Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2015: Music

The holidays have dawned upon us again and it seems as if the unveiling of them gets sooner and sooner each year. In a world that has seen one of its toughest and tragic years in 2015, the beauty of the holidays is more than a traditional, religious bent, but more about the communion of people and the act of humanity that seems to crawl from the cobwebs only during this time for some people. Regardless of the volume rate, whenever something can collectively bond people together with a sense of energy that runs placid and empathetic, there’s something to be said about the perennial emotion that gets reserved for this time of year. And of course with this year, comes the giving and receiving of gifts and good cheer. And as is my wont for the past few years now, I too have been rather perennial in my choices for key music items to bestow upon good friends and loved ones this time of year. So here’s some picks for this some of this years A-list offerings in music. As usual, this list goes to eleven.

Here’s the Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2015 for Music

Otis Redding
Soul Manifesto 1964 – 1970
CD Box Set

From the truest master of 60s R&B comes a pretty much complete wrap up of his recorded output, ranging from his earliest release in 1964 in which he immediately showcased his legendary style and singing voice, which could dominate and be achingly painful and shout it out to the rooftops strong. Otis Redding’s biggest knack was being able to control the organic intensity, and he did it each an every time he attacked a song. And it’s all housed here, in this lovely package which contains 12 albums, which range from the man’s biggest hits (“Dock of the Bay,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “These Arms of Mine.”) to the most obscure. Four albums released after Redding’s tragic death in 1968 are also included and they range from unreleased fare to aggressive live work which was really the place where Redding solidified his legend. Highly recommended and necessary for any music fan.

The Velvet Underground
Re-Loaded: 45th Anniversary Edition
5-CD/1-DVD Box Set

The incendiary release from 1970 gets the full deluxe package treatment, as Loaded, by The Velvet Underground, is now housed in a 5 CD set filled with demos and alternate mixes, including an audio DVD that includes three different mixes of the album. The album, leader Lou Reed’s last with the band, is a more dare say it stripped down version of the band’s prior sonic incarnations, in which a drug addled kind of dreamy sound interspersed with Reed’s penchant for waxing about the more seamier sides of life was in its full frontal glory. On Loaded, there’s a kind of pleasant wretchedness, a dirty beauty in the otherwise pleasant sonic ether. It’s essential either way, and it contains the band’s most well knows songs, “Rock and Roll” and “Sweet Jane”, both with a sound and presentation that almost seems the band was trying to make both songs Top Ten hits. In a perfect world, they would have been.

R-40 Live
Blu-ray | DVD

Powerful live show by Canada’s legendary power trio is ignited by the vibes surrounding the fact that it’s the 40th anniversary for the band and punctuated by a still high bar zeal for the performance and execution of the newer and more classic songs. Nicely juxtaposing the 80s musical lot like “Subdivisions” and “Between the Wheels” with “Tom Sawyer” and eye-opening and sincere versions of “Hemispheres,” “Working Man,” “Cygnus X-1,” and real rarities like “Anthem” and “Lakeside Park,” R-40 Live showcases why after all this time, Rush still manifests everything they do with a perfect balance of workmanlike execution and spontaneous passion.

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – John Williams

JAWS, the classic aquatic thriller that celebrated its 40th anniversary this past Summer, has a vinyl pressing available for its original soundtrack, which deepens the intense grooves of John Williams’ unsettlingly ominous and hair standing up gripping hold it has on the senses of the viewer and listener of the film. Heard separate from the film on the soundtrack, the musical pieces still hold the deep, dark volume that they inhabit the film with. Tubas and string sections punctuate the now-extremely well known arrangements, ranging from the pop cultural Americana of the title theme to the more quieter, yet equally riveting songs on the album.

Led Zeppelin
Coda (Deluxe Edition)
CD | MP3 | Vinyl

This 1982 release includes tracks unreleased from Led Zeppelin’s recording sessions circa 1970 – 1978. During that stretch, the band starts out with a kind of punch in the face blues attack to a synthesized sound slightly influenced by the punk and disco trends that were chic as the 1970s wound down. Coda showcases the group’s spectrum and its opposite ends during that time, and while by no means is the collection here half-baked throw away outtakes, they aren’t up to the bands legendary material either. Still, any Zep is good Zep and that’s no exception here. Alternative mixes and deluxe versions with vinyl versions are also available. The final release in the recent re-mastering of the band’s entire catalog, spearheaded by guitarist Jimmy Page.

