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Box sets still big on holiday wish lists
For the serious audiophile who still digs the warm sound of good old-fashioned grooves and has the turntable to prove it, there's the limited edition Beatles' “Stereo Vinyl Remasters” box set, containing all 14 of the Fab Four's official album releases, cut from last year's digital remasters and complete with original album artwork and inserts — if it's not too dear. You may have to “scrimp and save,” as the song goes. ($400)
Newly discovered performance footage of the King of Rock 'n' Roll is just one of the goodies contained in “Elvis Presley: Prince From Another Planet” (the title is taken from a headline in The New York Times). This two-CD+DVD package captures two of Presley's four sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in June 1972. Originally released on vinyl LP that same month, this 40th anniversary edition is vastly expanded to include 47 tracks on two CDs, plus a DVD with a 20-minute documentary featuring Elvis' June 9 news conference, footage from the June 9 evening show, the June 10 afternoon show, interviews with band members James Burton and Glen D. Hardin, and 20 minutes of footage shot by a fan with a hand-held camera and synced with newly mixed audio. Liner notes are by Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, who reviewed one of the shows for Cavalier magazine. ($25)
Combining a rural South African Zulu style of music with his tartest songwriting chops, Paul Simon birthed a musical hybrid that made his sixth solo album one of the most acclaimed pop albums of the '80s. It won him two Grammys and pulled a career out of a slump, and has since become a major and lasting influence on modern music. “Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition” celebrates this landmark work with two CDs and two DVDs that include the remastered album, the 1987 “African Concert” from Zimbabwe, the fascinating making-of documentary “Under African Skies,” replicas of Simon's lyrics pad and the original “Graceland” poster, and an 80-page book of archival photos and interviews. Rhymin' Simon never sounded better. ($115)
When the Rolling Stones convened in a recording studio for the first time in seven years to celebrate their 50th anniversary with some new music, they only managed to come up with two new songs, “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had some writing assistance from Steve Jordan on the latter (hope that title isn't signaling an end, although it is the last track on the album), but both rock as roughly and readily as the vintage stuff on “GRRR!,” the band's umpteenth greatest hits album. The three-disc set is also their most generous, offering a nice round 50 tracks, beginning with their very first single release, a 1963 cover of Chuck Berry's “Come On.” Every radio release is here, and they haven't aged a bit, even if the band members look a little rugged around the edges. Long may they continue to roll. ($25)
Heart's beat is strong as ever, too, showing no signs of failing or breaking or slowing down. They released their 16th studio album, “Fanatic,” in October, and a memoir, “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll” in September. Apparently, all this activity inspired the Legacy label to release a career-spanning box set, “Strange Euphoria,” an excellent three-CD, one-DVD set that collects the hits, favorite deep album cuts, rarities, demos and live performances by the hardest-rocking women in the business, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, dating from their 1976 breakthrough “Dreamboat Annie” to 2010s “Red Velvet Car,” which became their seventh Top 10 album. The DVD offers live performances videotaped circa February-March 1976 for KWSU-TV at Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.