Some Nice Box Sets & Books for Stocking Stuffers

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Here are some recommendations on music stocking stuffers for somebody special.  In an age of mp3’s and dismembered albums, a box set is a really nice gift (liner notes, information, graphics, illustrations, music history).

1.  Peter Gabriel:  So 25th Anniversary Immersion Box

Gabriel fans have something big to look forward to.  So (25th Anniversary Immersion Box) has just been released by Gabriel’s label Real World.    It’s called Immersion because it contains 8 discs, 2 dvds, two vinyl  records (180 gram 45 rpm half-speed audiophile versions), and a 60 page book.  Included are two cd’s of a 1987 concert Live in Athens, a DNA cd which gives information and insight into the making of So, a Live in Athens 1987 dvd.  There are also a number of unreleased tracks such as “Courage” and “Sagrada”.

2.  Tito Puente:  Quatro:  The Definitive Collection

Sony has just released, on cd and vinyl, the definitive reissue of Tito Puente’s great RCA Living Stereo recordings.    It’s called Tito Puente / Quatro, and there is a 5th bonus album in there too.  Both cd and vinyl come in attractively-packaged box sets.  Quatro: The Definitive Collection.  The new deluxe set features his greatest  quartet of RCA sides:  Dance Mania, Night Beat, Cuban Carnival, Revolving Bandstand, and a fifth, bonus cd of unissued rarities.  These RCA latin classics were recorded during the heyday of mambo and the mecca of mambo, New York City’s Palladium at 53rd & Broadway.  The four records were recorded from 1955-1960.

3.  The Decca Sound (50 cd Box set with Original lp covers)

The Decca Sound, an elaborate and superbly produced volume 50 cd’s with all the great works captured on tape by this great British label.  Decca was always known not only for its superb classical performances but also for its audiophile sound.  A great gift for anybody who likes classical music, or a neophyte who wants to learn more.

4.   Book Recommendation:    Jazz Covers:  From the 1940s to the 1990s  (Taschen)
Quite simply the biggest and best book devoted to jazz album cover art.   Two massive, heavy tomes, with commentaries by some of the great designers.  This–sadly– is a lost art in today’s computer age.Most, if not all,  of this album cover art was done pre-computer, and by hand by talented illustrators and graphic artists.    The covers have a visual impact that has been lost, first with the cd, then with MP3′s &  ipods..  The demise would be complete were it not for record stores like Amoeba, where fans love poring through vinyl, not only for the sound but also the palpability of the vinyl medium, and of course the cover art.  How ironic that the great innovator Steve Jobs, who changed the way we consume and enjoy music, only listened to vinyl at home.The cover art in these two very  hefty volumes—-they’ll almost break your arm off with their weight–is as timeless, stylish, and hip as the music it celebrates.  What makes it even better is that it has album picks by contemporary musicians and producers like King Britt, Gilles Peterson, and Rainer Truby, as well as interviews with jazz historians like Michael Cuscuna, legendary engineer Rudy Van Gelder, Creed Taylor, and journalist Ashley Kahn.