Streaming services are turning music into more of a utility, like cable television or Wi-Fi connections, but boxed sets continue to be the notable exception.
The difference between access and ownership is never more noticeable than when boxed sets are involved. Sure, there are plenty of ways to hear your favorite album or artist, but the special packaging, behind-the-scenes details and additional context provided all add up to a deeper appreciation. No wonder the special sets are so popular as holiday gifts.
Here’s a look at some of this year’s crop of sets that are worth owning:
DAVID BOWIE, ‘FIVE YEARS 1969-1973’ (12 CDs, Rhino/Parlophone)
WHAT’S IN IT? All the amazing material generated in the first five years of David Bowie’s career — including newly remastered versions of the “David Bowie” album (featuring “Space Oddity”) and the “The Man Who Sold the World” album, as well as the “Pinups” album — chronicling his move from folkie singer-songwriter to glam rocker.
EXTRAS The 128-page hardcover book includes a foreword by Ray Davies, who marvels at all Bowie’s musical changes, plus photos, technical notes from producers Tony Visconti and Ken Scott, and reviews of each album.
LIST PRICE $149.98
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, ‘THE TIES THAT BIND: THE RIVER COLLECTION’ (4 CDs, 3 DVDs, Columbia, out Dec. 4)
WHAT’S IN IT? “The River” was a breakthrough for Springsteen in 1980 — his first No. 1 album, and it featured his first Top 10 hit, “Hungry Heart.” This set includes the original double album “The River,” a single-CD album that he originally meant to release called “The Ties That Bind,” an album of outtakes and unreleased tracks, a documentary by Thom Zimny, and a two-DVD concert film from the era.
EXTRAS “Meet Me in the City” is the standout among the unreleased tracks, where Springsteen takes on a bit of Elvis Costello new wave. In the documentary (which airs on HBO on Nov. 27) he explains his process for the album, saying, “At the time, I was pouring through a variety of history books just to contextualize myself, understand where I came from and what that meant.”
LIST PRICE $122.99
FLEETWOOD MAC, ‘TUSK DELUXE EDITION’ (5 CDs, 2 LPs, DVD, Rhino/Warner Bros., out Dec. 4)
WHAT’S IN IT? The remastered version of the band’s ambitious follow-up to the record-breaking “Rumours” album is a treat, including live performances from four concerts, remixes and demos and an alternate version built mostly of previously unreleased takes of the original songs.
EXTRAS Several versions of “I’m Not Wrong,” a live version of “Sara,” and an outtake version of “Think About Me.”
LIST PRICE $109.99
LOU REED, ‘THE SIRE YEARS: COMPLETE ALBUMS BOX’ (10 CDs, Rhino/Warner Bros.)
WHAT’S IN IT? It’s fitting that the boxed set chronicling the final act in the late Reed’s career starts with his album “New York,” seen by many as his best solo album. However, this set shows just how many different styles Reed, who grew up in Freeport and spent much of his later years in Southampton, actually mastered, including concept albums dedicated to Andy Warhol (“Songs for Drella”) and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”
EXTRAS It’s on “The Raven” that Reed introduced the world to Antony, who would go on to form Antony & The Johnsons. On “Call on Me,” he teams up with his wife Laurie Anderson for a lovely, wrenching collaboration.
LIST PRICE $48.99
OTIS REDDING, ‘SOUL MANIFESTO: 1964-1970’ (12 CDs, Atlantic)
WHAT’S IN IT? Redding’s remarkable soul man legacy is all the more stunning because he accomplished it in about five years, before his tragic death in a 1967 plane crash at the age of 26. All of that output is collected here, starting with his debut “Pain in My Heart” and ending with his three posthumous studio albums, including “The Dock of the Bay.”
EXTRAS The concert album “In Person at The Whisky a Go Go,” released after Redding’s death, offers a look at his legendary live show, including “Satisfaction” and “Respect.”
LIST PRICE $69.98
BOB DYLAN, ‘THE CUTTING EDGE 1965-1966: THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 12’ (6 CDs, Legacy)
WHAT’S IN IT? This edition collects the songs Dylan recorded during the sessions for “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde” — more than 100 previously unreleased tracks that include alternate versions of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Highway 61 Revisited.”
EXTRAS All these rehearsal takes and alternate versions give a rare look into Dylan’s creative process, including how he once thought “Like a Rolling Stone” should be a waltz.
LIST PRICE $149.98
PAUL McCARTNEY, ‘TUG OF WAR’ (3 CDs, 1 DVD, Hear Music)
WHAT’S IN IT? McCartney’s third solo album — filled with lovely, naive anthems like the title track and “Ebony and Ivory” with Stevie Wonder, as well as the lush “Take It Away” — gets the archival treatment, with a newly remastered version of the album, the original album and a CD of unreleased demos.
EXTRAS The DVD includes both versions of the “Tug of War” video, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the star-studded “Take It Away” video, which includes appearances from Ringo Starr and actor John Hurt.
LIST PRICE $79.98
ALANIS MORISSETTE, ‘JAGGED LITTLE PILL — COLLECTOR’S EDITION’ (4 CDs, Rhino/Parlophone)
WHAT’S IN IT? The definitive collection of Morissette’s amazing whirlwind that surrounded her 1995 album “Jagged Little Pill,” led by the classics “You Oughta Know” and “Ironic.” Not only does the original album get remastered by producer Glen Ballard, but the collection brings together rare live versions of the songs from 1995 and acoustic versions recorded for the 10th anniversary in 2005.
EXTRAS “Apparently, there were a lot of things people didn’t know about me,” Morissette writes in an essay for the new package, which also includes previously unreleased photos. “That I could write. That I was angry. ... That I wasn’t just the girl you could bully, take advantage of, exploit, use, manipulate.”
LIST PRICE $49.98
PERCY SLEDGE, ‘THE ATLANTIC RECORDINGS’ (4 CDs, Rhino Handmade)
WHAT’S IN IT? This set starts with The King of Country Soul’s breakthrough with “When a Man Loves a Woman” in 1966 and follows him for the next eight years, including a string of hits like “It’s All Wrong but It’s Alright” and “True Love Travels on a Gravel Road.”
EXTRAS Live tracks recorded from his 1970 trip to South Africa where he played sold-out shows for 17 straight weeks, including “Cover Me” and “Knock on Wood.”
LIST PRICE $79.98
THE JAM, ‘FIRE AND SKILL’ (6 CDs, Polydor)
WHAT’S IN IT? Tracing The Jam’s legendary career through a series of six live concerts is a brilliant idea for a collection. The London club show in 1977 is driven by punk simplicity on classics like “This Is the Modern World,” while the final concert at Wembley Arena in 1982 outlines how far Paul Weller had evolved as a songwriter and a singer, soon to create The Style Council and, later, solo work.
EXTRAS The package also includes a 72-page color book of rare photos and memorabilia, as well as a new essay.
LIST PRICE $89.98