by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Let them buy their own sweaters. Instead, fill their stockings and entertainment shelves with new CDs, DVDs, and books this holiday season. Here are 15 music-related suggestions, including a jewelry item currently being sported by a famous pop star, to shop for or to add to your personal wish list. Most of these are already released, but a few will appear on store shelves in the coming days.
Glee: The Complete
(The Gleek Edition)
TV's runaway hit of the 2009-10 season is captured in its entirety, including the 'Power of Madonna' episode that finds McKinley High's glee club covering 'Like A Virgin,' '4 Minutes,' and 'Vogue.' The Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild-winning series, helmed by Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, is more than weekly ear/eye candy; centering on issues like homophobia, teen pregnancy, discrimination and promiscuity, it's an entertaining, at times emotional glimpse into the lives of young people with lots of great music performed by the actors themselves. 'The Gleek Edition' includes all 22 episodes of season one, plus two full hours of never-before-seen extras. Emmy-winner Jane Lynch and Emmy-nominated Chris Colfer are two publicly out actors who star on Glee.
Burlesque (Original Motion
We don't yet know if Christina Aguilera can act, but there's no doubt she can sing - actually, she belts it out quite wonderfully on this soundtrack from her cinematic debut, Burlesque. The disc includes new material and approving remakes, like a sultry version of Etta James' 'Something's Got a Hold On Me' and a strutting rendition of Mae West's 'A Guy What Takes His Time.' Meanwhile, Gay icon Cher offers her first released single in seven years, 'You Haven't Seen the Last of Me' written by movie theme queen Diane Warren. Take a loved one to see the movie, opening this weekend, and then surprise them with a copy of the soundtrack.
Be cool, be supportive. The most important bling this holiday season is Fight for Equality pendants (www.fightforequality.net), designed by jewelry artisan Carlos Antonio and worn religiously by pop star Jason Mraz - he was spotted with them earlier this year at Staples Center, the night he won two Grammy Awards. Proceeds from the sterling silver, hand-polished pieces - available as a necklace or lapel pin - will be given to Cyndi Lauper's 'Give a Damn Campaign' and also to help raise the overall awareness to have equal rights for same-sex couples. Forget about Tiffany's; this year, Fight for Equality!
Elton John and Leon Russell
A friendship that began 40 years ago gave way to the teaming of two music greats, Elton John and Leon Russell. Long admirers of each other's work, the men finally shared their talent - and piano benches - on an extraordinary 14-track disc appropriately titled The Union. Produced by T Bone Burnett and featuring guest vocalists Neil Young and Brian Wilson, the CD is full of savory pop-rock fare like 'A Dream Come True,' 'If It Wasn't For Bad,' and 'When Love is Dying,' though nothing comes close to the blues-tinged ballad 'I Should Have Sent Roses.'
Sigh No More
Mumford & Sons
If there is such a thing, UK hillbilly music is doing just fine thanks to English folk quartet Mumford & Sons. Appearing out of nowhere, the London-formed group burst onto European and American charts with their proper debut, Sigh No More. Songs like 'The Cave' and 'Little Lion Man' have an organic ring, as if they were plucked from an open meadow in the Bible Belt - a fantastic mix of string instruments and heartfelt vocals makes each track sound timeless. With an almost Celtic twist, this collection of smooth folk-rock tunes will surely delight the indie fan on your gift list.
Coal Miner's Daughter:
A Tribute to Loretta Lynn
Country music trailblazer Loretta Lynn is feted fittingly by a group of today's A-list musicians on a tribute album with some of the most noted material from her catalog. The White Stripes turn in a fantastic cover of 'Rated X,' not surprising since Jack White has always been a Lynn fan. Lee Ann Womack submits a sumptuous cover of 'I'm a Honky Tonk Girl,' Steve Earle and Alison Moorer duet on 'After the Fire is Gone,' while another pair of industry heavyweights - Alan Jackson and Martina McBride - join forces on 'Louisiana Woman,' 'Mississippi Man.' Interesting is Paramore's rendition of 'You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man),' but it actually works, Carrie Underwood gets the coveted opportunity to sing 'You're Lookin' at Country,' and Lynn herself collaborates with Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow on the title number.
Greatest Hits...So Far!
