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Some musical suggestions for the holidays 

Songs For The Season

Everyone knows Santa doesn't always have the best music taste in the world -- I mean, why else do the guys in Mannheim Steamroller have a career? And if in fact Santa doesn't exist (we've heard rumors), how can you trust Aunt Ida to know the difference between, say, Blackfoot and Black Flag? You can't, obviously. And who wants single CDs anyway, when there are box sets and special DVD packages to be had? Yes, box sets, almost invented to be gifts with their glorious excess and inclusion of all sorts of fannish marginalia. Following are a few special edition-type items to clip and add to your list, with a little something for everyone. Enjoy -- and for what it's worth, we'll be happy with any of them, sent to the address at the front of this paper.

Anthology of American Folk Music -- Various Artists

Thanks to John Fahey and The Harry Smith Archives, the Anthology has now been respectfully completed (without the inimitable original liner notes and design of Smith's original Smithsonian set). Everybody you've heard of, and many you haven't (who are just as good): Uncle Dave Macon, Robert Johnson, The Monroe Brothers, The Carter Family, The Memphis Jug Band, Leadbelly, Sleepy John Estes, Bukka White, the Blue Sky Boys, and the heretofore unknown Heavenly Gospel Singers. Pricey, but a must for any big-time collection. -- TCD

Beastie Boys DVD Anthology The two-disc set from Criterion would make the perfect gift for the DVD-savvy Beastie Boys fan. A total of 18 videos (a great mix of hits like "Intergalatic" and "Sure Shot" as well as lesser-known cuts like "Ricky's Theme" and "Netty's Girl") have been augmented with more than 100 camera angles and audio tracks which are switchable at any time during playback. And if Beastie a cappella versions and loads of never-before-seen footage aren't enticing enough, a mock talk-show appearance from the cast of the "Sabotage" video is also included, which in itself should be reason enough to fork over the bucks. -- LF

Can You Dig It? The 70s Soul Experience This six-disc box set pays some serious homage to the golden years of American soul. Among the 136 tracks, 65 managed to hit number one on the R&B and/or pop charts. The CDs were compiled chronologically and include among others: Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, the Spinners, the O'Jays, James Brown, Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Freda Payne, Laura Lee and the Carolinas' own Chairmen of the Board. -- LF

Complete Hits Collection (1974-1997) -- William (Billy) Joel

The Piano Man's first "for real" greatest hits collection, featuring all your faves. Compared with many his age, Joel is still writing good songs, not having buddy Jann Wenner pen ridiculous five-star reviews in Rolling Stone (is it a wonder no one takes that magazine seriously anymore?), and is aging rather gracefully. Thankfully, he and Elton John are now starting to get the appreciation they deserve while post-1975 hacks like Jagger and Stewart continue to flounder (artistically, at least). -- TCD

Dave Matthews Band -- The Videos 1994-2001 This is a collection of Matthews' 12 videos, which span his career all the way from 1995's "What Would You Say" to the most recent, "The Space Between" (despite the title, there's nothing from 1994). While it's available on VHS, the DVD package is loaded with extras. On the DVD, you can view the lyrics onscreen as the video plays, as well as listen to comments from the various directors. And of course, there's also some behind the scene footage for a few cuts: "Don't Drink the Water," "Stay (Wasting Time)" and "I Did It." -- LF

Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd -- Pink Floyd

The wonder here is the fact the damn thing ever got released, what with the icy relationship between Roger Waters and the rest of the current (sorta) David Gilmour-led band. The first ever "best of" collection recently debuted at #2 on the Billboard charts with sales of over 214,000 copies its first week. Newly remastered and assembled by long time Pink Floyd producer and engineer James Guthrie, the 26-song, 2-CD set was mixed together as one piece of continuous music, much like their historic The Wall. A must. -- TCD

