Dec 20, 2022
By Mark Redfern, Frank Valish, Hays Davis, and Michael James Hall
Photography by Mark Redfern and Wendy Lynch Redfern
Welcome to Part 8 of Under the Radar’s 2022 Holiday Gift Guide, our final part. As you might expect from a music website, here we highlight some of the best music reissues, on both vinyl and CD. We also include two music books for good measure.
Also check out the other parts of our 2022 Holiday Gift Guide: Part 1 on tabletop and board games, Part 2 on video games, Part 3 on DC and Marvel collectibles and toys, Part 4 on technology, Part 5 on more collectibles and geek-friendly books, and Parts 6 and 7 on 4K Blu-rays, Blu-rays, and DVDs.
The Beach Boys: Sail on Sailor 1972 (Capitol/UMe)
RRP: $29.98 (2-CD), $149.00 (6-CD), $179.98 (5-LP)
Early- to mid-’70s Beach Boys is an extremely underappreciated era of the band’s career. While navigating the wavering mental health of its leader Brian Wilson, the band managed to branch out and create some of the most interesting and moving works in its history. UMe, much like it did on last year’s Feel Flows, which highlighted the band’s Sunflower and Surf’s Up albums, takes on the band’s Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” and Holland records with this Sail on Sailor 1972 box set. For vinyl enthusiasts, the set is available as a 5 LP set featuring both albums, three records of the band live at Carnegie Hall from 1972, and a 7-inch of Brian Wilson’s Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairytale) piece, which originally came with the Holland album. But Beach Boy fanatics may want to opt for the 6 CD version, which in addition to all of the above features a plethora of additional mixes, studio performances, a cappella versions, home recordings, different takes, and additional live cuts. It’s a veritable treasure trove of era recordings, which paired with extensive liner notes and historical documentation presented in book form makes for both the perfect companion to Feel Flows and an exhaustive yet essential historical document in its own right. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
David Bowie: Divine Symmetry (Parlophone/Rhino)
How does one pick the best David Bowie album or even their favorite? When an artist has had such a varied and legendary discography, with even his final album, Blackstar—released two days before his death in January 2016—a masterpiece when few other musicians in their late 60s battling cancer would even attempt to record an album. I’m quite partial to 1977’s Low, 1979’s Lodger, and of course 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (likely the album most regularly cited as his best). But some could make the case for the album just prior to Ziggy Stardust, 1971’s Hunky Dory, as being Bowie’s finest. While Bowie’s first two albums (both self-titled) are often written off by critics, despite his second one featuring “Space Oddity,” and 1970’s third album The Man Who Sold the World regarded as an important creative stepping stone for the musician, Hunky Dory (his fourth album) is seen by many as Bowie’s first masterpiece. Two of its singles, “Changes” and “Life on Mars?,” also vie for the honor of being Bowie’s best song.
The new Divine Symmetry CD box set charts Bowie’s fascinating journey to Hunky Dory. Disc one features various demos for the album, including two recorded in a San Francisco hotel. All but two are previously unreleased. Disc two features the David Bowie and Friends concert recorded for the BBC radio and hosted by the legendary DJ John Peel (it was recorded and broadcast in June 1971). The disc features the concert in mono and then again in stereo. Four of the five mono tracks are previously unreleased and the performance has never been released in stereo. Disc three starts with another BBC radio session, Sounds of the ’70s (hosted by Bob Harris) with four of the seven tracks previously unreleased. The third disc is rounded out by a previously unreleased September 1971 concert in Aylesbury, England. Disc four includes various alternative mixes (including single mixes and promo versions). There are some newer 2021 mixes on that disc, and all but the “Changes” 2021 mix are previously unreleased. Then there’s a Blu-ray audio disc that features the 2015 remaster of the original Hunky Dory album, as well as A Divine Symmetry, which is dubbed “An Alternative Journey Through Hunky Dory” and features the same tracklist/sequence as the original album, but with alternate mixes/versions for almost every song. The Blu-ray disc also includes the Sounds of the ’70s BBC session.
