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SDE’s best reissues of 2020

Keen though we all are to move on from 2020, allow SDE to take moment to look back at some of the best reissues and box sets from this year…



Tears For Fears / The Seeds of Love 
(4CD+blu-ray box set – UMC)

It’s curiously appropriate that the reissue of Tears For Fears‘ 1989 album took four or five years to reach fruition, echoing the drawn out process of the original recording sessions over 30 years ago.

The 4CD+blu-ray super deluxe edition started by bringing together remastered album and a (comprehensive) collection of B-sides, remixes and edits before moving into another gear for the final three discs, all of which offer entirely unreleased audio.

While rumours of a ‘scrapped album’ proved unfounded, the box set reveals all sorts of interesting diversions and challenges during recording. For example, it’s pretty clear that someone wanted ‘Year of the Knife’ to be a single but despite endless attempts to whip it into shape for the pop charts, that never happened. We FINALLY get a taste of the legendary ‘Langer/Winstanley’ sessions, only to collectively conclude that TFF were probably right to follow their gut instinct and go it alone. Best of all, we are offered the role of ‘fly on the wall’ as the Tears For Fears (really just Orzabal by this point) worked a band of expensive session musicians very hard in London’s Townhouse studios – with a certain Oleta Adams on piano and vocals to inject that all important soulful authenticity.

The icing on the cake is a lossless Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix on blu-ray (which took the best part of a year to bring together) and an extensive ‘in their own words’ booklet with new interviews with virtually everyone, and you have a fine examination of the creation of the memorable eight-track album.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video


Prince / Sign O’ The Times (8CD+DVD & 13LP+DVD box sets – Warner Music)

In reality, a photo finish with The Seeds of Love. The Tears For Fears box set only pips the Sign O’ The Times super deluxe edition(s) to the post thanks to its wallet-friendly price tag and that Steven Wilson surround sound mix. Make no mistake, this Prince set was undoubtedly a major highlight of 2020, from a reissue point of view.

It’s hard to beat (and indeed will the Estate ever better?) what is probably the purple one’s FINEST ALBUM, massively expanded to a dizzying eight CDs or 13 vinyl records. The Sign O’ The Times CD and vinyl box sets offer SO MUCH audio content it’s bordering on ridiculous. It’s the audio equivalent of continuing to stuff your face at a restaurant, when you know you should probably hold back. In this instance, Michael Howe is your maître d‘ and recommends you start with the remastered album, move on to every conceivable seven-inch edit, 12-inch mix and B-side and then finish with three CDs (or six vinyl records) of unheard ‘vault’ material – with many unreleased tracks, alternates, unheard remixes and an early version ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’ that Prince conceived when he was still in the womb, by all accounts (slight exaggeration).

It’s an absolute audio feast. An superb over indulgence. We become Monty Python’s ‘Mr Creosote’ with headphones. Just when you think you’ve really had enough, the set tempts you with the ‘waffer thin mint’ of an unreleased concert on CD and DVD. Do we need this much? Probably not. Do we want it? But of course! Phew, I’m stuffed.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video


Ultravox / Vienna (5CD+DVD deluxe edition – Chrysalis)

The Seeds of Love, Sign O’ The Times and the Vienna box sets were the Federer, Nadal and Djokovic of 2020 album reissues. There were in a league of their own, for single album box sets.

Chrysalis opted for a large format approach for their 5CD+DVD package of Ultravox‘s 1980 album which shows off the original artwork to great effect, but it’s the content that really impresses. This box brings together the original album, a new Steven Wilson stereo remix, a CD of rarities (12-inch mixes, live cuts, B-sides, single versions), a disc of cassette rehearsals and live performance at St. Albans and on top of that a Steven Wilson 5.1 mix on DVD.

Some fans expressed disappointment with a fairly light contribution from Midge Ure in the otherwise decent large-format booklet and the SDE’s preference is always for a blu-ray over a DVD when it comes to surround sound mixes, but no matter, this was excellent value at just over £50 and the box set successfully documented all aspects of this celebrated album.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video 


The Divine Comedy / Venus, Cupid, Folly & Time (24CD box set – Divine Comedy Records)

SDE described this 24CD Divine Comedy set as ‘flawless’ back in October, when the unboxing video was published, and that opinion has not changed. Curating generous two-CD sets of all the albums is a task in itself but it’s the presentation and attention to detail that really lifts this package and it remains one of the very best career-spanning packages we’ve ever seen.

Every double-CD album comes in a Japanese-style high quality gatefold wallet, with inner sleeves and a booklet with new notes from Neil Hannon. This then slots into an outer slipcase featuring new cover art illustration. These slipcases are the genius element that makes this package so visually appealing, since they cleverly bring the albums together while maintaining their individuality (they all slot into a rigid box). A 100-page book of lyrics completes a package which is the new yardstick by which others will be judged.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video


Richard & Linda Thompson / Hard Luck Stories (8CD box set – UMC)

Andrew Batt – who put together the 2018 Bobbie Gentry The Girl From Chickasaw County box – is credited with the ‘concept, compilation and tape research’ (as well as the mastering) for this Richard and Linda Thompson box set, so expectations were high.

The eight-CD collection didn’t disappoint, with remastered albums and a generous selection of largely previously unreleased bonus tracks. This was all exquisitely presented in a 10-inch package which comprised two folios of CDs and a 74-page hardcover book (with excellent sleevenotes by Patrick Humphries and Mick Houghton).

