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Best Reissues Of 2021: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year
© Joel Bernstein 1970
List & Guides

Best Reissues Of 2021: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year

From long-out-of-print cult classics to lavish box sets and landmark live shows, the best reissues of 2021 amount to a collector’s paradise.

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Be it a long-awaited acquisition of sought-after or out-of-print gems, or simply cherishing the “new vinyl” smell and feel of a certified classic, grabbing a fresh reissue is a joyous affair, and one of the reasons vinyl has enjoyed such a strong comeback over the past decade or so. With the new decade off to a strong start, here are the 20 best reissues of 2021.

Best Reissues Of 2021: 20 Essential Releases Of The Year

20: Harry Nilsson: ‘Nilsson Schmilsson’ (180g numbered, gatefold LP)

Hollywood Vampires member and mate of Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson was once regarded by The Beatles as one of the best songwriters in the business. Helping cement this status was his 1970 album, Nilsson Schmilsson, which saw a neat gatefold reissue this year. Fans of mob flicks will likely remember Jump Into The Fire, which appears in Goodfellas during Henry Hill (Ray Liotta)’s paranoid driving scenes. Other standout tracks include Early In The Morning and Coconut, as well as the No.1 hit single Without You, all of which help make Nilsson Schmilsson not only Nilsson’s most acclaimed and commercially viable album, but also one of the best reissues of 2021.

Must hear: Jump Into The Fire

19: Ryo Fukui: ‘Mellow Dream’ (180g blue LP)

Japanese jazz musician Ryo Fukui is best known for his 1976 debut album, Scenery, which has gone on to become a cult classic of the modern era. His largely imaginative and natural style has resonated well with both jazz veterans and “hidden music” hipsters alike – but at a cost. An original copy of his sophomore effort, Mellow Dream, now commands prices between £150-£300. Fittingly, the album has been reissued on blue vinyl, ensuring that even the most casual record collector now has a chance to own one of Japan’s finest musical exports.

Must hear: Mellow Dream 

18: PJ Harvey: ‘Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea’ (LP)

Along with Is This Desire? and Uh Huh Her, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea makes up one third of a respectable trio of PJ Harvey reissues this year, with separate spin-off releases collecting demos from each album’s sessions. Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea is perhaps the strongest of the three, with the urbanised rock of Big Exit and the cool-as-you-like You Said Something helping the album score the Mercury Prize in 2001, over contenders such as Radiohead’s Amnesiac and Goldfrapp’s Felt Mountain. Twenty years later, it holds its own among the best reissues of 2021.

Must hear: Good Fortune

17: David Crosby: ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’ (LP, 2CD)

David Crosby’s magnum opus begins in an optimistic manner: Music Is Love touches on psychedelia and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young’s trademark harmonies, paving the way for a remarkable record that epitomises the golden era of US classic rock. Crosby is unafraid to lean on the tried and tested legacy of the blues (Cowboy Movie) to forge easily memorable and fiery songs, and then there are numbers such as Traction In The Rain – effortlessly delicate, yet so at home amid juxtaposing tunes. The 2CD reissue contains an extra hour of previously unreleased material, giving listeners the opportunity to dig deep into the mind of a member of one of the world’s greatest ever supergroups.

Must hear: Cowboy Movie

16: Fleetwood Mac: ‘Live: Super Deluxe Edition’ (2LP+3CD+7” box set)

While many know and love Fleetwood Mac for their seemingly endless hits and treasure trove of a discography, it’s easy to forget they were an incredible live act, too. Easy evidence of this is on the group’s 1980 in-concert record, Live, a collection of largely Tusk-era recordings which captures the band as their 70s classic-rock prowess tips into 80s arena-rock dominance. The big hits, including Dreams, Go Your Own Way and Landslide, are all present in this remastered super deluxe edition.

Must hear: Go Your Own Way

15: Joni Mitchell: ‘Archives Vol.2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971)’ (10LP, 5CD box sets)

As the second instalment in Joni Mitchell’s stellar Archives series, Vol.2 unveils the Canadian icon maturing as a songwriter as she progresses toward her landmark 1971 album, Blue. Some of the previously unreleased home demos (The Dawntreader, the first version of Midnight Cowboy) are harrowing yet showcase a kind of strength through vulnerability – something which only deepens when placing the current two Archives releases side by side. When there is dark there is light, however, and Archives Vol.2 presents these two not easily distinguishable sides to one of the best songwriters of all time.

