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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five rock 'n' roll box sets

Issue: "Beyond the body count," Nov. 5, 2011

Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years

British Invasion fans and oldies-radio programers have long made due where Graham Nash's first band was concerned with the 13 cuts on The Hollies' Greatest Hits. It turns out there was a lot more where those songs came from. Although they started like a blend of the Beatles and Herman's Hermits, the Hollies eventually hit upon a style of pop so sumptuously baroque it inspired the Bee Gees. This box documents their evolution and only peters out with the eight inferior live cuts on Disc Six.

Nevermind: Super Deluxe Edition

If it's hard to believe that what may very well be the last epochal rock album turns 20 this year, it's even harder to believe that a five-disc box devoted entirely to that epoch could contain revelations. But it does. The "Smart sessions" Velvet Underground cover, for instance, proves that Kurt Cobain had roots antedating the Melvins. As for the live Vaselines cover, "Jesus Doesn't Want Me for a Sunbeam," it proves that, natural performer though he was, the pain in Cobain's voice was no act.

The Dark Side of the Moon: Immersion Box Set

How does a 10-song, 43-minute album get fattened into a six-disc box? Mainly by taking redundancy to vertiginous heights. Counting just the 5.1-surround and quadrophonic mixes on DVD Number One and the 5.1-surround and original stereo mixes on the Blu-ray, the album can be heard in its entirety seven times. On the other hand, the 1974 live performances and demos (Discs Two and Three) are refreshingly rough hewn. Maybe they'll be made available separately when this album turns 40 in 2013.

Young Man with the Big Beat: The Complete '56 Elvis Presley Masters

Presley fans already own the revolutionary contents of Discs One and Two, and no one with a life needs the eight takes of "Lawdy, Miss Clawdy" and the four takes of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" on Disc Four. But the patter alone between the mighty-raucous live cuts on Disc Three justifies, if anything does, this box's $95 price tag. (Elvis keeps a straight face referring to "Heartburn Motel.") As for the lengthy world-was-Elvis'-oyster interviews on Discs Four and Five, they'll break your heart.

Spotlight

In its 30-year existence, Pink Floyd went through three phases: psychedelic folk-pop under the leadership of Syd Barrett, progressive art-rock under the leadership of Roger Waters, and more progressive art-rock under the leadership of David Gilmour. Only what had sounded progressive and arty in the 1970s, the decade during which Pink Floyd recorded the mega-sellers The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, was sounding cumbersome by the mid-'80s. And in 1996 the group ground to a halt.

But even when Rogers, Gilmour, et al. were peddling little more than penny-ante cynicism, they always sounded good, becoming to owners of high-end stereos what fine Corinthian leather was to drivers of the Chrysler Cordoba. And, although at $180 it's more than what anyone occupying Wall Street can afford, the just-released, comprehensive Discovery Studio Album Box Set (Capitol) finally gives the band's meticulous attention to aural detail its full digital due.

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