As we reflect upon yet another questionable year, many of us music obsessives and collectors find solace in the lists chronicling the releases of the past 12 months, often in the hopes of scoring some of the coveted items for ourselves if we haven’t already. This time out, we’re going to recap a mix of monumental retro releases that you also may be interested in grabbing. There’s no order, per se, just a line list of goodies and some good reasons to score them. And while there are loads more that could’ve been included, you will find a couple of unexpected gems you’re highly unlikely to see in other Top-10 lists. Have at it.
Destroyer 45th Anniversary Edition
Whether or not you agree with KISS’s over-the-top approach to marketing and merchandising, for the legions of diehard fans the world over, deluxe reissues and special releases are like crack to a lovesick junkie. Gene Simmons obviously knows this, and to his label’s credit, they often do a bang-up job of repackaging the stuff many of us have already owned for ages in tantalizing new ways to get us to part with our hard-earned cash. This time, they’ve outdone themselves even further.
But first, Destroyer is arguably KISS’s most accomplished body of work. Produced by the legendary Bob Ezrin (David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd), the album features KISS concert staples such as “Detroit Rock City,” “King of the Night Time World,” “Flaming Youth,” “God of Thunder,” “Shout It Out Loud,” ‘Do you Love Me,” “Beth” and more—a veritable greatest hits in its own right. Ezrin’s studio polish elevates things further, imbuing the music with a dark, post-apocalyptic aura to match the cover art while maintaining the infectious hooks and chain-gang choruses.
To commemorate the release, Universal released a massive box set (as well as more economical singular versions). The set includes the original album remastered on CD, a disc of demos from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, a disc of studio outtakes, alternate version and different mixes, a 1976 live set from Paris, a Blu-ray audio disc for superior sound, plus a bevy of collectible goodies. Said goodies include a replicated version of the band’s 1976 KISS Army fan club kit including a newsletter, photos, discography, bios, membership certificates, trading cards, posters and more—all the physical stuff you would’ve gotten if you were lucky enough to have been a member way back before the days of digital assets or streaming sites. All of this comes complete in a mammoth box that replicates the original iconic artwork. (Universal)
No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith: 40th Anniversary Edition
In a similar fashion to KISS Alive, Motörhead’s 1981 live opus No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith was the release that helped forge the band’s standing on the world stage. Prior to this release, Lemmy Kilmster and Co. had already released some key studio albums including Overkill, Bomber, and Ace of Spades, the latter of which, would help elevate it to the front of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal pack at the turn of the ’80s in its own right. But, No Sleep—which captured the band at its most energized and unhinged—would be the release that would truly break it to a much wider audience, and permanently cement its place within the annals of rock ‘n’ roll.
This 2021 edition comes available in various iterations aimed squarely at those of us who have to have every single artifact, denting our pocketbooks further in the process. The version that sits the most comfortably from both a cost and level-of-goods perspective, is the LP set. Fashioned as a hardback book, this set features three LPs showcasing the original live tracks, plus an additional album of recently unearthed live cuts from the period. It also includes a book with loads of photos from the era. Over the years, I’ve seen different iterations of this album ranging from single to double CDs, to various import and domestic LP versions. But finally, we have all the essentials in one place, in remastered form that adds a new sonic sheen to the proceedings without sacrificing the raw power of this epic live offering. (BMG)
Also from Motörhead comes the greatest hits collection Everything Louder Forever. Spread across four high-quality vinyl slabs, this set does a decent job of collecting tracks from across the band’s entire career. For my money, I would’ve appreciated more from the Another Perfect Day album (1983) that had initially befuddled some fans by straying a bit from the traditional formula but has since been re-evaluated for its musical muscle. But that aside, this comp provides a decent summary of the band’s work and includes the raucous cover of “God Save The Queen” as well as the band’s tribute to its spiritual cousins with “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” (BMG)
The Complete Atco Recordings 1982-2004
So this one’s a bit of an oddball. In the early ‘80s before hard rock and heavy metal became super fragmented with subgenres like thrash and glam, what you had were just solid heavy rock bands that garnered respect from all sides of the spectrum. It wasn’t uncommon to see a studded denim vest adorned with both Scorpions and Motörhead patches, and there was no shame to go around.
Dutch band Vandenberg came out just before the fragmentation began to set in and the band’s debut was a perfect example of agnostic hard rock with both pop overtones and heavy guitar bits, courtesy of the band’s founder and lead axe man, Adrian Vandenberg.
The band’s self-titled 1982 debut is loaded with gargantuan riffs, big choruses and spider-like lead guitars that garnered respect from critics and fans alike, and would set Mr. Vandenberg up for a long time as he would later join the massively successful Whitesnake in the later ‘80s, as part of the then, highly fragmented metal scene. But for now, the band’s first album was seen as a valued component of the emerging ‘80s metal scene in its infancy, and songs like “Lost in the City” and the ballad “Burning Heart” would prove to be influential.
This cool little set comes with a remastered version of the eponymous first album, plus the band’s two follow-ups, and a fourth disc of rare demos, live tracks, and studio oddities. For fans of this criminally overlooked little combo, this one’s an essential edition. (HNE Records)
Riot City: Complete Singles Collection — The Sound Of UK 82
For the vintage punk sector, the release of this killer comp was like the second coming of St. Sid Vicious. The seriously independent Riot City label put out dozens of LPs and singles in the UK during the early ‘80s—and some of those items, such as the original releases from the Undead and Abrasive Wheels can fetch some serious coin on collector sites.
The problem, though, has been that many of these bands have been unavailable in any sort of digital form, sans a few CD releases for a few over the years, so for those who stream or take their tunes on the go, there was virtually no way to do it with any semblance of sonic quality. The aforementioned Undead for instance, has been virtually impossible to find except for on mostly thrashed vinyl copies if you were lucky enough to find any in the first place, so right there you’d be missing out if you’re a fan of the band’s darkly-tinged rhythmic racket.
This comp takes care of that. While some of the original sources are better than others, like the Vice Squad tracks that have previously appeared in digital form (featuring then-teenage punk icon in the making, Beki Bondage on vocals), it’s nice to have the catalog in one place, especially with much of the original vinyl being so scarce.
This 4-disc comp features the obscure label’s entire singles output, with 118 tracks in all. It also features the label’s previously released comp Riotous Assembly, which features 15 special tracks earmarked specifically for the original release in 1982. (Captain Oi!)
Sell Out: Super Deluxe Edition
When The Who released Sell Out in 1967, it was a band in serious transition. The group had somewhat run its course as mod hipsters sporadically dominating the singles market at various junctures, and was desperately looking for ways to be taken more seriously. To do that, they needed to craft a cohesive album that could stand on its own, without just one or two singles carrying it.
Sell Out is just that, and more. In fact, it’s so many things: a post-modern concept album, a power-pop record with heavy metal leanings, a visionary pop-art statement on the commercialism of the music industry, and more. Aside from some killer Who staples such as the heavier than thou “I Can See For Miles,” “Armenia City in the Sky” and “Our Love Was,” the album features faux commercials, product placements and PSAs, some 20 years before Sigue Sigue Sputnik got ridiculed for using real ones on its Flaunt It album.
This mammoth set, available in both vinyl and CD formats, comes with the original album in both mono and stereo, plus Pete Townshend demos, outtakes, jingles that didn’t make the cut, and other little nuggets. There are also 9 posters from the era, assorted memorabilia pieces, and a hardbound book with photos and liner notes.
For questions, comments, or something you’d like to see, drop me a note at Retrohead77@yahoo.com. Cheers