Last-Minute Music/Box Set Gift Guide for the Holiday Season (ft. U2, Tom Petty, Elvis, Johnny Cash & More)


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Rock Cellar Magazine
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If there’s a rock, alternative or country music enthusiast on your holiday shopping list, we’ve got you covered with a last-minute gift guide including some noteworthy box sets and classic reissues.

Of course, this late in the game, ensuring arrival in time for Dec. 25 might prove impossible (outside of Amazon, that is) … but it’s the thought that counts, right?

U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind 20th Anniversary Edition

u2 all that you can't leave behind

(Universal Music Enterprises)

The lowdown: Largely considered a return to traditional rock form after U2’s Nineties electronic experimentalism of Achtung Baby, Zooropa and Pop, All That You Can’t Leave Behind saw the Irish band re-teaming with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Bono’s lyrics were more life-affirming and spiritual than they had been in years, while Edge’s guitar work often evoked signature sounds, but remained inventive. The result was among U2’s all-time-best efforts to date. The album went quadruple platinum and won several Grammys in America. All four singles — “Beautiful Day,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” “Elevation,” “Walk On” — went top 10 in the UK and Ireland.

2-CD Deluxe Edition (Click here to purchase from our Rock Cellar Store)
2-LP Edition (Click here to purchase from our Rock Cellar Store)
5-CD Super Deluxe Box Set (Click here to purchase from our Rock Cellar Store)
11-LP Super Deluxe Box Set (Click here to purchase from our Rock Cellar Store)

What’s inside: The 20th Anniversary Super Deluxe box set contains 5 CDs — the main remastered album and nearly 40 additional tracks, including B-sides, outtakes, extended versions, and dance remixes. A hypnotic “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” (from The Million Dollar Hotel; lyrics by author Salman Rushdie), “Love You Like Mad” and the slinky groove of “Big Girls Are Best” are rarity highlights.

Audio from a June 2001 concert at Boston’s Fleet Center (now named TD Garden) rounds everything out. The exhilarating live set found the band stripping the sound down during “Desire,” “Bad” and “Stay (Faraway, So Close)” and Bono delving into some chilling free association about John Lennon’s murder on “Bullet the Blue Sky.”

Housed in a classy minimalist white 12×12 hard case with only the suitcase/heart logo, the inner case is emblazoned with the inspirational words to “Walk On.” The hardcover book of the same title is a behind-the-scenes, black and white photographic travelogue by longtime visual collaborator Anton Corbijn with his handwritten recollections as captions. Keeping with the same theme, a nice double-sided, collector’s poster has more lyrics from that song. The booklet contains all lyrics, more photos, and credits. The CDs are inserted into tri-fold pockets.

Also available in standard, deluxe, vinyl and digital versions.

The Replacements — Pleased to Meet Me Reissue

the replacements pleased to meet me box set 2020

(Sire/Rhino)

The lowdown: The Replacements were at a turning point in their career when they made fifth album Pleased to Meet Me at the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis with producer Jim Dickinson (Big Star, Rolling Stones). Founding guitarist Bob Stinson was suddenly gone and the remaining three members — led by singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg — allowed different sonic textures to take a more prominent role in the sound. Some instruments (saxophone, trumpet, vibraphone, strings, piano, keyboards) came at Dickinson’s suggestion. The result was a more nuanced, yet still raucous 1987 album. College and alternative radio played the single “Alex Chilton,” whose titular singer/guitarist from the Box Tops and Big Star also guested on “Can’t Hardly Wait.”

What’s inside: More than half of the 55 tracks in this 3 CD/1 LP set are previously unreleased, with rough mixes, outtakes, and demos — including Bob Stinson’s final 1986 recordings with the band. Among the rarities, the solid ballad “Run for the Country,” bassist Tommy Stinson’s “Trouble on The Way” and fun covers of oldies like “Tossin’ and Turnin,’” “I Can Help” and “Route 66” are standouts.

Click here to pick up Pleased to Meet Me Deluxe Edition from our Rock Cellar Store

Housed in a 12 x 12 hardcover book, the booklet contains rare photos and a fascinating back story by Bob Mehr, who recently wrote the excellent biography Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements. He also co-produced this collection.

