By John Benson
The holidays have arrived, which means so has the anxiety of buying the perfect gift for the person who has everything. One easy answer is buying music. Either you can pick something that fits into their tastes or, even better, make them listen to something that defines your musical palette. This year’s gift guide selection features plenty of familiar names, a few obscure choices and some holiday music to perhaps make the season special. Take a look at some of the newer releases here in 2012:
Sade, “Bring Me Home – Live 2011” (Epic) CD/DVD:
After a 10-year hiatus, smooth jazz/R&B act Sade returned to life with new album “Soldier of Love.” Now the top-10-selling tour has been captured as concert recording “Bring Me Home – Live 2011.” Sure, you’ll get all of Sade’s hits (“Smooth Operator,” “No Ordinary Love”) but the real marrow for this release is the documentary film exposing the rarely seen singer and band.
“The Carol Burnett Show,” “Carol’s Favorites” (Time Life) DVD:
Sure, “The Carol Burnett Show’s” entire volume has been hawked on late-night television for years, but here’s a cheaper alternative that will produce the same gut-busting results. “Carol’s Favorites” include memorable sketches such as “The Family,” “Mrs. Wiggins,” “The Chairwoman,” as well as an awesome musical performance by The Jackson 5.
Ernie Kovacs, “The Ernie Kovacs Collection Vol. 2” (Shout! Factory) DVD:
We all have that one uncle who is constantly making references to obscure or forgotten 20th-century figures. Well, you can’t go wrong with the three-DVD set “The Ernie Kovacs Collection Vol. 2,” which includes entire episodes of the influential comedian’s NBC morning show and game show, as well as interviews and sketches.
Doug Stanhope, “Before Turning The Gun On Himself” (Roadrunner) CD/DVD:
Raunchy and fearless funnyman Doug Stanhope’s 10th release may be his best yet at capturing his anger-driven social commentary brand of humor. Specifically hilarious — and decidedly for mature audiences only — are bits called “Hangover” and “It’s a Party, Not Daycare.”
Various Artists, “Fifty Shades of Grey – The Classical Album” (EMI) CD:
For those in need of aural assistance to fully experience the naughty pleasure of erotic book “Fifty Shades of Grey,” an accompanying album of classical music has been released featuring the likes of Bach, Chopin and Verdi. To be fair, if “Fifty Shades of Grey” doesn’t do it on its own, perhaps you need Dr. Oz.
Dolly Parton, “An Evening With …Dolly” (Cracker Barrel) CD/DVD:
Even though it’s been decades since Dolly Parton last scored a radio hit, the country music legend can still pack in audiences, as evident with her new concert release capturing a 2008 London concert. The show features classics such as “Jolene” and “Coat of Many Colors,” while serious fans will love the unreleased concert recordings of “Shattered Image” and “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”
Dean Martin, “Christmas Show” (Time Life) DVD:
Lately it seems as though Dean Martin is releasing more material nearly 20 years after his death than when he was alive. Now available is an entire 1968 holiday special featuring an amazing array of guests: Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Jack Benny, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Bob Newhart and Dom DeLuise. Pour yourself a highball and enjoy this time capsule.
Edie Adams, “The Edie Adams Christmas Album” (Omnivore) CD:
Here’s a Christmas album that belongs in a package gift alongside the aforementioned “The Ernie Kovacs Collection Vol. 2.” Edie Adams, who was married to comedian and television host Kovacs, would often sing holiday music on his show. Now for the first time, Adams’ songs are being released. Invariably the material is warm and harkens back to another era.
Scotty McCreery, “Christmas With Scotty McCreery” (Mercury) CD:
“American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery adds his thick baritone to holiday classics such as “Let it Snow,” “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland.” What makes this seasonal album stand out is new material, including “Christmas Comin’ Round Again” and “Christmas in Heaven.”
Sugar & The Hi-Lows, “Snow Angel” (Ready Set Records) CD:
Rockabilly act Sugar & The Hi-Lows brings its hipster cool retro soul sound into the holiday season on its EP “Snow Angel,” which contains five original tracks along with the obligatory “Jingle Bells.” Americana-loving folks will dig the dreamy title track and the midtempo “Home for the Holiday.”
