For music fans, holiday shopping can feel a lot like personal shopping — and after a few hours, one can devolve into the other with frightening ease. The world of music has something for everyone. The most giftable box sets of the holiday season:
Bob Dylan, “The Complete Album Collection, Vol. One”
Calling it “Vol. One” seems funny given how definitive this collection is. Then again, we’re talking about Bob Dylan, so who knows how many more albums he’ll make well into his twilight years? For the Dylan diehard, this is the mother lode: 35 studio titles, six live albums, a double-disc set called “Side Tracks” (which collects previously released non-album singles), and a hardcover book with extensive liner notes.
The Beatles, “Live at the BBC: The Collection”
This four-disc set collects the previously available first volume of John, Paul, George, and Ringo performing live — both originals and covers — and cutting up on the air with the BBC hosts with the newly released Volume Two. The newer disc offers 37 previously unreleased performances and 23 newly available “speech tracks.”
Sly and the Family Stone, “Higher!”
For the funk fanatic in the family, consider this four-disc set celebrating the 70th birthday of founder Sylvester Stewart. All of the hits are here in their original mono masters form — including “Everyday People” and “Dance to the Music” — as well as 17 previously unreleased tracks, live concert and television recordings, and alternate takes.
Garth Brooks, “Blame It All on My Roots: Five Decades of Influences”
When the country superstar comes back, he comes back big. This eight-disc, Walmart-exclusive set includes four albums filled with cover tunes by Brooks’s inspirations, separated by genre — country, roots, rock, and soul — and featuring Merle Haggard, James Taylor, and Stevie Wonder. Additionally, there are two discs of his greatest hits, one DVD of music videos, and another documenting his about-to-be-completed Las Vegas show.
Elvis Presley, “Elvis at Stax”
In 1973 Presley went to the famed Memphis studio in what were the last substantial recording sessions of his career. The tunes were parceled out onto albums that included various sessions, so this three-disc set is the first to collect all 28 masters and 27 outtakes in one package, including “Promised Land” and “Raised on Rock.”
Various artists, “Los Nuggetz: ’60s Garage and Psych From Latin America”
Taking a cue from “Nuggets,” the legendary 1972 compilation that unearthed long-lost gems from psychedelic rock, this four-disc set looks to the forgotten past of rock from Latin America and Spain. Among the original songs are fun Spanish-language covers of ’60s hits, including “Satisfaction,” “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” and “Mrs. Robinson.”
The Band, “Live at the Academy of Music 1971”
At the tail end of 1971, the Band set up shop at New York’s Academy of Music for four concerts that culminated in a celebrated New Year’s Eve performance that included a surprise cameo by Bob Dylan. Selections from those shows appeared on 1972’s “Rock of Ages,” but this box set, on four CDs and one DVD, unearths all of the performances in newly mastered
Various artists, “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume One (1917-1932)”
For the serious music scholar, this mammoth collection tells the definitive story behind Paramount Records, a label founded in the 1910s that went on to chronicle the rise of “race records” from that era. There’s a lot to behold: 800 digital recordings, six LPs, a 250-page art book, a 360-page field guide to the artists — and it all comes in an oak cabinet. It’s a labor of love from Jack White’s Third Man Records and the late John Fahey’s Revenant Records.
Woody Guthrie, “American Radical Patriot”
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Woody Guthrie, and now comes this hulking new box set on Rounder Records that includes, for the first time, all of Guthrie’s Library of Congress recordings made by Alan Lomax. Also among the six CDs are a DVD titled “Roll on Columbia: Woody Guthrie & the Bonneville Power Administration,” a 60-page booklet, and previously unpublished photos and drawings by Guthrie.
Various artists, “Live at Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013”
Opened in 1960 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Caffè Lena has hosted its share of legendary folk performers over the years. This lovingly assembled three-disc set on the Tompkins Square label is especially strong on artists with New England roots, including Bill Morrissey, Patty Larkin, Anaïs Mitchell, Mary Gauthier, and Chris Smither.