Sunday, January 03, 2016

After-Holidays Gift Guide

Looking to spend those Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Best Buy gift cards? Here are some essential music DVD/Blu-ray titles, albums and special box sets that are now available.

Here are some highly-recommend titles available on DVD and Blu-ray (and in some cases as a multi-format deluxe set).

Artist: Rush
Title: R40 Live (Rounder)
You might like if you enjoy: Rush
Tell me more: For fans of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame trio Rush, the new release R40 is an audio-visual keepsake of the highest order. The four-disc collection (featuring three audio CDs and 1 DVD) is truly a celebration of more than 40 years of top-tier progressive rock. With the 2015 R40 tour reportedly marking the Canadian band's farewell tour, R40 is an excellent showcase for a band captured while still at the top of their game. What's more, the audio and video quality of the audio/video discs are amazing. Recorded over two nights in the hometown of singer-bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, the concert film was chronicled via 14 cameras and really immerses the viewer in the moment. Information:

Artist: The Beatles
Title: 1+
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles
Tell me more: Even life-long fans of the Fab Four have not necessarily ever seen the full range of live performances and mini-movies featured on the Beatles' 1+ CD/DVD (also available as a CD/Blu-ray version). The collection features a remixed version of the 1 greatest hits collection originally released in November 2000, as well as the accompanying videos for all 27 number one hits. A second disc has an additional 23 videos that astound with their inventiveness and display of the Beatles' obvious charisma (just watch the whimsical takes of "Day Tripper" and "Rain," and the studio footage of "Hey Bulldog"). Not only is the restored video quality and remixed stereo and 5.1 audio amazing, but anytime you can gain an expanded appreciation of the greatest ever rock band of all time, take it. Information:

Artist: Queen
Title: A Night at the Odeon (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: Queen, Muse
Tell me more: A seminal performance from Queen at London's Hammersmith Odeon on Christmas Eve in 1975 marked the first time the rock quartet ever performed a full-length concert live on TV; now the concert first broadcast over BBC TV has been carefully restored to its full splendor and is available via DVD, SD Blu-ray, on audio CD and 2 LP vinyl. The DVD version of A Night at the Odeon reviewed by this writer is an incredible feast for the ears and eyes. One of the highlights of the fast-moving performance is a flawless medley where the band opens with the opening of their now-classic song "Bohemian Rhapsody" before going into the shining "Killer Queen" and heavy metal-styled "The March of the Black Queen" before closing with a reprise of the final section of "Bohemian Rhapsody." Bonus features on the DVD include three tracks recorded in Budokan, Tokyo in May 1975 and a 22-minute documentary. Essential for Queen fans. Information:

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: From the Vault - Live in Leeds 1982 (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones
Tell me more: The latest title in the Rolling Stones' exciting "Live From the Vault" series of live performances from the band's archive features their official release, Live in Leeds 1982 that was filmed and recorded at Roundhay Park in Leeds, England on July 25, 1982. The band is seen in a freewheeling 26-song set that includes beloved '60s nuggets ("Under My Thumb," "You Can't Always Get What You Want," "Time Is On My Side"), timeless '70s hits ("Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Miss You," "Brown Sugar"), an inspired Eddie Cochan cover ("Twenty Flight Rock") and even a rousing take of their blues gem "Black Limousine." The collection features the performance across 2 audio CDs and on a DVD (or Blu-ray) too. Information:

Artist: Martha Davis and The Motels
Title: The Motels Live (Vesuvio Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: The Pretenders, Concrete Blonde
Tell me more: When the legendary West Hollywood nightclub Whisky a Go Go wanted to celebrate their 50th anniversary in January 2014, the Sunset Strip venue booked Martha Davis and The Motels to perform. That special concert is now on DVD/Blu-ray, and fans of Davis' groundbreaking rock will be thrilled when the singer-songwriter-guitarist and her band deliver an energetic set featuring favorites such as "Mission Of Mercy," "Take The L," "Suddenly Last Summer," "Total Control" and "Only the Lonely." Information:

