Still looking for that perfect gift for the music lover in your family? Well, the holiday season is traditionally a time when compilations, box sets and reissues flood the marketplace--and this year is no exception. What is exceptional, however, is the surprising high quality of this year's re-issue crop. Here are a few to keep an eye on:
This double disc reissue of REM's debut is packed full of goodies. Besides the sonic upgrade (Michael Stipe mumbles are still almost indecipherable, but the Peter Buck's guitar is much cleaner in the mix), there is an entire live performance taped in 1983, just three months after Murmur came out. Influential in the extreme, the debut is still REM's high water mark; a record that really jump-started the entire indie music scene.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Almost everything in the band's catalog.
In September, Fantasy Records reissued six of Creedence Clearwater Revival's original albums (the only record that didn't get redone was the sub par Mardi Gras which was made after Tom Fogerty left the band). These six albums (including the seminal Green River, Bayou Country and Willie and the Poor Boys) are some of the best American rock 'n' roll ever produced. With improved sound and a plethora of bonus material, there really isn't any reason I can think of why these are not stuffed into someone's stocking post haste.
The former leader of the classic band Television doesn't get much press these days, but he's still a guitarist of incredible power and originality. Verlaine's solo career has been a roller coaster affair, but Dreamtime, his sophomore effort, was filled with just the kinds of edgy lead work that always defined the best of Television. Out of print for several years, Dreamtime gets a welcome return with top notch sound, but, sadly, no bonus cuts.
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The Soul of Rock and Roll
I reviewed this in the print edition of the Observer a few months back, but don't let that stop you from picking up the best box set of the year. Featuring 107 songs spread over four discs, the set more than lives up to its title. Even in these tough economic times, The Soul of Rock and Roll is a necessary purchase for even the most Scrooge-like among us. --Darryl Smyers