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Arts and Music

All I Want For Christmas

The Long Island Weekly Annual Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are traditionally where you either go big or go home. And while no one is saying that you should blow up your retirement fund to buy something out of the Neiman-Marcus catalogue, there are still plenty of great gifts to give and get in the worlds of music, DVDs and books.

Music

For The Aspiring Lyricist

Bob Dylan – The Complete Album Collection: Volume 1 (Columbia/Legacy) — Zim gets supersized with this set that contains all 41 official albums, including 13 newly remastered titles, a 2-CD compilation of previously released non-album tracks and a 268-page hardcover booklet packed with rare photos.

Harry Nilsson — The RCA Albums Collection (RCA) — Always an underrated talent due to his aversion to playing live, John Lennon’s favorite drinking partner nonetheless won Grammys, was widely admired by his fellow artists and managed to record 14 albums for RCA. This set is expanded by 65 bonus tracks including 26 previously unreleased songs, three newly-compiled CDs of bonus material totaling 58 cuts, 29 of them previously unreleased.

Paul Simon — The Complete Albums Collection (Sony/Legacy) — One of Forest Hills’ favorite sons not named Garfunkel, Ramone or West, is well represented here via 12 studio albums and two full-length live concert recordings plus reissue bonus material not appearing on the original 12” vinyl releases. There are 37 bonus tracks in all.

For The Anarchist

Big Star — Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star (1972-2005) (RCA) — Even though Sony Music didn’t have the rights to any of the music from the band’s seminal three records, the solution was found in using material from Columbia: Live at Missouri University, outtakes, the 2005 studio outing In Space and a total of five songs out of 14 licensed from #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sisters Lovers.

The Clash — Sound System (Sony/Legacy) — Twelve discs featuring all the band’s studio albums remastered, (sans 1985’s Mick Jones-less Cut the Crap), plus three CDs of demos, non-album singles, B-Sides and rarities. A DVD couples all of the band’s videos with unseen footage from the archives of Julien Temple and Don Letts.

Steve Earle — The Warner Brothers Years (Shout Factory) — Made up of a trio of albums recorded in the subsequent years after Earle went through a harrowing period of drug addiction and incarceration, this 4-CD/1-DVD set consists of Train A Comin’, I Feel Alright and El Corazon. Also included is the previously unreleased concert album Live at the Polk Theater, and To Hell and Back, a concert filmed at Tennessee’s Cold Creek Correctional Facility.

The Ramones — The Sire Years (1976-1981) (Sire/Rhino) — Forest Hills is in the house with this barebones set that pulls together all six albums (Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket to Russia, Road to Ruin, End of the Century, Pleasant Dreams) sans liner notes or bonus tracks.

For The Jazzbo

Miles Davis — The Original Mono Recordings (Columbia/Legacy) — This non-stereo representation of the Prince of Darkness is represented via nine, newly remastered CDs, each housed in a mini-LP replica jacket that is a mirror of the original LP sleeves.

Herbie Hancock — The Complete Columbia Albums Collection: 1972-1986 (Columbia/Legacy) — The piano/keyboard playing jazz icon finds a chunk of his immense canon well represented here thanks to the inclusion of 28 single albums and three double-CD albums (for a total of 34 discs) plus a 200-page book that includes rare photos.

Classic Rock Anyone?

The Band — Live at the Academy of Music 1971 (Universal) — This 4-CD/1-DVD collection features the best of the group’s four legendary year-end concerts that includes a complete New Year’s Eve set. Lovingly remixed, this set also includes a 48-page hardcover book along with Rolling Stone’s original review of the subsequent album that came out, 1972’s Rock of Ages.

The Beatles — On Air: Live at the BBC, Volume 2 (Apple/Universal) — This double disc follow-up has 63 tracks, 24 of which are made up of interviews, sketches and dialogue. There’s still enough Fab Four  on here to have you or your intended giftee consistently reach  to hit the button time and time again.

Eric Clapton — Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Recordings (Polydor)  — A moment of Slowhand’s recording life is captured on this 5-CD/1-Blu-Ray disc box set, is coupled with a 60-page book to go with a full year’s worth of recordings that are remastered, remixed, rare, unreleased and occasionally live. These 88 cuts were part of the creative process behind 461 Ocean Boulevard, There’s One In Every Crowd and E.C. Was Here.

Unplugged [Deluxe Edition] (Reprise) — So successful that it went beyond platinum and went straight to diamond status (at least 10 million copies sold), this reissue includes a DVD of Clapton’s live performance to go with the original CD, which includes six bonus tracks.

Deep Purple — The Complete Albums 1970-1976 (Rhino/Warner) — Even as Ritchie Blackmore sequesters himself in Huntington, content to play and listen to Renaissance music, fans can get their fill of his hard rocking days on this 10-CD set, (at least up on through Stormbringer.) No bonus tracks, no liner notes.

John Mellencamp — John Mellencamp: 1978-2012 (Mercury/UMe) — Part of that triumvirate of Midwestern rockers, (the others being Tom Petty and Bob Seger), Mellencamp finally gets that comprehensive boxed set collection treatment. It contains 19 CDs containing a total of 223 tracks that were released over a 35-year span and embraces the Indiana native’s recorded output for Polygram, Universal, Sony and Concord-affiliated labels.

