by Greg Cahill
One of the hallmarks of the modern world is the rise of retro culture—the fashionable AMC hit series Mad Men helped fuel millennials’ fascination with mid-century style; the contemporary string-band movement is giving 20-somethings a taste of old-timey music; the ’90s rockabilly and lounge scenes paved the way for today’s cult of cocktails, ukuleles and all things tiki; and the vinyl revival is in full spin.
It’s a crazy, mixed-up, shook-up world, to paraphrase pop philosopher and social observer Ray Davies.ne of the hallmarks of the modern world is the rise of retro culture—the fashionable AMC hit series Mad Men helped fuel millennials’ fascination with mid-century style; the contemporary string-band movement is giving 20-somethings a taste of old-timey music; the ’90s rockabilly and lounge scenes paved the way for today’s cult of cocktails, ukuleles and all things tiki; and the vinyl revival is in full spin.
And that cross-generational pollination makes it all the easier to buy gifts for boomers and hipsters alike.
Here are a few ideas:
The Beatles in Mono (Capitol): Here’s something fab for the holidays. This weighty box set delivers a hefty helping of audiophile-quality vinyl constituting the entire monaural output of the world’s premier pop band. These 13 discs (including the band’s first 10 studio recordings) provide scrupulously remastered versions of the rare mono mixes, which were different from the common stereo mixes (the band was present for the mono mixes, but not for the stereo mixing), providing added detail and a unique listener experience. The Beatles influenced everyone—after a half-century, these songs still sound fresh.
Bob Dylan & the Band: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 11, The Basement Tapes, Complete (Columbia/Legacy): This six-disc box set, which includes an essay by author, musician and Dylan authority Sid Griffin and a 120-page hardbound book of photos and memorabilia, makes available for the first time all 138 tracks created at one of the most productive songwriting sessions in the history of popular music. (The Basement Tapes Raw, featuring highlights, has been released on two discs and a three-LP set on 180-gram vinyl.) Looking for the roots of the alt-country and Americana movements? They’re grounded in The Basement Tapes—everyone from Ryan Adams to My Morning Jacket to Wilco owes a debt of gratitude to Bob.
Simon & Garfunkel: The Complete Albums Collection (Columbia/Legacy): The angelic vocal harmonies and gentle sounds of this 1960s folk- and folk-rock duo reverberate in the Milk Carton Kids and a host of similar modern folk acts. This box set gathers all seven studio and four live concert recordings that span Simon & Garfunkel’s chart-topping career.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection (Epic/Legacy): Guitarists Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer and Kenny Wayne Shepherd have pumped up the volume on their tasty recordings, but Texas axeslinger Stevie Ray Vaughan is the patron saint of power blues. From the lyrical instrumental ballad “Lenny” to the soaring confessional “Life Without You,” Stevie Ray blended his reverence for Jimi Hendrix with his Texas roots to create an enduring legacy.
Bill Evans: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings, 1961 (Riverside/Concord): This brilliant jazz pianist performed on all but one track on Miles Davis’ landmark 1958 album Kind of Blue (Evans co-wrote the Spanish-influenced “Flamenco Sketches” and the jazz standard “Blue in Green” from that album) before leaving to form his own band. This classic LP set, complete with alternate takes, captures Evans in concert with bassist Scott LaFaro (who died two weeks after this performance) and drummer Paul Motian—one of the most creative jazz trios of all time. This collector’s edition is pressed on audiophile-quality 180-gram vinyl and includes a poster and new liner notes.
Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression (Chronicle Books): This authoritative 400-page book compiles the definitive history of what was arguably the most influential jazz label in the history of modern music. On the 75th anniversary of Blue Note—and through the use of narrative, rare photos of the artists and reproductions of the iconic album cover art—author and editor Richard Havers chronicles the genre’s social history and traces the evolution of jazz, from the boogie-woogie and hot jazz of the 1930s through bebop, hard-bop, avant-garde and fusion, and right up to the label’s current eclectic mix of straight-ahead jazz and R&B.
Sinatra: London (Capitol): Mid-’60s mod-era London became Ground Zero for swingers, but Old Blue Eyes got the party started in 1962 with an extended visit that resulted in the studio album Sinatra Sings Great Songs from Great Britain. This new three-CD/one DVD box set has 50 previously unreleased tracks and includes studio sessions as well as a 1962 BBC “Light Programme” radio special with introductions to each song by the ring-a-ding King of Cocktail Culture himself, a 1953 live session for BBC Radio’s “The Show Band Show” and a Royal Albert Hall concert from 1984 (the DVD offers a previously unreleased 1970 concert featuring Francis Albert filmed at Royal Albert Hall). Ring-a-ding, baby.
Ask Greg which gifts he’s giving at [email protected].