Which reissues are worth buying? -- We grade re-releases of Willie Nelson, Gram Parsons, and more

By Will Hermes
June 16, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Which reissues are worth buying?

The Complete Atlantic Sessions (Rhino/Atlantic) Nelson made just two LPs for Atlantic — ’73’s Shotgun Willie and ’74’s concept LP Phases and Stages — but their Texas blend of country, R&B, and rock redefined his art, and expanded Nashville’s musical mindset. This three-disc set includes both albums, lotsa outtakes, and a hot 1974 live set that opens with Shotgun’s ”Whiskey River” — as his shows have for the 30-plus years since. A-

The Complete Reprise Sessions (Rhino/Reprise) This country-rock pioneer’s career was short — he died at 26 — but spectacular (see the recent doc Fallen Angel). He made two solo LPs, 1973’s GP and 1974’s Grievous Angel, both included, with interview fragments and a third disc of worthy alternate versions. There’s some shakiness and sappiness here — as well as some of the most beautiful songs country ever produced. A-

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Yazoo) This two-CD package, with art by cartoonist/record fiend R. Crumb, is a hodgepodge of ’20s and ’30s rural sounds: old-time country music, early blues, and gospel. In their original 78 rpm form, the recordings — of varying brilliance — are grail-like rarities. The amusing booklet has fascinating trivia about the passion (and borderline insanity) of hardcore collectors; you know who you are. B+