Artist: The Who
Title: Live in Hyde Park (Eagle Rock Entertainment)
You might like if you enjoy: The Who
Tell me more: Few bands understand triumph and tragedy as well as The Who. Original and surviving members Roger Daltrey (vocals) and Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals) lead a troupe of six other players through a dream setlist in celebration of the British band's 50th anniversary on the wonderful Live in Hyde Park. Filmed on June 26, 2015, the concert includes rousing takes on the early rocker "I Can't Explain," the powerful "Love Reign O'er Me," and highlights from the groundbreaking rock opera Tommy. The release comes as a DVD + 2CD set, as a Blu-ray + 2CD set, or as a DVD + 3LP edition; a lavish Deluxe Edition comes packaged with an exclusive 60-page hardback photo book packed with the DVD, Blu-ray and two audio CDs. Information:

Artist: Scorpions
Title: Forever and a Day (Cleopatra)
You might like if you enjoy: AC/DC, Scorpions, U.F.O.
Tell me more: Germany's most successful and enduring rock 'n' roll export, Scorpions were formed by guitarist Rudolf Schenker in 1965 and found success far outside of Europe with a slew of hard rock hits including "Rock You Like a Hurricane," "No One Like You," "The Zoo" and the sweeping power ballad "Winds of Change." Now the band's compelling career is shared on the 90-minute documentary Forever and a Day with vintage interview and performance footage, as well as new interviews that shed light on the band's unique career path culminating on this film with footage of the band's three-year tour that was launched in 2010. "Forever and a Day" is available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Information:

Artist: Joe Bonamassa
Title: Live at Radio City Music Hall (J&R Adventures)
You might like if you enjoy: Walter Trout, Joe Bonamassa
Tell me more: At the beginning of 2015, blues-rock guitar great Joe Bonamassa performed two concerts at Radio City Music Hall in New York, highlights of which are showcased on the multi-format Live at Radio City Music Hall. The highly-recommended deluxe collector's edition features a DVD, 13-track audio CD and 40-page book filled with colorful photos and information about the concerts and Bonamassa's own family connection with the venue. Bonamassa is widely-regarded as one of the best guitarists on the planet, but what emerges on this release is how his musical gifts fully extend to his abilities as a singer, songwriter and band leader. Information:

Title: Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIV
You might like if you enjoy: Mystery Science Theater 3000, RiffTrax
Tell me more: While the return of Star Wars to the big screen and support by the masses for Adele's 25 have been among the biggest entertainment stories of late 2015, a high-profile effort to bring back the cult show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (which went on hiatus more than 15 years ago) is among the year's other bona fide big moments. The show's creator Joel Hodgson successfully used Kickstarter to raise $6.42 million in November and early December making for the highest-funded film, TV or video content crowd funding campaign ever. So while fans wait for new episodes of MST3K to be produced, they can dive into the latest collection of classic episodes on Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXIV. Featuring four episodes blending bad B-movies (including several Roger Corman classics), funny skits and musical routines, and and riffing on everything from celebrity and pop culture to sports and world history, the latest MST3K box set continues shows in spades why the show has had such a profound influence on culture. Information:

Artist: Lady Antebellum
Title: Wheels Up Tour (Universal Music Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Lady Antebellum, Hunter Hayes, Sam Hunt
Tell me more: Lady Antebellum continues to be one of contemporary country music's favorite names, and the newly-issued DVD Wheels Up Tour concert film captured at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre in Orange County, CA in June 2015 demonstrates the strengths of the Nashville-spawned trio. Behind their accessible collection of hits and armed with their blend of strong lead vocals and lush harmonies, Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott deliver the infectious "Bartender" and "Just a Kiss," the lush ballad "American Honey" and a cover of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" along with other favorites. Lady Antebellum is joined by Hunter Hayes and Sam Hunt during the 100-minute performance. Information:

Artist: Frank Sinatra
Title: Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All (Eagle Vision)
You might like if you enjoy: Frank Sinatra
Tell me more: With December 2015 marking Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, the release of Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All would be more perfectly timed. Available as both a two-disc documentary film or a 4-disc DVD/CD combo, the film uses long-overlooked archived interviews and those who knew Ol' Blue Eyes best. Of most interest will be the home movies and classic concert clips featuring Sinatra (who passed away in 1998), widely regarded as one of the best singers of the 20th century, singing the timeless likes of "My Way," "Fly Me To The Moon," "New York, New York" and more. Information:

Here are some essential albums and special box sets that would provide the perfect gift for a favorite someone.

