Day three of the 2014 PopCult Gift Guide brings us music. Not the local music that I normally write about, but national and international artists who have released musical objects which a person such as yourself can wrap and place under a ceremonial tree. This is the cream of the crop among boxed sets and special projects from which you may well choose the perfect gift for the music-lover on on your Christmas list.
Do you have an REM fan on your list? Well you can’t go wrong with REM TV, a six-DVD collection of every single television appearance by the band during their entire history. This collection ranges from REM on IRS’s Cutting Edge in the 1980s to entire televised concerts, their 2007 induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to appearances on The Colbert Report.
It’s the perfect binge-watching experience for die-hard REM fans. Or you can give it to someone who hates the band for the perfect binge-and-purge viewing experience.
The Art of McCartney
The Art of McCartney falls into neither of those catagories. This collection of covers of Sir Paul McCartney’s songs includes artists like Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Heart, The Cure, Steve Miller, Billy Joel, Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens), Willie Nelson and others. In many cases the performers are backed by McCartney’s back up band, which makes for tighter performances that may sin only in being too faithful.
A few of the songs are amazing simply in that they exist, like Bob Dylan singing the early Beatle tune “Things We Said Today.” Others are perfect matches of performer to material, like Roger Daltry singing “Helter Skelter” or Brian Wilson’s take on “Wanderlust.”
There are a few very pleasant suprises, like Toots Hibbert with Sly and Robbie making “Come and Get It” sound like it was written to be a Reggae song, or Def Leppard making “Helen Wheels” sound like one of their own.
The disappointments are minor. Both Perry Farrell and Alice Cooper hew so closely to the original songs that they don’t sound like themselves. Billy Joel’s tries very hard, but it’s clear that his voice is shot. Chrissie Hynde hiccups her way through what would otherwise be a lovely version of “Let it Be.
But this is still a great tribute album and a nice gift for the obsessive Macca fan on your list. Be aware that almost every retailer selling this has a different assortment of “bonus tracks.” You’d have to buy six copies to get every single track, but most of the bonus material is disposable.
Elements of King Crimson -Tour Box
A career-spanning box of rarities and highlights, this 2 CD collection runs the gamut from 1969 soundchecks to 2014 rehearsals by the newest incarnation of the mobile intelligent music machine known as King Crimson.
Every incarnation of the band is represented, and many of the tracks are previously unreleased. This is not only the perfect gift for the King Crimson fan on your list, but it’s also a good primer for new fans who are curious about one of the most intricate and complex musical entities in rock music.
Sinatra: London (3CD/1DVD Box Set)
Shifting gears a bit, we have Old Blue Eyes in foggy London town. For several weeks during the spring of 1962, London’s music scene buzzed with the rumor that Frank Sinatra was to record a new album there. Indeed, in June that year, the iconic star traveled to the U.K. to record Sinatra Sings Great Songs From Great Britain. Recorded over three consecutive nights at London’s CTS Studios, Great Songs From Great Britain would be the only album Sinatra would ever record outside of the United States.
Sinatra: LONDON is a deluxe 3-CD/DVD and digital audio collection presenting the remastered original studio album with a treasure trove of other London highlights from Sinatra’s career. The expansive set’s more than 50 previously unreleased recordings include session material from the album, a 1962 BBC ‘Light Programme’ radio special with introductions to each song by Sinatra himself, a 1953 live session for BBC Radio’s ‘The Show Band Show,’ and a Royal Albert Hall concert from 1984. The collection’s DVD features a previously unreleased filmed 1962 concert from Royal Festival Hall, plus a 1970 concert appearance from the same venue with a never before released performance of the classic song ‘A Foggy Day.’
This book-style set includes a 60-page booklet with a new essay by producer, filmmaker, songwriter, music publisher and author, Ken Barnes, who attended the Great Songs From Great Britain sessions, the album’s original liner notes, newly-written track notes, details about Sinatra’s many visits to the U.K., and several photos of Sinatra in London: onstage, in the studio, and about town. The new collection also includes two exclusive art print reproductions of original London concert posters, and a unique studio panorama from the 1962 recording sessions for Great Songs From Great Britain.
