December 8, 2012
Beatles, Stones top '12 box sets
By Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

The CD may be on its last legs, but the box set is still going pretty strong. This year brings another wave of overhaul classics, archive-raiding anthologies and collectibles for completists. Here are the ones I’ve heard (all prices approximate):

The Beatles
Stereo Vinyl Box


DATES: 1963-’70. DISCS: 16 LPs. DETAILS: If any band belongs on vinyl, it’s The Beatles. This 20-pound behemoth meticulously restores their core catalog on 180-gram vinyl, packages them in replica sleeves with posters, photos and inserts — and adds a fab 252-page hardback book. DOWNSIDE: The LPs were cut from digital mixes instead of old master tapes. DAMAGE: $320.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

The Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour: Collectors Box


DATES: 1967. DISCS: 1 DVD, 1 Blu-Ray, 2 vinyl EPs. DETAILS: Roll up, Beatlemaniacs. The Fab reissue cavalcade continues with this 45th-anniversary upgrade of the band’s freewheeling 1967 road film, expanded with documentary footage, outtakes, a Macca commentary track, 60-page book, a double-vinyl EP and more. DOWNSIDE: No CD? Cheapskates. DAMAGE: $70.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Blue Rodeo
1987-1993


DATES: 1987-’93 (duh). DISCS: 8. DETAILS: Good timing. For their 25th anniversary, the Canadian country-rock kings remaster their first five discs — everything from Outskirts (also newly remixed) to Five Days in July. Toss in gatefold sleeves, Casino demos, odds ’n’ ends, a 42-page book and postcards, and you’ve got a diamond mine. DOWNSIDE: No DVDs. DAMAGE: $95.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Blur
Blur 21


DATES: 1991-2003. DISCS: 18 CDs, 3 DVDs, 1 vinyl single. DETAILS: Woo-hoo indeed. Released for the 21st anniversary of the Brit-popsters’ debut, this exhaustive anthology includes their seven albums, 11 discs of rarities, a trio of DVDs, a one-sided single, a 100-page book and a download code. DOWNSIDE: Astoundingly, a handful of rarities are not included. DAMAGE: $135.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Deep Purple
Machine Head: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition


DATES: 1972. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Everybody can play Smoke on the Water. And now you can play it over and over — this 40th-anniversary box collects five different mixes of the 1972 LP, from original to Quad SQ Stereo to 5.1. Thankfully, there’s also a 1972 live recording. DOWNSIDE: Seriously, how many versions of Highway Star do you need? DAMAGE: $75.

RATING: 3 (out of 5)

Peter Gabriel
So: 25th Anniversary Immersion Box


DATES: 1986-’87. DISCS: 4 CDs, 2 DVDs, 2 LPs. DETAILS: This will be his testimony. The former Genesis frontman’s solo sledgehammer hits the big time again in a stylish, superb box that  features demos, a Classic Albums doc, a live Athens gig on CD and DVD, two unreleased songs on vinyl and a 60-page book. DOWNSIDE: Some missing B-sides and mixes. DAMAGE: $100.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Gov’t Mule
Georgia Bootleg Box


DATES: April 11-13, 1996. DISCS: 6. DETAILS: Get set for a dose of deja voodoo, Muleheads. The southern-rock trio’s umpteenth live outing chronicles a three-night run of killer gigs, with all the sterling musicianship, high-flying jams and cool covers you expect — plus cameos by a teenage Derek Trucks. DOWNSIDE: Minor technical issues and repetitive set lists. DAMAGE: $35.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Great Big Sea
XX Box Set


DATES: 1993-2012. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: However you take your GBS, the Newfoundland vets’ 20th-anniversary anthology has you covered. One disc serves up folk and traditional fare; another mixes in pop (including new tunes); and bingers can quaff two discs of cool rarities and live fare, a home-movie DVD and more. Cheers! DOWNSIDE: No Screech. DAMAGE: $90.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Michael Jackson
Bad 25: Deluxe Edition


DATES: 1987-’88. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Bad gets better. Or at least bigger. The 25th-anniversary edition of Jackson’s 1987 hit expands the high-tech original with an hour of demos, foreign versions and remixes, plus a spectacular 1988 Wembley Stadium concert on CD and DVD. Don’t stop till you get enough. DOWNSIDE: Where’s the Spike Lee doc? DAMAGE: $40.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

