Preston Frazier’s Best of 2015 (Reissues and Box Sets): Joni Mitchell, Yes, Mr. Mister + others

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Preston’s Frazier’s Best of 2015 list for reissues and box sets includes recognizable names like Joni Mitchell, Yes, and Mr. Mister — along with a couple of lesser-known acts who deserve wider notice:

5: MR. MISTER – WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD (POP/ROCK): This isn’t the best Mr. Mister album. That honor goes to their last project, Pull. Nevertheless, Welcome to the Real World is a stellar album that eclipses its predecessor I Wear the Face and its successor Go On … with a more balanced approach of rock, prog rock and pop. On this reissue, the familiar formula of Richard Page’s fantastic voice, current King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto’s innovative backbeat and Steve George’s forward-thinking pop keyboards are all present, in addition to Steve Farris’ West Coast rock guitar. The reissue gives you a few remixes and an even more enhanced sonic sheen. Welcome to the Real World is available via Richard Page’s Little Dume Recordings website; check out “Uniform of Youth (live)” and “Is it Love (dance mix).”

4: YES – PROGENY: HIGHLIGHTS FROM SEVENTY-TWO (PROG/ROCK): Capturing Yes at one of many turning points, Progeny and the abbreviated “highlights” CD are magnificent. I’d argue the band plays and sings better now in 2015 but the passion Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White bring in these recordings is incendiary. The recent Like It Is CD sets and movies are great, but the youthful energy and wild abandon found on Progeny tracks like “Yours is No Disgrace” in infectious and not captured on any other Yes recording. I’d suggest you go whole hog and buy the 14 disc box set. You deserve it.

3: KEVIN GILBERT – THUD: 20th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (ROCK): The late Kevin Gilbert left behind a wealth of great compositions and records by his band Giraffe, and with Sheryl Crow. This Best of 2015 entry was Gilbert’s first solo album from 1995, and has been lovingly restored. The 3-disc, 34-track set reminds listeners of the genius of Gilbert. In particular, the 18 previously unreleased demos and alternative takes are a must have. Check out “Goodness Gracious (Demo)” and “Shadow Self (Bill’s Board Mix),” if you don’t believe me. Thud is available on Gilbert’s website,

2: DAVID BAERWALD – A FINE MESS (POP): If you know David Baerwald from his brief stint in David + David, then you are only touching the surface. All five of Baerwald’s solo albums are treasures – including 1999’s A Fine Mess, which has received a two-CD reissue. This Best of 2015 honoree is much more than the sum of its parts, containing glorious versions of solo work from not just that period but his entire solo career. The expansive set has a home studio feel to it but the musicianship and recordings are for the most part strong. He surrounds himself with musically high-powered friend, (Will Sexton, Larry Klein, David Ricketts) but David Baerwald is clearly in control with vivid and direct lyrics and rock rhythms. The CD set is available directly from Baerwald in limited pressing (message him via Facebook). Rumor has it that he’s working on a new David + David album with Ricketts. Let’s hope that comes soon. Check out “Hellbound Train,” “The Bob Dylan Blues” and “Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down.”

1: JONI MITCHELL – LOVE HAS MANY FACES: A QUARTET, A BALLET, WAITING TO BE DANCED (FOLK): How could you not love this remixed and remastered collection? It was personally assembled by Joni Mitchell and displays personalized sequencing, which she uses to cover the arc of love. Most of her hits are part of this Best of 2015 entry, but the four-disc set benefits most from the deep cuts. The CD-only collection of 53 songs contains new original art work by Mitchell, poems and fantastic stories which alone are worth the price of admission. Additionally, Joni Mitchell’s music is cast as she intended. Even if you own all of her work, this is a must have. Check out “No Apologies (2014 Premastered Version)” and “The Crazy Cries Of Love (2014 Remastered Version).”

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