We won’t go so far as to call this your playlist for Black Friday. Peruse this instead for what it is: a shopping list. This is our annual roundup of recommended recordings newly (but not at all coincidentally) released in time to grab a share of your holiday shopping dollar.
We’ve divided this year’s list into two parts. The first is devoted to less wallet-friendly boxed-set anthologies highlighting the career work of veteran artists. In this lot, Pink Floyd offers both the biggest bargain — a two-disc collection of early music for about $17 — and the biggest budget buster — a sprawling 38-disc set that sells on Amazon for $571. Needless to day, we’re recommending the former. Kind of makes Amazon’s $128 price tag for Bob Dylan’s 36-disc package “The 1966 Live Recordings” seem like a steal. Kind of.
The second half of the list deals with newer releases by somewhat more contemporary artists. All are single-disc recordings, meaning they sell for roughly $16 each.
So, here you go — all the sounds to make spirits bright this holiday season and Black Friday a bit more bearable.
The box sets
Bob Dylan, “The 1966 Live Recordings” — A 36-disc summation of the year the folk giant toured as a fully electric artist with a group that would soon become The Band. The sound quality varies from professionally recorded CBS sets to audience bootlegs. A two-disc distillation, “The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert,” will be available Dec. 2.
Pink Floyd, “Cre/ation” — A must-have for anyone infatuated with vintage psychedelic music, the two-disc “Cre/ation” traces Pink Floyd’s pre-“Dark Side of the Moon” history from its Syd Barrett beginnings thru “Obscured by Clouds” with mostly alternative, demo and live recordings. Edited from the 38-disc set, “The Early Years, 1967-1972.”
NRBQ, “High Noon: A 50-Year Retrospective” — Few underappreciated rock troupes are more deserving of a comprehensive anthology than the Louisville-born NRBQ. With a love of elemental rock ’n’ roll, along with the occasional foray into Sun Ra-related jazz and soul, “High Noon” encompasses 106 tunes cut between 1966 and 2015.
The Rolling Stones, “Havana Moon” — Ahead of December’s unveiling of “Blue & Lonesome,” the first Stones studio album in 11 years, we have another concert CD/DVD, one drawn from the band’s first performance in Cuba. The repertoire sticks to the hits, although it’s cool to hear Keith Richards dig into the semi-obscure “You Got the Silver.”
Miles Davis Quintet, “Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5” — This three-disc set takes us offstage, where most of the previous “Bootleg Series” sets were recorded, and into the recording studio. It allows us to be the proverbial fly on the wall with Davis, producer Teo Macero and the trumpeter’s famed mid-1960s quintet.
The Beatles, “Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years” (DVD/Blu-ray), “Live at the Hollywood Bowl” (CD/LP) — Two projects detailing the touring life of the Beatles. Ron Howard’s “Eight Days” documentary is a must-see, while “Hollywood Bowl” is the cleanest, closest listen we will have of the band’s rock and pop performance profile.
Kacey Musgraves, “A Very Kacey Christmas” — An early vote for the season’s best new holiday album. Country music stylist Musgraves uses just enough retro smarts, classic kitsch and simple, emotive invention to create a charmer of a Christmas record that places the usual Nashville holiday sentimentalism by the curb.
Alejandro Escovedo, “Burn Something Beautiful” — For his best rock ’n’ roll record in more than a decade, Americana favorite Escovedo teams with R.E.M. alums/Minus Five mainstays Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey for a record full of lean electric reflection, fuzzed-out psychedelic bliss and edgy pop intuition.
Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” — Cohen’s final album preceded his death by a matter of weeks, providing these haunting songs a perhaps unintended weight. As with most of his post-comeback records, though, “Darker” is full of an inner incandescence, a quiet and often pastoral glow that enforces the music’s spiritual intent.
Jim James, “Eternally Even” — The frontman of Louisville’s My Morning Jacket branches out for his second solo album. On “Eternally Even,” he de-emphasizes the guitar-rich drive of his more familiar band in favor of a more keyboard and percussive blend with lyrics that ooze over the psychedelic soul melodies like butter.
A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here” — A record of firsts and, unfortunately, lasts for the vanguard hip-hop group. The upside, “We Got It From Here” is Quest’s first No. 1 album in 20 years. Released after the death of member Pfife Dawg in March, the work is being promoted as the group’s final recording project.
Pink Martini, “Je Dis Oui!” — Thomas Lauderdale’s “little orchestra” again scours the globe to cut cross-cultural pop material in eight languages, from guest vocalist Rufus Wainwright’s take on “Blue Moon” to a version of the Miriam Makeba hit “Pata Pata” in the South African dialect of Xhosa. It’s an album joyously progressive in execution.