Big Boxes

With Christmas coming, here are two wonderful gifts for the rock music lover you love, including yourself.

CD: The Beatles box set — It’s hard to argue with the oft-made contention that The Beatles were the greatest rock’n’roll band ever (though there are those who do). Being of the mind that great music is qualitative rather than quantitative, I’ll simply say the music made over the foursome’s seven years of recording exhibits the amazing potential of a music made from rather basic elements, largely for better (Rubber Soul, Revolver and Abbey Road) and occasionally for worse (Sgt. Pepper’s, which in retrospect is my least favorite album by the Fab Four). With their catalog now (finally) remastered for CD, the glories of their creative genius (a word I do not use lightly) as well as the group’s stunning progression over the course of a dozen albums (by the count of their original UK releases, which this reissue set follows). The seeming simplicity of their earlier work belies an incredible sophistication in song structure and performances, making what follows seem almost fated if still almost mind-boggling in where and how far they took their music. The stereo box set of all their albums may cost a pricey $259.98 but is well worth it, given how good and ergo revelatory the recordings now sound. Completists can also get the mono box set (at $239.98, covering up through the “White Album,” their last original mono as well as stereo release), and each new remastered CD is available as well. This is a rock’n’roll monument now restored, enhanced and collected that shows why the music created by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr not just stands the test of time but is the definitive example of rock music greatness.

CD: The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972 by Neil Young — For my money, there’s no finer songwriter, singer, recording artist and guitarist within roots-based rock’n’roll than Young, even if I do, as said above, shy away from such quantitative statements when it comes to music. In this first of a planned four-volume compendium, the evidence for that statement is contained in the 138 tracks that comprise the set (released as a CD set, DVD/CD set and also Blu-Ray box). Why do I say what I do in spite of my reluctance to make such pronouncements? Because Young creates music as real, emotive and rich as anything in the popular genre, so much so that 47 previously unreleased demos, live and alternate mixes are well worth hearing for anyone who treasures the man’s work. The set starts with his pre-Buffalo Springfield recordings and extends to his early years as a solo artist, including tracks from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Included are solo concerts and shows with the band Crazy Horse — and Young at his best is stunning in either mode — as well as in the CD set a DVD of his 1974 film Journey Through The Past. Young may be quixotic and mercurial (especially so in the years that follow this first volume), but his commitment to his artistry is second to none, and few if any rock artists have stayed as true to his soul as Young.

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2009


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2009 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652