Best CDs for gift giving in a year rich with new music releases

This has been an unusual year for the music industry in the sense that so much new music was released after Halloween. Normally, the only music released between November and the new year are best-of compilations. There were several of those released recently, but there also was a tremendous amount of new music released after this Halloween.

So after numerous requests from many of you, here are my top CDs for holiday gift giving this year.

The Beatles, “The Beatles” — The world’s finest rock band is getting a lot of well-deserved attention this year, and why not? The Beatles appeal to an audience ranging in age from 9–90 as each new generation discovers the band’s greatness.

For a limited time, there are stereo and mono box sets as well individual CDs available with mini documentaries on the making of each album.

Elvis Presley, “Elvis 75 Good Rockin’ Tonight” — This four-CD box set was released to celebrate the King’s 75th birthday, and it celebrates Elvis at his best, telling the story from 1953 on.

It is the best complete summary yet assembled of Elvis’ amazing career.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “The Live Anthology” — This is one terrific set of songs! It is four CDs of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers live for less than $26.

I know what you’re thinking, but this set has great sound and it is not “a greatest hits” live set.

Thirteen of the 48 songs are covers of some of rock’s greatest songs and the others cover Petty’s entire recording career.

Timothy B. Schmit, “Expando” — This CD is a culmination of what Schmit has accomplished as a singer-songwriter and the knowledge that comes with it. Clearly Schmit has drawn on all of his experiences from Poco to the Eagles and everything in between, putting it all to good use in creating his best record to date.

Neil Young, “Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92” — Young has done it again! He has delivered an amazing solo acoustic set of the entire classic “Harvest Moon” record before it was put down in the studio. As always, Young’s incredibly emotive voice and guitar are the perfect vehicles for delivering these great songs.

Sam Bush, “Circles Around Me” — The 56-year-old Bush was, and still is, one of the musicians most responsible for the modern bluegrass or “new grass” movement that began in the late 1960s and has grown exponentially since.

“Circles Around Me” contains some of Bush’s best ever vocal work and is, in my opinion, his very best solo recording.

Norah Jones, “The Fall” — Jones is moving away from covering other songs and is becoming a good songwriter to go along with her sultry, smoky and sexy voice.

While “The Fall” may take a few spins before it begins to grow on you, give it the time. I think it will become a disc you will play over and over again.

Jimmy Buffett, “Buffett Hotel” — This is Buffett’s best record in decades. It is, without a doubt, my favorite since “Floridays,” and that was back in 1986.

As Buffett said, “Let’s go back like we did in the old days and do those red wine and reefer vocals ... at midnight.”

Personally, I think it worked.

Bottle Rockets, “Lean Forward” — Great stuff from the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band you may not have heard about.

Clever lyrics, great vocals and superb musicianship are the hallmarks of this group from Festus, Mo. This CD features intelligent, gritty and witty rock ‘n’ roll with a Southern accent.


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