Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
It's very telling that nearly all of the big-ticket deluxe editions designed to seduce customers this year are over 30 years old. Has the industry itself given up on the last 20 years of music? That would seem an odd approach, given that the Black Crowes' Shake Your Money Maker turned 20 years old this year and would have made a fine reissue candidate. (Instead, the band released a two-disc acoustic album covering all of their material, while their former label did nothing.) Ben Folds Five's first album turned 15, and given the hit-and-miss nature of his solo material, that also would have made for a cool deluxe record. But alas, instead we get more Elvis and Beatles solo projects.
Not to knock Elvis or the Beatles, of course, but this side of the biz could use some new blood (or more accurately, not quite as old blood), which is why this year we threw in some left-field picks next to those 30-year-old – and in one case, 40-year-old – records. There is cause for hope, though: next year is the 20-year anniversary of 1991, the year that alternative rock went supernova. They wouldn't pass up a gift like that…would they?
It doesn't seem possible that Danny Elfman has been scoring Tim Burton's movies for a quarter of a century, but there it is on the side of this magnificent collector's item: The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box bundles up 13 original scores – from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" to "Alice in Wonderland" – adds an eye-popping stack of bonus music that includes demos and orchestra-only versions, and houses it all in a box that doubles as a working zoetrope (featuring artwork by Burton, of course). And that isn't all: you also get a 250-page hardcover book commemorating their long collaboration, a DVD containing a conversation between Burton and Elfman, and a skull-shaped USB drive containing mp3s of all the songs. It's perfect for the Burton (or Elfman) fanatic in your life, but hurry – Warners is only making 1,000 of them. And check your bank account, too: it's going for a whopping $500.
This Deluxe Edition of one of Bowie's greatest achievements is much more than a repackaged version of a classic; it's a Bowie fan's wet dream. Not only does it include a new remaster of the album taken from the 1976 original analogue tapes (which sounds amazing), it also includes a 1985 CD master, an additional CD of single mixes (many of which have never been released before on CD) and a DVD with a high-quality surround sound mix. In addition to that, it also includes the album on vinyl and an entire 1976 live concert on both CD and vinyl. That alone would be worth the hefty price tag, so when you throw in the massive booklet with liner notes by Cameron Crowe; folders upon folders of memorabilia and photographs; and a massive poster, it almost seems like a steal at $165. For those less insane, a CD-only version that includes the album and the live concert is also available, but unlike the deluxe version, that one doesn't include a reproduction of the David Bowie fanclub membership card, so it's practically worthless.
Better 25 years late than never, though given Dave Mustaine's reputation for, well, pissing off everyone he's ever met, we're still shocked that this tour happened at all. Recorded in June of this year at one of the tour's mere seven stops through Europe, this set features the gods of thrash metal joining forces to bring the noise for five hours, every second of which is captured on audio and video in this 5 CD/2 DVD set. The DVDs include behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, and the package includes a gaggle of promo photos, a lengthy booklet, and even a guitar pick. If you know anyone who wore a shirt at any point in their lives that featured a giant blade sticking out of a toilet, this set will be manna from heaven to them.
Propelled by future rock radio standards "Jet" and its title track, Band on the Run
would go on to top the American albums chart on three separate occasions, and become Paul McCartney's most commercially successful post-Beatles work. The folks at Hear Music/Concord Music Group have just released a multiple format deluxe version of the record as the first release of a series of reissues under what they are calling the "Paul McCartney Archive Collection." Besides a McCartney-supervised remaster of the original album, the 3-disc version of the reissue also includes a second audio CD of rarities and a jam-packed DVD. It's the latter that makes this an essential music purchase this holiday season. The DVD contains nearly an hour and a half of rare footage from the period, which features a behind-the-scenes looks at the famous cover shoot, the album's promo clips, and a 15-song TV special called "One Hand Clapping." This is the kind of fan package that will make any Beatlemaniac on your Christmas list go cuckoo for Macca all over again.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band recorded an incredible amount of music before whittling it down to the 10 tracks on Darkness on the Edge of Town
. Some of those songs were a lot more upbeat than the songs that made the album and he would eventually re-record some of those songs for future albums. Springsteen culled through his archives to polish up an additional 21 songs to accompany the remastered Darkness on the Edge of Town
. Those songs comprise The Promise
, a 2-CD collection that Springsteen has stated could have been an LP he would have released in 1977. had he not been in a lawsuit with his former manager. That lawsuit is the subject of the documentary "The Promise: the Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town," directed by Emmy winner Thom Zimny. It includes interviews with Springsteen and his camp (including the late Danny Federici, the Boss' longtime organ player), as well as film footage shot during the making of the album. The second DVD contains Darkness on the Edge of Town
performed live, in its entirety in 2009 by Springsteen and the E Street Band. The final DVD features a complete concert from the legendary 1978 tour. Any Springsteen fan would be nuts to pass this up.