Johnny Cash — The Complete Mercury Recordings: 1986-1991

(Mercury/Universal Music Enterprises)

The lowdown: A frequently overlooked period of Johnny Cash’s career, 1986 to 1991 didn’t see the legend amass many more country hits after chart-topping, all-star collaboration “The Highwayman.” Still, there were plenty of hidden gems during that period worth investigating. Key among them: a spirited reunion with fellow former Sun Records labelmates Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison and pairings with Paul McCartney, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr., Glen Campbell, and Waylon Jennings.

The period also saw The Man in Black tackle songs by John Fogerty, Guy Clark, Elvis Costello, Tom T. Hall and John Prine and Harry Chapin.

What’s inside: Reissued for the first time in this on 7 CD/7 LP box set are Class of ’55: Memphis Rock & Roll Homecoming (1986), Johnny Cash Is Coming to Town (1987), Water from the Wells of Home (1988), Classic Cash: Hall of Fame Series (1988), Boom Chicka Boom (1990) and The Mystery of Life (1991).

Several were produced by Cowboy Jack Clement. The latter album is most notable for the spacey U2 duet “The Wanderer.” An extended version originally appeared on the soundtrack album of director Wim Wenders’ flick “Faraway, So Close!” and U2’s own Zooropa. The compact lift off box has each remastered album in its own color cardboard sleeve, while the liner notes include background by Scott Schinder, song details and credits for each release.

For a taster of the set, Easy Rider: The Best of The Mercury Recordings, compiles 24 highlights as a single CD, double LP, and digital download (click here to purchase the 2-LP set).

Elvis Presley — From Elvis in Nashville

(RCA/Legacy)

The lowdown: In June 1970, Elvis returned to his old stomping grounds at RCA Studio B in Nashville alongside trusted guitarist James Burton and others (dubbed the “Nashville Cats”) for five days of freewheeling marathon sessions. The King chose a wide-ranging group of songs encompassing rockabilly, bluegrass, Western swing, honky tonk, pop and more.

He does compelling versions of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Snowbird” and Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

What’s inside: The 4 CD, 74-song collection includes the finished songs, jams, various takes, and studio chatter. For the first time, the master recordings are available as a single official Elvis album and are freshly mixed without added overdubs or orchestrations as on previous releases.

Click here to pick up the 4-CD From Elvis in Nashville set from our Rock Cellar Store
Click here to pick up the 2-LP From Elvis to Nashville set from our Rock Cellar Store

Housed in a four-panel foldout package, the CDs are tucked into cardboard pockets and feature reproductions of the original studio tape boxes. The liner notes include minute details about the daily sessions from longtime Presley reissue producer Ernst Mikael Jorgensen, an essay by David Cantwell, quotes from the musicians and rare photos.

Iggy Pop – The Bowie Years

(UME)

The lowdown: After the demise of Iggy and the Stooges, Iggy Pop teamed with old pal David Bowie in Berlin for his first two solo albums The Idiot and Lust for Life. Much like Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, these are two of the strongest works in Pop’s catalog, featuring some of his best-known songs like “Nightclubbing,” “Funtime,” “China Girl,” “The Passenger” and “Lust for Life” (later famously heard in the “Trainspotting” soundtrack and various TV commercials).

Click here to pick up the 7-CD Bowie Years box set from our Rock Cellar Store

What’s inside: The 7-CD Super Deluxe box set includes remastered versions of the studio albums, a disc of rare outtakes and alternate mixes and the live album TV Eye, where Pop and Bowie toured with the Sales Brothers (future members of Bowie’s Tin Machine).

Additionally, there are three electrifying live albums officially released for the first time: Live at The Rainbow Theatre in London, Live at The Agora in Cleveland, and Live at Mantra Studio in Chicago. A 40-page booklet contains contributions from the studio session musicians and fans.

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All the Rest

(Warner)

The lowdown: Tom Petty’s first collaboration with producer Rick Rubin became this stellar second “solo” album, which actually featured most of the Heartbreakers and notable guests like Ringo Starr and Carl Wilson. Originally released in 1994, Wildflowers was among the most successful releases in Petty’s canon, spawning four top 20 singles on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart (“You Don’t Know How It Feels,” “You Wreck Me,” “It’s Good to Be King,” “A Higher Place”) and going triple platinum. Petty originally envisioned Wildflowers as a double album and for years discussed doing an expanded set. This box set (released in October) finally brings that dream to fruition in fine fashion.

