Reissue Roundup: Winter Sets From Allmans, Def Leppard and More
Following the mad rush of the holidays, the first quarter of the new year is typically the slowest period for music releases - especially reissues, which make popular gifts.
But these past few winter months weren't totally dead. A small slate of great reissues, compilations and archival releases kept us busy.
New box sets by Cream and Def Leppard unveil vintage live shows for the first time. The Leppard set also collects most of their earliest material, before Pyromania and MTV rocketed them to the stratosphere.
And there are two different Allman Brothers Band-related collections, one focusing on the group's long, five-decade history and another featuring four reissues of early songs recorded by Duane and Gregg Allman before they hit the big time.
There's also a reissue of the debut solo album, and ultra-rare collectible, by a Blue Cheer guitarist that's often named among the first heavy metal records ever recorded, as well as the 10th volume of the similar-minded Brown Acid series of rare proto-metal songs from the late '60s and '70s.
Take a look below as we outline some of the best winter sets in our Reissue Roundup.
Duane and Gregg Allman, Duane & Gregg, Hour Glass, Hour Glass - Power of Love, Allman Joys (Early Allman Featuring Duane and Gregg Allman)
What It Is: Four albums collect Duane and Gregg Allman's early work before their band took off. Allman Joys, recorded in 1966, was first; two Hour Glass LPs followed. Duane & Gregg, from 1973, gathers 1968 demos for Butch Trucks' the 31st of February group.
What's on It: All of these vintage records make their CD debuts. The Allman Brothers Band's self-titled debut arrived in 1969; these all lead in to that era with a familiar mix of R&B and blues that came to define their later celebrated records.
Best Song You Know: An early version of Gregg Allman's "Melissa," which ended up on 1972's Eat a Peach, is a highlight of the Duane and Gregg reissue that's dominated by the core members of the 31st of February. The Allmans were mere session players.
Best Song You Don't Know: The Allman Joys recordings didn't surface until after the Allman Brothers hit No. 1 with Brothers and Sisters and Duane Allman was dead. Their cover of "Spoonful" can't top Cream's, but it hints at what was to come.
The Allman Brothers Band, Trouble No More: 50th Anniversary Collection
What It Is: Five CDs celebrate the golden anniversary of the Allman Brothers. The box is broken into eras, starting with a demo of "Trouble No More," a Muddy Waters song that ended up on 1969's debut, and closing with a 2014 live version of the same cut.
What's on It: There's plenty of space given to the band's peak Capricorn years, which spanned their self-titled first LP from 1969 through their 1981 split. One disc each is saved for the 1990-2000 reunion decade and their last 14 touring years.
Best Song You Know: The studio version of "Whipping Post" from The Allman Brothers Band is here, but four songs from 1971's career-making live album At Fillmore East take center stage, including the searing "Statesboro Blues."
Best Song You Don't Know: A relatively brisk "Mountain Jam," which clocks in at an uncharacteristically economical 12 minutes, from a 1973 concert is one of seven previously unreleased tracks on Trouble No More. It's great to hear some restraint.
Cream, Goodbye Tour Live - 1968
What It Is: Four discs collect a quartet of shows from Cream's farewell tour: Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and London dates are included. The latter's Royal Albert Hall performance marked the band's final concert.
What's on It: More than half of the box's three dozen tracks are previously unreleased. The full shows feature mostly the same set lists, so hopefully you like "White Room," "Crossroads" and "Toad," because they're here four times each.
Best Song You Know: A nine-minute "I'm So Glad" from the Forum in Los Angeles opened the 1969 Goodbye album. The running time is expanded a bit as the fourth song from the concert on this new set, signaling the moment the band takes off.
Best Song You Don't Know: The Royal Albert Hall show has never been released on CD before, though it came out on DVD about 15 years ago. It's the highlight of Goodbye Tour Live, ending with a rare performance of blues cover "Steppin' Out."
Def Leppard, The Early Years 79-81
What It Is: Five CDs document Def Leppard's history before Pyromania made them worldwide superstars. Two discs collect their first LPs; the other three range from an unreleased live show to rare early recordings to BBC sessions from 1979.
What's on It: The band's first two albums - 1980's On Through the Night and 1981's High 'n' Dry - are remastered, giving a little more pop to its least-polished records. Their debut three-song EP is here too, along with single edits and remixes.
Best Song You Know: "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," from High 'n' Dry, bombed when it was initially released as a single. Remixed and reissued three years later after Pyromania blew up, it fared better. Both versions are on The Early Years.
Best Song You Don't Know: The box's third disc, When the Walls Came Tumbling Down, collects an Oxford concert from April 1980 that's never been officially released. The set is filled with On Through the Night tracks plus rarities like "Medicine Man."
Randy Holden, Population II
What It Is: Randy Holden played guitar on part of Blue Cheer's third album, New! Improved!, in 1969. A year later he released his first solo LP, a cult classic and early doom-metal record that must have scared the crap out of people back then.
What's on It: Remastered to fine-tune every amp-shredding note, Population II is even heavier than Blue Cheer's foundation-shaking 1968 debut, Vincebus Eruptum, an inspiration for this sludgy, guitar-soaked album.
Best Song You Know: Unless you're really into collecting super-obscure proto-metal albums, you're probably not that familiar with Population II, which had a limited pressing and distribution when it came out.
Best Song You Don't Know: "Blue My Mind" is six and a half minutes of the sort of rock 'n' roll that most bands shied away from in 1970. Holden and his drummer lock into a groove and then take it for a spin that never regains its balance. Thankfully.
Hank Williams, Pictures From Life's Other Side
What It Is: Six CDs collect performances from Williams' morning show on a Nashville radio station starting in 1951. The 15-minute program featured the country legend and his band playing his classic songs and more in a loose, freewheeling style.
What's on It: The material has been compiled before, most notably on an exhaustive 15-disc set in 2010, but most of the filler is excised here, so you're left with just the best tracks. Plus, a new 272-page book features tons of rare photos of Williams.
Best Song You Know: There's more than 140 songs here, so all of his classic cuts are included: "Lovesick Blues," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Hey Good Lookin'," sometimes in multiple versions.
Best Song You Don't Know: Williams was one of the first artists to cover Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying the Rain," which was originally recorded in 1947 by Roy Acuff but didn't become a country standard until 1975, when Willie Nelson made it a classic.
Various Artists, Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip
What It Is: The curators of the 10th volume in this great series once again dig up obscure hard-rock tracks from the '60s and '70s that were just a little too loud and dirty to make local playlists at the time. Some are still ahead of their time.
What's on It: The 10 songs here come from Denver, Atlanta, Louisville, Canada and other North American locales where kids were armed with weed, guitars and too much time on their hands. This is the sound of garage-rock skirting the lines of metal.
Best Song You Know: Chances are you probably haven't heard any of these songs, unless you were friends with the bands back in the day (or maybe even in one of the groups). The best is Sounds Synonymous' riff-heavy "Tensions."
Best Song You Don't Know: Like most Brown Acid compilations, the songs and artists on The Tenth Trip can sorta bleed into one after about 15 minutes, but there's no shortage of awesome tracks here. You won't know them, but crank the volume anyway.