The 5 Best box sets and reissues of 2013


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I am one of those old guys that still buy physical copies of art (albums). I say it is because I need it to play in the car, but that’s really just an excuse. I love the sensation of unpacking a new album, the feel, the artwork, the printed lyrics, the smell, hell, the whole package!

When the record companies have sold me all the classic albums, they release them again, with better sound, with more songs and bonus features, I don’t feel cheated, I feel blessed. I love archival music stuff, and long to hear studio outtakes, live takes and alternative versions of songs.

It has been a good year for music archivists, and my favorite reissues/archival releases this year are:

 1. Bob Dylan – Another Self Portrait (1969-1971) The Bootleg Series Vol.10

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This is from my post right after I bought the box set:

I have now had a few days listening to the new Bootleg series 10 deluxe box set. It is very interesting, and it is actually rather good. I am one of those few that kind of liked the original album, so I expected to like Another Self Portrait. I was not expecting that I would like it as much as I do.

That said, there are two things that stand out however. The first is the demo version of When I Paint My Masterpiece, it knocked me out. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

But the best of the release is the full Isle of Wight performance with The Band, and I really did not expect that!

– Hallgeir Olsen (Johannasvisions.com)

When I paint my masterpiece – Demo:

A fantastic historical document!

2. The Band – Live at the Academy of Music 1971

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A 4-CD/1-DVD box set chronicles Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel’s 1971 concerts at New York’s Academy of Music, featuring arrangements by New Orleans great Allen Toussaint.

One of the best live albums in rock history got the deluxe treatment, and yes, it got even better. Rock of Ages had 18 wonderful tracks, this upgrade has 56(!) tracks with The Band (and Bob Dylan) at their very peak. 56 best takes of songs from  four evenings in 1971 (including the New-Years eve show in its entirety). I have played Rock of Ages so much I thought that nothing could surprise me, but this set did. The sound, the packaging, the liner notes and the pictures, everything is top-notch.

Life is a Carnival (Live, 1971):

3. Elvis Presley – Elvis at Stax (Deluxe Edition):

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In July and December 1973 Elvis Presley did recording sessions on McLemore Avenue (Stax) and produced material for three albums: Raised on Rock/For Ol’ Times Sake(1973), Good Times (1974) and Promised Land (1975).  The completed Stax masters, plus many alternate takes and outtakes, have now been collected by RCA Records and Legacy as the  3-CD box set Elvis at Stax.

It is just so great to hear Elvis so close to home both geographically and musically. This is how good he could be when he took some control. The set includes country/soul and crooner ballads side by side, all done with heart (and soul).

Elvis at Stax is a landmark release for bringing the Stax masters together. Most of his original album releases weren’t crafted or packaged to a standard matching that of his performances or the historical significance of these sessions.  The box set adds 27 outtakes and alternate takes that allow listeners to trace the evolution of a song. It’s a goldmine for us music lovers!

Some call it folk 
Some call it soul
but people let me tell you: It was Rock’n Roll
– Raised on Rock

Elvis Presley – Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues – Take 8:

 

4. Van Morrison – Moondance (Deluxe Edition):

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It is a marvelous night to revisit Van Morrison’s third and one of his best albums in expanded box set form. I know Van Morrison didn’t endorse this set, but I couldn’t resist buying it. It’s fantastic. The remastered Moondance is available in 1-CD, 2-CD and in my case, a 4-CD/1-BD editions, with the latter premiering hours of session material plus a stunning 5.1 surround mix.

The ease of Van’s singing, his incredible music sense, it reminds me of when I first saw movie clips of Elvis in the studio and at rehearsals, he jumps in and out of complex musical arrangements like it is second nature. And come to think of it, it probably is.

To witness the evolution of Into The Mystic is so rewarding and fascinating!

Van Morrison – Into The Mystic (Take 11):

 

5. Elvis Presley – Prince from another planet (Live):

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Ok, so it was released in 2012, I couldn’t get a hold of it until this year. And, man! It is good!

These two sold out shows were also Elvis Presley’s first (and only) New York concerts; the earlier appearances were television broadcasts.

An album (it went triple-platinum) chronicling the event was released just a week after the actual event.

Now, forty years later, Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden has been given a new mix, a new title (mimicking the New York Times headline after the concerts) ,  Prince from Another Planet: Elvis as Recorded Live at Madison Square Garden  – 40th Anniversary Edition from RCA and Legacy Recordings (2 CDs and 1 DVD).  Produced by Rob Santos and Ernst Mikael Jorgensen (Elvis archivist extraordinaire) and with the inclusion of newly discovered film footage from Madison Square Garden, it’s even an even greater historical event than it was when it happened.

Finally the Elvis stuff get the treatment it deserves!

Elvis Presley – Polk Salad Annie (The afternoon show, MSG 10 June 1972):

 

PS: These were also very good:

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Box

Especially this remastered version of Girl from the North Country:

Townes Van Zandt – Sunshine Boys: The Unheard Studio Sessions & Demos 1971-72
The Beatles – On Air: Live at the BBC  Vol.2
Gene Clark – Here tonight: The White Light Demos
Marvin Gaye – Trouble Man 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition
Duane Allman – Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective

I have not bought the Complete Dylan Box set (yet…)

– Hallgeir

23 thoughts on “The 5 Best box sets and reissues of 2013”

  1. I don’t think there is more than those 18 minutes…it was the first ever program he did for VPRO television…later he also made 200 Motels with Frank Zappa…Roelof Kiers is dead now and if there ever was more footage it is in his estate VPRO told me and that is not very forthcoming in replying to the email I sent them over six months ago… 🙁

    1. I cannot understand why (if it exists) they wouldn’t release it (or sell it to someone who would).

      I’m guessing they’re not aware of the cultural significance of the material…

      It’s a shame

      – Hallgeir

  2. Hallgeir,
    Thanks for the continued excellence you continue to deliver in your blog.

    I wondered what your opinion is on the many archival (some limited edition) of the Grateful Dead. I do fully acknowledge that the Grateful Dead were primarily an American institution & had (have) a much smaller audience in Europe.

