Another year of hectic times is upon us and another Black Friday looms as consumers go on a annual frenzy to find the best gifts for the best people in their life at the best prices. As always, music acts as so much more than an easy go-to gift, it’s also such a healing agent for the soul, a celebratory agent for the emotional, a fun agent for mindless loose times, and a true passionate art manifested for all, those creating it and those absorbing it. Here are some bright musical spots on the holiday radar this year, a bakers dozen to choose from.
Check out our 2018 Holiday Geek Gift Guide for Music“¦
The Beatles’ White Album hits the half-century mark and remains one of the brightest supernovas of a galaxy full of them that is their musical oeuvre. A musical cornucopia that goes from rag tag to slick symphonic production and all in between, The White Album, stark and simplistic in its look and presentment, now sounds better than ever with crisp re-mastering by Giles Martin, and deluxe editions are jam packed with alternate versions and various audio remixes, expansive literature, and commentaries. Overall it enhances a deluxe package by the Fab Four that not only in hindsight was the earliest indications of a band internally splintering, but also showed the range of the individual men of the quartet stronger than ever, a portent to the solo careers all had with varying success during the soon to be approaching 1970s. Essential for not only the diehard faithful and perennial Beatlemaniac, but also for those curious to explore a record that remains one of the 20th Century’s highest achievements.
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers The Live Anthology 4 CD Set
It’s hard to believe that Tom Petty has been gone for about a year now. His presence on radio, Spotify lists, and in cover bands across the world still rings loud and clear. Petty, like his contemporaries like Springsteen and his influences like Dylan and Roy Orbison, was one of the titans of the well crafted rock and roll song, which instantly had its own feel, style, and sound upon first listen. And for over 40 years, it remained in that wonderfully contained musical idiom and never let up, manifesting classics such as “American Girl,” “Refugee,” “Breakdown,” “Free Fallin’,” “Running Down and Dream,” and countless others. Like a Billy Joel or an Elton John, the catalog of Tom Petty is extremely well known and passionate to his fans past, present, and even future. But most importantly, like the other two aforementioned artists, Tom Petty live was also an incredible force to be reckoned with. This release, which came out a few years ago, is a great addition for any fan of the man and his Heartbreakers band and completely justifies and confirms what an electric force Tom Petty was and remains.
Like spraying machine gunfire into the spandex and make up laden and big coifs of the hair bands in the mid 1980s, Appetite for Destruction was an explosion like no other, in a way arguably on par of other blockbuster releases of the decade like Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA in terms of blinding success and influence. Taking cues from the rock scene in Los Angeles at the time, punk and sounds from old Alice Cooper and Stooges records, Guns N’ Roses somehow not only had huge success with a fanbase within its own genre, but also spread out and became mainstream, to the point of pop culturally in many ways. Kind of like a version of the early ’70s Rolling Stones but pushing even further, Guns N’ Roses squeezed every ounce of delectable excess they could out of the luck of their times post Appetite for Destruction, and in its wake followed a reputation for starting concerts hours late or not at all, and a general sense of pseudo-danger followed lead singer Axl Rose afterwards that remains with him to this day, even though the glory years are long gone. But throughout all the craziness that came as a by-product from the album, it still is a classic in the hard rock genre, a surefooted and confident amalgam of rock and roll with the punk swagger and is now for many people, an iconic classic. It’s now available in a “super deluxe” edition, with 4 CDs and a Blu-ray disc, which is choked with bonus materials, almost at a volume of excess rivaling the band itself. That said, it’s a must for the diehards.
Many adjectives usually get applied when reflecting on a late musician’s art and craft, such as like genius, sensitive, misunderstood, powerful, intense, prolific, influential, timeless. Many, if not all, of them can be applied to Chris Cornell, the fortunate and unfortunate soul, who blazed a path with the Seattle grunge movement in the late ’80s/early ’90s with the explosive Soundgarden and Temple of the Dog, to the Zepified strut of Audioslave and his adventurous solo offerings and live performances. All of the aforementioned and much more is collected on a deluxe package, which pays as much respect to the man as the man paid to his legions of fans globally, many who still to this day are in shock and grief how he could end his own life so early and suddenly. It is engrained forever in every note manifested from him his endless staying power in the now iconic realm he shares with his other fallen musical comrades of the same stripe and most of who hold arguable equal weight (Cobain, Staley, Weiland, et al) that goes on forever. This 4-CD box set makes that 100 percent wholly clear.