Two books round out this impressive box set. One features plenty of full-page photos of Bowie from the era, as well as extensive liner notes, quotes from Bowie on the album, reproductions of correspondence with the BBC, and press clips of contemporary reviews of Hunky Dory (from NME, Melody Maker, Los Angeles Times, and others). “After the struggle of The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory was the album where I said, ‘Yes I understand what I’ve got to do now,’” reads one full-page quote from Bowie. The other book is a recreation of Bowie’s personal notebook from the recording of the album, including handwritten lyrics, his evolving ideas for the tracklist/sequencing, lists of the other players on the album, a ledger of the costs for the sessions, and his sketches of a potential stage costume to wear. Whether or not you consider Hunky Dory Bowie’s best album (or your favorite), Divine Symmetry is the essential 2022 gift for any Bowie fan. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
The Cure: Wish (Picture Disc Vinyl) (Rhino)
Continuing Rhino’s series of Cure picture disc vinyl reissues, Wish is packaged here in handsome double LP fashion, released as a Record Store Day exclusive. The band’s 1992 set is famous for what was perhaps the band’s most popular track, “Friday I’m in Love,” but Wish still stands among the band’s best and moodiest works, with tracks like “From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea” and “A Letter to Elise.” Just don’t let your inner goth get the best of you; make sure to listen with the lights on to appreciate it in all its picture disc glory. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Miles Davis: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: That’s What Happened 1982-1985 (Columbia/Legacy)
Legacy’s The Bootleg Series, chronicling Miles Davis’ long career, returns with its seventh volume, this time focusing on 1982-1985. In the early 1980s the jazz legend was a bit of a recluse, not having released an album since 1976’s Water Babies (which was actually a compilation of material recorded in 1967/1968) and with no new full-on studio album released since 1972’s jazz fusion classic On the Corner, and spending a lot of his time in his Upper West Side New York apartment. But in 1981 he returned with his first studio album in nine years, The Man with the Horn, which was quickly followed by 1983’s Star People, 1984’s Decoy, 1985’s You’re Under Arrest, and 1986’s “Tutu.” The Bootleg Series, Vol. 7: That’s What Happened 1982-1985 features two discs of outtakes and alternative versions from some of the sessions for those albums, as well as a third disc containing a live concert in Montreal from July 1983. Disc two includes Davis’ instrumental covers of some notable pop hits of the time, including Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” an alternate version of his take on Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” and two versions of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” (one being a full studio session version running nine minutes long). The booklet includes essays from some of Davis’ bandmates at the time (Marcus Miller, Darryl Jones, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and Vince Wilburn, Jr.), as well as one by the late great music critic Greg Tate, who died in 2021 (the reissue is dedicated to him). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Danny Elfman: Batman Returns Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (180 Gram Color Vinyl) (Mondo)
Batman Returns is a secret Christmas movie, just like Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Gremlins before it, meaning that it takes place during the holidays but Christmas is superfluous to the plot (beyond a tree lighting ceremony that turns deadly). And the movie came out in June! Tim Burton had a mammoth task in following up 1989’s Batman with this 1992 sequel. With the first movie Burton’s controversial choice of casting Michael Keaton as The Dark Knight paid off and it was biggest movie at U.S. box office that year. That meant Burton was given freer reign with Batman Returns, which saw the filmmaker lean into his dark and quirky humor. Some rank it above the first film, in large part thanks to amazing performances from Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (Annette Bening was originally due to play the role, but got pregnant and pulled out) and Danny DeVito as The Penguin. The film’s sometimes grotesque moments upset some parents and the box office wasn’t as healthy as the first movie, so Warner Bros. made the regrettable move of kicking Burton to the curb and hiring Joel Schumacher instead. Keaton wisely jumped ship too and Schumacher made the two worst Batman films of all time with Val Kilmer and then George Clooney in the title role. It’s too bad we never got the promised Catwoman solo movie with Pfeiffer, but at least Keaton is returning as Batman in next year’s The Flash.
