Box-O-Rama: New multi-CD sets vie for place

Yep, 'tis the season for box sets. Record companies know that multi-CD collections of artists' best singles usually coupled with some obscure cuts to make the new release "rare" and "collectible" for fans make for great gifts. So the end of the year always sees a torrent of new sets hit the shelves. Here are a few of the new boxes vying for your gift-buying dollar this year:


Genesis - Archive#2 Genesis
Archive #2 1976-1992
(Warrior Girl Music)

This three-disc set comes more than two years after Atlantic released Archive #1, a four-CD box of Genesis' early archive work with Peter Gabriel covering 1967-1975 (released in the summer of 1998).

The new box picks up in 1976, where the old one left off. The purpose of both box sets is not to serve as expanded "Greatest Hits" collections, but rather to present studio tracks and live recordings that have never before appeared on Genesis albums. Some of the tracks on Archive #2 did turn up as B-sides or EP tracks over the course of the band's career, but all of the material on both boxes definitely qualifies as "rarities" that fans will enjoy hearing.

The new Archive box picks up in 1976, when Phil Collins had just taken over the vocal reins of Genesis from Gabriel and the newly retooled progressive rock act released A Trick of the Tail.

The set includes 34 songs, including the 12" mix versions of their hits "I Can't Dance," "Invisible Touch," "Land of Confusion" and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight."

Two CDs feature leftover studio tracks taken from the sessions that produced the albums We Can't Dance, Abacab, Duke, Invisible Touch, Wind & Wuthering, A Trick of the Tail and ...And Then There Were Three. A third disc includes previously unreleased live recordings that were taped between 1976-1987.


ELO - Flashback Electric Light Orchestra

A decade ago, Epic released a three-disc ELO box set called Afterglow. If you bought that set, you may have to think about the need to pick up Flashback. The new three-CD box includes many of the same tracks as Afterglow, however, ELO leader Jeff Lynne has gone back and remastered all of the "must-have" hits, and has also included a handful of different "personal favorite" selections (including the "Eldorado" suite). The box includes hits like "Showdown," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Evil Woman," "Livin' Thing," "Turn to Stone," "Telephone Line," "Don't Bring Me Down," "Hold On Tight," "Rock and Roll Is King," "So Serious," "Four Little Diamonds" and "Calling America" (the latter hit was omitted from the last box collection).

There's also a never before released recording of "Xanadu," with Jeff Lynne on lead vocals (the hit version featured Olivia Newton-John), six other previously unreleased tracks, and alternate mixes of "Do Ya" and "Mission (A World Record)."

Unfortunately, the new box doesn't include the handful of rarities that were included on the Afterglow set, so you need to have both to have the full ELO canon. This would have been a 5-star release if Epic had upgraded it to a four-disc set and included all of the rarities and skipped tracks from the Afterglow box. For the ELO fan though, it's still a treasure trove.


Various Artists - Brain In A Box Various Artists
Brain In A Box: The Science Fiction Collection

This box wins top honors for packaging alone! The holographic cube displays a 3-D brain on three sides and a 1950s mad scientist collection of knobs on top. Inside is a set of five CDs that include 113 tracks, including scores and songs from original movie and television series' soundtracks, sci-fi-themed pop and novelty songs, and tons of odd dialogue and sound effects.

The discs are divided into "Subjects." Disc 1 is Movie Themes (including tracks from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Fantastic Voyage, Planet of the Apes, Aliens, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Robocop, Mars Attacks!, The Matrix and more. Disc 2 covers TV Themes ranging from "The Twilight Zone," "Lost in Space" and My Favorite Martian," to "The Jetsons," "Doctor Who," "The X-Files" and "Star Trek." The remaining disc subjects are Novelty, Pop and Incidental/Lounge and include everything from Leonard Nimoy's reading of "Music to Watch Space Girls By" to The B-52's "Planet Claire."

The accompanying 200-page hard-bound book, designed in the style of Big Little Books of the '40s/'50s, is an all-things sci-fi reference guide containing authoritative liner notes by noted sci-fi music expert/radio personality David Garland, Ray Bradbury, and Dr. Demento, tributes, tons of rare photos and illustrations (including classic '50s/'60s-era sci-fi movie posters), "Build Your Own Light Saber" blueprints, and excerpts from The Robot Builder's Manual by Clayton Bailey.

This box is a must for fans of science fiction AND quirky music.


Dion - King of the New York Streets Dion
King of the New York Streets
(The Right Stuff)

This three-disc collection chronicles the output of '50s idol Dion from his hitmaking days in the '50s with the Belmonts through his chart-topping solo career in the '60s through his less successful but still productive output in the '70s-'90s. Included are "A Teenager in Love," "Runaround Sue," "The Wanderer," "Lovers Who Wander," "Drip Drop," "Little Diane," "This Little Girl," "Abraham, Martin & John," "And the Night Stood Still," and 53 more. There's also a 52-page booklet with photos and a complete Dion discography.


Stevie Ray Vaughn - S.R.V.Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

This four-disc box covers studio sessions, live performances and rare TV and radio broadcasts of the late Vaughan and his band from 1977-1990. One of the discs is a six-song DVD called One Night In Texas which features video clips recorded for an unaired 1989 "Austin City Limits" of the blues rocker playing "May I Have a Talk with You, "Mary Had a Little Lamb," Look at Little Sister," "Couldn't Stand the Weather" and "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)."

More than half of the songs on the remaining three CDs were recorded live and there are a number of Vaughn's collaborations represented as well, including his work with Johnny Copeland, Albert King, A.C. Reed, Jeff Beck and Jimmie Vaughan.