The Beatles Box Set: Remastered In Stereo, The Beatles In Mono
OK, we've officially reached crunch time. Just a few days left and you still have that heavy metal-loving nephew to shop for. And what about your best friend who lost half of his Beatles CDs when his girlfriend split? What to do?
Box sets are the way to go. They're economical (well, most of them anyway), easily obtainable (well, most of them anyway) and a great way of saying, "I wanted to get you something I know you'd love." (All of them fit the bill here.)
Sales of physical CDs continued their decline in 2009, but we still saw a glittering array of drool-worthy box sets, full of photos, brand-new liner notes and other fabulous bells and whistles (in the latter case, Rammstein outdid everybody). But it's the music that matters, and here's a roundup of box sets that run the gamut from must-haves to can't-live-withouts.
To start things off, we go for a little-known group called The Beatles.
They're still not on iTunes, but The Beatles' catalogue of matchless songs was finally remastered this year and released in lavish box sets, both in stereo and mono. Personally, we can't think of one reason to pass up these essential collections.
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out - The Rolling Stones In Concert 40th Anniversary Box Set
In the fall of 1969, The Rolling Stones embarked on their first US concert tour in three years. By all accounts, their gig at New York's Madison Square Garden was one of the greatest shows in rock 'n' roll history. ("Charlie's good tonight, in'nt he?")
This collection, three CDs and one DVD (a super-deluxe edition comes with vinyl), captures the band in their bluesy, boozy prime with stunning 5.1 surround sound. In addition to previously unreleased Stones tracks from the MSG show, there's a disc with sets from the support acts: BB King and Ike & Tina Turner. Not too shabby, huh?
The DVD features footage shot by the Maysles Brothers that didn't make the documentary Gimme Shelter. Plus, there's 56-page book brimming with photos and extensive liner notes, a replica of the original tour poster, and hey, you even get a commemorative guitar pick as well.
The Complete Miles Davis Columbia Album Collection
Know somebody who just loves Miles Davis? OK, how about somebody who loves Miles Davis but doesn't have a job? Keep that last part in mind, because LOTS of free time is required to get through this massive set.
Seriously, though, these 52 albums on 70 CDs housed in mini replica vinyl jackets will leave cool jazz fans anything but kind of blue. There's even a bonus DVD featuring rare footage of the Miles Davis Quintet (which also featured Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams).
Buyer warning: Many purchasers have complained that a large number of discs bear residual glue from the vinyl jackets. Sony has been alerted to this problem.
Buy the Miles Davis box set here: Amazon
Rammstein's Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da
Rammstein's ultra-limited edition box set of their new album Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (Love Is There For Everyone) is the gift that will keep on giving...and giving...and giving.
Housed in a metal flight case - just imagine airport screeners opening this baby up (yikes!) - the set features six pink dildos (each said to reflect the relative sizes of the six members’, uh, members), handcuffs and lubricant.
Oh, yes, and there's the CD, too, which features Rammstein's delightful, holiday-themed gem, Pussy.
Buy the Rammstein box set here.
Anthology Of American Folk Music
Want to start a real musical revolution? Then your first order of business should entail digging into this remastered and enhanced six-CD collection that traces the origins of practically every form of pop music.
Originally released in 1952(!), this set, compiled by Harry Smith, features early folk, blues and gospel recordings that still sound as relevent today as when they first appeared. If anything, the music has grown deeper in meaning, and its influence lives on through countless modern music makers.
Mississippi John Hurt, The Carter Family, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charlie Poole - the list goes on and on. In all, there's 84 tracks and not a wasted moment to be found. Discover the music that made Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan pick up guitars and find their voices.
As everyone knows, you can never have too much AC/DC, particularly during the holidays. A little eggnog, some mulled wine and the lilting strains of Shot Down In Flames - it all works, doesn't it?
Backtracks includes a disc of studio obscurities like Love Song (wait a second, AC/DC have a track called Love Song? What's the world coming to?), another CD of live cuts that span from 1977 to 2000, and a DVD of videos that completes the Family Jewels collection.
You can't go wrong with the standard-issue set, but if you really want to hang some Big Balls under the tree, click here and purchase the special edition that comes complete with a working amp. Now, that's worth banging your head over!
The Pixies Minotaur
If you're a Pixies fan, you know the names Vaughan Oliver andSimon Larbalestier, both of whom created the graphics and photo images that graced the band's five studio albums.
