Thursday, December 16, 2021

2021 Music-minded gift guide: The Beatles, Chris Church, Eric Clapton, Buck Owens & Susan Raye, Chris Jagger, more!

Looking for that perfect gift for the favorite music lover in your life? Here is a roundup of some of my favorite music-minded recommendations for 2021. I also highlight a holiday classic that honors a recently-lost icon.

Book Title: 
The Beatles: Get Back
Authors: Peter Jackson, The Beatles, Hanif Kureishi, John Harris
Publisher: Callaway Arts & Entertainment
Hardcover: 240 pages
You might like if you enjoy: The Beatles, rock and roll photography, music documentary films
Tell me more: The official account of the making of The Beatles' final album Let It Be (released in 1970), the newly-published "The Beatles: Get Back" is an essential addition to any fan of the Fab Four. Filled with remembrances from members of The Beatles, "Get Back" along with director/co-producer Peter Jackson and other notables, the lavish hardcover volume is adorned with terrific photographs taken by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney (the latter the first female photographer to shoot the cover of Rolling Stone magazine). Anyone who has enjoyed the 8-hour docuseries "Get Back" on Disney Plus will want to get this wonderful hardcover edition. "The Beatles: Get Back" is available at Barnes and Noble stores across the U.S. as well as via and

Chris Church
Titles: Backwards Compatible; Limitations Of Source Tape (Big Stir Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Chris Church, power pop, melodic rock
Tell me more: Big Stir Records and SpyderPop Records have issued a special double installment of several titles from Chris Church  2020's Backwards Compatible and 2017's Limitations Of Source Tape. North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Church crafts recordings that recall the spirit of greats such as Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne and early Gin Blossoms but bolstered by his own signature imprint. Among the epic tracks I've enjoyed from this double-album display are the rocking "Dumb It Up," shimmering "Begin Again," crunchy "Kiss It Goodnight" and "Understudy Blues," and swirling "Bell The Cat." Church is definitely an artist worth discovering and sharing with other music lovers. Information:

Eric Clapton
Title: The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions (Mercury Studios)
You might like if you enjoy: Eric Clapton, British blues
Tell me more: When Eric Clapton was forced to cancel several Royal Albert Hall concerts because of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2021, the legendary singer-songwriter/guitarist brought his band to the English countryside. Since no audience was able to attend, Clapton along with bassist-vocalist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd and keyboardist Chris Stainton performed in front of the cameras at Cowdray House in West Sussex, England. Highlights from those intimate recordings are featured on "The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions." Not only does the title feature incredible audio and visual quality, but the performances are sure to please fans of one of rock's greatest and most influential artists. There is a rich mix of Clapton originals and other selections including blues and country nuggets across the 17-track collection. In the first few selections, Clapton plays a 12-string guitar, including on the beautiful "Golden Ring" and "Black Magic Woman" (Clapton introduces the latter by saying "This one's for Peter," referencing songwriter Peter Green who sadly died in October 2020). Even in the acoustic-styled setting Clapton and company are able to deliver some pretty dynamic performances; both Clapton and Stainton solo during uptempo runs through "After Midnight" and "Rock Me Baby." The emotion is palpable in riveting performances of "River of Tears," the instrumental "Kerry" and "Tears in Heaven." And the talented troupe has a blast when Clapton switches to an electric instrument to run through the blues classics "Long Distance Call," "Bad Boy," and "Got My Mojo Working." The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions is available on DVD+CD (the configuration reviewed here), Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl, and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray and audio CD packaged in a 40-page 12-inch by 12-inch hardback photo book, digital video and digital audio. Information:

Book Title: 
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
Author: Miles A. Copeland III
Publisher: Jawbone Press
Softcover: 336 pages
You might like if you enjoy: Popular music in the 1970s and '80s; the music industry
Tell me more: "Two Steps Forward, One Step Back" is music industry giant Miles A Copeland's journey as a manager, promoter, label owner and taste maker. The story spans his childhood spent in the Middle East  where Copeland grew up with his father (a CIA agent stationed in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon)  to London in the late 1960s to his seminal role managing The Police (featuring his brother Stewart Copeland) and ultimately founding the highly-influential IRS Records and through to the here and now. Copeland's writing style is clear and he really brings clarity to the printed page when recalling events (such as Sting's reasoning to go solo leading to the demise of The Police) will thrill music fans. The book also has 16 pages of historical photographs, including many of the author with the music stars he helped champion.

