Ten special box-set collections that’d make a great gift for the music buff in your life

It’s not always easy choosing gifts for friends and loved ones at this time of year – but if you are buying for a music lover, these special box-set collections 
are sure to go down a treat when the wrapping paper gets torn off.
Bob Dylan And The Band's The Basement Tapes Complete – The Bootleg Series Vol 11. Columbia Records / AP Photo
Bob Dylan And The Band's The Basement Tapes Complete – The Bootleg Series Vol 11. Columbia Records / AP Photo

Bob Dylan And The Band

The Basement Tapes Complete – The Bootleg Series Vol 11

(Columbia)

NEW OLD DYLAN: This six-CD package of 138 tracks claims to include everything worth hearing from Bob Dylan’s 1967 sessions with The Band. A few songs last less than a minute, many are offered in multiple renditions and the audio quality is poor at times, meaning that this “complete” set is, indeed, mostly for completists. But when it comes to Dylan, there are plenty of those.

BACK-PORCH MUSIC: These casual but intense sessions produced inimitable performances. Dylan sings ancient ballads, folk standards, 12-bar blues, sea shanties, rock ’n’ roll and novelty tunes. He also tests a handful of his own new compositions, including I Shall Be Released, Quinn the Eskimo and You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.

REMASTERED: The original 1975 Basement Tapes release featured only 16 songs from these sessions, plus eight that had been recently recorded by The Band. The sound here is much improved but there’s still some muddiness and distortion.

THE SONGS GET SHORT SHRIFT: The packaging is handsome but only two pages are devoted to listing the songs, with virtually no historical information or details of who plays what on which cut, or specific recording dates.

PRICE: US$120 (Dh440)

Bruce Springsteen

The Album Collection Vol 1, 1973-1984

(Columbia)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Perfect for fans of The Boss looking for the finest-quality recordings of his first seven records. Five of them had never been remastered before.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: Besides the improved sound quality, this collection shows Springsteen’s evolution from his early lyrical prowess to his ability to tackle more serious social themes. The set includes his breakout Born to Run album, the career-turning Darkness on the Edge of Town, and the commercial chart-topper, Born in the USA. But don’t expect any musical content beyond the remastered albums.

BEST EXTRA: This box set comes with a 60-page booklet of rare photos, press clippings and other memorabilia. Be warned, the print is a little small, so perfect peepers or reading glasses may be necessary to fully appreciate it.

PRICE: The CD box set is about US$75 (Dh275), the vinyl collection is $199 and a digital download is $50.

David Bowie

Nothing Has Changed

(Columbia)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Those who’ve worn out their copy of the Changes compilation and are mildly curious about what David Bowie’s been up to since Let’s Dance.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: A three-CD career retrospective in reverse chronological order, starting with a new song, Sue (Or in a Season of Crime). Pick your favourite era.

BEST EXTRA: Going back – way back – to 1964 and the single Liza Jane by Bowie as Davie Jones with the King Bees.

PRICE: US$39.98 (Dh147)

Joni Mitchell

Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, a Ballet, Waiting to be Danced

(Rhino)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Hopeless romantics.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: Mitchell tried and failed to put together a one-disc package of love songs. So she created this work, which the cinematic songwriter views as a four-act play. It sets her music out thematically, jumping through the decades, bringing ideas and characters together. Instead of greatest hits, you get her catalogue reimagined by the artist. However, there’s nothing new here that hasn’t been previously released.

BEST EXTRA: Mitchell’s essay, rich in name-dropping anecdotes, that superbly explains her vision for the set and her iconoclastic artistry as a whole.

PRICE: US$59.98 (Dh220)

Elvis Presley

That’s the Way It Is (Deluxe Edition)

(Sony Music)

WHICH ELVIS? This eight-CD, two-DVD set is neither the thin Elvis of The Sun Sessions or the bloated king of his sad final years. This is Elvis at the peak of his powers: self-confident, amused by his impact on fans and completely in command of the music. Plus he looks fabulous in a jewelled white jumpsuit.

THE SINGLE THAT NEVER AGES: This set features seven concert CDs that open with Elvis’s sexy single That’s All Right. Turns out those are just the appetisers – actually seeing him rip through this number on the concert DVD is the treat.

ROCK ’N’ ROLL DEFINED: The Mystery Train/Tiger Man combination that opens the first DVD.

SURPRISE HIT: On the rehearsal CD, Elvis sings a mean Alla en el Rancho Grande in credible Spanish, trilling his “r” like a pro.

SURPRISE STINKER: The man who could sing just about everything makes a mess of The Beatles’s Yesterday on the rehearsals disc. Much better is a casual but inspired medley that finds Elvis and his band switching between a nasty Little Sister and a very bluesy version of The Beatles’ Get Back.

