Pretty soon now, we’re all gonna get older …

When rock music first developed, it was inevitable that it would become part of the cultural nostalgia machine. It’s an inherently human thing to think the present is awful, the future is worth, and to look backward at some prelapsarian moment in the past. Those of us who are aware of this tendency can see possibilities ahead, those who aren’t vote Republican.

Not that nostalgia doesn’t have its rewards. Who doesn’t miss artists like Bowie and Lou Reed, who doesn’t regret that there will be no new ideas? (don’t trust anyone who doesn’t feel that way). The emotional fetish of nostalgia is easily transformed into the material fetish object of the box set, work neatly cubed, with concentrated impact. If you’ve been saving your money to splurge, or if you can rationalize spending money you don’t have (I sure can!), here are upcoming objects of desire:

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David Bowie: Who Can I Be Now? (1974 to 1976)

What a strange fucking year, it not only feels like it began with Bowie’s death, but that his death inaugurated all the bizarre crap that came after, as if he were a totem here to absorb our cultural oddities and project them back to us in a less harmful manner. The final release, the wondeful Black Star, was followed by a superb box set that collected releases and extra material from 1969–1973. Now comes something even more exciting: this new set includes the underrated Diamond Dogs, the marvelous Young Americans, and Station to Station, a popular choice for Bowie’s best record. There is the live material of David Live and the amazing Nassau Coliseum performance, there are new mixes (the mixing on the previous set was excellent), and there is a mystery/surprise in the form of The Gouster, a completed album that was never released and that is only available in this box. Collected B-sides and alternates conclude the 12 CD contents. A must. (Best price is currently at importcds, but Amazon pre-order drop may beat it.)

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On (and Off) The Road 1981 – 1984

I am a relatively recent convert to the Church of Crimson, so I apologize if there is any inadvertent fanaticism. What has turned me into a fan has been the series of 40th anniversary boxes, which collect original albums like Red (which in the past I found interesting without being particularly jazzed about them), with extensive live recordings that document both the tours and process around the records. Process is the key, it’s the term Robert Fripp uses to describe King Crimson, and the live sets are magnificent, and taken as a whole lay out a profound and thrilling process of making and remaking musical material—not just songs, but the very organization around which the bands play and improvise. The group improvisation is often astounding, using the songs themselves as a foundation upon which to collectively build a skyscraper of form, a city of sound. Now comes the box that I know throngs have been waiting for: music from and around the tremendous early 1980s Crimson, the band with Ardian Belew, Tony Levin, and Bill Bruford. Give it any label you want, this unit made new music that rivalled what any composer, experimental artist, or jazz players were doing contemporaneously. My mind is screaming to hear this (Best price is currently at importcds, and probably will remain there.)

 

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The RCA & Arista Albums Collection

Post-Velvets, Lou Reed recorded 16 albums (including the Take No Prisoners live double-album), for RCA and Arista. The list of titles is a list of classics, great albums full of live, freedom, and intelligence:

  1. Lou Reed (1972)
  2. Transformer (1972)
  3. Berlin 1973)
  4. Rock n Roll Animal (1974)
  5. Sally Can’t Dance (1974)
  6. Metal Machine Music (1975)
  7. Coney Island Baby (1975)
  8. Rock and Roll Heart (1976)
  9. Street Hassle (1978)
  10. Lou Reed Live Take No Prisoners (1978)
  11. The Bells (1979)
  12. Growing Up in Public (1980)
  13. The Blue Mask (1982)
  14. Legendary Hearts (1983)
  15. New Sensations (1984)
  16. Mistrial (1986)

It was Reed’s own project to collect, remaster (he was nothing if not meticlous about the sound of his albums), and rerelease this catalogue, and apparently he was able to supervise the bulk, if not all, of the process before he died. Essential stuff (and don’t pass over his Sire releases, which are terrific). Out October 7 (best price currently is at Amazon UK).

 

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The Rollings Stones in Mono

Only available through Amazon, this set covers 1963–69, when the Stones released (among others), Let it Bleed, Beggar’s Banquet, Their Satanic Majesties, Aftermath, and a few eponymous titles. As for the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and pretty much every other rock band in the early to mid–1960s, the recordings were made and initially released in mono (stereo mixing was an after thought), and the punch and richness of the original sound should be dramatically enhanced by the DSD transfers made from the original masters. 15 CDs, 186 tracks, 56 tracks available in mono (again) for the first time in the digital era. Guaranteed satisfaction. (Current best price is at Amazon UK.)

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