    Chuck Indianapolis, IN USA

    1. Both me and Egil have listened a lot to Grateful Dead this last year, but we are novices when compared to the real “Deadheads”.

      Of the official albums I love, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty of course.

      The live stuff is so vast and so much to take in, that I must say that I am still in the 70s when it comes to The Dead.

      All the 1972 stuff both from Europe and the US are fantastic

      We have talked about this and we want to learn more about Grateful Dead and to do more posts on them in the future.

      🙂

      I’m sorry that we can’t help you more, but we have just begun our journey into the strange world of Grateful Dead

      – Hallgeir

    1. I love those 18 minutes, and it would be great if the whole concert existed.

      Do anyone out there know if there is more?

      Thanks for you great feedback!

      – Hallgeir

  3. Re: Moondance…I did not notice until after opening the box that one of the cd’s is a blue ray one…
    That was not very clearly stated ….but my record store, Fame Plaza in Amsterdam, were so kind
    to take it back because they believed me when I said I had not taken any of the cd’s out of their sleeve. Bravo Fame for your customer friendlly attitude!

    1. The blu-ray in this set is a version of the original album with fantastic sound (on a surround sound system, that is)!

      I was very happy to get that 🙂

      – Hallgeir

      1. Sorry, but have to disagree with you on the Moondance surround disc. I thought it was very gimmicky with instruments strangely moved to rear channels and reading the liner notes got the impression it was a pretty old mix from 10 years back, which would explain the odd treatment. This is a case where the high resolution download (available on HDtracks) is much, much better sounding and clearly the better (and newer) digital transfer. Also, most of the extra tracks were pretty uninteresting and really did not enhance the listening experience or understanding of the genius of the album (as opposed to let’s say the Dylan ‘Self Portrait” which was an eye opener).

        1. I like the sound on the Moondance Blu-ray, but I can see that it isn’t to everyone’s taste.
          I am not a Hi-Fi enthusiast, but I want good sounding music. I am sure that many Hi-Fi people find the blu-ray mix a bit strange.

          I believe it was mixed by Elliot Scheiner, , Scheiner have also mixed titles like Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Hotel California and The Nightfly, and is considered some kind of “guru” (for blu-ray mixing at least). I don’t think it is gimmicky, it is not very subtle and kind of spacey (typical surround sound) but as I said I like it.

          Scheiner’s mix is presented on Blu-ray along with the stereo mix in 192 kHz/24-bit high resolution, and he has also remastered the original album on CD.

          Thanks for your comment, different views are always welcome!

          – Hallgeir

  4. re : The Band Live at the Academy of Music
    I bought the DeLuxe Edition because of the ‘dvd’….. but it is not really a dvd…only two live performances and the rest is only pictures, so I was disappointed in that…

    1. Well, yes, It would have been great to have the whole show (all shows!) on film, but I was aware of the content on the DVD so I just saw it as a bonus 🙂

      Thanks for your comment

      – Hallgeir

  5. GREAT LIST! I know some people prefer Elvis’s afrernoon show at MSG, I disagree I think the originally released Saturday night show is better. The box set is great. When are we going to get a DVD box set of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue? How long must we wait?

    1. Well, I am afraid that we have to make do with The Rolling Thunder pick and mix concert in The Bootleg series (vol.5) my favorite of the series, but I agree with you, a complete concert (or more!) on dvd/blu-ray would have been heaven. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment!

      – Hallgeir

  6. PS I’m just guessing you omitted The Complete Dylan set as it just belongs in it’s own category tbh…

    1. Thanks for your comment, at the end of the post I write:

      “I have not bought the Complete Dylan Box set (yet…)”

      I am still a bit on the fence on this one, I’ve bought the albums on many formats now and I’m not sure if I’m gonna use my money on this one…

      – Hallgeir

  7. There would have been a RIOT on here if Self Portrait wasn’t no1 !

    I’m not an Elvis or Cash kinda guy, but if I wanted to get a box set that served as a good overview of their careers, then what would you recommend?

    1. 🙂

      I would recommend 4 box sets of Elvis:

      King of Rock & Roll: The Complete 50s Masters
      From Nashville to Memphis: The Essential 60s Masters
      Walk a Mile in My Shoes: Essential 70’s Masters
      &
      I Believe: The Gospel Masters

      By Johnny Cash, I would recommend these three:

      The Complete Columbia Album Collection (63 discs!) ..and a bit on the expensive side
      The Legend is a more affordable and also very fine box
      Unearthed (The Essential American Recordings Box Set)

      – Hallgeir

      1. Thanks. I must look into some Elvis and some Cash this year.

        Did you consider The Clash’s box sets from this year ? Sound System and 5 Studio Albums ? Both way better than Moondance imo. I’ve never rated VM though … Always feel he is trying too hard (much like Cat Stevens)

        1. “Much like Cat Stevens” hehehe

          I like Cat Stevens (a bit), but I see few similarities 🙂

          I haven’t bought The Clash set yet, but it is on my list. Love them.

          – Hallgeir

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