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Under the Radar Holiday Gift Guide 2015 Part 3: Music Box Sets and Reissues

From Bowie to Back to the Future to Shoegazing Legends Lush and Ride

Dec 07, 2015 By Mark Redfern
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There is so much great new music released each year that it’s hard to keep up. Just as overwhelming is all the music from yesteryear you have yet to dig into, but know you should. As you work out gifts for your favorite music connoisseur, perhaps one who is either on top of 2015’s best releases or reluctant to invest in new music, consider some of 2015’s best music reissues and box sets, which we have handily detailed below in part three of our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide. The releases below span the decades from the 1930s to the 2000s and include glam rock classics, essential soul and R&B albums, movie soundtracks, shoegazing originators, alternative rock heroes, jazz standards, live albums, and even a related comic book thrown in for good measure.

Also read our first Holiday Gift Guide post on graphic novels and books and part two, which concerned DVDs and Blu-rays. And later we’ll be posting separate Holiday Gift Guides for collectibles and technology, before hopefully collecting it all in one big post.

Music Box Sets and Reissues:

a-ha: Hunting High and Low (30th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) (Rhino)

SRP: $41.48

Norwegian New Wave trio might still be best known for their huge hit “Take On Me” and its iconic and groundbreaking partially animated music video (which cleaned up at the MTV Music Video Awards at the time), but there’s a whole 1985 debut album to also delve into. It may open with “Take On Me,” but there are nine other tracks worth considering too, including the hit “The Sun Always Shines on T.V.” This new 30th anniversary box set has four CDs and one DVD. There are B-sides, demos, remixes, and alternate mixes, many previously unreleased, and all of the album’s music videos. Of particular interest is the original version of “Take On Me,” which was released as a single in 1984 and didn’t do particularly well. The song was re-recorded for the album and that’s the version that became a huge hit and you can hear why when comparing the two. (Buy it here.)

Air: The Virgin Suicides - 15th Anniversary Box Set (Parlophone/Aircheology/Rhino)

SRP: $96.29

Air skillfully sidestepped the sophomore slump when they followed up their acclaimed debut album, 1998’s Moon Safari, with the score to Sofia Coppola’s debut feature film, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. The mainly instrumental score (bar the single “Playground Love,” which featured vocals from Phoenix’s Thomas Mars under the pseudonym Gordon Tracks) was released in early 2000 and now we have this 15th anniversary limited edition box set. Contained in its beautiful packaging are three vinyl records, two CDs, two posters, and a VIP pass replica from a Los Angeles Air after show party in 2000. The original soundtrack is presented on 180g red vinyl and on CD. Then there’s a live album on both a picture disc vinyl and a CD, both include a KCRW radio session and a live concert from Los Angeles. Finally the Playground Love EP is also included on red 180g vinyl. Any fan of Air and/or The Virgin Suicides is going to love this. (Buy it here.)

David Bowie: Five Years 1969-1973 (Parlophone/Rhino)

SRP: $119.99

These days it sometimes takes four or five years for a band to release a new album, and usually at least two years (unless you’re Ty Segall, that guy seems to release at least three albums a year if you count his various side projects). But back in the 1960s and ‘70s artists would release new albums much more regularly. This new David Bowie box set collects the albums he put out in between 1969 and 1973 and it’s astounding to see what he accomplished in those five years. It includes six albums, many of them classics (David Bowie, The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, Aladdin Sane, and Pinups), as well as two live albums, the 2003 mix of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and RE:CALL 1, a two-CD collection of rarities and alternate mixes. What’s even more amazing is that a lot of Bowie’s best work, such as Low, was yet to come and he’s still going strong, with a new album due out next month. (Buy it here.)

Alice Cooper: The Studio Albums 1969-1983 (Rhino)

SRP: $75.89

School’s out forever with this collection of 15 Alice Cooper albums, from 1969’s Pretties For You through his famous ‘70s albums, including Killer and Welcome to My Nightmare, and into the early ‘80s, culminating with 1983’s DaDa. Snake not included. (Buy it here.)

Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy)

SRP: $30.50

The back cover of this new four CD live collection is a photo of Miles Davis taken by my late father David Redfern (a well known music photographer) at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival in Newport, RI. Listening to Davis’ set that day, which is included in this collection, I envisioned my dad there, taking pictures from the photo pit and also listening along. This collection includes eight sets recorded at various Newport festivals, including the original Rhode Island ones in 1955, 1958, 1966, 1967, and 1969, as well as Newport festivals in Berlin (1973), New York (1975), and Switzerland (1971). My dad would’ve loved it. (Buy it here.)

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: Bob Dylan 1965-1966 - The Cutting Edge (Deluxe Edition) (Columbia/Legacy)

SRP: $106.39

The Bob Dylan Bootleg Series continues. The deluxe edition of Vol. 12 includes 100 previously unreleased studio recordings from 1965 and 1966, encompassing the sessions for Bring It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. Disc three alone includes the complete “Like a Rolling Stone” sessions with 20 different versions of the song. Dylan completeists will salivate. (Buy it here.)

The Flaming Lips: Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic - 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)

SRP: $24.99

The Flaming Lips had been at it for awhile before their true critical breakthrough with 1999’s The Soft Bulletin and their commercial breakthrough and ascension to music festival mainstays with 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. This new reissue celebrates the 20th anniversary of 1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic and also includes demos, live performances, and other rarities. Divisive recent Flaming Lips collaborator Miley Cyrus is thankfully nowhere to be found, as she was only two when Clouds Taste Metallic was released! (Buy it here.)

Aretha Franklin: The Atlantic Albums Collection (Atlantic/Rhino)

SRP: $89.98

This 17-disc box set includes all of the Queen of Soul’s classic albums for Atlantic from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Her earliest albums were released by Columbia, but this box set starts with 1967’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (which opened with perhaps her most iconic song, “Respect”), includes 1968’s Aretha Now (“Think”), and stretches to 1976’s Sparkle (a movie soundtrack produced by Curtis Mayfield). There’s also a two-disc set of rare and unreleased recordings by Franklin. (Buy it here.)

Garbage: Garbage: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (ALMO/UME)

SRP: $16.99

Garbage arrived fully formed with their near-perfect self-titled debut album in 1995, which probably still remains their finest achievement. Founding member Butch Vig was already an established producer (he did Nirvana’s Nevermind and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish, for starters), which probably helped Garbage to have such a strong sound from the get-go, that and having a frontwoman as charismatic as Shirley Manson It’s hard to believe the album is 20 years old, as Garbage still sounds fairly modern. In honor of this anniversary the band (which also featured Duke Erikson and Steve Marker) has gone back out on tour, playing the record in its entirety, and have reissued the album in different formats with a slew of bonus tracks. The deluxe edition includes nine B-sides (or “G-sides” as they are calling them). There are also LP versions and a digital version that includes 29 remixes and 12 alternate versions. But the original album itself is strong enough on its own, considering the songs it features (many of them alternative rock hits): “Supervixen,” “Queer,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Not My Idea,” “Vow,” “Stupid Girl,” and “Milk,” to list out just half the album. (Read our recent interview with Shirley Manson on the reissue.) (Buy it here.)

Grateful Dead: The Definitive Live Story 1965-1995 (Rhino)

SRP: $26.62

The remaining members of Grateful Dead may have played their final shows as The Dead this year (and of course Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995), but Deadheads can relive some of Grateful Dead’s best live performances in this new box set. The four-disc set culls live cuts from shows spanning from November 3, 1965 in San Francisco to February 21, 1995 in Salt Lake City (only six months before Garcia’s death). No one track is taken from the same show and considering Grateful Dead played an estimated 2,314 concerts it must have been quite a formidable task to put this collection together. (Buy it here.)

The Isley Brothers: The RCA Victor and T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983) (Legacy)

SRP: $131.99

This 23-disc collection includes all of the classic R&B band’s albums released on RCA Victor and T-Neck. And while some of their earlier and later albums were released by other labels, the bulk of their work was put out by T-Neck. The collection stretches from their 1959 debut album, Shout!, to 1983’s Between the Sheets. Also included are 84 rare and unreleased bonus tracks and Wild in Woodstock, an album from 1980 that’s never been released in its entirety before. The whole collection might just be worth it for the ridiculously cheesy album cover to 1981’s Inside You (whose title is questionable as it is), as it features the band dressed as cowboys in tight spandex-looking pants (with some of them shirtless). Giddyup! (Buy it here.)

