Holiday gift guide for music lovers
December 2, 2016
For fans who like to give career-spanning box sets to those on their Christmas list, 2016 was not a great year. This makes sense. At this point, most acts that deserve a box set have had one released in previous years.
At this point, we're seeing more and more complete album collections being released, and 2016 brought some fine ones for Lou Reed, Kris Kristofferson, The Turtles, Bright Eyes, and the whopper of them all, Elvis Presley's 60-disc "The Complete Album Collection," to name a few.
Still, for those who don't want to go the wallet-busting complete album collection route, there are still some good choices. Here are my picks for multi-disc sets that should please music fans on your shopping list.
Pink Floyd: "The Early Years 1965-1972" (Columbia/Legacy) — This massive (and pricey) 27-disc CD/DVD collection goes in depth on the music Pink Floyd made before Syd Barrett's breakdown and the group's commercial breakthrough with the "Dark Side of the Moon" album. It collects album tracks, outtakes (including 20 unreleased tracks) and live performances from the era in which Pink Floyd's music was more diverse, trippy and experimental and helped create the template for progressive rock. Note: For those interested in just the highlights, a two-disc distillation of the set, "The Early Years – CRE/ATION," is also available. Rating: 4 stars
NRBQ: "High Noon – A 50-Year Retrospective" (Omnivore) — Considering their longevity and catalog numbering dozens of albums (including the 1978 classic, "At Yankee Stadium"), NRBQ may be rock's most overlooked band. Rooted in early rock and classic pop, but capable of mixing in styles ranging from country to jazz to blues, the Q cranked out dozens of great songs, most of which are included in this thorough five-CD retrospective. Rating: 4 stars
Van Morrison: "…It's Too Late To Stop Now…Volumes II, III, IV & DVD" (Legacy) — The four concerts from 1973 included in this set — each with a markedly different song selection — capture "Van the Man" at an early peak in his legendary career. Morrison not only shows why he is considered an accomplished soul music singer, he also demonstrates a command of jazzy pop and blues over this three-CD/one-DVD set. Rating: 4 stars
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Eric Clapton and Guests: "Crossroads Revisited" (Rhino/Reprise/Duck) — This three-CD set captures performances from the 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festivals organized and headlined by Eric Clapton. That means hearing one-of-a-kind collaborations like Clapton, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Jimmie Vaughan doing "Rock Me Baby," Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Albert Lee, Earl Klugh, James Burton and Keb' Mo' shuffling through "Lay Down Sally" and Clapton reuniting with Steve Winwood to play Blind Faith's "Presence of the Lord." There's much more where that came from on this fine survey of these epic shows. Rating: 4 ½ stars
The Beach Boys: "Becoming The Beach Boys: The Complete Hite & Dorinda Morgan Sessions" (Omnivore) — This two-CD set collects every take of the first nine songs the Beach Boys recorded in 1961 and 1962 before getting signed by Capitol Records and achieving fame and fortune. With multiple takes (including partial performances) of each song, this collection is mainly for die-hard Beach Boys fans. What's notable, though, is how polished and professional the Beach Boys sound so early in their career. Rating: 3 ½ stars
Otis Redding: "Live at the Whisky A Go Go" (Stax/Concord) — This is the first time all seven of Redding's shows (over three days) in 1966 at the famous Los Angeles club have been released. There's plenty of overlap in the song selections in the seven shows, but it's hard to get tired of the passion and excitement Redding brought to the stage during this peak period of his tragically all-too-short career. Rating: 4 ½ stars
The Highwaymen: "The Very Best of The Highwaymen"/"The Highwaymen Live: American Outlaws" (Columbia/Legacy) — Country's first true supergroup — Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson — are celebrated with two separate releases. The single-CD "The Very Best of the Highwaymen" includes the best songs from the group's three studio albums. The gem, though, is "The Highwaymen Live: American Outlaws," which features the full audio and DVD of the group's 1990 show at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island (plus audio from a pair of Farm Aid appearances). The camaraderie, rebellious spirit and musical authenticity these four country greats brought to The Highwaymen is apparent on both of these releases. Ratings: "The Very Best of The Highwaymen" — 4 stars; "The Highwaymen Live: American Outlaws" Rating: 4 stars
Led Zeppelin: "The Complete BBC Sessions" (Atlantic) — The original 1997 release of these live performances from 1969 and 1971 gets expanded with a third disc of unreleased material, including a rowdy blues tune, "Sunshine Woman," that never made a Zeppelin studio album. This set allows fans to hear this powerhouse band playing live without overdubs (on most tracks) and improvising more than one might expect on multiple performances of such classic early songs as "Dazed And Confused," "I Can't Quit You Baby" and "Whole Lotta Love." Rating: 4 stars
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