AltoRiot’s Holiday Gift Guide 2013

After you’re done buying yourself that new espresso machine you’ll never use or other miscellaneous purchases you didn’t need this black friday, here are our gift picks for when you finally come to your senses.  While them young’uns may say music is a dying commodity in today’s get-free-stream world, tell any music lover (everyone) that notion and you can expect a five across the eye!  This year there’s no shortage of cool music selections that would make a truly respectable gift.  From classical music lovers to hardcore collectors, to the too-cool-for-school crowd, there’s something for everyone.  Take a gander at these choices and don’t feel bad if you end up getting a few for yourself as well.


For that Audiophile Historian

decca sound analoge yearsDecca Sound: The Analogue Years (Limited Edition)

At a price of nearly $2 a disc, one can’t even fathom the value of such a collection.  Nonetheless, this is every bit the reason a music junkie would moan about having to use a streaming service as Spotify as it would be a tremendous pain to create such an elaborate playlist to equal such a collection. The Decca Sound: The Analogue Years box set encompasses 50-albums across 54 CDs, featuring celebrated international recordings that emerged from the London-based label.  Each disc is contained within mini-sleeves based off the designs from their original vinyl jackets.  The collection highlights a time of the golden age of recording, showcasing the first true era of full frequency range. The set includes Decca’s first stereo recordings from 1954 and a special bonus disc of MONO versions. The set is HEAVY, well-constructed and with such a wealth of marvelous recordings, such a gift would be cherished well into the next holiday season.

Purchase here from Amazon for the best price.


For the Truly Eclectic Listener (with good taste)

Erased Tapes Collection VErased Tapes Collection V

Very rarely does a label hold a distinguished story barely five years into its inception but such is not the case with Erased Tapes.  Equally as impressive of a recording history as that of fellow indie label XL Recordings, Erased Tapes has become the forefront for contemporary classical and experimental/electronic music, showcasing records from Icelandic treasure Ólafur Arnalds, contemporary/electronic musician Nils Frahm, and the beloved composer duo A Winged Victory For the Sullen.  The Erased Tapes Collection V features a collection of five seven-inch records carrying ten exclusive songs recorded by the Erased Tapes artists in celebration of the label’s fifth anniversary. All the vinyls are housed in a beautiful, manually produced, hand-assembled casing featuring the label’s hip mountain logo, along with a mountain-shaped record centrepiece and an anti-static cleaning cloth.  And say the person you have in mind doesn’t have a vinyl player? No worries as the set features a unique code that enables the owner to download a digital edition of each track on Dec 24.   Of any of our gift picks this season, none stands out as cooler than this set, both a pleasure visually as it is sonically.  For the “cool kid” on the block, one can do no wrong giving this.

Word to the wise – be hasty with scooping this set up as its only limited to 500 worldwide.  Get a glimpse into the making of this artistic collection from its label’s managers in the video below.

Purchase here from the Erased Tapes’ store directly for the best price.


For the Anime-Art Lover / Rarity-Collector (that will never remove shrinkwrap)

studio ghibli mondo vinylStudio Ghibli Kokyo Kyokushu (Colored Vinyl set)

For anyone that simply is a fan of anime, art, or having anything of rare value, the Studio Ghibli Kokyo Kyokushu vinyl LP set produced by Mondo will put on a grin on any of its holders.  Studio Ghibli, essentially the “Disney of Japan,” has crafted the most renowned anime films of the last 3 decades including Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Cat Returns and My Neighbors the Yamadas. Each of the films have been known for their impressive scores, and have been highly sought out on vinyl.  The Mondo set  features notable selections from each of the aforementioned films and houses them in a distinctly styled gatefold sleeve plus an art piece by artist Tyler Stout.  While the music from the films performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, are value on itself, the real thrill here are the colored vinyls themselves along with the vinyl sleeve. For an anime fan, this special vinyl collection will be likely held as a cherished art piece on display and one that will pay dividends well into the future.  Available in three different versions depending on the front cover (each with its own unique colored vinyl set), the Studio Ghibli Kokyo Kyokushu set is becoming only increasingly RARE and more expensive as time passes by.  The initial run by Mondo quickly sold out with the second print run not far behind.  If you have the option to choose, go with the Howl’s Moving Castle cover as that appears to be the rarest of them all. If you really want to go all-out for a gift, try obtaining all three versions.

Purchase here from Insound Vinyl for the best price.


