This holiday season is definitely the year of the box set and as they say, “the bigger, the better.” What used to be the time of year to release “best of” compilations from established music artists has grown into releasing elaborate sets that include beautiful designed books and artwork to accompany the wonderful music within. Because music isn’t only about sound anymore, visuals have become as much a standard release in order to help enjoy the music. This year’s top releases aim at the classic rock fan, especially ones with deep pockets as everything is presented for their full enjoyment.
With names like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Cobain, Frank Sinatra and The Beatles releasing new box sets, it could also be the makings of music’s Mount Rushmore. Many of these music labels have done their best to provide you with the perfect gifts to grab your attention and it continues to amaze me that The Beatles, Frank Sinatra and Nirvana continue to roll out new items, despite not releasing any new music in over a decade.
The Beatles greatest hits CD titled “1” is considered one of the best-selling album of all-time, but Apple Corps Ltd. in association with the Universal Music Group decided to bulk up their greatest hits set “1” by adding a Blu-ray or DVD of music videos. The videos presented in this new release have been cleaned and polished to look their very best. The colors are vibrant and the music was remixed and remastered by Giles Martin (son of George Martin) and Sam Okell. There is also a deluxe version of this release titled “1+” that included a second DVD or Blu-ray of another 23 music videos, some being released in it full-form for the first time. The deluxe version is also presented in hardcover book form that includes 124-full color pages describing the filming of the videos. Beatles fans need this in their collections.
The immortal Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 years young on December 12th. To celebrate, Legacy Recordings has gathered together over 100 rare performances of Frank Sinatra when he became the golden voice of radio. Presented on four CDs, this box set titled “Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air (1935-1955)” includes 91 previously unreleased live performances as Frank duets with many classic artists like Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Dean Martin among others. This set also features rare radio commercials that starred Frank Sinatra as well as comedy skits and tribute to the soldiers in World War II. Listening to this set will bring you back to a simpler time when a magic voice on the radio would be your night’s entertainment.
Earlier this year, HBO premiered the documentary “Montage Of Heck,” about the life and times of Kurt Cobain, lead singer and guitarist for the band Nirvana. It opened up fans eyes as to the struggles and desires that Cobain dealt with when superstardom overtook his life. Universal Music Group is releasing this documentary in a Super Deluxe box set which includes a Blu-ray and a DVD of the documentary with over 45 minutes of bonus interviews. Also included in this set is the much sought after soundtrack, which features 31 home recordings and demos that Cobain made on his own, including demos of “Been A Son” and “Something In The Way,” as well as a rare cover of The Beatles “And I Love Her.” The soundtrack comes along on CD and cassette with a 160-page hardcover book that contains extended interviews with some of Cobain’s never-before seen drawings and photographs.
The cream of the crop this holiday season has to be the ultra-deluxe box set of the latest installment in Bob Dylan’s “Bootleg Series.” Volume 12, “The Cutting Edge,” features Dylan’s magical recording period between 1965-1966, in which he produced three albums (“Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde On Blonde”) that would change the history of rock music forever. Legacy Recordings has gathered together over 100 tracks that spread across six discs for the deluxe edition of this new release. One entire CD in this set is dedicated to the development of his most iconic song “Like A Rolling Stone” as you follow it from its infancy through fifteen takes, which puts the listener in the studio with Dylan and his band. But, if you want more than just the 6CD box set, there is an ultra-deluxe box set that includes 18-discs, nine mono 45 RPM singles, a 170-page hardcover book and a certificate of authenticity. It has been limited to only 5,000 units worldwide and will cost you only $600, but it includes every note of every recording that Bob Dylan made in the studio during those 14 magical months.
Now, if you are looking for something a little less extreme, there are a couple of live box set that should be on every music fan’s list. The first “must have” is from the classic rock band Rush who toured the U.S. and Canada this past summer to celebrate their 40th anniversary together with their long-term line-up of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Rounder, in association with the Concord Music Group recently released the complete live album, “RUSH R40 LIVE,” which captures the band performing in front of their hometown of Toronto during this past tour. The show was filmed with over 14 high-definition cameras and captures the true essence of their performance, as if you were on stage and in the front row watching them perform. This set was released in many different formats including a 3CD/1 Blu-ray set, a 3CD/1 DVD set, as only a 3CD set and as a stand-along Blu-ray and DVD.
Another live box set that is a sure please long-time music fans for the holidays is the 4CD box set from jazz fusion legends Weather Report. The new box set titled “The Legendary Live Tapes” covers their performing period between 1978 to 1981 and includes 28 never before released songs, including a live version of their crossover hit “Birdland.” This was their most prolific time as members of the band included bass virtuoso Jaco Pastorius and Miles Davis sidemen Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. All of the songs in this set are “completely, totally, unapologetically and insanely live” as this new box set covers the band’s most important period in their career.
While these are just some of the amazing new box sets available this holiday season, let’s not forget about some just as wonderful books that have been recently published that showcases the visual history of such acts at The Who, Garth Brooks and Bob Dylan. The first book from Voyageur Press is titled “Dylan: Disc By Disc,” which showcases author Jon Bream gathering together music authors, teachers, editors, and fellow musicians to discuss every single Bob Dylan studio album. Bream pairs them up into groups of two and begins a round table discussion with questions supplied by Bream as to the importance and impact these albums have had on the lives of these individuals involved in the discussion.
Another great, exciting release from Race Point Publishing is “The Who: 50 Years Of My Generation.” It explores the history of the band as author Mat Snow gathers together many unheard stories from friends of The Who and fellow musicians. To highlight these stories on the history of the band are over 100 unpublished photos on over 240 full color pages that easily follows the career of The Who. A similar book was recently published by Sterling on the history of country superstar Garth Brooks titled “Garth Brooks: The Illustrated Story.” It closely follows the early days of Brooks’ career in country music as he became friends with some of country music’s elite performers in order to ultimately become one the biggest name in the genre. These amazing new releases are only just a glimpse into what is being offered to music fans this holiday season.