Welcome to the era of the Monster Box.
For decades, record labels have counted on enough fans shelling out $30 to $50 for a modest-size box set to make everyone happy.
However, as album sales continue to drop, some labels have decided to double down on the packages of their biggest stars, hoping that super-fans will be willing to drop big bucks for elaborate, extensive sets.
The King of Box Sets this year comes from The King, as Elvis Presley's "The Complete Elvis Presley Masters" collects all 711 recordings released during his lifetime. The set, which comes with a 240-page book, is a whopping 30 CDs for $749 through completeelvis.com. There is also "The Apple Records Box Set" a 17-CD package of non-Beatles albums from the label's impressive roster, including James Taylor's debut and a whole lot of Badfinger, for $336.98.
Those may be the biggest boxes under the tree, but there are other sets spanning a much wider range of prices than usual this year. Here's a look:
What's in it? The digitally remastered version of "Darkness on the Edge of Town," which Springsteen says is where he responded to his "Born to Run" success with the stories of people he grew up with. It's the album where he found his "adult" voice, in "The Promised Land," "Prove It All Night" and the title track. In moving forward, Springsteen left behind nearly 30 songs that didn't quite reflect the new direction, ones that showcased his love of Phil Spector ("The Little Things ") and a continuation of the E Street Shuffle sound ("Ain't Good Enough for You," which is kissing-cousins close to "This Little Girl," which he wrote for Gary U.S. Bonds). The bulk of those songs became "The Promise," a new/old album that's a looser version of the Springsteen we've come to expect.
Extras The notebook! The spiral-bound, six-pocket notebook where Springsteen plotted out the arc of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is replicated with coffee-stained accuracy, offering lyrics revisions, set-list plans and other thoughts, all in his own handwriting. The DVDs include a documentary on the making of the album, a bootleg concert from 1979 and the current-day Springsteen and E Street Band playing "Darkness" in its entirety.
List price $119.98 for three CDs, three DVDs (Columbia). There also is a two-CD version of just the unreleased songs for $18.98.
DAVID BOWIE, "Station to Station (Deluxe Edition)"
What's in it? The original analog master version of "Station to Station," which features Bowie at his funkiest on "TVC15" and "Golden Years," marking the high point of his combination of European pop and American soul, and the previously unreleased but often-bootlegged "Live Nassau Coliseum '76" album. The Coliseum concert is a stunning show of force from Bowie as a showman, his proper British storytelling and cool German-influenced performance warmed up by his American band, featuring guitarist Carlos Alomar. (Check out his giggly opening to "Changes" and the reworked "Rebel Rebel.")
Extras The CD master of "Station to Station" from 1985, LP and DVD audio versions of the analog version and an LP version of the live album.
List price $165.98 for five CDs, three LPs, DVD (EMI). There also is a three-CD special edition available for $34.98.
JOHN LENNON, "Signature Box"
What's in it? Remastered versions of eight of Lennon's post-Beatles albums - "Plastic Ono Band," "Imagine," "Some Time in New York City," "Mind Games," "Walls & Bridges," "Rock 'n' Roll," "Double Fantasy" and "Milk & Honey" - and a two-CD set of "Lennon Home Tapes," which includes rarities and non-album singles.
Extras A 60-page hard-bound book and a print commemorating what would have been Lennon's 70th birthday.
List price $189.98 for 11 CDs (Capitol)
PAUL McCARTNEY, "Band on the Run (Deluxe Edition)"
What's in it? The remastered "Band on the Run" album, which showed that McCartney still wanted to dominate the world of rock after the Beatles' breakup. While his initial solo albums were decidedly low-key, this had "ambitious" written all over it. The set includes a CD of bonus tracks, including "Helen Wheels," and a CD of interviews.
Extras The book contains previously unreleased photos by Linda McCartney, while the DVD features music videos and behind-the-scenes footage.
List price $99.98 for three CDs, DVD (Hear Music). There also is a special edition, with two CDs and a DVD for $29.98.
What's in it? The first set collects the band's first 13 albums and EPs in mono on heavyweight vinyl. The second set has 14 albums on heavyweight vinyl.
Extras Slipcase to hold all the albums with restored sleeves.
List price $389.98 for the first set of 13 LPs (ABKCO) and $419.99 for the second set of 14 albums (ABKCO/Universal)
BOB DYLAN, "The Original Mono Recordings"
What's in it? Dylan's first eight albums released in mono for the first time.
Extras Liner notes by Greil Marcus and a slipcase to hold the LP replica sleeves.
List price $129.98 for nine CDs (Sony/Legacy)
Extras "They Don't Care About Us" directed by Spike Lee.
List price $39.98 for three DVDs (MJJ/Epic/Legacy)
ORANGE JUICE, "Coals to Newcastle"
What's in it? Basically everything by the underappreciated Scottish band led by Edwyn Collins (yes, the "A Girl Like You" guy) - tracing the band's transition from jangly contemporaries of The Smiths through a Motown-loving stage and finally a world-beat influence.
Extras A DVD of its BBC performances and videos, including "What Presence?" directed by Derek Jarman
List price $69.99 for six CDs and a DVD (Domino)
VARIOUS ARTISTS, "Matador at 21"
What's in it? A five-CD history of the legendary indie label, including songs from Superchunk, Pavement and Guided by Voices, and a CD of live tracks from the label's 10th anniversary concert in 1999, featuring Pavement and Cat Power.
Extras A set of poker chips and a book featuring the label's history and photos of its artists.
List price $35 for six CDs (Matador)
VARIOUS ARTISTS, "The 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concerts"
What's in it? The historic two-night concert at Madison Square Garden last year to commemorate the Rock Hall's silver anniversary had so many jaw-dropping moments, all collected here, including Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel's collaboration on "Born to Run" and "New York State of Mind"
Extras A poster from the event
List price $44.98 for four CDs (Time-Life)
RAVI SHANKAR AND GEORGE HARRISON, "Collaborations" (Dark Horse/Rhino, three CDs, DVD, $69.98)
JOHN MELLENCAMP, "On the Rural Route 7609" (Mercury, four CDs, $99.98)
VANILLA FUDGE, "Box of Fudge" (Rhino, four CDs, $79.98)
BEE GEES, "Mythology" (Reprise, four CDs, $54.98)
SYL JOHNSON, "Complete Mythology" (Numero, six LPs, four CDs, $79.99)