Friday, December 7, 2007
For soul aficionados: In 1947, Ahmet Ertegun, son of the then-ambassador of Turkey, moved from Washington to New York and started Atlantic Records with a $10,000 loan from his dentist -- seed money for what became perhaps the most influential independent label of all time. Its 60th anniversary is celebrated with three limited-edition boxed sets (each four CDs with 80 tracks; $79.98 each) from Rhino Handmade: Atlantic Blues (1949-1970) shows the label was about more than R&B, but the recently released Atlantic Soul (1959-1975) and the upcoming set The Atlantic Vocal Groups (1951-1963) confirm that its enduring legacy will always be its unparalleled R&B and soul catalogue. Available at http://www.rhinohandmade.com.
Also Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection (Shout! Factory, four discs, 85 tracks; $52.98) tells the story of the most successful black-owned independent record label in the pre-Motown era, known for rough-and-tumble blues, R&B and doo-wop, as well as jazz and gospel. Available in stores and online.
Leading up to Motown's golden anniversary in 2009, Motown/Hip-O Select has been releasing The Complete Motown Singles, boxed sets with the A-side and B-side of every single released by the label and its subsidiaries while based in Detroit (it moved to Los Angeles in 1972). "Vol. 1" ($119.98) spans 1959 to 1961, but after that, the six-CD sets, with booklets, cover each year up to 1969 (prices vary). Sets available at http://www.hip-oselect.com and from iTunes.com without liner notes.
For the headbanger in the basement: The Heavy Metal Box (Rhino, four CDs, 70 tracks; $64.98). Chronological overview of the first golden era (1968-1991): Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to Metallica and Slayer, proto-metal to progressive, black to death, with many loud stops in between. Packaged to look like a mini-amp.
For Bluegrass Capital-ists: Classic Bluegrass Collection (Time Life, three CDs, 60 tracks; $39.98). A comprehensive, cross-licensed set that kicks off with pioneers Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers and ends with newgrass kids such as the Seldom Scene. Time Life goes itself one better with The Stanley Brothers: Definitive Collection (three CDs, 60 tracks; $39.98), surveying the Virginia mountain music duo's entire career from 1947 to Carter Stanley's death in 1966.
For unrepentant bobby-soxers: Frank Sinatra -- A Voice in Time (1939-1952) (Legacy, four CDs, 80 tracks; $49.98). Label mergers have made possible this first overview of Sinatra's formative years at RCA Victor (working for Tommy Dorsey and Harry James's big bands) and Columbia, where solo Sinatra became the first teen idol. The tracks include a wealth of rare radio transcriptions capturing Sinatra's galvanizing effect on his mostly female fan base.
For incurable romantics: Luther Vandross, Love, Luther (Epic/J Records/Legacy, four CDs, 56 tracks; $49.98). The late, great Vandross -- his generation's greatest singer-writer-producer as well as its premiere romantic balladeer -- gets his due in a package loaded with his own hits going back to disco days, celebrated guest vocals and duets, early demos and an anthology of his fabled voice-overs for commercials.
For Brit-aholics: The Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze and Brit-Pop Gems of the Last Millennium (Rhino, four CDs, 78 tracks; $64.98). From the Smiths and the Cure's post-punk echoes of the original British Invasion to acid-house and the "Cool Britannia" of Oasis, Pulp and Blur. Tracks range from the obvious to the obscure, and there's a 80-page booklet, with everything housed in a package resembling a classic English phone booth with a battery-powered flickering light bulb.
For the rock historian: The DVD-ROM Rolling Stone Cover to Cover: The First 40 Years ($125) features 1,026 issues of Rolling Stone with nearly 100,000 pages in a fully searchable digital format. Bondi's space-efficient box set includes a 208-page coffee-table book and a complimentary one-year subscription.
For the country outlaw: Merle Haggard: Legends of American Music -- The Original Outlaw (Time Life, three CDs, 60 tracks; $39.98). This set chronicles Haggard's hard-core country innovations and blue-collar esthetic and celebrates the most impressive country songbook this side of Hank Williams.
-- Richard Harrington