50 Boxed Sets From 2013 You Must Own (If You’re a Gazillionaire)!


The good news is, Jimmy Page is preparing a boxed set for every Led Zeppelin album ever released. The bad news is, those won’t be out till 2014.

The good news is, that leaves you more money to spend on all the fantabulous boxed sets from other artists that did come out in 2013. The bad news is, there may not be enough gold in Fort Knox to afford all the deluxe packages we’ve listed here.

Still, a music fan can wish — or compile a wish list — right? And while we’re officially calling this a gift guide, these are really items that you’re going to need to gift yourself with, because let’s face it, how many family members or friends do you have who will shell out a hundred bucks just so you can finally hear all of Nirvana’s instrumental demos for In Utero? That’s not to say there aren’t some bargains to be had here, like Garth Brooks offering eight discs for a bargain-basement $24.96.

Anyway, with physical media on the decline, it was still another banner year for shelf-busting sets that you will want to fondle and fetishize in a very pre-digital way. Bob Dylan, the Who, Miles Davis, the Beach Boys, the Velvet Underground, Van Morrison, Frank Sinatra, Fleetwood Mac, the Clash and a host of others are calling out to you, voluminously.

So here is our guide to the 50 Boxed Sets from 2013 You Must Own* (…*if you’re a gazillionaire). No penalties or moral judgments will ensue if your closet and wallet size dictate picking up just one.

BOB DYLAN: The Complete Album Collection Vol. One

Last year Sony made the day of completists by issuing a box containing all 59 albums Johnny Cash released for the label. Dylan hasn’t been quite as prolific during his 52 years at Columbia, but close enough. This similarly packaged box includes every one of the 35 studio albums and six live albums that have been issued during his lifetime… even, in a hell freezes over moment, the dodgy 1973 Dylan release that the man disavowed and previously kept from being released on CD… along with two discs of extraneous odds ‘n’ ends. (All that’s missing are the vault releases from the Bootleg series, which would go a long way toward a Vol. Two.) A hardback book contains excellent liner notes by Clinton Heylin that go a long way toward helping make sense of, say, what the hell was going on with him in the 1980s. Here’s something we promise we won’t say of any other boxed set: It belongs on a shelf in every home in America. (list $250; best price $180)

PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS: Wings Over America (Deluxe Edition)

McCartney is responsible for the year’s most lavishly and lovingly packaged boxed set, at least in the under-$400 division. (And it’s the second year in a row we could say that, since his Ram deluxe edition from last year also deserved those plaudits.) The packaging is so over-the-top extravagant, in fact, that you could almost imagine Macca is taking a loss on the thing, at least at the lowest price. We’ve grown so accustomed to his face on stadium stages recently that it’s hard to remember what a big deal it was when McCartney toured in 1976, the only time he did so in the States between the Beatles’ live swan song a decade earlier and his next solo tour in ‘89. The hit 3-LP set commemorating the tour comes back to life here, along with a bonus CD and DVD. But the real attraction here might be packaging that’s about as close to a Russian nesting doll as these things get, with multiple books, Linda McCartney photo sets, pull-out set lists and ticket stubs, and historical text by rock critic David Fricke. Even if you don’t care for “Silly Love Songs,” you might get a kick out of how hundreds of never-before-seen photographs scenically recreate life along the road in the 1970s. (list $180; best price $132)

GARTH BROOKS: Blame It All on My Roots

Every time that Garth puts out a new boxed set priced so cheaply you know someone’s losing money on it, there’s a suspicion that he’s trying to up his platinum status to catch up with the Beatles. Whatever the reason, his loss leader is fans’ gain, again. The ostensible reason for the set is to commemorate the end of his long solo run in Las Vegas, as memorialized on a concert DVD here. The oldies he performed on a nightly basis during that run are also the apparent inspiration for Brooks including four discs’ worth of newly recorded, full-band cover songs, mostly of his favorite ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s tracks, divided by genre. The classic country covers provide the most fun, as when Garth duets with Trisha Yearwood on “After the Fire is Gone.” It gets weirder and less satisfying when he veers into rock territory and does note-for-note recreations of tunes like “Life in the Fast Lane,” going for the karaoke approach instead of putting his own spin on anything. Do you really need to hear Garth — or anyone — try to exactly reproduce Rod’s rasp on “Maggie Mae”? Anyway, if you don’t require his version of “Mrs. Robinson,” maybe you still need his greatest hits, also included on yet another pair of CDs and a DVD. (list $30; best price $25)

