Once again, the holidays are upon us, and once again, the dilemmas of gift buying start to take hold. In a sea of unending choices and genres of items so far stretching it can make one’s head do a full 360-degree revolution, one thing always holds collectively revered by all: music. Whether giving or receiving, the sharing of music is universal, timeless, and always satisfactory. 2014 had a wide range of exciting, cool, and unique music releases for sale, most of them firmly affixed with the metaphoric legend “must-have” right out of the box. So that said, from Led Zeppelin to Bowie to Rush and more, here’s a twelve pack of sonic gems from the classic rock genre (a genre which stubbornly and thankfully survives in this decidedly different music age we live in today) that’s sure to give ear-to-ear smiles to the faces and grooves of the lucky recipients of them.
The Anthology (1964 – 1971)
5CD Box Set
This hugely expansive set covers what many believe is the golden era for this British pre-punk/rock and roll ensemble, who, like many of their other British Invasion brethren (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc), had a sound and style that was at once memorable, catchy, and ultimately eternally influential. Formed by the brothers Davies (Ray and Dave), The Kinks are still one of the major rock and roll acts around. Memorable songs like “Tired of Waiting for You,” the classic early pot boiler “You Really Got Me,” the chipper and decidedly pseudo-posh tracks like “Sunny Afternoon” and “A Well Respected Man” and radio staples like the ambiguous gender-bending of “Lola” and “Apeman” are mixed with tons of studio tracks, demos, alternate versions, remixes, and live renditions. It all adds up to a wondrous addition for the diehard fan and an essential virtual road map of the bands early (and arguably best) years to the newbie.
Led Zeppelin IV
– Super Deluxe Edition (CD and LP)
One of the most successful classic rock records of all time gets the expansion treatment, as Led Zeppelin’s 4th album (generally regarded as Led Zeppelin IV or Runes) has been re-released in a deluxe package, including a CD and LP version of the album, and a bonus disc of alternate versions of some of the most well-known songs from the British quartet’s rich history of sound. You probably know every one of these tunes, and even if you aren’t a big fan of the band, it’s a sure bet you’ll still have heard all these songs at least once. Since their original release in 1971, they have been everywhere, impossible to ignore, and too well crafted to resist. They play out not only as arguably the finest Led Zeppelin songs, but also as the some of the finest hard rock and roll ever manifested: the out and out rocker “Black Dog,” the speedy homage to their roots in “Rock and Roll,” the blues on cocaine stylings of “When the Levee Breaks,” the dizzying and mystical “Four Sticks,” the walk in the park of “Misty Mountain Hop,” and of course, “Stairway to Heaven.” Part of an ongoing series of Zeppelin re-masters with bonus material and supervised by guitarist/founder Jimmy Page, the band’s first three albums and the follow-up to Zep IV, Houses of the Holy, are also available in deluxe formats.
Memoirs of a Madman (DVD)
The wildman of heavy metal, progenitor of a kind of frontman in that genre who is at once sinister, bluesy, and ominous, Ozzy Osbourne cut his teeth as the lead singer for Black Sabbath, where he gleaned his style and substance, and used it to forage a highly successful solo career which started around 1979. Now, a 2-DVD collection, which rounds up his music videos, rare interviews, and live performances, called Memoirs of a Madman, has been released, and it’s nicely packaged in a handsome and macabre-looking set, perfectly capturing Osbourne’s full idiom. Ranging from 1981 to present day and showcasing some of Ozzy’s best solo work, this is an absolute no-brainer for the fan, the curious, and the zealous.
The Apple Years
CD Box Set
Ridiculously coined as “the quiet one,” the late George Harrison was anything but, be it during his tenure in The Beatles, where his lead guitar and knack for penning memorable songs independent of the ironclad Lennon/McCartney union, put him on equal footing, or during a solo career that early on, produced records of high caliber quality and dare one say majesty. Now, the solo output of Harrison and more, are housed together in a beautifully packaged set entitled George Harrison – The Apple Years. Containing records like the spectacular 1970 3-record set/magnum opus All Things Must Pass, which arguably stands as the greatest solo achievement by any Beatle, and that’s including the bravado of Lennon’s solo stuff and the poppy don’t give a hoot musings of McCartney. All Things Must Pass was like a dam breaking, finally a full, let loose of Harrison’s talents, and to hear him free from Beatle restraints and shackles, is air clearing intoxication alone. Other albums include the 1968 experimental Wonderwall, Living in the Material World, Extra Texture, and more. Rare photos, extensive and informative liner notes, and a bonus DVD put the collection over the top.
Stevie Ray Vaughn
The Complete Epic Recordings
CD Box Set (MP3)
In his short life, guitarist on fire Stevie Ray Vaughn took all that came before him by way of heavy rock and especially delta blues, and infused it into a breathless style that was instantly associated with him. Like Jimi Hendrix, Vaughn didn’t just sing about growing up in a railroad shack behind the tracks, he made you feel it, and the emotion one felt when hearing his songs and especially his playing, gave each song another level of sorts, and it’s the emotion that separates the true haves from the have nots in this log jammed genre known as electric blues. All the classic Epic recordings are now here in this lavish box set, complete with a live set, Live at the El Mocambo. To sum up, it all makes for essential listening indeed.