One of the things that also made Burton’s Batman films so special was the scores by his regular collaborator Danny Elfman. His Batman theme is as iconic as anything John Williams has composed and ended up as the opening titles music for Batman: The Animated Series as well (one of the greatest animated shows of all time). Mondo has reissued Elfman’s Batman Returns on 180-gram color vinyl. The 2-LP set features gorgeous new artwork by Kilian Eng, which, while not being overtly Christmas-y, is wintery in nature. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Tom Holkenborg: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (7xLP Box Set) (Mondo)
Danny Elfman also did the score for Joss Whedon’s 2017 theatrical cut of Justice League, with his iconic Batman theme working its way in there in moments. But when the film’s original director Zack Snyder finally got a chance to put together his director’s cut of the movie he brought back on his preferred composer, Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL), who worked with Hans Zimmer on Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and also did the scores for Mad Max: Fury Road, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Snyder’s Army of the Dead. When Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally released to HBO Max in 2021 it was a four-hour epic and definitely superior to Whedon’s cut. Mondo has put out this handsome box set featuring all of the music from Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Since it’s such as long movie, there’s a whole lot of score and it encompasses seven discs. The front of the box set features the villainous Darkseid (who wasn’t even in the theatrical cut) and then the sleeve for each disc features a powerful black & white photo of each Justice League member: Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg, Batman, and Superman. It may be a bit pricey, but this would be the perfect gift for any Snyder super-fan or DC devotee. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Guns N’ Roses: Use Your Illusion (Deluxe Edition) (UMe/Geffen)
Though some have said that had Guns N’ Roses’ double offering of 1991 (Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, both released on the same day) been condensed into one album it would have been one of the best of all time, they’ve chosen to go very much the other way with this luxurious reissue. It sprawls across 7 CDs containing remasters of the albums and two complete live shows—one from the Ritz in New York prior to the album’s release, the other from Vegas, further into their all-encompassing and highly eventful 194-date world tour. A version of “November Rain” with a newly recorded 50-piece orchestral backing is a deep-dive delight. A Blu-ray of the NYC show, a 100 page book, and various neat pieces of ephemera—backstage passes, a contemporaneous fan club kit, 8×10 lithographs, etc.—round out a phenomenal package. The price tag is high, there are, cruelly, live tracks omitted here that appear on the 2-CD reissue versions of each album, and there’s an absence of raw demos and outtakes completists crave, but nonetheless this aesthetically pleasing set will inevitably delight the retro rock fan in your life. By Michael James Hall (Buy it here.)
Billy Joel: Live at Yankee Stadium (Legacy)
Originally released as a VHS back when they were the biggest things in home video entertainment, Billy Joel’s Live at Yankee Stadium gets a much-needed update with this double CD/Blu-ray set. Documenting the piano man’s historic two-day run at Yankee Stadium on June 22 and 23 of 1990, the set here is fleshed out to 22 tracks from the original 12, righting one of the wrongs of the initial release, which only featured a mere fraction of Joel’s performances and most of which were from Joel’s late ’80s catalog. The Blu-ray is newly edited for 4K, with stereo and Dolby ATMOS audio for those who want an immersive experience and adds one track to the original film, a version of “Uptown Girl” captured from the first night. However, it’s the double live album that is the real draw here, beefing up the music from the original film with additional cuts from throughout Joel’s catalog and giving a truer feel of what it was like to be there on those historic nights. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Elton John: Madman Across the Water (Anniversary Edition) (EMI/UMC)
“Tiny Dancer” was already a beloved Elton John song—although it only made it to #41 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and was not even released as a single in the UK due to its six-minute runtime—but it found a new audience in 2000 thanks to Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical film about his time as a teenage music journalist. We all remember the scene where everyone is on the tour bus feeling worn out and down, but then “Tiny Dancer” comes on the radio and the characters slowly start singing along one by one until they are all belting out the chorus. “I have to go home,” says Crowe stand-in William Miller (played by Patrick Fugit). To which groupie Penny Lane (played by Kate Hudson) replies, “You are home.” The song also appears in Almost Famous: The Musical, which landed on Broadway this year, and the cast recently performed it on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. The musical hasn’t had as warm a reception as the movie and it was just announced that its Broadway run will end early.