NIRVANA: In Utero (Super Deluxe Edition)

Nirvana’s Nevermind “Super Deluxe” package of two years ago was a knockout, and since their swan song In Utero was arguably an even better album, it’s certainly welcome to see it awarded the same lavish treatment. Just don’t expect a similar depth of outtakes this time around, since almost all the demos included are instrumentals cut before Kurt Cobain had written the lyrics, when all those great tracks truly were in utero. In cases where both producer Steve Albini and remixer Scott Litt prepared different versions of the songs for the album or radio, both are included, of course. Controversially, Albini has even added an all-new mix of the album, including some Cobain vocal and guitar parts that didn’t appear on the original record. A concert DVD rounds out a package that weirdly reminds us how Nirvana was firing on all cylinders and burning out all at once. (list $200; best price $100)

VAN MORRISON: Moondance (Deluxe Edition)

Astral Weeks may be the Van the Man album that the hepsters all claim as their favorite, but 1970’s Moondance is the one that feels like a greatest-hits album; every lunar-illuminated note sounds that familiar and classic. Morrison briefly issued a statement on his website — then retracted it — that he did not participate in or sanction this deluxe reissue. But what else would you expect from the most crotchety man in rock & roll (or possibly even out of it)? We have to side with the record company here: The studio outtakes that fill up three bonus discs are wonderful stuff, and there’s no compelling, non-crotchety reason to keep ‘em under wraps. The inclusion of eight rehearsal takes of “Caravan” raises the question of how many times any one person can stand hearing Morrison bark “Turn it up,” but you may be surprised to find it’s still not enough, given how these ramshackle run-throughs turn into a hypnotic jam-band set. The biggest find is Morrison’s own version of “I Shall Sing,” which was only ever officially released by Art Garfunkel. (best price $57)

THE WHO: Tommy (Super Deluxe Edition)

As with the “Super Deluxe” edition of Quadrophenia issued a couple of years ago, the main attraction here is a previously unheard collection of Pete Townshend’s original demos for the concept album. If his intent in making these the focus is to prove how fully formed the material was before he ever brought it to the band, mission accomplished. The main reason this set has left some fans feeling blind, deaf, and dumbfounded is that it doesn’t include the full-band outtakes that were previously included in a 2003 deluxe edition, so, as hefty a package as this is, completists will still need to double-dip and a keep a previous edition on their shelves as well. That reservation aside, this set does serious justice to one of the great works of art rock ever produced. Although there are plenty of live versions of Tommy out there, the box adds yet another, cobbling together performances from a 1969 tour that had previously been thought lost. The predictably handsome book is anchored by a 20,000-word essay. And for some Who fans, the one previously unheard full-band , take a version of “Young Man Blues” (later covered on Live at Leeds), will be worth the price of admission. (list $180; best price $97)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Vol. 1, 1917-1932

Now, here's the 2013 boxed set that will break not just the bank but your coffee table. Jack White's Third Man label has put together a "race records" best-of that includes 800 tracks on a USB drive in the shape of a vintage record needle, along with a distillation of six LPs' worth of the finest tracks on colored vinyl records with gold-leaf labels. But a lot of music buffs with deep pockets will be picking this up more for the objet d'art packaging than the music therein. The whole thing comes in a handcrafted, embossed, oak suitcase built to resemble one of the era's massive portable turntables. Third Man calls it a "wonder cabinet," and having fondled (if not bought) one of these babies ourselves, who are we to disagree? Books full of historical notes and vintage advertisements from the black newspapers of the '20s help round out the set. We hear through the grapevine that at $400, the price this is being sold for via the Third Man web store, there's not even that huge a profit margin involved. So: come for the luggage, stay for the blues. (list $500; best price $400)

ELVIS PRESLEY: Elvis at Stax (Deluxe Edition)