R.E.M. — Green (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] (Rhino) — The Athens quartet’s major label debut yielded “Orange Crush,” “Stand” and “Pop Song 89.” What makes this double-CD reissue special is the inclusion of a disc comprised of a 21-song live set played on November 10, 1989 in Greensboro, NC.

Rush — The Studio Albums 1989-2007 (Atlantic/Rhino) — The seven CDs representing Rush’ s Atlantic Records run also represent a time when the Canadian trio started moving away from the more synth-driven sound of the ’80s and found Alex Lifeson asserting himself more on guitar. No liner notes; no bonus tracks.

Yes — The Complete Atlantic Studio Albums 1969-1987 (Atlantic/Rhino) — This set captures a major slice of the recorded output of the granddaddy of prog-rock. These 13 CDs will take you from the band’s 1969 eponymous debut when it was starting out covering Beatles and Byrds songs right up through 1987’s Big Generator, when Yes was at the tail end of its being MTV darlings. No liner notes; no bonus tracks.

DVD

Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All Of It (BBC Home Entertainment) — The wildly popular British sitcom starring the debauchery-fueled duo of Edina Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) is resurrected on this 10-disc set that contains all five seasons. Extras include outtakes, Jon Plowman’s History of Ab Fab special, the Ab Fab 2012 Comic Relief Special and interviews.

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Magnolia Home Entertainment) — One of the year’s most acclaimed documentaries, music or otherwise, it tells the story of this cult band whose influence has rivaled that of the Velvet Underground. Chock full of vintage footage while tracing and retelling the band’s bittersweet flirtation with commercial success.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures Entertainment)  — This set is packaged in a mini-barrel and contains the series spread out through 16 discs and is being touted as one of the greatest specialty collections created for a series. Unique extras include a collectable challenge coin, Los Pollos Hermanos apron and an episode guide booklet and a number of bonus features including a 2-hour documentary called No Half Measures. Only available on Blu-Ray.

Despicable Me 2 (Universal) — Steve Carell’s Gru returns in a sequel, tasked with helping the Anti-Villain League (AVL) with tracking down a super villain who has stolen a highly dangerous mutagen from a government facility. Extras include “Gru’s Girls” and “Gadgets Galore” featurettes.

Dexter: The Complete Series (Paramount) — The definition of an anti-hero, the title character is a serial killer with a code; one that enabled the show to last for eight seasons, all of which are on this 33-disc set that looks like a blood slide box. Also contains more than three hours of special features, an exclusive art book, and The Evolution of Dexter Morgan documentary.

Monsters University (Walt Disney Video) — The prequel to 2001’s Monster’s Inc. goes back to monsters Mike and Sully’s college days; includes the animated theatrical short The Blue Umbrella.

Books

Autobiography — Morrissey (Putnam Adult) — Regarded as a demigod in his English homeland, Steven Patrick Morrissey nonetheless has developed a devoted global fan base thanks to his work and exploits inside and out of The Smiths in addition to his uncompromising approach to his life and craft. His memoirs are as equally candid, passionate and unapologetic in telling his story.  

Doctor Sleep — Stephen King (Scribner) — The sequel to The Shining finds main character Danny Torrance living in New Hampshire working as a hospice orderly, where he helps terminally ill patients pass away with certain powers he possesses.  

Doctor Who: The Essential Guide to 50 Years of Doctor Who — Justin Richards (Penguin Group UK) — One of the most beloved of science fiction franchises, Doctor Who is wrapping up its fifth decade, having first debuted on the BBC in 1963.

At 208 pages, the style of this book leans heavier on photos than written content, but Richards presents it all in such a way that both diehard and neophyte fans will appreciate the series history.

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams — Ben Bradlee Jr. (Little, Brown and Company) — Known as Teddy Baseball or the Splendid Splinter by the Boston Red Sox fans that he had such a thorny relationship with throughout his career, Ted Williams is arguably the best hitter that ever played the game.

But with this bio, Bradlee does a solid job reflecting the complexities of this baseball hero’s personal life.

Orr: My Story — Bobby Orr (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) — After spending decades in self-imposed obscurity, Bobby Orr, that most modest of sports legends, gives a straightforward account of his journey as a young player making the leap to the National Hockey League along with the successes and low moments he went through on his way to becoming the youngest player to be elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame — and beyond.

Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion — Robert Gordon (Bloomsbury USA) — Gordon, whose prior books on Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, has found him treading the same ground as fellow southern music journalist Peter Guralnick, (who he also penned It Came From Memphis with). This time around, Stax Records, the grittier counterpart to northern cousin Motown, is chronicled with legendary artists like Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, The Staple Singers and Booker T. & the MGs playing major roles in this story of triumph and tragedy at the heart of this seminal record label.

The Universe of Peter Max — Peter Max (Harper Design) — One of the most foremost pop culture artists thanks to his combination of psychedelic flourishes and patriotic imagery, Max uses visuals  to dominate this memoir, all of which are accompanied by 50 personal essays chronicling his life.