“Tiny Dancer” is the opening cut to Madman Across the Water, John’s fourth studio album. The record’s highest charting single was actually track two, “Levon.” In honor of the album’s 50th anniversary, which was technically last year, a deluxe Anniversary Edition box set for the album has been released. The vinyl box set includes a remastered version of the original album on one LP; two LPs worth of demos, live tracks, and alternative versions; and one LP featuring the BBC Sounds For Saturday concert in which John performed all but one of the album’s cuts (penultimate track “All the Nasties” was left off the set list). Also included is a large folded up poster for the album. Plus there is an extensive booklet that includes introductions by John (who says Madman Across the Water “closed the first chapter” of his career) and lyricist Bernie Taupin (who writes that the album “is like an American road trip”). The booklet also includes a long article on the album by Daryl Easlea, some of the original handwritten lyrics, and a complete timeline of the album (from recording to release to the tour). There’s much more to Madman Across the Water than “Tiny Dancer” and it’s all found in this fantastic reissue. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
Kiss: Creatures of the Night (40th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) (UMe)
Kiss’ Music from “The Elder” may have struck a dull note as far as concept albums (and Kiss records) go, but the band returned with a blast with its follow up, Creatures of the Night, which found the band returning to its rock roots. It’s that album that’s celebrated here in ultra deluxe fashion on the 40th anniversary of the original album’s release. Much like Kiss’s previous Super Deluxe reissue, 1976’s Destroyer, this set spares absolutely nothing. Creatures of the Night was nine songs; this box features 103, 75 tracks of which were unreleased until now. Aside from the album proper, it contains two discs of demos, rarities, and studio outtakes, and an additional two discs of live material from the band’s 1982/83 tours. And Kiss simply wouldn’t be Kiss without the assorted ephemera, and this set features some of the best—an 80-page book, a press kit, posters, stage drawings, 8×10 photos, a patch, a bumper sticker, trading cards, a replica concert ticket, buttons, and more. It is the ultimate album history. Say what you will about Kiss, they do their box sets right, living up to their own motto: You wanted the best, you got the best! By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Paul McCartney: McCartney I, II, III (180 Gram Vinyl Box Set) (Capitol/UMG)
Paul McCartney’s three self-titled solo albums, released decades apart, are all collected in one vinyl box set. 1970’s McCartney was McCartney’s first solo album and written and recorded at his farmhouse in Scotland after John Lennon announced to the band he was leaving The Beatles. McCartney’s two months in seclusion further caused divisions among the band and the release date of the album clashed with that of The Beatles’ final album, Let It Be. When McCartney issued a press release featuring an interview he did with himself hinting that his time in The Beatles might be over it led to headlines across the world that he was quitting the band or breaking up the band, which wasn’t necessarily McCartney’s intention. When McCartney was released, Lennon and George Harrison gave it a negative assessment and contemporary reviews of the album were mixed. None of that matters now, over 50 years later the album’s reputation has grown and “Maybe I’m Amazed” in particular is regarded as a McCartney classic.
1980’s McCartney II found the singer/songwriter in a more stable position, although it was released around the time another one of his bands was breaking up, Wings. His first solo album since McCartney, like that album it found McCartney performing all the instruments himself and embracing a more experimental and electronic style. The album has since been cited as an influence on 1980s pop, bedroom pop, and electronic music, with artists such as Hot Chip, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, and Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle all citing it as a favorite or as influential on their own music.
