If you want my opinion on what single musical gift you can give for Christmas, the answer is easy: the complete works by the Beatles (either the physical $200 box set or the iTunes $149 version). But if your loved one is the “I prefer the Stones” type, you can get the newly released Some Girls Live in Texas DVD. For those of you already thoroughly Stoned and Beatled to the gills, consider the wealth of tasty picks below. Some prices will vary depending on where and how you buy these things. The important things is that every single item here is a must-have. Steal them if you have to. Those royalties ain’t keeping those artists any prettier, Christmas tinsel or no.
For guitar god worshippers
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Winterland
(5-CD set), $36.99
In October 1968, Hendrix played a weekend at San Francisco’s Winterland with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. He rotated 18 songs through six sold-out shows that, to many, represent his peak as a live performer. The Winterland set includes a 30-page booklet (including an essay by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, backstage interview, and — if you buy it through Amazon — a bonus disc with an amateur recording of a February ’68 show at the same venue.
For King worshippers
Elvis Presley: Legacy Edition, $15.85
What’s your favorite Elvis? I love his gospel and 1968 comeback, but the shit really hit the fan in 1956 when he released his first two albums. That’s when everything changed. When you hear this remastered two-CD edition of Elvis Presley and Elvis (complete with a bunch of extras, 36 tracks total) you’ll understand why the “birth” of Elvis meant that music would never be the same.
Queen: 40, $54.18 each 5-CD box set
Even though there are some collector’s editions (usually imports), the complete and remastered Queen discography, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s band, can be bought in three separate pieces (each consisting of five albums arranged in chronological order and extras). The gorgeously remastered albums show you how a band that dared to be simultaneously flamboyant and visceral is still relevant today, and how Mercury is arguably the greatest rock frontman ever. If only May and Taylor hadn’t made that phone call to Paul Rodgers…
The British are coming
The Kinks’ Kinks (1964), Kinda Kinks (1965), The Kink Kontroversy (1965), $25 each
Overshadowed by the Beatles and the Stones, the Kinks can make a strong case for being the third greatest band from the ’60s British Invasion. Just hear this remastered reissue of the band’s first three albums and you can see where heavy metal, garage, and Britpop came from. Each album includes the original British version plus a bunch of EP’s, BBC performances, and alternate, mono, demo, and single versions. You get 108 tracks, and they all sound as great today as they did in the ’60s. Mandatory for anyone who has a rock band, no matter the style.
For flannel shirt lovers
Nirvana’s Bleach (vinyl reissue), $15.98
This is where it all started for the biggest band of the ’90s. Nirvana’s first album, though, didn’t make much of an impact until after the success of Nevermind, which prompted Geffen to re-release it. It is now Sub Pop’s best-selling release ever, with 1.7 million copies and counting. This remastered vinyl edition released in November is a must for anyone who likes turntables and rock.
For Talking Heads fans
David Byrne: Ride, Rise, Roar (DVD), $14.98
There was a reason why the Talking Heads were, arguably, the best band of the ’80s. They killed disco by loving it and deconstructing it into a hip, original concept that sounded great then and even better now. This concert film, shot with multiple cameras during several concerts of Byrne’s solo 2008/09 tour behind Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (his collaboration with Brian Eno). But this movie goes beyond that album: it blends Byrne and Enos’ music with modern dance, while director David Hillman Curtis uses onstage, backstage, black-and-white, and color footage to show you the tour’s evolution. Join the party and discover how a simple music concert turned into a visual fest. This ain’t no party, and this ain’t no concert DVD — this is a lesson on how truly talented and creative people put a first-class show together.
Christmas music that doesn’t suck
Carolyn Wonderland/Guy Forsyth’s Fireside Songs For The Soul, $9.99 on iTunes
Houston’s blues lady Carolyn Wonderland (who kicked butt at Sam’s recently) and Austin’s multi-instrumentalist/consummate showman Guy Forsyth is a match made in blues heaven. For this, their brand-new collaboration, they use Christmas as an excuse to make great music. “I hope that you have as much fun spinning this disc as we did making it,” wrote Forsyth about the album, recorded in 2009 at Austin’s One World Theater and KUT. “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Righteous Kwanzaa, Indifferent Festivius, or whatever spikes your eggnog.” How can you not get this? •
Other assorted stuff in Santa’s 2011 bag
Elvis Costello & The Imposters’ The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook (one CD, one DVD, vinyl EP, live box set, at a price even Costello is aghast at) $262.59
REM’s Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage (1982-2011), $9.99
Gaga (Lady Gaga’s photo book by Terry Richardson), $28.12
Rush’s Sector 1, 2, and 3 (Three 5-CD box sets), $48 each
This is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl (By Paul Brannigan), $26.99
Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream (Deluxe Edition), $7.99 digital/$24.57 Deluxe
The Cure’s Bestival Live 2011, $17.86
New York Dolls’ Lookin’ Fine on TV (DVD), $14.95
X’s The Unheard Music (Blu-ray out Dec 13), $19.95