Do you really think the music-obsessed types in your life want socks, a sweater, or a tie for their holiday gift?
No. They want music. And the music they want doesn’t come cheap.
Here are five of the most desirable (if slightly over-priced) deluxe box sets currently filling the display case at your favorite record store.
Lou Reed, The RCA & Arista Album Collection (Legacy; 6 LP, 17 CD Box)
This mammoth box set ended up being Lou Reed’s final labor of love. Reed and producers Hal Wilner and Rob Santos began the arduous process of remastering the entirety of Reed’s post-Velvet Underground RCA/Arista solo canon in 2013, and they made it most of the way through the 17 albums before Reed’s health took a turn for the worse.
Following his death in late 2013, Reed’s widow, the artist and musician Laurie Anderson, helped to complete the project, including the gorgeous and lovingly assembled 80-page LP-sized hardcover book, which alone makes this a must-have for Reed fans. It’s about the music, though, and that music has never sounded better, more pristine, and at times, more ferocious and in-your-face.
The obvious career high points – “Transformer,” “Berlin, ”Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal” – are all here, of course, but the box also offers us the opportunity to fall in love with lesser-known gems like “Coney Island Baby,” “The Bells,” “Street Hassle” and “The Blue Mask”.
Kate Bush, Before the Dawn (Concord; 4 LP, 3 CD Box)
In 2014, Kate Bush performed live for the first time in 35 years, mounting a 22-show run of sold-out gigs at the Hammersmith Apollo. Fans flew in from around the world. Grown men reportedly wept. And Bush offered a transcendent multi-media performance that married music, dance, and audio-visual nuance in a manner in keeping with her reputation as a visionary, one of the most incisive and exploratory artists of late 20th century popular music.
Untold thousands upon thousands of Bush’s world-wide fan-base were not able to make it to England for the shows. This pristine 29-song document of the “Before the Dawn” program is for them.
David Bowie, Who Can I Be Now (Rhino; 13 LP; 12 CD Box)
This box covers a fascinating period in David Bowie’s development from glam superstar into genre-blurring alternative music Renaissance man. Between 1974 and 1976, Bowie miraculously recorded and released “Diamond Dogs,” “David Live,” “Young Americans” and “Station to Station,” four albums that rank among his very finest.
He also tracked, produced, and then abandoned an album known as “The Gouster,” a collection that eventually was re-imagined as the “Young Americans” album we know and love. “Who Can I Be Now” offers that album for the first time, and also includes a full concert tracked during the “Station to Station” tour and a collection of alternative versions and b-sides known as “Re:Call 2”.
For Bowie heads, this is essential stuff.
Soundgarden, Badmotorfinger 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe (Ume/A&M; 4 CD, 2 DVD, 1 Blu Ray Box)
Sure, Nirvana’s “Nevermind” grabbed the attention of the mainstream, but it was Soundgarden’s “Badmotorfinger” that represented the high watermark for what was absurdly labelled “the grunge movement.”
Melding metal, punk, psychedelia, and vocal and instrumental virtuosity, the album defined heavy music for a new generation, and it has aged incredibly well.
Temple of the Dog, Temple of the Dog 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (Ume; 4 CD, 2 LP Box)
Speaking of “grunge,” it’s hard to believe that this release from a Seattle super-group – comprised of members of Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam and Soundgarden – is now a quarter-century old.
This deluxe version of Temple of the Dog’s sole release – most of which is comprised of songs dedicated to the memory of then-recently departed Mother Love Bone vocalist Andrew Wood – is the one you need to own if you were ever a fan of its face-melting blend of hard rock, glam, and white funk. Bonus tracks abound, and the sound has been lovingly updated for the new century.