2011 Holiday Gift Guide: CDs, DVDs & Books


At this point, it’s a last-minute dash for gifts, although the week that lays between Christmas (and Hanukkah this year) and New Year’s Day offers the opportunity to either get belated gifts or exchange that Abdominizer for something really cool. The following represent film/books/music for discerning tastes.

CDs: Not unlike what’s happened with books, technology’s various conveniences have also impersonalized the way we ingest music be it through downloads or the earbuds of an iPod. While LPs are arguably the best way to experience this food for the soul, there’s something to be said about cracking open either a CD booklet or a well-packaged box set, regardless of the genre.

This was a big year for anniversaries whether it was the musical smart-bomb that was Nevermind, Pearl Jam chalking up two decades as entity or the recording that was the gateway to U2’s worldwide acclaim. We also get to revisit the seeds of Smashing Pumpkins initial greatness via an impressive reworking of its early albums, see R.E.M. ride off into the sunset and dive into The Smiths catalog only to be reminded that there’s a greater chance of Axl Rose and Slash recording a duets album together than Morrissey and Johnny Marr patching their differences up.

Bitch Magnet – Bitch Magnet [3-CD] (Temporary Residence)

Nirvana – Nevermind [20th Anniversary Super Deluxe] [4-CD/1-DVD] (Geffen)

Pearl Jam – vs. and Vitalogy [Limited Edition Collector’s Box Set] [3-CD/5-LP];

Twenty (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) [2-CD] (Epic/Legacy)

R.E.M. – Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011[2-CD] (Warner Brothers); Life’s Rich Pageant

[25th Anniversary Edition] [2-CD] (Capitol/I.R.S.)

Smashing Pumpkins – Gish; Siamese Dream [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD/1-DVD] (Virgin)

The Smiths – Complete [8-CD] (Rhino)

U2 – Achtung Baby [Super Deluxe Edition] [6-CD/4-DVD] (Island)


This year’s batch of the blues goes back to the beginning with Robert Johnson with Howlin’ Wolf serving as a bridge to George Thorogood’s homage to Chicago’s Chess Studios.

George Thorogood – 2120 South Michigan Avenue (Capitol/EMI)

Howlin’ Wolf – The Complete Chess Masters: 1951-1960 [4-CD] (Hip-O Select)

Robert Johnson – The Complete Original Masters Centennial Collection [2-CD/1-DVD/5-78s] (Columbia/Legacy)

Lots to love in this category particularly when it comes to seminal albums be it The Beach Boys (Smile), Jethro Tull (Aqualung), Paul McCartney (McCartney; McCartney II), The Rolling Stones (Some Girls) or Traffic (John Barleycorn Must Die). And if that’s enough, Pink Floyd’s entire catalog has been cleaned up and repackaged again while The Bridge School Concerts compilation highlights two and a half decades of artists helping Neil Young out at his annual benefit show.

Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions Box Set [5-CD/2-LP/2-45s] (Capitol)

Bob Seger – Ultimate Hits : Rock and Roll Never Forgets [2-CD] (Capitol)

Jethro Tull – Aqualung [40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition] [2-CD/1-DVD/1-LP] (EMI)

The Kinks – Kinks; KindaKinks; The Kinks Controversy [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD] (Sanctuary)

Jimi Hendrix – Winterland [4-CD] (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

Paul McCartney – McCartney (Archive Collection); McCartney II (Archive Collection) [2-CD] (Hear Music)

Pink Floyd – Discovery [16-CD] (Capitol/EMI)

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD](Republic)

Sting – 25 Years [3-CD/1-DVD] (A&M)

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD] (Universal)

Various Artists – The Bridge School Benefits: 25th Anniversary Edition [2-CD] (Reprise)

The Who – Quadrophenia [The Director’s Cut] [4-CD/1-DVD] (Geffen)

ben folds best imitation~COUNTRY/SINGER-SONGWRITERS
The Cash family gets its due via an extensive reissue program that most recently featured live rarities as performed by patriarch Johnny along with a 2-CD overview of daughter Rosanne’s recorded output. The thin line between sardonic and sentimental is explored via Ben Folds and Loudon Wainwright III while Chicago indie rock imprint Drag City provided a major reason to give a damn about the late Mickey Newbury and why artists like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Roy Orbison recorded material by the greatest country-folk songwriter no one’s ever heard of.

