It's the season for gift-giving, but what to get that music nerd in your family? Well, you could try to appease him (or her) with a copy of U2's latest. Maybe you could even cop out and present a gift certificate from Virgin Megastore or Best Buy; it's the perfect way to say, "Hey, I love you, but I don't understand you."
May we propose a wiser choice? Cut out this article, take it with you when you go shopping, and purchase one of the items listed here. We have provided a tasteful selection of books, DVDs, and box sets to guide you -- and add to our promo collections.
Cant You Hear Me Callin Bluegrass: 80 years of American Music
Bluegrass, a confluence of blazing musicianship and traditional music, was "invented" by Bill Monroe and his band The Blue Grass Boys, but as this 107-track, four-disc set demonstrates, its roots stretch back to the dawn of American folk music. It brings together giants such as Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, Molly O'Day, who was known as the female Hank Williams, and modern crossover acts such as The Byrds, Dixie Chicks, and Alison Krauss. -- j. poet
Hip Hop Files: Photographs 1979-1984
Martha Cooper was one of the first to chronicle the early years of hip-hop culture, photographing its rise from the Bronx tenements to the nightclubs and streets of downtown Manhattan. This text captures the highlights of her archives, pairing beautiful images of b-boys looking fresh and clean with reminiscences from Doze, the Furious Five, Grandmaster Caz, and several other pioneers. Much like Subway Art, her groundbreaking work with writer/photographer Henry Chalfant, Hip-Hop Files combines images and text in a way that makes it universally appealing to rap fanatics as well as appreciators of culture and art. -- Mosi Reeves
Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science
The origins of Beastie Boys songs such as "Fight For Your Right" are revealed in this deluxe title, in which the trio (Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock) goes behind the music to reveal their creative process. But for nonmusic geeks, this book's highlights are its images from several photographers, including Ricky Powell and director Spike Jonze. A proper anthology, the book also comes with two discs of greatest hits and B-sides (originally released five years ago under the same title). -- Tamara Palmer
Presenting Celia Cruz
Whether you're buying for a person who thinks salsa is a spicy red dip for chips or for a bona fide salsero, there's something new for everyone in this exclusive photo album by photographer Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte. One closeup shows the beloved singer reclining in a limo on the arm of her trumpeter husband Pedro Knight, her radiant face framed by purple ostrich feathers, looking up at us as if we were her sun. Nice additions to the intimate photos are personal anecdotes by leading artists such as Marc Anthony and Patti LaBelle, and penetrating commemorative essays by Miami Herald writers Liz Balmaseda and Lydia Martin. -- Makkada Selah
Chronicles, Volume One
Simon & Schuster
Those who've witnessed Dylan's aloofness in concert may marvel at his lucidity as an author. Not that the Bobster reveals all; Chronicles reflects the guarded persona of the artist, a contradictory icon who insists he eschewed the title of spokesman for a generation. Nevertheless, despite their lack of chronological sequence and the questions about literal interpretation they raise, his ruminations on his early days as an itinerant folkie in Greenwich Village, the toll taken by the weight of fame, and his near burnout at the end of the Eighties provide a fascinating read. Any Bob-head on your list will find this intriguing if not wholly illuminating. -- Lee Zimmerman
With the Lights Out
For all the cynical talk of grave robbing and misplaced mythology, Nirvana's much-ballyhooed, litigation-delayed CD/DVD boxed set delivers an intriguing, entertaining, and periodically spine-tingling depiction of the trio's seven-year journey, warts and all, with none of the voyeuristic guilt associated with reading Kurt Cobain's disgraceful, posthumously released Journals. Opening with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" (from their first-ever show in 1987) and closing with Kurt's heavy-hearted acoustic versions of "You Know You're Right" and "All Apologies," most of the 61 audio tracks were previously unreleased. Among the high points: A nine-song, 1988 rehearsal video at Krist Novoselic's mom's house that captures Nirvana in all its nascent glory, well before the tidal wave of fame took its ultimate toll. -- Michael Alan Goldberg
Anthony Kiedis with Larry Ratso Sloman
It's difficult to take a 42-year-old man who uses phrases such as "rad" and "rocking" and calls every girl he hooks up with (and there's a lot of them) "the most sexually magnified person I'd ever been with" seriously. So why bother? This action-packed biography is best read as a fun romp through the life of the Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist, complete with bizarre pairings with hot celebrities (Sinead O'Connor, Nina Hagen, Ione Skye), disturbing photos of Kiedis getting high in his pubescent years, and more drug relapses than Robert Downey Jr. -- Mosi Reeves
Too Fast For Love
David Yellen's portraits of the groupies, wannabe rockers, and white trash divas of the heavy metal scene appear to be straight out of the Eighties, when folks were busy trashing the ozone layer with tons of aerosol hairspray. But the time warp he captures in Too Fast For Love actually comes from the year 2000, when Yellen drove around the country in search of insatiable party characters. What amounts to hysterical eye candy for most is rendered lovingly by Yellen's sympathetic lens; we might be making fun, but he's not. But really, who doesn't love checking out mullets on both men and women? -- Tamara Palmer
The Rolling Stones
Rock And Roll Circus
Like the Beatles' made-for-TV debacle, Magical Mystery Tour, this 1968 Big Top circus was a big flop, never even making it to the airwaves. Gaudy even by Stones standards, the music, courtesy of Taj Mahal, Jethro Tull, Marianne Faithful, and The Who, is superb. Even John Lennon showed up, bowing "Yer Blues" with Keef and Clapton in tow. Nevertheless, the Stones stole the show, as Jagger leered suggestively while soon-to-be deposed guitarist Brian Jones was clearly drifting toward the cosmos. Loaded with extra footage and commentary, this DVD is ideal for the archivist, though Yoko's wretched warbling deserves a warning label all its own. -- Lee Zimmerman
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Nearly twenty years later, Live Aid, that dizzying, multicontinental music fest that brought together dozens of pop's leading lights in a noble effort to help Africa's starving, remains a dazzling feat. While much has transpired since -- including the passing of some participants (including Queen's Freddy Mercury, who nearly stole the show), breakups (The Who, Duran Duran), and reunions (The Who, Duran Duran) -- much remains the same. Sting, Ozzy, U2, and Elton were headliners then and remain so today. Sadly too, the suffering that brought them together hasn't vanished, either. Never mind that the reformed Led Zeppelin vetoed their inclusion; for $30 you reap four discs and contribute to the cause. Let them know it's Christmas time. -- Lee Zimmerman