Fleetwood Mac is like two different bands and genres completely. First starting and staking a claim in the burgeoning English blues scene of the mid to late 1960s and led by guitarist extraordinaire Peter Green, the band then found groundbreaking success in the mid 1970s, on the strength of their Rumours album, which to this day remains one of the biggest selling records of all time and certainly one of the biggest of the 1970s. But the success came for a band that had made major adjustments post-blues sound, and it was the hiring of then-couple Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks that elevated the band to being best known as one of classic rock music’s finest hours, drafting hits like “Go Your Own Way,” “Rhiannon,” “Gypsy,” “Don’t Stop,” “Landslide,” “Dreams,” and so many others. All eras are now included on a box set which covers the band’s five decades and is chock full of all the outtakes, live performances, unreleased takes, and comprehensive literature expected for a project this large for a band that remains larger than life.
The seminal 1971 release by John Lennon gets a full remastered makeover, which for many, the title track remains one of the greatest songs of all time, as well as one of the most hopeful songs of all time. And while the title track is a message of utopian connectivity and the hope for, most of the rest of the album retains the Lennon usual business, the kind of sardonic flair for a sundry amount of musical topics and a stark contrast to the bold simplicity and raw fervor from his prior solo record, his first, the masterpiece Plastic Ono Band. Although Imagine included fuller arrangements and a slightly slicker production, the bottom end of the thinly veiled Lennon acerbic finger pointing were in songs like his attack on former bandmate Paul McCartney “How Do You Sleep?” or with the accusatory “Crippled Inside.” Lennon seemed to be with a lot of torment and guilt during this time in his life, which manifests on songs like the brutally honest and poignantly beautiful “Jealous Guy,” but nicely caps it off with the love letter song “Oh Yoko” in which he makes no bones about his love for the woman who if some say divided Beatle fans all around the world, never divided her husband’s love and devotion for her however. Curated and overseen by Yoko Ono, this new deluxe edition of the album has plenty of visual and aural minutiae to satisfy fans for hours and puts another level to a record that most people who only know of the title track, need to fully explore.
…And Justice For All, which firmly remains the true crossroads for Metallica in a way even more so than the controversial Black Album which followed a few years later, has been given the deluxe treatment, with a newly re-mastered sound. The album, which followed after the tragic death of the band’s original bass player and muse Cliff Burton, was a success and a surprise right out of the gate. From the very first notes of “Blackened,” the band makes the listener realize that not only are they carrying on post-Burton (with ex Flotsam and Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted), but blazing a trail. Without question, …And Justice For All still retains the soul and face to the grindstone attack of records prior like Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets and is the last album of that band’s musical vestige. The song “One” put the band over the top in many ways pre-“Enter Sandman” and to compare the two songs as the band’s “hits,” “One” is the raging fire to the damp squib that is “Enter Sandman.” With muscular playing and a sound that sounds rubber band stretched tight, …And Justice for All still hits home in many ways and in many ways remains more relevant than ever in today’s crazy 21st century world.
Like the aforementioned Metallica, Rush also meets a kind of crossroads with Hemispheres. Bookended by the long title track which is the last to explore themes prevalent on the band’s previous records and another concert favorite “La Villa Strangiato” with shorter tracks in between (“Circumstances” and “The Trees”), this kind of closes the chapter of the “concept album” era of Rush, as changing styles forced them to adapt to the new wave of leaner, shorter, less indulgent music than found on previous released albeit classics, like 2112 and A Farewell To Kings. Hemispheres still has that hypnotic swagger of skill and craft and musical precision found arguably only during Rush’s early period and the always reliable attack from Peart, Lifeson, and Lee on their respective instruments, and ultimately, it creates another superb offering by the Canadian trio. A wonderful deluxe package is now in the offering, served up with everything expected which captures the soul and style of the rock and roll hall of fame band in full glorious aplomb.
An incredibly expansive and tightly sprawling documentary, done as only the master of the documentaries, Ken Burns, can offer up. Delving deep with the aid of talking heads ranging from the genre’s formative years to current styles and sounds and all in between, focusing mainly and rightfully so on the two titans of the genre, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Jazz makes use of Burns’ passion for presentment and being able to tug at emotional strings and create a sense of wonderment, just as he had done on his prior critically lauded documentaries about The Civil War and baseball. Jam packed with loads of footage showcasing mavericks of the genre like Coltrane, Miles, Dizzy, Mingus, Herbie Hancock, and Monk and many more, Jazz is essentially viewing for the stalwart, hardcore, light fan, anybody interested in learning the history, direction, and future scope of an always challenging American born music genre.