Ben Folds – The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective [3-CD] (Epic/Legacy)

Johnny Cash – Bootleg III: Live Around the World [2-CD] (Columbia/Legacy)

Loudon Wainwright III – 40 Odd Years [4-CD/1-DVD] (Shout! Factory)

Mickey Newbury – An American Trilogy [4-CD] (Drag City)

Paul Simon – Songwriter [2-CD] (Legacy/Sony)

Rosanne Cash – The Essential [2-CD] (Columbia/Legacy)


59413 phil spector phillies collection crop landscape 534x0~GOLDEN OLDIES
The ugliness behind Phil Spector currently residing in the clink shouldn’t obscure the musical legacy he left behind in his pre-homicide days as an in-demand producer and songwriter. His “wall of sound” recording technique spearheaded the girl group movement and is trotted out on a box set spotlighting the album projects renowned singles producer Spector oversaw. A new generation also gets a chance to hear why early rock and roll pioneers Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly are so important with the latter being the recipient of two tribute albums with participants running the gamut from Brian Wilson and Ringo Starr to the Black Keys and Kid Rock.

Phil Spector – Phil Spector Presents the Phillies Album Collection [7-CD] (Phillies/Legacy)

Roy Orbison – The Monument Singles Collection [2-CD/1-DVD] (Monument/Legacy)

Tony Bennett – The Complete Collection [73-CD] (RPM/Columbia/Legacy)

Various Artists – Mad Men: A Musical Companion (1960-1965) [2-CD] (Hip-O)

Various Artists – Rave On Buddy Holly (Hear Music); Listen to Me: Buddy Holly (Verve Forecast)

The genre of loud guitars, blistering amps and heaps of teen angst continues to roll along with Canadian power-trio making the most noise as it heads into its 44th year together as a group. Not only was the band’s entire Mercury Records-era catalog released in three separate box sets, but Geddy Lee and company were kept in the music fan’s bandwidth via Rush’s latest live album and a Deluxe Edition of the classic Moving Pictures also hitting the market. Masterworks by Ozzy Osborne and Megadeth were also recognized while hard rock fans also got a chance to familiarize themselves with no less-worthy outfits like Rainbow, Thin Lizzy and UFO.

Iron Maiden – From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010 [2-CD] (Universal)

Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying [25th Anniversary Edition] [2-CD] (Capitol/EMI)

Ozzy Osborne – Blizzard of Ozz & Diary of a Madman: 30th Anniversary Deluxe Collector’s Box ] [3-CD/1-DVD/2-LP] (Epic/Legacy)

Rainbow – Down to Earth; Rising [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD] (Polydor/Atlas)

Rush – Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland [2-CD] (Anthem/Roadrunner); Sector 1; Sector 2; Sector 3 [6-CDs each] (Mercury); Moving Pictures [Deluxe Edition] [1-CD/1-Blu-Ray]

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak; Johnny the Fox [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD] (Mercury)

UFO – The Chrysalis Years (1973-1979) [5-CD] (Capitol/Crysalis)

Various Artists – Judas Priest: The Chosen Few (Legacy)

Not necessarily a genre as much as a category dedicated to the adventurous music lover. Reggae lovers had plenty to sup on in 2011 whether it was a vintage 1980 live Bob Marley performance, the loving extended repackaging of two of Peter Tosh’s best-known albums or an overview of late lover’s rock icon Gregory Isaacs. But it was fans of salsa best served when Florida-based Codigo Entertainment took over stewardship of the legendary Fania Records last year from another financially troubled company. The resulting box-sets are not only a comprehensive overview of this most New York City-centric of Latin music styles, but also gave exposure to the Fania All-Stars, a house-band of salsa legends overlooked by the Anglo press but still important enough to bring huge numbers of salsa fans to a pair of separate Yankee Stadium shows in the 1970s. All of which is beautifully presented in the multi-disc soundtrack of the documentary Our Latin Thing: (Nuestra Cosa).

Bob Marley & the Wailers – Live Forever: The Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA – September 13, 1980  [2-CD/3-LP SUPER DELUXE EDITION] (Tuff Gong)

Gregory Isaacs – The Ruler 1972-1990 [2-CD/1-DVD] (17 North Parade/VP)

Fania All-Stars – Our Latin Thing: (Nuestra Cosa) [2-CD/1-DVD] (Fania)

Fania All-Stars – Ponte Duro: The Fania All-Stars Story [4-CD] (Fania)

Peter Tosh – Legalize It; Equal Rights [Legacy Edition] [2-CD] (Epic/Legacy)

Tito Puente – The Complete 78s: Volumes 1 & 2 [4-CD]; Volumes 3 & 4 [4-CD] (Fania)

Various Artists – El Barrio: The Ultimate Collection of Latin Boogaloo, Disco & Soul [4-CD] (Fania)

Various Artists – Salsa: A Musical History [4-CD] (Fania)

Wynton Marsalis – Swinging Into the 21st [11-CD] (Columbia/Legacy)

With the recent announcement that soul diva Etta James was terminally ill with cancer, she follows in the wake of Solomon Burke’s 2010 death, thinning the ranks of rhythm and blues greats by one. Both artists saw their last albums be released in this calendar year and while talents like theirs is irreplaceable, the 10th Anniversary reissue of Alicia Keys’ 2001 debut is a reminder that artists like her are prepared to carry on the legacy of both these legends.

