Back in November, I posted about six box sets that were worthy of gifts—for yourself or family and friends. Here are six more that are worthwhile for those icy months of hibernation ahead...
Bob Dylan: The Complete Album Collection (Sony). Call it being in the right place at the right time—plus talent and a desire to cross over and succeed. Few artists around today have been more influential on the direction of rock and soul than Bob Dylan. The nasal voice notwithstanding, Dylan finished what Phil and Don Everly started and taught 1960s rock and soul singer-songwriters to reach inward to make personal statements about American love, culture and the country's flaws. For 50 years, Dylan's socially conscious music and lyrics have nudged top acts like the Beatles and Stones, Motown writers and groups, California folk-rock, Nashville and, well, you name it. In this 47-CD box, you can hear the DNA of two generations of music and discover dozens of long lost Dylan musical friends. Listen to them in chronological order or mix them up in iTunes and hear how tracks from different eras interact. Recordings run from 1962 to 2012.
Eric Clapton: Give Me Strength, the 1974-'75 Recordings (Polydor). Dylan-influenced Eric Clapton, who added a thick slab of Brit-blues to his poetic music, recorded several landmark albums in the early '70s. Featured in this five-CD set are remastered, remixed, unreleased and live recordings—including outtakes from studio albums 461 Ocean Boulevard, There's One in Every Crowd and live album E.C. Was Here. Also included is a new 5.1 Surround Sound mix of 461 Ocean Boulevard and original quadraphonic mixes of 461 Ocean Boulevard and There's One in Every Crowd. Folk-rock meets the blues with a punch of reggae added. Clapton's cover of I Shot the Sheriff remains moving.
Steve Earle: The Warner Bros. Years (Shout! Factory). Folk-roots pioneer Steve Earle is featured on four important CDs recorded for Warner Bros. in the 1990s. They are Train a Comin', I Feel Alright and El Corazon. Also included is a previously unreleased concert album, Live at the Polk Theater, along with To Hell and Back, a concert filmed at Cold Creek Correctional Facility in Tennessee. Earle was at the forefront of a movement to revive the traditional bluegrass acoustic sound and offer a more poetic and pained alternative to Nashville's slickness.
Otis Redding: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles (Shout! Factory). This three-CD set showcases Otis Redding's 70 single sides for the Memphis Stax/Volt label in all their original mono glory. While the set surprisingly lacks liner notes covering each track, much of the information can be found at Wikipedia. The pages in this green cardboard package features life-size images of the 45 rpms. You get Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay as well as Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (live), My Girl, Try a Little Tenderness and duets with Carla Thomas.
Miles Davis: Live In Europe 1969, the Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (Sony). If you're a fan of jazz fusion, this set of three CDs and a DVD provides rare material by the so-called lost Third Miles Davis Quintet. The band featured Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette more under the influence of John Coltrane and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians than Sly Stone or Jimi Hendrix. Recorded on tour in Europe in 1969 before and after Bitches Brew, this set features the frantic artistic land grab that took place to find safe ground as the soil under jazz began slipping away. The music reflects high-end experimentation but also a leading artist's fear of extinction and drive to stay relevant in the evolving youth culture. What we hear is an artistic compromise between jazz improvisation and long-form rock. Jarring and fascinating at once.
Roy Orbison: The Last Concert (Sony). Two days before his death of a heart attack at age 52 on December 6, 1988, Roy Orbison performed 14 hits in concert at the Front Row Theater in Highland Heights, Ohio. The CD holds the audio tracks while the DVD features unreleased video footage as well as an 11-minute interview with Tony Weber, who had a local public access TV show at the time. The DVD includes photos from the concert as well as selections from two live sets from the Reseda Country Club in California (1981) and Rockefeller Hall in Texas (1986). A haunting father of the rockabilly movement and a progenitor of Elton John and the arena glam movement.