We all know how daunting—nay, obnoxious—it can be to find holiday gifts for the listener who has nearly everything. But for the obsessive completist and the casual collector, there is one gift that says both "I'm thoughtful" and "I love you, but I'm not about to spend four weekends digging through bargain bins to find your stupid rarities": the box set. Below you'll find six retrospective collections for listeners young and old.
Big Star: Keep an Eye on the Sky (Rhino)
Due to a lack of commercial success, an early breakup and the premature death of co-principal songwriter Chris Bell, Big Star's original catalog remains sadly limited. Keep an Eye on the Sky remedies the legacy of these forebears of modern power-pop with dozens of unreleased demos and alternate mixes, a live disc featuring performances from a 1973 show at Lafayette's Music Room in Memphis and a booklet with in-depth liner notes and rarely seen photos.
Pixies: Minotaur (Artist in Residence)
You might find it improbable that the catalog of one of the greatest indie-rock acts of all time could be improved upon, but, by God, Artist in Residence has done it. All five of the Boston-based college rockers' studio albums have been remastered in this collection, which also features a DVD of Frank Black (Francis) & Co.'s 1991 show at Brixton Academy in London, a 54-page book and brand-new artwork from long-time Pixies album artist Vaughan Oliver.
The Jesus Lizard: Pure, Head, Goat, Liar, Down (Touch and Go)
Criminally underappreciated (and brutally abrasive) noise-rock quartet The Jesus Lizard mounted a highly anticipated reunion just this year, so what better way to mark their reemergence than by reissuing their entire catalog? Legendary indie-rock producer Steve Albini and original engineer Bob Weston remastered each of JL's releases—making this the ideal present for the obsessive, basement-dwelling connoisseur of all-things-caustic in your life. True, this may not technically be a box set—think of it as a build-your-own—but all four discs and the Pure EP on vinyl are available for combining.
The Beatles: The Beatles Stereo Box Set (Apple, EMI)
This one's a no-brainer: If you've got the coin to buy The Beatles Stereo Box Set—and the benevolence to not just keep it for yourself—it makes, well, pretty much the best present ever. For anyone. It's a 16-disc set featuring stereo remasters of every record the Fab Four ever made, plus a DVD compiling several mini-documentaries on each record.
Various Artists: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm (Rhino)
For the aging hippie looking to spur on those acid flashbacks—or for the groovy peacenik youngster born just a few decades too late—this six-disc 40th anniversary Woodstock retrospective features performances from nearly every artist present at the legendary festival (with a conspicuously absent The Band) along with a detailed liner essay by rock historian Bud Scoppa.
Frank Sinatra: New York (Reprise)
And for the listener who has no interest in that confounded rock 'n' roll, try this brand-new collection of live performances from Old Blue Eyes. New York features four discs and a DVD of live performances that span 25 years cherry-picked from Carnegie Hall to Madison Square Garden and the United Nations. This one is brimming with monologues, medleys and magnetism, but just be sure Gramma knows how to work the CD player before you tuck this one under her tree.
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