With the holiday shopping season in full effect, it’s once again time to start stockpiling gift ideas.
Here are a few noteworthy items new this year that might make music fans’ seasonal celebrations a little more tuneful.
Box sets are the bread and butter (or, for the cynics out there, the cockroaches) of the music industry — reliable cash cows that can help shore up otherwise ho-hum balance sheets. This past year in particular brought a slew of star-studded collections to shelves, many of which come at a steep cost, but help put priceless music in new, fascinating contexts. Perhaps the most coveted box music fans are fiending for in 2014 is the Beatles’ collection of mono vinyl LPs ( Amazon has the box for about $336, and local vinyl retailers like Good Records also stock the set). The lavish array of mono LPs, freshly remastered at Abbey Road and packaged just as they were in the Swinging ’60s, is pure, uncut nostalgia for baby boomers, and the cornerstone of any budding vinyl enthusiast’s collection.
The Fab Four aren’t the only ones cleaning out the vaults this year. Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series” continued earlier this fall with the release of its 11th installment, a sweeping, six-disc set chronicling the creation of the influential “Basement Tapes” ( Amazon’s selling the deluxe edition for around $120).
Bruce Springsteen released The Album Collection, Vol. 1, which features newly cleaned-up versions of the Boss’s first seven LPs, from 1973’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. through to 1984’s landmark Born in the U.S.A. Available on CD ($75) or vinyl ($200), the set marks the inaugural release of these remastered records on vinyl.
For the discerning country fan in your life, lay out some coin ( around $177) for Bear Family Records’ exquisite Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner box, Just Between You and Me, collecting every extant recording the pair made between 1967 and 1976.
On the more humble end of the box set spectrum, those who were unable to attend George Strait’s record-breaking June farewell to touring at AT&T Stadium can now relive the entire concert, thanks to The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium (Deluxe Edition), which in addition to 28 tracks across two CDs, includes a DVD of the full, three-hour show ( Wal-Mart has it for $24.88).
And for the Beyonce fan in your life, there’s the “platinum edition” of her self-titled 2013 album, which is being re-released in a two-CD, two-DVD package, containing two new songs, four unreleased remixes and 10 live performances from the “Mrs. Carter Show” world tour ( about $28 on Amazon).
On page and screen
Curling up with a good book is always a treat when the weather turns frosty, and there has been no shortage of great music-related reads this year. Fred Schruers’ authorized biography of Billy Joel ( around $20 in hardcover, $12 for e-editions) is a fascinating page-turner (and, Joel has been quick to note, doesn’t contain any of the material from his much anticipated but ultimately scrapped 2011 memoir). Other big-name biographies of note include His Own Story, Jerry Lee Lewis’s warts-and-all account co-written with Rick Bragg ( around $18 for hardcover, $14 for e-editions), and Neil Young’s Special Deluxe, which reflects upon his life as it relates to automobiles ( around $20 for hardcover, $13 for e-editions).
Of course, if you’d rather watch than read, there are plenty of options. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Mike Myers’ terrific documentary about the famous manager, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD exclusively through Amazon ( $13.99-$16.99). Nick Cave is the subject of the trippy pseudo-nonfiction film about his art and life, 20,000 Days on Earth (available on DVD and Blu-ray; $18.74-$22.45).
Director Lenny Abrahamson’s sublimely odd Frank, which stars Michael Fassbender as the titular rock star, arrives on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 9 ( $12.99-$17.99). And the new REMTV box, spread across six discs ( $75), spans the whole of R.E.M.’s acclaimed career.