Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Last Minute Music Gift Guide

With Christmas Day fast approaching, here are some music-related gift suggestions for all the procrastinators out there… 


Tim Buckley 
Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-74 
(Ominvore Recordings) 
Although Tim Buckley wasn’t a commercial success, his work was a major influence on countless artists; even more so after tragically passing away from a drug overdose at age 28 in 1975. The later success and early death of son Jeff also drew renewed interest in the elder Buckley’s catalog. This collection includes all his singles encompassing folk, jazz, soul, psychedelia and rock music. The liner notes feature a Q&A between Pat Thomas and Buckley lyricist Larry Beckett that will be of interest to longtime fans.

The Connells 
Stone Cold Yesterday: Best Of 
(Bicycle Music/Concord) 
Initially formed in 1984, this North Carolina band came to prominence later that decade with a handful of college rock and alternative rock radio hits. All the singles – including “Something to Say,” “Slackjawed,” “Get a Gun,” “Stone Cold Yesterday” and UK crossover hit “’74-75” are here. With videos in frequent rotation on MTV’s “120 Minutes,” the folk/rock group and its hushed vocalist Doug MacMillan stood alongside likeminded acts like Gin Blossoms, R.E.M., Trash Can Sinatras and the Cranberries. They emphasized melody and jangly acoustic guitars and had no problem getting heard on modern rock stations.


Phil Collins
Face Value, Hello I Must Be Going, No Jacket Required, ...But Seriously, Both Sides, Dance Into the Light, Testify, The Essential Going Back, The Singles 
In 2016, Phil Collins resurfaced in a big way. The Eighties pop/rock superstar released an autobiography ("Not Dead Yet"), made his first high profile live appearances in several years and put out all the studio albums with fresh cover photos replicating the originals. The double disc sets featuring remastered sound and a second CD with live songs, demos and rarities. In the liner notes of each title, Collins writes that he often thought the concert arrangements ended up sounding better. On the Diamond-certified No Jacket Required, for example, that opinion definitely holds true on "Don't Lose My Number," "Only You Know and I Know" and a leaner "Who Said I Would." For Going Back, Collins' tribute to 1960s soul, he trimmed four tracks into what he calls an "essential" version. Those who just want the greatest hits can opt for The Singles, available in two and three disc sets.      

Steve Earle 
Guitar Town 
(MCA Nashville/Universal Music Enterprises) 
Earle's twangy debut LP showed he was a force to be reckoned with. It spawned two top 10 country hits (the title track, "Goodbye's All We Got Left"), two top 40 charters ("Hillbilly Highway," "Someday") and became a standard bearer of the burgeoning alt-country movement. Guitar Town reached the top of Billboard's Country Albums tally and had two Grammy Award nominations. This deluxe two-disc 30th Anniversary Edition features the excellent original album remastered and a previously unreleased 19-song live show recorded on the Guitar Town tour at the Park West in Chicago in 1986, plus expanded liner notes. The awesome cover of Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper" is worth the purchase price alone.
Be Here Now 
(Big Brother)
As the Supersonic documentary film gained rave reviews in limited release this year, Oasis fans could also revisit the appeal of 1997's Be Here Now -
third in the Chasing The Sun reissue series. Frequently slammed by UK music critics as being bloated, the album moved 700,000 copies in three days and remains the fastest selling UK album upon release. It spawned two chart toppers there ("D'You Know What I Mean?," "All Around The World") and another hit that barely missed the mark ("Stand by Me"). To date, the album has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. Housed in a hardback book, the new 3CD remastered version of Be Here Now includes B-sides, rarities. Key selling points for Britpop fans: the unreleased Mustique demos recorded in early '96 by Noel Gallagher and producer Owen Morris; Gallagher's 2016 Rethink of "D'You Know What I Mean?"; "Stand By Me" (Live at Bonehead's Outtake); "Setting Sun" (Radio Broadcast); "My Big Mouth" (Live at Knebworth Park).

Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt 
The Complete Trio Collection 
(Warner Bros/Asylum/Rhino) 
The gathering of these three superstars for the first Trio album was quite an event in 1987. It sold more than four million copies, included country chart topper “To Know Him Is To Love Him,” plus top 10 hits “Those Memories Of You” and “Wildflowers,” won two Grammy Awards and stayed at No. 1 on the country album chart for 5 weeks. Follow-up effort Trio II arrived in 1999, also won a Grammy Award, peaked in the Top Five of the country album chart and sold more than a million copies worldwide. Besides remastered versions of those CDs, there is another disc of rarities and unreleased takes. Among the nuggets: alternate takes of "I've Had Enough," "Making Plans" and "My Dear Companion"; 11 unreleased recordings spanning both album sessions (gospel standard "Softly And Tenderly," a capella "Calling All My Children Home"). 