It may have taken roughly a decade, but we are finally seeing the seeds of inspiration that the late, great stand-up comedian Bill Hicks sowed before his untimely death in 1994 take root and blossom. Patton Oswalt and Bill Burr openly acknowledge his influence on them, and any fans of theirs who are curious to learn more about the man who once suggested using terminally ill patients as stuntmen should absolutely start with this two-disc/two-DVD set. The CDs will be the big draw for the newbies, as it pastes together the best bits from Hicks' albums along with a couple unreleased bits (of which many are nearly identical to bits that made the album). The longtime fans will want this for the DVDs, because one disc features the much-heralded "Ninja Bachelor Party," where Hicks and a couple friends spent years making a poorly dubbed (intentionally so) martial arts film. There are also a bunch of performances from early in Hicks' career, one of which is fascinating because he was clearly influenced by Stephen Wright. This is a terrific launch pad to discover one of the greatest, and funniest, social commentators of his time.
There are very few records that deserve being purchased multiple times. To date, Miles Davis' seminal Bitches Brew
has been released in no less than three configurations, each providing a bit of insight into the recording sessions via a slew of alternate takes and mixes. So why purchase a record that you likely already own? The recent Legacy Edition release celebrates the 40th anniversary of the record with the inclusion of a 1969 live performance by the Miles Davis Quintet, featuring Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, which is the single reason this is a vital release for all music fans. Clocking in at just over an hour, the DVD showcases the band and Davis at the absolute height of his craft, tackling the music that changed the course of jazz itself.
|Single CDs for that person in your life who...
...wants something they can play around both their mother and their girlfriend:
Say what you will about the record industry in 2010, but given that this was the year Cee Lo Green scored the biggest hit of his solo career with "Fuck You," things can't be all bad, can they? The Lady Killer
is a swaggering 14-track set that finds the famously restless Green as focused as he's ever been, assembling a loose song suite that's as proud of its classic soul DNA as it is excited about splicing it into a flashy modern hybrid. It's the kind of album that makes room for everything – production from the Smeezingtons, a Philip Bailey cameo, a cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You" – without sounding chaotic or overstuffed. It's the work of an artist at the top of his game. Though it isn't as brazenly eclectic as some of his earlier work, longtime fans shouldn't mistake The Lady Killer
's comparatively limited scope for evidence that Green is selling out or slowing down; it's just the logical next step in his inevitable world domination.
...will buy anything that says ‘Produced by Trevor Horn':
This Chicago trio – two of whom are Princeton grads, while the other has a law degree – was not actually produced by Horn, but they may as well have been, as their debut Star
is stuffed with tributes to various bands that Horn either produced or played in, with various winks and nods to other alt-rock giants from the era. "Shake" blends New Order-style guitar riffs with a finger-happy keyboard riff (Saga, perhaps?), while "Steampunk Camelot" features an outro that would have fit perfectly on either Buggles album or even Yes' Drama
. The band is careful to balance the machine-driven numbers with a fair share of rock tunes, while singer Saam Hagshenas delivers his sci-fi-heavy lyrics (he references one of Uranus' moons in the song "Neverest") wrapped in insanely catchy melodies. A couple tunes even beat Chromeo at their own game ("No Future," "Cold Dust Girl"). Smart, catchy and fun – this is a killer party record, no matter what kind of party you're having.
