick as to which one is more depressing.

13. VARIOUS - The Mayor Of The Sunset Strip: Original Soundtrack (Shout Factory)
It’s all happening on the soundtrack to the fascinating Rodney Bingenheimer documentary.

14. JOHN LENNON - Rock 'N' Roll (Capitol)
A major sonic improvement on a much maligned (and only somewhat fairly so) chunk of the Lennon canon.

15. LAURA NYRO - Live At The Fillmore East, May 30, 1971 (Columbia/Legacy)
Too bad I wasn’t conceived until about 10 days after this show, ‘cause it sounds like it was a great one.

16. SLADE - Get Yer Boots On: The Best Of (Shout Factory)
Their best song is a Christmas song, which means they rate even lower than Billy Squier, who at least has one song ("Everybody Wants You," if you're scoring at home) better than his Christmas song. Still, these glam guys were superstars in the U.K., and while they were basically a poor man’s Mott The Hoople, they’re worth a 16-song comp, and that’s exactly what this is.

17. M - New York London Paris Munich (Razor & Tie)
"Pop Muzik" is not the weirdest song ever to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, nor is it the best (although it’s awfully close), but it’s certainly the best weird song ever to hit #1. Here’s the full album version, plus, well, the rest of the album, some useless remixes, and the lost classic b-side "M Factor."

18. THE PRETTY THINGS - Come See Me: The Very Best Of (Shout Factory)
A solid gathering of great moments by the unsung heroes of ‘60s British rock and the true inventors of the rock concept album.

19. PAUL SIMON - The Paul Simon Songbook (Columbia/Legacy)
Fuck Rhymin’-era Simon; Paul’s true solo debut was this originally U.K.-only collection of stripped down takes on some of his best ‘60s material. A true revelation.

20. JAPAN - Assemblage (BMG)
21. PUFFY AMIYUMI - Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: Music From The Series (Epic)

Bowie-influenced high-concept art-rock and female cartoon power-pop, in that order.

22. ROCKPILE - Seconds Of Pleasure (Columbia/Legacy)
The pub-rock supergroup’s only album.

23. JOBRIATH – Lonely Planet Boy (Attack)
Morrissey’s lovingly rendered compilation of tracks from the mid-‘70s non/a/pan/whateversexual glam aspirant to the Bowie throne. High kitsch factor, a few groaners, a few gems. An interesting companion to the Scissor Sisters record.

24. THE ELECTRAS - '60s Garage Rock Band (no label)
So they weren’t as hardcore as The Sonics—or even The Beach Boys—but John Kerry’s high school band had passable taste in cover material for 1961, and at least some of them seemed sort of able to play their instruments.

25. JUDAS PRIEST - Metalogy (Columbia/Legacy)
Four discs of Priest, which is about three and a half too many for me. That said, I listened all the way through and was reasonably impressed. Screaming For Vengeance was the first metal album I ever heard, and so there's a smidgen of nostalgia value to this music for me. And it’s criminal that the metal-studded, faux-leather box was not nominated for the "Boxed Set Recording Package" Grammy.

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