Though more than 50 percent of music sales are digital now, record companies still happily comply every year with our keen holiday desire to rip open packages full of actual, tactile recordings under the tree — especially box sets. And while some smarty-pants once wrote that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, if it was really as oxymoronic a task as all that, The Seattle Times wouldn’t be cluttered with good music books. Our critics, who are still working on that dancing thing, offer some music book gift ideas below, as well as suggestions for box sets (listed in order of price, from high to low).
1. Lee Hazlewood, “There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving 1961-1977” (Light in the Attic, $180, $80).
This four-CD set, plus a DVD and 172-page book, trawls through the archives of cult country favorite Hazlewood — who gave the world, among other songs, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” — as well as that of the artists on his label, LHI; the deluxe edition offers the label’s entire catalog on three DVDs. — Gillian G. Gaar
2. Nirvana, “In Utero (Super Deluxe Box Set)” (Geffen, $179.99).
Nirvana’s best album gets the full rerelease anniversary treatment in a three-CD-plus-DVD (live from Seattle in 1993!) set. The unreleased songs and rare rehearsals are worth the price alone. — Charles R. Cross
3. “The Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941)” (Mosaic, $136).
You know Fitzgerald from the songbooks, but have you listened to early Ella, with Savoy Ballroom swing drummer Chick Webb, the band leader who kick-started her career in the 1930s with her first hit, “A-Tisket A-Tasket”? I thought not. Webb, with arrangers such as swing-era champ Edgar Sampson, thrill to the bone in this eight-CD set. — Paul de Barros
4. The Monkees, “The Monkees Present” (Rhino Handmade, $59.98).
Rhino’s upgrading of the Monkees’ catalog continues with this release (the band’s next-to-last album); three CDs with plenty of previously unreleased material, detailed liner notes, and a bonus single. – Gillian G. Gaar
5. Jimi Hendrix, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience,” four CDs (Sony Legacy, $49.98).
Originally released in 2000, the new edition of this comprehensive box set has been embellished with some additional rarities, including a vibrant performance of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” from a 1968 show at San Francisco venue Winterland. The chronologically compiled set allows you to follow Hendrix’s career from an alternate take of “Purple Haze” from 1967 to a studio jam from 1970, less than a month before he died. – Gillian G. Gaar
6. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Creedence Clearwater Revival” (Fantasy, Abbeville, $41.49).
This six-CD box set is the kind of expansive release that includes not just one, but three different versions of Creedence classics including “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary.” You can get all of Creedence in one fell swoop in this set, which has all of the group’s studio albums, both of its live albums and a disc of “pre-Creedence” rarities. —- Gillian G. Gaar
7. Mad Season, “Above: Deluxe Edition,” two CDs, one DVD (Sony Legacy, $34.98).
Grunge’s first “super group” brought together members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees whose sole album served up dark, brooding tales of loss and entrapment. The deluxe edition has previously unreleased songs and a DVD of live material, making this set the most complete record of this promising, but short-lived band. – Gillian G. Gaar
8. Wings, “Wings Over America: Deluxe Edition,” three CDs, DVD (Hear Music, $108.98); “Rockshow,” DVD (Eagle Vision, $29.98).
When Paul McCartney’s band Wings played the Kingdome on June 10, 1976, it was the largest indoor concert of its time. “Wings Over America” and “Rockshow” present audio and video, respectively, from that historic engagement, a thrilling performance from a time when McCartney’s set list wasn’t dominated by Beatles’ songs. — Gillian G. Gaar.
1. “The Beatles: All These Years Vol. 1 Tune In,” by Mark Lewisohn (Crown/Archetype, $40).
Having written four books and co-authored three on the most famous supergroup in pop music history, Lewisohn knows a thing or 20 million about the Beatles, but he can also tell a good yarn. Vol. 1 of his planned trilogy digs deeply into the band’s Liverpool roots, brings to life the Hamburg period when the group really coalesced and leaves the Fab Four in 1962, on the brink of fame. At 932 pages, it’s a door stopper, but one that will season well. — Paul de Barros
2. “Autobiography,” by Morrissey (Putnam, $30).
The lead singer of the Smiths settles scores, starts new feuds, and along the way — because of pithy observations worthy of Oscar Wilde — manages to deliver the most entertaining rock bio since Keith Richards’ “Life.” — Charles R. Cross
3. “The Flaming Cow: The Making of Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother,” by Ron Geesin (The History Press, $29.95).
It’s not the most noted record in Floyd’s catalog, but Geesin, who composed arrangements for the album, makes the sessions come alive with first-head accounts and numerous photographs. – Gillian G. Gaar
4. “Hip-Hop Family Tree (Vol. 1),” by Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics, $25).
The ’70s/’80s genesis story of New York City hip-hop has been told many times, but the way Piskor uses the comic-book form to tell it is special: His extremely thorough and academic history lesson is also action-packed, fun and funny (especially the bug-eyed, lisping character of Russell Simmons). — Andrew Matson
5. “Elvis Films FAQ,” by Paul Simpson; “Elvis Music FAQ” by Mike Eder (Backbeat Books, $24.99).
The King’s career simply can’t be contained in two books, so Simpson re-evaluates his cinematic career and Eder dissects his music, both keeping their eyes on Presley’s work, not the gossip, in this acclaimed reference series. — Gillian G. Gaar
6. “Jimi Hendrix Cherokee Mist: The Lost Writings” (HarperPerennial, $19.99).
This collection of Jimi Hendrix’s writing provides an interesting insight into the inner workings of one of rock’s biggest names. The book features many reproductions of actual notes and journal entries. – Owen R. Smith
7. “Wail: The Life of Bud Powell,” by Peter Pullman (self-published eBook, $9.99).
Jazz fans on your holiday list will be delighted to receive this comprehensively researched biography of pianist Bud Powell, the last of the great bebop pioneers to get the full treatment. Amazon has the electronic version; a paperback edition is available from http://wailtthelifeofbudpowell.com. – Paul de Barros