Ten Best Holiday Gifts for the Music-Lover Who Has Everything

Rolling Stones' From the Vault: Live in Leeds 1982EXPAND
Rolling Stones' From the Vault: Live in Leeds 1982

Let’s face it: It’s not always easy finding holiday gifts for those on your list with specialized tastes. But when their obsession is music, the choices are often wide open. We’re not talking about some long-sought-after rarity, either. The variety of holiday gift-giving can encompass books, Blu-Rays, DVDs, box sets, and even tickets to some once-in-a-lifetime event.

Here, then, as a service to our readers, we present a ho-ho-ho whole lot of holiday ideas for your beloved music-lover who has everything:

Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead
$19.98 to $189.98 via dead.net

Pity the poor Dead Head who couldn’t make it to Chicago for the band’s final hurrah. Here’s the next best thing — sans tie-dye, hordes consisting of the fellow faithful or the familiar whiff of herbal substances (that they’ll have to supply on their own). This three-CD/two-Blu-Ray combo captures every note from that final day of excess and extravaganza, a treasure trove of music and memories. Of course, if they’re true devotees, you may have to spring for the book version and the the live retrospective box set, entitled 30 Trips Around the Sun, but chances are they have them anyway. These Dead Heads weren’t born yesterday.

Led Zeppelin: Presence, In Through the Out Door, and Coda Re-Releases
Prices vary, via ledzeppelin.com

You can never go wrong with getting more Led out, and even those who already have a complete collection are likely to savor these re-releases. The final entries in Rhino’s highly sought-after Led Zeppelin reissue program, Presence, In Through the Out Door, and Coda, represent Zeppelin at their peak, during their decline, and somewhere in between, respectively. Presence was generally shunned at the time, a somewhat lackluster contrast to the monumental albums that preceded it. In Through the Out Door, on the other hand, represented the band’s final triumph. Not only was it the last studio album recorded by the original foursome — drummer John Bonham died soon after it was completed — but also one of their richest. The aptly titled Coda, a sundry collection of outtakes and previously unreleased recordings, was easily dismissed and indeed, quickly found its way to the bargain bins, although in hindsight it does offer some interesting curios.

A Life... Well, Lived, by Ray Wylie Hubbard with Thom Jurek
$20 via store.raywylie.com

When people talk about Outlaw Country, it’s generally Willie, Waylon, Johnny, and Merle who immediately come to mind. However, even they would likely agree that the rowdiest and wildest outlaw country singer is Ray Wylie Hubbard. This amazing memoir retraces Hubbard’s tattered tales about life on the road, with all the sordid encounters that inevitably come with it. A fascinating look at the life of a legend, it offers an ideal lesson in how to bridge excess and success in 26 fascinating chapters.

Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air (1935-1955)
$49.69 via amazon.com

Here’s a double dose of Sinatra with which to celebrate the Chairman of the Board’s big one-zero-zero. A Voice on Air boasts over 100 unique performances — the majority of them unreleased — as well as a lavish 60-page book, factors that allow this box set to exceed expectations. Sinatra’s charm is immediately apparent, his casual airs creating an obvious audience attraction while listening to the sounds coming over the airwaves. It’s also amusing hearing Sinatra hawking the pleasures of cigarette smoking, a practice that has long since been declared strictly off limits, especially over the air. Nevertheless, its still the music that matters, and a number of hits are here — familiar standards like “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover,“ “Birth of the Blues,” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” as well as those songs that were destined to hit the top of the charts — “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Nature Boy,” “As Time Goes By,” and “That Old Black Magic,” among the many. Some were known for Sinatra’s trademark croon, while others are rarities that Sinatra never had occasion to perform anywhere else. Ultimately, A Voice on Air speaks volumes, not only as a must for all the Frank fans, but also for anyone who appreciates the evolution of popular music over the last hundred years. Also of note: Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All, an extraordinary documentary that spotlights the man’s life and legend.

1974: The Promotion Man  New York City: The Morrell Archives Volume 2by Dave Morrell
$12.99 via amazon.com

Curious about what really went on behind the scenes in the music biz back in its '70s heyday? In this second volume culled from his memoirs, author Dave Morrell visits the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll as he recalls his life and times as a record company promotion man for Warner Bros. in the decadent era of the ‘70s. Morrell shares all as he recounts working with such stars as Jethro Tull, America, Deep Purple, and times spent with John Lennon and Ron Wood. For those craving the meaning of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, look no further. It’s all here, and vividly described. An easy read, but a fascinating one nonetheless.