While the product was undoubtedly excellent, it’s a shame that UMC’s manufacturing and/or QC processes rather spoiled the party with some fans grumbling about CDs not ‘ripping’ (and in some cases not playing) properly. It was widespread enough for the label to eventually offer replacement discs, but the “hand-packing error” explanation raised an eyebrow or two and the problems took ages to sort out.

It was a disappointing situation for both fans and for the team that had put this fine set together. By the time the dust settled, Hard Luck Stories was all but out-of-print.

Read more about Hard Luck Stories


Lou Reed / New York  (3CD+DVD+2LP deluxe edition – Rhino Records)

I was always hoping Warner Music would get around to reissuing Lou Reed‘s 1989 album and the deluxe of New York really surpassed expectations.

If you can forgive Rhino for doing their usual thing of including vinyl with their CD deluxe editions (I know some people can’t) then there was so much here to enjoy. The album is of course remastered, and the DVD includes The New York Album concert performance which was previously only available on VHS or Japanese laserdisc. This was Lou ahead of his time performing the album in full and in sequence to a Canadian audience.

But what really impresses is the thought that has gone into the content. Some deluxe editions give you a concert on DVD then repeat the audio on a CD. Not here. CD 2 is the full album as performed live on the same tour, but is made up of completely different performances, none of them are from the Canadian show on the DVD. Also, the non-New York encore performances (‘Walk on the Wild Side’, ‘Sweet Jane’) are escorted to the ‘odds and sods’ disc (CD 3). This was a good move and preserves the integrity of New York as a live performance.

That same disc (CD 3) also offers ‘work tape’ and ‘rough mix’ versions of many of the songs. This provides and intimacy not really expected and ‘puts you in the room’ with Lou and guitarist/songwriter Mike Rathke as they work through the material.

The vinyl is included as a 2LP set (for the first time) and the new liner notes written by David Fricke are great. A truly excellent overview of a great album by a much missed artist.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video



Thin Lizzy / Rock Legends (6CD+DVD box set – UMC)

We are of course all familiar with some unreleased tracks being included with archival reissue box sets – it’s now par for the course and all but expected. But the Thin Lizzy Rock Legends set impressed by the sheer volume of material that was never before available.

74 of the 99 tracks across the six CDs had never been released before making this a veritable treasure trove of unheard demos, session tracks and live material. Even the disc of familiar hits at the beginning made a point of including rare radio versions, to make sure fans got the maximum out of this seven-disc celebration.

This package was also enormous and came with a big book of tour programmes, a volume of lyrics and more. It’s no surprise that this superb box sold very well and is now out-of-print.

Watch the SDEtv unboxing video

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[…] you missed out on the recently out-of-print Thin Lizzy Rock Legends package – one of SDE’s best reissues of 2020 – then you’re in luck, Universal Music have made some more available to fans. The 6CD+DVD […]

[…] price for the newly available and much acclaimed 8CD package. UMC have apparently repressed this, so they will ship in a couple of weeks. £90 in […]

LMF

I agree that the Sign Of the Times “extravaganza” is veeeery expensive, but I can’t even begin to imagine how you can compare it to “The Seeds of Love” which, for me, is doubtlessly inferior in every possible way. I seriously don’t get it.

Ex-Oligarch

Sadly, I find myself reading Paul’s list and the comments about sets I haven’t heard, let alone purchased, in 2020. I usually by my physical music in retail stores or from artists at shows, rather than over the internet, and that hasn’t been possible this year due to gubernatorial fiat in my state.

I’m a little surprised to see that the Harmonia set only got one mention, given the number of lovers of electronic music that frequent this site. I’m even more surprised that the Focus “50 years” set hasn’t been mentioned at all, since it looks to be nicely packaged and inexpensively priced, with an abundance of new material for fans, and inspired a lot of discussion here. Those two and the Ultravox set would be at the top of my list.

I’m only a little surprised that the ongoing official live concert releases from the Grateful Dead haven’t been mentioned, perhaps because they’ve been doing them so long and in such quantity that we take them for granted. But they sound great, are beautifully packaged, feature detailed notes, are are overall solid products. I only fault them for their high price and comparatively low limitation, which given the band’s enormous fan base sees them go out of print quickly.

If McCartney completists think their hobby will stretch the budget, pity the poor Deadhead, to whom 2020 brought a 15 CD box, a 5 LP box, two 4 CD boxes, two 3 CD boxes, and a single LP, all with unique live content. That doesn’t count the 50th anniversary editions of the studio album “American Beauty,” available as a 3 cd deluxe set and as an LP in 180g, red and mixed red/white/blue vinyl variants. It also doesn’t count the dozens of unofficial issues of radio concerts that have run past the copyright limit, including a string of multi-CD sets, many of which are also attractively packaged. Whew!

Albert

Who is running the u2 show after Paul McGuinness left?

The All That You Can’t Leave Behind reissue was a waste of time. Not their best anyway and nothing new or exciting.

When are we going to get a deluxe bells and whistles reissue of Rattle and Hum and the Lovetown tour? Is Rattle and Hum permanently disowned or to be ignored forever?

And when is that reissue of Autumn Stone coming out? Rob Caiger and the Small Faces legacy has become a running joke and not a very good one.