...loves Radiohead, but only slightly, only slightly less than they used to:
It's great that Radiohead continues to look in dark, strange places for inspiration – it's what all great rock bands should do. But it's fair to say that we've reached a point where "Paranoid Android" sounds like a Top 40 pop hit compared to the material that came from their last two albums, and perhaps no one understands that better than Brooklyn (by way of New Orleans) duo Home Video, whose debut album The Automatic Process
distills everything great about Oxfordshire's finest – think more Kid A
than The Bends
; they are an electronic act, after all – while keeping things from getting too obtuse. Singer Collin Ruffino even bears a slight vocal resemblance to Thom Yorke, singing mainly in hushed tones while wave after wave of keyboard and guitar (bonus points for having organic-sounding drum tracks) wash over him. It's largely minor-key, but not dark, and in the case of the Seal-ish "Beatrice," they even offer a brief glimpse of the sun. If you're afraid to play Radiohead around the house for fear of making your children cry, The Automatic Process
...considers herself the hippest 10-year-old girl on her block:
The tweens don't know a thing about Kylie, and that's a pity, because over 20 years after making her big splash in the Stock/Aitken/Waterman camp, Minogue is still making quality dance pop that runs circles around those silly Disney kids. Her latest album Aphrodite
is stuffed with irresistible dance track after dance track – and the mini-epic "Closer" would even sound great in Muse's live set – with no mention of bluffin' with her muffin. That's right, Kylie's stuff is both catchy and clean (unless you consider the words "mouth to mouth and kiss to kiss" dirty, in which case we can't help you), and best of all, if your daughter/niece is a tastemaker and likes to be ahead of her friends, Aphrodite
is a slam dunk.
...is close personal friends with John Waters:
How it took B-52's singer Fred Schneider this long to make a Christmas record is anyone's guess, as the man was born for the job. Better yet, there isn't a cover version in sight, instead opting for lo-fi holiday frivolity. (If you told us he made this record in a week, we'd believe you.) Tackling several staples of bad taste (fruitcake, the video of the roaring fire, gaudy lawn props), Schneider is clearly having fun here, per his contract with life. The production is woefully lacking, but that is part of the album's charm, and they get bonus points for not even pretending to sanitize the record for straight people (case in point: there isn't a single female voice on the album.) John Waters, and anyone who likes Waters, will love this record.
Produced and directed by Scott McFadyen and Sam Dunn, "Beyond the Lighted Stage" is novel for the access they had to the Rush, the archival footage of the band's early years, and key people in Rush's career. The strength of this documentary is how much of the early years are covered in exhaustive detail. From their difficulty in getting a record deal (a common tale for many ‘o bands), to being catapulted into A-list shows after hiring Neil Peart as their new drummer, to the lyrical and musical overreach with their album Caress of Steel, and the band's middle finger salute to the record company with the million-selling 2112. It's admittedly short on covering the ‘80s "synth" years, but with fawning commentary from Billy Corgan, Jack Black, Sebastian Bach, and Les Claypool, along with some live performances and a video of dinner with the band, this DVD is a must for the music fan on your gift list.
Have a little one interested in learning how to play an instrument? Or maybe you've always wanted to pick up the guitar or piano? Either way, eMedia has you covered with their excellent instrument packs for adults and children. We were fortunate enough to try out the "My Guitar Starter Pack" for kids, which comes complete with a 3/4-size classical guitar, the award-winning eMedia My Guitar instructional Win/Mac CD-ROM and a bonus My Guitar DVD, plus a gig bag, strap, guitar pick and an extra set of nylon strings. The DVD and CD-ROM break the learning process down into fun and easy lessons that kept our test subject (our Editor in Chief's seven-year-old daughter) plucking away on her new guitar for hours on end. Even better, while the starter packs may be geared toward children, there's nothing stopping parents from sitting in on the lessons as well, which makes for a unique opportunity to learn how to play the guitar, keyboard or violin together. We haven't tried the adult packs yet (you can find the full list of products at emediamusic.com
) but if these children starter packs are any indication, they'll have you playing your favorite tunes in no time.