Vinyl, Blu-rays and books that any music lover's gotta have

Music fans aren't the easiest to shop for, due to their individual tastes and propensity for buying things for themselves to complete their collection of, say, Hendrix live bootlegs or Guided By Voices singles. We speak from experience. But because there's so much music product out there, it's pretty easy to score something awesome that your music-loving friend or spouse hasn't picked up yet. Here's some of the best of the 2019 holiday-season finds:


The Band, The Band 50th Anniversary Edition (a)

A year after a dynamite celebration of their legendary 1968 debut Music from Big Pink, the Band's self-titled sophomore album gets a special reissue that's every bit the equal of its predecessor. The Band features a slew of the roots-rock pioneers' best and most familiar songs, including "Up on Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Rag Mama Rag." This anniversary release adds 13 outtakes and alternative versions of several songs (six of them never before released), as well as the Band's Woodstock set, previously only available as a bootleg. The fact Woodstock was the Band's second-ever gig is kind of mind-blowing, and the original rough mixes of the set included here are killer. (DN)

The Flaming Lips, The Soft Bulletin: Live at Red Rocks feat. the Colorado Symphony (b)

Yup, that title is a mouthful for what is essentially (and much more simply) a live performance of the Flaming Lips' best album (don't @ me). Of course, nothing is simple with the Flaming Lips. And while the original studio version of this album was incredibly ornate and thrilling upon its release 20 years ago — serious ear candy with the right pair of headphones — this live version recorded in 2016 features a 68-piece orchestra and 57-member choir adding their considerable heft to Wayne Coyne and company's masterpiece. (DN)

Garth Brooks, Legacy (c)

Garth Brooks is one of the few major artists who has yet to put his catalog up on Spotify, so physical media is still the way to go when it comes to listening to his deep catalog in sparkling quality. And you can't get much better than this limited edition set, which features vinyl and CD copies of four of the country superstar's biggest '90s albums — No Fences, The Chase, In Pieces and Fresh Horses, which have collectively sold more than 40 million copies — as well as the career spanning Triple Live. Maybe the biggest Garth fan in your life couldn't get tickets to one of his seven sold-out Arena shows a couple years ago; a copy of this set might make up for it. At least a little. (NW)

Prince, 1999 (d)

Since Prince died, every year has brought new reissues and cash-ins, most of which aren't worth your time. But here's a true must-own: A remastered re-release of his iconic 1982 album 1999, and it comes straight out of Paisley Park. First off, the record itself is one of Prince's best, a vivid snapshot of the moment when his distinct blend of disco, funk, rock and R&B elevated him from Minneapolis phenom to global superstar. Its breakthrough success also led to Purple Rain two years later. Secondly, the repackagings (because you just know there are multiple editions at various price points) are stunning, and they boast unreleased tracks, live recordings, demos and liner notes with never-before-seen material. Oh, and you can get it on purple vinyl. (NW)

Grateful Dead, Ready or Not (e)

Few bands consistently serve up new goodies for their fans like the Grateful Dead, and this live album is noteworthy for consisting of new songs the band was working on for its 14th studio album — a record never recorded due to Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. The nine songs here all debuted at shows in 1992 and 1993, and the versions on Ready or Not include versions from gigs up to shows played just four months before Garcia's death. Songs like "Lazy River Road" and "Days Between" are probably familiar to your favorite Deadhead from late-era bootlegs, but these versions are supposed to be the best versions from the band's own archives. (DN)


Rock memoirs (a)

Not all books written by rock stars are worth your time to read. They can be inordinately fluffy, or self-aggrandizing, or simply show a lack of creativity you would have never guessed from their music. Occasionally, though, your favorite rocker might drop a thoroughly thoughtful autobiography, or at least a bit of trashy fun as they recount their off-stage antics. This holiday season, there are several rock memoir options with a lot of potential. If you saw the Rocketman Elton John movie, you know he's got some demons in his past along with those ridiculous costumes. His new book Me is being billed as his "official autobiography." Face It: A Memoir is Debbie Harry's new book, and considering her role fronting Blondie and delving into punk, rap and disco back in the '70s and early '80s, it could be a great read. Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers put out his book a few years back, now it's Flea's turn with Acid for the Children: A Memoir, which recounts his, um, unconventional childhood and years before the band. The Beautiful Ones could have been amazing if Prince had the chance to finish it before he died. Notoriously interview-shy, he announced this autobiography in 2016 but never finished it. The Beautiful Ones includes what he had finished, as well as plenty of never-before-seen photos and sketches that will surely thrill any fanatics of His Royal Badness. Liz Phair can always be counted on to be almost uncomfortably open and honest, and her memoir Horror Stories recounts her meteoric rise in the sexist indie-rock world of the '90s, and the challenges and triumphs of her career since Exile in Guyville made her a star. (DN)

Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music & Mixed Drinks (b)

Ever hear Frank Sinatra croon over a loudspeaker and think, "Man, this song would sound so much better with a glass of Gentleman Jack?" Then this book is for you. From authors André and Tenaya Darlington, Booze & Vinyl is a mixology recipe guide that'll assist you during your next record listening party, because it suggests both fancy-schmancy craft cocktails and simple sips that will mesh with specific albums — for instance, a porter and rum concoction called the Rattle Skull that pairs perfectly with the Guns N' Roses opus Appetite for Destruction, or a vodka and ginger drink that makes Björk's Debut all the more evocative. Consider it for your next music nerd get-together. (NW)


Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail Rock 'n' Roll (c)

When you look at the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, you likely consider him a pretty cool customer. One of the joys of this 1987 documentary is watching cool Keith deal with his cantankerous hero Chuck Berry, as the Stones guitarist tries to organize 60th birthday celebration concerts in Berry's beloved St. Louis. The rehearsals get pretty entertaining as Richards tries to get Berry to play nice with guests ranging from Linda Ronstadt to Eric Clapton to Etta James. This new Blu-ray version features rehearsals, a making-of documentary, interviews with director Taylor Hackford and a bunch of big-time musicians (Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, Little Richard). And most importantly, great music delivered with great sound. (DN)

2019 music movies (d)

Movie theaters were full of hummable tunes all throughout 2019, and some of the year's finest musical films are now available on Blu-ray. Perhaps the best of the bunch is Amazing Grace, the document of an earth-shaking 1972 gospel performance by the late Aretha Franklin, finally completed and released 47 years after it was filmed. For Beatlemaniacs, the romantic fantasy Yesterday is filled with cheeky references and classic tunes, and Blinded by the Light is a treat for Bruce Springsteen fans, the true story of a Pakistani teenager who found solace in the music of the Boss. Wild Rose is one of the year's true hidden gems, a drama centered on a breakout performance of Jessie Buckley as a troubled Scottish woman with aspirations of country music stardom. And on the biographical documentary front, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice and David Crosby: Remember My Name are both informative, empathetic portraits of two of the most iconic rock stars of the '60s and '70s. (NW) ♦

Montana Fishing Film Festival @ Magic Lantern Theatre

Wed., June 1, 7-9 p.m.
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About The Authors

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.