The Golden Road (1965-1973) -- The Grateful Dead

Delightful box set here for 60s and 70s rock fans, as well as Deadheads in search of rarities, many of which are presented here for the first time. Included are tracks from the pre-Dead Warlocks, as well as earlier models of the group, live tracks, and loads more. -- TCD

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!: The Ramones Anthology -- The Ramones

OK, so this has been out for a while now. That said, it's a must for any self-respecting record collection, unless you already have the vinyl in your mitts. Joey Ramone's passing this year really boosted the sales of this anthology, but the music -- hard, fast and loud -- stands alone. One of the most influential acts of the last 30 years, you have these guys to thank for much of the independent music that flourished underground in the 1980s before giving way to the crass marketing of the same in the 90s. For making possible Black Flag, we'll forgive them Blink-182. -- TCD

I Want My 80s Box Yet another box set released this year that's solely dedicated to anyone who may be stuck in another decade. This three-disc anthology doesn't actually include any rare obscurities from the era; instead, it mostly dishes out all the hits -- everything from Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" to "She Drives Me Crazy" from Fine Young Cannibals. Where else could you find Blondie, Kool & The Gang and Tiffany together? -- LF

Ken Burns' Jazz -- Various Artists

A complete, if relatively predictable, collection that seeks to encompass the history of jazz in America, and almost succeeds. Also available are single-disc "introduction to" collections by artists like Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie. Perfect for the neophyte jazz fan. -- TCD

Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (1933-1944) -- Billie Holiday

A monumental 10-disc, 230-track package, Lady Day shows that The Voice was the thing: technically limited, but unlimited in its ability to express emotion. Packaged beautifully with Michael Brooks' discography "The Songs of Billie Holiday," a wonderful, candid look at the woman herself and the songs she sung. -- TCD

Love, God, Murder -- Johnny Cash

John R. Cash's entire music career, summed up in three words. Heck, even Prince can only count the first two in the musical cataloguing of his tortured soul. All of his best stuff, handily split up into perfect little helpings for Friday night (Love), Saturday night with the boys (Murder -- or at least pretending to be a bad boy), and Sunday Morning (God). The best introduction to Cash you're gonna get, and you can buy them all separately if you don't have the (ahem) cash -- or if you're perhaps an atheist. -- TCD

OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music -- Various Artists

Interesting box set that seems to argue that electronic music is the new classical music of today -- and a pretty good argument it is. Most of the stuff here is suitably avant-garde, but not so much so that it's unlistenable. One hears the seeds planted here that have germinated into Radiohead, Aphex Twin, Sigur Ros and The Beta Band -- Louis and Bebe Barron's "Main Title from Forbidden Planet," composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Kontakte," Holger Czukay's Can-era "Boat-Woman-Song," and Brian Eno's "Unfamiliar Winds (Leeks Hills)," an early foray into ambient soundscapes. Probably not for the uninitiated, but for those wishing to see the Robert Johnsons behind, say, Thom Yorke, it's a no-brainer. -- TCD

Salival Limited Edition Tool Box Set Since you never know how long you may have to wait between Tool albums, this Tool Box can make for a nice distraction. The CD features a few rarities as well as a few live tracks, and as with most Tool releases, there's also a hidden track ("Maynard's Dick"). Of course, there's plenty of odd artwork (56 pages to be exact) and an accompanying VHS or DVD (your choice) of the band's unique yet slightly disturbing videos for "Aenema," "Stinkfist," "Prison Sex" and "Sober." -- LF

Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America -- Various Artists

Way too much good stuff on this companion to the VH1 series to list completely (and only a few stinkers -- Coolio? How many black people do you know liked Coolio?). However, a partial sampling of the artists pretty much says it all: Scott Joplin, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, Charlie Patton, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Robert Johnson, Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Leadbelly, T-Bone Walker, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Miles Davis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Michael Jackson (curb your laughter), Quincy Jones (the Sanford and Son theme!), Parliament, Grand Master Flash, NWA, De La Soul, and more. A little weak in post-1980 offerings, but a veritable history of American music before then. -- TCD *

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