The Music Box's 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2010, Volume 17, #12

Written by John Metzger

Mon December 13, 2010, 06:30 AM CST


The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones: Round 46

There likely will never be a year without an onslaught of products from either The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. The sales potential of both outfits is too great for the industry to overlook. Fortunately, there seems to be a never-ending supply of material to release.

Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street

The Rolling Stones made the biggest splash in 2010 by dusting off its masterpiece Exile on Main Street for a deluxe two-disc rendition of the endeavor. Ten additional tracks were nicked from the vaults and used to augment the original recording. Some of the previously unreleased selections initially were too embryonic to include, but front man Mick Jagger and producer Don Was transformed them into actual songs by adding lyrics, vocals, and melodies. Stones in Exile — a new documentary that surfaced on DVD a few weeks after the re-release of Exile on Main Street — provides a context to the album. Meanwhile, Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones contains concert footage from the band’s tour to support the effort.

Keith Richards - Life

It is somewhat surprising that the Rolling Stones didn’t stage a series of shows this year to capitalize on the mammoth amount of attention and critical praise it has received. Of course, now that Keith Richards has told his tale in Life, the band’s future actually could be in jeopardy. As one might expect, Richards was brutally honest in his autobiography. Often, he couldn’t resist the urge to criticize Jagger. The comments that Richards makes, however, often ring true, and one gets the sense that he didn’t say them to be meanspirited. Instead, his reflections seem to spring from his sorrow over the collapse of their friendship.

Meanwhile, The Beatles completed the remastering of its catalogue by issuing updated versions of 1962–1966 and 1967–1970. Otherwise known respectively as The Red Album and The Blue Album, these perfectly sequenced collections provide sterling introductions to the group’s rich and varied canon. The Beatles also ended its holdout and made it songs available through iTunes.

John Lennon - Signature Box

To commemorate his 70th birthday as well as the 30th anniversary of his death, all of the proper albums in John Lennon’s catalogue were remastered and reissued in 2010. In addition to being available as standalone endeavors, each of these efforts — Plastic Ono Band, Imagine, Sometime in New York City, Mind Games, Walls & Bridges, Rock ’n‘ Roll, Double Fantasy, and Milk and Honey — is included in the John Lennon Signature Box. The package also features a six-track collection of non-album singles as well as a 13-song assemblage of home recordings. For fans who are seeking a focused overview of Lennon’s career, Gimme Some Truth organizes 72 of his compositions by subject. In addition, Lennon’s most familiar fare was compiled to create Power to the People: The Hits. Finally, special attention was paid to Double Fantasy. In addition to the original endeavor, a new stripped-down version was created and is included in the standalone package.

Paul McCartney - Band on the Run

Paul McCartney is taking a much slower approach to revamping his catalogue. In November, his seminal outing Band on the Run was reissued as a standalone CD, a two-LP vinyl collection, a two-CD/one-DVD special edition, and a three-CD/one-DVD boxed set. The special edition of Band on the Run includes nine bonus tracks as well as a DVD of promotional videos, behind-the-scenes footage, and the television special One Hand Clapping. In addition to this extra material, the deluxe edition also boasts the audio documentary that was created for Band on the Run’s 25th anniversary as well as a 120-page book. Finally, the vinyl set combines the original album with the nine bonus tracks. The rest of McCartney’s endeavors are tentatively slated for release next year.

Not to be outdone, George Harrison’s classic All Things Must Past was reissued as a commemorative vinyl collection. The 40th anniversary edition of the endeavor recreates the original packaging, including its lift-top box and poster.

Purchase Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street: Barnes & Noble

Purchase Keith Richards - Life: Barnes & Noble

Purchase John Lennon - Signature Box: Barnes & Noble


Jimi Hendrix - West Coast Seattle Boy

The Jimi Hendrix Collection

Jimi Hendrix had built his own recording studio, which made it easy for him to commit his ideas to tape whenever he wanted. Even before then, however, he was a frequent guest at The Record Plant and Olympic Studios. As a result, he left a wealth of material behind when he died. The single-disc outing Valleys of Neptune specifically focuses upon Hendrix’s work in early 1969, when he was trying to expand upon the concepts he had explored on Electric Ladyland. The four-CD/one-DVD boxed set West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology takes a wider view of his career. Through its first 15 tracks, the expansive collection showcases Hendrix’s work as a sideman to the Isley Brothers, Little Richard, King Curtis, and others. The rest of the endeavor contains previously unreleased live and studio material that was culled from across the full range of Hendrix’s career. West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology also features Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child, a documentary about the guitarist’s life. Finally, all three of his proper studio albums — Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland — as well as other important aspects of his canon — First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Blues, Live at Woodstock, and BBC Sessions — were padded with bonus material and reissued in 2010.

