Here are just some of the offerings released this year which will satisfy any music aficionado, young or old, regardless of personal music taste. Music forever remains in perpetuity as not only a great go-to gift, but one that is long lasting and forever. Check out our 2019 Holiday Geek Gift Guide for Music“¦
Following his legendary and triumphant 1968 “comeback,” Elvis Presley embarked on a massive tour in 1969. It was a sort of a crossroads for the rock and roll king, as he was ending his first wave of his success, which pretty much created the template for rock and roll and the final wave of his career, in which he sported a white suit and electrified audiences on stage in a more mature manner, albeit just as electric. This 11-CD deluxe package includes all the highlights and rarities from that storied 1969 tour, his first in eight years at that point. While it set the stage for what would later be known as the “Las Vegas Elvis,” a road which started to put into the realms of self-parody for many critics, Presley still knew and trail blazed what it meant to be a legendary front man, his confidence during this tour is replete with renditions of his classics and soon to be classic songs performed by a top shelf band and with lots of physical histrionics. Not to be missed, regardless of one’s perception of Presley, this is an important sonic document that captures a man who shows why he remains one of music’s all-time icons.
Back to the Garden – 50th Anniversary Experience CD Box Set
Celebrating 50 years this past August, this expansive and meticulously researched package collects the best moments from the storied three-day Woodstock festival of “peace and love,” in which millions of people congregated in upstate New York and even braved torrential rainstorms to listen to top bands of the day like The Who, Janis Joplin, CCR, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, and Ten Years After among others, whilst showing the world that the youth and hippie movement could get along in (pun intended) “concert.” Housed in a nice package with plenty of extras and liner notes filled with photographs, many never before seen, the collection is available in a few different formats, the most exhaustive and eye-opening being a several thousand dollar set that almost completely recreates the entire three-day festival, replete with crowd noise, stage announcements, and pretty much the complete sets from almost every band who performed. That set is for the absolutely die hard faithful, the one linked here is a great set as well that has plenty of the well known highlights of the festival and will satiate any fan of ’60s rock or classic rock in general.
One of the great debut records celebrates its 50th anniversary with a deluxe package that includes remixes and re-masterings of the proto-punk band’s classic game-changing release. Led by master blaster Iggy Pop with heavy guitar by the late Ron Asheton and a rhythm section that is repetitive yet highly effective, hypnotically entrancing each song to a murky ethereal level, The Stooges remains a blueprint for all the punk and post-punk and grunge that followed, a playbook for all bands to study and emulate. While the best known track is “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” it’s the deep cuts like “Real Cool Time,” “1969,” and the if-Jim-Morrison-really-had-balls sounding “We Will Fall” that still kick the holes through the stained glass. Essential and important.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary on December 1st, this is an album that rarely ever gets mentioned when one discusses “heavy classic rock records.” But make no mistake, from the opening notes of “Got This Thing on the Move” to the wallop of the Animals cover “Inside Looking Out,” this is a heavyweight sonic release like no other. Listening to Grand Funk Railroad in today’s era, it almost seems unthinkable how critics completely lambasted them, roasting them over the coals for not having what they perceived as “high brow rock and roll acumen.” Hailing from Flint, Michigan and mostly always in a sort of Middle America style ether only added to their misunderstood legend. Without question, the band remains one of the most criminally underrated of all time, let me write that in caps, OF ALL TIME, and yet, at its peak, and that would include their first six albums from 1968 to 1972, could blow anyone off the stage, anyone, and that includes the mighty Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and anyone else you think was the greatest of that era. With a bottom-end fury and a cacophony of blazing sound and music that largely came from the mind of the young yet extremely confident and surefooted front man singer/guitarist extraordinaire Mark Farner, Grand Funk’s Red Album is filled with music that most people who discovered them a few years later, when they became an AM radio pop rock success, don’t know about for the most part. It’s time to find out what all the hoopla was about, and wonder of the complete confusion of how so many critics at the time missed the boat in terms of proclaiming the greatness of this band.
Even though Let It Be was released in 1970, right on the heels of The Beatles breaking up, Abbey Road was recorded last and acts as one of the great swan songs ever recorded. Not much to say about this record that the entire world doesn’t already know, almost every song is well known, from the opening heaviness of “Come Together” to the quick but lyrical “Her Majesty” and all in between. What’s most amazing about Abbey Road is that even though the band was splintering, you wouldn’t know it by the performances, crisply recorded by George Martin and expertly rendered by the Fab Four. The deluxe version, and there are several variations to choose from, varying in price and song selections, are all mandatory entries for any collection of any music lover, regardless of genre. Every day is a celebration for the Beatles, the fact that Abbey Road celebrates its 50th this year is just the cherry on top.
Booker T and the MG’s Complete Stax Singles Vol 1. 1962 – 1967 CD
This foursome, best known for the funky and driving number one hit “Green Onions,” kept that sonic string going for its entire career afterwards, on the strength of like sounding but equally muscular and grooving instrumentals, led by organist Booker T Jones, who just recently celebrated his 75th birthday with the release of his autobiography. The rest of the band, guitarist Steve Cropper and bassist Duck Dunn, who later recorded with people like Otis Redding and the Blues Brothers, give incredible soulful gravitas to the proceedings and the late Al Jackson Jr., one of the more underrated drummers in the genre, blazes and gives Jones and the others space and color to really soar on each track. This collection showcases and houses all the bands singles, and it’s one of the rare times that even what is considered a “hits” collection transcends that moniker, as there is nary a weak track in the entire oeuvre. To be played loudly and often.
