Sound advice: Gift suggestions for the music lover in your life
This year has seen its share of landmark box sets, along with a number of excellent reissues. That means there are some great gift options for music fans on your holiday shopping list.
The Beatles: “The White Album” — This much-anticipated re-issue of the landmark followup to “Sgt. Pepper’s” delivers on its promise. This six-CD set includes the widely bootlegged Escher demos in superior sound quality and three discs of rehearsals and alternate takes that reveal some of the different paths the Beatles explored with the songs. (Check out the 13-minute, startlingly different, more measured version of “Helter Skelter.”) Along the way, this set suggests the Beatles enjoyed good creativity and harmony to go with the famous tensions that people associate with “The White Album.”
Bob Dylan: “More Blood, More Tracks” — This six-CD set presents 80-plus tracks recorded over four days in New York City that document how Dylan’s best 1970s album, “Blood on the Tracks,” came to life. The multiple versions of the album’s songs often feel more emotionally raw, vulnerable and at times angry, than the album tracks, presenting a host of new perspectives on an album that was already full of tangled, bruised and intimate emotions.
Tom Petty: “An American Treasure” — Don’t look for the hits in this set. This four-CD collection opens the vault for alternate versions, unreleased songs, live cuts and deep album tracks. They demonstrate Petty’s mastery of the American rock and roll form in pretty much all of its iterations and show the depth of quality in his catalog.
Jimi Hendrix: “Electric Ladyland 50th Anniversary Edition” — This bold, audacious final album from Hendrix is supplemented by a disc of demos and outtakes that include some eye-opening alternate versions of the album’s songs plus several non-album tracks and a third disc that captures a Sept. 14, 1968, concert at the Hollywood Bowl. What that recording lacks in sound quality is made up for in fiery performances.
Oscar Peterson: “Oscar Peterson Plays” — This five-CD set contains all 10 albums — one each devoted to Peterson’s interpretations of the songs of a Great American Songbook composer (Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and other greats). Peterson’s playing is stunning, as he smartly elaborates on the music without losing track of the main melodies of the songs.
John Lennon: “Imagine” — This two-Blu-ray/four CD set gives the Lennon fan/audiophile the ultimate version of this landmark Lennon solo effort. The Blu-ray discs present the original album, outtakes and alternate mixes in the highest fidelity, while the four CDs mirror that content. Two discs feature alternate versions of virtually every song (some with notable differences from the album tracks), while the fourth disc presents a collage of parts from each song and in-studio commentary that add insights into how the recordings developed.
Fleetwood Mac: “Fleetwood Mac” — The album that opened the Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks era of the band gets supplemented by alternate takes of every song — they’re often more raw or intimate than the album versions — and a cool concert during which the “new Fleetwood Mac” performs quite a few songs from earlier incarnations of the band. Throughout, the singular talents of Buckingham and Nicks are apparent, as is the special musical chemistry that was emerging within this hugely successful lineup.
Neil Diamond: “50: The Anniversary Collection” — Marking his half century in music, this six-CD set features the hits and choice album tracks from across Diamond’s career. The sixth disc features 12 songs Diamond started over the years, but didn’t finish until now. Most of the songs are worthy, with the country-ish “Sunflower” and the tender ballad “You Are” among the highlights.
Guns ‘N Roses: “Appetite For Destruction Locked N’ Loaded Edition” — The blockbuster album is highlighted by the debut of the Sound City Studios recording session, which includes alternate versions of the “Appetite” tracks, several covers and early takes of “November Rain,” which surfaced five years later on “Use Your Illusion I.”
Other reissues to consider:
Metallica: “And Justice For All” — The band pulls out all the stops here, adding to the original album with four discs of live performances and three discs of demos and work tapes of the songs. That’s doing justice to a great album.
The Posies: “Dear 23”/”Frosting on the Beater”/”Amazing Disgrace” — Three of this overlooked group’s best albums return, each with a full disc-plus of demos and outtakes that each include several release-worthy non-album tunes.
Pixies: “Come on Pilgrim”/”Surfer Rosa” — The first two Pixies albums are packaged here with a live in-studio set that aired in 1986 on WJUL-FM in Lowell, Massachusetts. It’s a fine document of the Pixies’ visceral early live shows, while the original albums still sound like groundbreaking works.
Soul Asylum: “Made to Be Broken”/”Say What You Will … Everything Can Happen” — The band’s first two albums, reissued here with a healthy number of bonus tracks, were raw and scrappy — a far cry from the poppier, more commercial later output of the band.
The Glands: “I Can See My House From Here” — This box set collects the two albums by this overlooked Athens, Georgia, band plus a new 23-song set of unreleased material, giving both fans and the uninitiated a chance to discover or delve further into the catalog of this indie band.