Burt

It’s Guy Oseary, who is also Madonna’s manager. I think think he got into the music business via his Dad. I have the impression from what I’ve seen he is a music fan but don’t know why that U2 box was found to be wanting so badly.

Gary Tilford

Paul, I would like to say a big Thank You to you and the team for this brilliant site. Thanks to you guys I have got hold of some great reissues over the last 6 months and if it wasn’t for this site I would definitely have missed out on some of them. I was lucky enough to get the Vienna 4 lp clear vinyl box set and it sold out in a few days. Like someone has already said, it looks like most of these went to genuine fans but 2 have sold on Discogs for £100+ and one is on Ebay now for £125. If it wasn’t for your service I would have missed this. Thanks again.

MichaelM

I was lucky enough to get the 4 disc clear vinyl as well. My son also bought me the CD+DVD boxset for Christmas. And to round it off, I also managed to get a copy of the Electronic Sound magazine with the free 7″ Herr X/Alles Klar clear vinyl single as well.

John Berry

Thanks Paul, interesting list!

Wildflowers, Tom Petty, was the standout reissue for me. Uniquely, the unreleased cuts are as strong as the originally released material. Sign of the Times was brilliant too but I find that huge amount of new material both over and underwhelming: In the case of the Petty album ,more is more, Princes’ release is a case of less is more, for me.

William Kates

Thanks Paul, I would include the Joni Mitchell box set also. Interesting that the same guy who mastered the Richard and Linda Thompson box set also mastered the Bobby Gentry set. I returned the Bobby Gentry set to Amazon due to skipping problems on several discs. Nice work on your discussion of the British singles chart.

jayson

Very surprised that UFO “Strangers In The Night” or the two Porcupine Tree boxes didn’t make it! Not sure how that could be..especially the UFO which was mastered well and very reasonable price wise!

The Porcupine Tree boxes were had great content, presentations and mastering also..though they were a bit more expensive for sure.

CJ

Hi Paul,

Saw this yesterday evening, and thought you’d be interested to know, considering your involvement in the set. Bluray.com placed the TFF set in one of their Top Ten of 2020 critics lists, which links to a review I hadn’t seen before, where the box earned a 5/5 rating. Congratulations on the recognition! Fingers crossed for next year’s Grammy announcements!

Critics list: https://www.blu-ray.com/news/?id=27935

Review: https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Tears-for-Fears-The-Seeds-of-Love-Blu-ray/275116/#Review

Steve

For anyone interested, there are a few copies of the Richard and Linda Thompson “Hard Luck Stories” boxset available on Amazon as of this writing. (I’ve checked both the U.K. and U.S. sites.)

Michael E.

The Heaven 17 Box “Another Big Idea” was very good too…..

David Roest

For me there was only ONE boxset release last year that got me really excited and that was Sign ‘O’ The Times by Prince. Hands down. That boxset had it all and is even nominated for a grammy.

Klaus

Maybe next year Paul… ;-)

Dajong

Not a boxset or a reissue, but Chris Rea ERA 1 (1978-1984) was a fantastic compilation of rare stuff, including single-versions, mixes, b-sides and a complete unreleased album from 1981. Over 3,5 hours of music, great remastering and a nice packaging at a good price. I’m waiting for more ERA compilations.

Klaus

I can assure you that the people at the big South American river sell this as a box set, albeit a cheap one.
I streamed it first and then ordered me a copy on New Years Eve for 11 £.
I agree that it’s really good value for money.

MICHAEL PEMBER

BEATLES wise LET IT BE ? Hopefully a McCartney re issue from his 70’s back catalogue. Hopefully ‘back to the egg’ with a DVD included featuring promo videos as the rockestra sessions.

Blakey

The Seeds of Love reissue was superb.
The Free Design box set is also well worth having. Criminally overlooked.

Reissues or deluxe sets I would like to see in 2021

Humble Pie – As Safe As Yesterday Is, Town & Country and Humble Pie (vinyl)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – 12′ singles box set (vinyl and CD)
Small Faces – The Autumn Stone (after yet another no-show)
Duran Duran – debut album (with proper remastering)
U2 – Rattle & Hum
The Stone Roses – Second Coming and Silvertone 12’singles box set
The Beatles – Let It Be (or Get Back)
Curve – box set (all albums, singles, EPs, B Sides)
Wings – London Town
Inspiral Carpets – Beast Inside
John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band
New Order – Low Life
George Harrison- All Things Must Pass

Albert

No Goats Head Soup?

Uncle Meat

An average year I’m afraid. Some mentions:

MUDHONEY – Real Low Vibe, The Complete Reprise Recordings 1992-1998
RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON – Hard Luck Stories
MINA – The Queen Of Italian Pop, Classic Ri-Fi Recordings 1963-1967
MINA – Tintarella Di Luna
VARIOUS ARTISTS – Records, Records, Records
VARIOUS ARTISTS – Fast Jivin’ Class Cutters High On Booze
FRANK ZAPPA – The Mothers 1970
FRANK ZAPPA – Halloween ’81, Live At The Palladium
APPLE – An Apple A Day…
CREAM – Goodbye Tour Live 1968 (The “honorary award” goes to the production team of this set. For more than 50 years I’ve always thought that Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce played their guitars only right handed. Now setting the record straight the book included shows that they occasionally played left handed as well (pages 17, 18 and 41)!!!

Ex-Oligarch

Those Mina CDs are fantastic manifestations of classic, spirited 60s pop, but neither is a box set, is it?