Alicia Keys – Songs in A Minor – 10th Anniversary Edition [Collector’s Edition] [2-CD/1-DVD] (MBK/J/Legacy)

Ray Charles – Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles [5-CD] (Concord)

Etta James – The Dreamer (Verve Forecast)

George Michael – Faith [Deluxe Edition] [2-CD] (Epic/Legacy)

James Brown – The Singles – Vol. 10 1975-1979 [2-CD] (Hip-O Select)

Solomon Burke & Dijk – Hold on Tight (Verve Forecast)

The JB’s and Fred Wesley – The Lost Album featuring Watermelon Man (Hip-O Select)

With Blockbuster’s brick-and-mortar presence a mere memory and NetFlix being rather hit-or-miss regarding the depth of its available titles, more and more people are buying either single or complete seasons of series. The following represents new and old shows from both network and pay cable along with a slew of film franchises and some select subversive animation.


Big Love: The Complete Collection [20-DVD] (HBO Home Video)

Band of Brothers/The Pacific [13-DVD] (HBO Home Video)

Barney Miller: The Complete Series [25-DVD] (Shout! Factory)

Friday Night Lights: The Complete Series [19-DVD] (Universal)

Law & Order: The Complete Series [104-DVD](Universal)

Smallville: The Complete Series [62-DVD] (Warner Home Video)

The Civil War: A Film by Ken Burns [150th Anniversary Edition] [5-DVD] [PBS Paramount)

The L Word: The Complete Series [25-DVD] (Showtime Entertainment)

The Office: Special Edition [4-DVD] (BBC Worldwide)


Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection [8-DVD] (Warner Home Video)

Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy [5-DVD] (Universal)

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection [10-DVD] (Rhino Entertainment)

Tracy & Hepburn: The Definitive Collection [10-DVD] (Warner Home Video)



Mr. Magoo: The Television Collection [11-DVD] (Shout! Factory)

Rocky & Bullwinkle & Friends: Complete Series [18-DVD](Classic Media)

The Venture Brothers: Seasons 1-4 [8-DVD] (Cartoon Network)

Booby FlayBOOKS: Nooks and Kindles notwithstanding, there’s nothing like curling up with a good book, feeling the pages fly beneath your fingers as you hopefully get sucked into a good read. The written word is best experienced coming off the page versus the impersonal vibe of a computer screen. It’s the case whether you’re getting lost in the fantastical world of George R.R. Martin, soaking up the exquisite artwork of famed naturalist James Audubon or being regaled by the exploits of Steve Jobs, Bill Parcells or Keith Richards.


Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook – Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas & Sally Jackson (Crown Publishing Group)

Good Eats 3: The Later Years – Alton Brown (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)

Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible – Paula Deen with Melissa Clark (Simon & Schuster)


A Game of Thrones 4-Book Boxed Set (A Song of Ice and Fire Series) – George R.R. Martin (Random House)

11/22/63 – Stephen King (Scribner)


Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base – Annie Jacobsen (Little, Brown & Company)

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris – David McCullough (Simon & Schuster)

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever – Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard (First Edition)

Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster)


Batman: Arkham City – Paul Dini (DC Comics)

Cabin Fever (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #6) – Jeff Kinney (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)

The Son of Neptune – Rick Riordan (Hyperion Books for Children)


Birds of America – James Audubon (Sterling Publishing)

Malcolm Gladwell: Collected (Little, Brown & Company)

Seal Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL

Sniper – Howard E. Wasdin/Stephen Templin (St. Martin’s Press)


Gibson’s Last Stand: The Rise, Fall and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975 –Doug Feldmann (University of Missouri Press)

Life – Keith Richards (Little, Brown & Company)

Parcells: A Biography – Carlo DeVito (Triumph Books)

Stan Musial: An American Life – George Vecsey (Random House)

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood – Jane Leavy (Harper Collins Publishers)

The Last Icon: Tom Seaver and His Times – Steven Travers (Taylor Trade Publishing)

Ticket Masters: The Rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped – Dean Budnick & Josh Baron (ECW Press)