Cardboard tombstones

In the wake of the Ellington 100, lesser zombie boxed sets walk among us

Dark Side of the Moon: The Keith Moon Sessions. Keith Moon released only one official album before his tragic drugs-and-booze death in 1978: Two Sides of the Moon. But there have long existed thousands of hours of tapes Moon and his all-star band--featuring, inexplicably, only drummers Ringo Starr, Jack Bruce, John Bonham, and Cozy Powell--performing original Moon compositions, in addition to myriad Who covers. To commemorate what would have been Moon's 52nd birthday in August, MCA Records is releasing this 21-disc boxed set of outtakes and rarities, including a bongos-and-tambourines symphony that takes up three entire CDs.

"We're honored to finally give Keith his due as a composer and arranger," says MCA Records president and urologist Leon Jarvis. "And it's nice to be able to get this stuff out of the closet and make room for the winter coats." Jarvis adds that at least 10 of the discs feature only Moon drum solos and excessive hotel-room wrecking and vomiting. Accompanying the discs will be a tiny drum kit, which can be destroyed using the miniature Pete Townshend doll included inside, along with liner notes written by Rolling Stone's David Fricke.

Black Box: The Buddy Holly/Big Bopper/Ritchie Valens Story. February 3, 1959--otherwise known as "The Day the Music Died." On that day, rock and roll's Holy Trinity went down in a horrible plane crash in Louisiana...and went up to a special spot in God's kick-ass band. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of that day, Mercury Records is releasing a 103-disc boxed set featuring music from all three immortals, including 92 alternate takes of "La Bamba." But what makes this disc especially notable is, according to Larry Austen, head of the label's artists and pants division, the inclusion of four discs' worth of never-before-heard conversations between the three men recorded secretly during the hours before the plane took off from a Louisiana airport.

"It's sad, ironic, and even kind of funny," Austen says. "But they're all sitting backstage after the show, and you can hear Buddy tell Waylon Jennings and Ritchie, 'I ain't never gettin' on no airplane ever again, and y'all can't make me'--he's real twangy, and his voice kinda cracks. Then you can hear Waylon tell Buddy that he's being a pussy, almost daring him to get on, you know? I mean, given what happened, this stuff is important, isn't it?" Mercury is trying to release the boxed set, which contains liner notes by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, in a black box, like one found after a plane crash. But the label's currently in litigation with Epic Records, which wants to use the same concept for its Stevie Ray Vaughan box, which is due out next year to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Oak Cliff guitarist's helicopter-crash death.

From the Shadows, Dancing: Andy Gibb at 40. Last year marked the 40th birthday of the youngest brother Gibb, but PolyGram's scheduled release of this 39-disc boxed set was delayed because of the label's purchase by Seagrams. Now that PolyGram is part of the Universal Music Group, chairman Edgar Bronfman has made it is his life's mission to get this set in stores before the year's end. "We feel Andy's contribution to the pop world was drastically overshadowed by his brothers' success," Bronfman said during a press conference last month, where he also introduced Seagrams' new soft drink, Sodah and Gomorrah ("Salt never tasted this sweet!"). "This boxed set will be the crowning achievement of the big, happy family that has become UMG. If need be, we'll drop every band on this label in order to get this box out for Christmas."

From the Shadows, Dancing, with liner notes by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, will contain hours of material Andy recorded during his final, cocaine-blinded days spent in isolation in Oxford, England--including mumbled, expletive-filled covers of every single song the Bee Gees recorded during their illustrious career. "Andy was jealous, yes, and often hateful, but the songs are also done with tremendous affection," says Muriel Falitus, head of PolyGram's cocktail and napkins department. "Never before has the word 'cocksucker' sounded so loving, so tender."

Eternal Flame: The Liberace 80. Wladziu Valentino Liberace was born in 1919 in Milwaukee, Wisconson--and he lives forever in this 53-disc box assembled by his old label, Columbia Records. Known as the king of easy listening throughout his career, Liberace was also something of an experimental artist, as this collection proves. Aside from his landmark recordings of "Moon River" and "All the Things You Are," this box, with liner notes by Rolling Stone's David Fricke, contains his three-hour-15-minute dissonant, avant-garde rendition of "Mairzy Doats," which he made in 1954 and which is said to have been an inspiration to the likes of John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Britney Spears. "When we cleaned out the closet, we found an artist dying to get out," says Columbia's vice-president of sorrow and labor, Bill Rellish. List price will be $12.44.

Mr. Bubble: The Bathtub Tapes of Jim Morrison. Bob Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes have long been the stuff of rock legend. Now, Elektra Records is releasing the Doors' singer-songwriter's long-rumored-about "Bathtub Tapes," made shortly before the Lizard King expired during a warm soak in Paris in 1971. This July 3, Elektra will finally make available 10 hours of Morrison in the tub, playing with a rubber ducky and singing tunes from such Broadway hits as The Pajama Game and Carousel, preparing for his never-recorded The Broadway Album. Elektra VP of publicity and mirth, Joel Amsterdam, says the tapes are real. Oliver Stone and Rolling Stone's David Fricke insist they are fake.

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