Box Sets for the Holidays

Like many JazzWax readers, jazz is my first love. But I also love rock, pop, folk, soul, reggae, bossa nova and anything else that’s great, no matter the genre.

Here are 10 new box sets that I’ve enjoyed that you might find ideal as gifts for you or for others on your holiday list…

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The Complete Prestige 10-Inch LP Collection of Thelonious Monk
(Craft). Between 1952 and 1954, Monk recorded 21 songs issued on five 10-inch LPs. The albums were Thelonious Monk Trio: Thelonious (1952), Thelonious Monk Quintet Blows For LP, Featuring Sonny Rollins (1953), Thelonious Monk Quintet (1954), Thelonious Monk Plays (1954), and Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk (1954). This set’s five 10-inch LPs include sessions with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Ray Copeland, Frank Foster and Julius Watkins, among others. For some reason, Monk always sounds best on vinyl. Go here.

David Bowie: A New Career in a New Town (1977-1982)
(Parlophone). This is the third in a series of remastered boxes covering the Thin White Duke’s recording career. This 11-CD box (or 13 vinyl discs) includes Low, Heroes, Lodger, Stage, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Re:Call 3 (a collection of singles) plus new mixes. The first three albums were recorded in Berlin, Stage was recorded on tour and featured his Berlin recordings, Scary Monsters was recorded in New York. Online carping about the box’s mastering are addressed here. (Go here)

Johnny Mathis: The Voice of Romance. The Columbia Original Album Collection
(Sony Legacy). This 68-CD “cinder block” set includes all of Johnny’s 67 albums plus his new Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook. The box features a 200-page booklet with notes and photos. I had a chance to interview Johnny recently. He’s a wonderful, friendly guy, as you might imagine. (Go here)

Jazz Cosmopolit: Swedish Jazz History Vol 11 (1970-1979)
(Caprice). As you can tell from the volume number of this set, Sweden has produced its share of great jazz recordings. The music on this set is wide-ranging from hard bop to ballads but nearly always beautiful and pensive. You can sample tracks here. (Go here)

Elvis Presley: A Boy From Tupelo—The Complete 1953-1955 Recordings (Sony Legacy).
This three-CD set allows you to hear the early evolution of an artist in the innocent years prior to his electrifying emergence as a national phenomenon in ’56. Good looks and a captivating delivery were only part of the story. Presley worked tirelessly touring and winning over crowds during these years. The set includes a 122-page book with photos, notes and recording details. (Go here).

Bob Dylan: Trouble Me No More. The Bootleg Series Vol 13 (1979-1981
) (Sony Legacy). Someone who was born on the day Sony released its first Bob Dylan bootleg set would be 26 today. The recordings in volume 13 cover much of Dylan’s born-again Christian years. His studio albums of the period were Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981). The material on this set consists mostly of live recordings as well as unreleased session demos and outtakes from the three studio albums cited above. As always, Sony does a terrific job archiving, researching and packaging Dylan’s work-product over three narrow years. (Go here for the two-CD set and here for the 8-CD/1-DVD deluxe set).

Woody Guthrie: The Tribute Concerts
(Bear Family).
When Woody Guthrie died in 1967, folk lost its founder. To pay tribute to Guthrie, whose dusty songs of Depression-era injustice and hardship, folk artists who had been inspired by him gathered for two concerts—one at Carnegie Hall in 1968 and another at the Hollywood Bowl in 1970. Now Germany’s Bear Family has issued a three-CD box featuring the two concerts plus newly released material that never made it onto the original releases in 1972. Artists include Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger and Odetta as well as Ry Cooder, Rambln’ Jack Elliott and many others. (Go here)

The Eagles: Hotel California, 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
When this album was first released in December 1976, disco was on the rise. For those uninterested in the hustle and didn’t care much for urban dance floors in general, Hotel California became a folk-rock alternative. The album was No. 1 for eight weeks and won two Grammy Awards. The line-up of songs on the album was staggering (the first three are Hotel California, New Kid in Town and Life in the Fast Lane). This anniversary set includes a remastering of the original album. The second CD features 10 live tracks recorded during the band’s three nights at the Los Angeles Forum in 1976. The deluxe edition includes a DVD. (Go here).

The Ramones: Rocket to Russia, 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
In November 1977, the Ramones released their third studio album, Rocket to Russia. It would become the last album featuring all four founding members, since drummer Tommy Ramone left soon after. Songs include Rockaway Beach, Sheena Is a Punk Rocker and Teenage Lobotomy. (Go here)