Patience has never been the strong suit of the music fan. When we want—no —when we need to hear a song—we find it immediately, even if it means hopping in the car and driving home to retrieve it. When a new album comes out that we’re dying to get our grubby paws on, there’s no hinting to our loved ones about how much we want it—we head over to iTunes, Best Buy or our favorite music piracy source, and we get the damn music. Call us impetuous, call us emotional—just keep the path between us and our music free and clear.
As the holidays approach, one might find himself struggling for gift ideas for the music fan, because odds are, they already have all of the music they want. We at TNB Music feel your pain (actually, we don’t, because we’re the music fans whom you’re trying to please). So without further ado, here are some unique gifting ideas to consider this holiday season.
By way of disclosure, we have received no compensation nor any consideration for any of these items. This is simply a list of albums, books and DVDs that we think will stuff someone’s stocking quite nicely.
TNB Music Editor
Box sets are the music industry’s equivalent of zombification. They take a lifeless band or an album with waning commercial vitality and throw it in a jazzy-looking box with a few stickers and a Kinkos-quality pamphlet of photos that weren’t interesting enough for the original album, then jack up the price and call it a “Collector’s Edition.”
That said, when a box set is thoughtfully compiled it can place the original album or artist in a vibrant new perspective. A worthy box set should contain more than simply an anthology of music– there should be new material, newly re-mixed old material and/or high-quality bells and whistles to justify the invariably hefty price tag. In 2011, box sets issued from the Beach Boys, The Who, Leonard Cohen, Slayer and The Smiths, to name a few. Here are two that are worth considering:
There’s not a Pink Floyd fan on the planet who doesn’t own at least one copy of this majestic album that first saw the light of day in 1975. Why go the extra mile with this set? Because in addition to the newly-remastered original disc, the 3-CD set includes the album’s original mix by Alan Parsons plus unreleased tracks, demos, live cuts and alternative takes. There is additionally a DVD of mind-expanding surround sound mixes of the album, plus live concert footage and a six-minute short film. There is also a Blu-ray DVD with enhanced content, plus photo books, myriad band memorabilia and lest anyone carp that there aren’t enough goodies, the set also includes collector’s marbles and a scarf. That’s right– marbles and a scarf.
This is for the music fan who thinks they have everything. If he or she harbors a true passion for the humble roots of music, they will revel in these three CDs that compile astonishingly high-quality soul and gospel classics from the streets of Cleveland. None of the artists represented will find their way into Cleveland’s notable music-themed institution, but that’s the point– Boddie Recording Co. (1958-1993) has long been out of business and was hardly dominant even in its heyday, but this eclectic collection of soul, funk, doo-wop and gospel diamonds suggest that history take a closer look at Cleveland’s own contribution to modern music.
Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970, by David Browne (DaCapo, $26)
Fire and Rain captivated readers of all sizes and shapes with Browne’s thoroughly-engrossing narrative that artfully recounts the stories of four historic albums released in 1970: The Beatles’ Let It Be, Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu and James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. Individually, each of these albums yields a richly-compelling story, but woven together as a single narrative against an explosive social and political backdrop, the end result is one of the most fascinating and enjoyable reads of 2011. What makes Fire and Rain such an unmitigated pleasure are the stories within the stories– those little anecdotes that Browne has mined from a breathtaking amount of interviews with the people most intimately involved with the albums. Whether it’s Paul Simon driving students home from his NYU songwriting class or James Taylor withering in an insane asylum, Browne expertly renders the key players in such vivid emotional detail that the finished products– the four albums, take on a stunning new context. No music fan can afford to take a pass on this book.
Here are some more of our favorite music reads from 2011:
Queensryche’s critically-hailed rock opera was filmed over three nights at Seattle’s Moore Theater and the Blu-ray edition delivers both crystalline high definition and a righteous sound mix that shoots Geoff Tate’s vocals as if they were coming out of a cannon. The plot is as timely as when the original was first released, propelled by themes of rebellion, insurrection and political and religious demagoguery. Is the acting hammy? You betcha, but rock operas are hardly the stuff of Oscar buzz. You’re tucking into this show for the music, and the band deliver a tight set that is neither diluted by nor artificially enhanced by the more bombastic elements added to the performance (such as the assistance of the Seattle Seahawks’ drum line). Get between a pair of high quality speakers and throw in this phenomenal presentation of one of heavy metal’s classic albums, delivered by a band that twenty years after its release, are still attacking the music like their career depends on it. Extras? How about the late Ronnie James Dio performing “The Chase,” live from Los Angeles– Dio’s only public performance as Dr. X? Aces.
Other DVDs we liked: