Most of these gift recommendations are music-related, but we do veer into fanboy territory with graphic novels and toys. It’s important to note that when you ‘click the link’ and buy these items from Amazon that the Rev gets a little piece of the action to help fund his rowdy rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle (i.e. buy more music).
Music Box Sets
The major record labels are depending, no…demanding that you shore up their bottom lines by reinvesting in music that you’ve already bought two or three times now. They’re flooding the market with expensive multi-disc box sets that revisit albums that you got tired of years ago, adding just enough flash (bonus DVD or extra vinyl to go along with lavish books) to convince you to part with your cash yet again. The Rev prefers checking out reasonably-priced various artist compilations for the multitude of music they contain, thus this list is heavy with cool boxes, but I’m also not above buying the odd artist-specific box set if the price (and content) is right. Anybody can gift a copy of the Beatles’ White Album, why not try something fresh and different for a change this holiday?
Mott the Hoople’s Mental Train: The Island Years, 1969-1971
Mott the Hoople’s Mental Train is a six-disc box set that collects includes remastered and expanded versions of all four of the band’s original Island Records label releases; an entire disc of unheard and unreleased material; and a full disc of raucous live and BBC on-air performances. Each of the original albums – Mott the Hoople, Mad Shadows, Wildlife, and Brain Capers – has been expanded by 8 or 9 tracks each, adding singles, demos, alternate takes, and much more. A fifth CD, The Ballads of Mott the Hoople, is subtitled “Unheard and Unreleased Music from the Island Archive.” That’s a lot of great music for the any Mott the Hoople fan! BUY!
Frank Zappa – Zoot Allures! The Legendary Broadcasts
Yeah, the Reverend is a longtime Zappa fanboy, dating back to the Mothers of Invention and solo LPs like Chunga’s Revenge. This is a real find, though, a budget-priced four-disc collection of live performances culled from radio broadcasts featuring 53 songs spanning roughly a six-year period. One of those “copyright gap” releases of dodgy provenance (i.e. semi-legit bootleg), the set nevertheless documents vintage Zappa concerts like The Ritz, NYC 1981; Providence College, Rhode Island 1975 (with Captain Beefheart); Rotterdam, 1980; and the Capitol Theatre in Passaic NJ, 1978. Sound quality ranges from fair to fairly good, but it’s the rarity of the performances, the eras that they span, and the ‘cheepnis’ of the set that sells it. BUY!
Various Artists – Gary Crowley’s Punk & New Wave
Much like the ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ set below, Gary Crowley’s Punk & New Wave box tackles the difficult cutting edge of U.K. and American punk and beyond with 77 tracks spread across three CDs. Curated by legendary British DJ Gary Crowley, the set covers a lot of ground spanning punk, post-punk, new wave, and power-pop bands like Alternative TV, the Saints, 999, the Vibrators, the Fall, the Only Ones, Generation X, and John Cooper Clarke, among many others. Unlike other punk-oriented collections, though, Crowley doesn’t just feature the familiar ‘hits’ but rather delves into each band’s catalog to find the deep tracks. A number of tracks here originally appeared on limited edition 7” singles that are too pricey to consider (if you can find ‘em), and the box includes a nifty 40-page book with notes by Crowley and memories from members of the Skids, Altered Images, the Boys, and other bands. BUY!
Various Artists – Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics
Offering 60 red-hot tracks on three discs and running better than three hours in length, the budget-priced Trojan Ska & Reggae Classics set offers a lot of bang for the buck, the compilation preserving some of the finest reggae performances of the past half-century with even-handed re-mastering and pretty decent sound (considering that some of these songs were recorded almost 50 years ago on often primitive equipment). If you’re a newcomer to reggae, the set offers an instant lesson in the genre’s history; for us longtime fans, it collects some of our favorite artists and songs in a single package. Read the Reverend’s review! BUY!
Various Artists – Winds of Time: New Wave of British Heavy Metal 1979-1985
With a growing interest in the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal” there are a number of compilation albums that have been released over the past few years, most of them featuring the same old track listing and bands. Leave it up to esteemed U.K. archival imprint Cherry Red Records to top everybody with their three-disc Winds of Time box set. Featuring 51 rockin’ tracks from both familiar ‘NWOBHM’ bands like Diamond Head, Samson, Raven, Saxon, Girlschool, and Tygers of Pan Tang as well as relatively-obscure outfits like Gaskin, Shiva, Witchfynde, Fist, and Rock Goddess, Cherry Red doesn’t offer up the ‘same old, same old’ but rather digs deep to find the gems in these bands’ catalogs for a collection truly representative of the scene. BUY!
Various Artists – Try A Little Sunshine: British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969
Another great psych-drenched box set from Cherry Red’s Grapefruit Records imprint, Try A Little Sunshine is a three-disc compilation of groovy music from ’69 that offers up 73 tunes, some from bands that would be familiar to any serious fan of the rock ‘n’ roll including Audience, the Spencer Davis Group, Barclay James Harvest, the Move, Dave Davies, Status Quo, and the Pretty Things. There are more than a few real obscurities included herein as well, fab 45s from the likes of Fat Mattress, Freedom, Andromeda, Edward’s Hand, Nirvana (U.K.), Sam Gopal (with Lemmy!), and others that would cost you a fortune to buy on the collectors’ market. BUY!
Ed Piskor’s X-Men Grand Design - Second Genesis
The artistic genius that crafted the brilliant Hip Hop Family Tree series of books turns his talents to re-imagining the Marvel Comics world of the ever-popular X-Men. Mutant super-heroes living in a world that misunderstands and fears them, the late Stan Lee’s characters were designed to represent the oppressed minorities and immigrants in our society, and Piskor does right with his re-telling of the origin stories of beloved characters like Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Colossus in this second book in the series. BUY!
Also highly recommended: Ed Piskor’s first book of mutant origins – X-Men: Grand Design – which features tales of the heroic old-school X-group of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, The Beast, Angel, and Iceman. The two books stand well on their own, but if you’re a mutie-lover, buy ‘em both! BUY!
Mark Bernardin’s Genius series
Mark Bernardin is the co-host of the popular Fatman Beyond podcast (with filmmaker Kevin Smith), and a talented writer for TV series and comics. His Genius graphic novels posit an intriguing question – what if the greatest military mind of a generation was a teenaged African-American girl from the hood? Destiny Ajaye is a strategic genius and charismatic leader who, in the first volume, takes on the LAPD’s SWAT forces with the backing of a rag-tag group of gang-bangers and pulls off the win.
In the second volume of Genius, Ajaye has been shanghaied by a shadowy government organization to fight a one-woman war against the Mexican drug cartels. Both books are fast-paced and action-packed, with Bernardin’s clever plotting and whipsmart dialogue and stunning artwork by Adam Freeman. Some film studio should option these books pronto and turn them into a starring vehicle for Letitia Wright. Get your fanboy groove on and buy ‘em both!
Genius, Volume One: Siege BUY!
Genius, Volume Two: Cartel BUY!
Gilbert Shelton’s Fifty Freakin’ Years of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers
The Reverend has been a fan of underground comix for over 45 years now, and artist/writer Gilbert Shelton – along with Robert Crumb and Spain Rodriguez – has long been one of my “go to” artists for guaranteed entertainment. It’s hard to believe that Shelton’s Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers have been around for five decades now, but the ever-popular antics of Phineas, Freewheelin’ Franklin, and Fat Freddy have been published in 16 languages around the world and enjoyed sales of over 40 million copies…and that’s a shit-ton of comix! Fifty Freakin’ Years of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers celebrates the brothers’ 50th anniversary with a bunch of new strips, a gallery of Freak Brothers parody strips by artists like Crumb, and a brand new interview with Shelton. A ‘must have’ for any Freak Brothers fan! BUY!
Funko ‘POP’ figures are possibly the hottest ticket in the world of toys, with rarer releases selling for hundreds of dollars on the collectors’ market. Personally, the Reverend likes to put ‘em on the bookshelves here at Conspiracy M.E.D.I.A headquarters as visually-stimulating ‘objekts de art’. Funko makes figures for a legion of comics, film, and TV characters but they’ve also begun cranking out a number of very cool rock ‘n’ roll figures that will spruce up your office, listening room, or wherever you want to sit ‘em down...
Jimi Hendrix “Woodstock”
Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead)
Prince “Purple Rain”
Disclaimer: I know most of the authors whose work I’m hyping below and, in couple cases, have had decade-long professional relationships with them. That doesn’t mean that these books aren’t brilliant – they’ve all been “road tested” and approved by the Reverend and would make a great addition to your music library.
Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound
Daryl Sanders’ That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound provides a fascinating and comprehensive history of Bob Dylan’s classic Blonde On Blonde album. There are a heck of a lot of Dylan-related books available – enough to stock a smallish library, really – but none of them have dug this deep into the making of one of the Scribe’s most creative, critically-acclaimed, and commercially-successful works. If you’re a Bob Dylan fan, you’ll want a copy of That Thin, Wild Mercury Sound on your bookshelf. Read the Rev’s Review! BUY!
Bill Kopp’s Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to Dark Side of the Moon
With Reinventing Pink Floyd, his first book, Bill Kopp focuses his insight on the legendary British rock band, exploring Floyd’s early years “from Syd Barrett to the Dark Side of the Moon.” His efforts pay off, as Reinventing Pink Floyd provides a deep dive into the band’s years in the wilderness, as they forged a significant career in the wake of founder and guiding light Barrett’s departure, delivering all the minutiae and anecdotes that a Floyd fan demands, weaving a fascinating story of one of the most influential, pioneering bands in rock ‘n’ roll history. BUY!
Steven Hyden’s Twilight of the Gods
Music journalist Steven Hyden is one of the best writers in the pop culture trenches today, and Twilight of the Gods is his first book. Providing an in-depth exploration of the enduring popularity and immense legacy of “classic rock,” Hyden also relates his own complicated history as a teenage fan of classic rock ‘n’ roll growing up in the grunge and alt-rock 1990s. He provides lots of insight and more than a few thought-provoking moments that will have you looking at classic rock bands in an entirely new way. BUY!
Martin Popoff’s “Album by Album” book series
Rock writer and music historian Martin Popoff should be familiar to any regular That Devil Music reader. The talented scribe has written better than 80 music-related books to date (and counting), many of them self-published and leaving the reader neck-deep in band history. Martin’s (yeah, we’re on a first-name basis) coffee-table “Album by Album” series of books have been published by Voyageur Press, the music imprint of a larger publisher who is closing it down at the end of the year. That means that these gorgeous, informative, and highly entertaining books are going out-of-print and are destined to become rare, high-priced collectors’ items. You can still get some of them direct from Popoff’s website, or from Amazon via the links below.
Queen: Album by Album
Iron Maiden: Album by Album
Rush: Album by Album
Pink Floyd: Album by Album
AC/DC: Album by Album
The Clash: All the Albums, All the Songs
Led Zeppelin: All the Albums, All the Songs
The Reverend’s Personal Stash
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend a few of my own tomes as suitable gifts for the music-lover in your life. Here are a few good ‘uns to get you started:
Scorched Earth: A Jason & the Scorchers Scrapbook
Blues Deluxe: The Joe Bonamassa Buying Guide
Frank Zappa Buying Guide
The Other Side of Nashville: An Incomplete History & Discography of the Nashville Rock Underground, 1976-2006
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume One: Southern Rockers
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Two: Punk Rock
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Three: Heavy Metal
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Archives, Volume Four: Cult Rockers