Nobody else in the business comes up with better oldies packages than Rhino Records. Over the past few weeks the label has released three box sets that capture three very different eras perfectly.

Rhino Hot Rods Box

Various Artists  
Hot Rods & Custom Classics - Cruisin' Songs & Highway Hits

OK, this is probably the coolest box set I've ever seen. Housed in a tall cardboard box that looks like it's one of those model cars you glued together as a kid, inside it features a pair of fuzzy dice, a Moon keychain/can opener, a set of classic car windshield stickers, a Mooneyes classic auto paraphernalia catalogue and a 68-page booklet that goes into the history of the period of hot rods, as well as of the included songs.

Oh yeah, songs. That's what you got the box in the first place for, right? You almost forget that after all the other neat stuff in the box. There are 88 songs split between four CDs, and while there are a lot from the surf and drag period of the '50s and early '60s, the set's material spans the history and styles of pop music. The Stray Cats' rockabilly "Hotrod Gang," Golden Earring's hard rock "Radar Love," and Gene Vincent's classic "Cruisin' " lead things off, followed by Deke Dickerson's "Hot Rod Queen," Johnny Bond's "Hot Rod Lincoln" and Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan's "Hot Rod Race"(are you sensing a theme here?) The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean are naturals for this type of collection, though they each only get one song their "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Dead Man's Curve" are here. Dave Edmunds' "Crawling From The Wreckage," Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place To Go" and "Maybellene" are among the other recognizable hits, and other artists include Johnny Cash, The Rip Chords, The B-52's, Nervous Norvus, Ronnie Dee, Hank Williams, Dick Dale, Mose Allison, The Medallions, Rod Stewart, The Ramones, George Thorogood, John Hiatt, Canned Heat, Phranc, Bo Diddley and many more.


The Disco Box Various Artists  
The Disco Box

With a silver holographic cover that looks like a disco floor, The Disco Box contains virtually every song from the era of wide lapels and gold chest chains that you could want (every song, that is, except for those disco-defining hits by the Bee Gees, who are strangely unrepresented here). There are 80 songs in all, spread over four CDs, featuring that distinctive mix of grooving beats and handclaps, punchy strings and horns and funky bass. Disc one offers The Hues Corporation's "Rock The Boat," KC & the Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight" and "That's The Way (I Like It)," Van McCoy & The Soul City's "The Hustle," Andrea True's "More, More, More (Part 1)" and Vicki Sue Robinson's "Turn The Beat Around." The rest of the set continues in that hit-after-hit-after-hit vein. So many of these artists' names sound completely unfamiliar today, but the song titles bring back the memory of those chunky beats instantly: "Disco Inferno," "Car Wash," "A Fifth of Beethoven," "Boogie Oogie Oogie," "In The Bush, "Ring My Bell," "Funkytown," "Boogie Fever," "I Love The Nightlife" they're all here. While the Village People's "Macho Man" is missing, "YMCA" is included, as is Amii Stewart's "Knock on Wood," Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Disco poster girl Donna Summer is represented by "Bad Girls" and "I Feel Love," Blondie's "Heart of Glass" is here and Kool and the Gang turn up with "Celebration," "Get Down On It" and "Fresh."

The set also includes an expansive booklet with articles about the stars, DJs and clubs that made the disco era what it was, and exploration of the musical R&B roots of the genre. It also lists brief recording and chart information on the set's 80 songs.


Deep Purple - Shades Deep Purple
Shades 1968-1998
(Warner Archives/Rhino)

For a handful of years in the late '60s and early '70s, Deep Purple was one of rock 'n' roll's most impressive bands, combining intricate extended organ jams with soulful rock vocals and heavy guitar riff attitude. When you talk about early progressive rock, you think of ELP, Yes, King Crimson ... and Deep Purple.

This four-CD, 62-song box includes all the must-haves from that period their great early covers "Hush," "Help," "River Deep-Mountain High," the Machine Head classics "Highway Star," "Smoke On The Water," Pictures of Home," and "Space Truckin' " and a live 1972 version of "Lazy." The hits dried up quickly for the band after 1973's "Woman from Tokyo" and "Might Just Take Your Life," and the band splintered for much of the late '70s. Disc four includes the mostly forgettable material from the Deep Purple '80s and '90s comeback efforts it's pretty easy to hear why nobody cared about the seminal band the second time around; the inventive jams and unforgettable riffs were replaced by cookie-cutter Whitesnake-style hard rock in the band's latter incarnations. Only "Knocking At Your Door" from this period reached the charts, and even this was a weak effort. While the fourth disc is tossable, its inclusion is of historical interest the set as a whole provides a solid sonic arc of the band's 30 years. The booklet that comes with the box gives extensive information on Deep Purple's track record, song recording history and even includes color representations of all the band's LPs, from 1968's Shades of Deep Purple to 1998's Abandon.