Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 10 CD Box Sets

I love a good box set, me. The following is a personal list; I've based it on what music I like and what the box set contains – it should have unheard or hard to find rarities and not be just a collection of already-existing albums.

How many CDs is a box set? Three? Four? I guess the first criteria is it should come in a box, contain three or more CDs and have a great booklet. Peelable banana optional, but it helps.

1. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Vol. 1-3 (1991)
Biograph got there first, but this one was the revelation, with many songs unheard of even by bootleg Dylan fans.
Essential: Farewell, Angelina, She's Your Lover Now, Blind Willie McTell, Angelina
See also: All the Bootleg Series

2. Velvet Underground – Peel Slowly and See (1995)
All their studio albums plus extras and a peelable banana.
See also: The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 – The Quine Tapes (the volume one implies more volumes but no sign of them yet).

3. Faces – Five Guys Walk Into a Bar (2004)
Another revelation (I love a box set when it's a revelation). We always knew the Faces were great, but not this great, not, like, up there with The Stones. Particularly of note are the live BBC sessions.
See also: Rod Stewart: Storyteller – An Anthology; The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998; Rod Stewart: Reason to Believe: The Complete Mercury Studio Recordings (this is really all the Rod you need – his first five albums on three discs along with ten outtakes).

4. Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky (2009)
98 songs worth of unreleased demos, live versions and alternate versions; includes band members' solo work. This is the complete story of Big Star.

5. Bob Dylan – Biograph (1985)
Not the most imaginative compilation (it would be another six years before Dylan fans got what they wanted), but includes some rarities, and is said to have kick started the whole CD box set concept.
Essential: Percy's Song, Lay Down Your Weary Tune, Abandoned Love
See also: Masterpieces, an Australian compilation which has a few rarities of its own, such as the Liverpool 1966 Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, George Jackson and Rita May.

6. Bruce Springsteen – Tracks (1998)
Four discs of mostly unreleased material. Great.
Essential: Born in the USA (acoustic version)
See also: Live 1975-1985

7. Miles Davis – Complete Jack Johnson Sessions (2003)
A 5-CD set not to played in one sitting.
See also: Numerous other Complete Sessions including Bitches Brew.

8. Tortoise – Lazarus Taxon (2006)
I love this one. Minimal packaging and labelling housing 3 CDs of rarities and a DVD.

9. Steve Reich – Phases (2006)
This bargain price 5 CD set should appease the casual fan.
See also: Reich: Works (1965-1995) is a £60 ten CD set for the more adventurous.

10. David Bowie – Sound and Vision (2003)
A curious, perverse selection of songs and less than user-friendly packaging; this is definitely not a Greatest Hits package. If you want to hear the German version of Heroes, get this.

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