Our ongoing overview of the best music of 2023 continues with the best reissued and archival music of the past year. We already ran a list of the best box sets of 2023, and you’ll see a little bit of crossover between those lists. But we wanted to focus on some smaller-scale reissues and archival releases, including a legendary concert from one of America’s greatest bands, an updated version of a French house record, a compilation of essential grooves from a Libyan funk outfit, a definitive southern rock album from the 2000s and more. These are the best reissues of 2023.
Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums included are chosen by our editors and contributors.
Alan Braxe & Fred Falke – The Upper Cuts (2023 Edition)
Alan Braxe and Fred Falke’s 2005 compilation The Upper Cuts is a crucial French house record, lining up a series of original productions, collaborations (among them the classic Stardust single “Music Sounds Better With You”) and remixes that could keep a dancefloor hot even if you just looped it all night. Newly expanded and remastered as it approaches two decades (technically 18 years, but hey, it’s not like there’s a bad time to revisit this record), this latest version of The Upper Cuts includes some outstanding additions, including some classics not included on the original (the neon flash of “Chrystal City” for one) and the collaboration with Annie, “Never Coming Back,” which is as much about the Norwegian singer’s charming vocal presence as it is Falke’s irresistible bass groove. – Jeff Terich
John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy – Evenings at the Village Gate
A long-lost live recording from 1961, shelved for years but rediscovered at the New York Public Library, captures two giants of jazz during 80 minutes of new musical discovery and transition. Recorded the same year, in the same city, as Coltrane’s legendary Coltrane “Live” at the Village Vanguard, Evenings at the Village Gate is captured as both Coltrane and Dolphy enter into a new period of boundless creativity and, for Coltrane at least, a kind of productive fertility, with the next few years producing many of his most legendary albums. The live performance draws from recent releases Africa/Brass (arranged for a smaller ensemble) and My Favorite Things, and the results are inspired and electric (though technically acoustic). After recent releases such as Both Directions at Once and Blue World, it’s remarkable to think there’s still more unheard Coltrane recordings to dive into, and this one’s an essential. – Jeff Terich
The Drive By Truckers – The Complete Dirty South
Southern rock titans Drive-By Truckers’ The Dirty South tells the tragically ceaseless stories of post-industrial America. Ravaged by mass unemployment, Reaganomic inequity, and the criminal healthcare system, the band’s 2004 full-length focuses on entire populations left out to dry. Twenty-something years later, the reworked version of “Puttin’ People on the Moon” continues to tell the unending American tale of disenfranchised communities facing inequality while bloated government spending pushes self-congratulatory projects like moon landings. Drive-By vocalist Patterson Hood tells of peddling narcotics and cocaine to combat minimum wages, food scarcity, and his wife’s terminal cancer. It’s the same ceaseless injustices Gil Scott-Heron faced in his 1970 poem “Whitey on the Moon,” and on 2020’s “American TTerroristt” by RXK Nephew (“How y’all say I’m evil for sellin’ crack/When I’m out here tryna feed my daughter?”) The Dirty South is agonizingly relatable, an incredibly rich Southern Gothic epic documenting the fall of the American empire. – Patrick Pilch
Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Cleveland trio Emeralds released a lot of music during their time together, some of it on reputable electronic and experimental labels, some of it via limited CD-R, but none of it greater than their 2010 odyssey Does It Look Like I’m Here? A heady blend of cosmic synthesizer patterns and Mark McGuire’s gorgeously fluid guitar work, the album stands as an emotional and compositional peak for the group, showcasing both a breadth and focus honed from a half-decade spent refining their progressive electronic experiments in the studio. After some time spent out of print, Ghostly reissued it this year in an expanded version, which adds seven previously unreleased bonus tracks, including the gargantuan, 28-minute Rehearsal version of “Genetic,” as well as the gorgeously immersive “Escape Wheel” and two pulsing Daphni mixes of the title track. – Jeff Terich
The Free Music – The Free Music (Part 1)
