Looking to get that special musicologist in your life something special? If so, you might want to think about a box set. But be wary: There's a lot of chaff to sift through when dealing with the glut of holiday season reissues. Thankfully, amidst it all, the following multiple-disc sets are a pretty safe bet for just about any discriminating music lover...
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Big Star -- Keep an Eye on the Sky
This is the holy grail of this season's box sets: 98 songs packed onto four CDs, this collection rounds up everything you need to hear by Alex Chilton's legendary power pop band. Rhino does an excellent job mixing in live and unreleased material with everything from the band's sadly short, three-album career. Priced a bit high at $60, this set is none-the-less the coolest thing in which to stuff a (large) stocking. Plus, there's a local angle to further hook you in.
Dolly Parton - Dolly
Four CDs moderately priced, this collection from the queen of country music is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Compiled wisely, the selection runs chronologically and includes a large number of songs from Parton's early days when she stuck to mostly traditional folk and country tunes. In this context, even later, poppy schlock like "9 to 5" comes across as a nice diversion. Even at 99 songs, this is a perfect introduction to Parton's true greatness.
Hall & Oates -- Do What You Want, Be What You Are: The Music of Daryl Hall & John Oates
Ok, so 74 songs may be a bit more Hall and Oates than anyone really needs. But the care and craft that went into this collection of pop, rock and soul can't be denied. And the early material presented on the first couple of discs will be a revelation for those who only know hits such as "Private Eyes" and "Maneater." Check out "It's a Laugh" from the great lost '70s album Along the Red Ledge for power soul with a definite new wave kick.
Robert Wyatt - Box Set
For those who are truly adventurous (and who also have a bigger wallet), there's this nine-disc set containing every solo effort from Robert Wyatt, England's legendary and hugely influential experimental musician. Best known for his work with Soft Machine and Matching Mole, Wyatt is capable of creating music of extreme beauty and unbounded complexity. Fans of progressive rock and jazz could do no better than this heady and hefty collection