For the Old School Lover of Fine Culture

Vladimir Horowitz boxsetThe Vladimir Horowitz Live at Carnegie Hall

For decades, long has there been a search for the next “Vladimir Horowitz,” arguably the world’s greatest pianist, but alas none shall ever trump the legacy of the original himself.  Presented in a lavish casing resembling the historic Carnegie Hall, the loaded Vladimir Horowitz Live at Carnegie Hall set, gathers together the complete RCA and Columbia recitals that the legendary pianist recorded live at Carnegie Hall between 1951 and 1978 including eight previously unreleased complete concerts, as well as 48 works in previously unreleased recordings all on 41 CDs and a DVD.  For the truly gifted at hearing, one will be able to see how Horowitz never played any piece the same way twice.  The set provides piano-lovers multiple opportunities to hear multiple performances of certain works, and compare how the legend approached each performance accordingly to different audience with variations in nuance, tone color, touch, dynamics, tempo, phrasing, and pedaling. Yea, insane.  In addition, the set also features a heavy-duty  300-page hardcover book with an introduction by Jed Distler profiling Horowitz and his special relationship with Carnegie Hall, a brief history of the venue, an introduction to the previously unreleased recordings from Horowitz’s Private Collection, pictures of concert flyers and tickets, and historic photographs.  To be blunt, this set is a classical music lover’s dream come true.  A lot of historical respect was given into crafting such a project and such a gift will deem the utmost respect of its giver.


Purchase here at Amazon for the best price.


For the Opera Fanatic ( /Dramatic )

Verdi Complete WorksVerdi The Complete Works

Sure everyone and their mother was doing an all-Verdi record this year, but nothing…NOTHING tops the sheer magnitude of the Verdi: The Complete Works collection.  Going under the radar to even the biggest of opera buffs as it was released early in the year, this set encompasses Verdi recordings from nearly every current-existing major label in the books. Over 30 complete opera recordings sequenced chronologically across 75 cds, this massive set houses all of Verdis works this luxurious package. Without going too heavy in detail (as a collection of this size demands a full oratory class), Verdi: The Complete Works will please opera fanatics with its inclusion of performances from singers as Caballe, Carreras, Cotrubas, Domingo, Freni, Horne, Pavarotti and Sutherland.  The gold paperback packaging nicely presents such a vast history of Verdi and comes off as a gentle, “richman’s” gift.  Forget giving tickets to the opera – this is the BIG TICKET.

Purchase here at Amazon for the current best price.


For the Music Snob Who Refuses to Change with the Times (Because They Are A Changin’)

Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection Vol 1Bob Dylan The Complete Album Collection Vol 1.

While not classical music, it’d be a crying shame not to have the boxset of the year on the list.  Classical or not, any music fan will appreciate the artistry of Bob Dylan’s songwriting.  Not familiar with Mr. Tambourine Man? No sweat – as the Bob Dylan The Complete Album Collection Vol 1. features all of his 35 studio titles (including the first-ever North American release of 1973’s Dylan album on CD), 6 live albums, 2-CD “Side Tracks” (which compiles previously released non-album singles, tracks from Biograph and other compilations, songs from films, etc)  and a hardcover book featuring new album-by-album liner notes by Clinton Heylin and an introduction by Bill Flanagan.

For those who just hate CDs all together, the set is also available as a limited-edition harmonica-shaped USB stick containing all the music, in both MP3 and FLAC lossless formats, with a digital version of the hardcover booklet.

This is the one gift to give to any grumpy goose that will be extraordinarily hard to satisfy.

Purchase here at Amazon for the best current price.


For the Avant-Garde Ear (That You’ll Have to Go to Great Lengths to Please)

The Satyr's PlayDeluxe Edition of John Zorn’s The Satyr’s Play

This is a bit of cheat as it originally came out last year but a small run was recently made available this year.  The Satyr’s Play deluxe edition is a definitive must-have for any contemporary classical fanatic.  Contained in a hand bound black goat skin book stamped in gold on the front, back and on the spine, this highly sought after collector’s item will be the ultimate sign of attention to detail to any gift receiver. Each book contains unique French marbled end papers, nine rare drawings by Austin Osman Spare printed on vellum against gold flecked paper, and the original John Zorn text printed in black and red on acid free paper gilt in gold. Each volume is individually signed, numbered and inscribed with a unique personal sigil by Zorn himself on the CD pocket.  Originally priced at $333…you can pretty much expect to be paying double if you’re even remotely able to find a copy available.  If you’re giving this gift, the person receiving better be worth it.  The best shot to purchase a copy is to contact John Zorn’s Tzadik label directly, or ebay. Good luck and happy holidays!

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