Holiday Shopping Season Releases

Releases destined to be big winners during the holiday shopping season are already popping up. Here are a few to keep in mind.

Rastaman Vibration
Kevin McDonald’s documentary Marley (Magnolia) on the life of reggae king Bob Marley is one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. MacDonald is both a documentary and feature film director. The Scottish filmmaker is the grandson of the esteemed film legend Emeric Pressburger, who, along with Michael Powell, made such cinematic classics as the Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. The film is a deep meditation on reggae music, African and Rastafarian culture and the unlikely journey Marley took to international music stardom. Few music films offer such a richness and balance. While music films in the documentary category rarely gain attention by Academy Award voters, this film must be given serious consideration. The Blu-ray version offers a lush palette of vibrant images and bracing sound.

Memories Are Made of This
Switching gears completely is Collected Cool (Universal) from Dean Martin. This hardcover, book-shaped set includes four discs. Disc one surveys Martin’s Capitol years from 1949 through 1961, while disc two covers his Reprise years from 1962 through 1985. The third CD is a live concert recorded in Lake Tahoe, California, in 1962 at the Cal-Neva Lodge. The fourth disc is a DVD of Martin performing in London in 1983 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Surprisingly, it’s actually Martin’s Reprise recordings that best reflect his seemingly effortless, laid-back, Rat-Pack cool. Few entertainers cut across generations as effectively as Martin. This set only further fuels the growing appreciation of Martin as a singer, a personality and an icon.

R.E.M. Feel Fine
Document (Capitol) was R.E.M.’s fifth studio album and their last recording for I.R.S. Records before the band signed with Warner Brothers. It is the group’s first album with producer Scott Litt. It includes one of the band’s most popular songs, “It’s the End of the World as We Know (and I Feel Fine).” It also includes two other popular R.E.M. songs: “Finest Worksong” and “The One I Love.” This two-CD box-set includes the original album, a concert recorded in Holland in 1987, an expanded booklet and collectible postcards. This is R.E.M. at the height of its powers.

Natural Blues
Taj Mahal is one of the most beloved cult musicians in America. His unmistakable country/blues style has often been imitated, but never duplicated. The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973 (Columbia/Legacy) is two-CD collection that will delight fans of his early solo years. Disc one includes rarities from 1969-1973. Disc two features a concert from 1970 recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London, when Taj was the opening act for Santana.