Lush: Chorus (4AD)

SRP: $49.98

Following the return of Slowdive, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and Swervedriver (who have all reformed in recent years), Lush were the last of the originators and main icons of the shoegazing genre to announce their reunion, which they did this fall. Lush released three albums in the ‘90s, but split up after the 1996 suicide of drummer Chris Acland. Their final show was in Tokyo, Japan in September 2006. Lush’s three surviving members, guitarist Emma Anderson, singer/guitarist Miki Berenyi, and bassist Philip King, will be performing their first shows in almost 20 years in 2016 and are releasing a brand new EP next spring (with a new album in the works too). In the meantime there’s Chorus, the band’s career-spanning box set. It includes all three of their full-length albums (1992’s Spooky, 1994’s Split, and 1996’s Lovelife), their 1990 early singles compilation Gala, and their 1996 B-sides compilation Topolino (the Canadian version). Chorus also includes B-sides, radio sessions, remixes and demos, some previously unreleased. Chris Bigg did the artwork for the box set. He, along with 4AD design chief Vaughan Oliver, was responsible for designing Lush’s original album covers. Lush’s reunion was one of the less likely ones to happen, considering the tragic circumstances of their breakup and that Anderson and Berenyi have repeatedly cited the challenges of reforming in interviews, so it’s a nice surprise to have them back and this box set is a treat for fans new and old. (Read our two recent interviews with Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson on Split and Lovelife.) (Buy it here.)

Manic Street Preachers: The Holy Bible (20th Anniversary Edition) (Legacy)

SRP: $64.89

The Holy Bible was Manic Street Preachers’ third album, released in 1994, and is considered their masterpiece. It is also their last album to feature lyricist and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards, who disappeared on February 1, 1995 in one of the great rock ‘n’ roll mysterious yet to be solved. While presumed dead, no one really knows what happened to Edwards and there were unconfirmed reports of sightings of him after his disappearance, including one in India. Manic Street Preachers soldiered on without him, releasing several albums, including 2009’s Journal for Plague Lovers, which featured unused lyrics by Edwards for every song, and 2014’s excellent Futurology. This 20th anniversary edition of The Holy Bible was released in the U.K. in 2014 and the U.S. early this year (in conjunction with a U.S. tour where they performed the album in full). The ultra deluxe edition includes the original album on 180g vinyl as well as CD (in both the original mix and the U.S. mix), plus an extra CD of B-Sides (including a cover of Suede’s “The Drowners”) and a live disc featuring a concert from 1994 and a BBC radio session from 2014. With this handsome box set Edwards’ legacy, wherever he may be, remains intact. (Read our recent interview with bassist Nicky Wire on The Holy Bible.) (Buy it here.)

Otis Redding: Soul Manifesto: 1964-1970 (Rhino)

SRP: $52.93

Soul Manifesto collects all of Otis Redding’s albums in one box set. It includes the six albums he released in his lifetime and four albums put out after his tragic death in 1967. Redding died on December 10, 1967 at the young age of 26. A small plane he and his band were traveling between shows in crashed into a lake in poor weather conditions (only one member of his band, Ben Cauley, survived). One of Redding’s most famous songs, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” was recorded just three days before his death and when it was released in January 1968 it became the first posthumous number-one single in U.S. chart history. (Buy it here.)

Lou Reed: The Sire Years: Complete Albums Box (Rhino)

SRP: $47.19

The Sire Years is a curious box set in that it collects Lou Reed’s later albums, from 1989’s New York to 2004’s live album Animal Serenade. Missing from Reed’s late period work are his final two albums, both outliers anyway, 2007’s Hudson River Wind Meditations (a collection of meditational music) and 2011’s Lulu (his collaboration with Metallica). Those searching for “Perfect Day,” “Satellite of Love,” or “Walk on the Wild Side” should look elsewhere (specially Reed’s 1972 classic Transformer, which features all of those songs). But this box set features its share of gems, including his 1989 comeback album New York, whose lyrics were particularly praised, Songs for Drella, his 1990 concept album and tribute to Andy Warhol with fellow Velvet Underground member John Cale, and 2003’s The Raven, a concept record that adapted the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Since Reed passed in 2013, this is a good opportunity to revisit some of his final albums. (Buy it here.)

