Psychedelic year in review: Top titles

A half century hasn’t dampened demand for the psychedelic goodness of the 1960s. The year 2015 found record labels still stuffing bins with high-quality releases, carefully crafted to take you higher.

Here’s a review of the year’s top reissues of music connected with the psychedelic era. All are still available as 2015 fades to black, although some remain specialty items worth grabbing before the collector’s price gouging gets under way.

Jimi Hendrix albumJimi Hendrix: Completists welcomed the CD release in 2006 of “Burning Desire,” the Dagger label’s collection of “authorized bootlegs” from the master guitarist’s final years. Now Sony Legacy has the expanded vinyl version, on two LPs. Tracks were recorded at the Record Plant in late 1969 and early 1970 with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Listen for “Izabella,” “Villanova Junction Blues,” “Ezy Ryder” and “Cherokee Mist.” The double-LP set remains available online and at smaller retailers, but was a Record Store Day item for Black Friday.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival” is offered by Sony Legacy in double-disc sets, both CD and 200-gram vinyl. Key tracks include “Straight Ahead,” “Lover Man,” “Message to Love” and “Stone Free.” Hendrix performed July 4, 1970, at the second Atlanta International Pop Festival, accompanied by Cox and Mitchell.

The Beatles: The multiformat set “Beatles 1+” “celebrates their career in over 200 minutes through 50 promotional films and videos,” Apple Corps says. New stereo mixes are on offer on the CD of the 27 original No. 1 hits. The Blu-ray videos come with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS HD mixes. These remixes were done by Giles Martin and Sam Okell at Abbey Road. (Read more about the “Beatles 1” upgrade).

Eight of John Lennon’s solo albums were newly cut to vinyl for a 2015 box set. The albums also are sold separately. The Universal Music box set goes for about $200. The set marks the debut on vinyl of the remastering jobs of 2010 “by Yoko Ono and a team of engineers.” (Read more about the Lennon LPs.)

Pink Floyd: The band’s two surviving leaders released key solo product in 2015. David Gilmour’s fourth solo album, “Rattle That Lock,” received fairly good reviews. Song titles include “Boots on the Ground” and “Girl With the Yellow Dress.” Pink Floyd veteran Nick Mason performed on a few tracks. Roger Waters fans, meanwhile, finally saw the rerelease of “Amused to Death” on all major formats, including 200-gram vinyl, Blu-ray Audio and hybrid SACD. A chronicle of Waters’ “The Wall” tour also surfaced on Blu-ray.

Singer Van MorrisonVan Morrison: The psychedelic folk classic “Astral Weeks” finally received an expanded reissue via Warner Bros. 1968’s “Astral Weeks” produced no hits, but its dreamlike quality influenced generations of left-of-center musicians. A classical guitar and stand-up bass replaced the obligatory electrics used in rock at the time. “Astral Weeks” has long been considered one of the top albums by a rock artist. With bonus tracks. (Read more about the new “Astral Weeks.”)

Iron Butterfly: “Filled with Fear” was more than a song title — consider it truth in advertising for the contents of “Ball,” the hurried but solid followup album to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Anchored by songs of dread and existential panic, the album in some ways anticipates “Plastic Ono Band.” “Ball” got a needed rerelease on CD with via Real Gone Music. Sonics show strength in dynamics and separation, with a presentation that’s nicely musical instead of muddied.

The Doors: The quad version of the L.A. band’s “Best Of” collection was never forgotten by the early adopters of long ago. Ace audio revivalist Steve Hoffman delivered the goods with a hybrid SACD containing the original quad mix and his re-do of the two-channel stereo mix. Tracks include the usual suspects as well as “Who Do You Love,” “Take It As It Comes” and “Moonlight Drive.” The stereo offers Hoffman’s tweak of original sound guy Bruce Botnick’s work. (Read more about the quad Doors.)

Yes: Prog fans continue to feast in 2015, with the release of “recently discovered” recordings of seven North American concerts from the fall of 1972. “Progeny: Seven Shows From Seventy-Two” is a 14-CD box set that streets for under $75. Your lineup is Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and new guy Alan White. (This is the tour that produced “Yessongs.”) New artwork by Roger Dean. Atlantic’s box set has “every note” of the shows. Vinyl “Highlights” come on three LPs or two CDs.

Grateful Dead: The half-century celebration of the psychedelic pioneers continues at warp speed. “Thirty Trips Around the Sun” resurrected 30 concerts, with more than 73 hours of music. The limited edition set quickly sold out, but remains available to those willing to pay the collector’s premium ($1,100 at best). Fear not: A widely available four-CD set, “Thirty Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story, 1965-1995,” boils things down considerably.

“High Fidelity”: Beloved by multiple generations of record geeks, the 2000 film has its roots squarely in the garage rock/psychedelic era. Artists include the 13th Floor Elevators (“You’re Gonna Miss Me”), Love (“Always See Your Face”), the Velvet Underground (“Who Loves The Sun”) and the Kinks (“Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy”). Fifteenth anniversary release comes on two LPs all done up in the film’s key-art orange. Via Hollywood Records. The double-LP set remains available online and at smaller retailers, but was limited as a Record Store Day item.

Steppenwolf: The rockers ruled the pop charts in the midst of the psychedelic era, but the original mixes of their 45 rpm singles have been MIA in recent decades. That changed last summer with the release of “Steppenwolf: The ABC/Dunhill Singles Collection” on Real Gone Music. The 38 tracks (on two CDs) also include some John Kay solo singles. Kay does a track-by-track commentary for the booklet.

Eric Burdon: The English singer made the transition from white R&B shouter to long-haired leaping gnome in 1967. He disbanded the original Animals in 1966 and turned to lysergically inspired music. Sundazed redid two of the resulting psychedelic albums: “Winds of Change” (1967, mono) — with “Paint it Black” and “San Franciscan Nights” — and “The Twain Shall Meet” (1968, stereo) — with “Monterey” and “Sky Pilot.” Both of these ambitious and sometimes thrilling Eric Burdon & the Animals albums are back on vinyl and CD. Sundazed had both titles on sale at year’s end.

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