The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
This may well be the holy grail of rock music’s archival history. The definitive chronicle of Dylan’s legendary 1967 sessions with The Band makes up this 6-disc set, which includes 138 tracks compiled from meticulously restored original tapes. There’s also an exclusive 120 page deluxe-bound book containing rare and unseen photographs and memorabilia and extensive liner notes.
Compiled from meticulously restored original tapes many found only recently this historic six-disc set is the definitive chronicle of the artist’s legendary 1967 recording sessions with members of his touring ensemble who would later achieve their own fame as The Band. If you know a Dylan fan, then this is the perfect, and possibly only, gift that they will want this year.
Led Zeppelin IV (Deluxe CD Edition)
In 1969, Led Zeppelin released its self-titled debut. It marked the beginning of a 12-year reign, during which the group was widely considered to be the biggest and most innovative rock band in the world. The band prepared the reissue of Led Zeppelin IV (the third best-selling album in U.S. history) this year. As with the previous deluxe editions, both albums have been newly remastered by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page and are accompanied by a second disc of companion audio comprised entirely of unreleased music related to that album. Led Zeppelin IV was originally released in November 1971, the album—which is officially untitled—defined the sound of rock music for a generation with ubiquitous anthems such as “Stairway To Heaven, ” “Rock And Roll, ” “Black Dog, ” and “When The Levee Breaks. ” The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, has been certified 23x platinum by the RIAA. The Led Zeppelin IV deluxe editions include unreleased versions of every song heard on the original album including alternate mixes of “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks, ” mixes of “The Battle Of Evermore” and “Going To California” heavy with guitar and mandolin, and the fabled, alternate version “Stairway To Heaven, ” mixed at the Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles which lets fans hear one of the most revered songs of all time as they have never heard it before.
The Anthology 1964 – 1971 (5CD Box Set)
The Kinks burst onto the scene in 1964. To celebrate this momentous occasion, a must-have 5-disc box set spanning the peerless output from that landmark year through 1971. The Anthology 1964-1971 features over 100 songs across 5 CDs, the most comprehensive collection of The Kinks seminal 1960s and early 1970s Pye label recordings ever released. Newly remastered, the box set features rare demos, interviews, alternate mixes, session outtakes, 25 previously unavailable tracks, and extensive liner notes all in a beautiful box set.
This essential release includes many timeless gems including You Really Got Me, Stop Your Sobbing, All Day And All of the Night, Till The End of The Day, A Well Respected Man, Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street, Waterloo Sunset, David Watts, Autumn Almanac, Days, Picture Book and The Village Green Preservation Society. This is perfect for any Mod anglophile you may know.
R40 [6 Blu-ray Box Set]
2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Rush’s eponymous debut album. This deluxe collector’s box set brings together live performances by Rush from each decade of their career. It includes ‘Rush in Rio,’ ‘R30,’ ‘Snakes & Arrows Live,’ ‘Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland,’ and ‘Clockwork Angels Tour,’ plus a spectacular bonus disc of previously unseen and unreleased live material stretching from 1974 to 2013. The bonus disc features over two hours of unreleased footage including their masterpiece ‘2112’ in its entirety, the Laura Secord School performance with John Rutsey from 1974 that features two unreleased Rush songs and a cover of ‘Bad Boy’ made famous by the Beatles, the closing tour film ‘I Still Love You Man’ from the Time Machine Tour with Paul Rudd & Jason Segel, and the monumental 2013 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony with Dave Grohl & Taylor Hawkins. The 6 disc set is presented in a hardcover book containing rare, unreleased photos and memorabilia.
Venus and Mars (Deluxe Book)
Okay, if The Art of McCartney wasn’t authentic enough for the devout McCartneyite on your list, You can spring for this super-deluxe reissue of the Wings album that some people (your loyal PopCulteer included) prefer to Band on the Run.
With a hot line-up of talented musicians backing them, Paul and Linda delivered a top-flight collection of songs that were the state of the art in pop/rock music in the mid-1970s. Songs like “Venus and Mars/Rock Show,” “Listen To What The Man Said” and “Letting Go” were radio staples, while “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” and “Medicine Jar” were killer deep cuts.
The second disc in this set includes hit singles like “Junior’s Farm,” plus a collection of rare B-sides and other surprises. The DVD is packed with TV and concert footage from the era.
That’s the non-local music portion of The 2014 Popcult Gift Guide. Check back on Thursday for our look at non-local books. Local stuff will be showcased on Friday.