It is said that music hath charms to sooth the savage beast. And it’s a good thing, because around the holidays there is no more savage beast than a hard-to-please gift recipient.
No matter how finicky the person, there is always a music CD out there somewhere that will cause him or her to shout out in glee, or at least stop grumbling for a few minutes. It’s just a matter of exploring the many options and finding the appropriate disk.
This holiday season there is the customary wave of new releases designed to be wrapped and presented, and then held onto with the plastic covering intact in case they want to exchange it.
Among the most popular surely will be the remixes and mashups of original masters by the group’s legendary producer and esteemed “Fifth Beatle,” Sir George Martin. It’s the ideal gift because it contains recognizable songs, yet they’re sufficiently revamped to create new excitement for that Beatles lunatic in your midst.
There aren’t too many other sure-fire bets in the CD gift department that will please those with a wide variety of tastes, but the ones that are available include “Surprise” by Paul Simon (with some help from Brian Eno); “Duets: An American Classic” from Tony Bennett, which includes collaborations with artists as disparate as Tim McGraw, Stevie Wonder, Bono and the Dixie Chicks; “Live at the Fillmore East” by Neil Young, taken from superb live performances in 1970; “Modern Times,” the highly acclaimed latest album by Bob Dylan, and a remastered version of “Living In The Material World” by the late George Harrison with two rare bonus songs.
But after that, you’ll have to do a little homework. You’ll have to gauge the musical proclivities of that target giftee and find the proper niche from which to glean the ideal CD.
In rock, the choices are many. There is the remastered and restored “The Best of the Doors,” featuring all the band’s big hits including “People Are Strange” (perfect for those frantic days at the mall) and “Hello, I Love You.” Bob Seger has a new CD on the shelves called “Face the Promise,” which makes a fine present when paired with a fifth of Jack Daniels.
There is also “Endless Wire” by The Who, its first studio album in almost 25 years; “Sam’s Town” by the Killers, their second disk; “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, for those with edgier tastes who like to see Santa tattoed and pierced; and the superb old standby, “Stadium Arcadium” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, although check and make sure your loved one doesn’t already have a copy by now.
In country, look no further than the Dixie Chicks’ “Taking The Long Way”; they’re back, as determined as ever, but just make sure the person you give this to will play it rather than destroy it. Safer bets among the hayseed set include Willie Nelson’s “Songbird”; George Jones and Merle Haggard’s “Kickin’ Out The Footlights … Again”; George Strait’s “It Just Comes Natural,” and Keith Urban’s “Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing.” Chewing tobacco sold separately.
In hip-hop, The Game has a new release called “Doctor’s Advocate,” which is not a quiet consideration of the health-care system. Jay-Z has “Kingdom Come” and Snoop Dogg counters with “Tha Blue Carpet Treatment.” And Eminem has produced a collection of cuts from other artists that began as a crude experiment but is now the real deal. It’s called “Eminem Presents: The Re-Up,” and it includes efforts by Stat Quo and Obie Trice, among others. Needless to say, check the warning labels on these CDs first before bestowing upon any little ones.
Boxed CD sets are probably the best way of telling someone you love, “I know you’re going to spend X amount on me, so I guess I have to spend the same on you.”
Some of the better choices include Vince Gill’s four CD set called “These Days”; a five-CD set by The Byrds called “There Is A Season”; for blues freaks, a four-disk anthology of John Lee Hooker’s career called simply “Hooker”; a three-disk celebration of Johnny Cash “At San Quentin”; and an unusual collection of music by The Clash called “The Singles,” which contains 19 disks, all replicas of the band’s original seven-inch singles.
Soundtrack albums are also fun, especially if the person you’re giving one to actually liked the original show. Tenacious D, comprised of actor Jack Black and pal Kyle Gass, has a new film out called “The Pick Of Destiny,” and naturally an accompanying soundtrack CD of their unique folk-metal ravings. There’s also the new CD from the film, “Bobby,” which includes such period songs as “Ain’t That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye and “Tuesday Afternoon” by the Moody Blues. And one of the most anticipated movies of the year also offers one of the most anticipated CDs: the soundtrack to “Dreamgirls.”
There are other cross-genre selections as well, including the new CD by J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton called “The Road To Escondido,” on which Slowhand grooves with one of his idols; a live album by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris entitled “Real Live Roadrunning”; Il Divo’s “Siempre,” for the incurable romantic; and “The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani, which is a rather moot title since everything she does is a sweet escape.
You’ll want to escape, too, if you don’t pick out the right gift. And there are enough choices out there in CDs to assure that you have at least a 50-50 chance of getting it right this year.