Hanukkah starts Sunday night and Christmas will arrive sooner than you think. So we’ve put together some recommendations for music lovers on your shopping lists — the ones who want something tangible to hold besides an iPhone with a streaming app.
“Michael Jackson: All the Songs” by Richard Lecocq and François Allard (Cassell, $50).
This 600-page doorstop tells the back stories behind every single song MJ ever recorded, including with the Jackson 5. The prose is as workmanlike as the research is thorough, and the photos are fun. There’s even the story of Prince turning down Jackson’s request to make the song “Bad” a duet.
“Paul Simon: The Life” by Robert Hilburn (Simon & Schuster, $30).
The longtime Los Angeles Times critic got the songwriting giant to cooperate but Simon didn’t have approval over the book. Even though Art Garfunkel never granted Hilburn an interview, the 400-page tome is comprehensive, insightful and befitting its thoughtful subject.
“Beastie Boys Book,” by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz (Spiegel & Grau, $50).
This massive 590-page “panoramic book” is predictably wild, weird and way more fun than most bands’ memoirs, with lots of photos, artwork and input from celeb pals such as Amy Poehler. More surprising, the surviving Beasties write with sharp insight and grace, especially about their late bandmate Adam Yauch.
“Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions 1983 and 1984” by Duane Tudahl (Rowman & Littlefield, $24.95).
The Los Angeles writer got insiders, especially engineers and band members, to tell revealing stories about these pivotal years — in interviews before Prince died. The focus is on recording sessions. Tudahl has updated information so convincingly that he was hired this year to work on Prince’s archives.
“Prince: Before the Rain” by Allen Beaulieu (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95).
The Minneapolis fashion photographer had access to the Purple One in the late ’70s/early ’80s, shooting album covers, concerts and offstage shenanigans. The concert pictures are disappointingly blurry albeit historic, but the posed and candid photos are priceless.
“Cosmic Trip: Rock Concerts at the Minneapolis Labor Temple 1969-1970” by Christian A. Peterson and Juryj Ostroushko (Smart Set, $35).
This is a small but cool slice of Minneapolis music history when such burgeoning acts as the Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck Group, Deep Purple and Canned Heat first came to town at a ballroom in southeast Minneapolis. With posters, photos and reviews, this is a trippy hippie flashback.
David Bowie, “Loving the Alien (1983-1988)” (Rhino, around $120/$210).
Fourth in a chronological series of sprawling Bowie boxed sets, the 11-CD or 15-LP anthology spans from the MTV-buoyed album “Let’s Dance” to the underrated “Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87).” Among the “new” offerings are the rarities disc “Re: Call 4,” the fun if novel remix set “Dance” and a rerecorded version of the entire “Never Let Me Down” album, a title that rings true even in this lesser-celebrated era of the late rock genius’ career.
Semisonic, “Feeling Strangely Fine: 20th Anniversary Edition” (Universal, $14/$34).
Yes, “Closing Time” is almost old enough to shut down a bar. This nicely remastered and ambitiously repackaged reissue — including its first vinyl incarnation! — reiterates how much more there was to the Minneapolis rock trio’s second album than its megahit, from the equally catchy “Singing in My Sleep” to four newly added and very worthy B-sides.
Bikini Kill, “The Singles” (Kill Rock Stars, $18).
Anchored by the Joan Jett-produced anthem “Rebel Girl,” this compilation of three different 7-inch records was released rather inconsequentially in 1998. It has since turned into perhaps the most celebrated and influential album by feminist punk icon Kathleen Hanna and her hard-raging Olympia, Wash., band. Old-school fans would love unwrapping the reissue on vinyl, but today’s cool indie kids could (and should) enjoy it, too.
Bob Dylan, “More Blood, More Tracks: Bootleg Series Vol. 14” (Sony Legacy, $13-$110).
Not only does this finally give official credit to the Minneapolis musicians who recorded anonymously on Dylan’s 1975 landmark “Blood on the Tracks,” but it affords fans a chance to compare the oft-bootlegged New York sessions with the Minneapolis ones, where five songs were recut with a full band and an angrier vibe. Plus, if you listen to all six CDs, you’ll get a window into Dylan’s demo-free recording process for which no two takes are alike. Also available as a single disc.
The Beatles, “The Beatles (White Album)” (Capitol, $25-$179).
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ biggest (30 songs) and most eclectic album, and you can discover the demos, outtakes and drama (enter Yoko Ono) on the six-CD plus Blu-ray super-deluxe package. There are 27 acoustic demos and 50 mostly previously unreleased tracks plus a book and remastering by Giles Martin, son of Sir George Martin. Is anything ever too much for Beatlemaniacs?
Metallica, “...And Justice for All (Remastered)” (Rhino/Blackened, $25-$200).
Before they met up and slicked up with producer Bob Rock for their “Black Album,” the thrash-metal giants released this far more dense and artful masterpiece, featuring the MTV hit “One” and such fan faves as “Harvester of Sorrow” and “Blackened.” The 30th-anniversary $200 megabox seems like a bit much, but the $25 180-gram double-LP or expanded three-CD set are very justifiable.