Ride: Nowhere25 (Ride Music)

SRP: $69.12

Nowhere, the 1990 debut album by Oxford, England quartet Ride, is one of the true classics of the shoegazing genre and includes “Dreams Burn Down” and “Vapour Trail” (probably the band’s best known song). This new 25th anniversary reissue includes the Fall and Today Forever EPs and a DVD featuring a recording of a 1991 concert at London’s Town & Country Club. (Read our recent Track-By-Track interview with Ride’s Mark Gardener on Nowhere.) (Buy it here.)

Alan Silvestri: Back to the Future: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Back to the Future Part II: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and Back to the Future Part III: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Mondo) and Back to the Future #1 (IDW)

SRP: $35.00 (each vinyl reissue) and $3.99 (comic book)

2015 was the year Marty Mcfly and Doc Brown came to the future in Back to the Future Part II and it also marks the 30th anniversary of the all-time classic first Back to the Future film. In honor of all this, the fine folks at Mondo are re-releasing the scores to all three films on 180g colored vinyl. Each features the complete original scores by composer Alan Silvestri on vinyl for the first time ever along with beautiful new album artwork by Matt Taylor. The reissues for Part II and Part III each also include 20 minutes of previously unreleased cues. All three are also available in a $105 box set. These reissues won’t ship until early 2016, so in the meantime you can buy for your giftee a copy of issue one of IDW’s new Back to the Future comic book. Partially written by Back to the Future co-creator and scriptwriter Bob Gale, the new IDW series isn’t so much a sequel to the Back to the Future trilogy, but fills in the narrative nooks and crannies of the series, telling side stories and back stories (“untold tales and alternate timelines” as IDW describes it). Issue 1 tells for the first time how Marty and Doc Brown initially met and also shows how Doc got involved in the Manhattan Project. (Buy the vinyl reissues here. Buy the comic book here.)

Simon & Garfunkel: Simon & Garfunkel - The Complete Columbia Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy)

SRP: $99.56

The Complete Columbia Albums Collection includes all five of Simon & Garfunkel’s studio albums (from 1964’s Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. through to 1970’s Bridge Over Troubled Water), plus 1972’s Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits, released two years after the duo split up. The albums are presented on 180-gram vinyl, newly remastered from first generation analog sources. Also included is a 20-page booklet and photo poster. From “Mrs. Robinson” to “The Sound of Silence” to “Scarborough Fair” to “America,” it’s all here on vinyl as it was originally meant to be heard. (Buy it here.)

Frank Sinatra: Frank Sinatra: A Voice on Air (1935-1955) (Columbia/Legacy)

SRP: $49.69

In honor of ol’ blue eyes’ 100th birthday, A Voice on Air collects 100 radio performances from Frank Sinatra recorded during the golden age of radio. The four-disc set includes 91 previously unreleased live performances from the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. It might make a good gift for your grandmother. (Buy it here.)

Sly & The Family Stone: Sly & The Family Stone - Live at the Fillmore East October 4th & 5th 1968 (Epic/Legacy)

SRP: $36.75

Sly Stone’s live performances may have been incredibly erratic at best in recent years (I almost witnessed a particularly embarrassing performance at Coachella 2010, if you could call it much of a performance from all reports, except that he went on several hours late and I gave up). But the original Sly & The Family Stone lineup in the 1960s was a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced in this new live collection. Live at the Fillmore East October 4th & 5th 1968 is a four-disc set that includes four previously unreleased 1968 shows from the New York venue. It includes two shows each from October 4 and 5, 1968, an early and late show from each day, which was a month after releasing their third album, Life. The band is on fire as they run through early singles such as “M’Lady,” “Life,” and of course “Dance to the Music.” (Buy it here.)


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