If the department stores can do it, so can Goldmine. We’ve not even got through Thanksgiving yet, and the holiday decorations are already creeping into view So, to commence our own countdown to the Frothy Muggament, Spin Cycle’s Top Ten Vinyl Reissues of 2014.
Straight reissues. No newly-minted comps of old material; no first ever releases for unissued joys; and, no matter how great you think they are, no Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Or Zeppelin. Not even the one with “D’Yer Maker” on it.
In whatever order you want them to be.
Prior to its Record Store Day reissue, this was one of those albums that you always tried telling people about, but the words were never there. From the first days of the century, an Edinburgh, Scotland, combo who made zero mark on the world at large… but then the whispering started. “You have to hear this, it’s magical.” Cast away somewhere between whatever desert islands that early Low, decent Fall and the third Velvets album are marooned on, Any Other Day haunts with lyrics that sound like you’re thinking aloud, with vocalist Sue Tompkins more captivating with every breath. Catch her solo on the Junior Aspirin comp, or via a string of compulsive YouTube clips, then turn to the album’s closing “Sorrow” – the first truly great performance of the 21st century, and still nobody has topped it.
Saint Etienne – Tiger Bay (Plain Recordings)
The reissue oddly opted for the weirdly-revised American version over the pristinely sequenced UK original, but still Saint Etienne’s third album stands head and shoulders over almost every other figment of its era – a sequence of delicious dance ballads and retro pop confections that are nothing if not the sound of the Shangri-Las, in whispered conversation with a box full of samplers. But though “Like A Motorway” is obviously the “Leader of the Pack” of the 1990s, “Marble Lions” is the best of Muswell Hillbillies too.
A most generous offering adds pictures, posters and even a period EP to the package, but Morning Way needs no such incentives. A stark duo of ex-Them Jackie McAuley and former Fairporter Judy Dyble, Trader Horne survived for just one album but one that is so perfectly formed, and informed by late sixties acid folk sensitivities, that more may have been too much. But the opening “Jenny May” is still part of the magnificent Ms Dyble’s live show, and her upcoming anthology will feature a brand new collaboration with McAuley.
Still up there among the most twee of all Anglo psychedelic offerings, no matter how much deeper into the vault the reissue gang have gone, Idle Race was essentially Jeff Lynne rehearsing for a career spent wishing he was a Beatle, and a debut album that proves how close he came. Devoid though it is of the weightier conceits that would later sustain his dreamscape, The Birthday Party is nevertheless a trawler full of hooks, most notably across “The Skeleton and the Roundabout” – the most compulsively, gloriously, annoyingly perfect pop song ever written about either of its titular heroes.
Expel from your mind all visions of hogweeds, of lying down lambs, of Phil Collins and “Mama.” Forget Trespass and Foxtrot, and whether they can dance. Discover Genesis as the world first heard them, a fresh-out-of-schoolboy British prog band, deeply in thrall to the Moody Blues, writing songs that they thought were vaguely Bee Gees-esque, and produced by Jonathan King, who made them sound as great as they were ever going to. If Genesis had not gone on to anything else, this would be regarded as one of the lost classics of a gilded age. As it is, its contents have been reissued so often, and its makers have reviled them so frequently, that you need to be very forgiving just to play it. But when you do… oh come on! A teenaged concept album about the Bible. How can you resist?
Two for the price of two, but worth at least twice that, a pair of late 80s-and-beyond-ish jewels by the inimitable Wreckless Eric… a decade on from the whole wide world, but still mining the same vein of exquisitely pure pop that you’d expect. “It’s A Sick Sick World” and “Fuck By Fuck” might just see Le Beat Group shade Donovan if you had to choose between them. But “Joe Meek” and “If It Makes You Happy” would answer back. Plus, “Lureland” is reprised from the first Len Bright Combo album, and a cat with no ears could tell you how great that is. So you should probably get them both.
We devote so much time today to denying that we even remember, let alone enjoyed, the mid-90s Britpop boom that it’s easy to forget that its two greatest components – and, consequently, its two finest albums – both shifted so far out on a stylistic limb that it was timing and their trousers alone that painted Suede and Pulp as kinsmen of the singing electricians that otherwise constituted the movement. This, Suede’s second album, can only be bookended with Pulp’s This Is Hardcore (whose vinyl rebirth we still await), but even in isolation it hangs doomed and delicious, a ganglion revision of Stranded-era Roxy, if Aladdin Sane had replaced Eno on the keyboards. “We Are The Pigs” speaks still to the western world’s need to rise up in a decent revolution; “Hollywood Life” has a deathless air that makes even escape seem futile, and the entire album is poised so prophetically over the imminent death of rock as a force for change that it’s a wonder anybody bothered recording anything again.
The original double best of album, four sides of primo Doors compiled while Morrison’s death was still fresh in the memory. and neither the archives nor the reissue racks had been ripped to shreds in the desperate drive to exhume every last belch Jimbo consigned to tape. Equally balanced between the obvious hits and the deserving epics, non-album b-sides and a really great cover, Weird Scenes still stands as an object lesson in how to compile a decent hits package. Nothing too scenic, nothing too weird, and it doesn’t drag on for too long either.
How strange, and sadly sobering to consider that, without Parsons’ tragically wasteful death, this… to all intents and purposes, his second solo album… would never have existed. Pieced together from whatever he left behind before he died, but miraculously blessed by the fact that even Gram’s off-cuts were magnificent, Grievous Angel probably doesn’t deviate too far from what he would have chosen himself… or, at least, we hope it won’t. Across a first side that does not put a single foot wrong, and a second that is highlighted by a world’s finest “Love Hurts,” this is the album that most people are thinking of when they say how much they love Gram Parsons. And it deserves every plaudit it receives.
Sparks – Kimono My House (Universal)
Seven previously unreleased demos, spread across a second platter, may or may not be worth the price of admission to the fortieth anniversary reissue of the Brothers Mael’s British breakthrough LP. But Kimono itself remains what Doctor Who would describe as a “fixed point in time,” one of those releases that hit so hard, and so unmistakably, that even people who weren’t born at the time can remember what they were doing the first time they heard “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us.” And rightfully so, for it remains among the most distinctive 45s ever to spin on your turntable, and great swathes of the album that follows are likewise… “Falling in Love With Myself Again,” “Thank God It’s Not Christmas,” second single “Amateur Hour” and, to bid you farewell, “Equator” – the single song (although some would say a pestilence) that let us know that, no matter how weird we thought Sparks could become, at heart they were even weirder.