There are plenty of nice goodies out there this holiday season for your music-loving friends. Here are some of my recommendations for the bigger-ticket items:
Blue Note: Photos by Francis Wolff: If you love jazz music, graphic design, or just great music photography, this is a must-get. Five stars.
Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll: While I wouldn’t say Sam Phillips of Sun Records invented rock and roll, he certainly did a lot in taking rhythm and blues out of the “race records” market”–intended for only black audiences—popularizing both white and black artists for postwar youth in mainstream America. This 2 cd collection is a superb portrait of an important label. There is a companion book as well by author Peter Guralnick.
The Staples Singers: Faith and Grace: A Family Journey 1953-1976. 4 cd’s and one 7″ single contains 23 years of this famous family group’s best Stax/Volt classics.
Sly and the Family Stone: “Live at the Fillmore East October 4th & 5th, 1968: Miles Davis once complained to Bill Graham that he wasn’t getting paid nearly as much as Sly Stone, probably referring to concerts like these.
Frank Sinatra: A Voice on Air 1935-1955 4 cd’s contains early recordings, airchecks, from the Dorsey days to Capitol sides and a accompanying book; it’s the music that made girls swoon and Sinatra a major star.
Weather Report: The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-81 4 cd’s. This 4 cd set features many of the European, Japanese, and U.S. recordings of the adventurous band in its heyday, with the late Jaco Pastorius on fretless bass and Peter Erskine on drums.
Bruce Springsteen: The Ties that Bind: The River Collection. for fans of The Boss, this collection will be a treasure: 4 cds, three DVDs, and a 100 page book.
The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes: 4 cd’s. 42 tracks taken from shows at a small San Francisco club called The Matrix in November, 1969. Originally on lp in the 1970s, now on cd for the first time.
The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours: the most compendious classical collection I’ve ever seen. Not dumbed down, or classical music for dummies, this 24-disc set covers not only war horses like Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusic and Beethovens 5th Symphony, but also works by Bartok, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and others. It also handles minimalist works by Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It is the most comprehensive box set I have ever seen, and all cuts are culled from the great Deutche Grammophon vaults. For value in a classical music purchase, I can’t imagine a better value.
Sviatoslav Richter: The Complete Album Collection: Live and Studio Recordings for RCA and Columbia 18 cd box set includes the great Russian pianist’s amazing Budapest concert from 1958, his 1961 Carnegie Hall debut, and many other memorable concert and studio recordings.
Charlie Parker: The Complete Savoy and Dial Recordings 1944-1948: This huge and heavy box set chronicles Bird’s earliest recordings, which some say are his best. A cd box appeared in 2009, but this is the complete set on vinyl. It was done with a loving care for detail. For the jazz enthusiast who thought he/she had everything, this is the ticket. Rare groove indeed.
David Bowie: Five Years 1969-1973. This 12 cd set covers the early Parlophone records by the glam rock icon.
Bob Dylan: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series vol 12: 18 cd collector’s edition or 6 cd Deluxe Edition.
Hulaland: The Golden Age of Hawaiian Music: this 4 cd set chronicles early classics by Sol Ho’opi’i as well as caricatures by Betty Boop and others. The set also features illustrations, sheet music and memorabilia.
Johnny Mathis: The Singles; 4 cd’s. From his first session with arranger Gil Evans after dropping out of the 1956 Olympic Games track events, Mathis went on to become a pop icon beloved by millions.
Leadbelly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection: 5 cd’s & coffee-table book: This is no doubt the most comprehensive collection of Huddie William Ledbetter, the Louisiana folk icon and bluesman. It includes a rare radio broadcast from 1941, and the book is a treasure-trove of rare photographs.
Jazz Icons DVD Box Set (Mosaic Records)
Finally, for the dedicated jazz fan, there is this Jazz Icons 6 dvd box, featuring great filmed performances by John Coltrane, Monk, Freddie Hubbart, Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The Blakey set was filmed in France in 1959, Coltrane footage includes French footage of A Love Supreme, Monk does a private recital, and Hubbard and Roland Kirk are featured in French concerts. The great thing about the Jazz Icons series is that most of these concerts took place in concert halls, not smoky clubs, with professional camera set-up and recording facilities. Available from Mosaic Records, Michael Cuscuna’s great reissue label for Blue Note and other labels. Mosaic also sells hand-rendered b&w prints of iconic Francis Wolff Blue Note photos.