Artist: Spoon
Title: Gimme Fiction (Merge)
You might like if you enjoy: Beck, Radiohead
Tell me more: Austin-spawned Spoon has been proven to be one of the most interesting and experimental American rock acts of the last two decades, and it was the band's 2005 album Gimme Fiction that catapulted the troupe into a well-deserved upper echelon of modern-day indie rock heroes. Now Merge Records has issued an essential 10th anniversary limited-edition of the Spoon masterwork on double-LP (180g), double-CD and digital. Disc one features the original 11-track album remastered by Howie Weinberg from the original tapes, with the disc's amazing run including propulsive power-pop perfection ("Sister Jack"), shimmering art rock ("The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine"), alt-dance ("I Turn My Camera On") and driving psychedelic folk rock ("I Summon You"). And there is a second disc filled with a dozen previously-unreleased demos from the period. Information:

Artist: Creed
Title: With Arms Wide Open: A Retrospective (Concord Music Group)
You might like if you enjoy: Third Day, Three Doors Down
Tell me more: Post-grunge rockers Creed enjoyed a short, but dazzling career in the late 1990s and early '00s scoring more than dozen radio hits and racking up around 40 million in sold records around the globe. Now the Florida-spawned rockers' heavy imprint is revisited on the three-disc With Arms Wide Open: A Retrospective. The wealth of material also includes a version of the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" recorded at Woodstock in 1999, acoustic tracks and demos. Information:

Artist: Hank Williams
Title: I Saw The Light: The Unreleased Recordings (Time Life)
You might like if you enjoy: Hank Williams, Michael Ubaldini
Tell me more: Country music simply doesn't get any better or more authentic than Hank Williams, whose work and legacy is celebrated on I Saw The Light: The Unreleased RecordingsWilliams was in his early 20s and arguably at the peak of his career in 1951 when he recorded 143 songs for the Mother's Best Flour Company. Performing with his regular studio band, the Alabama native performed his hits as well as songs that he would never record anywhere else. Time Life has compiled more than 50 of those tracks on "I Saw The Light: The Unreleased Recordings" on a box set that sheds new light on Williams. The outstanding box set also includes a bonus DVD that provides insight into these long-forgotten recordings and features interviews with Williams' daughter Jett Williams and two members of Williams' band (steel guitarist Don Helms and singer "Big Bill" Lister). Sadly, Williams passed away on New Year's Day 1953; he was only 29. Information:

Artist: Buck Owens
Title: Buck 'Em! Volume 2 - The Music of Buck Owens (1967-1975) (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Gram Parsons, Dwight Yoakam
Tell me more: Whether you pick up Buck 'Em! Volume 2 - The Music of Buck Owens (1967-1975) because of the sterling sound courtesy of Michael Graves' remastering or simply to catch up on the legacy of Owens (who died at age 76 in 2006), the two-disc audio collection is a set that celebrates the groundbreaking father of the so-called "Bakersfield sound." The four-dozen collection spans uptempo country-western originals ("The Kansas City Song," "Down in New Orleans," "The Streets of Bakersfield"), ballads (Including a tender live version of "I'll Still be Waiting For You" and the lovely duet "Today I Started Loving You Again" with Bettye Swann"), and humor-filled singles such as "Big Game Hunter" and "(It's A) Monster's Holiday" that were among Owens' final hits. Information:

Artist: Carl Hall
Title: You Don't Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972 (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Al Green, Ben E. King
Tell me more: Although Carl Hall isn't nearly as well known as Al Green, Solomon Burke and Ben E. King, the late singer's four-octave vocal range and abilities to make any song his own are beloved by fans. On the aptly-titled You Don't Know Nothing About Love: The Loma/Atlantic Recordings 1967-1972, 19 choice tracks recorded by Hall are featured on a single-disc compilation that showcases his power to sing gospel and soul with a power and authority rarely equaled. Information:

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