15 Essential Classic Rock Reissues & Box Sets from 2021
We've been in the process of posting multiple lists of the best music released in 2021, and along with all the new music, plenty of great old music was given new life this year too. We recently posted Indie Basement's list of the year's best reissues, box sets, and compilations, but here's something for all you classic rockers out there, or for the classic rock fan in your life who needs a last-minute Christmas gift. We've put together a list of 15 stone-cold classic albums that were given reissues this year, often with tons of amazing (and previously unreleased) bonus content. From heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath to legendary singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell to a little band called The Beatles, here are 15 classic rock reissues and box sets from 2021 that are very worth owning...
Black Sabbath - Sabotage, Mob Rules, & Heaven and Hell (get)
Home of all-time classics like "Symptom of the Universe," "Megalomania," "Hole in the Sky," and "Am I Going Insane (Radio)," Sabotage was Black Sabbath's sixth album and arguably the last front-to-back classic of the Ozzy era. It's got some of the band's best and most unique songs, and this year it got treated to a super deluxe reissue including 16 live tracks from the band's 1975 tour (13 of which were previously unreleased), in-depth liner notes, rare photos, press clippings from the era, and a 1975 Madison Square Garden replica concert book and Sabotage 1975 tour color poster.
Also released this year were deluxe reissues of Sabbath's first two albums with Ronnie James Dio, 1980's Heaven and Hell and 1981's Mob Rules. The albums gave Sabbath a second life, and they remain two of the best albums in either Black Sabbath's or Dio's vast discographies.
Pick up all three HERE.
The Beatles - Let It Be (get)
Thanks to its belated 50th anniversary, it's been the year of Let It Be. Footage of the album's writing and recording sessions became the basis for Peter Jackson's much-loved eight-hour film The Beatles: Get Back, and the album also got a massive reissue. There's a Super Deluxe edition that features 27 previously unreleased session recordings, a four-track Let It Be EP, the never-before-released 14-track Get Back stereo LP mix compiled by Glyn Johns in 1969, and a 100-page hard-back book with an introduction by Paul McCartney and much more. For something slightly less pricey, there's also the Special Edition featuring the original Let It Be newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and engineer Sam Okell, and a picture disc.
Pick up various editions of the Let It Be reissue HERE.
George Harrison - All Things Must Pass (get)
Also seen in The Beatles: Get Back was footage of George Harrison writing some of the music that ended up on his classic solo album All Things Must Pass. The original album was already a treasure trove for fans who wanted more George Harrison material than you could ever find on Beatles albums, and this new 50th anniversary reissue has even more. The Super Deluxe edition has a total of 70 tracks across eight 180g LPs, including 47 (42 previously unreleased) demo recordings, session outtakes and studio jams, and a 60-page scrapbook curated by Olivia Harrison. There's also the 5LP Deluxe edition with 17 tracks of demo recordings, session outtakes, and studio jams.
Pick up various editions HERE.
John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - The Ultimate Collection
Continuing this cavalcade of Beatles-related reissues is this new edition John Lennon's 1970 solo debut made with the Plastic Ono Band that took him into uncharted, raw sonic territory. (He called "the best thing I've ever done.") This 50th anniversary edition includes new mixes of the album from Paul Hicks (who worked on the Imagine reissue and Gimme Some Truth best-of), including the Ultimate Mixes that "put John's vocals front and center and sonically upgrade the sound"; the Element Mixes "isolate and bring forth certain elements from the multitrack recordings to reveal even deeper levels of detail and clarity"; and the Raw Studio Mixes "allow listeners to experience the moment John and the Plastic Ono Band recorded each song, mixed raw and live without effects, tape delays or reverbs." The box set also includes studio outtakes, demos and more, featuring over 11 hours of music with 159 tracks total, including 87 never-before-heard recordings. There's also a two-vinyl LP version featuring the Ultimate Mix of the album and a selection of rarities.