Must hear: The Dawntreader

14: Pretenders: ‘Pretenders’, ‘Pretenders II’ Deluxe Editions (3CD)

Bar their phenomenal 1984 album, Learning To Crawl, Pretenders’ first two records make a claim to being the group’s best works. Both have been reissued as deluxe 3CD sets (with coloured-vinyl counterparts), providing a slew of B-sides, demos and live performances alongside each already classic album. The singles alone are enough to whet the appetite – Brass In Pocket and Stop Your Sobbing, from Pretenders’ self-titled debut album; Talk Of The Town and Message Of Love, from Pretenders II – but these reissues offer an opportunity to revisit some of the band’s deeper cuts, such as The English Roses, which displays a subtle vulnerability that frontwoman Chrissie Hynde often masks with confidence behind her group’s trademark jangly guitars. (As an added bonus, a limited-edition, numbered Brass In Pocket print is available exclusively through the Dig! store.)

Must hear: Brass In Pocket

13: The Who: ‘The Who Sell Out: Super Deluxe Edition’ (5CD+2×7”)

The Who’s self-aware, baked-bean-adorned third album is equal parts bonkers and genius. With a title that nods to the group’s then tendency to make songs for commercials, The Who Sell Out is littered with faux ads that play between its songs, as well as excerpts from public-service broadcasts. Amid the madness is the huge hit I Can See For Miles, which sits in stark contrast to tracks such as Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand and Silas Stingy. The super-deluxe reissue doesn’t hold back, either: a mammoth 5CD box set (with two 7” singles thrown in for good measure) held in exquisite packaging that, if anything, highlights the depravity of Roger Daltrey festering in a bathtub full of Heinz’s finest product.

Must hear: I Can See For Miles

12: My Bloody Valentine: ‘Loveless’ (gatefold LP)

Reissues of My Bloody Valentine’s game-changing second album usually appear every few years, thanks to the stubborn elusiveness of original copies. Rather than fork out over £200 for the greatest shoegaze album ever made, look to the latest vinyl reissue of Loveless, featuring the full analogue cut of the album in a sleek, gatefold sleeve. As far as the best reissues of 2021 go, one can do a lot worse, and with other shoegaze landmarks unlikely to see reissue any time soon (Drop Nineteens’ Delaware and Bowery Electric’s self-titled album, to name two), there’s never a bad time to pick up the album considered by many to be the Pet Sounds of the 90s.

Must hear: Soon

11: Pink Floyd: ‘Live At Knebworth 1990’ (2LP, CD)

Knebworth House, in Hertfordshire, England, has hosted some of the most legendary gigs of all time – and only the biggest acts receive the honour of playing there. Led Zeppelin, Phil Collins and Oasis are some of the generation-defining artists to have filled its grounds… And then there’s Pink Floyd, who have played Knebworth not once, but twice, in 1975 and 1990, respectively. The latter performance has been released 180g vinyl, complete with remasters from the original tapes, and a colourful, 16-page booklet. Those who were there will fondly remember Wish You Were Here, Money and Comfortably Numb in all their majesty. Those who weren’t can enjoy the next best thing with this essential release.

Must hear: Comfortably Numb

10: LCD Soundsystem: ‘The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live At Madison Square Garden’ (5LP box set)

One of the greatest live albums of the 21st century, The Long Goodbye documents what was then billed as LCD Soundsystem’s final ever show, staged at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 2011. Fans lucky enough to attend were met with three hours’ worth of the group at the height of their prowess. Also including covers of songs by Yes (Heart Of The Sunrise) and Harry Nilsson (Jump Into The Fire), The Long Goodbye remains a monolith testament to LCD Soundsystem’s unique approach to dance and post-punk music, and to their exceptional live performances. Now available in glorious CD and vinyl box sets, it’s a must-have for die-hard fans of the band as well as aficionados of 2000s indie/post-punk revivalists such as Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and Arcade Fire.

Must hear: Dance Yrself Clean

9: The Doors: ‘LA Woman: 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition’ (3CD+LP)

Fifty years on from its original release, LA Woman makes for bittersweet listening. Though it’s the final album The Doors recorded together before Jim Morrison died, it’s also the one guitarist Robby Krieger considers “pure Doors”: rough and rowdy, its rehearsal-like nature embodies everything the group were about. Containing fly-on-the-wall studio sessions and a home demo, plus liner notes from legendary rock critic David Fricke, the deluxe edition offers ample evidence that LA Woman offers riches beyond its standout singles.

Must hear: Riders On The Storm

8: Neil Young: ‘After The Gold Rush’ (LP box set with bonus 7”)

Neil Young’s long-running Archives series continues at a dizzying pace, but After The Gold Rush will always hold a special place in fans’ hearts. Standing firmly alongside the other three Déjà Vu-era, CSNY solo albums (Davis Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stephen Stills’ eponymous debut album and Graham Nash’s Songs For Beginners), and often considered the most infallible of the four, After The Gold Rush is laden with rich country-pop which sees Young’s songwriting mature further, resulting in classics such as Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Don’t Let It Bring You Down and the title track.

