In keeping with the trend of recent years, 2012 was a first-rate year for rock's reissue movement. The historian in each of us was well sated with a nonstop stream of box sets, anthologies, rediscovered albums, compilations and archival live recordings.
The year's most culturally significant release was far and away Can's The Lost Tapes, a massive collection of unreleased material culled from the pioneering band's 1969 to '75 period. Yet another high-profile box arrived in the form of The Velvet Underground & Nico. Basically a greatly expanded version of the group's debut (six discs!), it boasts both the stereo and mono versions of the original album; Nico's Chelsea Girl LP; the legendary Scepter Studios acetate; and a whole mess of bonus tracks, single-only releases and live recordings. Simply astonishing.
Also appearing in the past 12 months were deluxe editions of such iconic records as Graceland; Rage Against the Machine; L.A. Woman; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Janis Joplin's Pearl; and R.E.M.'s Document. All of these titles are, of course, great. But with their wide assortment of pull-the-curtain-back demos, it's those first two, Graceland and Rage Against the Machine, that really steal the show.
Now as for the single biggest, out-of-nowhere surprise of 2012, that's obvious: Light in the Attic's reissue of Donnie & Joe Emerson's 1979 private-press record Dreamin' Wild, an absolute must-hear for any fan of power pop and psychedelic-tinged soft rock. That said, another vital title is Midnight Cleaners from the British cult band The Cleaners from Venus. Originally released way back in 1982, it's a dreamy slice of lo-fi jangle pop, right up there with the best from Television Personalities and The Pastels.
Finally, because Napster is a digital subscription service, each year we bring in numerous titles that were previously unavailable in digital form. These aren't reissues in the purest sense, yet they're certainly deserving of attention in a similar manner. Examples: This year saw us (finally) get Robin Gibb's baroque pop masterpiece, Robin's Reign; Sparks' disco-pop classic No. 1 in Heaven; and the bulk of the Frank Zappa catalog. All top-shelf music for sure.
And now on to Napster's top 25 rock reissues of 2012.
(P.S. Be sure to dive into that Man Chest Hair compilation!)