Adam and the Ants 
Kings of the Wild Frontier 
(Sony Legacy) 
Armed with a then-unique Burundi beat driven sound and an ace sideman in guitarist Marco Pirroni, the second LP from the man born Stuart Goddard went to No.1 in the U.K. upon its 1980 release and spawned two Top 5 hits: "Ant Music" and "Physical (You're So)." This new edition was curated and remastered by Adam Ant (he also penned the insightful liner notes) and includes the original album, B sides, previously unreleased studio demos and rough cuts, a previously unissued live recording and rarities all fully remastered from the original tape by Ant. The 1981 concert on Disc 2 was recorded at the Park West Club in Chicago and finds the band in rough 'n' ready form. "A.N.T.S.," their take on Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," is quite a hoot.

Peter Case 
Peter Case 
There's always plenty of scrutiny when a singer puts out his first solo album after leaving a popular band. In this instance, it was LA cult fave The Plimsouls, who were best known for the alternative radio mainstay "A Million Miles Away." For Case's eponymous 1986 solo bow, he ditched power pop for exquisite folk/pop and the results were excellent. The studio crew was no less impressive: co-producers T Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom, not to mention musicians Mike Campbell (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), Roger McGuinn (The Byrds), Rusty Anderson (Paul McCartney), Jim Keltner, Jerry Moratta, Jerry Scheff, backing vocalists John Hiatt and Victoria Williams and string arranger Van Dyke Parks (Brian Wilson). This 30th anniversary edition of Peter Case includes the re-mastered original album (11 originals; the Grammy-nominated “Old Blue Car”; a cover of the Pogues’ “Pair of Brown Eyes”), plus seven bonus tracks: two from a 1986 promotional EP and five previously unissued recordings. Also included is an essay from Case about the album and unseen photos from the era.


The Posies 
Solid States 
Together since the mid-1980s, the Washington state power pop band is best known for such early Nineties alt-rock radio hits as “Golden Blunders,” “Dream All Day” and “Flavor of the Month.” Solid States is the first studio album from The Posies in six years and finds principal members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow taking a more adventurous approach. Here they emphasize electronic sounds before adding traditional instruments. Standouts include the catchy pop of “Unlikely Places, dreamy tandem vocals in “Scattered,” the dense soundscape of “Titanic” and “Rollercoaster Zen.”


The Mavericks 
All Night Live, Vol. 1 
(Mono Mundo/Thirty Tigers) 
To get the full Mavericks experience, one must see them in concert. That’s where Raul Malo’s beautiful rich voice and the musicians' expansive (but never self-indulgent) Americana sounds can be truly appreciated. The acclaimed Miami-bred band reunited in 2012 and followed with two stellar reunion albums (Mono, In Time). The bulk of All Night Live is taken from those efforts - a testament to how strong those songs are.

On Air 
By now, you'd think that the Queen vaults would be exhausted of vital material from the vaults. Wrong. Encompassing multiple sessions that Queen did for England's BBC radio from 1973-77, highlights from concert broadcasts in 1973, 1981 and 1986 (the final tour with late frontman Freddie Mercury), plus 3 1/2 hours of interviews with the musicians (spanning 1976-92), this amazing 6CD box set is perfect for the diehard Queen or classic rock enthusiast. It comes handsomely packaged in a white liftoff case with each disc in a white sleeve. The detailed liner notes for each session includes rare photos, quotes from DJ John Peel and more. It's fascinating to hear how the band evolved and tweaked song arrangements before recording them on the official albums. Key examples include alternate versions of "We Will Rock You," "Stone Cold Crazy" and "Keep Yourself Alive." There's also some unintentionally funny moments hearing the low-key British deejays introducing the tunes. 