One of the latest installments from the consistently great Habibi Funk label, The Free Music (Part 1) chronicles the music of the ’70s-era Libyan funk band The Free Music, whose catalog is both hard to come by otherwise—even information about the group on the Internet is relatively scarce. This compilation is, then, a necessary reintroduction to a group with grooves and chops for days, their compositions rife with danceable disco rhythms, deeply physical basslines and lots of scratchy guitar to go around, guided by the vocals of bandleader Najib Alhoush. The selection of songs is eclectic but never leaves the pocket, the group a well-oiled machine of funk and joyfully vibrant arrangements. That its title is The Free Music (Part 1) would indicate that there’s more where this came from, and with a start as strong as this one, I can’t wait for the next. – Jeff Terich
Malombo Jazz Makers – Down Lucky’s Way
This is a reissue in the most revelatory sense, uncovering and reviving a vital part of South Africa’s cultural history. Throughout the latter half of the ’60s, the Malombo Jazz Makers—composed of guitarist Lucky Ranku, drummer Julian Bahula, and flautist Abbey Cindi—were making music tightly bound to the Black Consciousness Movement and its reclamation of traditional African culture. In the most radical articulation of this emergent politics, Bahula began incorporating malopo drums—indigenous percussion used primarily in healing—into their sound. On Down Lucky’s Way, their third record, you can hear the shift towards an alternate formulation. These are not familiar jazz structures, but extended, hypnotic meditations, as revolutionary as they are beautiful. – Noah Sparkes
The Replacements – Tim: Let It Bleed Edition
The Replacements’ Tim is a college-radio classic, big on raucous guitars, melodic choruses and some of Paul Westerberg’s greatest lyrical moments. If it’s not the band’s finest hour—that honor goes to Let It Be by a nose—it’s nonetheless a classic slice of left-of-the-dial underground rock, featuring some of the greatest songs the band ever wrote; if they hung it up after “Bastards of Young,” they’d still be legends. Its “Let It Bleed” edition makes good on improving the murky original mix of the album with a new remixed version from Ed Stasium as well as alternate versions, demos and live versions in a box set that includes both four CDs as well as a vinyl version of the album. It’s a hefty dose of the Mats for fans to dive into, but the new mix itself is a revelation, the first time this album has ever sounded this good. Which could make you reconsider whether or not it is, in fact, the band’s greatest album. – Jeff Terich
Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah
When Pharoah was first released in 1977, it was met with a decidedly lukewarm reception, not least from Sanders himself. Initially recorded for a small New York record label called India Navigation, Sanders and the record’s engineer, Bob Cummins, couldn’t settle on the record’s sound, leaving the recording muddy and unfinished. Nonetheless, the record become a cult favourite, listeners drawn in by the serene spiritual jazz of the LP’s 20 minute opener, “Harvest Time.” It’s easy to see why. Sanders floats through guitarist Tisziji Muñoz’s two chord progression with astonishing delicacy, free from his usual harshness. Side B is a joyful exaltation, replete with Sanders’ wonderfully untrained vocals, but it’s “Harvest Time” that remains the LP’s showpiece. As Luaka Bop’s revivifying remastering makes clear, it’s a vital listen for any fans of jazz’s great cosmic wanderer. – Noah Sparkes
Sonic Youth – Live in Brooklyn NY 2011
Sonic Youth’s final show in New York wasn’t the band’s final show on account of a technicality—they had a final run of dates in South America committed before finally taking their final bow. But the performance captured on Live in Brooklyn NY 2011 is a one-of-a-kind live document in their still-expanding and extensive backlog of live recordings. Kicking off with a dense performance of 1985’s “Brave Men Run (In My Family)”, the set features material the band hadn’t played in years, including a fiery take on “Death Valley ’69” and a hazy, seasick “Kotton Krown.” It’s a live set that sounds impeccable, but more than that, captures what it was like to see the band at their most locked-in and unpredictable, a bittersweet farewell to a legendary band.
Neil Young – Chrome Dreams
Not so much a reissue as simply an issue, Chrome Dreams was originally intended for release in 1977, and has been bootlegged endlessly ever since, even though it didn’t materialize in any official fashion in the four-plus decades since. The first official release of the album is of course familiar—many of these songs appeared in a different form on other albums of his, and longtime fans probably know some version of the bootleg already. But its existence is no less welcome regardless, with studio versions of “Sedan Delivery” and “Powderfinger” offering considerably different takes than those on Rust Never Sleeps, while “Like a Hurricane” remains one of his most fiery rock anthems. Whether or not there was an implicit understanding that this album would show up on a list like this upon its official release, well, here we are. – Jeff Terich
Treble is supported by its patrons. Become a member of our Patreon, get access to subscriber benefits, and help an independent media outlet continue delivering articles like these.