In the US, she is virtually unknown and unappreciated, despite the millions of records she has sold over in other markets over her long career.

Joel Moalem

Some of the European Amazon sites are listing the Richard and Linda Thompson box as being available again later this month. Maybe Universal did another batch due to initial releases problems?

Jeff G.

Steve Wynn – Decade (Box Set)
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Live In Maui
Marillion – Script for a Jester’s Tear (Deluxe Edition)
George Coleman – Live in Baltimore
Blue Nile – High (Remastered Deluxe Edition)
Van Duren – Idiot Optimism/Are You Serious?
Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition)
Neil Young – Homegrown

Brixet

It’s been a bad year for so much in the music industry and those that support it, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home some or all of the time, it’s been a good opportunity to plough through box sets which can lie unexplored (and then buy more).

Top 5s in no order:

SDE reissues:
* New Order – ‘Power Corruption & Lies’. Though should have had the singles and b-sides included as 12″ and/or CDs.
* Porcupine Tree – ‘The Delirium Years’. Faultless content (though oversized box; see TFF!).
* Porcupine Tree – ‘In Absentia’. The start of the rest of the PT albums in a similar format?
* Prince – ‘Sign O’ The Times’. Setting a new bar; surely the estate will need to do Purple Rain properly now?
* Tears For Fears – ‘Seeds of Love’. Worth the wait, thanks Paul.

Reissues (tried to go for the less obvious):
* Cherry Ghost – ‘Beneath This Burning Shoreline’. Unexpected reissue from this forgotten singer-songwriter (who actually writes loads of famous songs).
* The Distractions – ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. Almost an SDE with the amount of bonus material alongside a full remix of the original 1980 LP.
* Gentle Giant – First 4 LP reissues. Great sounding, reasonably priced pressings.
* McCarthy – ‘The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth’. Second disc of bonus material from this political band that it’s OK to adore.
* Various/Les Disques du Crepuscule – ‘From Brussels with Love’ – DJ says it best below.

DJ Salinger

For a year that started slowly and then completely ground to a halt in spring, 2020 ended up delivering some fantastic reissues and box sets. All my key nominees are already acknowledged by the SDE faithful on this thread, but there’s another two worth mentioning for those that like that sort of thing…

VARIOUS ARTISTS – FROM BRUSSELS WITH LOVE
The 40th anniversary hardback 2CD version of this ’80s fetish object is a rather lovely thing and a richly illustrated record of a time and place. Early New Order, Thomas Dolby, Durutti Column and lesser known acts rub shoulders with the likes of Brian Eno, Harold Budd and Michael Nyman. The whole thing still stands as a manifesto for music as art and this edition is a real labour of love. A similar lavish treatment for the seminal 1981 Some Bizzare album would be welcome…

THE ASSOCIATES – PERHAPS
Billy’s folly it may be: a chaotic indulgence and a frustrating listen that’s all over the place at times but… it has ‘Breakfast’ on it. No home should be without one. Hats off to Cherry Red for collating many of the 12″ mixes and b-sides (some for their CD debut here I think). Satisfying sleevenotes and discography too. MacKenzie was an absolute one-off talent and he’s still sorely missed round here.

Ex-Oligarch

These two had completely escaped my notice. “From Brussels with Love” is an old favorite, and the Associates were never less than intriguing. Thanks for mentioning them here.

[…] Good price for one of SDE’s ‘best reissues of 2020‘ […]

DANIEL

Two of note from Athens, GA: The Pylon box set is amazing, and the Love Tractor debut LP reissue sounds incredible!!

Art Fin

The lavish Pylon box set is great but it seems incomplete to me without their 1990 album “Chain” on Sky Records. I like the B-side of that album which reminds me of their first album but with cleaner production (maybe too clean). I also got the Ultravox and VA-From Brussels with Love sets but choose the CD format because of the extra tracks. I am glad the CD sets are in near-LP sized packaging so they rack with my vinyl. Also got Killing Joke (s/t with silver cover), XTC (Drums & Wires w/ bonus 7″) and Young Marble Giants-Colossal Youth 2LP. The Devo box was from 2019 but I got it in 2020. I didn’t realize until now that I bought so much 80s stuff last year.

James A Gates

My Top 5 for 2020

1. PRINCE – Sign Of The Times (8CD/DVD)
2. UFO – Strangers In The Night (8CD)
3. THIN LIZZY – Rock Legends (6CD/DVD)
4. DEPECHE MODE – Mode (18CD)
5. SNOWY WHITE – Lucky Star (6CD)
6.PORCUPINE TREE – Delerium Years (13CD)
7. DEF LEPPARD – The Early Years (5CD)
8. WHITE LION – All You Need Is Rock N Roll (5CD)
9. RATT – Atlantic Years (5CD)
10. PRINCE – Up All Nite (4CD/DVD)

KevinS

Some nice selections from everyone.

Just to add, Supergrass – The Strange Ones 1994-2008.
The box was a mixed bag, almost the complete package, but with hotly debated picture discs for the vinyl section of the box.

It is probably the box I played most last year and to my battered and gig worn ears, the picture discs sound fine on the whole.

Richard Harris

Joni Mitchell Archives volume 1 has been a real treat for me. Looking forward to further volumes covering the 70s.