The title may be slightly misleading in spirit, if not literally, since Elvis wasn’t really consciously making a pronounced R&B move when he took his band into the Stax studios in Memphis to cut new material in 1973. Yet the spirit of the venue certainly loosed him up to the point that many Presley cultists consider these the last really top-flight studio recordings he made before his death three years later — and they’ve never been properly collected in a single volume until now. Along with 28 previously released tracks that came out of the sessions, you get 27 outtakes, allowing for more than anyone’s monthly fill of James Burton guitar goodness. The packaging isn’t elaborate, which makes this one of the more affordable sets in our rundown. (list $35; best price $22)

NILSSON: The RCA Albums Collection

Sony has issued its share of “complete albums” packages this year (including comprehensive sets for Herbie Hancock and Blue Oyster Cult). But after Dylan’s, this 17-disc set is the one that got us most excited. Harry Nilsson is one of those fellows whose deserved ubiquity in the ‘70s somehow failed to survive his artistic decline and death. If you need to start from scratch, Nilsson Schmilsson is the way to do it, being the album that contains “Without You,” “Coconut,” and one of the most criminally unheard great rock tracks of that decade, “Jump Into the Fire.” But it’d be a shame to not go on from there to his albums of nothing but Randy Newman songs or old standards, not to mention the further LPs of original material, which run the gamut from Rufus Wainwright-like chamber pop to (occasionally) serious rock. Many of his albums were reissued with bonus material in the mid-2000s. But along with having those bundled here, you get three additional discs of oddities, including yet another 29 previously unreleased tracks, like his demo of “This Could Be the Night,” a song that fell into the hands of Phil Spector and became the theme for radio’s Rodney on the Roq program. Forgotten, schmorgotten! (best price $86)

MILES DAVIS: The Original Mono Recordings

There are almost more boxes of Miles available for sale than there are empty boxes at a U-Haul outlet. Some have been outlandishly comprehensive. But this nine-disc set of Miles at one of his obvious peaks, from 1956-61, will actually fit under the tree while still giving you a solid share of his most essential sides. For starters, Kind of Blue, from ’59, is as iconic in its own right as jazz albums get — and, like six of the nine LPs represented — features John Coltrane as a member of Davis’ band. We’ll take their word that the mono format is truest to the way Miles and his cohorts intended us to hear these records. Any number of channels is the right way to hear the foundations of modern jazz being established. (list $110; best price $92)

PAUL SIMON: The Complete Albums Collection

Some of the other Sony “complete” packages only include the albums recorded for that company’s labels, so it’s sweet to have a Simon package comprehensive enough to include every album he ever released as a solo artist, including not just the Columbia catalog but covering his Warner Bros. and Concord years. For a lot of fans, the real find might be the inclusion of The Paul Simon Songbook, a 1965 British release — with Simon doing his versions of tunes made famous via Artie’s chops — that only finally quietly came out on CD in the U.S. in 2004. Nothing here is freshly rescued from the vaults, as all the bonus tracks have been ported over from previous reissues of the albums. And the liner notes are on the perfunctory side. But for one-stop shopping in relation to one of the great song catalogs of the last century, you could hardly spend a better hundred bucks. (list $130; best price $96)

VELVET UNDERGROUND: White Light/White Heat 45th Anniversary (Super Deluxe Edition)

Last year, Universal gave us a “Super Deluxe” treatment of The Velvet Underground & Nico, and they are apparently letting no velvety 45th anniversary go uncelebrated, as the band’s sophomore album is now going in for the same luxurious expansion. Besides the original LP, which includes the 17-minute “Sister Ray,” a second CD includes mono and alternate mixes, and a third offers a live show from 1967 that ups the running time on “Sister Ray” to a healthy 19-minute workout. Don’t mistake this lavish package for a quickie cash-in on Lou Reed’s death, although the fact that production was already in progress certainly is fortuitous for anyone who’s dedicated the winter to discovering the man’s back pages. (best price $56)

WOODY GUTHRIE: American Radical Patriot

The ironic juxtaposition in the title — or oxymoron, to a certain way of thinking — is certainly deliberate. The 20th century’s greatest folk music hero was a true subversive in just about every sense of the word, but he also served his country in some odd ways that are collected here. He recorded songs, interviews, and skits for the Library of Congress, the Office of War Information, the Bonneville Power Administration… heck, even a venereal disease public information wing. The six CDs and single DVD in this limited edition of 5,000 copies are supplemented by a 78 rpm disc that includes Bob Dylan’s 1961 recording of Guthrie’s “VD City.” This “Woody shills for the feds” set isn’t the best introduction to the legend’s legacy, but if you already know what he meant to the nation, it ought to be bound for glory on your shelves. (best price $90)