Jaco Pastorius: Jaco, Original Soundtrack
$10.79 via amazon.com

The short life of bassist and son of South Florida, Jaco Pastorius, remains one of music’s tragic tales, even more so because the recordings he left behind reflect a young man at the peak of his prowess. A brilliant musician, both on his own and in the service of others — Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Joni Mitchell, among them — Pastorius had an indelible influence on generations of bassists that followed, even though the war he raged with his inner demons brought on his all too early demise. Jaco, a new documentary about his abbreviated but iconic career, briefly highlights some of his many musical milestones, and as a result, this original soundtrack provides a sampler of sorts that also serves as an adequate introduction. It includes both solo selections and examples of the collaborations he undertook with the aforementioned artists. In addition, it boasts a few key covers of Jaco’s work as performed by others — his daughter Mary, Rodrigo Y Gabriela and TechNine among them. Anyone curious about the prime role he played in the fusion of rock and jazz needn’t look any further.

Rolling Stones: From The Vault
$28.99 via amazon.com

What better way to get your Ya Yas out? Revive more memories with the Stones' From the Vault series, three-disc CD/DVD/Blu-Ray packages that spotlight the band in historic live performances at various venues during their different eras. Each offers a rare opportunity to see Keef before he looked like a member of the cast of The Living Dead, when he and the Stones were at their height, which many will argue they still are today. Still, best to catch them now through these archival entries rather than anticipating the band’s 60th anniversary go-round. Mick doing it at 80? We don’t think so.

The Outlaw Country Cruise
With Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, the Mavericks and Band of Heathens. February 7 to 11, sailing from Miami to Grand Cayman. Ship is full, joining the waiting list costs $199 deposit via outlawcountrycruise.com.

The Outlaw Country Cruise, sailing from the port of Miami on the Norwegian Pearl from February 7 to 11, offers another choice outing for those with specialized musical tastes. The latest offerings from Sixthman, the Atlanta-based cruise promoter which for years has successfully offered excursions headlined by Kiss, Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Train, and dozens of other A-list headliners, The Outlaw cruise is a spin-off of sorts from Sixthman’s ever-popular Cayamo Cruise, designed to appeal to the same Americana crowd as that flagship, including many of the artists who have appeared on Cayamo cruises in the past: Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, the Mavericks and Band of Heathens — as well as better-known renegade rockers like Bobby Bare Junior and Senior; Willie Nelson’s son Luka Nelson and his band POTR; Shooter Jennings, son of the late Waylon Jennings; Mojo Nixon; Dale Watson; and Blackberry Smoke, among the dozen-and-a-half artists already announced.

Bob Dylan: 1965-1966 The Cutting Edge
$17.19 to $109.99 via amazon.com

Considered by most Dylantologists to be the definitive period in the Dylan’s nascent development, the mid-‘60s found him rapidly evolving  from a starry-eyed folk troubadour and populist hero to an influential and revolutionary rocker. The three albums produced during that narrow span of time — Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde — become one of the most significant trilogies in modern musical history, forming the backbone of a career that would change the sound and tone of rock forever, and with it, our very cultural fiber. This latest installment of Legacy’s Bootleg Series shines a light on the creative process that brought these remarkable efforts to fruition. Available as a two-disc, six-disc, or multiple-disc set, the latter of which purportedly includes every note recorded in those spirited sessions, 1965-1966 The Cutting Edge offers a fascinating insight into Dylan’s creative process. Consider this the best of Bobster ever!

Rare Soul Groove & Grind 1963-1973
$40.39 via amazon.com

As most historians will generally attest, the decade that linked the early ‘60s to the early ‘70s was the most crucial time in soul music’s evolution, a period defined not only by such legendary labels as Stax, Motown, and Philly International, but also by the hundreds of small regional indie companies that seemed to spring up whenever the opportunity to land a local hit was a real possibility. Most of the artists involved were one-hit wonders destined for obscurity, but included in the hundred or so represented here there are some who eventually went on to greater glories: James Brown, Carla Thomas, Bettye Wright, Candi Staton and King Floyd among them. Still, it’s unlikely that “Little Genie Brooks” by the James Brown Bougeloo will ever find its way onto a run-of-the-mill James Brown compilation, or that the Four Pennies will ever be part of a discussion concerning signature soul. Nevertheless, even with their primitive production and obvious budgetary restrictions, most of these recordings remain absolute gems, reminders of an era before disco, rap, hip-hop, and over-embellishment diluted the form and eventually altered it completely. While the sheer volume and general lack of marquee names might dissuade the uninitiated, Groove & Grind does its best to overcome the unfamiliarity factor and make newcomers feel welcome.

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