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Rock Gift Guidance

5 can't miss presents for pop music aficionados

It’s 2011. How the heck do you shop for the music lover on your gift list? It’s getting tougher and the obvious solutions are certainly less than elegant.

“Hey, honey: I wanted to get you some kind of music gift for Christmas, so why don’t you gimme your iPod and I’ll download some songs on it?”

Is that the way you want to do this? Of course not! You can’t unwrap an AAC file or an MP3. Here are some handpicked selections certain to delight rockers spanning every generation.


By Ubisoft for Xbox and PS3

So all those would-be rock stars standing in front of their game consoles mastering the speed and technique of pushing buttons on plastic have been wasting their time. At least that’s what the creators of Rocksmith think.

While games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero can provide hours of simulated shredding fun, Rocksmith is the first to let you plug in an actual guitar and play it, promising to “adapt to your skill level, whether you’re an experienced musician or have never played guitar in your life.”

You simply put the Rocksmith disc in, plug in the included cable that fits a standard quarter-inch guitar jack and that runs the instrument direct to the game system, and start riffing. In addition to a variety of guitar games, lessons, and onboard effects pedals, the inclusion of 50-plus original songs, highlighted by Radiohead, the Cure, the Stones, Bowie, the Black Keys, Pixies, Spoon, and Nirvana only sweetens the deal.

The Smiths

Complete vinyl box set

As Stephen Patrick Morrissey once opined on the Smiths delicious kiss-off anthem “Frankly, Mr. Shankly,” “Sometimes I’d feel more fulfilled/Making Christmas cards with the mentally ill.” For fans of the legendary Morrissey/Marr alliance, fulfillment this holiday season will be surely be found in the Manchester band’s full discography on vinyl, now available as Complete, a domestically available UK import. Every Smiths track is here remastered on 180-gram vinyl as eight albums with all the original artwork restored.


Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland DVD

This April, a camera crew captured the three-man Toronto institution Rush performing a set of 20 songs, with the classic album Moving Pictures in its entirety as the centerpiece. Call it a victory lap for one of the greatest rock trios of all time.

But it’s more than that, as Neal Peart, Alex Lifeson, and Geddy Lee not only thrill their dedicated legions but additionally put on a show of their unmatched musicianship while doing their catalog proud for a new generation. The audio-only album version of Time Machine 2011 is also available, and Rush fans will undoubtedly savor the three new Sectors sets that box up the band’s albums on Mercury up to 1989.

The Beach Boys

SMiLE Sessions deluxe box set

(Capitol Records)

By 1967, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had changed the world of pop music a couple times already. Now they were poised to make issue the grandest, most ambitious statement of their career. Along with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson was creating a grandiose record that told an abstracted story of America and interlocked song modules that challenged the conventions of staid pop and rock. Dozens of studio musicians and the Beach Boys’ stellar harmonies would voice what Wilson called his “teenage symphony to God.”

Then technological limitations, acrimony within the band, psychedelic drugs, and the ongoing battle between his own perfectionism and his fragile mental state took their toll, and Wilson ended the project. He was never quite the same ever again.

SMiLE stands peerless as rock’s greatest “lost” record. While Wilson, Parks, and a cadre of handpicked collaborators toured and recorded a newly realized version in 2004 (Brian Wilson presents SMiLE), the one the world has really been waiting for is SMiLE Sessions. Nestled in a box that recreates illustrator Frank Holmes’s original album art in 3-D relief, the meat of the SMiLE Sessions deluxe box is the five compact discs of 140 tracks (covering a reconstruction of the album from all the original material with four more discs of the sessions) along with a 180-gram SMiLE double LP. There’s also a hardcover book loaded with interviews, biography, sessionography, photos, notes, and many more details surrounding the mythical SMiLE, as well as a pair of 45 singles and a poster.

Finally holding in your hands what is a legitimately rock and roll’s most anticipated album, 45 years in the making, can’t help but make one—ahem—smile.

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story Of The Music Video Revolution

By Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum


Thirty years after its launch, the network that started as Music Television barely even shows music videos these days, but then MTV changed the world. Culling interviews from more than 400 artists, video directors, executives, and other key players, I Want My MTV unfolds in carefully crafted anecdotal passages, making it easy to jump around and read at your own pace—though chances are, once you pick it up, you won’t put it down. It’s an addictive read and a fascinating story of how the music business completely changed when video killed the radio star.

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