Happy Merry (fill in the name of your Holiday preference here)! We here at HRAC hope you and yours are having a wonderful holiday season. But now that you’ve opened all your gifts and quaffed your requisite morning coffee and/or eggnog and/or hot toddy (it’s the holidays, after all!), you’ve come to the realization that you now have yet another decision-oriented task at hand: What to do with all those gift cards and/or cash equivalents you received? Well, as always, we’re here to help, so herewith are some suggestions for how to get what your own ears need, now that everyone else has been taken care of thanks to your noted gift-giving generosity.
In three previous Holiday Gift Guide installments, I made suggestions for box sets/special editions from the likes of Sting, The Human League, The Rolling Stones, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. No reason you can’t pick up any or all of ’em for yourself now!
BestofNJ.com asked me to come up with a half-dozen or so New Jersey-music-related gift ideas for last-minute holiday shoppers, and I was more than happy to oblige.
Among the highlighted options: the audiobook version of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run autobiography, as read in full by the author himself, and the companion CD, Chapter and Verse, which includes five previously unreleased tracks, three of which are from Bruce’s pre-E Street Band days; the second studio effort from the Beatles-lovin’ foursome The Weeklings, aptly titled Studio 2 since it was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, the place where The Fab Four recorded many of their own indelible hits; and Frank Sinatra’s World on a String box set, which houses four CDs and one DVD, and consists of more than 90 live recordings from 1953 to 1982 that were captured all across the globe — 34 of them showcased on the DVD, and many of them never before released. You can scroll through all of my Jersey-centric suggestions and where to find them here.
Pink Floyd’s massive, 27-disc The Early Years 1965–1972 collection is simply a must-have — if you can muster the hefty price tag, that is. The Early Years features over 49 hours of remastered and restored audio tracks and video elements on CD, DVD, and Blu-ray — with many of them presented in top-shelf 96-kHz/24-bit high-resolution form, and all of it very much HRAC-approved. If you require more background, read my exclusive interview with Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason here.
This is how you fete a band that warrants this level of deluxe attention. In late 2016, Crowded House celebrated their 30th anniversary by reissuing their entire seven-album studio catalog in two-disc deluxe CD packages, 180-gram heavyweight vinyl, and digital-download options, including a wealth of rare material personally selected by CH chief singer/songwriter Neil Finn and the band.
The two-CD packages feature the original album with a bonus disc of rarities, B-sides, and previously unreleased home demos and outtakes that number over 100 unreleased tracks across the campaign. Each CD package also contains extended notes featuring new interviews with the band and memorabilia from personal and fan archives in 36-page books. Woodface (1991) remains my personal favorite Crowded House album, and I love hearing/having the demo version of my favorite Neil Finn-penned song, “Weather With You.” Besides Amazon (of course), you can get ’em via the official Crowded House store.
It’s a triple threat from the (still misnamed, IMO) grunge era: a trio of deep-dive box sets from three of Seattle’s favorite sons: Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Mother Love Bone. First, Soundgarden’s seminal 1991 offering, Badmotorfinger, sees a seven-disc Super Deluxe Edition that consists of four CDs, two DVDs, and one Blu-ray Audio disc with a 96/24 5.1 mix of the original album and three B-sides done by Adam Kasper, who also did the surround mix for 2014’s Superunknown super deluxe box set. The collection features 109 tracks total, with 79 songs, videos, and related mixes previously unreleased.
Next, Temple of the Dog gets its own four-disc 25th Anniversary Edition box set, with two CDs featuring the original album, alternate mixes, outtakes, and vocalist Chris Cornell’s almost fully realized demos, one DVD, and one Blu-ray. The aforementioned Kasper helms the Blu-ray disc’s 96/24 5.1 mix, and it sets forth a fine surround template for a deeply heartfelt project, especially on the 11-minute epic guitarfest, “Reach Down.”
Finally, Mother Love Bone, the precursor to Pearl Jam that was cut short due to frontman Andrew Wood’s 1990 heroin overdose, gets compiled in full with On Earth As It Is: The Complete Works, which comprises three CDs and one DVD — a full chronicling of what could have been, but was just not meant to be.
During a break in touring in 2015, The Who’s mastermind Pete Townshend discovered tapes in his audio archive that featured previously unheard demos for the band’s 1965 My Generation album, including three totally unreleased songs The Who had never revisited: “The Girls I Could Have Had,” “As Children We Grew,” and “My Own Love.”
Now, we get to have at them in this 79-track, five-disc My Generation Super Deluxe Edition that also includes unreleased demos, unreleased alternate mixes, new remasters, and a stereo remix created by using new overdubs from vocalist Roger Daltrey and Townshend. For this mix, Townshend used the same exact guitars and amps as the original album, with Roger using same type of microphone. Gotta love that! Also included: an 80-page color book with many rare and unseen period photos, candid and insightful new notes from Townshend, and period memorabilia. The hell if I want to die before I get to hear anything and everything from Townshend’s storied vaults. Keep ’em coming, Pete!
Some of Bob Dylan’s most important, historical work occurred whenever he teamed up with The Band, and the 36-disc The 1966 Live Recordings box set features every known recording from Dylan’s mythic, controversial 1966 tour of the U.S., UK, Europe, and Australia. This is where the brave transition from acoustic to electrified folk occurred in real time, and it’s as fearless a chronicle of an artist’s creative transformation as it happened that you’ll ever hear.
Meanwhile, The Band had some live history of their own to revisit — namely, The Last Waltz – 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. The six-disc Collector’s Edition includes a 300-page book housing a replication of director Martin Scorsese’s meticulous-beyond-words shooting script and a 96/24 5.1 mix on Blu-ray — which is, without a doubt, the best version of The Last Waltz released to date.
Robertson, incidentally, also found time to write and compile Testimony, his riveting autobiography and exhilarating companion CD compilation, both absolutely worthy of your time and (gift) money. Testify.
There — those should be enough gift-redemption ideas to tide your ears over well into the New Year, and beyond. Happy hi-res box set/special edition hunting, one and all!