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Sunday, December 8, 2002


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[ WEEKEND ]



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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC
THE CHAIRMAN ON THE SCREEN: Seven years in the making, "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood: 1940-1964" (Reprise/TCM; six discs -- $119.95) chronicles the singer's long association with Tinsel Town. This is a treasure trove for Sinatra fans because it's the musical history of a parallel Sinatra universe, one apart from his already well-documented studio recordings and concerts. The man sang in nearly 50 different films and did promotional newsreels and radio/TV spots for all of the major Hollywood studios of the time. Virtually every track is available on CD for the first time, and it's all contained in a black fabric box with a deluxe book with insightful liner notes, reproductions of film stills, behind-the-scenes photos, movie posters and other memorabilia. This is definitely one of the better-designed packages of the year. And while we're talking about American icons, that rock 'n' roller Elvis Presley got yet another box set released this year, and "Elvis: Today, Tomorrow & Forever" (RCA; four discs -- $69.95) features 100 unreleased cuts covering his career in chronological order.



Fa la la la la!

By Gary C.W. Chun
gchun@starbulletin.com

When it comes to giving the gift of music, I think the next best thing to getting a mix-CD specially made for you by a friend or loved one is a multidisc set that collects a wealth of tunes, whether it be from a favorite artist, band or type of music. This way, you can get most, if not all, of the hits, some rare album or previously unreleased songs, a booklet filled with an essay or two and a collection of rare photos -- and, if done up right, it'll look good when shelved next to your home entertainment system.
Unless you're someone like me who goes gaga over something like "The Complete Unreleased Ozzy Osbourne 1979-2000: 'I Don't Even F@$#%in' Remember Recording This!!'" listening your way through anything more than two CDs in one sitting can be a daunting affair. So the good Dr. Chun recommends that you take minimal musical dosages over a period of time and savor the experience.

Whether you're searching for something for the casual listener or the fanatic, any of these choices would make fine holiday gifts.

With the exception of the '70s soul collection (an early gift to myself!) and the Cat Stevens set, the CD box sets were released this year. Some are pricey, but they can often be found for less than list prices shown here.

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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

THE MAN WITH THE HORN: For any fan of the restless genius of jazz, "The Complete Miles Davis at Montreux: 1973-1991" (Sony/Legacy; 20 discs -- $249.98) is the last word on an overlooked part of Davis' career. With the exception of his well-documented revolutionary and revelatory electric '70s work, the real substance of what Davis was doing during the '80s was not found on his studio recordings, but in live performance. Davis and his several bands would do both morning and afternoon sets and, while virtually identical, have a different feel from each other. His appearances are documented here. The music on all of but one CD is previously unreleased; the one exception is a special July 1991 retrospective with Davis performing on classic Gil Evans orchestral arrangements under the direction of Quincy Jones. A hardcover book comes with this impressive set, filled with classic portraits of Davis and some of his artwork.


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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

SOUL GROOVE: In my mind, Rhino Records' box set reissues are can't-miss affairs. I've always meant to get last year's "Can You Dig It? The '70s Soul Experience" (six discs -- $99.98), the label's follow-up to 1997's "Beg, Scream & Shout! The Big Box of '60s Soul." Cleverly packaged in a replica 8-track tape carrying case, this set is packed with 136 songs, with 65 of them No. 1 pop and R&B hits. It packs pure soul power, with rare tracks and hits by such acts as Sly & the Family Stone, the Friends of Distinction, the O'Jays, Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, the Spinners and the Chi-Lites. Rhino's accompanying booklets are known for copious essays, track annotation and memory-inducing photos. The label has given the same loving treatment to pop music, so you can't go wrong with either "Have a Nice Decade: The '70s Pop Culture Box" or this year's follow-up "Like, Omigod!: The '80s Pop Culture Box (totally)." Both contain seven discs and list at $99.98.



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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

718-387-6962: ... If you call that Brooklyn, N.Y., number, you may hear a song that may end up, in its completed form, on a future They Might Be Giants album. John Flansburgh and John Linnell began co-writing songs in high school and came up through the early-'80s New York underground scene. Along the way they created Dial-a-Song, a novel means of exposing their original material. "Dial-a-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants" (Rhino/Elektra; two discs - $31.98) is a fun history of the duo's smart and catchy music. This anthology gathers 52 tracks from their albums, EPs, singles and soundtracks, including "Dr. Evil" from "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" and Grammy-winning "Boss of Me," the theme for TV's "Malcolm in the Middle."


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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

PERFECT POP EVERY TIME: Over the years, I've come to appreciate Richard and Karen Carpenter's contributions to American pop music. Their musical collaborations -- he the meticulous arranger, she the possessor of a beautiful alto voice -- are sometimes so perfect as to be otherworldly. "Carpenters: The Essential Collection 1965-1997" (A&M/UME; four discs -- $59.98) does a fine job in documenting their work. It contains 74 songs with three medleys (one with Ella Fitzgerald) presented chronologically, starting with the siblings' first home recordings to demos, jingles and interviews; from album favorites and live tracks and classic hits; from TV excerpts to Karen's final recording session in 1982 and Richard's related '90s recordings. With a booklet filled with Richard's remembrances, it makes for a fascinating journey.


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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

ROLLIN' DOWN THE RIVER: Creedence Clearwater Revival was a favorite in the islands during its heyday. People here appreciated the band's rootsy rock and blues sound topped off by John Fogerty's magnificent voice. CD reissues of their work, however, weren't up to snuff until this year, with the release of "Creedence Clearwater Revival" (Fantasy; six discs -- $99.98). The set includes all nine of their seminal albums, digitally remastered, including a disc of early material by Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets (previously unreleased) and the pre-CCR group known as the Golliwogs (21 tracks, nine unreleased). Packaged in a compact faux-wooden box, a 72-page booklet is also included with extensive liner notes and rare photos.


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COURTESY BORDERS BOOKS AND MUSIC

THE SEEKER: Starting in the '70s, "Cat Stevens" (A&M/UME; four discs -- $74.65) made a name for himself as the penultimate sensitive singer-songwriter, reaching his popular peak with albums like "Tea for the Tillerman" and "Teaser and the Firecat." But he made quite a bit of music before and after those albums, and it's pretty much all here. This overview totals 79 tracks that include his first demo session leading up to his late-'60s pop stardom in Britain, unreleased material (including a 1970 duet with Elton John) and several choice live cuts from the late '70s, up to and after his conversion to Islam, when he became Yusuf Islam. It's all nicely packaged and designed by Stevens/Islam himself, with a full-color booklet featuring an essay by the artist, dozens of rare photos and detailed track annotation with commentary.



Wrap it up!

Pick up some fresh ideas for holiday giving through our weeklong series:

Monday: Presents for the pampered pet
Tuesday: Glittery gifts for girls
Wednesday: Send a little taste of aloha
Thursday: Toys for (big) boys
Friday: Gifts for the host



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