December 13, 2012

Gifts to groove to

Our holiday tip sheet features some CDs and some vinyl, with input from a couple of local music savants.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

When you think about it, music is really the go-to gift for most folks.

After all, who doesn't like music? So no matter whom you are buying for -- a teenage nephew, a new girlfriend, a grandfather -- you can probably find out pretty easily what sort of music they love, and would love to have. Then it's just a quick trip to the music store to buy it.

Best of all, CDs or vinyl records are flat and thin, and perfectly shaped for those of us who are wrapping-paper challenged. So really, it's a perfect gift in every way.

Here are some suggestions for recent releases that would make great holiday gifts for music fans of all stripes. The list was compiled with a little help from Chris Brown, marketing head for the Maine-based Bull Moose music stores, and Bob Ludwig, legendary music mastering engineer at Gateway Mastering in Portland.

"GRRR!" by The Rolling Stones: Here's the Holy Grail of Stones greatest hits collections, covering the band's career from 1963 to the present. It includes the very first single, a revved-up cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On," as well as all the hits, from "The Last Time" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" to "Miss You" and "Start Me Up." There are also two new studio recordings, a previously unreleased 7-inch vinyl record featuring a BBC radio session, and a CD of the group's first-ever studio recordings.

There's a total of 80 tracks on four CDs, plus two books, a tour poster postcard set and a rare early poster. If you want all of the above, ask for the "Super Deluxe Edition," which sells for about $169.

"Babel" by Mumford & Sons: The second studio album by British indie folk phenoms Mumford & Sons was released in September. Just a month earlier, in August, the band headlined the biggest Portland music show in recent memory, attracting 15,000 people to an all-day festival on the Eastern Promenade. So buying "Babel" for someone who went to the show, or wanted to go, makes sense.

It's been nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy, and was mastered by Ludwig in Portland -- meaning he, too, could take home a Grammy if it wins. The album's price starts at about $13.

Also, here's a gift tip if you went to the Portland show or know somebody who did: The band has just made available a downloadable audio compilation of songs from Mumford's 2012 "Gentlemen of the Road Stopovers" tour, including four tracks recorded in Portland. If you have a ticket or passport from the show, look for the download code and then go to to get your goodies.

"Holidays Rule" by various artists: Every generation has a Christmas album with their stars of the moment doing holiday classics. Well, here's the latest, featuring fun., Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright, Punch Brothers, The Head and the Heart, and a bunch of other fairly fresh faces. Fun., which just got a slew of Grammy nominations, leads off the album with "Sleigh Ride." There's Wainwright doing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" and Fruit Bats doing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." And as a bonus, the not-as-young Paul McCartney doing "The Christmas Song." Starts at around $10.

"The Complete Columbia Album Collection" by Johnny Cash: The Man in Black never goes out of style. This is no small sampling for people who think they like "Ring of Fire" and a few of Cash's big hits: This 63-CD box set has a price tag of about $229. Cash was 26 when he signed with Columbia in 1958, and this collection spans most of his career, from "The Fabulous Johnny Cash" in 1958 to "Highwayman 2" in 1990 with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

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