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Music gift guide

Sound advice on reissues

Jorge Ben Jorge Ben
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November 23, 2007

Jorge Ben, "Forca Bruta"
It's the kind of album that sounds unbelievably cool in a record store, especially if you're hearing it for the first time - and then inevitably taking it to the counter to purchase.

A single acoustic guitar plucks out sturdy notes against a backdrop of African drums as lush strings seep into the mix. It's all anchored by a voice as smooth and expressive as anything Sam Cooke ever put to vinyl.

It's Brazilian maverick Jorge Ben turning in a tour de force performance on "Força Bruta," his 1970 samba classic that Dusty Groove America recently released for the first time in the United States. That's a long time to wait for something this evergreen and vital but better late than never. Don't speak português? No problem. Like all great music, the album transcends language and era with an organic vibe and breezy spontaneity; it's the best jam session you never attended in 1970s Brazil.

With its fusion of bright samba and mellow soul, "Força Bruta," which roughly (and aptly) translates to "Brute Force," set a new standard in Brazilian popular music, minting Ben as a key player in the Tropicalia movement led by compatriots Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. (And speaking of Gil, "Força Bruta" is the perfect bookend to Gil's self-titled, 1971 English-language debut, which was reissued earlier this year on Water.)

On a brisk ride through 10 songs, Ben wails, croons, and lets Trio Mocotó's driving rhythm section carry him - and the listener - away into unexpected and lovely places. Nearly four decades on, 1970 never sounded so fresh.

Pink Floyd, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn"
Forty years after its original release, Pink Floyd's 1967 watershed is still a trip. The anniversary edition is a three-disc set that includes a full-mono mix of the album and three versions of "Interstellar Overdrive," plus alternate takes of other classic cuts.

U2, "Joshua Tree"
This three-disc set features a remastered version of the Irish rockers' monumental 1987 album, a new booklet, a disc of rarities and B-sides, and a DVD with period footage including an entire show from Paris.

Jennifer Warnes, "Famous Blue Raincoat: 20th Anniversary Edition"
Two decades on, some of the production techniques may sound dated, but Warnes's luminous voice and the singular songs of Leonard Cohen - including four bonus tracks - are timeless.

Depeche Mode, "Ultra" and "Exciter"
These extras-packed updates of the Brit band's solid but hitless late-period albums are strictly for completists who will thrill at the 30-minute docs and unreleased tracks.

Joy Division, "Box Set" (vinyl)
Dovetailing nicely with the new biopic "Control," Rhino has released a limited edition of 3,000 vinyl sets that include the seminal studio albums "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer" as well as the double-album rarities compilation "Still."

Nick Drake, "Fruit Tree"
Originally released in 1986, this career-spanning, four-CD collection includes all three of the late British troubadour's official studio albums, plus an outtakes disc packed with demos and rarities.

The Abyssinians, "Satta Massagana"
With four bonus tracks, the deluxe edition of this landmark reggae album from 1976 caps a year of important reggae reissues from Rounder's Heartbeat imprint. The album includes two of reggae's most iconic songs: "Declaration of Rights" and the title track, often referred to as the genre's national anthem.

Baby Dee, "The Robin's Tiny Throat"
Until this new double-disc reissue, many of Baby Dee's recordings were out of print and going for up to $30 a pop at her live shows. For good reason: The songs here have a heartfelt, art-song sensibility sure to entice fans of Baby Dee's friend Antony of Antony and the Johnsons.

The Chambers Brothers: "People Get Ready" | "Now" | "Shout!" | "Feelin' the Blues"
The Chambers Brothers rarely got the respect they deserved beyond their classic 1968 hit, "Time Has Come Today." These four reissued albums remedy that, showcasing a nimble band at home in electric and Delta blues, nasty funk, rafter-rattling gospel, and straight-up rock 'n' roll.

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