Buck Owens & Susan Raye
Title: Together Again (Omnivore Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens, Susan Raye
Tell me more: Released on Dec. 10, the outstanding new compilation Together Again gathers timeless songs recorded by Buck Owens and Susan Raye between 1970 and 1975. There are 22 tracks on the Bakersfield country-mining collection including 10 solo performances featuring Raye and a full dozen duets on the set. The range and strength of the material shines at every turn. The Owens-penned title track is a beautiful and tender duet, showcasing how wonderfully their voices blended together. Other outstanding tracks on "Together Again" include the lively "Fooling' Around," affecting love song "High As The Mountains," infectious "Love's Gonna Live Here" and buoyant "I Don't Care (Just As Long As You Love Me)." Just listen to how Owens and Raye join voices so magically on "Think Of Me" and their lasting hits "The Great White Horse," "Love Is Strange" and "Togetherness." Information:

Author/Artist: Chris Jagger
Album Title: Mixing Up The Medicine (BMG Records)

Book Title:
Talking To Myself (BMG Books; 376 pages)
You might like if you enjoy: The Rolling Stones, rock and roll photography, tell-all books
Tell me more: Chris Jagger is the younger brother of Mick Jagger, so it should come as no surprise that the Englishman has plenty to say and  what's more — talent to spare. His new autobiography "Talking To Myself" is a terrific read; he also has a new album Mixing Up The Medicine that will allow new fans (including yours truly) to discover more about an artist up to the task of living in the shadow of one of the most iconic rock and roll notables ever. Chris Jagger's book "Talking To Myself" takes readers back to his family's history, with revealing details about their beginnings and plenty of photos too. Even more eventful are his stories of late 1960s counterculture London, extensive travels through Southeast Asia and his musical journeys. His new album Mixing Up The Medicine includes the uptempo R&B delights "Anyone Seen My Heart" (featuring great guest vocals from his brother Mick) and "Merry Go Round," the bluesy "Loves' Horn" and genre-blending "Hey Brother." Information:


The Monkees
Title: Christmas Party (Rhino Records)
You might like if you enjoy: The Monkees, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork
Tell me more: Following the death of Michael Nesmith on Dec. 10, 2021, I immediately started playing one of my favorite holiday music classics, the Monkees' Christmas Party. The final official release featuring the popular group (the album was released in October 2018), the disc truly captures the magic of the Monkees' most beloved recordings of the 1960s. The album features a mix of classic seasonal favorites, artful remakes and newly-penned songs that make for one of the most inviting sets of the season. Gems fill this sparkling collection; the Andy Partridge-penned "Unwrap You At Christmas" is bolstered by a sweet string section and soaring vocals from Micky Dolenz. Nesmith's affecting vocals add just the right moodscape to a wistful cover of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song." A shimmering cover of the Alex Chilton-penned Big Star classic "Jesus Christ" and lush version of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime" are reworked enough to make them essential. Several of the late Davy Jones' vocal tracks are used on the disc, including a lovely "Silver Bells." Peter Tork uses his rich baritone and skills on the banjo in a poignant Americana-styled version of "Angels We Have Heard On High." Among this writer's favorite tracks are the instantly-infectious "What Would Santa Do," a melodic rocker written by Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo that takes a playful swipe at those who can't get into the Christmas spirit; "House of Broken Gingerbread" is another killer new cut (this one penned by album producer Adam Schlesinger and Michael Chabon), a potent and tuneful modern rocker. Information:

Robert Kinsler

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