Old and Notable: Reissues and live sounds from times gone by

Leonard Cohen

Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Sony Legacy

Age has been kind to Cohen, and this year’s Live in London (recorded in 2008) contained versions of 40-year-old songs as definitive as any in Cohen’s catalogue. Isle of Wight is more reflective of the singer-songwriter’s folk roots (there’s no wailing saxophone in “Bird on the Wire,” for example), and Cohen’s serene stage presence is already firmly entrenched, but the performance feels monotone compared to the current, more elaborate arrangements. DVD footage directed by Murray Lerner gives context through recent interviews with Cohen’s Wight contemporaries, but the abridged track list makes the CD the more essential component.

Elvis Costello

Live at the El Mocambo


Costello was still an angry young man when this set was recorded in 1978 at Toronto’s El Mocambo club. Songs from My Aim is True sound significantly tougher here thanks to the presence of Costello’s new backing band The Attractions (replacing Clover, who would go on to join Huey Lewis’s News), while “Radio, Radio” and “Pump It Up” from the not-yet-released This Year’s Model are appropriately splenetic. If only he still sounded this passionate today.

Sunny Day Real Estate

Diary & LP2

Sub Pop

The 10th anniversary of the pioneering emo outfit’s debut (and an upcoming reunion tour) is all the excuse Sub Pop needs to reissue Sunny Day Real Estate’s first two albums. Mild remastering and scant bonus material don’t justify repurchasing either disc, but for newcomers, these handsome editions are a perfect way to hear a much-maligned genre in its infancy. Singer Jeremy Enigk’s vocals define post-adolescent angst, while the rhythm section went on to join fellow Seattle outfit Foo Fighters in time for The Color and the Shape.

Various Artists

Tumbélé!: Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-74


England’s Soundway Records specializes in unearthing forgotten sounds from around the globe, and Tumbélé! continues that invaluable tradition. Forget the steel drums and relaxed vibes that dominate cheesy cruise ships — these Caribbean sounds are rhythmically dense and energetic beyond belief. The psych-garage guitar that kicks off Les Loups Noirs D’Haiti’s “Jet Biguine” is worth the price of admission for crate-diggers, and the rest is equally laden with sublime finds.

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