The Allman Brothers Band
The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings
6 CD Edition
One of the great live performances to ever be committed to tape, the 1971 Live at Fillmore East concert, by the blues filled soul and jazz mixed with country combo The Allman Brothers, has been released as a six CD collection, spanning multiple nights and remastered to the utmost sound quality. The band, which is the original lineup, sporting the late Duane Allman (who died weeks after these shows) on lead guitar, burns through each song and sculpts sonic peaks and valleys within tunes, with stretched out jams that travel eclectically all over the landscape before always coming back to square one. The live versions of “Whipping Post” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” have to stand as some of the most electric, hair-raising music ever to be committed to acetate. Even after 40 years, there aren’t a lot of live records that even come close to the sheer power and soulful strength found here, regardless of genre.
Paul McCartney and Wings
Wings at the Speed of Sound
In 1976, ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his latest line up of his ever-changing personnel in his band Wings, released Wings at the Speed of Sound, which arguably may be his most successful disc of the 1970s, even if critically it may have taken a back seat to Band on the Run, released a few years earlier. Speed of Sound was largely helped by the hit singles “Silly Love Songs” and “Let Em In,” both which were all over the airwaves during the Summer of 1976, and a tour followed which found McCartney and his band playing the United States for the first time since The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966. This Deluxe Edition of the album includes a full hilt remastering of the songs, (including an alternate version of a song called “Beware My Love,” with Led Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham), a music video for “Silly Love Songs,” and some live recordings to boot. Another album, Wings’ 1975 release Venus and Mars, also received the same deluxe treatment as Speed of Sound and is another essential purchase for the McCartney fan.
The Complete Studio Recordings
CD Box Set
Hands down one of the great instrumentalists of the modern age on guitar, Joe Satriani goes down the full line of sounds, styles, and ranges on this dazzling complete studio recordings collection. Includes 15 albums (like his classic Surfing With the Alien, an album which brought Satriani to the public’s attention back in 1987), a compilation disc and bonus tracks all re-mastered with full supervision by Satriani. The end result is music that blazes while it trailblazes.
Sound + Vision
CD Box Set (MP3)
Spanning 1969 – 1994, this re-release of the best of David Bowie is spread out over 4 CDs and has plenty of alternate versions, rare B-sides, single versions, and the best known tracks of rock and roll’s true chameleon. What’s most amazing is the range of versatility here; as one follows Bowie down his sonic timeline, there’s so much genre twisted, melded and fused within one another, be it from hard Stooges style musings on “Black Country Rock,” and “Panic in Detroit,” spacey cloud dirges of sound in “Space Oddity” and “The Man Who Sold the World,” pop with an attitude in “Changes” and “Fame” and drug-addled galaxian sounds in “Ziggy Stardust,” “Starman,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Sound and Vision” and “Ashes to Ashes.” This collection is a perfect entrance to be led by the hand of Bowie for the uninitiated, and has just enough rarities to fit nicely in the avid fan’s collection too.
Live at the Rainbow
Deluxe CD Box Set
From 1974, right on the crest of global success for the band, Queen kicks royal ass and then some on this live set at the famed London venue The Rainbow. The quartet, led by the late and still one of the greatest singers to ever grace the planet Freddie Mercury, rides musically off the rails as they amp it up a few notches and are able to deftly blend their signature hard rock sounds with a kind of cabaret theater as it’s musical inner chassis. The Deluxe Version is filled with tons of memorabilia replicas, a live DVD and a 60 page hardback book which chronicles the entire Queen spectrum during that era for the band. Showcasing some of the best tracks from Queen’s first two powerhouse releases and the (at the time) forthcoming Sheer Heart Attack performed live by a hungry, snarling and serendipitously balls to the wall band still in sort of embryonic stages, this is a musical portrait of Queen that’s fit for a king.
From His Head to His Heart to His Hands
3 CD/1 DVD Box Set
The late guitar player Mike Bloomfield may be all but an anomaly to today’s generation (and unfortunately perhaps even the prior one), but make no mistake, during the mid to late 1960s, during that crucial time for amped up blues in the guise of heavy rock and roll, Mike Bloomfield was one of the genres best. One of the first successful white blues guitar players, he first became known as playing as a session guitarist on Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited album, and that transcended to a career in which found Bloomfield with the likes of Paul Butterfield, The Electric Flag and Moby Grape, all key American bands from the era. This collection spans that era and onward, with released and unreleased tracks, superb live recordings and rarities, culminating with a DVD containing a documentary which allows a keen window into a man who is criminally underrated to this very day in most music circles.
6 Blu-ray Box Set | 10 DVD Box Set
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of the debut release of the Canadian power trio back in 1974, R40 is a bursting at the seams collection which spans the bands live performances from every decade of their long and storied career. The collection contains Rush in Rio, R30, Snakes and Arrows Live, Time Machine Tour: 2011 and the Clockwork Angels Tour. Combined, the live material covers pretty much the entire Rush catalog, with spirited and feverish performances that are expected of the highly lauded musicians in the group. But the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me is the bonus disc, which includes a complete live performance from 1974 with the groups original drummer John Rutsey, an on-fire 1976 performance and a sundry amount of other live and rare curios.
Remember, if all else fails, there’s also the Amazon.com Gift Card, you can have emailed to the recipient (arrives immediately) or you can print out the gift card at home and give it to the intended that way. If you order in enough time, you can get the physical gift card sent to you.
For gift selections for the heavy metal enthusiast in your life, check out our Metalhead’s Holiday Gift Guide 2014.