IE’s 2006 Gift Guide
If you have a country music fan on your gift list, there’s no shortage of options this holiday season. The most intriguing is Nashville Rebel (RCA/Legacy), the first ever career-spanning Waylon Jennings anthology. Created with the complete involvement of his wife Jessi Colter and his son Shooter Jennings, the four-disc set includes Jennings’ earliest late-’50s demos to his Outlaw mid-’70s heyday all the way to his final ’90s recordings as part of The Highwaymen.
A 140-page booklet with essays, unseen images, and memorabilia is a treat, but the real prize is the never-before-released duet with Johnny Cash, “The Greatest Cowboy Of Them All” . . . Speaking of The Man In Black, one of his best records ever, At San Quentin, is now even better. Columbia and Legacy took the original 10-song, single-disc record and jacked it up to 31 tunes (13 of them previously unreleased) on two CDs. Johnny Cash In San Quentin, a DVD documentary made for British Television, is also included . . . If it’s genre overview and not singular artist focus you crave, consider Shout! Factory’s Legends Of Country: Classic Hits Of The ’50s, ’60s, And ’70s. This whopper of a three-disc set features 57 tracks (49 of those country Number Ones!) from a who’s who of the genre, including Cash, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Kenny Rogers, and plenty more.
Another legend has also finally received the career-spanning treatment. Hooker contains nearly half a century of music by boogie and bluesmaster John Lee Hooker. The four discs of this Shout! Factory-compiled set dig up the Mississippi bluesman’s material from just about everywhere, which is quite impressive considering Hooker recorded for more than 30 labels! The accompanying booklet includes notes from many of Hooker’s most famous collaborators, including Carlos Santana, Van Morrison, and Bonnie Raitt.
Rhino, on behalf of Reprise and Sire, are throwing out so much Depeche Mode product these days you’d think they’re divorcing the band. The latest double-disc batch includes A Broken Frame, Some Great Reward, and Songs Of Faith & Devotion. Each set includes the original, remastered album and a maddening DVD of bonus cuts, short films, and 5.1 mixes, where the bonus cuts aren’t 5.1 nor can they be burned for use in an MP3 player. Might as well put them on 8-track. Earlier this year came Speak & Spell, Music For The Masses, and Violator reissues, while Reprise has also just made The Best Of Depeche Mode Volume 1 CD/DVD available as well.
Along with The Glove‘s Blue Sunshine, a collaboration between Robert Smith and Steve Severin, Rhino Records continued its Cure reissue campaign with double-disc editions of The Top, The Head On The Door, and Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Fully remastered and accompanied by liner notes from U.K. rock scribe Johnny Black, a total of 53 bonus cuts fill out the three albums, headlined by Kiss Me (which includes “Just Like Heaven” and “Why Can’t I Be You?”), though consensus is Head stands shoulders above.
The transformation from cult British critics’ darling to surprise U.S. jam-band circuit faves can be traced on Five Men In A Hut (A’s, B’s & Rarities: 1998-2004), a two-disc Gomez retrospective on Virgin/EMI. Not necessarily a best-of, the 36-track compilation boasts the band’s 18 singles as well as 16 b-sides and a pair of unreleased tracks. The most striking feature is photos of the band, whom we don’t know if we’ve ever seen before.
It’s one thing when Robert Plant, Pete Townshend, or Frank Sinatra sees his back catalog reissued in clumps of eight or nine discs. But the double-take of the season goes to Ape House, which is distributed by Ryko. The Fuzzy Warbles Collection is a nine-CD set — or eight individuals — featuring the non-official XTC music of Andy Partridge. The 161 tracks run in, out, and around the history of XTC with the craftiness you’d expect from the bastard son of the Partridge family.
Sleater-Kinney fans have Excuse 17, an S-K precursor, in their sights now that there will be no new albums. But what about long-suffering Human League supporters? Look no further than three Heaven 17 reissues from Caroline Records. Penthouse & Pavement, How Men Are, and The Luxury Gap have been fully remastered and expanded, giving the activist Brit avant-soul outfit a voice after nearly 20 years in the dumper. The discs represent three of H17’s first four albums as a League offshoot.
Iconic Chicago doom metal outfit Trouble have been promising a new record for some time now (nothing since 1995), and we’re still waiting, though February ’07 is the new target. Reissues of the band’s first two records, 1984’s Psalm 9 and ’85’s The Skull, should tide eager metalheads over for now. Both albums got a digital makeover and fresh packaging includes rare photos, new liner notes, and a bonus DVD of exclusive live performances.
1968’s Truth and ’69’s Beck-Ola, the first two post-Yardbirds records from Jeff Beck, have been re-released many times over, but Legacy/Epic’s most recent roll out is the first time the man himself has been involved. These two albums are widely considered Beck’s classics largely because of the guys he played with (Ron Wood, Rod Steward, Nicky Hopkins) and because Beck was at his mind-blowing best on the six-string. Each disc gets bonus tracks tacked on, and new liner notes include behind-the-scenes commentary from Beck.
Astralwerks came forth with two reissues for weekend Captain Beefheart fans who thought Trout Mask Replica and Safe As Milk were all anyone need know. Loaded with compositions so far ahead they technically can’t have been recorded yet, Ice Cream For Crow and Doc At The Radar Station make Tom Waits, Robert Pollard, and Animal Collective look like complete hacks on a junk-tonk party train to the center of the Earth. They represent the last two studio albums Don Van Vliet would record, ranking among the visionary’s best.
ABBA refuse to reunite, so Universal goes around the band with the special edition CD/DVD of Mamma Mia!. The Broadway musical is in its fifth year, so this package adds to its original cast recording videos compiling international productions from places as disparate as Seoul and Utrecht. While ABBA have been offered in excess of $1 billion to reform, the 11 worldwide productions of Mamma Mia! have grossed nearly $1.6 billion, so who needs ’em?!
And the official timekeeper won’t call it a full calendar year unless there’s another compilation honoring The Clash, so Sony/Legacy unleashes a revived treatment of The Singles. This one is insane: Ripe with interview snippets, a smattering of live tracks, 12-inch versions, and even radio edits, it comes as either a 19-disc set of 45s in replica sleeves and a 44-page book, or CDs in sleeves with a bounty of b-sides, 12-inch singles, and promo material as well as the book. Choose . . . and pay!
Compiled by Trevor Fisher and Steve Forstneger