Forty years later came McCartney III. Released in December 2020, the album was recorded at McCartney’s studio during the COVID-19 lockdown and again he performed all the instruments himself (apart from on “Deep Deep Feeling,” which features Rusty Anderson on electric guitar and Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums—both are members of McCartney’s touring band). McCartney’s decades long career is unparalleled and now his 50 years in the making trilogy is collected in one impressive package. It also comes with three 8×10 photo prints, each with a photo of McCartney representing the era the album was recorded and each with a little note from McCartney about the album. Of recording McCartney at home, the singer writes: “You can hear I am in the living room because in the first track you hear the squeak of a door opening. It was an exciting album to make and set me off on a course of homemade, self-played albums.” By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)
The Rolling Stones: El Mocambo 1977 (Ume)
RRP: $139.98 (4-LP), $29.98 (2-CD)
The year 1977 was a tumultuous one for The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards was arrested for heroin and cocaine possession in Toronto, charges that led to numerous court appearances and the threat of significant jail time. Meanwhile, with the fate of their guitarist still in question, the band signed a new extended distribution deal with EMI. And they were still breaking in Ronnie Wood, their new second guitarist just initiated into the group the year before. Into this mix saw the band’s only live shows of the year, two secret dates at Toronto’s 300-person capacity El Mocambo club. Finally, 45 years later, the second night of this history two-fer can be heard in its entirety, with three bonus tracks from the previous night’s performance. And El Mocambo is nothing short of jaw-dropping, the band on fire blazing through songs that traced its evolution from blues cover band to rock and roll gods, while even throwing in some newer music (a handful of tracks from ’76’s Black and Blue, and “Worried About You,” which wouldn’t see the light of day until Tattoo You). It’s amazing to hear the band rip through tracks like “Route 66,” “Little Red Rooster,” and “Around and Around” mixed in with songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which sound as fresh in this performance as they were when they were first released. As such, El Mocambo is truly essential for any Stones fan. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Stone Temple Pilots: Core (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Rhino/Run Out Groove)
Rhino has done a fine job over the years reissuing Stone Temple Pilots’ catalog, pressing the band’s first three records onto vinyl with premium packaging and a multitude of extras in CD form. And now the band’s 1992 debut, Core, is released in deluxe edition for the vinyl enthusiast. Featuring two double LPs, one featuring the album proper, and another showcasing demos and nine live tracks from July of 1993, this 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition is the ultimate Core on wax. If you had a pulse in the early ’90s, you’ve undoubtedly already heard the original album, but it’s the demos and era live performances here that are the draw. All the hits are here in demo form, along with one track that was not included on the final album (“Only Dying”). And the performance from Castaic Lake Natural Amphitheater on July 2 of ’93 bursts from the speakers like so much grunge angst. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Frank Zappa: The Mothers 1971 (Zappa/UMe)
Consider the 1971 live album Fillmore East – June 1971 a mere period taster up to this point. The 8-CD The Mothers 1971 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Mothers of Invention’s ’71 lineups with the inclusion of the complete Fillmore tapes, offering the Mothers’ four full Fillmore shows recorded near the time of the venue’s closing. The setlists span Zappa solo material (“Peaches En Regalia,” “Chunga’s Revenge”), early Mothers (“Concentration Moon,” “Mom & Dad”), and half-hour versions of “Billy the Mountain,” with Flo & Eddie (The Turtles’ Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan) injecting plenty of humor into the sets along with their vocals.
Zappa fans will find the bonus material essential, and notes for all recordings are fully detailed in the set’s booklet. The full encore of 6/6/71’s second Fillmore show featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono was remixed for this release. There’s a hybrid concert from two Pennsylvania shows assembled from the earliest known live 4-track recordings from Zappa’s personal tape machine. And, recorded days after a Swiss show where the venue burned down (as immortalized in Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water”), the infamous 12/10/71 Rainbow Theatre concert where Zappa was shoved off the stage at the end is presented here in its entirety. By Hays Davis (Buy it here.)
