Published Nov 21, 2013The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide continues, this time plunging into the vaults and pulling out the best music-related box sets around. Check out our list below to find the top treasures available from the recording industry this holiday season.
The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide: Music Box Sets:
● Third Man Records' Wonderful World (Pictured Above) (Third Man Records)
What began as an operation to keep the White Stripes and other Jack White projects on vinyl has evolved into a beacon for the preservation of American folklore. White and his co-conspirators at Third Man Records in Nashville have been digging up rare musical artefacts and repackaging them for new and old scholars alike. "It's a matter of what we enjoy, appreciate, and think is important," Director of Operations Ben Blackwell explains. Part of Third Man's m.o. includes partnering with labels like Sun and Document to reissue early singles by Rufus Thomas and Johnny Cash or the collected works of Charley Patton and Blind Willie McTell.
One of their most ambitious collabs is with Revenant for the two-volume "wonder cabinet" The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1932. According to Blackwell, Paramount started as an extension of the Wisconsin Chair Company, which made phonographs. They figured if they sold records by African-Americans, they'd feel compelled to purchase record players also. Paramount blindly recorded many of the earliest forms of American music to see what might stick with consumers, including early sessions by Louis Armstrong, Son House and Ma Rainey. "What you have is this repository of American history," Blackwell says. All told, the set represents 172 artists, restored ads and photos, 800 digital tracks, six LPs, and much more. "Maybe because people know this is Jack White's label," Blackwell says, "we can trick them into paying attention to old blues artists from 60 years ago."
● The Velvet Underground White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Universal)
Few people bought it when it was released 45 years ago, but its impact is undeniable. The Velvet's sophomore release has been reissued before but never with this many goodies. Curated by co-founders Lou Reed and John Cale, the three-CD set includes mono and stereo versions of the album and assorted bonus tracks, including previously unreleased mixes. Best of all, disc three contains the band's previously unheard set from the Gymnasium in NYC from April, 1967 in its entirety.
VU fans will also want to check out Seeing the Light: Inside the Velvet Underground (St. Martin's Press), music journalist Rob Jovanovic's new biography of the New York legends, which includes exclusive interviews with band members Moe Tucker and Doug Yule.
● The Clash Sound System Box Set (Sony Legacy)
Housed in a boombox-shaped case that echoes their transformative Sandinista! period, this is the only box you'll need from the Only Band that Matters. Sound System packs the Clash's studio albums (omitting the much-maligned Cut the Crap), remastered by guitarist Mick Jones. The extras are the real draw: three discs of rarities, B-sides and non-album singles, a DVD with footage shot by Don Letts and Julien Temple, reprints of the Armagideon Times fanzine and various other reproduced ephemera.
More: Fellow OG punks Ramones will see their first six studio albums re-released as The Sire Years: 1976-1981 (Rhino). Not to be outdone, '90s Celtic punks Dropkick Murphys drop their own limited edition vinyl box set this month.
● Unwound Kid Is Gone vinyl box set (Numero Group)
Although not as revered as some '90s peers, Olympia, WA post-hardcore crew Unwound made an indelible mark during their decade-long run. Numero Group have compiled the group's earliest years as three-LP box set Kid is Gone. The set includes early seven-inches, B-sides, demos, live tracks, a KAOS radio broadcast, their entire self-titled LP (recorded in 1992, but not released until 1995), a 24-page booklet and replica flyers and cover sleeves. The Deluxe Edition, available only through the Numero Group webstore, comes with a bonus LP.
More: Alt-rock nostalgists will also be interested in Smashing Pumpkins' expanded edition of The Aeroplane Flies High (Virgin) (itself a collection of Mellon Collie-era B-sides), the Breeders' seven-disc Last Splash reissue (4AD), Nirvana's 20th anniversary edition of In Utero (Geffen) and the jam-packed 11-album Jesus and Mary Chain Complete Vinyl Collection (Demon Music Group).
● Eric Clapton Give Me Strength: The 1974/75 Recordings (Universal)
By the mid-'70s, Eric Clapton had hit rock bottom; addled by a heroin addiction, after the disintegration of Derek and the Dominoes in 1971 the guitar god would make few public appearances. He re-emerged in 1974 clean and armed with renewed clarity. This six-disc set collects Slowhand's output from this period, including remixed versions of his comeback, 461 Ocean Boulevard, follow-up There's One in Every Crowd and live album E.C. Was Here all with bonus cuts.
More: Bob Dylan takes the box-set cake with his 43-disc Complete Album Collection Vol. 1 (Legacy/Columbia). Paul Simon's solo catalogue gets similar treatment with the 15-disc Complete Albums Collection (Legacy/Columbia). Lee Hazlewood's LHI Records gets anthologized via Light in the Attic's There's A Dream I've Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries 1966-1971.
● Ghostface Killah / NAS / Sly and the Family Stone Gold Editions (Get On Down)
Maybe it's time to invest in some gold — the 24K Gold Edition reissues by Get On Down, like Ghostface Killah's solo debut, Ironman, housed in "Cherrywood trophy box," and including a 48-page book and a puzzle of the record's iconic cover. Nas's Illmatic has sold out, but the Gold Edition of Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On is out this month.
More: Hip-hop heads will also be interested in Roots drummer Questlove's autobiography Mo Meta Blues, while Cee Lo Green has penned Everybody's Brother. And photo book Houston Rap (Sinecure Books) offers a 24-hour glimpse into Southern hip-hop culture.