* The Beatles, Let It Be ... Naked: This reissue made its debut in the Top 5 when it dropped in November and has since gone platinum, selling a million copies. The controversial 1970 album was originally intended to be a back-to-basics record, dipping into the Fab Four's main wells of inspiration: the blues and R&B. But Phil Spector was brought in later and added his famed Wall of Sound to three tracks, including "The Long and Winding Road." Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, never cared for Spector's version. So 33 years later, he goes back into the studio and tinkers with the album. The results are mixed. Some changes were subtle, some jarring. But overall, Naked is probably the most interesting -- not to mention commercially successful -- reissue of 2003.
* Eric B. & Rakim, Paid in Full (Deluxe Edition): Once upon a time, not long ago, hip-hop was powerful. There were two New York brothas -- one a gifted lyricist, the other, a dynamite DJ -- who got together back in '87 and produced one of the most influential rap albums ever, Paid in Full. Rakim, one of the genre's overlooked rhyme spitters, delivered literate, complex lines in a jazzy style that sounds as effecting today as it did back then. The bare-beats production is clean, leaving ample room for Rakim's velvet flows. A bonus disc of 12-inch mixes, along with insightful essays by Tom Terrell and MC Search, complete the new edition.
* The Spinners, The Chrome Collection: Rooted in doo-wop, this Detroit quintet started its career at Motown in the '60s. But the company focused more attention on the Temptations and the Four Tops. So the Spinners never really got their "props" in the 10 years with the storied label. All that changed in the early '70s when the group added the blessed tenor of Philippe Wynne, switched to Atlantic Records and hooked up with the masterful Thom Bell. The Jamaican-born producer, who had worked soul magic with the Stylistics, crafted a lush, jazz-glazed sound for the Spinners, resulting in classic after classic: "I'll Be Around," "Mighty Love," "The Rubberband Man" and the list goes on. The Chrome Collection consists of three discs, spanning 1961 to 1989. Beloved album cuts abound. An essential set for Spinners fans or lovers of sophisticated soul.
* War, The Very Best of: Like James Brown, War is perhaps the most sampled act in hip-hop. Back in the day, the multiracial California band fused Latin rhythms with gospel, funk, jazz and R&B. The blend was potent, evoking sun-splashed, breezy days in L.A. All the hits and some lesser-known album cuts are included on this double-disc collection: "All Day Music," "The World is a Ghetto," "Why Can't We Be Friends?," "Low Rider."
This stuff just gets better as the years fly by.