The Season: Bountiful boxes

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  December 11, 2013

BOOMING The Clash's sprawling 'Sound System.'

Of course, our national and international heroes of pop and rock have plenty to offer as well. The de rigueur Beatles release of the year is On Air: Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 ($18.25 CD, $49.99 vinyl), with dozens of unreleased live cuts and interview banter. Bootleg collectors are rejoicing at the prospect of Grateful Dead ’s Sunshine Daydream ($41.98 CD, $69.99 vinyl), a 1972 recording of a benefit for the Kesey family’s Springfield Creamery in Oregon; the three-disc set also contains a new concert film. The iconoclastic pop singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson has undergone a wave of rediscovery and reassessment in recent years, and anyone looking to get in on the ground floor should scoop up Nilsson: The RCA Albums Collection ($139.99 CD), a complete retrospective spanning 17 discs. Beach Boys devotees should find some gold soaking up Made in California (1962-2012) ($179.98 CD), which shines a light on some of the buried contributions Dennis and Carl Wilson made to the band. Elvis at Stax ($24.98 LP, $34.98 deluxe CD) offers a fascinating collection of Presley’s latter-day country and gospel material, recorded over 12 nights in four months of 1973. Lou Reed fans in mourning can receive some solace in a 45th-anniversary edition of Velvet Underground ’s White Light/White Heat, which will be released in various formats ranging in price from $30-100. (Pricier versions will contain a hardbound book featuring recent interviews with John Cale and Lou Reed.) Also worth a splurge are recent reissues of R.E.M. ’s Green ($24.98 CD/vinyl), Fleetwood Mac ’s Rumours ($19.98 CD, $24.98 vinyl), and perhaps the coolest of these boxed sets: the Clash ’s Sound System ($249.98) contains 11 discs of the band’s material from 1976 through 1982, all packed in a fake boombox with extras like magazines, stickers, badges, and a DVD.

Also, it’s the rare year where two legitimately good music documentaries — both rooted in Detroit — have been released to home video: Mark Christopher Covino’s A Band Called Death ($24.99) gives the Detroit proto-punk band the biography treatment, while this year’s Best Documentary Oscar winner, Searching for Sugar Man ($30.99), is Malik Bendejelloul’s inspiring take on his efforts to discover the history and whereabouts of the obscure ’70s folk/rock musician Rodriguez.

Don’t forget to update your holiday music libraries, too: new releases by Mary J. Blige, Kelly Clarkson, and — oddly enough — the great British popster Nick Lowe have new discs out, though hopes for a new generation’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” remain dim 19 years later.
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