We must give the music industry credit: just when it appears that they have completely run out of ways to spin their back catalogs into gold for the umpteenth time, they find a way. (They’re nothing if not survivalists, those guys.) In addition to featuring a number of big box sets this year, we’ve also included some excellent concert films, as well as one The Beatles’ most famous movies.
Click on the image next to each item to purchase it online, and for more gift ideas, check out the other categories in our Holiday Gift Guide.
Bob Dylan – The Complete Album Collection V.1
Box sets often make for great gifts, and this mega-set will put a smile on the face of any serious Bob Dylan fan. The CD set contains 35 studio titles (including the first-ever North American release of 1973’s Dylan album on CD), six live albums, and a hardcover book featuring extensive new album-by-album liner notes penned by Clinton Heylin and a new introduction written by Bill Flanagan. It also includes two “Side Tracks” discs that include a wealth of previously released non-album singles, tracks from various compilations and songs from films. This set is also available as a limited-edition harmonica-shaped USB stick containing all the music, in both MP3 and FLAC lossless formats, with a digital version of the hardcover booklet, but according to the reviews on Amazon, you should probably stick with the CD box set.
The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert
Finally. After 21 years, the full April 1992 show featuring the surviving members of Queen fronted by a murderer’s row of early ‘90s rock star gods (and Liza Minnelli) is seeing the light of day, and on Blu-ray, to boot. (Inexplicably, the DVD of the set is still missing a few songs.) Extreme’s medley of Queen tracks has been added, as have sets by Metallica, Guns ‘n Roses and even Saint Bob Geldof (and Spinal Tap appears on the Blu-ray). The main show features one showstopper after another, whether it’s James Hetfield singing “Stone Cold Crazy,” George Michael singing “Somebody to Love,” Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott banging out “Tie Your Mother Down,” or Elton John and Axl Rose teaming up to take on “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The bonus featurettes from the 2002 DVD release are here as well. For the Queen fan in your life (or even the Muse fan in your life), this is a slam dunk.
Long before the video revolution, The Beatles put out promotional videos and obviously made movies, so we have a ton of great footage of the band. Here’s the promo video for “Something” written by George Harrison featuring the band and all their gal pals. With the London Olympics starting today we had to give you something from an English band – right?
Although described on its cover as “a chronicle of Paul McCartney’s cathartic journey through New York City in the aftermath of 9/11,” one doesn’t necessarily see a great deal of catharsis going on in “The Love We Make,” which originally aired on Showtime earlier this year. Granted, it’s easily arguable that the effects are internal, but the truth of the matter is that the majority of what we see can best be classified in two ways: the bits where McCartney hangs out with famous people, and the bits where average Americans are beside themselves about the fact that they’ve just had a close encounter with an actual, honest to God Beatle.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with either of these things: it’s kind of amusing to see someone walking down the street and suddenly realize that they’re looking at Paul McCartney, and, truth be told, it’s also entertaining to be a fly on the wall when celebrities are in conversation with each other, particularly if – as is the case here – they slip into a casual familiarity that’s rarely on display when they’re being interviewed. But the film’s co-director, Albert Maysles, suggests that McCartney’s intent with “The Love You Make” was to use music to bring relief to those who were impacted by the 9/11 attacks and honor those who lost their lives in their efforts to save lives, and while that’s fair enough, the end result would be a lot more entertaining if it wasn’t presented in such a pretentious fashion. I mean, a photo of the State of Liberty on the cover? Really, Paul…? No one’s trying to suggest that you didn’t have good intentions by sticking around NYC in the wake of the attacks and trying to raise people’s spirits, but c’mon…
Although “The Love We Make” isn’t nearly as profound as its presentation tries to make you think it is, McCartney fans will still enjoy the film if they take it simply as – Beatles reference utterly intentional – a day in the life of their hero. We see him practice with his band and watch him do a few interviews, including an appearance on Howard Stern’s show. (Pre-interview, he encounters fellow Stern guest Ozzy Osbourne for what is, amazingly enough, the first meeting between the two rock icons; post-interview, McCartney seems shocked that Stern asked him if he’d ever had sex with a black woman, confirming conclusively that, although he may have been aware of Stern, he clearly hadn’t listened to him very much.) Later, we see Sir Paul dismiss a passerby who tries to get plane fare out of him and watch him get annoyed by autograph seekers who refuse to stop following his limo. There’s also a great moment when McCartney is clearly in no way as excited to hear about the Beatles cover band The Fab Faux as one of its members, Will Lee, is to tell him about it.
Is “The Love We Make” worth seeing? It is if you’re a fan of Paul McCartney. Even then, though, keep your expectations realistic. Just because the man has good intentions doesn’t mean that the end result is always going to be a career highlight…and if you don’t believe me, you need only listen to his song “Freedom,” which he offers up as the grand finale of his performance at the Concert for New York. God bless him for trying to raise everyone’s spirits, but the song’s pretty terrible.
Don’t worry, though: “The Love We Make” is better. At least a bit, anyway.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen some curious new pathways to success or, at the very least, fame. (They are not always one and the same, you know.) The most notorious one, of course, is the sex tape. Kim Kardashian may have a gigantic empire now, but it wasn’t long ago that she was just the daughter of a defense attorney and BFF of tabloid staple Paris Hilton. Then, one day, she had a thought: “I could make a videotape of myself having sex with a guy, then leverage my friendship with Paris for maximum exposure. What’s that, honey? You want to pee on me? Yeah, whatever, as long as it makes me famous.”
Then there is the path forged by one Brian Joseph Burton, whose debut album didn’t contain a lick of original production or content. Instead, he took the rhymes from Jay-Z’s The Black Album, and put them to the instrumental tracks from the Beatles’ The Beatles (aka The White Album), and poof, The Grey Album was born. And really, once you heard about this project, was there any question which song Danger Mouse would use to back up “99 Problems”? Hell to the naw. Of course it would be “Helter Skelter,” which is still one of the most hard-rocking songs ever recorded.
Have a good pre-Christmas weekend, everyone. May your problems be fewer than 99.
Granted, neither of these songs is actually about the American Revolution, but last time we checked, there weren’t a whole lot of songs written about The Revolutionary War that would make for good background music during happy hour, so we’re going with songs that approach the theme, if not the subject. First up, the only band that matters: The Beatles.
There is a great story about Paul McCartney showing up at a record release party for the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, where lucky members of the public are hearing “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man” for the first time, and they’re duly impressed. So Paul, innocently or not so innocently, asked if he could play an acetate of a couple tracks the Beatles had just recorded. They said sure, and Paul drops “Hey Jude” and “Revolution,” at which point Mick Jagger is absolutely furious because once again, the Beatles are two steps ahead of the Stones. And at their own record release party, no less. Ow.
There are no entertaining stories around our second song, though. The music video is a giant plea for lenience in the case against Leonard Peltier, a Nativa American activist who received to consecutive life sentences in 1977 for the deaths of two FBI agents. All right, who wants to party? Woooooooo!