POSTED: December 27, 1:00 PM EDT | By David Fricke
Fricke's Picks: Top 2010 Reissues from Under the Radar
Wax, Melted (Lightyear)
This one is personal. Wax were from my hometown, Philadelphia, and they were everywhere between 1969 and 1971 – in the clubs, opening shows for John Mayall, the Byrds and Chicago – while I was away at college. They never made an album, so I would only know them by reputation and the members' later success: Singer-keyboardist Rob Hyman co-founded the Hooters; drummer Rick Chertoff produced them; and singer David Kagan was the full bright voice, with Hyman, in the fine Philly group Baby Grand, which I did see. Melted is a set of songs Wax taped live in the studio, near the end of their tether, and it is vintage early-Seventies ambition: progressive songwriting with snappy instrumental digressions, just enough pop gloss and that inevitable Philly-R&B tang. Now I know what I missed – and I wish I'd been there.
Critic's Picks: Rob Sheffield's Best Albums and Singles of 2010
Spider John Koerner, March 1963 (Nero's Neptune)
The Minneapolis singer-guitarist Spider John Koerner packed a lot of history into the spring Sunday that ended with this performance, on a local radio station. Starting at 10 a.m., Koerner recorded the seminal white-blues album, Blue, Rags & Hollers, with singer-guitarist Dave Ray and harp player Tony Glover. Then Koerner and Ray did an evening coffeehouse gig, before Koerner finished up at midnight, solo, with this high-velocity knockout broadcast – spunky, good-time stuff with all of the right rough edges intact.
Poobah, Let Me In (Ripple Music)
You could go broke and mad trying to locate – and endure – every "great lost album" cherished by fanboys from the homegrown-pressing underground of the late Sixties and Seventies. The 1972 debut by the Ohio trio Poobah is one of the few that was – and still is, as hard Seventies boogie goes – great. The many extra tracks are a nice bonus but no major improvement on the original half-dozen: a blowout of English-power-trio and Rust Belt blues, with guitarist Jim Gustafson riffing in a thick-fuzz lather that will remind you, fondly, of Grand Funk Railroad's Mark Farner and the British ace Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs. The cover – a crude-ink drawing of a hippie barfing into a toilet – is very much of its time.
Critic's Picks: Christian Hoard's Best Album and Singles of 2010
Motorpsycho, Timothy's Monster (Rune Grammofon)
The Norwegian power trio's 1994 coming-of-rage album, a double-disc set, is expanded further with an earlier unissued attempt and a full CD of demos, detours and a memorable blast through Hüsker Dü's "New Day Rising." Forged in metal and steeped in Seattle grunge, Motorpsycho were shedding influences and building on lessons learned, on the way to their current heavy progrssive-psychedelic peak. This is epic climbing, revealed in full.
Critic's Picks: Will Hermes' Best Albums and Singles of 2010
Up, Rising (Applebush)
Up – singer Frank Bach, guitarist Bob Rasmussen, his bassist-brother Gary and drummer Scott Bailey – were young-brat kin to the Stooges and the MC5 in turn-of-the-Seventies proto-punk Michigan. They were also sorely underrecorded, with just one-and-a-half indie-label singles and no whiff of a major-label deal. Rising is as much of a canon as they could muster in 1970-'72, but the multiple blitzkriegs through "Just Like an Aborigine" and "Free John Now!," a pledge of support for then-imprisoned White Panther chief John Sinclair, never get tired and "Do the Sun Dance," unissued at the time, now gets fair light.
Critic's Picks: Jody Rosen's Best Albums and Songs of 2010
Pantera, Cowboys From Hell (Rhino)
"The Will to Survive," which opens the demo disc in this three-CD blowout, sounds like a leftover from an earlier Pantera – the glam-metal trip that left behind, after four albums, with extreme prejudice, when the Texas quartet knuckled down to make the harder meaner Cowboys From Hell, the group's 1990 major-label debut. The Metallica impact is obvious. So is an original evolving might, especially the locked-in hypergroove of drummer Vinnie Paul, his late guitarist-brother Dimebag Darrell and bassist Rex Brown. You may not need four versions of the title track and "Psycho Holiday" (studio, demo and two live each), but the overkill is hardly inappropriate.
ABOUT THIS BLOG
Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).