This record, laden with fuller arrangements that even sport horn sections on some tracks, polarized a lot of Doors fans upon its original release 50 years ago, but it still remains one of the band’s more inventive and challenging offerings. From the hit “Touch Me” to the band-is-right-in-their element with their magnum opus title track and filled in-between with the kind of gothic before it had that name kind of blues mixed with Jim Morrison‘s either its poetry or pretentious inebriated noodlings, The Soft Parade is probably the band’s most misunderstood and complex record in their catalog. Now, to celebrate the half-century mark of the record comes an expansive package that includes a vinyl version and unreleased and re-mastered tracks done by Bruce Botnick, the band’s original long-time engineer. Studio rehearsals and an hour-long jam called “Rock is Dead,” along with the usual photos, liner notes and key interviews, round out the package.
Like the aforementioned Grand Funk Railroad, the late Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher also remains criminally underrated in the United States. Gallagher, taking cues from early American blues men from the delta mixed with the loud amplified rock and roll that was the order of the day, carved his own style and niche of sonic excitement, and it culminated in a career that sold over 30 million records worldwide and a passionate albeit cult fan base that exists stronger than ever to this day. Most people still don’t even know who the man is, but the recently released Blues is a good place to start, a rousing collection that showcases the man’s intrinsic influences, whilst amplifying Gallagher’s confidence and eclectic taste on the guitar, which ranged from the heights of the best sounding Jimi Hendrix and Alvin Lee style noodling, to the somber yet piquant acoustics of the best mellow works of people like Leadbelly and Bill Big Broonzy. If you call yourself a classic rock fan yet have never heard the wonder of Rory Gallagher, redeem yourself immediately with a purchase of this amazing package.
Steve Miller and his band almost was the primer for rock and roll hits in the 1970s and he had the rare distinction of being a musician who appealed to almost everyone. Regardless of one’s personal music taste, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t like the man’s material, be it from now classic and played to death songs on FM radio like “The Joker,” “Take the Money and Run,” “Rock N Me,” “Jet Airliner,” “Abracadabra,” and his biggest success, the spacey and thumping “Fly Like an Eagle.” All of those songs, including scores of others, dating back from Miller was solely and strictly a kick ass blues man out of the Mike Bloomfield school, to live and alternate versions of well known tracks and deep cuts, are included here. Welcome to the Vault is just that, an invitation for the casual listener or the die hard, to dig in deep to an artist who still endures to this day, performing for audiences globally.
Although he had been around with a few Mothers of Invention records a few years prior, Hot Rats is where Frank Zappa solidified and crystallized his quirky nonsensical yet no-nonsense sound and approach. A master composer, arranger, producer, and especially guitar player, Hot Rats showcases all of it, and effortlessly goes from sounds and styles like quiet ballads, to jazzy manifestations to out-and-out searing rock, sometimes all within one song, as the legendary “Peaches En Regalia” showcases. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary with an expertly designed and re-mastered 6-CD package filled with tracks known and not so known, this release is one for the ages. An absolute must.
Housed in a package which is a facsimile of the Detroit record company’s original headquarters, this Motown collection is without question filled with some of the greatest American pop and R&B music ever made. Almost every track is like musical folklore at this point, every song has been heard by generations of masses, and it remains like a primer of the great American songbook. From The Temptations to The Supremes to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, to The Four Tops and Martha and the Vandellas to the Jackson Five and many, many more, this music is not only some of the most well known and memorable music ever recorded, it’s also the soundtrack to many people’s lives. An absolute no-brainer.
Songs For Groovy Children/The Fillmore East Concerts 1969-1970 CD Box Set
Recorded at the famed Fillmore East in New York City during New Year’s Eve 1969, Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys deliver their soul fried pile driving rock and roll done like no other. Employing Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums respectively, the Band of Gypsys was an altogether different band than Hendrix’s previous Experience lineup, but with nothing lost in the transition. In fact, to hear Hendrix with a somewhat more focused and concrete rhythm section, he’s able to soar even further and he takes the audience and the listener on a sonic journey like no one else could. Track after track drops the jaw of the listener, and one can forgive the dated “peace and love” posturing of some of the lyrics. But make no mistake, songs like the incredible and jamming out of control “Stone Free” and the intense and almost downright scary attack of “Machine Gun” stand toe-to-toe with Hendrix’s best. The complete shows are spread out over 5 CDs, and are currently available as a limited edition box set, which will surely appease any Hendrix, live music, or classic rock fan. Hendrix died 50 years ago next year, but he’s as alive as ever on these recordings, now and forever.
Recommendations by Fun With Dead Trees
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Tool’s first studio release in 13 years is a wide-ranging exploration of sound and a fond welcome home to a sorely missed band.
For gift selections for the heavy metal enthusiast in your life, check out Geeks Of Doom’s Metalhead’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019.
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.