This is the time of year when boxed CD sets get their due. While they may be pricey, you can generally count on them being packaged well, sitting nicely on a shelf like a book, and featuring at least three or more discs, as well as extra liner notes and glossy photos.
What you need to decide is whether the person you're buying for needs a beginner's introduction to an artist or whether he or she is looking for something different, such as rare or unreleased material -- basically anything apart from a retrospective set that may contain material you already own.
In no particular order, here's a sampling of some of the newer box sets and related fare.
"Art of the Field Recording, Vol. 1" by Art Rosenbaum ($66.49). An amazing, non-academic collection of 110 rare recordings of obscure artists from the backwoods past: parlour tunes, church hymns, chain gang songs, Southern gospel and spooky country ballads. A great companion piece to the essential "Anthology of American Folk Music."
"People Take Warning! Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs, 1913-1938," ($47). Put together by Christopher King (profiled in the Nov. 21 Style), it's a native Virginian's excellent project of old time music.
"Summer of Love: The Hits of 1967" ($36). Forty recognizable songs from the hippy dippy '60s; nothing too exciting or unexpected here.
"The Ike & Tina Turner Story: 1960-1975" ($36). Everyone knows about their volatile relationship, but it's all right here in the music: Tina Turner's raspy but powerful voice is on a pilgrimage through New Orleans, R&B, Memphis soul, and finally funk all trying to make a break from big bad Ike, father (some say) of distorted guitar. The third disc features the entire live album, "In Person," which sadly consists of mostly covers.
"Stanley Brothers Definitive Collection: 1947-1966" ($36). Like the Ike and Tina box, part of Time/Life's "Legends of American Music Series," this is a release that all bluegrass fans can appreciate. It's typically for people looking for an introduction, and not for those seeking a new glimpse of an artist.
"Super Afro Soul" by Orlando Julius and "Afro Disco Beat" by Tony Allen ($32 each). Although it's not a boxed set, if you like world music in particular, African music you should cop these deluxe reissues that include the old drummer and musical director for afro-funk originator, Fela Kuti. The latter features Allen's first four solo albums enough funky stuff to keep you warm until May.
"Chasing the Sun: The Greatest Songs of Summer" ($70). Comes packaged in a cheap little fake red cooler for the type of person who prefers old pop hits they can sing to. Cool surf instrumentals, catchy beach music hits, and even some unusual selections, such as my old neighbor Jonathan Richman's "That Summer Feeling." Includes three discs and a DVD documentary called "Liquid Stage: The Lure of Surfing." S