Must hear: Only Love Can Break Your Heart

7: Radiohead: ‘Kid A Mnesia’ (3CD)

Thom Yorke and co’s ability to go years without so much as a whisper is both a blessing and a curse to fans: a curse, because every new album feels as though it could be the group’s last; but a blessing when something special is dropped from their near-flawless catalogue – as it most often is. Kid A Mnesia packages the group’s essential turn-of-the-century albums, Kid A and Amnesia, together with a third disc of B-sides and rarities. Never doing things by halves, the group also revealed an interactive exhibition to match the release, which is available to download and experience on PlayStation 5 and PC. Not just a Radiohead completist’s must-buy release of the year, Kid A Mnesia is a viable option for everybody. Here is a celebration of a peculiar turning point in the group’s career, recognising that Radiohead met crisis head-on and came out as champions.

Must hear: Like Spinning Plates (Why Us? version)

6: Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young: ‘Déjà Vu’ (5LP box set)

Rejecting the cliché that too many cooks spoil the broth, CSNY proved that four bona fide legends can come together to achieve greatness. Largely unchallenged as their finest album, 1970’s Déjà Vu has been reissued as a luxury, 50th-anniversary box set containing brilliantly remastered audio and over three hours’ worth of material, easily making it one of the best reissues of 2021. Rife with perfect harmonies, folk expertise and psychedelic guitars, Déjà Vu is a magnificent snapshot of the ultimate supergroup at their peak.

Must hear: Déjà Vu

5: Talking Heads: ‘The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads’ (opaque red 2LP)

While not as legendary as their other live album, Stop Making Sense, The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads offers a different experience of the group’s taut redrawing of the post-punk rulebook. Revelling in the guitar twang of New Feeling and the funk-riddled Who Is It?, the collection, containing material spanning the years 1977-1981, now appears on “opaque red” vinyl, which Talking Heads completists can slot chronologically between the studio albums Remain In Light and Speaking In Tongues, the latter of which received a similarly sharp blue-vinyl reissue earlier this year.

Must hear: Memories (Can’t Wait)

4: The Beatles: ‘Let It Be: Super Deluxe Edition’ (5CD+Blu-ray)

Remastered in several formats, Let It Be soundtracked the unthinkable: the breakup of The Beatles. Over half a decade later, most of the group’s catalogue is still considered flawless, though Let It Be is sometimes overlooked in favour of their other big-name releases. Maybe it’s the Dylan-esque scrappiness of a few of the songs (namely, Two Of Us), or the fact its title track seems to cast a shadow over everything else on the album, but inside Let It Be lies a poignant finale from one of the greatest bands of all time.

Must hear: Let It Be

3: Nirvana: ‘Nevermind: 30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition’ (8LP+7”, 5CD+Blu-ray)

If there had to be some arbitrary cut-off point in music history to determine which albums are essential and which are not, Nevermind would ensure that point is no earlier than 1991 – and for good reason. Within the blink of an eye, the record seemed to blast from every radio, tape deck and TV in the world, changing rock music forever. Nevermind’s legacy is still very much alive, and this 30th-anniversary super-deluxe edition boasts a 7” single (as part of the vinyl box set) as well as the fully remastered original album, plus hours of incendiary live performances. Never has it been so essential a listen.

Must hear: Come As You Are

2: Joni Mitchell: ‘The Reprise Albums (1968-1971)’ (4LP box set)

Charting Joni Mitchell’s evolution from florid folk siren to uncompromisingly honest icon of the Lauren Canyon singer-songwriter scene, The Reprise Albums (1968-1971) collects her first four records – Song To A Seagull, Clouds, Ladies Of The Canyon and Blue – and leaves fans on a cliffhanger for the second instalment in the Joni Mitchell Archives Series. With Mitchell herself overseeing a brand-new remix of her debut, that record not only now sounds the way she always intended, it shows that Mitchell has always known what’s best for her art.

Must hear: A Case Of You

1: George Harrison: ‘All Things Must Pass’ (8LP box set)

A colossal reissue for a colossal post-Beatles record, All Things Must Pass comes in eight different formats, from the standard 2CD set to the herculean, 8LP super-deluxe package, the latter containing a bookmark from one of Harrison’s oak trees, George Harrison and gnome figurines, books, religious beads and more, all stored in a bespoke wooden chest and totalling a staggering £860. Whether it be aimed at Beatles obsessives or wealthy collectors, the sheer scale of such a release is impressive. As years’ worth of restrained and unrealised material poured forth for Harrison’s six-sided third solo record, this extravagant release matches the original album’s lavish nature, securing it as not only as one of the best reissues of 2021 so far, but a widely remembered artifact for years to come.

Must hear: What Is Life

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