Frank Sinatra
Ultimate Sinatra – Centennial Collection
4 CD Set

Celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday this year, a nicely selected and mastered 4-CD collection of the work of Frank Sinatra, the iconic singer and all around entertainer, is now available. The 100 songs included in this collection showcase the man’s work, life, and legacy, which still has a firm grip on the industry today. Like Elvis or The Beatles, Frank Sinatra also remains a larger than life entity who still has the life force and the charisma and charm that runs sky high not only in musical culture, but popular culture as well. Ranging from ballads to hits to unreleased and live and duets all nicely assembled and housed in a handsome package, Ultimate Sinatra is true American sonic literature, a true treasure in every sense of the word.

Weather Report
Legendary Live Tapes 1978 – 1981

Born out of the early styles of Miles Davis’ fusion jazz-induced styles of the late 1960s, Weather Report took those musical cues and created their own kind of more evenly quartered and commercially accessible versions of those cues. The band was headed by keyboardist Joe Zawinul and saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and employed the bass talents of Jaco Pastorius, who quickly rose to legendary status with his unique and fiery approach to the instrument and to his short life, and who also had a huge influence and footprint in the musical proceedings with the band. This collection finds them in fine musical standing at various times during a stretch of a musically adventurous three years in various live settings with an unbridled energy. It’s been captured here on 4 CDs with the sound quality enhanced for maximum effect.

The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection
Blu-ray | DVD

The classic anti-documentary about the second wave of punk music, exemplified by bands such as The Germs, Black Flag, X, and Fear from 1981, The Decline of Western Civilization is now available with the two follow up films, in a deluxe package. Directed by Penelope Spheeris, the films are unapologetic works of art which really capture and reveal the entire scope of the world at that time and pulls no punches with its refreshing attitude and presentment of a time in which not giving fuck really was raised to an art, whether it be in the day to day lifestyle, nihilistic view of the world past future and present and of course the music, which perfectly encapsulated a time in which the dizzying rush of the 1970s gave way to a sort of confused hangover in which this music gestated from. The first doc deals with punk rock, the second with 1980s heavy metal, and the third with Los Angeles gutter punk.

Miles Davis
Miles Davis At Newport 1955 – 1975 Bootleg Series Vol 4

This is the fourth release in this ongoing series of releases showcasing the titan trumpeter’s live stints during twenty years of performances at places as far reaching as Berlin, New York City, and Switzerland. With tight ensembles that punctuate the depth and breadth of Miles Davis’ playing and presence, the musicians go effortlessly through Davis’ many different styles throughout the two decades, ranging from bebop to classical jazz to the adventurous fusion he did later in this career. With almost 300 minutes of music included, this is a must for those who want to expand their Miles acumen further than just his seminal “Kind of Blue” album.

Sly and The Family Stone
Live at the Fillmore East (October 1968)
CD | MP3 | Vinyl

Sly and the Family Stone are in all their funkified, R&B horn-laden glory here in a pulsing live performance at the legendary Fillmore East back in October 1968. The band, who had hit after hit during that time period, never had a proper live album released. This more than makes up for that omission with an album that keeps the energy level on high, as the band is in all its glory far reaching with a omnipotent attack to the senses and the groove. The group is red hot in every sense of the word, from the rhythm section to the melodies and the tight, but loose swing of the horns (led by trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, who sadly just passed away earlier this week). Comprised of four live shows which spread over two days, Live at the Fillmore East shows the band right on the crest of their stratospheric success they would have the following year with their performance at Woodstock.

Harry Chapin
Live at the Bottom Line (January 1981)
CD | MP3

This live concert, one of his last before his tragic death later that year, shows the Harry Chapin, who was a renowned artist, songwriter, guitarist, singer and humanitarian, in fine musical fettle, as he runs down all of his well known songs and number one hit “Cat’s in the Cradle” in a rather intimate yet still powerful setting in New York’s legendary Bottom Line. Three discs round out the collection, which includes an entire show which has never been released until now.

For gift selections for the heavy metal enthusiast in your life, check out our Metalhead’s Holiday Gift Guide 2015.

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.

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