Box sets and deluxe album reissues make good gifts for music fans on your holiday shopping list, and 2017 brought more than a fair share of excellent releases. Here are the standouts.
Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13
Dylan was widely maligned for the music he released during his “born again” period of 1979-1981, which saw him go gospel on the albums Slow Train Coming, Saved and Shot of Love. This eight-CD/1 DVD set does not include those albums. Instead, it is filled with live versions, rehearsal, soundcheck and alternate studio takes of songs from those three albums (as well as 15 unreleased tracks). In short, Trouble No More is a revelation, bringing a whole new appreciation and respect to what many considered a low point in Dylan’s career.
John Lee Hooker
King of the Boogie
Hooker was to blues what AC/DC has been to rock, someone who basically rewrote and elaborated on the same basic song his entire career. And this excellent five-CD, career-spanning box set shows that like the Aussie rockers, there was something so distinctive, so foundational and soulful that Hooker’s music never sounded tired or played out. Just authentic and essential.
This five-disc collection provides an eye-opening look at American music in the 1920s, before the record industry had created genres, trends and formats to reach mass audiences. Nearly 100 artists are represented, and the breadth and quality of music is stunning, from blues, country and religious to Spanish, French, African-American, Indian and beyond. This is the sound of modern American music being born.
A Boy From Tupelo: The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings
This three-CD set documents where it all began for Presley, encompassing his master recordings for Sun Records studio outtakes and live and radio performances from this period. Together this set shows Presley finding his sound and hinting at the blockbuster hits that would soon follow and make him a superstar who changed rock and roll forever.
The Joshua Tree
This watershed album gets the deluxe treatment over four discs, with outtakes (some of which had been previously unreleased), cool remixes and best of all, a fine 1987 show at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
News of the World Deluxe Edition
This three-CD release of one of Queen’s best albums has some fat – the instrumental versions of several songs are far from essential. But alternative versions of several key songs from a BBC session are revelations (especially the fast guitar-rock version of We Will Rock You).
Wilco’s excellent first two albums get expanded with a bounty of outtakes and a full 1996 concert. With its many unreleased gems, this reissue renders the original versions of the albums obsolete.
Saturday Night is Killing Me
Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson proved he had solid songwriting chops on this 1993 debut album, supplemented here with a full disc of outtakes and four unreleased songs, including the solid rockers Situation and Making Me Sick.
The Queen is Dead
The four-CD deluxe reissue of this key album by the lauded British band is a must for ardent Smiths fans, with outtakes, b-sides and a tightly played 1986 concert.
2 Steps from the Middle Ages
The final album by Game Theory and its gifted songwriter Scott Miller featured some of the band’s tightest, most approachable rocking pop songs. This expanded reissue adds some cool demos, outtakes and live cuts to the excellent original album.
Kick 30th Anniversary Edition
The Australian group’s hit-filled 1987 album gets expanded and improved, with two discs of outtakes (including release-worthy songs like Do Wot You Do, Move On and Trap), remixes and live versions.
Rocket To Russia
One of the band’s definitive albums gets expanded to three discs, with many unreleased mixes and alternate takes, plus a blistering 1977 concert from Glasgow that’s worth the price of this edition alone.
For Sale: Live at Maxell’s 1986
This two-disc set captures the Mats on a good night, still rowdy, but unlike at some shows, on point as they play songs from their great album, Tim, as well as earlier material.
Woody Guthrie The Tribute Concerts: Carnegie Hall 1968; Hollywood Bowl 1970
Two concerts that celebrated the folk legend are presented over three CDs. The two shows feature a who’s who of ’60s folk (including Bob Dylan, Odetta and Joan Baez) and are fitting tributes to Guthrie, whose spirit and lyrical messages still ring true today.