Joni Mitchell - The Reprise Albums (1968-1971) & Archives, Vol 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971) (get)
Joni Mitchell celebrated the 50th anniversary of her iconic album Blue this year (read our retrospective review), and she also put out a new box set, The Reprise Albums (1968-1971), featuring newly remastered versions of her first four albums, including Blue and its three similarly great predecessors: 1968's Song to a Seagull, 1969's Clouds, and 1970's Ladies of the Canyon. The Song To A Seagull reissue has also been newly remixed by Matt Lee, and the new mix was overseen by Joni herself. "The original mix was atrocious," Joni said. "It sounded like it was recorded under a jello bowl, so I fixed it!" The cover art features a previously unseen self-portrait that Joni made during the era of these albums, and the liner notes include an essay by Brandi Carlile, who says, "In my opinion, Blue is the greatest album ever made."
Joni also put out Archives, Vol 2: The Reprise Years (1968-1971), which features home demos and rare live recordings from the era.
Metallica - The Black Album (get)
After releasing four of the greatest thrash albums of all time, Metallica slowed things down a bit and put out their self-titled fifth album, better known as The Black Album, which turned them into one of the biggest bands of all time, metal or otherwise. Home to massive singles “Enter Sandman,” “The Unforgiven," “Nothing Else Matters," “Wherever I May Roam,” and “Sad But True,” the album continues to endure and draw new listeners into Metallica's world every year. This year, for its 30th anniversary, it was treated to a massive box set reissue that includes the album remastered on 180-gram double LP and CD, "Sad But True" picture disc, three live LPs, 14 CDs and six DVDs featuring unreleased content (live shows, rough mixes, demos, etc), MP3 download card of all audio, four tour laminates, lanyard, three lithos, three guitar picks, lyric folder and sheets, and a 120-page hardcover book with never-before-seen photos + stories from those who were there. It was also released alongside The Metallica Blacklist, a massive tribute LP to the album.
Pick it up HERE.
David Bowie - Brilliant Adventure (1992 - 2001) (get)
Brilliant Adventure, the fifth in the series of box sets chronicling David Bowie's discography, focuses on the '90s that found him once again reinventing himself, and embracing cutting edge electronic and dance music, like jungle, drum n bass, techno, trip-hop and industrial. This 11-CD / 18-vinyl-LP box includes his albums Black Tie White Noise, The Buddha of Suburbia (available on vinyl for the first time in 30 years), Outside, Earthling, and Hours, plus 2000 live album BBC Radio Theatre that is exclusive to the box, and Re:Call 5 that includes non-LP singles, b-sides, edits, and more. Of biggest interest is TOY, Bowie's "lost" album that was recorded and set for release in 2001 (but got shelved) and featured new songs and new versions of old songs. TOY was also released this year as a stand-alone album.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu (get)
A year after The Byrds' David Crosby, Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills, and The Hollies' Graham Nash released the instant-classic debut album by their supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, they welcomed Stills' Buffalo Springfield bandmate Neil Young into the fold and followed it with another instant-classic. Home to “Teach Your Children,” “Woodstock,” “Our House,” “Helpless,” and more, it remains one of the greatest folk rock albums of all time, and this year it was given a belated 50th anniversary reissue featuring the remastered album, tons of bonus tracks (most of which were previously unreleased), and liner notes by Cameron Crowe.
Pick it up HERE.
David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name (get)
After years contributing songs to The Birds and CSN(Y), David Crosby finally put out his debut solo album in 1971, and it remains his most definitive work (read our retrospective review). This year, it got a 50th anniversary remastered reissue, including CD/digital versions with some lovely previously unreleased demos, and the standard album was also given a remastered vinyl reissue.
Pick it up HERE.
Beach Boys - Feel Flows: The Sunflower & Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 (get)
The end of the '60s saw a creative rebirth for the Beach Boys, resulting in two of their best, if underappreciated albums -- 1970's Sunflower and 1972's Surf's Up. The sessions for those two albums make up this massive box set that explores this influential era of the band which featured every member of the band contributing songs. Feel Flows features the 2019 remasters of both album, plus an additional 108 previously unreleased tracks, including live recordings, radio promos, alternate versions, alternate mixes, isolated backing tracks and a cappella versions, all taken from the original sessions. The box set also includes a 48-page full of rare photos and artifacts from the era, as well as new liner notes by Beach Boys aficionado Howie Edelson, and new and archival interviews with Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and more. For those who don't need quite that much bonus material, there is a two-disc edition with the original albums and a choice selection of unreleased tracks.