FLEETWOOD MAC: Rumours (Deluxe Edition)

The quintessential 1970s album had its first deluxe reissue in 2004, but this box ups the ante considerably. Besides the disc of studio outtakes released eight years ago, you now get a second CD of sessions rescued from the cutting room floor, a full live album from the period, a DVD documentary, and, for window dressing, a 12-inch LP of the record that brought everybody to the dance. (best price $78)

THE BEACH BOYS: Made in California

The Boys have been to the boxed-set well before, most notably with the landmark 1993 Good Vibrations collection, when much of the lost Smile material first appeared on CD. Twenty years on, how much significant unreleased material could still have been left behind in the vaults to supplement another run through the greatest hits? The answer is plenty, since 60 of the 174 tracks here have not been previously heard. Although many of those are alternate takes or demos, the band's archivists have also dug up truly buried gems like Dennis Wilson's “(Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again," an outtake from Surf's Up that'd never even been bootlegged before, and Brian's "Where Is She?," recorded for but not included on Sunflower. Buy this comprehensive, chronological history for your relative who still lacks a copy of "Fun Fun Fun," then borrow it to download the wealth of obscurities. The yearbook-style packaging is a bitchen bonus. (list $180; best price $109)

DUANE ALLMAN: Skydog — The Duane Allman Retrospective

The skydogs were crying when this 7-disc set sold out its initial limited run of 10,000 copies early in the year. But just when empty-handed guitar aficionados felt like they'd been tied to the whipping post, a repressing in the fall made the complete run-through of the guitar legend's sadly aborted history happily available again. Especially given how Duane passed away at the freaking age of 24 (in 1971), Skydog is one robust life summation, including his most famous Allman Brothers and Derek & the Dominoes sides — "Layla," anyone"? — as well as lesser remembered sessions with Delaney & Bonnie, Boz Scaggs, King Curtis, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. (best price $117)

THE CLASH: Sound System

The English punk band's first truly comprehensive boxed set comes in the form of an ersatz boom box, suitable for carrying around on your shoulder while you embarrass yourself by belting out "This is Radio Clash." Besides getting all the original albums — all the ones that featured the full original lineup with Joe Strummer, anyway — in reproductions of the original LP packaging, Clash cultists also get three CDS of rarities and unreleased tracks and a DVD. Fourteen of the tracks have never been released, including demos of "London's Burning" and "White Riot," for those who found the studio versions just too darned slick. (best price $162)

DONNY HATHAWAY: Never My Love — The Anthology

If hearing "This Christmas" in every store you enter has put you in the mood for more Hathaway, make a way to the store for this four-disc collection, half of which is comprised of previously unheard material. One disc smartly supplies every duet he ever did with Roberta Flack, while another premieres a 1971 show from the Bottom End. (best price $39)

ERIC CLAPTON: Give Me Strength: The 1974/1975 Recordings

Last year Universal centered a boxed set around the Slowhand album, but this followup has as its focus three albums from slightly earlier in the mid-'70s: 461 Ocean Boulevard, heralded at the time as his "comeback," plus There's One in Every Crowd and the live E.C. Was Here. One of the set's discs is virtually an undiscovered album unto itself: The Freddie King Criteria Studios Sessions, a lengthy in-studio jam session with one of Clapton's favorite blues guitarists. Hand-jiving will ensue. (best price $66)

FRANK SINATRA: Sinatra Duets — Twentieth Anniversary (Super Deluxe)

Both of the Chairman's '90s duets albums are included in their entirety, along with bonus tracks like previously unheard collaborations with Tanya Tucker and Tom Scott and a hookup with George Strait that'd only been found on the country star's own boxed set. If you already own the Duets boxed set that came out in 2005, though, you may not need this one, despite the more luxurious packaging. (best price $109)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba — The Latin-Jewish Musical Story: 1940s-1980s