For those on here who like me have slated the U2 All That You Can’t Leave Behind reissue for its uninspired content, worth noting that according to u2songs.com sales “exceeded expectations”, so either expectations were very low to begin with or there are not as many discerning U2 buyers out there as there are on here and who were happy to buy a beautiful looking package that had precious little new content to tempt the long term fan.

Will 2021 finally be the year that Springsteen releases Tracks 2?

David

Klaus – I’d have more sympathy for the other three members of the band if they hadn’t welcomed him back in and reformed after his release from prison. (And I say this as a previous fan of the former work – ‘Le Vent Me Portera’ is a super song if you can get past the singer.)

Also – “had a fight” makes it sound like self-defence. They had an argument, and he punched and killed her.

Klaus

David, thanks for replying.

I had no intent of defending him. You and me both weren’t there when it happened and should therefore be careful in judging what happened that night. I read that they were both heavily drunk at the time and that, combined with jealousy usually doesn’t bring out the best in people but the press was clear about him hitting her severely.

I just wanted to explain the background of your first post because i don’t think that many SDE-readers knew what you were writing about.

In the end like i already wrote it comes down to being able to differentiate between the person and the music.

Let’s agree to disagree on that topic.

Liam Bastick

Actually, I take back my comment about Our History still being available. Two of the sites say they have it, but when you try and order it, they then state it is “Sold Out”. Mea culpa.

blaahh

Howard Jones’ Cross That Line was certainly one of my favourites this year. Well priced, a wealth of unissued versions and mixes and certainly a benchmark that others would do well to follow. The first Fine Young Cannibals one would also fit that bill.

blaahh

I would also add a late one I have listened to a lot this week, Chris Rea’ ERA 1 1978-1984 is a fine and (I think) comprehensive set, good balance of familiar and rare – well priced too. I hope there is an ERA 2 following.

Beechlander

For me Vienna was the best overall in terms of price and content – love that album. Yet to get a chance to unseal and listen to SOTT and the TFF boxes so reserving judgement but expecting good things. In terms of 2021 – looking forward to George Harrison “50th” anniversary of All Things Must Pass which is on the cards plus the new Bowie set.

Burt

Another SDE which is worth a mention & not for all good things either: Simple Minds “Street Fighting Years”. Yes, its a great album that fully deserved the SDE treatment & It was good to have the live stuff & some of the edits. But, it fustrated in equal amounts. Where was the visual content? a concert & the videos? Can’t be that difficult to do & the Prince Estate clearly know how much the fans ( Yes, we who actually buy these things! ) value these things & know to put them in. Also the lack of a 5.1 mix. This album, more than any of their albums lends itself to this more than ever!! I hope one day they see fit to make amends for these shortfalls. I know these points were made at the time here but they remain very valid comments & I hope the Record labels take note of fan discontent.

GTR

2 from me:

1. ‘The Secret Migration’ by Mercury Rev. 5 disks which shine a light on an underrated album. The 3rd disk of Jonathan Donahue’s guitar/piano demos is like a lost Neil Young album. The 4th disk, a live show, had a problem and didn’t play the final song. Cherry Red sent me a replacement disk so good on them for sorting this out.

2. The first 2 Robert Forster albums on vinyl. Great sound quality, packaging, signed lyric sheets…the works. Please do the same for his other albums and Grant’s solo stuff too.

Am hopeful we’ll get an SDE of INXS’s ‘X’ this year.

Bren

Glad to see The Divine Comedy’s Cupid, Venus, Folly & Time set getting such recognition. As a fan from 1994/Promenade, the set has been an absolute gift; all of those B sides and non album tracks being given a mastering as great as the albums themselves, so many wonderful unreleased tracks and packaging to die for. If I’d been asked to put together my dream TDC set beforehand, I couldn’t have conceived and come up with anything better.

Paul’s Flaming Pie deluxe set is my runner up of the year’s purchases. Yes the price tag was silly, but once I got past the one time sticker shock and the contents were fabulous. And an entirely welcome ‘last chance to see’ Linda’s photography, the highlight of previous Archive deluxe sets as well as the SDE of Abbey Road.

And despite not being anything more than a casual fan, the Sign O The Times box set was a thing to envy. Beautifully put together, both audio and the book, I’ve not read a single word against the set here or anywhere else. If only everyone’s favourite artists could have their catalogue handled in such a comprehensive, reverent and well presented manner,

Tim Goodacre

I am not a particularly avid Elton fan but the Elton John Jewel box has to be on the list. Great song by song historical journey of Elton and Bernies’s career (and other Elton collaborators) with detailed notes on each song by Elton. The song selections are in themselves interesting and in context. The extras and outtakes are also interesting and carefully chosen. Unlike many other elaborate box sets this set is a thoughtful and personal autobiography with all elements worthy inclusions rather than the filler associated with many other sets. For me the set was a real surprise and perhaps the best set of many I have.

