Producer Tony Visconti has said there is a load of "great" unreleased David Bowie material just waiting to be heard. If Michael Jackson's last album from beyond the grave has taught us anything, it's that posthumous releases needn't be dodgy legacy-wrecking cash-ins. Here's another 17 good ones, starting with Love's ‘Black Beauty’, which Arthur Lee recorded in 1973. It remained lost in label Buffalo Records' archives, after they went bust before its planned release, for nearly four decades.
Michael Jackson, ‘Michael’
The King Of Pop’s first posthumous album wasn’t without its controversies: members of the singer’s family including his children Prince and Paris claimed that some vocals on the LP didn’t belong to him at all, but were the work of an imposter. Regardless, ‘Michael’ gave Jacko a 21st century overhaul, including collaborations with Akon and 50 Cent.
Johnny Cash, ‘American V and VI’
The Man In Black’s low-key, gravel-voiced recordings with Rick Rubin revitalised his legacy in his latter years and introduced Cash to a whole new generation of fans. His post-death albums breathed new, melancholy life into songs like Sheryl Crow’s ‘Redemption Day’ and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Further On (Up The Road)’.
Eva Cassidy, 'Simply Eva'
US singer Cassidy received only cult recognition during her lifetime. Four years after her death in 1996, her skeletal cover of ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ turned her into a star. Since then, there’s been a spate of posthumous LPs, from 2000’s ‘Songbird’ (actually a compilation of songs culled from her previous studio records) to 2011’s ‘Simply Eva’.
Tupac Shakur, '‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’
As those Coachella holograms back in 2011 proved, Tupac’s as in-demand now as he ever was. Since his death in 1996, he's had steady stream of posthumous LPs, starting with that year’s ‘The Don Killuminati’. 2004’s ‘Loyal To The Game’, meanwhile, spawned the Elton John-featuring ‘Ghetto Gospel’, a Number One single in the UK.
Queen, ‘Made In Heaven’
The first - and final - album Queen released using iconic frontman Freddie Mercury’s vocals after his death became a huge chart success, and has reportedly sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Guitarist Brian May would later describe the LP as “possibly the best Queen album we ever made”.
Notorious BIG, 'Life After Death'
The magnificent double-album ‘Life After Death’ was released just weeks after Biggie was shot and killed in 1997. Since then there’s been more posthumous collections including 1999’s ‘Born Again’, which included collaborations with Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Missy Elliott, and 2005’s less well-received‘The Final Chapter’.
Nirvana, ‘MTV Unplugged’
The first album released after Cobain’s tragic suicide: a haunting acoustic concert featuring stripped-down renditions of Nirvana favourites. Kurt’s voice sounded beautifully brittle and frail. 2002’s career-spanning compilation ‘Nirvana’ meanwhile featured the single ‘You Know You’re Right’, recorded during the band’s final ever studio session in 1994.
Marvin Gaye, 'Dream of a Lifetime'
As shameless a cash-in it may be - Columbia and Gaye's former label, Motown, completed the work-in-progress album to help pay towards settling Gaye's many debts left after his death - but 'Dream of a Lifetime' is still a stirring listen.
The Carpenters, 'Voice of the Heart
Released in 1983 after Karen Carpenter's death from heart failure, 'Voice of the Heart' contains two songs from her final recording sessions ('Now' and 'You're Enough') alongside previously unheard tracks from across their 14 years as a band. 'Now', recorded in one take while on a break from treatment in NYC, is heartbreaking.
Joy Division - ‘Closer’
Released two months after the suicide of singer Ian Curtis, ‘Closer’ put into sharp monochrome focus his inventive, harrowing talent. Somehow even more beautiful and eerie than 1979’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’, it remains a tragic snapshot of a soul in existential freefall – an impossibly sad epitaph.
Jeff Buckley – ‘Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk’
A fascinating insight into what might have been, Buckley’s follow-up to ‘Grace’ was still a work in progress upon his death in 1997. What songs he left behind for the LP were collected by his mother and released as ‘Sketches…’ in '98. Without any of the polish of ‘Grace’, it glimpses a different Buckley from the one we knew.
Elliot Smith – ‘From a Basement on the Hill’ / ‘New Moon’
2004’s ‘From A Basement…’ and 2007’s ‘New Moon’ were glistening reminders of Elliott Smith’s inimitable way with a melody, but also his tormented mindset. So dark were these collections of final songs before his 2003 death, fans viewed ‘From A Basement…’ as a suicide note of sorts.
Bob Marley, ‘Confrontation’
Released two years after the iconic reggae singer’s death, ‘Confrontation’ took demos recorded by Marley during his lifetime and built them into fully-fledged songs. Marley himself had requested that the track ‘I Know’ be released as a single after his death, although it’s ‘Buffalo Soldier’ which has become his most enduring posthumous track.
Jimi Hendrix, ‘Loose Ends’
The final posthumous album released after Hendrix’s death boasted mostly outtakes and jams, which given his unrivalled talent for wild guitar wig-outs, are hardly to be sniffed at. Reprise were so underwhelmed that they opted against releasing the collection in the US or Canada, but to Hendrix die-hards, it remains an intriguing coda on his career.
Roy Orbison, ‘Mystery Girl’
'Mystery Girl' was recorded in 1988, released in 1989 and augmented by some Bono myth-making - the U2 singer woke up with a tune stuck in his head which he was convinced Orbison had already written, but was an original composition. He later met Orbison after a show and gave him ‘She’s A Mystery To Me’, included here.
Frank Zappa, ‘Joe’s Menage’
An explosive, mind-bending example of Zappa live finery, taken from a show in Williamsburg, New York in 1975 but not released until 2008.