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Upcoming music box sets, reissues, remasters and vault releases

Record companies and artist estates continue to trawl the vaults in an effort to offer music lovers more of what they yearn for from archival releases.

Reissues, box sets and remastered albums can be a lucrative business if they're done correctly - and if they offer extras in the form of beautiful packaging, accompanying books, DVDs, Blu-rays and other tangible musical fuzzies that can't be obtained by downloading a bunch of ones and zeroes.

There are a lot of archival releases coming this fall. Here's a rundown of some of the most highly anticipated of the bunch.

The Ramones Ramones - 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Rhino; Sept. 9)

The landmark debut by The Ramones received the deluxe treatment earlier this month. Packaged in a 12' x 12' and limited to 19,760 numbered copies (see what they did there?), this set contains a remastered version of the original album, a brand new MONO mix of that album (the band had originally considered releasing the album in mono but decided against it), a previously unissued 1976 show from the Roxy in Hollywood and a 180-gram vinyl copy of the new mono mix. Blitzkrieg Bop indeed!

Led Zeppelin The Complete BBC Sessions (Rhino Atlantic; Sept 16)

Jimmy Page oversaw a version of this material in 1997 with a two-disc set. Since then, more of Zeppelin's flights on The Beeb have been unearthed, presenting Page with an opportunity to upgrade that first set with the newly discovered material and improved mastering. Culled from six radio programs recorded for the BBC between 1969 and 1971, fans hear a hungry Zeppelin taking chances, with little opportunity to 'fix it in the mix.'

The sound of that '97 set has been much-maligned due to the 'brick wall' style compression and unnecessary overuse of noise reduction applied to the tapes. Taking a subtler approach 20 years later thus allowing the dynamics in the music to remain intact - Page presents this material in more of an audiophile form and proves that Zeppelin is an even heavier band when the shade in the music is occasionally offset with light. The 'super deluxe' version presents the music on three CDs and five 180 Gram vinyl LPS.

David Bowie Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) (Parlophone; Sept. 23)

The first Bowie archival release since his death in January of this year, 'Who Can I Be Now?' contains all of the material officially released by Bowie from his 'American phase' most of it freshly remastered.

What's new among the dozen gold-colored discs in this set is 'The Gouster,' an album from 1974 that eventually morphed into 1975's 'Young Americans.' Recorded in Philadelphia and featuring some previously unissued mixes, the disc offers fans a listen to what the material sounded like before Bowie moved to New York. Also included: the original mix of 'David Live,' a disc of single mixes and B-sides and a 128-page book with notes from producer Tony Visconti. This set will also be released on vinyl.

The Rolling Stones In Mono (ABKCO; Sept. 30)

People might understandably ask 'Why would anyone want to listen in mono when you can hear it in stereo?'

The reason is simple: mono is how most of this stuff was meant to be heard in the 1960s. More time and care was devoted to getting it right in mono, while the stereo mix (if there was one) was usually done very quickly. As a result, the mono mixes sometimes differ greatly from their stereo counterparts. With the exception of songs recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago and at RCA in Los Angeles (and the later Olympic Studios material), most of the 60s Stones material really does sound better in mono and those dedicated mixes are the big attraction in this 15-disc behemoth.

Featuring 186 mono tracks and utilizing Direct Stream Digital transfers of the original tapes mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Studios in Portland, this should be the last word on the Stones in mono. Also included will be a book containing a 5,000-word essay by David Fricke and numerous rare photos. This set will also be available on vinyl.

Jimi Hendrix Machine Gun (At the Fillmore East, 12-31-69, First Show) (Experience Hendrix/Sony Legacy; Sept 30)

Hendrix put together a funky and fiery new band in 1969 - called Band of Gypsys - with bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles. The incendiary music they recorded during their brief existence is still influencing artists nearly five decades later.

When the band unleashed a wealth of new songs over the course of four shows on the last day of the 1960s and the first day of the 1970s, the Fillmore East in NYC was packed to the rafters with fans who staggered away stunned at what they had just witnessed. Billy Cox: 'There were people in the audience with their mouths open.' From those shows came the album 'Band of Gypsys,' released in March 1970, its six titles derived from the January 1st shows.

'Machine Gun (12-31-69, First Show)' will be released as a hybrid high-resolution Super Audio hybrid CD (containing a 'redbook' layer playable on conventional CD players and a hi-res layer for SACD players) and presents Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer's new mix from the original 1' 8-track analog reels. The disc will contain the first show from 12-31-69 in its entirety for the first time.

Also on Sept. 30, Sony Legacy will release a high resolution SACD-hybrid of Hendrix's 'People, Hell & Angels' an album of previously unissued studio material that hit #2 on the album chart upon release in March 2013 and was profiled here in The Maine Edge at that time with Experience Hendrix producer John McDermott.

Big Star Complete Third (Omnivore; Oct. 14)

If you already know Big Star, you'll need this one. If you don't know Big Star, run to your nearest music outlet, grab 1972's '#1 Record' and 1974's 'Radio City' and prepare to be smitten (and go ahead and see the documentary 'Nothing Can Hurt Me' on Netflix while you're at it).

The members of Big Star were Memphis Anglophiles led by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. They made perfect power pop, produced and arranged like their favorite British bands of the 1960s. Even the crustiest rock critics of the early 1970s fell under their spell and turned in repeated glowing column-inches that read more like love letters than reviews. When distribution problems and record company shenanigans kept their records from even leaving the warehouse, Big Star dissolved. Or did they?