A glorious 54-page book featuring the duo's work is encased in the Minotaur collection, which also includes some pretty rockin' music - that is to say, all of the group's studio efforts: Come on Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde.
The discs are 24k gold-plated CDs which are also Blu-ray mastered for 5.1 surround sound. There's also a DVD and Blu-ray of a 1991 live performance from Brixton. What more could you want?
Well, you could want the super-deluxe, limited signed edition, which includes all four band member signatures plus that of Vaughan Oliver's. And if you're really lucky (or if Santa thinks you've been extra good), you might be one of 25 people who snags a set that houses vinyl test pressings of all the albums.
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - The Live Anthology
Impeccably crafted by Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and producer/engineer Ryan Ulyate, The Live Anthology can be seen as a virtual step-by-step guide on how to maintain a successful rock 'n' band.
First, start with a wildly talented and unique singer-songwriter who pens numbers like American Girl, Even The Losers and Free Fallin'. Then toss in a versatile band that can render these cuts, along with unexpected covers like the theme from Goldfinger and James Brown's Good, Good Lovin', with spontaneity and invention and you just might have a shot.
With no fixes or overdubs, the recordings on these four CDs, which cover the years 1928-2007, are a powerful testament to one of America's most enduring groups. The Ultimate Collector's Box Set includes a DVD of the documentary 400 Days (made during the 1995 Wildflowers Tour), a DVD of a previously unreleased 1978 concert, a Blu-ray disc of all the tracks and a remastered vinyl album of a 1976 official live bootleg release.
Check out Mike Campbell's career-spanning interview with MusicRadar here.
Neil Young - Archives Volume 1 (1963-1972)
Neil Young fans across the globe have been waiting years - nay, decades - for the artist to assemble this chronological assessmentof his own work, and now that he's done so (and it's only Volume 1), it's cause for celebration.
Presented over the course of 10 multimedia discs are Young's earliest recordings in Winnipeg, Canada; his seminal work with Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Crazy House. Studio cuts, live recordings, unreleased songs, rare interviews, radio spots, lyric sheets, and all kinds of other goodies.
Plus, there's a newly restored print of Young's first theatrical release, Journey Through The Past, with the audio presented in both DTS 5.1 surround and stereo 24-bit/48 Khz PCM.
Who knows? There might even be the keys to one of Young's restored classic cars in here somewhere.
Creedence Clearwater Revival - The Singles Collection
Like the Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival's recording history was astonishingly brief - almost half that of the Fab Four's actually - but during those years (1968-1972), they put out a truckload of AM powerhouses.
Many of the band's singles were double-sided hits, and they're all included here, most of them in their original mono mixes: their take on classics like Suzie Q and I Put A Spell On Young, and the staggering array of Fogerty-penned originals such as Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Green River, Up Around The Bend - you know them all by heart, and here they are in one unbeatable package.
Also included is a bonus DVD featuring four CCR videos, a poster, a 16-page booklet - and hey, the set's budget priced, too, so this one's a no-brainer. Pick up one for yourself, too!
Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968
Not all mid-'60s rock was bursting out of the UK. In fact, amidst the palm trees and rolling hills of Los Angeles, a vital scene was emerging that would help shape music the world over.
On the four-CD Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968, you've got it all: The Electric Prunes, The Mamas & The Papas, The Turtles, Iron Butterfly, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, The Association, The Doors, Nilsson, Van Dyke Parks and so many others.
It's like spending 1000 nights on the Sunset Strip, and the great thing is, this isn't a mere collection of 'hits' - most of these tracks are songs that flew under the radar.
With these 101 cuts and the 48-page book that accompanies the set, all you need is a mini skirt or some bell bottoms and you'll be Where The Action Is!
Big Star - Keep An Eye On The Sky
You've heard The Letter by The Box Tops? How about Cry Like A Baby? Sure, you've heard those. That band's singer was Alex Chilton, just 16 at the time. But it was with Big Star, which he joined in 1971, that he truly made his mark on the music world.
Keep An Eye On The Sky is a four-CD collection that shows why Big Star influenced REM, The Replacements, Cheap Trick, the dBs and dozens more. Power pop doesn't get more powerful (nor as poppy) than this.
Included are rarities, unreleased demos, unused mixes and a 1973 concert recorded in Memphis (the band's home base).There's even a track called Country Morn, which was originally issued as a flexi-disc(!) on Big Star's fanzine. Too cool.
Pick it up for the music fan on your list. And why not treat yourself, too? Discover why Big Star deserved to be really big stars!