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Pop reviews — Music box sets

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Box sets always make good holiday gifts. Here are a few new ones:

On Air — Live At the BBC, Vol. 2

The Beatles

Beatles fans, rejoice: Nearly 20 years after the first volume of long-lost BBC recordings sold millions of copies, a second volume is here.

Like the first volume, On Air — Live at the BBC, Vol. 2 is chock full of live covers of other acts’ hit recordings, including Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins. The sound quality ranges from crystal clear to exceedingly rough.

Not all of the 275 performances the Beatles did were preserved by the broadcaster. Some had to be tracked down from fans’ home recordings, but the raw exuberance of Paul McCartney screaming a hyper rocked-out version of the ballad Beautiful Dreamer is a historical nugget in its own right.

There’s tons of on-air banter between all four mop tops and their radio hosts, showing John Lennon’s wry wit and irreverence at an early stage in the band’s career. Outtakes of the band playing I Feel Fine are included, showing how the deliberate feedback introduction wreaked havoc with the BBC’s finely-calibrated equipment, causing a technician to ask for multiple takes.

And on the off-chance you have any money at all remaining, the first volume of BBC recordings has been re-mastered and re-released as well.

— Wayne Parry

Associated Press

Sunshine Daydream

Grateful Dead

How many reviews of archival Grateful Dead releases begin with some variation of this sentence: If you only own one Grateful Dead concert, make sure it’s this one?

OK, so let’s get it out of the way early: If you only own one Grateful Dead concert, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for it to be Aug. 27, 1972, a benefit show released as the box set Sunshine Daydream.

Amid the roughly 100 archival Grateful Dead releases so far, what makes Sunshine Daydream stand out?

First, it’s not just the concert, which plays out over three discs and features the Dead in their prime. There’s also the movie, filmed on a shoestring budget to capture the hastily organized benefit show to help support the Springfield Creamery, owned by Ken Kesey’s brother, in Eugene, Ore. Long available in previous edits as a grainy bootleg, the film is beautifully restored here on DVD.

The deluxe edition, available only through the Grateful Dead’s website, comes with a 30-minute documentary featuring interviews with many of those who were a part of putting the show together, including Merry Prankster and concert emcee Ken Babbs and counterculture icon Wavy Gravy.

— Scott Bauer

Associated Press

SOUND SYSTEM

The Clash

Ah, the boom box. The portable stereo brings back memories of a specific time in music, when some of the sounds blaring from the speakers included the stew of punk rock, reggae and early hip-hop cooked up by the Clash.

Bass player Paul Simonon designed the group’s new box set to look like a boom box. Lift up the cover and you’ll find the complete recorded output of the classic Clash lineup — the late Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Simonon and Topper Headon — with outtakes, videos, fanzines, stickers, a poster and more. The survivors worked a few years to get back control of their music, remaster it and restore the original artwork.

The Clash were leaders of London’s punk rock class of 1977, made one of rock’s most enduring albums in London Calling and soaked up the sounds of the street in hits like Train in Vain and Rock the Casbah. Jones and Headon were fired in 1982 and although replacements were added and another album, Cut the Crap, released in 1985, that final chapter is ignored in the Sound System box.

It includes five great albums — and yes, 1982’s Combat Rock belongs on that list — and tracks the British quartet’s astonishingly speedy growth curve as the musicians move from rawboned punk through American rockabilly and R&B to Jamaican dub and hip-hop. It includes loads of audio and video extras, and bonus items like badges and decals.

— Associated Press/Philadelphia Inquirer


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