13 Great CD Reissues You May Have Never Heard Of 

Thursday, Dec 23 2004

The Conet Project (Irdial)

A lawsuit gave second wind to this eerie four-CD box set of shortwave radio transmissions, thought by spy and paranoia buffs to be worldwide, 24/7 code broadcasts by intelligence agents. Originally issued in 1997 by British indie label Irdial, the rock group Wilco sampled the recitation "yankee . . . hotel . . . foxtrot" (first disc, fourth track) for the title and music for its acclaimed 2002 album. (Irdial sued, Wilco settled.) Not so great for children’s -parties.

Shrimp Boat — Something Grand (AUM Fidelity)

The Saints — All Times Through Paradise (EMI Music Australia)

Trouble Funk — Live and Early Singles (2.13.61/District Line)

The most lavish treatments for obscurity go to these collections: Grand proffers three discs of the landmark Chicago organicore ensemble (including their 1992 Captain Beefheart–meets–calypso masterpiece Duende) with a 50-page booklet of memorabilia, archival photos and two sets of liner notes. The last disc from the four-CD All Times of Aussie punk assassins the Saints documents a live rave-up from April ’77 worthy of the Stooges at their druggy, dangerous best. (And this was their final show!) Two of punk’s current royalty — Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye — admit to admiring a funk party band in the liner notes to Live and Early Singles. Now that crunk is all the rave, point being, they feel it’s time for a re-examination of D.C.’s early-’80s go-go music scene: a bumpin’ blend of whucka-whucka funk, gospel-tinged call-and-response and stinging ’60s-soul horns.

Aceyalone — All Balls Don’t Bounce — Revisited (Red Urban)

Davie Allan & the Arrows — Devil’s Rumble: Anthology ’64–’68 (Sundazed)

The solo debut from a founding member of the Freestyle Fellowship wound up on a dusty shelf after it first dropped in 1995. Since then it’s become an indie-rap cornerstone, with alliterative song titles ("Analilia," "Arhythmaticulas," "Annallillia") matched by trippy imagery and ribald humor, including a killer spoof of Beavis and Butt-Head; Revisited adds some ruthless remixes that carry an eerie power all their own. Davie Allan is yet another Cali-subculture guitarist living (unfairly) in the dust of Dick Dale. But he and his Arrows had nothing to do with the surf; they were The Road, supplying an octane-soaked, fast-faster-fastest soundtrack to many an AIP biker flick. (Their one hit was "Blue Theme" from The Wild Angels.) Ah, how that desert dust blows itself back again . . .

Albert Ayler — Holy Ghost (Revenant)

The pioneering free-jazz saxophonist’s greatest compositions ("Spirits," "Witches and Devils," "Ghosts") were haunted by so many ghosts: children’s rhymes, army-band marches, Mexican folk songs, church hymnals, not to mention the deepest earth of the blues and the occasional set of bagpipes. Seems fitting that this monumental, 10-disc ode to a monumental talent should be packaged in a replica of a carved-wood spirit box, augmented by a mysterious smattering of dried flowers.

DNA — DNA on DNA (No More)

Brian Eno, in full Svengali mode, produced the seminal 1979 no-wave comp No New York, which included these NYC performance-art smershers. They beat Astralwerks’ reissues of Eno’s visionary solo albums by pure timing: DNA on DNA was released, quite literally, on 01/01/04: 32 tracks of gloriously ugly noize-for-noize’s-sake maestroed by guitarist Arto Lindsay, who infected both Thurston Moore and Nels Cline with his Theory of the Detuned Ax.

Can — Monster Movie, Soundtracks, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi (Spoon/Mute)

For punk bands, the first three albums seem to be the most essential; for pioneering krautrock-bänden, it looks to be the first four. It took that much for Can to unleash more ideas than even they could deal with. Recorded between 1968 and 1972, Can’s debut albums weren’t bloated art-rock flummery but stripped-down assaults of tribal pulse and avant-garde minimalism. They don’t need any bonus tracks.

Serge Gainsbourg — Aux Armes et Caetera (Sunnyside)

For all practical purposes, this 1979 album should have wound up in the barrel next to The Ethel Merman Disco Album: a Jamaican-themed jam by the French Dean Martin that includes — now, swallow hard — Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare playing on a reggae rendition of (urp!) "La Marseillaise." The luxe reissue slaps on an extra CD of newly recorded dubs and remixes that makes you think the boozy rascal really was onto something, even if he was too marinated to realize it.

Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm & Blues 1945–1970 (CMT/Lost Highway)

The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979–1983 (Stones Throw)

Two reminders that every music explosion has its unsung. Night Train showcases the other side of the tracks in the country-music capital, easing standards like Robert Knight’s "Everlasting Love," Bobby Hebb’s "Sunny" and Arthur Alexander’s lovely "Anna Go to Him" (later covered by the Beatles) alongside lesser-known gems from Christine Kittrell, Esquerita and the penitentiary vocal group the Prisonaires. Jumping ahead a decade, Third Unheard is the cherry on top: primitive but potent singles from East Coast rap’s scruffy, hairy basement days.

Lenny Bruce — Let the Buyer Beware (Shout!/Factory)

So here he is, on six CDs, beginning with "Are There Any Niggers Here Tonight?" and "The Clap," proceeding though "Religions, Inc." and "Schmuck," cresting on "A Talk With Studs Terkel" and "Plays Carnegie Hall" before, finally, "Gets Busted Onstage" and "Reads Court Transcript." Rock, Pryor, Leary, Garofalo, Maher, Quinn — y’all owe him big.

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