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Black Friday Gift Gobbler: Box Sets, Recent Releases, and Books

Thanksgiving is a time for family, reflection, a hearty meal... and gobblers. No, we're not talking turkey. We're referring to the temptations that gobble up our money on Black Friday. This year, as always, there are plenty of audible inducements to separate us from our hard-earned cash. As a public service -- we are so civically minded, after all -- we here at New Times offer our suggestions for holiday gift giving of the musical variety. First and foremost, check out the offerings at Radio-Active Records' and Sweat Records' glut of Black Friday specials.

Plus, retro is huge this year, so there's ample opportunity for those who

missed out on certain artists the first time around to catch up via a

box set or retrospective sampling. Below, we have compiled several titles worth tracking down.

1. Bruce Springsteen's The Promise, The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story. Packaged as a six-disc box, which includes the remastered original Darkness on the Edge of Town album, two CDs entitled The Promise consisting of 21 outtakes from those sessions, a DVD about the recording of the album, another DVD featuring the band replaying the song set in its entirety as well as various vintage live tracks, and an entire DVD devoted to a heretofore unreleased three-hour 1978 concert in Houston. Considering the fact it can be found for under $100 -- the two-disc Promise set can be purchased by itself for around $15 -- it's actually not a bad deal, especially for Bruce boosters who would likely pay a lot more. See Bruce break it down:

2. Jimi Hendrix's West Coast Seattle Boy. This is a four-disc anthology that spans the guitar guru's entire career. While there's been no shortage of repackaging, greatest hits, and various other compilations in the 40 years since Jimi's untimely demise, West Coast Seattle Boy should be considered essential in that it includes mostly unreleased material, from early sessions recorded with mentors like Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, and King Curtis to alternative versions of classic tracks, unheard original recordings, and stunning live takes that have been hidden away in the vaults.

3. The Beatles. Aside from that whole iTunes deal, the recent rerelease of all the albums on the Fab Four's own Apple Records label is a cause for celebration for not only fans of the band but also for anyone interested in revisiting the '60s sounds of that era. The company birthed several stars -- James Taylor, Billy Preston, and Badfinger among them. The inclusion of outtakes, B-sides, and other unreleased add-ons -- both physically and digitally -- makes this collection a must. Likewise, a revamped version of Paul McCartney's early masterpiece Band on the Run, complete with new audio and video accouterments, is also well worth investigating.

4. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' classic Damn the Torpedoes deluxe edition. Now augmented with live tracks, demos, and the prerequisite B-sides. In addition, the latest video in the excellent Classic Albums series details the making of Damn the Torpedoes with interviews and detailed analysis of each song in the set.

5. The Who's Live at Leeds. This also undergoes another new makeover, one that takes the previously expanded versions from 1995 and 2001 and adds a second concert recorded the next night in Hull. Although the set list is identical, the group reportedly thought the Hull set was superior. It was feared the tapes were lost, but they've been found and are now fully restored as part of a package that includes four CDs, a vinyl pressing of the original albums, and all the collectable paraphernalia that accompanied it.

6. Jefferson Airplane's Live at the Fillmore 11/25/66 & 11/27/66, Live at the Fillmore 10/16/66, Live at the Fillmore 10/15/66 and Return to the Matrix 2/1/68. These delve into the San Francisco band's early era with original vocalist Signe Anderson and the subsequent segue into prominence that coincided with the arrival of her successor, Grace Slick.

7. Doors Live in Vancouver 1970. A two-disc collection that captures the band in its later stages. Although it's easy to scoff at yet another posthumous concert set from a band that's already had ample live albums crowding store shelves, any opportunity to witness a rant from Lizard King Jim Morrison still provides an enlightening experience.

8. Ray Charles' Rare Genius: The Undiscovered Masters. It proves true to its title.

9. The Soft Boys' Underwater Moonlight and A Can of Bees. Yep, Roc Records continues its ongoing revamp of Robyn Hitchcock's early catalog with expanded versions of two classic albums from his seminal band.

Those more attuned to modern music and less to the oldie goldies are also targeted by the money gobblers this holiday season. A spate of recent releases promises to elevate the profiles of several acts now poised on the verge of superstardom. They include new efforts from Kings of Leon's Come Around Sundown, KT Tunstall's Tiger Suit, the Gaslight Anthem's American Slang, the National's High Violet, and Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. Likewise, several veteran acts are touting new albums that find them effectively tweaking with their MO's. The Black Crowes' Crowology revisits the band's classic catalog in an acoustic setting. Elvis Costello's National Ransom and Robert Plant's Band of Joy find the two Brits tapping the talents of two noted Americana producers, T-Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller, respectively. Indeed, that big pond between the U.S. and the U.K. seems to be undergoing stylistic shrinkage.

Finally, those of you having trouble elevating yourself off the sofa after that gargantuan Thanksgiving meal might consider saving your energy and leaving your iPod on the shelf. There are several new books you can cuddle with on the coach. Keith Richards' Life has been widely hyped (after all, who knew the guy had enough brain cells left to make him literate, much less functional), but there are also other works worth reading, including The Ultimate Illustrated History: AC/DC High Voltage Rock 'N' Roll, an all-encompassing history of those venerable hard rockers from Down Under (featuring a cover pinwheel that spins a miniature guitar-welding Angus Young); December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died, which boasts an hour-by-hour recap of the tragedy that took place 30 years ago; and Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk, an insightful exploration of the genre that gave birth to such nu-folk phenomena as Devendra Banhart, Wooden Wand, and Joanna Newsom.

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Lee Zimmerman

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