Each month we handpick a collection of reissues, limited editions or just straight classic long-players that deserve a place in any record collection.
Words | Paul Jones, Amy Flower and Zoë Radas
Stevie Nicks, Bella Donna (1981)
The power of Stevie Nicks to draw listeners into a dark, fairy-tale realm – where music instantly becomes visual, a series of wavelengths sifted through crystal and cloud – is unparalleled. It was a talent already well-celebrated by the time Nicks began work on her first solo album in 1979, at that stage still neck-deep in sessions for Fleetwood Mac’s third album Tusk (1979). And Nicks had no dearth of material; elbowing for room between two other songwriters within Fleetwood Mac meant she’d gathered oodles of self-penned, unrecorded songs, and needed only to set them down to begin.
Eventually released in 1981, Bella Donna is the sound of Nicks extending the chain, adding links in a sequence that moved her out of Fleetwood Mac’s immediate rule towards some of her most enduring songs, including Don Henley duet Leather and Lace, Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around with great friend Tom Petty (and his band the Heartbreakers) and the lap steel-licked After The Glitter Fades.
From the opening notes of the title track, we learn that piano is the hardwood spine of this record, but even in treble-heavy piano moments (Think About It), Nicks’ songs never waver towards poxy territory, thanks to the exceptional earthiness of her tone. Classic Leather and Lace is a lesson for every bedroom pop provocateur/aspirant in trusting your own magic; even when signature track Edge of Seventeen breaks from its chugging hi-hat build into unleashed power, its voltage emanates straight from Nicks’ vocal delivery.
An utterly magical, must-have sonic spellbook.
TOP TRACK: Edge of Seventeen
FAST FACT: The track Sleeping Angel, completed for the record but cut due to space limitations, plays in the Fast Times At Ridgemont High scene in which Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) waits in vain for Mike to pick her up for her doctor’s appointment.
Ozzy Osbourne, No More Tears (1991)
To coincide with its 30th anniversary, Ozzy’s No More Tears gets a fine gatefold double album reissue, pressed on 180gram vinyl. Following the untimely death of guitar supremo Randy Rhoads, Ozzy had worked with several lead guitarists before recruiting the talented – and longest-tenured – Zakk Wylde in the late ‘80s. Wylde’s heavy, snarling riffs and explosive solos lead 11 songs on No More Tears, and he co-wrote all but one of them.
Ozzy, who struggled with sobriety throughout much of the recording process, enlisted a new production team to work on the album, who successfully reshaped his sound, dragging it into the new decade. The record was a commercial success, producing a string of hits: Road To Nowhere, I Don’t Want To Change The World, and Mama, I’m Coming Home, a song that resonated with US soldiers cycling out of combat in the Middle East. No More Tears was Ozzy at his most adventurous; it’s an album he hasn’t surpassed in 30 years.
TOP TRACK: No More Tears
FAST FACT: Motorhead’s Lemmy collaborated on six songs for the album, four of which made the final cut.
Pearl Jam, MTV Unplugged (2021)
There were bands that the MTV Unplugged setting worked for, and bands where it didn’t. Pearl Jam plant a Converse All Star firmly in the former camp. This is nascent and unpolished Pearl Jam, a band firmly on the rise playing here off the back of their first tour for Ten. The band recorded eight stripped-down numbers for the show, seven of which have made it onto this album.
All but one of the six songs from the setlist are drawn from debut Ten, including Black, an emotional and mesmerising song played acoustically. And despite the unplugged premise, the stomping Even Flow, Alive and Jeremy are performed with intense energy, Eddie Vedder leaving nothing in the tank. Originally captured for MTV back in early 1992, it’s surprising that such an exceptional recording – produced here in a beautiful gatefold sleeve – took so long to be committed to vinyl.
TOP TRACK: Black
FAST FACT: The setlist Pearl Jam recorded that day live on March 16, 1992, was completely cut up and rearranged for the televised Unplugged performance.
25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION RED VINYL
Aussie alterna-rock was at its zenith in the mid-1990s, and perennial Big Day Out showstealers Spiderbait were amongst its finest exponents. Ivy and the Big Apples, their third album, landed just a year after The Unfinished Spanish Galleon of Finley Lake, and was packed with killer belters – seven of them certainly not outstaying their welcomes by clocking in at under two minutes. One of these brief but brilliant blasts was the album’s first single, the band’s dig at their record label in mosh-filling fuzz monster Buy Me a Pony, which bumped up against the likes of perfect quiet-LOUD pop slice Calypso, and acoustic anti-d-ckhead observation Goin’ Off – just three of nine tracks on side one alone. There’s nobody else like Spiderbait.
TOP TRACK: Buy Me a Pony
FAST FACT: Buy Me a Pony landed emphatically at number one in the 1996 Triple J Hottest 100 – the first Australian song to ever do so.
Prince, 1999 (1982)
REMASTERED PURPLE VINYL
The catalyst for Prince’s total ascension to pop monarchy came by way of a double album he not only wrote and arranged, but also produced. With 1999 he retained the funk, soul and groove he had become synonymous with, and added synthesizers and drum machines. From this electronic studio experimentation would emerge three excellent crossover songs: 1999, Little Red Corvette and Delirious. With these, Prince unlocked the gates of mainstream success and reshaped the direction of pop in the process.
TOP TRACK: 1999
FAST FACT: 1999 was the first album that Prince recorded with his band The Revolution.