fb pixel

Log In


Reset Password

Box sets and reissues for music lovers on your shopping list

Box sets and deluxe album reissues make good gifts for music fans on your holiday shopping list, and 2017 brought more than a fair share of excellent releases. Here are my favorites:

The Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — the album that raised pop music to a true art form and blew open the doors for all manner of exploration and genre blending within the pop form — gets expanded to four-disc box for its 50th anniversary. It provides a cool look at how the album was made, with the finished tracks separated out into multiple partial tracks to show how songs came together in their final form.

U2: “The Joshua Tree.” This watershed album gets the deluxe treatment over four discs, with outtakes (some of which had been previously unreleased), cool remixes and best of all, a fine 1987 show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Bob Dylan: “Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13.” Dylan was widely maligned for the music he released during his “born again” period from 1979 to 1981, which saw him go gospel on albums “Slow Train Coming,” “Saved” and “Shot of Love.” This eight-CD/1 DVD set does not include those albums. Instead, it is filled with live versions, rehearsal, soundcheck and alternate studio takes of songs from those three albums (as well as 15 unreleased tracks, including such worthy tunes as “Ain’t No Man Righteous, Not No One,” “Making A Liar Out of Me” and “Thief on the Cross”). Centering on live performances is smart. The live versions have considerably more fire than the studio counterparts and show that Dylan was writing at a high level. In short, “Trouble No More” is a revelation, bringing a whole new appreciation and respect to what many considered a low point in Dylan’s career.

John Lee Hooker: “King of the Boogie.” Hooker was to blues what AC/DC is to rock, someone who basically rewrote and elaborated on the same basic song his entire career. And this excellent five-CD, career-spanning box set shows that like the Aussie rockers, there was something so distinctive, so fundamental and soulful that Hooker’s music never sounded tired or played out. Just authentic and essential.

Elvis Presley: “A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings.” This three-CD set documents where it all began for Presley, encompassing his master recordings for Sun Records studio outtakes and live and radio performances from this period. Together this set shows Presley finding his sound and hinting at the blockbuster hits that would soon follow and make him a superstar who changed rock and roll forever.

Various Artists: “American Epic.” This five-disc collection provides an eye-opening look at American music in the 1920s, before the record industry created genres, trends and formats to reach mass audiences. Nearly 100 artists are represented, and the breadth and quality of music is stunning, from blues, country and religious to Spanish, French, African-American, Indian and beyond. This is the sound of modern American music being born.

Various Artists: “Woody Guthrie The Tribute Concerts: Carnegie Hall 1968, Hollywood Bowl 1970.” Two concerts that celebrated folk legend Woody Guthrie are presented over three CDs. The two shows feature a who’s who of ’60s folk (including Bob Dylan, Odetta and Joan Baez) and are fitting tributes to Guthrie, whose spirit and lyrical messages still ring true today.

Queen: “News of the World” Deluxe Edition. This three-CD release of one of Queen’s best albums has some fat — the instrumental versions of several songs are far from essential. But alternative versions of several key songs from a BBC session are revelations (especially the fast guitar-rock version of “We Will Rock You”).

The Smiths: “God Save The Queen.” The four-CD deluxe reissue of this key album by the lauded British band is a must for ardent Smiths fans, with outtakes, b-sides and a tightly played 1986 concert.

INXS: “Kick 30th Anniversary Edition.” The Australian group’s hit-filled 1987 album gets expanded and improved, with two discs of outtakes (including release-worthy songs like “Do Wot You Do,” “Move On” and “Trap”), remixes and live versions.

Wilco: “A.M.”/“Being There.” Wilco’s excellent first two albums get expanded with a bounty of outtakes and a full 1996 concert. With its many unreleased gems, this reissue renders the original versions of the albums obsolete.

The Ramones: “Rocket To Russia.” One of the band’s definitive albums gets expanded to three discs, with many unreleased mixes and alternate takes, plus a blistering 1977 concert from Glasgow that’s worth the price of this edition alone.

The Replacements: “For Sale: Live at Maxell’s 1986.” This two-disc set captures the Mats on a good night, still rowdy, but unlike at some shows, on point as they play songs from their great album, “Tim,” as well as earlier material.

Bash & Pop: “Saturday Night is Killing Me.” Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson proved he had solid songwriting chops on this 1993 debut album, supplemented here with a full disc of outtakes and four unreleased songs, including the solid rockers “Situation” and “Making Me Sick.”

Game Theory: “2 Steps from the Middle Ages.” The final album by Game Theory and its gifted songwriter Scott Miller features some of the band’s tightest, most approachable rocking pop songs. This expanded reissue adds some cool demos, outtakes and live cuts to the excellent original album.

This excellent five-CD, career-spanning box set shows that there was something so fundamental and soulful about John Lee Hookerís music that it never sounded tired or played out. Just authentic and essential.