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Rewinding August | The Best Oldies

Ian Lowery, Zappa and the Ann Arbor Blues Festival make impressive comebacks.

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

The Ian Lowery Group
King Blank To 30th Anniversary Edition

WHO IS HE? The lost legend of music, according to his website. Though if you’re an aficionado of British indie artists from the end of the last century, you might remember him from post-punk and indie bands like Ski Patrol, Phantom White Limb, Folk Devils and King Blank.

WHAT IS THIS? An expanded reissue of an obscure, long-forgotten 1989 album from the late singer-songwriter and one of a seemingly endless series of backing units.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? Better than expected — and more varied than you might think. Musically, Lowery covers the waterfront from wiry Johnny Thunders post-punk to bluesy ballads and rootsier fare reminiscent of Bad Seeds. Vocally, he sounds a lot like a young Graham Parker, but with a little less soul in the heart and a slightly bigger chip on his shoulder.

Various Artists
Ann Arbor Blues Festival 1969 Vol. 1 & 2

WHO ARE THEY? A who’s who of great bluesmen (and women) — including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Son House, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Mama Thornton, Junior Walker, Otis Rush and plenty more.

WHAT IS THIS? A two-volume collection of insanely great (and previously unreleased) live recordings from the landmark event, lovingly refurbished for the 50th anniversary and released by Jack White’s Third Man Records.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? The blues, the whole blues, and nothing but the blues. On a more practical technical and sonic level, it sounds pretty incredible for a mono recording made on 1/4″ tape half a century ago.

Frank Zappa
Orchestral Favorites 40th Anniversary

WHO IS HE? The late, great musical icon and iconoclast. The father of the Mothers of Invention. The childhood pal of Captain Beefheart. The owner-operator of the most recognizable moustache in music. The chart-topping brains behind the Top 40 hit Valley Girl. The man who took on the PMRC. And most importantly, the sardonic singer-guitarist, classical composer and ultra-prolific producer who released 62 albums in his lifetime (and left an archive that has spawned 50 posthumous releases so far).

WHAT IS THIS? A remastered and expanded reissue of a short-lived semi-live orchestral-rock album that was originally released in 1979 without his permission (and sans liner notes and credits) during a contract dispute with his label at the time.

WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE? A dish of ice-cold revenge — with a side of long-overdue artistic redemption. The three-disc set naturally features a pristine version of the original album, which was recorded in an empty concert hall in the afternoon before a gig with a 37-piece orchestra. But the sweeter treat for Zappaphiles comes on the other two albums, which deliver nearly two more hours of previously unreleased live fare (including some superb guitar solos, FZ’s snappy introductions and doses of sonic tomfoolery) from the subsequent evening concert.