The weather outside might be frightful, so it’s the perfect time to curl up with a delightful book, DVD, or box set from a favorite musical artist. Whether you’ve got a rock, pop, country, metal, hip-hop, gospel, jazz, or classical music fan on your list, there is something here that they will be happy to find in their stocking — and then, hopefully, in the spirit of the holidays, share with you.
Reissues & rarities
Public Enemy, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet”
If you have a classic hip-hop fan on your “nice” list, then put these two pivotal albums in your crosshairs. Rereleased and expanded as part of Def Jam’s 30th-anniversary celebration, “It Takes a Nation...” just passed its own quarter-century threshold, which “Fear” will hit in 2015. But regardless of vintage, both albums still pack a potent punch, musically and lyrically.
It’s hard to overstate just how game-changing “Nation” really was. The album boiled over with inventive sounds from the “Bomb Squad” production team (joined on “Nation” by Def Jam cofounder and production guru Rick Rubin), whose members looked back, forward, and sideways to layer sounds that provided a perfect bed for Chuck D’s righteous rhymes and pre-reality show jester Flavor Flav. The album brought us “Don’t Believe the Hype,” “Bring the Noise,” “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” and “Night of the Living Baseheads,” among other classics.
“Fear,” its successor, spawned “911 is a Joke,” “Burn Hollywood Burn,” and “Do the Right Thing” rallying anthem, “Fight the Power.” These albums are the reason that the New York hip-hop crew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Each reissue includes the original album with a bonus disc of remixes — and, in the case of “Nation,” the previously out of print “Fight the Power . . . Live” DVD and album notes written by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the Roots.
More reissues & rarities:
The Afghan Whigs, “Gentlemen” The fierce Ohio alt-rockers led by Greg Dulli decided to re-release their classic 1993 album as a “coming of age” party for its 21st birthday. The two-disc set includes a remastered version of the original album and a disc of rarities: demos, B-sides, and live performances including an intense Supremes cover. (S.R.)
Robbie Basho, “Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12” It has been heartening to see renewed interest in the late guitarist Robbie Basho’s fascinating body of work. Released in 1979, “Art of the Acoustic Steel String Guitar 6 & 12” showcases Basho’s dexterous explorations of Western and Eastern modalities. This reissues comes in two formats: CD (through Grass-Tops Recording) and vinyl (via Gnome Life Records). (J.R.)
Beyoncé, “Beyoncé: Platinum Edition” Beyoncé got some of the best reviews of her career for this self-titled effort, which was released to much acclaim, and by complete surprise, late last year. Here she expands the set with a second disc of six tracks — two new tunes and four remixes, including “Standing on the Sun.” (S.R.)
The Kinks, “Muswell Hillbillies” When the Kinks released “Muswell Hillbillies” in 1971, it signaled a new direction for the English rock band. Ray Davies turned his attention to hardscrabble lives in songs tinged with country and blues. This deluxe reissue includes a remastered version of the album, fleshed out with bonus tracks, alternate versions, and an accompanying DVD that shows the band on the BBC in 1972. (J.R.)
Led Zeppelin, “IV” and “Houses of the Holy” The reissues of Zep’s first three albums bowed this summer, and the march continues with these two 1970s masterworks, which spawned many of the band’s most well-known songs. Available in six different formats, from single CDs to a super deluxe box, the albums and their companion audio discs were remastered by guitarist Jimmy Page. (S.R.)
Oasis, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory” Squabbling siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher may never mend fences, but fans can relive their “Glory” days with this three-disc reissue celebrating the best example of their sneering/soaring Brit pop-rock in songs like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.” The bonus discs include a clutch of rare demos, B-sides, and live performances. (S.R.)
Scruffy the Cat, “The Good Goodbye: Unreleased Recordings 1984-1990” Long overdue and sure to be appreciated around here, this compilation of the Boston alt-country band’s rare recordings is especially poignant in the wake of frontman Charlie Chesterman’s death last November. This 23-song collection gathers studio tracks, live performances, and unissued sessions recorded at Memphis’ Ardent Studios. (J.R.)
Soundgarden, “Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path” The Seattle rockers have reformed and come roaring back, but they look back on this compilation, available in single and triple disc formats. Curated by guitarist Kim Thayil, the sets collect previously unheard tracks, soundtrack and B-side odds and sods, and a new song, “Storm.” (S.R.)
The Velvet Underground, “The Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition” Often considered the Velvets’ most mellow statement, their self-titled third album from 1969 is indeed flush with some of Lou Reed’s tenderest songs, including “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Candy Says.” This exhaustive box set reissue unfurls with 65 songs spread over six CDs, different stereo mixes, and unreleased live recordings. Linger on indeed. (J.R.)
Yo La Tengo, “Extra Painful” In 1993, Yo La Tengo detoured into the melodic, ambient textures that have come to define the indie-rock trio. “Painful” was a sea change for the band, an album that imparted the sensation of being lost in a dream. Two decades on, it has aged exceedingly well. That’s the takeaway from this double-disc reissue, dubbed “Extra Painful,” which throws in 12 bonus tracks that include unreleased demos and live acoustic takes. (Out Dec. 2) (J.R.)