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2015 holiday gift guide

November 29, 2015

It’s that time of year again… in-laws, grandparents, aunts and uncles begin to ask you for your Christmas Wishlist. I guess they don’t necessarily call it a “Wishlist” anymore when you’re 31, but I still do. And luckily, this year there is an abundance of new and wonderful box sets, films, and books about music to more than fill my wishlist, which I now present to you with the far more professional title of “Holiday Gift Guide.” Hit it, elves:


Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes
I’ve been excited about this one for awhile now, as a legit Petty book has been noticeably absent from the rock-biography scene. Peter Bogdanovich’s excellent 2009 documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream is as close as we’ve really gotten to an in-depth look at the icon. Zanes’ biography has received rave reviews, and made headlines a few weeks back with its reveal of Petty’s heroin use. If Santa doesn’t get me this one, I’ll be buying it on December 26th.


1+ The Beatles
Rolling Stone called this CD/DVD or Blu-Ray set a “treasure of Beatles footage from every phase of their career.” Anyone who wouldn’t be happy to receive this as a gift is a legitimate Grinch.



Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock’n’Roll by Peter Guralnick

I’m honestly embarrassed to admit that I’ve owned this book for weeks and still haven’t started reading yet. In my defense, it certainly isn’t for lack of interest – I’m just currently in the death grip of a fiction series that has, for all intents and purposes, taken over my life. That being said, I can’t wait to dive into this book. Peter Guralnick is a national treasure, his two-part biography of Elvis Presley is a masterpiece and I have no doubt he will bring that same marriage of deeply meticulous research and immensely readable narrative style to the subject of Sam Phillips.


The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 Bob Dylan

By all accounts, Volume 12 of Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series can’t be missed, and for good reason. The incredibly fertile period from 1965-66 that it covers yielded the albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde and Blonde. Not a bad 24-month stretch… There are several options for owning this collection of outtakes, alternate versions, and rehearsal tape. The cheapest is the “Best of” 2-CD album. The link to the left here will take you to the 6-CD Deluxe edition which runs you just over $100. And if you’re feeling flush, or swim regularly in a pool of gold coins a la Scrooge McDuck, you can visit Dylan’s website and purchase one of the 5,000 available Collector’s Editions which includes “Every note recorded by Bob Dylan in the studio in 1965/1966” and a bunch of other bonuses for a cool $600. On a related note, please adopt me.


 From the Vault: Live in Leeds 1982 The Rolling Stones

I could watch live Rolling Stones shows forever. Without question, they are one of the best live acts of the rock & roll era and I take great joy in watching the genesis of their concerts over the span of their 50+ years. And while they more than delivered when I  was finally able to see them live in Chicago a couple years ago, I was two years shy of being born in 1982 and now relish the opportunity to experience this show. The footage comes from the last stop on their European Tour in support of the Tattoo You album and was the final time Ian Stewart would perform live with the band. This set includes both the DVD/Blu-Ray and a 2-disc CD of the show.


Complete Them 1964-1967 Them

The first time I heard Them’s “Could You, Would You” was on some independent radio show and it set me to Googling before the song was even over. (Sidenote: “Them” is perhaps the most maddening band name to search…) I fell in love immediately with the raw, garage-rock sound of Van Morrison’s early band. This 3-disc box set, which will be released on December 4, includes their albums The Angry Young Them and Them Again as well as a third disc of rarities and unreleased tracks.


The Ties That Bind: The River Collection Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen is a notoriously prolific writer. His 1980 double album, The River, took two years to create and spawned stacks of songs in addition to the 20 that made the final cut. As Bruce says in the “The Ties That Bind” documentary, looking back now several of the songs that were scrapped could have easily made the final album, and vice versa. This collection gives us the chance to decide for ourselves with 4 CDs and 2 DVDs worth of material, including unreleased tracks, live performances, rehearsal footage, and a sit-down discussion of the album’s creation with The Boss himself. A fascinating collection, if only for the glimpse it gives us into Springsteen’s dogged pursuit of perfection.


So Many Roads: The Life and Times of the Grateful Dead by David Browne

I’ve heard nothing but great things about this latest telling of the Grateful Dead story, released in this, their 50th anniversary year. The book is being praised for its inventive format and for the new interviews Browne conducted with the band’s surviving members – a fresh take on the original long, strange trip.


These are just my top picks, but there’s lots more out there right now. What’s on your wishlist this holiday season?

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