Brian May & Kerry Ellis 
The Candlelight Concerts 
(Eagle Records) 
Keeping on the Queen tip, that band's guitarist Brian May, teamed up with singer Kerry Ellis on the Acoustic by Candlelight Tour of the UK in late 2012. The following summer the pair, reconnected for an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. This CD is taken from various stops on the '12 jaunt, while the DVD spotlights the Switzerland show and includes a bonus music video. Of the selections culled from the tour: Ellis' elegant voice is especially lovely during a take on Kansas' "Dust in the Wind" and Barbra Streisand's "The Way We Were." The pair's voices mesh well amid a duet of Queen's "Love of My Life." Christmas tune "In the Bleak Midwinter" is gorgeous and they get to have some fun with Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" - a crowd singalong that gives May a chance to let loose on his acoustic guitar. 

Brian Wilson and Friends 
Taken from a special 2014 concert at the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas filmed for PBS series Soundstage, the Brian Wilson & Friends CD+DVD finds the Beach Boys co-founder playing alongside his touring band with longtime bandmate Al Jardine, former Beach Boys sidemen Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Special guest appearances are made by Grammy award-winners Nate Ruess of Fun., country artist Kacey Musgraves, acclaimed trumpet player/composer Mark Isham, Sebu Simonian of the multi-platinum, chart-topping indie pop-duo Capital Cities and Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward of indie duo She & Him. In addition to many Beach Boys faves, the bonus material has behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
Various Artists 
The Life and Songs of Emmylou Harris 
Recorded in early 2015 at Washington, D.C.'s DAR Constitution Hall, this tribute concert features an impressive array of performances by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Vince Gill, Patty Griffin, Chris Hillman, Iron & Wine, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Daniel Lanois, Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, The Milk Carton Kids, Buddy Miller, Conor Oberst, Herb Pedersen, Shovels & Rope, Mavis Staples, Trampled by Turtles, Sara Watkins and Lucinda Williams, among others, and Emmylou Harris herself on CD+DVD.
Elvis Presley with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
The Wonder of You
After 2015's surprise success I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which topped charts worldwide and sold over 1.5 million copies, here is the follow up. Recorded at Abbey Road, the album features Elvis’ most dramatic original performances augmented with lush new arrangements of “A Big Hunk O’ Love,” “Amazing Grace,” "Kentucky Rain,” “Always On My Mind,” “I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby” and more.


Pete Townshend's Deep End
Face the Face
(Eagle Vision)
With The Who having done its first Farewell Tour in 1982, Pete Townshend was well into his solo career by '86. Recorded early that year for German TV series Rockpalast at MIDEM in Cannes, this DVD+CD finds Townshend’s Deep End touring the concept album White City: A Novel. The 90-minute set includes tracks from White City, Townshend solo tracks, Who classics and more. Among the prominent musicians in the band lineup: Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (lead guitar), Simon Phillips (drums) and John “Rabbit” Bundrick (keyboards). Highlights include Townshend's passionate "After the Fire" (recorded by Roger Daltrey), the wicked Screamin' Jay Hawkins cover "I Put a Spell on You," the snappy "Face to Face," "Behind Blue Eyes," an acoustic "Pinball Wizard" and the intense horn-laden "Rough Boys."  

Bryan Adams
Wembley 1996 Live
(Eagle Vision)
In the Summer of '96, Adams played to a sell-out crowd of over 70,000 at London's Wembley Stadium during his 18 ‘Til I Die Tour. The album had just gone to No. 1 in the UK and Top 5 around Europe. Available on DVD for the first time and running over two hours, the long-haired, black leather-clad singer/guitarist engages in some bluesy harmonica bursts on "Do to You," rocks hard during an extended "Touch the Hand," duets with Melissa Etheridge for the exuberant, gritty "It's Only Love" and lets his bandmates shine on an epic  “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." In addition to rowdy performances of hits like “Kids Wanna Rock” and "Summer of '69," Adams and Co. indulge in classic 1960s covers of "I Fought the Law," "Wild Thing" and "7 Nights to Rock." 

The Beach Boys
Pet Sounds: Classic Albums
(Eagle Vision) 
Over the years, there have been several documentaries on the making of The Beach Boys' groundbreaking album Pet Sounds. But the latest installment in the long-running Classic Albums series - available on DVD and Blu-ray - goes even further and has fresh interviews with the principals involved. The hour-long film features old footage and often-fascinating recollections from Wilson, fellow Beach Boys Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks as well as co-songwriter Tony Asher, Wrecking Crew keyboardist Don Randi and engineer Bruce Botnick. Many demonstrate their contributions. A half hour of bonus material includes more interviews (Randi, engineer Mark Linett, Helen Shapiro) and demos (Botnick goes through "Hang Onto Your Ego" on the mixing desk in mono).

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