Click here to purchase Wildflowers & All the Rest on 2-CD from our Rock Cellar Store
Click here for the 4-CD Deluxe Edition

What’s inside: The 5 CD Super Deluxe edition includes 70 tracks (more than half are unreleased). Besides the original remastered album, the deluxe contains All the Rest (10 equally impressive songs from the original sessions), solo demos recorded at Petty’s home studio, alternative versions and concert takes on the Wildflowers tunes recorded from 1995-2017.

The latter disc shows how the Heartbreakers (with then-new drummer Steve Ferrone) really let the selections breathe onstage. A sumptuous 7-minute version of “You Don’t Know How It Feels from Boston in ’02, a ferocious “Honey Bee” from Toronto in ’95 and an epic, riveting 11-minute “It’s Good to Be King” from San Francisco in ’97 are just a few of many memorable moments.

Handsomely designed as a large hardbound book with cloth binding, textured cover and an embossed title, the slim hardback book includes rare photos, Petty’s handwritten lyrics, an essay by Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, a complete Track by Track oral history from several principals involved in the sessions, impressive newly commissioned illustrations. There are also a bunch of cool tchotchkes.

Prince – Sign O’ The Times

prince sign o the times deluxe edition 2020

(Warner)

The lowdown: This sprawling, yet ambitious double album re-released in September ran the gamut of styles and found Prince pretty much handling everything himself after dismissing the Revolution. Several songs were outgrowths of the artist’s shelved projects Crystal Ball, Camille and Dream Factory (the man defined “prolific”). Lyrically, Prince adeptly touched upon societal issues in the title track and crafted a highly intriguing listen. The platinum-certified, critically acclaimed set recently placed at #45 on Rolling Stone’s updated list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Sign O’ The Times spawned three top 10 pop singles in the haunting title track, the Sheena Easton duet “U Got the Look” and “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” plus a top 20 R&B hit with “If I Was Your Girlfriend.”

2-CD (Click here to purchase from our Rock Cellar Store)
Deluxe 3-CD (Click here to purchase)
Super Deluxe Edition 8CD+1DVD (Click here to purchase)
Super Deluxe 13LP+DVD (Click here to purchase)
2-LP Edition (Click here to purchase)
4-LP Deluxe (Click here to purchase)

What’s inside: The 8 CD/1 DVD Super Deluxe Edition includes the main remastered double album, 60+ previously unreleased songs, B-sides, single mixes, audio from a Dutch stadium concert and a video of Prince’s New Year’s Eve show at Paisley Park. Among the rarities, standouts include the party vibe of “Can I Play with U” (featuring Miles Davis), a frothy “Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” the lean guitar rock of “Blanche,” a luxurious “Adonis & Bathsheba” and “A Place in Heaven” (featuring The Revolution’s Lisa Coleman on vocals).

The large hardcover book has handwritten lyrics, unseen images by Jeff Katz, liner notes by Dave Chappelle, Lenny Kravitz, Prince engineer Susan Rogers and others.

The Cranberries – No Need to Argue: Remastered

(Island/UME)

The lowdown: Having achieved worldwide success with its 1993 debut album Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We, The Cranberries became even more of a phenomenon the following year thanks to “Zombie.” The powerful tune about a Northern Ireland bombing topped the American alternative radio chart. In the period since then, the accompanying music video has been viewed over 1 billion times on YouTube, making the band The Cranberries the only Irish band to do so.

No Need to Argue sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, making it the group’s most successful album. It also contains top 20 alt-rock charters “Ode to My Family” and “Ridiculous Thoughts.”

Click here to pick up No Need to Argue: Remastered 2-CD set from our Rock Cellar Store.

What’s inside: Serving as sort of a tribute to singer Dolores O’Riordan, who died in 2018, this solid 25th anniversary 2 CD collection features the remastered album plus B-sides and 19 previously unreleased tracks. The liner notes have rare photos, an essay by the group’s archivist Eoin Devereux, recollections from surviving band members and several of the principals involved.

Interestingly, producer Stephen Street recalls that “Zombie” was “an anomaly, really; it was done to allow the band to rock out … there are still many quiet gentle Celtic-tinged tracks.” Longtime fans should enjoy reading about studio hijinks, photo shoots in various Dublin locales with the infamous couch, more about the politics of “Zombie” and quotes from the video’s award-winning director Samuel Bayer.


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