-SG-

Tears For Fears definitely goes to the top of my list, but as I look at the other sets, it is a bit obvious that this boxed set is a product from a different time. The fact that it was not an oversized 12X12 with a hardbound book with a live disc, (I know live soundboard recordings exist for that tour because I have heard some), shows how since this set was made, the SDE has really morphed into a monster over the past five years, the compact-ish 5 disc set under $100 is quaint by today’s standards.
I think in regards to TFF one of the biggest surprises was that there were not more songs recorded even in demo form, or for that matter not more record company mandated remixes or alternate mixes of album tracks. I recall reading years ago, Roland talk about Sowing the Seeds of Love being further remixed and those being ultimately rejected, It is also surprising that there was not even a scratch vocal mix for the ‘Langer/Winstanley’ recordings, which in all fairness were a totally inappropriate sound for TFF and had this been their new sound, would have really damaged their credibility as a group, perhaps some warts were wisely left unseen here. No complaints though, it is a well done box of one of my favorite albums.
Beyond that, the Divine Comedy is really an amazing set, which I have only just begun to explore. It is really interesting to also realize there that despite it’s depth a lot of material was left off. Speaking of which, some may be interested to know the vinyl reissue of Promenade contains a download of a newly remixed/revised version of the album, all in HD.

Dere

Covid meant that a lot of retailers wouldn’t ship to Australia, or the costs were prohibitive, so I didn’t buy so much this year.

My favourite SDE was the 2cd of compilation of Adam Gibson’s work: There’s A Name For This Feeling. Spoken word/poetry to music, detailing life in Australia.

John Drayton

Dere, I feel your pain. Amazon Oz is a disgrace. But check out Burning Shed and Rough Trade – they both ship to us pretty affordably.
I’d happily support SDE but the shipping costs are just too high. Hopefully that will change.

Brett

What a pity that everybody ignored Elvis In Nashville.

p britten

Thank you for this review, Paul. I agree with most of your choices, though I don’t know much about Ultravox.

So, here’s my grain of salt about the best 2020’s reissues and/or SDE :

– July: The Complete Recordings
– Apple: An Apple a Day… (I guess I’m a sucker for anything psychedelic from the sixties, and these two semi-obscure bands (for me, at least) didn’t disappoint)
– Tasmin Archer: Sweet Little Truths – The EMI Recordings 1992-1996
– The Distractions: Nobody’s perfect
– John Lee Hooker: Documenting the Sensation Recordings 1948-52 (JLH was always at his anarchistic best when he was alone on stage or in a studio with just a guitar and his right foot, and here’s 71 (19 previously unissued) tracks proving this)
– Prince: Sign ‘O Times & The One Nite Alone Collection (a little bit underrated, this last one, I think)
– Mansun: Closed for Business (Maybe one of the craziest/maddest box sets ever made : 25 CDs devoted to a not-so-well-known band having released 3 or 4 albums in its lifetime… I tried resisting, but I failed.)
– Richard & Linda Thompson: Hard Luck Stories
– John Prine: Crooked Piece of Time
– Shoes: Elektrafied – The Elektra Years 1979-1982 (This Cherry Red box set offers each of the band three Elektra albums in its remastered official form and in demo form, and the demo version is often as accomplished as the official one, but with more edge.)
– Bob Mould: Distortion (…but what we really need now is a «Hüsker Dü – The SST Years» box set including outtakes, b-sides, etc. as well as their reading of Ticket to Ride from that 1986 NME vinyl freebie, because my copy is scratched.)
– PJ Harvey: Dry & To Bring You My Love Demos

I have many wishes for 2021, but one of them would be that Robyn Hitchcock and Andy Partridge record and release a full album. Imagine: the XTC leader and the Soft Boys frontman joining forces. If that’s not a marriage made in heaven, I don’t know what is. Their Planet England EP was an absolute psychedlic blast, as good as anything by the Dukes of Stratosphere IMHO, but it was (as EPs tend to be) way too short.

Happy new year Paul and everybody.

Kauwgompie

First, kudos for keeping it real. Paul, it looks like you cannot be “bought” by the labels. That so increases your credibility and saves this entire website. Keeping “Flaming Pie” out of the list was the right thing to do. Wayyy too expensive. I’m assuming that is also why “Goats Head Soup” didn’t make the list. $140 for 3 cd’s and a dvd, even if it contains a 5.1 mix, the price is a joke if you compare it to The Seeds Of Love.

Sign O The Times tops the list for me. Together with 1999, it’s the only super deluxe edition EVER that has truly not disappointed as it relates to entirely new vault material (not outtakes, alternate versions and remixes but entirely new songs). Until now, after listening to any vault song by any artist, I almost always thought that song should have staid in the vault. With Prince however, that is not the case. 3 discs of high quality new songs, it’s marvelous and the creativity is dazzling. I strongly recommend this box set. It’s all high quality music and no marbles, prints or other BS. I wish all box sets were like his but that would be entirely impossible. There is only one Prince.

The TFF Box Seeds Of Love is my 2nd choice. Brilliant album, brilliant bonus material and a fabulous 5.1 mix for a more than decent price. It was a long wait but it was worth it!

Other top SDE releases:

-Tangerine Dream – Pilots Of Twilight
-Nick Kamen – The Complete Collection
-Divine Comedy – Venus, etc
-Donna Summer – Encore
-Elton John – Jewel Box
-INXS – Live Baby Live
-Ultravox – Vienna (incredible value)

Worst reissue (come on guys, this is your chance):
-U2 -All That I can’t Leave Behind (lack of unreleased material and 5.1 mix)

Kauwgompie

Under worst SDE’s, I forgot to add ”Street Fighting Years” by Simple Minds. The lack of a 5.1 mix (all their other box sets had one) and the bonus material is very minimal. That box is a waste of space in my collection.

Paul E.

