Hi, I’m Josh Brown.
Are you looking for the perfect gift for a loved one, frenemy, business associate or sexual acquaintance? Provided that person is anything like me, the below gifts should do the trick.
This TRB Gift Guide is all about music. I’m sending you to the Amazon page here with my links because a) these are gifts you want to hand to someone rather than email to them and b) not everyone is in the iTunes ecosystem – some of you are using the Microsoft Surface/Zune Music platform and c) presumably this stuff is worth owning the physical version of and not the degraded-quality MP3- or MPEG4-formatted download.
So just live with it.
This list is not the same as my Top Albums of 2012, which will be out later this month (even though all of the below are from 2012). Rather, these are four kickass gifts for the people on your list who are music fans.
Celebration Day – Led Zeppelin (Blu-Ray + 2CD)
I really have to admit, Mrs Downtown surprised me with this the other night and I shrieked like a school girl. In 2007, a tribute concert to the legendary Atlantic Records mogul Ahmet Ertegun brought John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and drummer Jason Bonham (John’s son) together on stage at London’s O2 Arena. 20 million ticket requests came in but only 18,000 lucky fans were there for Celebration day, the one-off reunion concert at which Led Zep blazed through their biggest hits as though 1977 had never ended. This double CD plus one Blu-Ray is your high definition ticket to that very show, the one they spent six weeks rehearsing for (and it shows, they absolutely crush it). Please be aware that there are 9 different versions of this package, some of them come with a DVD instead of Blu-Ray and some have vinyl records rather than the CDs. I think the one I’ve chosen is the best, but head over to LedZeppelin.com to see them all.
Good Kid: M.A.A.D City – Kendrick Lamar (Deluxe Edition)
Hip Hop has been so desperate for a savior for so long, it seems that every new promising MC gets put on a pedestal after the first mixtape. This, of course, leads to the inevitable cycle of disappointment and resentment when the full-length album comes out and fails to live up to the deafening pre-release hype. We’ve seen this play out a hundred times over the last decade, most memorably with cats like Jay Electronica, Charles Hamilton and Kid Cudi. But in the case of Kendrick Lamar, the hype was justified – with the release of Good Kid: M.A.A.D City we have the first genuine new rap star of the twenty-teens. His origin story is a classic one – a mixtape artist since 16 (he is now 25), Lamar focused on his music while the gang lifestyle of Compton, California raged all around him. After his name came up in conversation, uber-producer Dr. Dre looked his homemade video up on YouTube and invited him down to the studio. After a few sessions Dre signed him and the rest is history-in-the-making.
I hit the back window
in search of any Nintendo.
from ‘The Art of Peer Pressure‘
There is nothing about the 25-year-old’s debut album not to like. The tracks are all almost all bangers, the lyricism is at once brutal and poetic, and the stories seem ripped right out of the kid’s soul. One does not have to be a hip hop aficionado to fall in love with this album, it’s art and art is universal.
Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
You’ve probably never heard the name Sixto Rodriguez. He was a singer-songwriter who was discovered by a pair of record producers in a Detroit bar in the 1960’s. They signed him, he recorded an album for them and then hit the road for a tour. Rodriguez was on pace to become the Latino Bob Dylan – until the night he went on stage, set himself on fire in front of the crowd and perished in the blaze, according to legend. Decades passed and somehow one of his bootlegs had made it into South Africa, becoming a smash hit amongst the oppressed who were straining under apartheid. Inexplicably, his music became highly influential on the other side of the world, even as Rodriguez had faded into obscurity in his native United States. The film ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ is the true story of how a pair of South African obsessives went on a hunt to find out what had really happened to the artist. You will be blown away by what they came across in their search. This album is the film’s soundtrack featuring all of Rodriguez’s best songs. The themes are universal, the remastered recordings sound incredible and the lyrics themselves are every bit as relevant to the present as they were to the tumultuous 1960’s during which they were written.
There’s one last word then I’ll conclude
Before you pick up and put on your attitude
Bet you’ll never find or ever meet
Any street boy who’s ever beat the streets
from ‘Street Boy’
Pick up “Searching for Sugar Man” for the music fan who thinks they’ve heard everything and they know all the folklore. Then buy the movie itself when it arrives on DVD this January.
GRRR! – Rolling Stones
This is probably the best Rolling Stones greatest hits package yet assembled. Three discs of hits, remastered and sounding amazing. The songs are in chronological order, starting from ’63 and running through their mid-aught’s work along with two new songs tacked on the end. Bottom line, everything is here – all the key tracks that appeared on 2002’s Forty Licks compilation – but these sound better and the whole three-disc set of 50 songs is only 24 bucks. Hardcore fans will complain that some of the songs appearing here are the radio edits and they’ll lament the lack of obscurities or bitch about a missing gem from 1968 – but keep in mind that hardcore fans of anything tend to be pedantic douchebags. Anyone you give this to is going to love it.
Privateering – Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler is best known for his 1980’s work with his band Dire Straights, but his solo work is, in many ways, far superior. What he doesn’t do on his own records is attempt to recapture anything from his Classic Rock heyday. What he does do is assemble a studio full of virtuosic players and produce earnest, creative and authentic songs in a mindblowing array of genres. Knopfler’s latest, called Privateering, is two discs with 20 new original songs he’s written and performed with a world class group of musicians. Joining Knopfler’s distinctive guitar are drums, flutes, whistles, accordions, fiddles and more. Knopfler does authentic roots music – everything from country-western to blues to bluegrass to Irish folk songs to British sea chanties.
I got crows in my pasture, babe
Rats in my barn
If I was you, little bluebird
I’d up and find another farm
And as he hops from one style to the next, the consistency and genuineness will at once startle you and set you at ease. You are in the hands of a master here, take the trip and be transported.
Happy shopping, and remember you can find all of these selections at my Amazon store: