Music gift guide: Box sets

B.B. King
NBC-TV via AP/file
B.B. King

Gidon Kremer: The Complete Astor Piazzolla Recordings Sometime in the mid-1990s the great Latvian violinist fell hard for the expressionist tangos of Astor Piazzolla. This is wistful, sly, dream-washed music, and the seven albums bundled here — one of them previously unreleased — are potent cocktails of sensuality and nostalgia for a place you’ve never known.

The Debussy Edition Issued by Deutsche Grammophon to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, this expansive 18-disc box set includes recordings from the vaults by top-tier interpreters such as Pierre Boulez, Mitsuko Uchida, and Claudio Abbado. It’s all here — the orchestral works, chamber music, opera – modern musical revolution for the price per disc of a latte.

Various artists, “Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936” Times were tough, but that didn’t squash the spirit of the music compiled on this three-disc box set from Tompkins Square Records. Mostly culled from the collection of Don Wahle, a “hillbilly 78 collector” from Kentucky, the set casts a wide net: fiddle tunes, string bands, gospel hollers, train songs. Also available in a vinyl edition with three LPs.


B.B. King, “Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Mr. B.B. King” The legendary bluesman gets a 10-CD, 194-track tribute that packs in decades’ worth of his well-known recordings, collaborations, and deep cuts. The box set also includes a 72-page hardcover book with essays by music historians Ashley Kahn and Dick Shurman and photos that follow King’s still-going career.

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Johnny Cash, “The Complete Columbia Album Collection” Consider it the mother lode from one of American music’s greatest icons: 63 CDs gathering 59 albums spanning more than 30 years from the Man in Black’s discography. (Out Dec. 4)

NBC-TV, via Associated Press
Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, “Prince From Another Planet” This set brings to light video footage shot by a fan during one of the Presley shows at Madison Square Garden in 1972, synched with newly mixed audio. The set includes two full performances from the New York stand, as well as a disarmingly ramshackle press conference.

Woody Guthrie, “Woody at 100” The venerated folk singer-songwriter has been boxed before, but he gets fresh treatment in this three-disc/book set, thanks to 21 previously unreleased performances, six never-before-heard original songs, and a 150-page book that includes an essay written by Guthrie expert and Folkways archivist Jeff Place.

Cheap Trick, “The Complete Epic Albums Collection”

Woody Guthrie, "Woody at 100"

This box set comes with the Illinois band’s 13 albums, remastered and expanded releases, a complete recording of the two-day concert at Budokan, and “Found All the Parts” EP — all piled into a conveniently compact checkerboard package.


The English Beat, “The Complete Beat” The title says it all here. This five-disc set collects everything the British 2 Tone ska pioneers — responsible for enduring tracks like “Save It for Later” and “Mirror in the Bathroom” — recorded, including their three studio albums remastered and a host of demos, rarities, and live performances including one from Boston in 1982.

Tito Puente, “Quatro: The Definitive Collection” Presenting the late, great Latin jazz maestro at the peak of his powers in the mid-1950s, with the various orchestras he led. The five CDs cover 57 songs, which translates to three hours of remastered music with extensive liner notes, rare photos, and alternate takes.