– I agree about your two “worst” reissues: U2 “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” + Simple Minds “Street Fighting Years”. In not purchasing those two sets, it marks the first time I haven’t purchased SDEs released from the bands – I even caved on U2’s 30th for “The Joshua Tree” but didn’t find it necessary for the 2020 “ATYCLB” SDE as I had all the fan club issued tracks, CD singles, “full” Boston DVD, etc.

Seems both bands botched the live concerts in their corresponding sets that would have motivated me to purchase. The time to abbreviate a concert’s track listing is NEVER in a box set…rather, that’s the perfect time to expand on things or include the full show at a minimum. In the case of Simple Minds, if they didn’t have quality audio in the archives for Verona, they should have reconsidered it’s inclusion or found an alternate fans deserved.

Paul Mac

Weird for me to see three reissues that I bought this year make the Best Of list (TFF, Lou, Lizzy), I think this was a very good year for re-issues (as there a few more I hope to pick up eventually, as well as some great deals on older sets acquired this year as well, thanks Paul) and bugger all else!

Happy 2021, everyone

Michael

I wanted the TFF box, but my preorder was not fulfilled and by the time I realized it was not coming, everything was out of print already and I did not want to pay the scalper prices, so for now I have stuck with the 2 cd set, which is great in itself. I love disc 2.

If I was a bigger Prince fan, I would love the big SOTT box, but I stuck with the cheap 3 cd set, which is also nice. I like the remastering and some of those extended mixes. I gotta save money somewhere.

Apart from that, I skipped the Simple Minds box for the reported problems on some tracks and the lack of any video or 5.1 content. A missed opportunity there.

But I will be looking forward to see what comes out in 2021. Perhaps the Japan Quiet Life box will be of interest… and the restart of the Bowie era boxes should be of some interest, too.

Nick

Berlin reissues on Rubellan Remasters
Visage reissues on Rubellan Remasters
Ric Ocasek reissue on Rubellan Remasters
Laura Branigan “Self Control”
The Beloved “Where It Is”
The Beloved “Happiness”
The Human League “Octopus”
Ultravox “Vienna” Super Deluxe Edition
Tears For Fears “The Seeds Of Love” Super Deluxe Edition
Neneh Cherry “Raw Like Sushi” (for the Massive Attack & Smith’n’Mighty Remixes)

Don Cooper

Thanx for Ric O heads-up.ats.

Nick

Thx – yes superb album & fantastic remaster with great bonus tracks as always from Rubellan (a bit underrepresented on SDE?). Also got into “The Side Of Paradise” again after unexpectedly hearing “Emotion In Motion” on the Radio during Christmas time.

CJ

Love Neneh Cherry, and liked the reissue, but am still disappointed that “Buffalo Blues” was left off the CD version. I know it’s only one track, but what a track! I do have the original single for it, but it would be nice to have had it included with the rest of the material from that era.

Nick

Yep they had messed it up a little which of course is a pity.. luckily “Buffalo Blues” is a track that is easily available on CD (though I agree that the sense behind “deluxe editions” is not exactly having to get older issues ;) Still very happy to have the tracks from the excellent and quite unusual Manchild Remix 12″ in great digital sound quality. I remember well hearing the Massive Attack Remix for the first time on a Greek radio station during a holiday and I was blown away by it because it was so unique.

Michael

Yes in terms of single disc reissues those Visage and Berlin discs are great! I love the Rubellan remasters I have gotten so far. The Human League Octopus set is very nice as well!

I just did not go for the Ultravox set because I feel the ladt 2cd set has enough for me. But am I missing out on greatly improved sound quality?

Nick

Hi Michael. The Vienna set is well presented, the demos are a nice extra that one wouldn’t listen to on a regular basis. Steven Wilson remix is fine but the original 1980 analog master is the actual highlight. Trackwise the 2CD “Definitive Edition” already has everything on it that is essential.

Michael

Tears For Fears is wonderful! I also received John Lennon “Gimme Some Truth” as a birthday gift, which turned out to be even more impressive than I originally thought. Since my music storage space is getting quite a bit crowded, I have to be really selective about which of all these other great box sets I can have.

But, aside from what was released in 2020, I was disappointed John Lennon “Plastic Ono Band,” The Beatles “Let It Be,” and Paul McCartney “Back to the Egg” & “London Town” didn’t make it on the calendar for 2020. Maybe in 2021?

Alan Blevin

My lists divide archival releases into different categories.
Disclaimer.Based on what I have streamed from his web site my Archival Release Of The Year would be Neil Young Archives Volume 2.However while I was one of the 3000 who got an order in Greedy Hand Canada have given a 3 month delivery estimate so I will be lucky to get it before general release in March.Will be on my 2021 list.
Archival Release Of The Year-Neil Young -Homegrown.Stunning album.Harvest from the ditch.
Career Spanning Box
Winner.Hard Luck Stories-Richard and Linda Thompson.Like you said above it was a pity that production quality control took anything away from the acclaim this magnificent set deserved.
Runner Up. Joni Mitchell Archives Volume 1.As good as this was the next 2 volumes should be amazing.
Reissue
Winner.Wildflowers And All The Rest-Tom Petty.My budget only stretched to the 4cd edition.Even without Finding Wildflowers this is a treasure of unreleased music.
Runner Up.Sign O’ The Times-Prince.I am not a mega Prince fan but this was always by far my favourite Prince album.You sum up the box perfectly and I have particular praise for the book which actually adds a lot to the reissue.
Archival Live
Winner.Detroit 88/East Rutherford 81/Atlanta 78-Bruce Springsteen.Because they get distributed through Nugs these sometimes get ignored.These 3 are all time great concerts by Bruce and all in excellent sound quality which has been an issue with some of these releases.
Runner Up.Goodbye Tour Live 1968-Cream

Mark

I’m going to give a shout out to the Rubellan Remasters label for a strong year of spectacular reissues, and the best sounding ones too.