The Police Every Move You Make: The Studio Recordings DVD Box Set
Another legendary trio gets a nice re-mastering and packaging job on vinyl, as the entire studio lot from The Police is now available. The band, best known for their oft-termed “white man’s reggae” but presented with equal verve and vigor and originality as the best of that genre, had only been around a short time, less than ten years, in their original incarnation. But they were able to carve a piece of rock and roll history out for themselves, with scores of challenging and eventually commercial and ultimately mainstream albums always with adventurous and tight musicianship. Most of their hits remain radio staples and well known classics now, and they and all the rest have all been housed here in this recommended collection.
Most people, even jazz aficionados, don’t know who Don Ellis was and how much he took the genre and bended it, re-changed it, and innovated it to great extent. Ellis, who passed away 40 years ago this mid-December, perhaps might be best known for scoring the 1971 Academy Award-winning picture The French Connection. In that film, like his always challenging records, he always showcased music with arrangements that transcended standard jazz time meters and created sonic results that remain some of the most originally crafted jazz music of all time. One of his great records (and there are many) is the 1971 live album Tears of Joy, recorded in San Francisco, with a full 20-plus piece big band orchestra, all playing arrangements which expertly and difficultly act in wonderful concert with Ellis’ band leading conduction and his playing of the trumpet, which had command and soul and a sweet arrogance to it, traits much like the man himself on record and in real life. Originally released on two albums, songs like the intensity of “Samba Bajada,” the tricky cleverness of “How’s That For Openers,” the almost fun Sesame Street-stylized whimsy of the title track, and the magnum opus of the record, the breathtaking if strangely titled “Strawberry Soup,” give a listener a variety of emotions and feelings and sensations upon listening to it, and it requires apt attention that pays off like an endless jackpot machine in Reno. Tears of Joy, from its very zeitgeist of its times cover (done by Ellis’ girlfriend at the time) to its musicianship, will produce in the listener exactly what the title suggests.
An early offering by a master of the fret board, Roy Clark, who passed away earlier last week, was one of country music’s greatest showmen, a guitarist who not only parlayed speed, but expert skill, and always a twinkle in his eye and dash of fun whilst doing it. At first glance, Clark seemed to be unassuming, but once he picked up the six string, it was off on a ride of incredibly fun intensity, something that’s showcased on this release. All instrumental and covering different genres while staying within Clark’s sound, a kind of a picking single notes array that sprayed out of amps and acoustically like a firework exploding in the sky at peak level, The Lightning Fingers of Roy Clark presents Clark at his very best, and early in his career nonetheless. He would go on to great success with comedic and musical turns in the TV’s long-running Hee Haw and in films and TV, but it was his playing and down home nice guy demeanor that will always endear him forever to fans all around the world and who will miss him terribly and keep his genius alive.
Queen Greatest Hits I, II, III – Platinum Collection 3 CD Set
A collection of Queen’s previously released and perfectly selected Greatest Hits I, II, and III, the entire popular overview spectrum of one of rock and roll’s greatest bands of all time is covered in this deluxe set, coming right on the heels of the theatrical biopic about the band, Bohemian Rhapsody. That classic song of course and countless others are included, all the well known hits and other tracks that were bigger hits in their homeland of England than stateside in the U.S. Even though the collection is large and voluminous, it still acts as a springboard for one to explore the band’s further lesser known tracks that spread across albums during an almost 20 stint for the original band. Still, this collection acts as a perfect introductory offering for those discovering Queen via the biopic or a nice well rounded collection for the faithful.
And from our Comics and Graphic Novels Holiday Gift Guide…
The Beatles Yellow Submarine Hardcover | Kindle
Written and illustrated by Bill Morrison; Inks by Andrew Pepoy; Colors by Nathan Kane; Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Titan Comics
Written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, founder of Bongo Comics, well known for its Simpsons adaptations, The Beatles Yellow Submarine graphic novel takes the best elements of the original 1968 cinematic release and adds a vibrancy and clearly long-rooted passion for the intrinsic subject matter.
For gift selections for the heavy metal enthusiast in your life, check out Geeks Of Doom’s Metalhead’s Holiday Gift Guide 2018.
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 directly to you or to the recipient.