Rockin’ the Holidays Gift Guide

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By Debbie Brautman 

Tom Petty – Wildflowers & All the Rest    

On May 5, 2017 when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers rolled into The Perfect Vodka Amphitheater in West Palm Beach on their 40th Anniversary Tour, no one in the jam-packed audience thought it would be his last time and that he’d be gone a few months later, at only 66 years old. Tom loved his fans and they loved him. He didn’t want to let them down for his 40th Anniversary Tour of his debut album, but it might just have been his undoing, as he had a cracked hip and was in crippling pain. For years he had passionately wanted to re-release his 1994 album Wildflowers as the double album that it was originally intended. They had finished 25 songs, but the record company pressured him to make it a single album, with only 15 tracks. Petty had been planning to re-release (and tour) as soon as he finished his Anniversary Tour. Petty called these additional ten songs that didn’t make it onto the original album “All the Rest,” and had done the sequencing for it to complete the double LP Wildflowers & All the Rest release. Six of those ten songs did make it onto his album “She’s the One” movie soundtrack released in 1996. Heartbreaker’s Keyboardist Benmont Tench speaking about Wildflowers said, “Tom always said ‘that’s the best record we ever made’” and Tench adds, “These songs needed to be heard.” It was recorded at Sound City with Rick Rubin and a lot of love, fun and joy. His oldest daughter, Adria, said, “It feels the closest to who he really was.” Fast forward to 2020, and Petty’s desire to release it has been fulfilled by his family, bandmates and archivist Ryan Ulyate (keeper of the still-packed Petty vaults). What a fine packaging job they did… releasing a slew of deluxe and super deluxe packages (seven versions) of both vinyl, CDs, unreleased tracks, live tracks, alternate versions, home recordings and memorabilia. Depending on your budget and completest desire these packages range from $19.98 for the two-CD set to $149.98 for the super deluxe five-CD set and $39.98 for the three LP set to $499.98 for an Ultra Deluxe 9 LP set with everything but the kitchen sink. Check the details out in the store at tompetty.com. There is even a YouTube Video Buyers Guide: Which NEW Tom Petty Wildflowers Deluxe set is right for you? These deluxe sets are selling out fast so you may have to find them on the resale market.

Tom Petty – An American Treasure

While on the subject of Tom Petty, his daughter, Adria, helped put together a well thought out four-disc set presented as a hardback book format called An American Treasure on Reprise that came out in 2018. This set is an absolute must for any Tom Petty fan, as these songs are a much broader landscape than those 20 hits he typically played. It’s a beautiful looking item and, more importantly, the 60 tracks included are a fittingly solid tribute, lovingly put together by his family, bandmates and Petty’s longtime engineer/archivist Ryan Ulyate. There are alternate versions of familiar favorites, some quite radically different from the songs we know. There are live cuts as well and there are songs that never made it onto albums. The unreleased tracks include: Adria’s favorite, “Keeping Me Alive,” which Petty had wanted on Long after Dark; and “Don’t Treat Me Like a Stranger,” which previously had only been available as the UK B-Side to “Won’t Back Down” and features that Full Moon Fever Jeff Lynne sound. The four CDs are broken down by decade – 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the long 2000’s right up to Tom Petty’s last release with his first band, Mudcrutch. It’s a sensible approach, keeping the sounds from song to song well balanced, showing how Tom Petty changed over the years. A lot of previously unreleased material, live and alternate versions, and 52 -page booklet inside, makes this the reason why someone who has appreciated the music of Tom Petty over the years will have to have this… a true American treasure.

Stevie Nicks – Live In Concert: The 24 Karat Gold Tour

Following the special two-night October 2020 theater release of her concert performances that were filmed in Indianapolis and Pittsburgh in 2017 on her 67 city 24 Karat Gold Tour, BMG released a 17 track 2-CD live set and digital/streaming release on October 30 and then a 2-LP vinyl live set on Dec 4. This was a very special tour for Stevie where she picked treasured songs from her “dark gothic trunk of lost songs” and forgotten gems that were rescued and finally put on 2014’s album 24 Karat Gold: Songs from The Vault. This release are live recordings capturing these special songs from her solo and Fleetwood Mac years, and even pre-Fleetwood Mac years. Besides her obvious hit songs, she dusts off “Bella Donna” (not played live since 1981), “Gold and Braid” (not played live for 16 years), as well as the first ever live recording of “Crying in the Night” (from the amazing pre-Fleetwood Mac album Buckingham Nicks -with Lindsey Buckingham). Other live rarities making this release special are “Wild Heart,” “Belle Fleur,” “Starshine,” and “If you were my Love.” Stevie is in total command of the stage as a singer and a storyteller. “The 24 Karat Gold Tour was my all-time favorite tour,” Nicks said. “I not only got to sing my songs but I was able to tell their stories for the first time. I love having the opportunity to share with my fans.”