The mixture of "bagels and bongos" is the label's alliterative promise for this charmingly oddball 2-disc set. Latinos and Jews go together like peanut butter and chocolate, at least if we're to believe the premise behind a collection that finds its reason for being in tracks like Celia Cruz doing "Hava Nageela." Previously, the same company, the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, issued a holiday collection, 'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah, that combined Hanukkah songs with Christmas songs written or performed by Jews. We can't wait to find out what they've got under their yarmulke next. (best price $18)

BOB DYLAN: Another Self Portrait (1961-1971): The Bootleg Series Vol. 10 (Deluxe Version)

Dylan is fairly prolific as an archive-raider these days, if not so much as a maker of new product, which explains why he gets two slots on our 2013 deluxe list. In its most basic two-CD form, Another Self-Portrait was one of the year's essential historical releases, digging up shelved material from 1969-71 that 99 out of 100 Dylanologists would consider superior to the official Self Portrait album of the period. Lesser bought — partly because of the advanced price tag, partly because stores kept running out of stock — was this four-disc deluxe edition that adds the original Self Portrait album itself (not that great an upgrade incentive) and Dylan's full 1969 Isle of Wight set with the Band (big ole incentive). (best price $97)

YES: The Studio Albums (1969-1987)

All but one of the Yes albums included were previously remastered for public listening in 2003-4, but this comprehensive, clamshell-packagted collection does add a first-time CD reissue of 1987's Big Generator. Note: the official release date is Dec. 24 — yes, Christmas Eve. Let the gift buyer beware, but maybe UPS can deliver Jon Anderson cultists a Christmas miracle. (best price $62)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Sun Rock Box, 1954-59

Germany's Bear Family — the greatest label of the 21st century that releases nothing but mid-20th-century music — has outdone itself with this epic salute to the Memphis imprint that spawned Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, et al. Naturally, eight discs allows enough time to also get reacquainted with some names you don't associate so much with their Sun origins, like Charley Pride, Conway Twitty, and Rufus Thomas, as well as a slew of unknowns who never became Kings or Killers. The 255 tracks included here are no slouch, but the biggest draw for some rockabilly buffs will be the 224-page hardback book. (list $328; best price $167)

KING CRIMSON: The Road to Red

Welcome to the court of the crimson fanboy. For non-buffs, this might be one big prog slog, but you have to love a band whose cult following could merit a box that includes 16 separate full-length concert recordings all put on tape between April and July of 1974, spread across 24 discs. (best price $190)

That's our sampler of 25 gift (or should we say "gift") items, but could we stop there? Not on your elaborately packaged life! Here are another 25 deluxe editions from 2013 to give and/or receive and/or just lust after from afar...

THE ROLLING STONES: Sweet Summer Sun —Hyde Park Live (Deluxe Edition)

(best price $81)


(best price $41)

ERIC CLAPTON: MTV Unplugged — Deluxe + DVD

(list $25; best price $16)

THE BAND: Live at the Academy of Music 1971

(best price $61)

R.E.M.: Green — 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

(list $25; best price $18)

RUSH: The Studio Albums 1987-2000

(best price $38)

THE RAMONES: The Sire Years 1976-81

(best price $34)

HERBIE HANCOCK: The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1973-1988

(list price $200, best price $180)

ROY ORBISON: The Monument Vinyl Box

(best price $135)

LEE HAZLEWOOD: There’s a Dream I’ve Been Saving, 1966-71

(best price $88)

THE BEATLES: Live at the BBC — The Collection

(best price $43)

THE GRATEFUL DEAD: Sunshine Daydream

(best price $34)

HUMBLE PIE: Rockin’ the Fillmore — The Complete Recordings

(best price $30)


(best price $44)


(best price $42)

STEVE EARLE: The Warner Bros. Years

(best price $38)

DAVE VAN RONK: Down in Washington Square

(best price $27)

ELLA FITZGERALD: The Voice of Jazz

(best price $113)

OTIS REDDING: The Complete Stax/Volt Singles Collection

(best price $32)

TAJ MAHAL: The Complete Columbia Albums Collection

(list $120; best price $81)

THE ANIMALS: The Mickie Most Years and More

(best price $76)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: I Heard the Angels Singing: Electrifying Black Gospel from the Nashboro Label

(best price $30)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Verve: The Sound of America, The Singles

(best price $50)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 12B: 1972

(best price $97)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Disney Classics

(best price $32)