Frank Zappa: Waka/Wazoo (Zappa/UMe)
The 5-disc Waka/Wazoo set provides a comprehensive presentation of material completed during Frank Zappa’s recovery period in 1972 after being pushed off the stage at the end of a London show the previous December. Recuperating from serious injuries obviously weren’t enough to slow Zappa from undertaking some of his most ambitious work to date.
Interested in working with a large “Electric Orchestra,” Zappa assembled “Mothers of Invention/Hot Rats/Grand Wazoo” (as labeled by Zappa), with the 20-piece group debuting live in September ’72 and scaling down to a 10-piece “Petite Wazoo” a few months later. The experience resulted in two albums, Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, and the Waka/Wazoo box set spans the entire project. Four CDs include alternate takes of almost every composition from the album sessions, as well as session outtakes and oddities. The full final show of the 10-piece tour, from San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in December ’72, is also included, along with George Duke demos produced by Zappa that are released here for the first time. A Blu-ray audio disc presents the Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo albums with brand new Atmos and 5.1 mixes from the original multi-tracks plus the 96kHz 24-bit high-resolution stereo remasters. By Hays Davis (Buy it here.)
Frank Zappa: Zappa/Erie (Zappa/UMe)
“Alright folks, here’s the deal. I’m going to get myself tuned up, and then I’ll introduce the band to you, and then we’ll play you one hell of a show, ladies and gentlemen.”
With that mission statement, delivered before a rabidly enthusiastic audience, Frank Zappa kicks off the first of three shows presented in this set. Newly mixed from the original 4-track tapes, the 6-CD Zappa/Erie offers three complete shows recorded in and around the Zappa Vaultmeister’s hometown of Erie, PA: 1974 shows from Edinboro College (part of a small, month-long run of shows celebrating the Mothers’ 10th anniversary) and Gannon University, and Erie County Fieldhouse in ’76. Of the 71 tracks, only 10 minutes have been previously released (on ’74’s Roxy and Elsewhere).
With the success of ’73’s Over-Nite Sensation and ’74’s Apostrophe albums, Zappa was at a peak of popularity during these years, and the set showcases three separate band lineups and remarkably evolving setlists with these performances. Along with historical essays, Zappa/Erie also includes bonus tracks from other period shows. By Hays Davis (Buy it here.)
Allan Kozinn and Adrian Sinclair: The McCartney Legacy, Volume 1: 1969-73 (Dey St.)
The first of a proposed multivolume set exploring Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles life and career, The McCartney Legacy, Volume 1 examines the years 1969 to 1973. Having just broken up his band and finding himself newly married and starting a family, McCartney ushers in the ’70s as a period of reinvention. At over 700 pages, this volume is anything but for the casual fan. Obsessive in its detail, the book can only be described as a tome and features a wealth of documents, interviews, recording session info, and anecdotes to spare. While you might start during some post-holiday downtime, you’ll certainly linger with it well into the new year. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)
Marty Perez: Kill a Punk for Rock & Roll: Photographs by Marty Perez, 1976-2019 (Hozac Books)
If a picture tells a thousand words, Marty Perez’s Kill a Punk for Rock & Roll is a veritable library. From Queen and Blue Oyster Cult in 1976 to Flat Worms in 2019, the photographs in Kill a Punk are absolutely riveting. Band photography books often bore, but the sheer scope of bands photographed here, from classic rock to punk to indie and beyond, and more importantly the sheer joy, excitement, wonder, and humanity that bleed through each of these pictures will have readers paging through and obsessively scouring each photo, taking them in, devouring the history presented here. Photos are grouped by time period and there are no descriptions other than band, year, and city, but none of that matters when you peer into these timeless photos. It’s the visual history of music you never knew you needed. By Frank Valish (Buy it here.)