Bruce Springsteen- A Letter to You

Springsteen’s 20th studio album is a great gift to his fans. Even though it’s filled with loss, death and aging, it’s not all doom and gloom and there’s a playfulness, crispness and Springsteen-ness. That’s a comforting thing…like hearing the voice of an old friend. Sometimes you need that. You could pick some parts of this one apart, but overall, every Springsteen album will grow on you with repeated play. The more you play it, the more you love it. It also happened with 2019’s Western Stars. There are three of his songs never released from the 70’s that he finally got out on this release and two are great additions – “If I was the Priest” and “Janey needs a Shooter.” Warren Zevon had liked “Janey needs a Shooter” so much that he put out his own version of it called “Jeannie needs a Shooter” with the help of Springsteen. The third song “Song for Orphans” is a poor Dylan imitation and maybe should’ve been left in the 70’s. “House of A Thousand Guitars” just tries too hard. “Ghosts” feels vaguely familiar as if we have heard it before but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Burnin’ Train” rocks. “I’ll see You In My Dreams” is a beautiful and touching song. It all wins you over in the end. A Letter to You was recorded live with his fabulous E-street band in just five days in his home studio. The songs were created at the spur of the moment together with just his notes and his band who just know what to do. It’s his message to his devoted fans and we got the message loud and clear. We are grateful for Springsteen and his wonderful E-Street band reaching out in a letter to us, but mostly we appreciate all the years of his heartfelt love of creating great music and sharing it with us. I’d like to write a letter back to him… thanking him.

Paul McCartney -McCartney III

McCartney III is the 18th solo album being released Dec 11 by Capitol Records. Fifty years following the release of his self-titled first solo album, McCartney, this features McCartney playing every instrument and writing and recording every song. It is an eclectic collection of spontaneous songs that was created during his isolation of “rockdown” due to the 2020 pandemic and would become McCartney III: a stripped back, self-produced, solo work in the tradition of 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s McCartney II. Recorded earlier this year in his Hog Hill Mill Studio on his farm in Sussex, McCartney III is mostly built from live takes of McCartney on vocals and guitar or piano, overdubbing his bass playing and drumming. McCartney III shows a personal snapshot of a timeless artist at a unique point in history. It’s a casual album as he wasn’t aiming for a proper album release but wanted to have some fun and get through the pandemic. The cover is a family affair and done by his daughter/photographer Mary McCartney and comes in different colored vinyl versions, for the collectors, depending on the store. Target has an exclusive green vinyl version; Third Man Records has a limited-edition red vinyl version (sold out) and a very limited- edition (only 333) yellow with black dots vinyl version (sold out). It is made from recycling/regrinding McCartney I and McCartney II vinyl records. Most can be found on secondary markets, probably at a higher price.

John Prine – Crooked Piece of Time: The Atlantic & Asylum Albums (1972-1980)

John Prine, who died from Covid 19 on April 7, at age 73, was one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters of his generation and the recipient of the 2020 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His career spanned over five decades and he won over fans with his witty and sincere country-folk music. Springsteen recently described John Prine as our “National Treasure.” The first seven studio albums of John Prine’s career have been newly remastered for a limited edition 7 CD boxed set that was released October 23 from Rhino Records. Crooked Piece of Time takes its name from a song on Prine’s Bruised Orange LP. It represents an essential American songbook and includes tracks that have become modern-day folk and country standards like: “Hello in There;” “Sam Stone;” Angel from Montgomery;” and “Paradise.” He was covered by the most well-respected artists from Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, John Denver to a whole new generation of younger Americana artists like Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile and Kurt Vile. The set includes the following albums presented in mini-LP replica sleeves: John Prine (1971); Diamonds in the Rough (1972); Sweet Revenge (1973); Common Sense (1975); Bruised Orange (1978); Pink Cadillac (1979); and Storm Windows (1980). The clamshell box also contains poster inserts and a 20-page booklet with new liner notes written by music journalist David Fricke. The cover art, commissioned especially for the set, is a painting by artist Joshua Petker that’s based on a photo of Prine taken by Jim Shea.

