Best music gifts, best CD gifts, box sets, Beatles Stereo Box, Ten Collector's Edition, AC/DC Backtracks
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
It was unusually quiet on the box set front this year, due in large part to Rhino's decision to take the last five months of the year off. (One of our men on the inside insists that Rhino will thankfully be back in a big way in the new year. Whew.) Fortunately, the shelves aren't completely barren, and in fact there are even some deluxe sets for the under-40 crowd. What an absolutely crazy idea. Don't they spend all their money on video games?
|Box sets/Multi-disc sets
A year after the phenomenally successful Black Ice
album and tour, Columbia assembles this two-disc/one-DVD rarities set, featuring both studio tracks (Disc One) and live tracks (Disc Two) from various import LPs, 45s, 12"-inch singles, and even some promo-only releases. The DVD is Volume III of the "Family Jewels" series, featuring all of the band's music videos since 1993 (including one very funny clip in conjunction with "The Last Action Hero," which features Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed as Angus Young). They even unearthed some vintage promo clips for "Jailbreak," "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Want to Rock & Roll)" and "Highway to Hell." Of course, if you really love the AC/DC fan in your life, you'll get them the deluxe set, which comes packaged inside, no joke, an actual working amplifier. Party on, Wayne.
Pearl Jam's fan base has shrunk since the early ‘90s, but those who remain are fanatical in their devotion. If such a maniac is within your circle of friends/family, then they'll go ape for the Super Deluxe re-issue of Ten
. That's not hyperbole either; it's called Super Deluxe for a reason. This special edition of Pearl Jam's seminal debut is loaded with goodies. In addition to the original version of the album and the remixed version (both on CD and vinyl), you also get bonus tracks; the complete 1992 MTV Unplugged on DVD; a two-LP set of the band's 1992 concert in Mugison Park in Seattle; a photo book; a poster; lithographs; various reproductions of passes and other Ten
-era memorabilia; and even a copy of the band's first demo cassette. It's a bit obsessive and over-the-top, but then again, so are most Pearl Jam fans.
This is love in a box, in more ways than one. Yes, John Lennon sang about love until his last days on Earth, but giving this box – currently selling for roughly $180 – is as devotional an act of love that one could commit. It features all of the Beatles' studio releases, plus the Past Masters
set (now issued on CD rather than the original two), plus a DVD containing the mini-documentaries that were assembled for each album. It is arguably the only box set you'll ever need.
This exhaustive box set of the most popular pop duo of all time will surprise some people in that nearly three of its four discs contain material that the general public hasn't heard. Disc Three is a wall-to-wall hits compilation, from "You Make My Dreams" to the Motown medley the boys did with the Temptations in 1986, but Do What You Want, Be What You Are
also delves into Daryl Hall and John Oates' past lives in the Temptones and the Masters, respectively, and only three of the set's first 28 songs cracked the Top 40. Then there are the liner notes, which are extraordinary. Featuring commentary from both Hall and Oates on each track, they also include quotes from everyone from Nile Rodgers to Ben Gibbard espousing their love for the group. Beautiful stuff.
Often declared one of the greatest albums of all time, this two-disc, one-DVD set of The Stone Roses
will thrill the alt-rocking Gen X parent in your life. The album gets a much-needed sonic tune-up by producer John Leckie, and Disc Two contains some rather good demo versions of the songs, showing that this band was locked and loaded before production began. The DVD features the now-legendary Blackpool gig, along with the band's music videos. This set is gold, and not of the fools' variety.
|Single CDs for that person in your life who...
...will kick your ass if you tell anyone she has a heart of gold:
We're admittedly late to the Noisettes party – their debut album came out in 2007 – but their sophomore effort is a nifty blend of U.K. indie guitar pop smarts with smooth R&B goodness. They're also blessed to have one of the best, not to mention most striking, front women in the business (Shingai Shoniwa, take a bow), and listening to her sing the unforgettable album closer "Cheap Kicks" surely makes Dionne Warwick thank her lucky stars that Shoniwa wasn't around in the ‘60s (Burt Bacharach would have been writing for her instead). Gorgeous, sassy and strong.
...hasn't bought an album since punk broke:
This will get the resident power pop fan or Beatlemaniac in your life excited, because they won't see it coming. With Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick at the helm, Cheap Trick performed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
in its entirety in 2007 to mark the 40th anniversary of the album's release. This New York performance of the album (the first shows the band did were at the Hollywood Bowl, and they even did a small run in Las Vegas this September) sports a shorter set list – Sgt. Pepper
in its entirety, plus the "Golden Slumbers" medley from Abbey Road
– but just try not to grin while watching Rockford's finest play the album that John Lennon said could never be performed live.
...loves Neil Young's songs but hates his singing:
One of the most beloved, yet commercially snakebitten, bands of the last 20 years, Minneapolis' Jayhawks never made a bad album, and began melding their alt-country stylings with electronic touches a good five years before Wilco released Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
. Oh, and they can sing circles around every other band that might call them an acquaintance. This two-disc set is a long-overdue compilation of the band's better-known songs – though we assure you that there are plenty more where these came from. Fans of the band will want to snap this up for Disc Two, an exhaustive B-sides collection. Essential listening, of the desert island variety.
...is still trapped in the ‘80s:
It boggles the mind that so few people – outside of England, anyway – know that not only are the Pet Shop Boys still together and recording, but that they're as good as they've ever been. In fact, their best material came after
their U.S. chart success, and their most recent album Yes
, released earlier this year, is easily the band's best album in 15 years. The hooks are huge, Neil Tennant still possesses that whip-smart sense of humor, and the band's sound is contemporary without sounding compromised. Better yet, get the deluxe edition of the album, featuring an unforgettable duet with Philip Oakey of the Human League ("This Used to Be the Future"). Going back to the future never sounded so good.
For any fan of ‘80s U.K. pop, this DVD is an absolute must. Recorded in 2004, musician and producer demigod Trevor Horn recruits many of the biggest artists he's ever worked with to assemble a once-in-a-lifetime concert at Wembley Stadium. It features ABC, Propaganda, Yes, Art of Noise, Pet Shop Boys, Belle & Sebastian, Seal, Grace Jones, Lisa Stansfield and a blistering performance by a recently reunited Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Horn even dons his giant glasses to perform two songs with his band, the Buggles. It's brilliant stuff, masterfully assembled, and there isn't a bad or even average performance in the bunch. Best benefit concert ever.
We both love and hate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – it all depends, of course, on whether they induct the bands we want them to
– but this three-disc set, culling footage from as far back as 1987, is a highly entertaining clip show of various induction speeches, acceptance speeches, and most importantly, All-Star performances. Dave Grohl plays with Queen. Eddie Vedder sings with R.E.M. Kid Rock jams with Aerosmith. Metallica brings back Jason Newsted to rock with them on "Master of Puppets." And those are the newer inductees. The Stones and the Band had roughly 6,000 people playing with them, and it's fun to watch the artists pay tribute to each other (Bono inducted Springsteen in 1999, and Springsteen inducted U2 in 2005). Best of all, the speeches are edited down to the good parts – let's face it, most of the participants have had a few by the time they hit the stage – though they include longer versions of some speeches in the special features. There is very little filler here, and it still runs nearly 10 hours in total.