(Hey, want to get me a wedding present? Clicking on any of the links below and then buying anything from Amazon will send a couple of bucks my way without costing you anything extra.)
If you need to buy someone – or yourself – a gift this time of year, CD boxed sets are a great gift. Here are some of the latest ones available and some of my recent favorites. In completely random order….
King Crimson – The Road to Red – Starting off with something amazingly obscure, Red was King Crimson’s last studio album in the 70s and features the song, Starless, my second favorite (and sometimes my favorite) Crimson track. I saw them live twice around the release of this album and those were amazing shows. This is a 24 disc boxed set containing 16 concerts, a new stereo mix of the original album (by Robert Fripp and Steven Wilson), the original mix of the album, a 5.1 stereo mix, and DVDs and Blu-rays with uncompressed audio. It costs over $200 but is well worth it for any fan of progressive rock.
Bob Dylan – Complete Album Collection Vol. 1 – Dylan has spent almost his entire career on Columbia, and they later managed to snag the albums he released for other labels. So here you have a 47 CD box that contains every Dylan studio album (even the Christmas one), 6 live albums and 2 discs of rarities along with a hardcover book. Nothing from the Bootleg series is included – I suppose that could be a Volume 2 release down the line. So you get 50 years of Dylan at an average price of $3.82 per disc. Not too shabby.
Humble Pie – Performance – Rockin’ the Fillmore – The Complete Recordings – Humble Pie was a super group of sorts, featuring Steve Marriott from Small Faces and Peter Frampton from The Herd. Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore was the live album that broke them in the U.S.. “I Don’t Need No Doctor” was an FM radio mainstay. This four disc set gives you all 4 concerts complete.
Bill Withers – The Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums – After John Legend and The Roots did a cover of Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left-Handed,” I’ve been going back and rediscovering just how consistently brilliant this man was. This nine disc set includes Ain’t No Sunshine, Grandma’s Hands, Who Is He (And What Is He To You), Use Me, Lean On Me, Lovely Day – and what you’ll find is that his talent was rich enough to make even the deep album cuts worth hearing.
Ry Cooder – 1970-1987 – A great guitarist, this covers the period when Cooder was primarily focused on Americana (my favorite period), before he started wandering internationally. These are all terrific albums for fans of folk and blues – Paradise and Lunch being my favorite, while Bop Till You Drop holds the dubious distinction of being the first digitally recorded album released by a major studio.
Eric Clapton – Give Me Strength – The 74-75 Recordings – 5 CDs plus 1 Blu-Ray covering one year in the life of Clapton. This period includes his 461 Ocean Boulevard album. There’s some 5.1 stereo mixes, some quad mixes and most interestingly (to me) some extended jams with the great Freddie King.
Donny Hathaway – Never My Love – The Anthology – Donny Hathaway was a brilliant and influential artist who died way too young. It’s hard for me to believe but it’s now more than 40 years since I saw him live at the Fillmore. This 4 disc set has one disc of hits, one disc of outtakes, one disc of live tracks, and one disc of all his duets with Roberta Flack.
Harry Nilsson – The RCA Albums Collection – A long time ago, someone asked John Lennon who his favorite band was and he answered, “Harry Nilsson.” Someday someone will make a film of Nilsson’s life and it will be the stuff of Shakespearean tragedy. Until then, these 17 discs include all 14 of Nilsson’s RCA albums plus 3 discs of outtakes and rarities.
The Who – Tommy – Super Deluxe Edition – There was a deluxe edition of Tommy in 2008. Five years later, we get this “super deluxe” version. Disc one is the original album, disc two is the original demos, disc 3 is previously unreleased live performances, and then there’s a Blu-Ray with a 5.1 mix. I’ve always liked Townshend’s original demos.
The Band – Academy of Music – Rock of Ages was always one of my favorite live albums, in particular for the way that Allen Toussaint’s horn charts took the Band’s songs one notch higher. Now there’s this 4 CD/1 DVD set. The first two discs contain one version of every song performed during the 3 night stand; the second two discs are the complete New Year’s Eve concert (with special guest Bob Dylan) and the DVD has surround mixes and a bit of video footage. Great stuff – and yet there’s too much repetition here to really justify the over $60 price.
The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat – Following the excellent 6 disc reissue of their first album comes this 3 disc set of their equally influential second album. This is where punk really started. Remastered original album, mono mixes, outtakes and a 1967 concert.
Duane Allman – Skydog – This seven disc set is the collection that Allman deserves. Of course it covers his high points with the Allman Brothers and it also includes every major session he played on – Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, King Curtis, Boz Scaggs, Derek & the Dominos – even a live track with the Grateful Dead!
Stephen Stills – Carry On – Buffalo Springfield, CSN, CSNY and all the key solo recordings. The question is why was he so brilliant a singer, songwriter and guitarist in the 60s and 70s and so unessential for the past 30 years?
The Clash – Sound System – 5 Clash studio albums (everything but the last one that they’ve since tried to disown), 3 discs of rarities, a DVD, posters, badges, stickers – well, at least I don’t think they put any refrigerator magnets in the box.
Van Morrison – Moondance – Deluxe Edition – Surely Morrison’s best-loved album, now this has been expanded to 4 CDs – the original album plus 3 discs of studio outtakes – and a Blu-Ray with a 5.1 mix and an uncompressed stereo mix.
There’s a couple of things not coming out till early 2014 that I thought were worth mentioning:
Michael Bloomfield – From His Head to His Heart to His Hands – The first major white American blues guitarist, this set is a true labor of love. The 3 CDs cover studio and live tracks – on his own, with Paul Butterfield and Electric Flag, jamming with others – while the DVD has a feature-length film biography. I met Michael once (we played a bit of four-handed piano together) and I can’t wait to get my hands on this!
Small Faces – Here Come The Nice – Listed as an Amazon “exclusive,” this 8 disc set from my all-time favorite Britpop group contains all of their albums and EPs, previously unreleased recordings, vinyl, photos, a hardcover book, a poster, post cards, “art prints” and more. At $144, it ain’t exactly cheap, but I loved these guys and hope to pick this up.
I haven’t covered anything jazz here because this post is already more than long enough. There’s no shortage of great recent jazz boxed set releases. Maybe I’ll get to them in another post.
(Hey, want to get me a wedding present? Clicking on any of the links above and then buying anything from Amazon will send a couple of bucks my way without costing you anything extra.)