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The 20 Best Reissues and Box Sets of 2012

December 11, 2012  |  8:29am
The 20 Best Reissues and Box Sets of 2012

Paste’s Best of 2012 series continues through Dec. 31 and is made possible by our friends at Tretorn.

We’ve already told you our picks for the best new music of 2012, so today we’re celebrating the releases that look backwards as we choose the year’s best reissues, best-of compilations and box sets—although, of course, some new or previously unheard material managed to crack the list. Check out the Best Reissues and Box Sets of 2012, as voted upon by our panel of staff and writers, below.

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20. The English Beat: The Complete Beat
They remain a cult act in the U.S., famous primarily for “Mirror in the Bathroom,” but during their short life—just three albums in five years—the Beat released one classic LP, one really good one and one fair. They played long, raucous, sweaty live shows, but toured mostly in Europe rather than the States. Shout! Factory has gathered those three studio albums, along with two discs of rarities and live cuts, into the exhaustive box set The Complete Beat, which is so good that even listeners who swear they don’t like reggae will find much to love.—Stephen M. Deusner

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19. Frank Zappa Universal Reissues
Unless you’re an extreme completist (or a deranged millionaire), it’s unlikely you purchased all 60 of Frank Zappa’s 2012 reissues. Sure, buying all 60 would take some pretty sweet coin, but it’s just as likely that you’ll hate as many Zappa albums as you’d love: This mustachioed musical madman remains the most unpredictable figure in pop history, blurring the lines between rock, jazz, prog, doo-wop, satire and stupidity. But every single entry in Zappa’s schizophrenic catalog has its unique charms—from the commercial-jingle, psychedelic satire of 1968’s We’re Only in it For the Money to the spacey jazz-fusion of 1969’s Hot Rats to the muscular, hallucinatory chaos of 1974’s Apostrophe. Walk in to your local record store, grab one at random off the shelf, and brace yourself for the weirdness. It’s musical Russian Roulette—remastered, of course.—Ryan Reed

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18. Andrew WK, I Get Wet
Andrew Wilkes-Krier’s mythical rock-’n’-roll singularity gave our generation its Bat Out of Hell, and it blazes through much quicker. The song titles alone make reviews obsolete; there’s rarely been a truer trilogy in rock than “Party Til You Puke,” “Party Hard” and “It’s Time to Party.” Special bonus for finding the humanism in frat-party muscle rather than celebrating the brutality or whining about chicks. Pizza-shaped guitars are universal, after all.—Dan Weiss

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17. Elvis Presley, Prince from Another Planet (RCA Legacy)
Another year, another Elvis reissue. Just when you think the vaults are finally empty and every facet of the legendary singer has been thoroughly explored, out comes a new set of new and/or remastered recordings that somehow present a new side of the King. Prince from Another Planet documents his triumphant sellout shows at Madison Square Garden in 1972. Remarkably, it was the only time he played a show in the Big Apple. He runs through two high-energy sets, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, that mix old hits with new covers (including a gloriously over-the-top “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”). Four years after his legendary Tigerman comeback, he remained a formidable performer and artist, one whose bold vocal style was only matched by his effusive, self-aware, playfully self-deflating sense of humor.—Stephen M. Deusner

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16. Blur, Blur 21
This has been a big year for Blur fans; as the group keeps hinting at breaking up, the legacy and popularity of Blur grows. To commemorate the 21 years since they released their first album, Leisure, Blur released the appropriately titled Blur 21 set, which combines CD, DVD and vinyl to give a retrospective look at the history of this notorious band. The set features unreleased material and rarities and repackages their last six albums into double albums. Blur may never release another album, but what a great way to (possibly) go out.—Ross Bonaime

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15. Karen Dalton, 1966
What distinguishes 1966 from other Dalton collections is the handful of songs by Tim Hardin, who released his debut album around the time she and Carl Baron were committing them to tape. Along with Fred Neil, he and Dalton had played together several times in New York, and her insights into his tunes are obvious. This version of his signature song, “Reason to Believe,” thoroughly reimagines the phrasings and meanings of the lyrics, such that it sounds impossibly fresh even after innumerable covers. Even better is “While You’re on Your Way,” a lesser Hardin number that here sounds positively weightless, a fleeting moment of bittersweet nostalgia for an old lover. It wasn’t that Dalton made every song her own, but that she saw them as communal experiences. Songs belonged to no one and everyone, and she sang them accordingly.—Stephen M. Deusner

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14. Michael Jackson, Bad 25 Deluxe Box Set
Since his tragic passing in 2009, it seems like labels, hangers-on and anyone with the slightest affiliation with Michael Jackson have all scrambled to release any and all previously unheard material and make one last dime off of the King of Pop—so it’s easy to get cynical when yet another posthumous Jackson comp gets trotted out. However, Bad 25 is a must for diehard fans; the 3-CD, 1-DVD set tastefully marks a quarter-century of Bad with a remastered version of the album, a disc of demos (including “Song Groove, A/K/A Abortion Papers,” which Jackson apparently deemed too controversial to include on the record) and remixes, a live album and a DVD recorded at Wembley Stadium in 1988. The live stuff—which includes a Jackson 5 medley and some Thriller favorites as well—is, perhaps unsurprisingly, what makes Bad 25 really worth picking up.—Bonnie Stiernberg

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13. Bikini Kill, Bikini Kill EP Reissue
If I’m not talking about Kathleen Hanna, Tobi Vail, Billy Karren and Kathi Wilcox’s widely-noted visceral and cultural accomplishments, their reportedly life-changing stage shows, Hanna’s scrawling misogynist go-to words on her own body, pulling girls to the front of the crowd, their fearlessness, their reach, their success in becoming a buzz name on par with male friends Nirvana and Fugazi, it’s because those are well-documented, epochal accomplishments for this seminal punk band who’s deserved a 20th anniversary reissue for a long time now. They went on to write catchier choruses, more skillful riffs, and possibly more multilevel satirical pieces. But compared as a single outburst, all other bands come up short. If they quit after their first EP, Bikini Kill would be just as legendary today for ripping the medium open and saying everything someone needed to start saying. Instead they improved on it in every way except as pure legend. Perfect.—Dan Weiss

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12. Peter Gabriel, So 25th Anniversary Reissue
Released in honor of So’s 25th anniversary (though, math-wise, it’s been 26 years), this glorious box set stands head and shoulders above your typical cash-grabbing classic-rock reissue. Peter Gabriel’s 1986 masterpiece is one of the unsung sonic landmarks of the ‘80s—this is a weird, groundbreaking batch of songs, fusing pop smarts, global eclecticism and technically dazzling performances. Even still, the album’s artistic merits have been overshadowed by its place in pop culture, namely the innovative “Sledgehammer” video and, well, John Cusack’s boombox. The reissues (ranging from a standard remaster to a massive, kitchen-sink-included Immersion set) help set the record straight: Of particular note are the “DNA” tracks, which string together raw, intimate demos, demonstrating how a series of simple musical ideas evolved into complex anthems.—Ryan Reed

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11. Sugar, Copper Blue/Beaster/File Under: Easy Listening
The Fugazi to Husker Du’s Minor Threat was Bob Mould’s shot at the big time, and not only that, an outlet for him to steal back Husker’s melodic highlights from Grant Hart. Turns out the jangling vortexes of “Your Favorite Thing” and “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” vying with rough-and-tumble “Tilted” and “Gift” could come from one dude after all. Thank the power-trio gods that he knew these riffs were too powerful to waste on solo material.—Dan Weiss

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