UNSUNG HERO: James Burton on lead guitar. Just listen.

PRICE: US$180 (Dh660)

Grateful Dead

Spring 1990 (The Other One)

(Rhino)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: This is strictly for diehard Deadhead completists – particularly those who were deep into the band during this period shortly before Jerry Garcia died in 1995, and fans who missed out on the first box set of the 1990 shows that was released last year – that set quickly sold out and now goes for big bucks on eBay.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: The March 29, 1990, show featuring Branford Marsalis sitting in from the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, is the standout show among the eight concerts spread over 23 discs. More casual fans who don’t want to fork out the big bucks for the set can also buy this show separately – and it’s well-worth checking out.

BEST EXTRA: The 44-page paperback book with essays by Nicholas G Meriwether and Blair Jackson does a wonderful job of putting this era of the Dead’s long career into perspective – the good and the bad – and helps recreate the period for anyone who missed it.

PRICE: US$239.98 (Dh880)

Metallica

By Request

(Metallica.com)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT? Anyone who ever wondered what it would be like to follow their favourite band from city to city. This box set contains every concert Metallica played this year – 27 in all. The best box sets give fans something extra – this one gives them everything – virtually every note.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: All but two of these concerts let fans vote on the songs the band would play, so each show has a different set list. This is metal as heavy as it gets. The audiences are a featured performer on all these shows.

BEST EXTRAS: None, just music – two-and-a-half solid days of it.

PRICE: US$417 (Dh1,530)

Henry Mancini

The Classic Soundtrack Collection

(Legacy Recordings)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Film-soundtrack aficionados who previously had to rely on pricey European imports to fill out their Mancini collections, fans of Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews, ageing boomers looking for seductive mood music for ‘60s-style bachelor pads.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: This nine-CD collection of 18 Mancini soundtracks from 1960 to 1973 includes some of the most beloved and enduring movie themes: Moon River, The Pink Panther Theme, Charade, Two for the Road, and the whimsical Baby Elephant Walk. Mancini’s lesser-known soundtracks showcase his versatility, including the Sicilian folk music of What Did You Do In the War, Daddy? and the darkly menacing Experiment In Terror.

BEST EXTRAS: The 17 bonus tracks include a previously unreleased recording of Julie Andrews singing Nothing to Lose from the Peter Sellers comedy The Party, and Lola Albright performing the wistful ballad Dreamsville from the television series Peter Gunn.

PRICE: US$90 (Dh330)

Queen

Live At The Rainbow ‘74

(Hollywood)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Fans of one of the greatest rock bands of all time who are tired of the poor-quality, incomplete bootleg versions of these shows. In less than a year, Queen brought two tours to London’s Rainbow Theatre, with their Queen II and Sheer Heart Attack albums, a fascinating transition from their first three harder-rock albums to the more melodic and operatic songs that would become classics.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: Soaring, dramatic vocals from Freddie Mercury, the most dynamic, singer ever to grab a microphone stand. The heavy-metal crunch of Ogre Battle, Stone Cold Crazy, Son and Daughter and Liar can make eardrums bleed, yet goodies such as the Killer Queen medley, Bring Back That Leroy Brown, Big Spender and Jailhouse Rock are unreleased gems.

BEST EXTRAS: The deluxe version includes CDs of two full shows from 1974, from March and November; the DVD has the full November show and four tracks from the March performance. There are also souvenir reproductions of badges sold at the shows, a backstage pass and the concert booklet; a 60-page hardcover photo book; a concert poster and more.

PRICE: US$80 (Dh294) – super deluxe version

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy

(Atlantic/Swan Song)

WHO IT’S AIMED AT: Each of Led Zeppelin’s first five records is available in various formats. Casual fans can simply get the original release as remastered by Zep’s lead guitarist Jimmy Page. More dedicated listeners can go for the two-disc expanded versions, which include out-takes, alternative takes and live versions. The true die-hards will want to splash out on the super deluxe, which includes the CD and vinyl expanded versions, digital downloads and a hardcover, 70-plus page book of photos and other archive material.

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: Come on, it’s Zeppelin. Where do you start? The companion audio to Led Zeppelin, featuring eight songs from a 1969 concert in Paris, is particularly stirring.

BEST EXTRAS: The hardcover book includes a treasure trove of Zeppelin photos, newspaper articles and other vintage 1970s material, but they are oddly devoid of any liner notes – a major miss for what are, otherwise, musically extraordinary box sets.

PRICE: The deluxe box sets range from US$104 to $140 (Dh382 to Dh514), the individual CDs are $9 each and the double-disc versions are about $15

Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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