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A music fan’s gift guide
CDs, tickets, toys and books about tunes

12/16/10
By Michael Witthaus music@hippopress.com



2010 may be remembered as a year of original music renaissance; area performers spent a lot of time in the studio.

Why not begin your music fan’s holiday gift list with a CD purchase? Among the local offerings are releases from singer-songwriter Amy Petty (House of Doors), melodic metal rockers Eden’s Lie (the two-disc Epiphany Season) and comic/musician Nick Lavallee (Yum Yum Tastes Nice!).

There’s more: Straight No Chaser founding member David Lockwood’s Lucky Me got a thumbs-up from none other than Randy Newman, while Nameless Decade mined emo-electronica for Verge of Calamity. Ryan Bossie offers rich harmonies and smart lyrics on It Only Gets Better, while Roots of Creation’s Live, Vol. 2 helps burnish their jam band credentials. Get them online at CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) or places like Newbury Comics, Bull Moose Records and Pitchfork Records. Better yet, skip the middleman and buy at the show.

There’s no shortage of big-name box sets vying for space under the tree. The Who Live at Leeds Super Deluxe Box unearths a long-lost concert along with the now classic album in both CD and vinyl format. Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story ($120/DVD, $140/Blu-ray) is a completist’s dream documenting the making of the 1978 follow-up to Born to Run, while the limited-edition Bob Dylan Original Mono Recordings ($130) is a retro repackaging of the Hibbing Bard’s first eight studio albums.

For those who wince at the above names, there’s a slick reissue of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine ($30) on double vinyl, and the Bad Religion Box Set ($275), an epic 15-disc career retrospective containing every album (in red vinyl) released by the long-running punk band. The more ethereal can pre-order The King is Dead from The Decemberists. Limited to 2,500 copies, it includes vinyl, CD and DVD content, a coffee table book and a one-of-a-kind Autumn de Wilde Polaroid. Gift it now for January receipt ($165-$180) at www.decemberists.com.

Fans rejoiced when thrash metal’s big four performed last December. Metallica/Slayer/Megadeth/Anthrax: The Big 4 – Live from Sofia, Bulgaria includes full sets from each band ($30/DVD, $35/Blu-Ray). Pantera fans can remember one of that band’s best albums with Cowboys From Hell Ultimate Edition, a three-CD set that comes with unreleased songs, a backstage laminate, T-shirt and other cool swag.

For the readers on your list, there’s Jay-Z’s Decoded, an autobiography with rhymes in the margins. For such a word-centric idiom, it’s a surprise that The Anthology of Rap took so long to arrive. Edited by Adam Bradley and Andrew Dubois, the book includes lyrics from 300 tracks spanning old-school hip-hop to the present day.

Sean Wilentz’s Bob Dylan in America, a scholarly account of Dylan’s career, is one of 2010’s best reads. Life by Keith Richards is a frank account of what it’s like to play with the Rolling Stones, while grunge fans will enjoy Husker Du: The Story of the Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock by Andrew Earles.
The well-read giftee may enjoy a book about the experience of being a music fan. Two standouts in the category are Talking to Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield (Love is a Mixtape) and Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life by Steve Almond.

How about show tickets? The Buckcherry/Hellyeah double bill at the Verizon Wireless on Sunday, Feb. 20, is a safe bet for hard rockers. Celtic Woman: Songs from the Heart stops by just a couple of days before St. Patrick’s (March 15, also at the Verizon); tickets are perfect for that Irish music fan. Taylor Swift added a second show at Gillette Stadium (June 26; the first one sold out in seconds); score ducats for that and be a hero to your teenage daughter or niece. For adolescent boys, grab a pair of seats to the VANS Warped Tour on July 13 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield. Already booked are Go Radio, We Came As Romans, Dance Gavin Dance, Every Avenue and The Word Alive.

Closer to Christmas are Avenged Sevenfold, appearing Jan. 22 at the Tsongas Center At UMass Lowell, and John Mellencamp, playing Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Feb. 3. Country rockers can’t wait for Rascal Flatts’ Feb. 26 show at the Verizon, but alas, tickets aren’t on sale yet. Neither are seats for the Blue Collar Comedy Tour with Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy (April 16, Verizon). Fret not and purchase a Ticketmaster gift certificate instead (details on this and all shows at www.ticketmaster.com).
 

For those craving an opera house experience, turn to The Middle in Franklin (www.themiddlenh.org) for a three pack of tickets for folk fans — the multimedia Mellow Yellow Experience (Jan. 22, $15), the Acoustic Roots Festival with Newfound Grass and three other bands (Feb. 26, $16-$19) and an evening with Tom Rush (April 8, $26-$29). Another good idea that’s also close to home is a membership for the Palace Theatre in Manchester (www.palacetheatre.org), or a gift certificate from the Capitol Center for the Arts of New Hampshire (www.ccanh.org).

On the hardware side, there are ultra high-end Dre Beats headphones for the person who lives for music. How about the other end of the spectrum — the not yet living, the unborn? Yeah, there’s gear for them, too — the Nuvo Ritmo Pregnancy Sound System ($149), called “the most advanced and complete system for delivering quality and safe sound to prenatal listeners.” Or you can pop for the smaller and less expensive Bellybuds ($49.99 at www.bellybuds.com) and have money left over for a diaper bag.

For the video gamer music fan, Glee Karaoke Revolution for Wii ($59.99 w/ microphone) might work. But perhaps the most intriguing development on that front is Rock Band 3 with the newly introduced Pro Mode. Using a replica guitar with buttons located at every string/fretboard junction like the Mad Catz wireless Fender Mustang ($150), Pro Mode replicates the guitar-playing experience well enough to complement actual lessons. It’s no substitute, but it will help make your budding rocker a better shredder.






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