mon 22/07/2024

Music Reissues Weekly: Looking back at 2021 | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Looking back at 2021

Music Reissues Weekly: Looking back at 2021

Linda Smith, Karen Black, Elton John, Screamers, Sixties psych-punk, Graham Collier, The Count Bishops and more

Linda Smith waits for the door to be openedPatrick Lears

The archive release which had the greatest impact, and still does, was Linda Smith’s Till Another Time 1988-1996. After it turned up, the reaction to a first play was instant. How could this have escaped attention? The compilation opened the door on a brilliant artist, one previously known to a particular audience.

Till Another Time raises the point that it’s impossible to keep on top of everything, to know about everything. Even though she issued new releases until relatively recently, Smith had slipped through a personal knowledge crack. Thankfully, that’s now rectified.

Elton John Regimental Sgt. ZippoThat’s one aspect of what the best archive releases should be about: bringing something to attention. Who knew that actor Karen Black had a parallel, mostly hidden, recording career? Dreaming Of You (1971-1976) drew attention to this. Screamers’s Demo Hollywood 1977 was the first official release from the California punk-era band, and it rewrote how musical reactions to the ructions of 1977 are perceived. Despite its minimalist presentation, the psych-era Elton John album Regimental Sgt. Zippo (pictured right) did the same (officially, that is: bootlegs had collected material from the period) with someone much more famous than Screamers.

Recontextualising the familiar to tell a new story is also important. A fine various artists compilation can set a new narrative for a facet of pop history which seems already over examined. See the Sixties punk/psych comps Blow My Mind! The Doré-Era-Mira Punk & Psych Legacy and Lost Innocence - Garpax 1960s Punk & Psych for this. The same with Jon Savage's 1972-1976 - All Our Times Have Come.

Count Bishops speedball_coverFor single artists, the thorough Goldie & the Gingerbreads set Thinking About The Good Times revealed everything about this extraordinary New York band. Help Yourself’s Passing Through, The Complete Studio Recordings was a box set dedicated to a British band which, it became clear, were responsible for some of the pre-punk Seventies most astonishing recordings: another personal knowledge crack was plugged. Although it said nothing new musically, the Laura Nyro box American Dreamer was lovely, drew fresh attention to her and included an incisively written book which did say lots that was new. The Graham Collier album British Conversations couldn’t fail to say something new as it brought to the world a recording of music which had not been issued before.

Occasionally, a reissue has a wider significance than what’s in its grooves. The Count Bishops’s Speedball EP is and was great, but when first issued in 1975 it inadvertently began the UK’s punk-era independent label boom. There was also its fascinating relationship with the grassroots of pre-punk and punk London. The story – and its tremendous significance – would not have been apparent without some historic distance.

A major part of the fun with archive releases or reissues is that – as considering the Count Bishops EP confirmed – there is nothing necessarily or intrinsically retro about encountering music from the past. Even if what’s heard is familiar, the experience can be as fresh and stimulating as hearing a new album from a current band for the first time. And sometimes, as it was with Linda Smith, it really was the first time.


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