Pick up Beach Boys vinyl HERE.
R.E.M. - New Adventures In Hi-Fi 25th Anniversary Edition (get)
R.E.M.'s 10th album is unlike any other in their catalog. It was their last album with drummer Bill Berry, and much of it was written and recorded at soundchecks during the band's 1995 Monster world tour. "We wanted to make a record about being on the road without singing about being on the road," says bassist Mike Mills. "The idea was that the feeling of being on the road would come through in the sound and feel of the record itself.” New Adventures in Hi-Fi had the band going off-map, exploring uncharted territory, and has aged very well, as this deluxe 25th Anniversary Edition shows. The original album -- including singles "E-Bow the Letter," “Bittersweet Me,” and “Electrolite” -- has been remastered, and there's a second vinyl LP featuring 13 b-sides and rarities, including the alternate version of "Leave" originally recorded for theA Life Less Ordinary soundtrack. It's a fitting capper for this end-of-an-era document.
Ozzy Osbourne - No More Tears (get)
In addition to this year's multiple Sabbath reissues, we also got a 30th anniversary reissue of Ozzy's 1991 album No More Tears. It's Ozzy's second album with Zakk Wylde on guitar, features co-writing by Lemmy from Motorhead on more than six the songs, and birthed some of Ozzy's biggest-ever songs, like "Mama, I'm Coming Home" and the title track. It's been repressed on double vinyl, and the digital version features a handful of demo and live recording bonus tracks.
Pick it up HERE.
The Doors - L.A. Woman (get)
The Doors' sixth and final album with Jim Morrison turned 50 this year, and to celebrate, they gave it a remastered reissue featuring two bonus discs of unreleased studio outtakes, including some genuinely great material, like the original demo of "Riders on the Storm."
Pick it up HERE.
The Who - Sell Out (get)
Released at the peak of their psychedelic era, before entering the world of rock operas and teenage wastelands, The Who Sell Out remains one of The Who's best, weirdest, and often under-appreciated albums. Its big song is the immortal "I Can See For Miles," but it's the deep cuts that make this album worth coming back to time and time again. This year, the album got a massive Super Deluxe box set across five CDs and two 7" singles that includes studio outtakes, unreleased tracks, early takes, and Pete Townshend’s original demos for the album. The standard album was also given a 2xLP vinyl reissue.
The Rolling Stones - Tattoo You 40th Anniversary Edition (get)
Made up of outtakes recorded in various studios throughout the '70s, 1981's Tattoo You was nonetheless another huge hit for the Rolling Stones and includes one of their biggest singles, "Start Me Up," not to mention "Waiting for a Friend," "Hang Fire," and more. The 40th anniversary reissue is available in a few different formats, including a two-disc Deluxe Edition and a five-disc Super Deluxe box set. The highlight of both is Lost & Found, featuring nine previously unreleased songs from the era that were "newly completed and enhanced with additional vocals and guitar by the band," including some of the final recordings by the late Charlie Watts. Also included in the Super Deluxe edition: Still Life: Wembley Stadium 1982 that was recorded in June of 1982 during the Tattoo You world tour, and a 124 page book featuring over 200 rare photos, as well as new interviews with producer Chris Kimsey and photographer Hubert Kretzschmar.
You can get the Tattoo You box set and other editions of the album, along with lots of other Stones vinyl, HERE.
U2 - Achtung Baby 30th Anniversary Edition
U2 followed the blockbuster success of The Joshua Tree with something completely different. Achtung Baby found the band diverging from their distinctive guitar rock style to experiment with electronic dance music. It may have been a creative curveball but the album connected all the same and spawned five hit singles: "The Fly," "Mysterious Ways," "One," "Even Better Than the Real Thing" and "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses." This 30th Anniversary Edition includes the 2018 remastered edition of the album that's not currently on streaming services, and is available on limited edition colored vinyl with an exclusive slipcase and poster, as well as a standard black vinyl edition. Both include a new eight-page booklet with lyrics and credits. There's also a 50-track digital box set featuring b-sides, remixes and "other stuff."
Get most of the items on this list HERE.