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Rewinding June | The Best Oldies

From The Dead to ZZ Top, here are the albums I enjoyed the most.

Everything old is new again — eventually. Here are the best compilations and reissues that came out in June, listed in alphabetical order. Just click on the cover pictures to find the original review page (where you can usually listen to the album in full):

The Grateful Dead
Aoxomoxoa 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Call it Remiximer. This three-disc upgrade of The Grateful Dead’s deservedly iconic third album includes the rare original 1969 mix — it was one of the first albums to be recorded on 16-track tape, and the band went way overboard (and way into debt) — along with a shorter, streamlined 1971 remix and a selection of live recordings from a multi-night stand at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom in early 1969. It’s the sonic equivalent of a before-and-after picture.

Iggy Pop
Zombie Birdhouse Remastered

The world’s forgotten boy resurrects a long-forgotten oddity from 1982. Zombie Birdhouse, the former Stooges’ frontman’s sixth solo album, forsakes gritty guitars and hard-driving rhythms for skeletal tracks fuelled by noisy keyboards, understated beats and seat-of-the-pants performances. It’s definitely an acquired taste. It may not be Iggy Pop’s finest album — and it’s arguably his strangest — but it’s far from his worst.

Sonic Youth
Battery Park, NYC: July 4th 2008

Another month, another Sonic Youth live album. Not like that’s a bad thing. The disbanded (but still rightfully revered) noise-rock titans continue their archival live release series with this Independence Day performance in a park near their lower Manhattan stomping grounds. It’s a fine way to spend a holiday: The band is firing on all cylinders and the set list is heavy on Daydream Nation tracks, but also leaves room for early deep cuts and singles. Let the celebrations begin.

Neil Young & Stray Gators

Shakey? Not this time. This long-shelved and thoroughly solid live recording of a 1973 concert in Alabama during Neil Young’s Time Fades Away Tour captures Neil in peak form. Peppered with hits like Harvest, Old Man, Heart of Gold and After the Gold Rush, the performance and production are superb, while Young is even chatty (at least for him) between songs. One drawback: It’s not the whole show.

ZZ Top
Goin’ 50

That Little Ol’ Band From Texas — aka The World’s Biggest Band From Texas — dish out a 50-song anthology of remastered hits and highlights from their five-decade career. It’s the soundtrack to your adolescence. And it sounds great: The remastering has tightened and cleaned up all the tracks, rendering every wiry guitar lick, boogie beat and growled vocal with crisp clarity and perfect separation. Get out your headphones.


Bob Dylan
Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings

I didn’t get a copy of this massive 14-disc box until after it was released. And by the time I was able to make a decent dent in the sucker, it was too late (and I was too busy with newer titles) to crank out a review. Suffice to say that if you’re the kind of person who wants to hear umpteen different live versions of tracks like Hurricane, Isis, Just Like a Woman and a couple of dozen other gems from Bob Dylan, you and I are on the same page. And this set is right up your alley.