Visage, The Anvil and Fade to Grey – The Special Dance Mix Album
Berlin, Pleasure Victim and Love Life
Fingerprintz, Bullet Proof Heart – The best of
Divinyls, Desperate and they just reissued What a Life with ten bonus tracks and unreleased songs

They also just released their first box set with all three Missing Persons albums from the 80’s. That’s a great start to 2021!

Steve Thorpe

Agreed re. Rubellan Remasters in 2020 as above Mark – I bought both the Berlin releases which were a real treat to hear remastered finally, as well as the bonus tracks coming from the original masters too.
I also have their reissue of the first Visage album and ‘The Anvil’ which have never sounded better, and the Fingerprintz ‘Best Of’ compilation is a revelation – especially as they haven’t been on CD as an official release before. Looking forward to the full Missing Persons catalogue releases imminent in January / February :-)

Craig

Agree here…those Berlin reissues are things of sonic beauty!

Ken

Soft Cell’s Cruelty without Beauty 2 disc reissue was fab.
Since I got it last month I have been playing it non-stop. A very under-rated LP.Excellent songs with classic Marc Almond lyrics,plus some live tracks,5 very good extra tracks,and some excellent brand new mixes by the great Mr Ball himself.A trully perfect reissue of Soft Cell at near their best.Lots of good songs on this collection too.Well designed and quality packaging.A trully excellent reissue for a very good band.Last Chance,Caligula Syndrome,Together Alone, and Darker Times are classic Soft Cell gems up their with their heyday bests.

CJ

Excellent choices, both in Paul’s write-up and in the comments. The only SDE I haven’t seen mentioned that I’d put in a mention for is the Depeche Mode box that came out in January (which seems like five years ago at this point). I know much of it is redundant in terms of the studio albums, but having all those b-sides was a treasure trove for me. Would have loved remixes as well, but very happy with what we did get.

My wishlist for 2020 (nothing that I’ve actually heard any rumors about, just what I’d love to see):
A box like Donna’s Encore set for Olivia Newton-John–complete albums, b-sides, remixes, all remastered
Expanded albums for Madonna or a box set of outtakes and b-sides
Expanded albums for Kylie starting with Light Years (since we’ve covered the SAW and Deconstruction years already)
Resumption of the Tori Amos expanded albums, picking up with From the Choirgirl Hotel, which is the next one in line
Prince: Parade, Around the World in a Day, or Lovesexy (I know the rumors are that we’re getting Diamonds and Pearls, but I’m having trouble getting excited about that era)
Shakespears Sister Solo Years (#3, Songs from the Red Room, Cosmic Dancer, the fanclub only releases, remixes, and outtakes)
The Beatles: Rubber Soul (I know Let it Be is next in line, but RS is my favorite of their albums, and I’ve been hoping they would back up and do that album at some point)
Michael Jackson: Dangerous, expanded with the tracks originally intended to be included before the original two-disc reissue was cancelled
U2: Pop expanded SDE
Stevie Wonder reissue/remaster campaign, starting with the 1980s albums, including the extended versions and b-sides
George Harrison: re-release of the Apple Years box, which has been out of print for awhile and is fetching ridiculous prices on the resale market
Marilyn Manson expanded SDE album reissues
Tina Turner: Break Every Rule SDE, including the “One of the Living” mixes that were left off the Private Dancer reissue and the other b-sides and extended remixes from the era
Grace Jones: Living My Life SDE, or a career retrospective box set with rarities and remixes, or a Donna Summer Encore style complete box set
Pet Shop Boys: Further Listening editions for the Stuart Price trilogy
David Bowie: Next chronological box set
Laura Branigan: Hold Me / Touch / Laura Branigan / Over My Heart expanded reissues

I could probably keep going, but there probably isn’t much point since these are all just wishes. Maybe someone out there with the power to make some of these happen will see it though.

DiscoDave2000

Can’t agree more with TFF and Prince as the top 2. Ultravox and The Divine Comedy really do look great too, I’m just not a super fan of either. I would have purchased Lou Reed if it was available as a CD/DVD set only.

Paul Kent

My 2020 reissues:
Prince – “Sign O’ The Times” SDE
Tears For Fears – “The Seeds Of Love” SDE
The Divine Comedy – “Venus, Cupid, Folly & Time”
Bob Mould – “Distortions 1989-2019”
Grateful Dead – “Workingman’s Dead” 50 th Anniversary 3 CD
Marillion – “Script For A Jester’s Tear” SDE
Prince – “Up All Nite With Prince”
Simple Minds – “Street Fighting Years” 2 CD
Paul McCartney – “Flaming Pie” 2 CD
Rush – “Permanent Waves” 2 CD
Rolling Stones – “Goats Head Soup” 2 CD
The Residents – “Cube•E Box” 7 CD
Grateful Dead – “American Beauty” 50th Anniversary 3 CD
Crass – “Best Before 1984” 2020 Crassical Collection 2 CD
Douglas Adams – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Albums” 3 CD

Happy New Year, all!