If anyone has the right to put out a greatest hits CD, it's Pink. The pop singer has produced smash single after smash single in her 10-year run, including 'There You Go,' 'Get the Party Started,' 'Just Like a Pill,' 'So What,' 'Trouble,' and 'Glitter in the Air,' all included on this disc. Although, there are some noticeable omissions, such as 'Most Girls' from her first album and 'Lady Marmalade,' a joint effort with Christina Aguilera, Mya, and Lil Kim that won Pink her lone Grammy. Still, you get 15 solid hits on this baby, and there's more where those came from.
The Sound of Music -
The hills are very alive with the sound of this treasured musical film, celebrating its 45th anniversary. The combo set includes a Blu-Ray/DVD copy of the classic presented in HD quality, a gorgeous restoration even from its previous makeover. Commentary by director Robert Wise, and also by co-stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, and sing-along tracks for those who want to release their inner Maria, are just a few of the special features included in this limited-edition package. But it's the sweeping numbers, like 'My Favorite Things' and 'Do-Re-Mi' - set against an Austrian countryside - that ensure The Sound of Music will outlive any modern musical (are you listening, Burlesque?)
Q on Producing
He's a musical legend, largely responsible for the biggest album of all-time, Michael Jackson's Thriller. He's worked with countless musicians, from jazz to hip-hop, assembling many of them on his Grammy-winning project Back on the Block, not to mention co-helming the '80s mega hit 'We Are the World.' Seattle native Quincy Jones shares his production skills and musical teachings in the book Q on Producing, a vital tool for aspiring artists of every genre.
In and Out of Consciousness -
The Greatest Hits 1990-2010
Former boy band member Robbie Williams has never caught the attention of U.S. audiences, unless you count the warped version of 'Angels' gargled by Jessica Simpson. The Take That alum, a superstar in his native England and several European countries, releases a greatest hits package spanning his 20-year career. In total, 39 tracks are offered to fans on three discs, including a brand new single titled 'Shame' co-written by another UK hotshot Gary Barlow, plus a grouping of B-sides and rarities, all bound in a 20-page book package.
Love Me Back
She's back, and thank goodness! R&B sensation Jazmine Sullivan, a Best New Artist-Grammy nominee two years ago, returns with her sophomore album Love Me Back. The collaborators on this CD are top-notch - Missy Elliott, Ne-Yo, Salaam Remi, and Ryan Leslie. '10 Seconds' appears to be the leadoff single, although the singer-songwriter's website is currently allowing fans to download another track, 'Holding You Down.' Selected to receive Billboard's 2010 Rising Star Award in early December is further evidence of Sullivan's musical climb, and that she's here to stay.
20 years have gone by since Bryan Ferry released his first solo hit 'Kiss and Tell,' off 1990's respected Bete Noir album. The Roxy Music ex-frontman is at it again with his newest CD Olympia, featuring the initial single 'You Can Dance.' There are better tracks, however, like the club-infused 'Shameless,' the mysteriously sounding 'Alphaville,' and the slow-paced 'Me Oh My,' where his shivering vocals purr against a dramatic background.
Aside from Lady Antebellum, no one had a better 2010 in country music than Miranda Lambert. The Texas native won Album of the Year and Top Female Vocalist/Artist of the Year at both industry awards that honor the genre's top brass, ACMs and CMAs. Her third album, Revolution, is her best yet - 'White Liar' is a spunky, vengeful number with a modern, strong woman in mind, while 'The House That Built Me' is a beautifully written song that could become Lambert's signature hit. Expect this CD to notch several Grammy nominations in December - deservingly so.
Look at What
the Light Did Now
Indie darling Feist did the next logical thing following the success of her debut solo album; she made a documentary about said debut solo album. The result is Look at What the Light Did Now, a rare peek into the Grammy-nominated artist's thoughts during the recording process and preparations for her live performances. Much like her music, Feist appears soft-spoken and unhurried in this bio-doc, allowing the camera and her songs to do the talking. Commentary is provided by video director Patrick Daughters, collaborator Chilly Gonzalez, and several other cohorts who contributed to her rise, circa The Reminder. Look at What the Light Did Now will soon be released on DVD, and anyone familiar with Feist's work - even those who know her from Broken Social Scene - will adore it.
We expect great things from Arcade Fire, and they always go way beyond the call of duty. On this year's gem, The Suburbs, the Montreal ensemble uses its everything-but-the-kitchen sink style on a marvelous set of tracks, highlighted by the punkish 'Ready to Start' and the danceable 'Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),' the latter featuring the sassy vocals of Regine Chassagne. If your list includes young colleagues for an office gift exchange or nephews who listen to KEXP, Arcade Fire is sure to please.
Share on Facebook
Share on Delicious
Share on StumbleUpon!