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New old music from the Replacements, the Doors, Bob Dylan and Prince to beat the winter blahs

UPDATED: Sat., Jan. 29, 2022

A great way to beat the winter blahs is blasting vinyl until a semblance of spring arrives. Some hot new reissues are helping ease the pain caused by the January doldrums – and February, really.

While interviewing Tommy Stinson 20 years ago, I asked about a potential Replacements reunion. “There’s an 80% chance that we’ll never reunite,” Stinson said. “If we do it, it will only be for the money.”

Well, the beloved Mats reformed in 2015 and kicked off each show with “Takin’ A Ride,” the leadoff track from its glorious debut album, “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.”

The 40th anniversary of the Replacements’ initial effort received the royal treatment, the deluxe edition, which includes four CDs and vinyl and features 100 tracks, including 67 unreleased cuts, many of which are demos. A cool 12-by-12 hardcover book with rarely seen photos and liner notes from Replacements biographer Bob Mehr are part of the package.

But the reason to dive into the remastered lo-fi release is to reconnect with the group, which is arguably the greatest band of the 1980s. It’s easy to forget how great the early Mats were out of the gate.

I was reminded during a chat with the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne of how special “Sorry Ma’ is since he gushed over the album. “It’s the best record the Replacements ever made,” Osborne said. “There’s no arguing that.” Well, it’s easy to debate the Replacement’s’ “Let It Be” over “Sorry, Ma,” but every Replacements album has its merits.

Singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg was just 21 when “Sorry, Ma” was released, and he wasn’t yet fully formed, but he still impressed with his amusing, melodic punk. No songwriter of the 1980s did self-deprecation better than Westerberg, and that’s evident all over ‘Sorry, Ma.” Westerberg let’s it all fly with “Johnny’s Gonna Die” and rages on righteously throughout “Careless.”

The Doors

“Sorry, Ma” isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s well worth revisiting since the template of greatness created by the Replacements is on display. On the flip side of “Sorry, Ma” is the Door’s sixth and final album, “L.A. Woman,” which has been reissued to mark its 50th anniversary, three CDs and vinyl. Each track is remastered and sounds terrific.

“L.A. Woman” is well worth a listen. The most blues-oriented Doors album is also the band’s most powerful. It’s not a mind-blowing affair a la the Doors’ eponymous debut album or the follow-up, “Strange Days,” but it’s a sturdy album of a band evolving.

Vocalist-lyricist Jim Morrison’s poetry is at its deepest. The Lizard King’s voice is craggy due to the relentless and well-documented self-abuse Morrison reveled in during his six-year run with the band. But Morrison is able to raise his game belting out the searing “The Changeling” and the gorgeous “Love Her Madly.”

Morrison’s dramatic evolution from a film student, who never sang or played an instrument, to arguably the most compelling frontman in rock and roll, is fascinating. While revisiting the album, it’s impossible not to think of what could have been for the Doors.

Bob Dylan

There’s always a Bob Dylan reissue, and Legacy’s latest, “Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series, Volume 16/1980-1985,” is one of the finest reissues of the Bard’s career.

The outtakes from albums such as 1981’s “Shot of Love,” 1983’s “Infidels” and 1985’s “Empire Burlesque” are well worth experiencing. Diehards will love the unreleased material, outtakes, rehearsal recordings and live performances.

“Infidels” is an underrated masterpiece. The songs are top-notch, and the musicianship is exceptional thanks to the all-star band Dylan assembled. Guitar hero Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame, ex-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor on guitar and legendary rhythm section bassist Robbie Shakespeare and drummer Sly Dunbar joined Dylan in the studio. The deluxe five-CD edition presents 57 rare Dylan recordings, 54 of them previously unreleased in any format.

Prince

It’s difficult to believe that it’s been almost six years since Prince passed away. However, since Prince wrote and recorded a number of songs that never saw the light of day while he was alive, new material has and will be released.

The tracks from “Welcome 2 America” were recorded in 2010. Who knows if Prince considered the album complete? What is known is that the album is anything but a collection of throwaways.

The solid material is comprised of celebratory, quirky and catchy tunes. The sensual “When She Comes,” the infectious funk of “Check the Record” and the provocative “Born 2 Die” prove that Prince was still at the height of his game at the midcentury mark.

The songs are totally Prince – sensual, complex and swaggering. The collection makes you miss Prince and wonder what would have been next. However, the good news is that “Welcome 2 America” is the first release in his estate’s deal with Legacy.

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