Gift Guide: Musical notes for the season

A holiday shopping guide for Black Friday Record Store Day and beyond.

If the looming holiday season fills you with a very specific sense of dread — one spawned from years of failed shopping expeditions — then hopefully this guide will help. For those venturing out the day after Thanksgiving, don’t forget to stop by your local indie record shops (Microgroove, Daddy Kool, Bananas, Mojo Books & Music) and see the special goodies and exclusive Black Friday Record Store Day merch they’ll have in stock. I’ve included info about possibilities below, along with gift ideas and suggestions of recent media releases by some much-beloved artists — the likely favorites of at least one person on your shopping list.

The Rolling Stones have unleashed a new greatest-hits compilation, GRRR!, that commemorates their 50th anniversary with 50 tracks (three discs total) of material, including two brand new songs: “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot.” Stones fans were also treated to a restored, re-mixed and re-mastered DVD/CD edition of the 90-minute bootleg, Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981, which documents the spontaneous performance that arose after the Stones stopped to see their icon Muddy Waters perform at his own juke-joint and ended up jamming with Muddy and his band. And finally, a Record Store Day exclusive: The Rolling Stones EP, available in its original 7" vinyl format for the first time since its 1964 release.

Celebration Day, the concert film featuring the December 2007 reunion of Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and the late John Bonham’s son, Jason), is currently available in nine different CD/DVD/Blu-Ray combos. Choose wisely, and present it with the ultimate rando tchotchke: Led Zeppelin Nesting Dolls. The set includes manager Peter Grant as the tiny fifth doll, Page as the largest one enclosing them all. (artmatryoshka at

You’ve given mom every single piece of Elvis Presley crap you can find — but have you sprung for Graceland: An Interactive Pop-Up Tour yet? I bet not.

The Hungarian state film department employed dozens of cameras to record Queen’s momentous 1986 concert, Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Budapest ’86, which found the foursome riding the momentum of Live Aid and playing to a 100,000-plus crowd; the high-quality release includes two CDs and a DVD/Blue-Ray disc.

All 14 of The Beatles' studio album re-masters have finally made their 180-gram vinyl debut, and with replicated artwork, including the poster in The White Album and the cutouts from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band. Available as a box set or individually per your budget. Also of Beatles gifting note: the trippy long-out-of-print film conceived, written and directed by The Beatles in 1967, Magical Mystery Tour, has been fully restored by Apple Films for DVD and Blu-ray, with a remixed soundtrack and various special features. For a more unique Fab Four gift, I suggest an Engraved Wooden Beatles Music Box, which plays a Beatles melody — choose one from five offered. (InvenioCrafts at

The Doors recently re-issued a painstakingly restored edition of their fine concert film, Live At The Bowl ’68, featuring remixed and remastered audio from original multi-tracks by the group’s engineer Bruce Botnick. On a related (more interesting) note, for those observing Hanukkah or looking for Jewish holiday gifts, might I suggest a Light My Fire Menorah? (LennyMud at

A recent Ebook release, Experiencing Nirvana: Grunge in Europe, 1989, follows the band on their first European tour via numerous candid, never-before-seen photos of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana’s original lineup as taken by Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt, who originally signed Nirvana to the label and independently published the photo book; a portion of proceeds benefit Seattle’s all-ages volunteer-fueled music and arts venue, Vera Project. More Nirvana in mind? Pick up a Record Store Day exclusive 20th Anniversary Edition of Incesticide, a 12" release recompiled and remastered from the original analog master tape. On the same topic, a Time magazine “Best Book of 2011,” Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge — which looks at the era from the angle of the people at its heart — is available in paperback for the first time this year.

How Music Works by David Byrne isn’t really a memoir, but he does discuss topics relevant to his past with the Talking Heads and present solo career, his thoughts on how music is shaped by time and place, and his reflections on the biz as based on his own personal experiences. Pair the book with a DVD, Ride Rise Roar, the Byrne concert doc tracking his “Songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno Tour” (which stopped at Tampa Theatre Dec. 12, 2008).

Forget about Baby Einstein. To soothe hip parents and their little ones, anything Rock-A-Bye Baby is a guaranteed win. The series delivers lullaby-gentle renditions of music by a range of artists — Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Prince, Kanye West, Queens of the Stone Age, Flaming Lips (offered on vinyl for Record Store Day), and so many others. Throw in the Indie Rock Coloring Book for good measure.

Another noteworthy RSD exclusive: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Reservoir Dogs Soundtrack, offered on randomly inserted “Mister-Y” colored 12" vinyl — in blonde, blue, brown, orange, white or pink.

More in gifts: Robot Headphone Splitters, an adorable travel sidekick for those times when there’s two sets of headphones and only one media player to go around, and Rockstar Finger Drums, because you want to encourage rhythmic sensibilities, just not with real drums; a build-it-yourself-and-play-it Folding Ukulele; sets of Build Your Own Band coasters, where you choose the bands on the coasters you actually get; and SleepPhones, for the loved one on your list who can’t get to sleep without musical aid, this comfortable wicking fleece headband contains thin removable speakers and plugs into most audio devices.