The Eagles- Live From The Forum MMXVIII

The Eagles toured extensively in 2018 with Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh, Vince Gill and Glenn Frey’s son Deacon Frey, earning rave reviews from fans and critics alike. Live From The Forum MMXVIII is released as a live album and concert film of their 26 song performance highlights recorded live in 2018 over three sold out hometown shows -Sept 12th, 14th and 15th at the Forum in Inglewood, California. I saw this same show in Atlanta in 2019 and they were on fire with one hit after another for hours and hours. It was simply an incredible live performance bordering on perfection. Deacon Frey did a superb job trying to fill his Dad’s shoes. It was an emotionally charged show that thankfully is captured forever, making a great gift for any Eagles fan. In addition to their giant collection of hits like “Hotel California,” “Take it Easy,” “One of These Nights,” and “Already Gone,” it’s also great to hear some of the solo hits like Joe Walsh’s “Walk Away,” and “Life’s Been Good,” and Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.” Rhino released a 2-CD set, a 2-CD set + Blu Ray Combo pack, a 2 CD + DVD Edition and also a four LP set.

Bob Gruen- Right Place, Right Time – The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer

One of rock music’s most well-known and connected photographers has published his first memoir filled with pictures, like the memorable photo of John Lennon wearing a New York City T-Shirt, complete with wildly entertaining stories and never before published rock images over five decades. The 400-page book includes 278 black-and-white and color photographs.

Cat Stevens/Yusuf- Mona Bone Jakon Box Set and Tea for The Tillerman Box Set

Two new box sets to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of two of his celebrated 1970’s albums, Mona Bone Jakon and Tea for the Tillerman arrive Dec 4 via UMC/Island. The Super Deluxe Collector’s Editions will include plenty of unreleased songs and other rarities. Both will be available in abbreviated versions. The Mona Bone Jakon set includes 24 previously unreleased tracks including an entire CD of unheard studio demos and the Tea for the Tillerman Set features 21 unreleased tracks alongside a host of other rarities. There is a giant list of all the details at catstevens.com. The Super Deluxe Collector’s Editions come with a ton of great special demos, outtakes, alternate versions, live performances, Blu-ray discs and 12” Etched vinyl special live performances – too numerous to list. Even the abbreviated 2 -CD Deluxe versions each come with a special Demo/Live CD.

Dion – Blues with Friends

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Dion DiMucci, known simply as Dion, former teen idol in the Bronx doo wop late 50’s group the Belmonts, went solo in 1960 and had mega hits “The Wanderer, “and “Runaround Sue.” He inspired so many artists from Lou Reed, Bob Dylan to Billy Joel. Since 1968, Dion has lived mostly down in sunny South Florida. For his latest album, he enlists his extremely talented musical friends Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Jeff Beck, Billy Gibbons and Van Morrison to play his collection of new original blues songs, all co-written by Dion (mainly with Mile Aquilina) and with Buddy Lucas and Bill Touhy. Dion explains, “The blues have been at the heart of my music since the early sixties. ‘The Wanderer’ is a 12- bar blues and I was covering Willie Dixon and Jimmy Reed in my early years at Columbia – much to the dismay of my corporate masters.” Another of his friends is blues guitar god, Joe Bonamassa, who put this release out on his newly formed label, Keeping The Blues Alive Records, and plays on the first single “Blues Comin’ On.” As if that wasn’t enough, liner notes are from Bob Dylan, and some other big-time guest artists on this 14-track album are Brian Setzer, Steven Van Zandt, Samantha Fish, John Hammond and still more. Wish I had those kinds of friends.

AC/DC- Power Up

Power Up is their seventeenth full length album welcoming back Brian Johnson on lead vocals and their first new music since 2014. It is a tribute to founding rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young who passed away in 2017 from dementia. They’re back in black with Angus Young powering them on lead guitar and Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd and Stevie Young firing them up. The band is reunited with producer Brendan O’Brien, who helmed 2008’s Black Ice and 2014’s Rock or Bust. This one has twelve super charged tracks, and their new single “Shot in the Dark” proves that they are still as powered up as ever and just what we need in 2020 – released Nov 13th. Check out the multiple configurations of deluxe version CDs and LPs that will excite collectors and die-hard fans including a limited-edition Power Up box that is the ultimate fan package. Hit the button on the side of the box and watch the flashing neon AC/DC logo light up while the opening bars of “Shot in the Dark” blast out of the built-in speaker. Inside the box is the CD package with a 20-page booklet with exclusive photos and a USB charging cable allowing the box to be powered up and on display.

Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

Without a doubt this is the album of the year and possibly the decade. A masterpiece by the Nobel Prize winner and voice of our generation. It is lyrically brilliant in a way that only a genius mind can go. It’s a gentle thought provoking and beautiful piece of work from a living legend that continues to explore and reinvent rather than stagnate. If you have missed this release which came out in May, scoop it up and give it to your friends and family for the Holidays….and pick one up for yourself!

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