More than 40 years after the bizarre 'Third' sessions broke down, it isn't clear if those strange new songs were intended for an Alex Chilton solo record or a Big Star album. What we do know is that Chilton had no desire to record perfect pop this time. He partnered with eccentric producer Jim Dickinson to harness and translate to tape the chaos he heard in his mind. The songs and sessions were disturbing, yet the music is somehow hauntingly beautiful. Fourteen songs from the sessions were finally released by a British indie label in 1978 while subsequent issues in America added more songs. On 'Complete Third,' Omnivore rounds up every demo, rough mix, alternate take and finished master known to exist, delivering 69 tracks - 29 of them previously unheard - over three CDs. Three corresponding double LPs will be released at a later date.

Otis Redding - Live at the Whiskey A Go Go: The Complete Recordings (6 discs; Stax/Concord; Oct. 21)

For the first time, all seven of Otis's sets recorded at the legendary L.A. club on April 8-10 in 1966 will be issued on six CDs. Newly mixed and mastered from the original 4-track recordings, this set will present the complete run - in order (including Redding's between-song banter) - as it was performed at the famed Sunset Strip venue by Otis and a nine-piece band.

While there is, understandably, repetition in the set-lists - eight versions of '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction,' for example - Otis never performed the songs exactly the same way twice. Less than 20 months later, he would be gone. This collection showcases Redding's star in its ascendency and at this stagehe was blazing.

XTC Skylarking (30th Anniversary Definitive Edition CD/Blu-ray) (APE; Oct. 21)

'Skylarking' is (in my opinion) the best album of the 1980s and it saved XTC's career.

In 1985, Swindon's hometown heroes were given an ultimatum by Virgin Records: 'Don't give us a damp squib or we'll give you a right bollocking.' Translation: record with a known American producer and sell a ton of records or we will drop you.

Enter Todd Rundgren. The stories about Todd's time with XTC can bring you to tears (of laughter and pain). XTC leader Andy Partridge certainly shed more than a few during the making of what many fans consider the pinnacle of the group's impressive back catalog. The songwriting, performances, musicianship and production are as good as it gets.

'Skylarking' will be remix engineer Steven Wilson's fourth XTC reissue, billed as a 'virtual box set' on a single Blu-ray disc; it contains the album in 5.1 surround sound, a new stereo mix, four additional songs from the album sessions in stereo and 5.1, three other mixes of the complete album and a complete alternate album in demo form using Rundgren's original notes. All of the period promo films will be also included.

Crowded House (Deluxe editions of the entire catalog EMI; Nov. 4)

Songwriting super-genius Neil Finn teased these releases earlier this year and has now confirmed that his beloved group's back catalog will see lovingly prepared reissues; '[E]ach one accompanied by a rich trove of rarities including writing demos and other musical curiosities,' he writes.

The four albums recorded during Crowded House's original run from 1986 to 1996 are virtually flawless. The more recent 'Time on Earth' and 'Intriguer' were OK, but bettered by the 1999 rarities disc 'Afterglow.' About these reissues, Finn says it's been a labor of love to present a 'superlative quality definitive document of Crowded House's unique history.'

Each album was remastered at Abbey Road studios and will be paired with a bonus disc and a 36-page book. They will also be available on vinyl.

Pink Floyd The Early Years (Legacy; Nov. 11)

News of this set nearly broke the internet: 32 discs; 12 hours of audio; 14 hours of video; 20 unreleased songs; seven hours of previously unissued live audio; five hours of rare concert footage.

Pink Floyd's pre-'Dark Side of the Moon' era 1965 to 1972 - receives a comprehensive roundup with this colossal box. The volumes are presented thematically with corresponding audio and video (on Blu-ray and DVD). From the reign and dissolution of mad genius Syd Barrett to the arrival of David Gilmour, film scores, BBC recordings, unreleased songs, remixes and even the addition of five 7' singles and more than 40 items of memorabilia, this box has been, literally, years in the making and will be an extremely high quality acquisition for a Pink Floyd completist.

It will also be understandably expensive - more than $500 - but will be broken down into individual volumes (with the exception of the bonus disc) sometime in 2017.

NRBQ - High Noon A 50 Year Retrospective (5 Discs; Omnivore; Nov. 11)

How do you categorize the indefinable?

NRBQ were (and still are) more than a cult band, more than a musician's band, more than a mere rock band - yet they are all of these things. Over the course of an album or a concert, you'll likely hear rock, pop, country, blues, jazz and rockabilly, all played with taste, joy, swing, and edge-of-your-seat spontaneity.

This set will be the first to present material from every stage of the band's life among its 106 tracks. All of the hits' are here along with unissued gems, live tracks and covers from the most fun and unpredictable band of all time.

R.E.M. Out of Time (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Concord; Nov. 18)

With this album, R.E.M. became one of the biggest bands in the world. 'Out of Time' is pretty much a flawless piece of work and the upcoming expanded editions promise more of a good thing. The two-disc version will contain the album proper on disc one while 19 demos from the era will grace disc two.

The four-disc version adds a 15-track live show recorded for NPR's 'Mountain Stage' program and a Blu-ray disc containing the album in 5.1 surround sound, as well as a hi-res stereo mix and all of the accompanying videos for the record (including an insightful electronic press kit called 'Time Piece'). A three-disc vinyl version will offer a new analog cut of the original album on one disc and the 19 demos spread over two LPs.

The Who My Generation (Super Deluxe Edition) (5 discs; Universal; Nov. 18)

We don't have all of the details yet, but the best guess is that this set will include The Who's classic 1965 debut in its original mono form, a 2014 stereo remix, singles, B-sides, demos and outtakes.

The Who did something very unusual two years ago - they released secret remasters of their entire catalog on digital platforms including iTunes. For the most part, the freshly remastered versions are fantastic especially 'Live at Leeds' (complete) and 'My Generation.' The new stereo remix leaves the 2002 first-time stereo mix in the dust; expect that mix on this box. It's possible that a vinyl disc (probably mono) will be included.

I hope I buy before I get broke.

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