There’s less than a week left before Christmas. You’ve got someone on your list who is really difficult to buy for? A sophisticate?
We’ve got you covered.
Yesterday I remarked to my wife that if I stacked up all of the amazing stuff I’ve been sent in just the past two months alone from publishers, publicists, and record labels, it would far surpass my best Christmas haul… ever. Some of it I asked for, but most of it came unbidden. Every day’s post saw a crazy new treat arrive.
Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Dayal Patterson (Feral House). I found this book as fascinating as I found a new issue of RE/Search or Mondo 2000 when I was younger. I’m putting this book at #1 on my list because, believe it or not, I think it would appeal to the largest cross section of people. Me, I didn’t give a shit about Black Metal, but when I opened the package and pulled this book out, I sat right down and read the majority of it in one sitting. If you want the satisfaction of seeing your rock snob friend, lover or relative sit down on Christmas day and bury their nose in YOUR gift, go with Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult. You’ll find a more in-depth review here.
Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series (Shout Factory) I received this a few weeks ago and we’re already, as of last night, 81 episodes into it. If I only got the MH, MH box set (38 DVDs, 325 episodes, plus ten episodes of Fernwood 2Night with Martin Mull and Fred Willard) this year, it would still be my best Christmas ever. It is astonishing how well this show has aged, and just how far ahead of its time the humor was, too. In a longer post about Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, I said that this long lost, fondly-recalled series was arriving just in time for the binge watching generation and owing from the way Tara and I have been ravenously devouring it, I’d have think that there’s going to be a full-on MH, MH cult revival coming soon. By the time it gets onto Netflix streaming, well, forget about it. (I also predict “Mary Hartman” will be a popular Halloween costume next year for hipsters—male and female alike—mark my words…)
White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition The Velvet Underground (UMe) The second installment of Universal’s “Super Deluxe” VU reissues, White Light/White Heat has surely never sounded better, but it’s the inclusion of the stunning 1967 live show from The Gymnasium that’s the crown jewel of this set. Read more here and listen to “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore,” one of the most amazing VU performances you’re ever going to hear.
Fanfare Jonathan Wilson (Downtown) I’m already on record as calling Fanfare the best and most important album of 2013 and I will stand by those words (and direct you to my original review here). I do want to mention here, though, that Wilson is a total analog freak in the studio and his vinyl releases are done to a very exacting standard (and weigh a lot). Vinyl head on your shopping list this year? Go for the two-record set of Fanfare.
Instant Replay Deluxe Edition The Monkees (Rhino Handmade) I played this so many times in the weeks after I got it that I thought my wife might break it if I didn’t let up. Instant Replay came out after the Monkees TV series was cancelled—and Peter Tork was gone by then, too—although many of the numbers were recorded prior. The album, as originally released in 1969, was somewhat uneven, but with the inclusion of several great extras, I’d give this an A-. It’s not the best Monkees album, no, but it certainly still deserves to stand alongside their earlier albums that everyone knows. “Someday Man,” “You and I” (a Davy penned song with backing from Neil Young on guitar) and the inclusion of nearly all of Mike Nesmith’s “Nashville Sessions” made this, for me, a must have.
Moondance Deluxe Edition Van Morrison (Warner Bros.) I posted about this the other day, so I’ll keep it brief. Classic album, one of the all time greats of the rock era, but you already knew that. Four CDs of a nicely remastered stereo Moondance, alternate mixes, discarded takes and mono versions. For me, though, the glorious 5.1 surround mix by one of the recordings’ original engineers, Elliot Scheiner, is the main event (on a Blu-ray in high quality HD DTS so you can really hear the difference, too).
Comme à la Radio Brigitte Fontaine (Superior Viaduct) This album is one of the most far out things I’ve ever heard. The (to say the least) eccentric Fontaine teams up with The Art Ensemble of Chicago, employing their unique talents to realize her bohemian Beatnik musical vision—a kind of wild, arrhythmic, Arabic free jazz—that brings to mind PiL, Serge Gainsbourg and The Master Musicians of Joujouka in various measures. If you want the satisfaction of seeing your giftee forcing this album on all their musically inclined mates, go with Comme à la radio, on CD or deluxe vinyl from Superior Viaduct.
Theres a Riot Going On: Gold Edition Sly and The Family Stone (Get On Down/EPIC) Well-known for their super creative packaging, the folks at Get On Down did not disappoint with this deluxe gold disc release of this mind-crushing classic. There’s a Riot Goin’ On is never going to sound truly “great” from an audiophile point of view—the tracks of the master tapes were recorded and re-recorded on too many time for that—this is probably the best sounding version there is. With a nice full color hardback book essay on the album and an embroidered cloth patch of the cover’s black, white and red flag, this is a sweet collector’s trophy piece.
Recollection “Le Ducks Box Set” Neil Innes (Neil Innes.org) One of the things I listened to the most in 2013 was this absolutely stellar three disc, one DVD collection of material from the Innes Book of Records TV series. I did a long interview with Neil Innes over email about this release—only available at his website—so I will direct you to that post, which has plenty of fantastic video clips. If there is a Monty Python fan on your shopping list, this one is, for sure, a knockout of a gift.
Cal Schenkel’s amazingly cheap art sale: Long associated with Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, American artist Cal Schenkel has created some of the most striking, freaky and enduringly classic images ever seen on album covers. I’m a big admirer of his work and I was floored to find out how inexpensive his prints—and even his paitings—are going for on his site. Any Zappa or Beefheart nuts in your life? They will love you long time for a piece of art from the great Cal Schenkel!
The Rock Snob’s Dictionary: An Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge David Kamp and Steven Daly (Three Rivers Press) Evocative title, eh? An amusing A-Z of exactly what you think it’s about. Co-author Daly (who did a guest turn on the Dangerous Minds Radio Hour and was the original drummer for Orange Juice) is an old pal of mine. He told me when the book was published that it was 1/3 based on my record collection, so with that in mind—and since they coined the phrase—I can recommend this one unreservedly as a sweet stocking stuffer.
SONOS speakers. Like I was saying earlier, this has been a wonderfully bountiful holiday season pour moi, and (by far) the biggest reason for that is the two rooms worth of wireless audio gear that SONOS’ ace marketeer Austin Brown sent my way. I’ve got a SONOS surround system in the bedroom (it would have been very awkward to use wired speakers in that particular room, so these were quite welcome, I can assure you) and two SONOS Play:5 speakers that are flanking me on either side as I type this. The first thing I played when I hooked these babies up was “The Suit” by Public Image Ltd., a song that’s practically a part of my DNA I’ve listened to it so many times, and sure enough, I heard things I have never heard before with the Play:5s, which are just incredible. The SONOS subwoofer weighs about 40 lbs! They have SONOS listening stations at Target, so you can check them out there. I reckon they’re some of the best sounding speakers I’ve ever heard, engineered from the ground up by some very smart people. (A big thank you here for Mr. Chris Holmes.)
Speaking of speakers and smart people, Alexander Rosson is the CEO and chief scientist/inventor behind the high end Audeze headphone line. While Audeze headphones are pretty pricey—the top model, the LCD-3 sells for $1945.00—they are actually worth it. A bit like having tiny Magneplanars strapped to your head, it could be argued that for someone who aspired to own a $20,000 dollar stereo, but will never be able to afford it, that these puppies are actually a bargain. The Audeze cans are featherlight and covered in supersoft leather. If Audeze are the Bentley of headphones, then Beats would be like the Pinto.