Various Artists, “A Very Special Christmas 25th Anniversary” (Big Machine Records) CD:
A quarter of a century after U2 and Bob Seger rocked a “A Very Special Christmas,” an updated compilation finds a decidedly Nashville slant with Vince Gill (“Breath of Heaven [Mary’s Song]), Martina McBride (“Please Come Home For Christmas”) and Rascal Flatts (“Mary, Did You Know”). However, the one track that we’ll seemingly hear for years to come every holiday season is Train’s pop- driven “Joy to the World,” which is an ingenious mash-up with its prior hit “Calling All Angels.”
Various Artists, “Average Joes Muddy Christmas” (Average Joe Entertainment) CD:
Something old (Montgomery Gentry and John Anderson), something new (Lo Cash Cowboys and Colt Ford) and a whole lot of annoying is what country fans will get out of the holiday release “Average Joes Muddy Christmas.” Defined by The Lacs’ rap-meets-fiddle “Santa in a 4-Wheel Drive,” the seasonal compilation targets the quintessential off-road driving country music fan with no taste in music.
Blackmore’s Night, “A Knight in New York” (UDR) CD/DVD:
Deep Purple and Rainbow alum Ritchie Blackmore is keeping his name alive with the release of the minstrel-friendly “A Knight in New York,” which finds the singer-guitarist and his wife, singer Candice Night, performing a concert filled with folk rock. However, the show is less Mumford & Sons and more the miniature Stonehenge scene from “Spinal Tap.”
Dio, “The Very Beast of Dio Vol. 2” (Niji Entertainment Group) CD:
The follow-up to the gold-selling 2000-compilation “The Very Beast of Dio,” this second installment offers diehard fans hits (we use that word loosely) from the latter part of his career. To be fair, “Vol. 1” (with “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver”) is the better choice to remember the influential metal singer who passed in 2010.
Judas Priest, “Screaming For Vengeance 30th Anniversary Edition” (Columbia) CD/DVD:
You’ve got another thing coming if you think Judas Priest isn’t going to spend its golden years living off the past. Rob Halford and company have unearthed a fan’s must-have CD/DVD combination with not only a digitally re-mastered original album but live tracks to boot from the era. The true highlight is Judas Priest’s 1983 US Festival show and previously unreleased track “Prisoner of Your Eyes.”
Motorhead, “The World Is Ours — Vol. 2 — Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else” (UDR) CD/DVD:
There’s a good argument to be made that Motorhead’s “The World Is Ours — Vol. 1 — Everywhere Further Than Everyplace Else” accurately covered the entire Lemmy spectrum. Still, the Grammy Award- winning act would be remiss to not release a nearly exact replica follow-up this year in the form of “The World Is Ours — Vol. 2 — Anyplace Crazy As Anywhere Else.” The CD-DVD combo includes a 2011 Wacken concert headline appearance as well as highlights from the Sonisphere and Rio shows.
Stryper, “Live in Indonesia at Java Rockin’ Land” (MVD Visual) DVD:
If you’ve been worried about what you were going to give your diehard Stryper fan for Christmas this year, aside from advice to lose the mullet, here’s the gift you’ve been waiting for. Either Indonesia loves them some Stryper or Indonesians turn out for any group — even the ’80s Christian rock act performed in 2010 — that includes the archipelago on its itinerary. Nevertheless, “Live in Indonesia at Java Rockin’ Land” is for the special kind of metal fan.
Various Artists, “Reggae Golden Jubilee – Origins of Jamaican Music” (VP Records) CD:
For that one reggae-loving, patchouli- smelling, rastaman-wannabe friend of yours who for years has dragged you to one Shaggy and Marley sibling concert after another, here’s your perfect thank you: a four-disc set that details reggae’s growth from Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff to Buju Banton and Sean Paul. Think of it this way, it’s a lot cheaper than flying to Jamaica.
Bob Dylan & The Band, “Down in the Flood” (Chrome Dreams) DVD:
The fact the DVD box for “Down in the Flood” reads, “This film is not authorized by Bob Dylan, The Band or representatives thereof” kind of says it all. Rare footage and archive interviews aside, this cursory documentary examining the relationship between the iconic ‘60s folk singer and his then-unknown backing band that would become an influential ’70s act offers very little to fans of both.
