The main function of the reissue in 2006 was to expose music that didn’t get a whole lot of attention the first time around. Just about every album with proven commercial potential is already available (with a few notable exceptions), so the niche market is thriving. The concept of taking an album that’s been out of print and re-releasing it isn’t a new one, but it’s a process that’s consistently being refined. We’ve been spoiled, grown to feel entitled to b-sides, outtakes and lavish liner notes. All of this has helped to contextualize current trends in their respective genres.
The supposed folk music revival of the past few years has lead to the discovery of long since forgotten musicians, due in large part to the efforts of small reissue labels (The Numero Group) and modern-day folkies (Devendra Banhart).
This year provided an embarrassment of riches with the reissue of Fred Neil’s moody, self-titled second album, Karen Dalton’s In My Own Time and the discovery of Sibylle Baier’s Colour Green. Perhaps the most overlooked folk-gem of this year’s reissue crop was a live Sandy Bull concert from 1969, titled Still Valentine’s Day. The virtuoso guitarist/oud player was one of the true pioneers of world music, seamlessly blending everything from classical to eastern raga and American blues. The concert is a trance-like experience; Bull’s playing is rhythmic and unpredictable as he switches effortless between oud and electric guitar. At the time of the recording, Bull had just released his third album, a hazy masterpiece titled E Pluribus Unum, and its two pulsating guitar compositions stand as true highlights of the Valentine’s Day show. This is the first release of any Sandy Bull live material and the Water records label graciously packaged it with an additional set of songs from an April 5th show of the same year. Hopefully this will get the ball rolling for the future reissue of his seminal Vanguard records of the ’60s.
Though folk received an impressive array of reissues in 2006, it was post-punk that may have been the most richly rediscovered genre. There was the long-overdue re-mastering of Wire’s first three albums – whose scope and influence are pervasive in nearly all aspects of modern indie rock -, the rediscovery of Josef K with Entimology and a box-set of the full Talking Heads catalogue. The Fall got their sinister debut Live at the Witch Trials re-released with a full bonus album of Peel Sessions, capturing the band in its embryonic first stage. The guitars and drums are played with primitive passion as riffs build endlessly under Mark E. Smith nihilistic wail. And finally those in the know celebrated the treatment lavished upon the less heralded, but equally essential Comsat Angels by UK label Renascent.
2006 was also a great year for those with a taste for obscure foreign music. Jean Claude Vannier’s soundtrack, L’Enfant Des Assasins Des Mouches got it’s first domestic release and fans of Serge Gainsbourg’s classic Histoire De Melody Nelson got a great glimpse at where the arranger of some of Gainsbourg’s best work did on his own time. Another soundtrack, Vampyros Lesbos sounds garnered considerable attention and praise for sounding exactly like you’d expect 70’s Italian vampire lesbian porn music to sound.
Brazilian music, specifically from the late sixties was given a boost by Soul Jazz’s excellent compilation, Tropicalia: A Brazilian Revolution in Sound. That reissue, as well as Os Mutantes reunion appearances in the US, seemed to set off a revived interest in Caetano Veloso, Tim Maia and Gilberto Gil, but the wave also exposed great bands on the fringe of that movement. Som Imaginario were the backing band of Milton Nascimento, but their self-titled LP is just now beginning to get its due, thanks to a Rev-Ola reissue. Labels can’t describe the sound but imagine bossa nova meets British psych far out enough to attract praise from then cutting edge Herbie Hancock.
As if world music wasn’t enough, 2006 was blessed with a man that must have come from another planet. “I’m the church and I’ve come / to claim you with my iron drum” proclaimed John Cale in his definitive pop statement, 1973’s Paris 1919. With carefully constructed story-songs and whimsical orchestration Cale turned another corner in his eclectic career, proving to be a master pop auteur capable of melodic work every bit as inventive as his legendary noise experiments with The Velvet Underground. The music accurately depicts the dichotomous nature of its performer, with Cale playing both the indoctrinating clergyman – sitting high on a pulpit of bombastic horns and guitar – or the humble priest – quietly introspective and wisely prophetic. 2006 saw Rhino reissue the classic album with a set of previously unreleased bonus tracks for the first time.
There’s more too, plenty of jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop – more than enough for this newspaper to handle. We’re just thankful for the opportunity to hear the music most of us missed the first time around.