You’d never know things were pretty messed up out there right now by the latest batch of reissues that came out in summer 2020.
The period included the usual mix of archival releases: anniversary collections, expanded sets, era-chronicling boxes, theme albums and material that’s been stuffed away in the vaults for decades.
New albums by the Doors (expanding one of their great LPs for its 50th anniversary), Elvis Presley (putting early ’70s sessions in a proper context), the Replacements (revisiting one of their classic albums with outtakes, demos and alternate versions), the Stooges (making the last show of the original lineup official) and Frank Zappa (finding another fun Halloween show for release) are all worthy additions to your collection.
There are even two new Fleetwood Mac reissues, both from the period before those two Americans came on board and made them one of the biggest bands on the planet. Plus, a couple of multi-artist compilations released exclusively for Record Store Day dig up a bunch of great, little-known garage-rock and psych-pop tracks from the ’60s that are worth discovering.
The Doors, Morrison Hotel (50th Anniversary Edition)
What It Is: The Doors’ penultimate album with Jim Morrison celebrates its golden anniversary with a two-disc set that includes more than an hour of previously unreleased studio sessions.
What’s on It: A handful of the record’s songs are charted in the studio sessions, which range from early, embryonic takes to fully fleshed-out tracks that rival, and sometimes even top, the released versions.
Best Song You Know: “Roadhouse Blues” is the best and best-known song on Morrison Hotel, but the band’s fifth album was back-to-basics splendor after the previous year’s experimental and dreary The Soft Parade.
Best Song You Don’t Know: An unreleased take of LP tracks “Peace Frog” and “Blue Monday,” stretched to nearly six minutes, bridges the two songs in a more natural way than the album setting.
Fleetwood Mac, Fleetwood Mac (1969-1974)
What It Is: Eight CDs collect the band’s output from 1969-74 – from Then Play On, Fleetwood Mac’s last album with Peter Green, through Heroes Are Hard to Find, the LP they made right before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks changed things forever.
What’s on It: All of the albums come with bonus tracks, which range from great single-only releases like “Oh Well – Pts. I & II” and “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)” to versions edited for airplay. There’s also a new live LP from 1974.
Best Song You Know: “Oh Well” is the band’s best pre-superstar song, but Mac’s shifting lineups made for some rocky years. Still, Bob Welch‘s “Hypnotized,” from 1973’s Mystery to Me, is sparkling dream-pop that hinted at what was to come.
Best Song You Don’t Know: “Good Things (Come to Those Who Wait),” the only previously unreleased song on Fleetwood Mac (1969-1974), comes from the Mystery to Me era. Far from essential, though.
Fleetwood Mac, Then Play On: Celebration Edition
What It Is: This cheaper alternative to the new Fleetwood Mac (1969-1974) box collects the band’s best pre-Buckingham/Nicks album and its last with founder Peter Green. Like the box, it includes the LP’s original U.K. track listing.
What’s on It: The same three bonus tracks found on the box are here: “Oh Well – Pts. I & II” (divided into two tracks), “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” and “World in Harmony.” There’s also a 16-page book included.
Best Song You Know: Before Buckingham and Nicks arrived in 1975, “Oh Well” and “The Green Manalishi” were two of Fleetwood Mac’s best songs. They’re still significant parts of the band’s long history.
Best Song You Don’t Know: There’s no previously unreleased songs on the “Celebration Edition,” but you may not be familiar with the instrumental second part of “Oh Well,” which extends the track to nearly nine minutes.
Elvis Presley, From Elvis in Nashville
What It Is: In 1971, Elvis Presley released his last good album, Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old). This four-CD set gathers 74 tracks laid down during five days of sessions in June 1970 at Nashville’s RCA Studio B.
What’s on It: Newly mixed versions of songs that appeared on a handful of LPs from the early ’70s mingle with two discs of outtakes and previously unreleased cuts from the fruitful sessions.
Best Song You Know: “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” just missed the Top 10 in 1970. Lots of artists have covered it over the years, none better than Dusty Springfield in 1966. Elvis’ version is the second best.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Outtakes include a rough-and-tumble take on Eddie Rabbitt’s “Patch It Up” and the first take of “Snowbird,” which was an earlier hit for Anne Murray. “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water,” buried on Elvis Country, is good too.
The Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition)
What It Is: The band’s 1987 album, and second major-label push to make them stars, is expanded to three discs of outtakes, demos and alternate mixes. More so than last year’s Don’t Tell a Soul overhaul, it’s the definitive word on the era.
What’s on It: A newly remastered original LP plus B-sides take up one disc; early demos fill up another. A third disc includes mostly previously unreleased rough mixes and unused songs from the sessions.
Best Song You Know: Leader Paul Westerberg’s same-named tribute to cult rocker Alex Chilton is one of the Replacements’ best songs, but the horn-kissed “Can’t Hardly Wait” should have been the break they were looking for.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Rough mixes and demos for album cuts “I.O.U.,” “Never Mind” and “Valentine” reveal how fully formed Westerberg’s songs were going into the studio. And the leftover “Birthday Gal” deserves a second chance.
The Stooges, Live at Goose Lake: August 8th 1970
What It Is: The last performance by the Stooges’ original lineup found bassist Dave Alexander standing onstage before 200,000 people and not playing a single note. Frontman Iggy Pop fired him immediately afterward.
What’s on It: The seven song-set includes all the songs from the band’s second album, Fun House, which came out around the same time as this festival show. The soundboard recording is a bit rough, but it suits the proto-punks.
Best Song You Know: The concert is previously unreleased, so technically you don’t know any of these tracks. But the songs they played that day include Fun House classics “Loose,” “Down on the Street” and “T.V. Eye.”
Best Song You Don’t Know: “T.V. Eye” summarizes the Stooges in six glorious, body-blistering minutes. A revised band still had one more great album in them – 1973’s Raw Power – but this is the last stand by the original quartet. Alexander died in 1975.
Frank Zappa, Halloween 81
What It Is: The third Zappa Halloween box to be released since 2017 collects the three shows performed at New York City’s Palladium on six discs. It’s packaged with a Count Frankula mask and cape so you can have your own party.
What’s on It: Nobody really knew what to expect from Zappa’s annual concerts, and 1981’s was even more freewheeling than usual. It was broadcast live on MTV, which wasn’t even three months old at the time.
Best Song You Know: Fan favorites like “Chunga’s Revenge,” “Doreen” and “King Kong” are all here, as is a cover of the Allman Brothers‘ epic “Whipping Post.” Seventy-eight of the live tracks are previously unreleased.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Because many of these cuts are making their first official appearance, there’s a lot here you don’t know. “I’m the Slime” from the Nov. 1 show is pretty great; so is that box-opening “Chunga’s Revenge.”
Various Artists, Double Whammy! A 1960s Garage Rock Rave-Up
What It Is: This Record Store Day LP collects 16 garage-rock tracks released from 1965-68. Most of the artists and songs are obscure, but you probably know the Count Five’s great “Psychotic Reaction,” included here in unedited form.
What’s on It: Three of Double Whammy!‘s songs are previously unreleased, but unless you’re deep into the genre, most of this will be new to most listeners. It’s a raging testament to the eternal power of three-chord rock ‘n’ roll.
Best Song You Know: “Psychotic Reaction” is a garage-rock staple and even reached No. 5 in 1965. Its inclusion on the essential Nuggets compilation sealed its legacy decades ago. This longer version gives you more to love.
Best Song You Don’t Know: The Music Machine had two songs on the expanded Nuggets box from 1998, including “Talk Talk.” A previously unreleased extended version of their “People in Me” is a highlight here.
Various Artists, The Land of Sensations & Delights: The Psych Pop Sounds of White Whale Records, 1965–1970
What It Is: Another Record Store Day offering, this double LP gathers 26 songs from the short-lived label that helped launch the Turtles. Some of the artists will be familiar to genre fans, but there’s lots to discover here.
What’s on It: Bands with names like Professor Morrison’s Lollipop and the Everpresent Fullness are prevalent. Many tracks follow suit. Curiously, none is by the Turtles. The Land of Sensations & Delights was available on CD before, but this is its vinyl debut.
Best Song You Know: Like the Double Whammy! compilation, this one includes a bunch of artists who never made much noise outside of their hometowns. But Lyme & Cybelle’s “Song #7” features a young Warren Zevon.
Best Song You Don’t Know: Cuts by Smokestack Lightnin’ and Professor Morrison’s Lollipop stand out. So does a cover of the Beach Boys‘ “Vegetables” by the Laughing Gravy, an alias of Dean Torrence from surf-music legends Jan & Dean.