Danko Jones, “Bring on the Mountain” (Bad Taste Records) DVD:
Just as Canadian rock act Danko Jones hasn’t let a lack of mainstream success keep the band from recording and touring stateside, the trio isn’t letting the same hurdles keep it from releasing its 90-minute documentary “Bring on the Mountain.” In addition to interviews with Lemmy, Elijah Wood, Ralph Macchio and Mike Watt, the DVD includes live footage and band videos. Invariably this is best viewed by only Danko Jones followers.
Don McLean, “American Troubadour” (Time Life) DVD:
Seen earlier this year on PBS, the singer- songwriter Don McLean documentary “American Troubadour” pays tribute to the “American Pie” artist. In addition to live performances of his aforementioned ubiquitous biggest song, as well as hits “Vincent [“Starry, Starry Night]” and “Crying,” the three-hour program features interviews with Brian Wilson and REM’s Mike Mills and performances of his songs by Elvis Costello and Fred Astaire.
Incubus, “HQ Live Special Edition” (Legacy) CD/DVD:
In the summer of 2011, alternative act Incubus decided to revisit its past (“Wish You Were Here,” “Nice to Know You,” “Megalomaniac” and more) with a week’s worth of intimate Web shows emanating from a Los Angeles gallery. While such a shameless walk down memory lane runs the risk of sappy nostalgia or a money grab, the CD/DVD acts as a perfect thank you to Incubus fans who get an up-close-and-personal view of their favorite band.
Led Zeppelin, “Celebration Day” (Omniverse Vision) DVD:
It turns out Zeppelin fans hoping to see the band one more time live should have spent thousands of dollars to fly overseas to catch the group’s one-off 2007 reunion gig at O2 Arena in London. For those who missed it (like all of us), you can experience the magic and fire on the recently released concert DVD “Celebration Day.” Invariably this swansong effort is bittersweet. Simply put, the blues-based band sounds amazing (“Black Dog” and “Ramble On”), but it’s too bad fans young and old can’t witness the band firsthand in action.
Meat Loaf, “The Guilty Pleasure Tour” (Concert One Ltd.) DVD:
The good news is this latest Meat Loaf concert release, which was recorded earlier this year in Australia, doesn’t find the “Bat out of Hell” singer tackling “God Bless America.” The bad news is he does do his hits, which to be fair includes a few guilty pleasures.
Neil Diamond, “Hot August Nights 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” (Geffen) CD:
Before Neil Diamond’s 10 sold-out shows at the Greek Theatre in 1972, the singer-songwriter was an artist on the rise. Afterward, as captured on the legendary concert release “Hot August Nights,” Diamond was a star. Now the “Sweet Caroline” singer is revisiting his definitive concert album with unreleased material (“A Modern Day Version of Love” and Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”).
Rage Against The Machine, “Rage Against The Machine – XX 20th Anniversary Box Set” (Legacy Recordings) CD/DVD:
Definitive hip-hop and heavy-metal act Rage Against The Machine celebrates the 20th anniversary of its self-titled debut effort release with a massive compilation that includes its original demo, early concert footage and a 2010 London concert. The highlights include rare tracks such as “The Narrows,” which is an early version of album track “Fistful of Steel,” and unreleased songs “Darkness of Greed” and “Clear the Lane.”
Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, “Live From the Artists Den” (Universal) DVD:
One look at Robert Plant performing with his Americana act The Band of Joy in the recently released DVD “Live From the Artists Den” and you can see why the Led Zeppelin singer eschews any reunion talk with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. Plant is having the time of his life performing modern-day folk. More so, Zep fans will enjoy his reworked versions of “Houses of the Holy,” “Ramble On” and “Black Dog.”
Triumph, “Live at Sweden Rock Festival” (TML) CD/DVD:
Even though hard-rock power trio Triumph never mounted a reunion tour, its rabid cult following can experience the band’s 2008 concert at the Sweden Rock Festival with this CD/DVD release. The show contains all of the obligatory tunes such “Lay It On The Line” and “Allied Forces,” as well as sludgy cover of Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way.”