Purchase Jimi Hendrix - West Coast Seattle Boy: Barnes & Noble


Grateful Dead - Road Trips

Plenty of Material Left in the Grateful Dead’s Vaults

While it was amassing a sizeable vault of recordings, the Grateful Dead had no idea how much value its archive eventually would be worth. In fact, the commercial implications of its routine likely were far from the minds of the band’s members. Fifteen years after the death of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead still commands enough attention to warrant an array of multi-disc releases each year.

In 2010, the Grateful Dead completed the third volume of its Road Trips series. Arguably, the best of the bunch is Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 3. Fusing acoustic and electric material, the outing focuses upon the two shows that the band performed at the Fillmore East on May 15, 1970. As such, it highlights the Grateful Dead’s rapidly expanding eclecticism. Full of rampaging energy, Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 1 features the entire show that the outfit delivered on December 28, 1979 in Oakland. Compiling material from Penn State and Cornell on May 6–7, 1980, Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 4 is just as tightly wound. Recorded in Austin on November 15, 1971, Road Trips, Vol. 3, No. 2 is a sprawling and messy affair that, nonetheless, contains plenty of highlights that outshine its uneven flow.

In addition, the Grateful Dead birthed a pair of multi-track releases this year. Crimson, White, and Indigo presented the entirety of the band’s concert at J.F.K. Stadium in Philadelphia on July 7, 1989 in audio and video formats. Meanwhile, the expansive boxed set Formerly the Warlocks collects every note that the group played during a pair of "surprise" shows in Hampton, Virginia on October 8–9, 1989. At the time of these events, the Grateful Dead was in the midst of a creative resurgence. Consequently, all three performances unquestionably are late-career gems.


Bob Dylan - The Original Mono Recordings

Dylan Gets Back to Basics

While the Grateful Dead has shown a tendency to flood the market with archival releases, Bob Dylan has plundered his vaults at a considerably slower pace. In 2010, he opted to focus on his roots. The ninth installment of his renowned Bootleg series collects the demo recordings that he made for the Witmark publishing company between 1962 and 1964. It also features some material he made for Leeds Music, his first music publisher, in January 1962. Complementing the endeavor, The Original Mono Recordings presents Dylan’s first eight albums — Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’, Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and John Wesley Harding — in the immediate, up-close-and-personal fashion in which they were meant to be heard.

Purchase Bob Dylan - The Original Mono Recordings: Barnes & Noble


David Bowie - Station to Station

David Bowie: Some Old, Some New

Earlier this year, David Bowie issued the audio soundtrack to his Reality Tour DVD. The program presents a career-spanning collection of material that was culled from a pair of shows that he performed in November 2003. Without the visuals, the outing has a tendency to meander. Nevertheless, it also highlights just how variegated Bowie’s output has been.

However, the bigger news from Camp Bowie came this fall. Rumored for a while, his brilliant 1976 effort Station to Station finally surfaced as an expansive boxed set. Containing five CDs, three LPs, and a DVD, the sprawling deluxe edition is a somewhat redundant but nonetheless worthwhile proposition. The original album is reproduced twice on CD — in two different mixes — as well as on vinyl. In addition, Station to Station is transformed into a full-immersion experience in its new incarnation as a 5.1 surround sound endeavor. The singles from the outing are compiled on a separate CD. Completing the package is a riveting, full-length concert from Nassau Coliseum in March 1976. An array of souvenirs is tucked into the boxed set, including press shots and fan club badges as well as replicas of the concert tickets. For those fans on a tighter budget, the 3-CD special edition of Station to Station pairs the original album with the Nassau Coliseum show. It’s a shame that the 5.1 surround sound DVD wasn’t also included, but at least the leaner collection gets its point across much faster.


Michael Jackson - Vision

Michael Jackson’s Fans Rejoice

Michael Jackson’s personal and professional lives had been in shambles for a long time. When he unexpectedly passed away, however, he was in the midst of getting everything in order so he could stage a mammoth comeback. As it turns out, the prospects of returning to the limelight were never far from his mind. Jackson just needed the right opportunity to make it work. Between 1990 and 2009, he issued only two albums: Dangerous and Invincible. As it turns out, though, despite the relative quiet of the latter stages of his career, Jackson never stopped writing and recording new material. Michael is the first of what likely will be a series of posthumously completed endeavors. The effort features 10 tracks, including collaborations with Akon, 50 Cent, and Lenny Kravitz. Meanwhile, the three-DVD set Vision contains 42 promotional videos that Jackson created over the course of his career. These include all 35 of his groundbreaking short films, several of which are making their debut on DVD.

Purchase Michael Jackson - Vision: Barnes & Noble

Purchase Michael Jackson - Michael: Barnes & Noble


For additional information, please also see our other Best of 2010 Lists.


Of Further Interest...

The Music Box's 2007 Holiday Gift Guide

The Music Box's 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

Music Box Editor John Metzger's Top Albums of 2009


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