Not every album released is a new studio album…..but it sure seems like they are! Every year there are a ton of live albums, greatest hits packages, reissues, remasters, box sets, special edition and limited edition releases that flood the marketplace. Sometimes there are multiple versions of these releases depending on which part of the world they are released in!
The one important criteria I have each year for the best and worst albums lists is that the albums have to be new studio albums…..or at least promoted as new studio albums. The problem is that some of these live records and greatest hits packages are quality releases and there’s nothing like getting a really good reissue of some long out of print album you’ve been searching years for. That’s why this year I’m creating this new list to recognize some of the quality non-studio, non-original releases that have found their way into my collection. There were a lot of different releases that I picked up that weren’t studio albums so I’m only going to list my ten favorites. So here are my Best Miscellaneous Releases of 2011…..
Bitch – Be My Slave/Damnation Alley E.P. (2011 remaster): I had no idea that this Bitch album was getting the remaster treatment from Metal Blade and I was completely surprised when i saw this in the new release rack back in August. Not only do you get the remastered BE MY SLAVE record from 1983 but also the DAMNATION ALLEY E.P. from 1982 along with a bonus track, ‘Let’s Go’. You can still find the original CDs online but what makes this remaster a top pick is the bonus DVD that runs over 2 hours long! The DVD includes a live performance at the Keep It True XIV Festival in Germany back in April 2011 and a classic performance from L.A. from the early ’80s and a couple of music videos. The DVD alone would have been a solid purchase but it adds so much more to the remaster.
Black Sabbath – Born Again (2011 Deluxe Edition) & Dehumanizer (2011 Deluxe Edition): I’m a huge Black Sabbath fan, especially of the post-Ozzy eras of the band! So far, I’ve collected most of these deluxe editions from the Dio years and the Tony Martin led THE ETERNAL IDOL (1989) but I was waiting for both BORN AGAIN and DEHUMANIZER to get the deluxe treatment. Both editions offer two bonus tracks each, live tracks from each tour and solid packaging but the best detail on these reissues is the sound. BORN AGAIN always had that thick muddy sound to it and this remaster sounds better than my original CD and the DEHUMANIZER CD sounds just as good. Definitely a couple of highlights added to my collection this year, now I’m looking forward to the rest of the Tony Martin era getting the deluxe treatment!
Eric Carr – Unfinished Business (2011): Being a KISS fan, and an Eric Carr fan, I had to list this CD. I ended up getting an advance copy of this new Eric Carr album and I’m honored to have it in my collection. During his tenure, Eric was the most outgoing member of KISS when it came to meeting with the fans…..he loved his fans and the fans loved him. It’s been 20 years since Eric’s passing and his family, specifically his sister Loretta, has compiled this collection of rare recordings that include unreleased songs, live tracks, remixes and interview clips. There are obvious KISS links in most of the songs and I really like hearing was Eric’s audition tape for KISS back in 1980 when he sang ‘Shandi’…..now that’s a rarity! I also think the packaging is top notch: a glossy digipak with plenty of liner notes for each track.
Def Leppard – Mirrorball: Live & More (2011): Hard to believe this is Def Leppard’s first live album but MIRRORBALL captures the band extremely well with a great overall sound. The songs are taken from the last few tours and it’s basically the same hits pack we’ve seen live since 2007 but the sound on all those hits is awesome. Lots of value here being a Wal-Mart release: 2 bonus live tracks, 3 new studio songs and a 45 minute DVD that includes a behind the scenes look at the last tour in 2008/2009, live tracks and music videos. I also like the old school, thick jewel case! Definitely a solid pickup and a solid live album…..it makes you wonder what took the Leps so long to release one.
Doro – 25 years In Rock…..And Still Going Strong (2011): Finally, a proper U.S. release of this 2 DVD & CD set celebrating Doro’s 25th anniversary in Metal. This collection was originally released back in September 2010 around the world but U.S. distribution took a little longer…..surprising considering Nuclear Blast has a U.S. branch. This package includes the 3 hour 25th anniversary concert in Germany with tons of guest stars on the first DVD, a documentary and tons of extra live performances on the second DVD, and a live disc with highlights from the anniversary concert. I spent about $20 on this release and, even though some of the performances are 3 years old, it was definitely worth it. Doro has packed a ton of material in here for a great price, my only complaint being that the live disc isn’t the complete anniversary show…..I would have easily paid the extra money to get the full show on audio.
Grave Digger – The Clans Are Still Marching (Live At Wacken 2010) (2011): It’s always great to see a band and label get it right and release a special package of a live DVD with the bonus live CD. Napalm Records and Grave Digger released THE CLANS ARE STILL MARCHING in both the CD and DVD formats but each version gave you the bonus of the other format. If you bought the DVD styled case, you received the bonus audio CD of the full show and, if you bought the CD version then you got the bonus DVD. Seems a little odd to release the show that way but you get the full experience of the band’s 2010 Wacken show either way. There’s bonus footage on the DVD and the package I bought was the CD hardbook version.
Twisted Sister – Under The Blade (Special Edition CD/DVD) (2011): Twisted Sister’s back catalogue got the reissue treatment in 2011 but this special edition of UNDER THE BLADE stands out as the best. First is the original Secret Records mix of the album with bonus tracks coming from the 1982 RUFF CUTTS E.P. Remember, there are two versions of UNDER THE BLADE: the original record from 1982 and the remixed album from 1985 on Atlantic Records (with an alternate album cover). That’s enough right there to make a solid reissue but there’s a bonus DVD included of the band’s appearance at the 1983 Reading Festival along with bonus interviews. Twisted Sister has been releasing a lot of archival material lately but getting the original version of UNDER THE BLADE out there was a must, as was getting RUFF CUTTS into circulation.
UFO – The Chrysalis Years (1973-1979) (2011): This is one of my favorite releases of the year and it’s not just because I’m a HUGE UFO fan but because this is a perfect collection to introduce a new fan to classic UFO. I was lucky to receive an advance copy of this 5 CD set and I was able to get a lot of time comparing it to other remasters that I own. This set includes UFO’s first five albums with Chrysalis Records (PHENOMENON, FORCE IT, NO HEAVY PETTING, LIGHTS OUT & OBSESSION), as well as, the classic live record STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT. Each album is remastered and sequenced in order of release with non-album singles, B-sides, bonus tracks and previously unreleased live performances all mixed in the timeline properly. Basically, you’re getting the classic Michael Schenker era UFO in all it’s glory complete with an extensive booklet that includes a new 2011 interview with lead singer/founder Phil Mogg and extensive song credits. I could have used some extra pictures and proper photos of each individual album’s cover art but that’s a small complaint. This collection is retailing for around $20-$25 depending where you buy your music so it’s a heck of a buy and a great way to get started into a great band, I hope there’s another collection like this with the rest of the UFO catalog.
Whitesnake – Live At Donington 1990 (Special edition 2CD/DVD) (2011): Another solid live package from a classic band that’s had a major resurgence in the last few years. Whitesnake is as relevant as ever by releasing two awesome studio albums in the last few years and having some great anniversary reissues of the band’s best selling albums from the ’80s but this new live set is something fans like myself want to have. 1990 was probably Whitesnake’s peak of success and this Donington perofrmance on the Slip Of The Tongue tour is a great way to re-live some of the glory days. The package includes the full live show on DVD and CDs (a huge plus for me!) and it’s got great glossy digipak packaging with plenty of pictures and great disc artwork. I love live releases like this! Both formats, full shows and a lot of care put into the package.