B.B. King
Ladies & Gentlemen … Mr. B.B. King


DATES: 1949-2008. DISCS: 10. DETAILS: Talk about the royal treatment. This extensive anthology distills the legendary blues singer-guitarist’s six-decade recording career down to 10 discs crammed with 12-bar studio classics, live gems and superstar cameos. A hardback book completes the picture. The thrill ain’t gone by a long shot. DOWNSIDE: No DVDs. DAMAGE: $90.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Led Zeppelin
Celebration Day: Deluxe Edition


DATES: Dec. 6 & 10, 2007. DISCS: 2 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Reunions don’t come bigger or better than Zep’s legendary 2010 show at London’s O2 Arena. In addition to the two-hour show on CD and Blu-Ray (or DVD), you get video of a dress rehearsal and news reports. DOWNSIDE: The rehearsal was filmed on a single camera at the back of the hall. DAMAGE: $35.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Joni Mitchell
Studio Albums: 1968-1979


DATES: 1968-’79. DISCS: 10. DETAILS: The title pretty much says it all. Here are the iconic Canadian folksinger-songwriter and guitarist’s first 10 studio albums — from Song to a Seagull to Mingus — packaged in cardboard wallets with original artwork and complete lyric sheets. DOWNSIDE: No DVDs, no book, no extras, and you’ll need glasses to read the lyrics. DAMAGE: $60.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
50th Anniversary Collection


DATES: 1962-2010. DISCS: 4. DETAILS: The PHJB has spent half a century upholding the traditions of New Orleans jazz. Now the ever-changing ensemble sees its own legacy preserved in this 58-track set that covers everything from classics like The Saints to recent fare with the likes of Jim James. A 60-page book tells the whole story. DOWNSIDE: No DVD. DAMAGE: $50.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Elvis Presley
Prince From Another Planet: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden


DATES: 1972. DISCS: 2 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Elvis is back in the building — Madison Square Garden, to be exact. The King’s blazing 1972 NYC concert returns for its 40th birthday, joined by an afternoon performance, a DVD with a doc, press conference and fan-shot live footage, plus a 50-page book. DOWNSIDE: There’s only 20 minutes of that live footage. DAMAGE: $30.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Rage Against the Machine
XX: 20th Anniversary Special Edition


DATES: 1991-2010. DISCS: 2 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 LP. DETAILS: F--- you; Rage won’t do what you tell them. But L.A.’s rap-metal pioneers will reissue their incendiary and influential 1992 debut on CD and vinyl, along with demos and bonus cuts, a 40-page book, two-sided poster and two DVDs of videos and live footage from their first gig to 2010. DOWNSIDE: Nothing. DAMAGE: $85.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

The Rolling Stones
Charlie is My Darling: Super Deluxe Edition


DATES: 1965. DISCS: 1 DVD, 1 Blu-Ray, 2 CDs, 1 LP. DETAILS: You can change the past after all. Or at least fix it. The Stones prove that by upgrading this long-lost doc with missing footage and reassembled performances — and then adding live CDs and vinyl, a book, poster and film cel. What you want and more. DOWNSIDE: The fold-out packaging is awkward. DAMAGE: $100.

RATING: 5 (out of 5)

Roxy Music
Complete Studio Recordings


DATES: 1972-’82. DISCS: 10. DETAILS: For your pleasure: All eight of Bryan Ferry and Roxy’s suave albums — from their groundbreaking 1972 debut to their seductively silky 1982 swan song Avalon — in thick, glossy cardboard covers with gatefolds and inner sleeves. DOWNSIDE: No book, DVD or extras beyond previously available singles, B-sides and remixes. DAMAGE: $65.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Velvet Underground & Nico: 45th Anniversary Edition

DATES: 1966-’67. DISCS: 6. DETAILS: It’s said everyone who bought this 1967 album started a band. Producers can only hope they also score this 45th-anniversary box, which collects stereo and mono mixes of the LP, plus Nico’s Chelsea Girl, the recently discovered Sceptre Sessions and a 1966 live recording. DOWNSIDE: The inevitable 50th-anniversary version. DAMAGE: $75.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

The Who
Studio Albums Vinyl Box


DATES: 1965-2006. DISCS: 14 LPs. DETAILS: If it’s good enough for The Beatles, it’s good enough for The Who. Like the Fabs set, this giant box includes recently remastered vinyl pressings of The Who’s catalog from My Generation to Endless Wire, in replica sleeves with all the original inserts. Better than all right. DOWNSIDE: No extra goodies or bonus tracks. DAMAGE: $300.

RATING: 4.5 (out of 5)

Amy Winehouse
At The BBC


DATES: 2004-’09/ DISCS: 3 DVDs, 1 CD. DETAILS: Posthumous sets can be a losing game. Not this time. At the BBC paints a vivid, moving portrait of Winehouse the performer by collecting radio broadcasts, TV appearances and live footage from throughout her tragically brief career. There’s also a 60-page book. DOWNSIDE: It could be the feel-bad box of the year. DAMAGE: $40.

RATING: 4 (out of 5)

Here are more recent boxes that haven’t crossed my desk yet (which is why there are no star ratings):

Blur
Parklive

DATES: 2012. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Damon Albarn and his Brit-pop bandmates reunited to close the 2012 Summer Olympics with a show in London’s Hyde Park. This five-disc box includes the 25-song concert on audio and video, along with bonus footage and/or audio of other recent live recordings and a 60-page hardback book. DOWNSIDE: Nothing. DAMAGE: $125.

Johnny Cash
Complete Columbia Albums Collection


DATES: 1954-1990. DISCS: 63. DETAILS: If you can’t get enough of the Man in Black, this box is for you. It’s got 59 albums — studio recordings, live discs, gospel sets, soundtracks, kids’ songs, holiday albums and more — along with compilations of Sun recordings and B-sides, plus a sizeable booklet. DOWNSIDE: Will you live long enough to listen to it all? DAMAGE: $230.

Eric Clapton
Slowhand: 35th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition


DATES: 1977. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD, 1 LP. DETAILS: With Cocaine, Lay Down Sally and Wonderful Tonight, this laid-back disc is one of Clapton’s best — and that’s saying something. For its 35th birthday, it comes remastered on CD and LP, with 5.1 and hi-res stereo remixes on a DVD, bonus tracks, a two-CD live recording and souvenirs. DOWNSIDE: No video. DAMAGE: $75.

Alice Cooper
Old School 1964-1974


DATES: 1964-’74 (of course). DISCS: 4. DETAILS: More pretties for you: Four CDs of rarities, demos, outtakes, live recordings, radio commercials and even interviews from the first decade of the Coop’s long, twisted career. There’s also a 60-page book. DOWNSIDE: It’s really just a scaled-down, DVD-free version of the limited-edition set he released last year. DAMAGE: $40.

Kiss
Casablanca Singles

DATES: 1974-1982. DISCS: 29. DETAILS: You want yet another cash-in collectible from rock’s most relentless hucksters? You got it: A brick-sized box holding 29 CDs (or vinyl singles) of all the masked marauders’ early releases, along with replicated picture sleeves, a booklet and paper masks. DOWNSIDE: Several repeated tracks and few rarities. DAMAGE: $135 CD / $250 vinyl.

Motörhead
Complete Early Years


DATES: 1977-’84. DISCS: 17. DETAILS: Overkill? Perhaps. This unauthorized cash-in from the British speed-metal gods’ old label greedily plunders the vault, collecting eight full-length discs, mini-CDs of seven singles, another single on vinyl and assorted books, all housed in a metallic skull with lighted eyes. DOWNSIDE: Even Lemmy urges fans not to buy it. DAMAGE: $520.

The Rolling Stones
GRRR!: Super Deluxe Edition


DATES: 1963-2012.
DISCS: 5 CDs, 1 vinyl EP. DETAILS: It’s only rock ’n’ roll. But that doesn’t stop the Stones from issuing their zillionth comp. The big-buck version has 80 tracks (including two new songs) on four discs, plus a CD of previously unreleased 1963 demos, a 1964 BBC session on a vinyl EP, books and posters. DOWNSIDE: The 78 songs you have to buy again. DAMAGE: $150.

Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness (Deluxe Box)


DATES: 1995-’96. DISCS: 5 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: Pumpkinhead Billy Corgan’s album-by-album archival reissue series continues with his Chicago alt-rock outfit’s 1995 magnum opus. The original double album is joined by 64 bonus audio tracks, a DVD with a full concert and TV appearances, two books and your own decoupage kit. DOWNSIDE: Decoupage? DAMAGE: $100.

10CC
Tenology: 40th Anniversary Box


DATES: 1972-’92. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DETAILS: The things we do for love — like shelling out for this impressive compilation by the idiosyncratic British pop outfit. Two discs collect 32 hits and singles; a third has band-chosen album cuts; a fourth has demos and rarities; and the DVD has videos, a televised concert and more. DOWNSIDE: None to speak of. DAMAGE: $60.

Want to win a copy of Michael Jackson’s Bad 25: Deluxe Edition box set? Just follow @darryl_sterdan on Twitter by Dec. 12 to enter.