Mu­sic for the masses

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CHRISTMAS TREATS - Tony Clay­ton-Lea

YEAH yeah, yeah, we know what you’re like. There’s noth­ing on the telly and there’s noth­ing you fancy go­ing out to see. You want to stay in be­cause it’s snow­ing out­side, you haven’t had the no­tion to wash your hair, you’ve fin­ished your book, the mag­a­zines are all full of the same old clap­trap about how to look like your favourite celeb with­out spend­ing more than 50 notes, and plas­tic surgery is out of the ques­tion. (It’s not that you can’t af­ford it, it’s just that you re­ally like the way you look. And be­sides, look what hap­pened toMickey Rourke).

So wad­dya gonna do? Well, we have some op­tions for you in the ar­eas of view­ing and lis­ten­ing. Some you’ll love, some you’ll laugh at. But re­mem­ber: one per­son’s joke is an­other per­son’s sad story.

Mix­ing both is the sea­son’s big­gest CD box set – it’s from Garth Brooks, you’ve prob­a­bly seen it

in the shops, and it weighs a load. If you’re not a fan of the be­hat­ted coun­try su­per­star, skip the next few lines. If you are, then you can ex­pect the fol­low­ing: a six-CD set; 70 songs (11 of them pre­vi­ously un­re­leased); a Lost Ses­sions disc; and an All-Ac­cess DVD, avail­able only with this set, fea­tur­ing exclusive in­ter­view footage, mu­sic videos and (here’s the gag or jump for joy mo­ment) a photo gallery of more than 150 images).

If GB doesn’t tickle your fancy, then how about U2? De­spite the curious ab­sence of the likes of A Day With­out Me and The Fly, and the even more curious pres­ence of Sun­day Bloody Sun­day (and the ma­jor co­nun­drum of why they’re pack­ag­ing to­gether the kind of ma­te­rial that ev­ery U2 fan al­ready has in one for­mat or an­other), it seems likely that U218 Sin­gles and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing U218 Videos (the cover of each is di­rectly linked to the re­cently pub­lished U2 on U2 book) will be on many peo­ple’s shop­ping lists this Christ­mas. Each has a car­rot – the for­mer a sec­tion of a gig from Mi­lan, the lat­ter a mak­ing-of seg­ment and dif­fer­ent ver­sions of var­i­ous songs in­clud­ing Beau­ti­ful Day, Ver­tigo, One and Some­times You Can’t Make It On Your Own.

Don’t fancy U2? Then how about The Bea­tles? How about Love? What

could have been a bona-fide trav­esty

is ac­tu­ally an amaz­ing feat of bit­ter­sweet sonic sym­phony. You needn’t be a Fab Four trainspotter in or­der to pick out snip­pets of this, that and the other from here, there and ev­ery­where as fifth Bea­tle Ge­orge Martin and his son Giles remix more than 100 stu­dio masters into what can only be de­scribed as mind­bend­ing mu­sic.

Slightly less or­di­nary, but still main­tain­ing a com­mon link with The Bea­tles, is the Oa­sis col­lec­tion, Stop the Clocks. Again, se­lec­tive track list­ing per­haps means that some of your favourite songs aren’t on here, but if you’re an Oa­sis fan that’s hardly go­ing to bother you.

All the but­tons are pushed with Ge­orge Michael’s Twen­ty­five col­lec­tion. Housed across a threeCD pack­age (up-tempo ma­te­rial/ bal­lads/obsc uri­ties) is the sum and sub­stance of Ge­orgie boy’s solo ca­reer. Im­pres­sive as it is, it re­mains din­ner party fod­der, un­like Su­gababes’ Over­loaded: The Sin­gles Col­lec­tion, which sees the UK fe­male trio trounc­ing bland Bri­tish r’n’b with rest­less if in­vig­o­rat­ing mu­si­cal styles. By com­par­i­son, The Sound of Girls Aloud: The Great­est Hits sounds com­mon as muck.

If it’s Ir­ish you want, step into the kitchen. While U2 will prob­a­bly seize the day sales-wise, spare a thought for the best Ir­ish com­pi­la­tion album of the year: The Cake Sale. Sell­ing like, well, hot cakes, the album comes with no bells or whis­tles (al­though there is a BellX1 con­nec­tion in album co-or­di­na­tor Brian Crosby) but lots of great songs from the likes of Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, and Crosby’s band col­league Paul Noo­nan. And all pro­ceeds go to Ox­fam. So if there’s one char­ity record you’ve got to buy this sea­son, you know which one it should be.

Fancy the big­gest box set of the year? Know the dif­fer­ence be­tween Tim Buck­ley and The Zo­diac Cos­mic Sounds? For­ever Chang­ing: the Golden Age of Elek­tra 1963-1973 is most def­i­nitely for you. It con­tains more than 115 tracks from the vaults of one of the most open-minded ma­jor US record la- bels of the ’60s and ’70s. From the soft rock of Bread and the bou­tique folk of Phil Ochs to the psychedelia of Love and twisted proto-punk of Iggy Pop, it’s all here, along with book­lets, pho­tos, mem­o­ra­bilia and mem­o­ries.

As for DVDs, top of the pile for any mu­sic fan ac­tu­ally isn’t a mu­sic DVD but Se­ries 6 of The So­pra­nos. Se­ries 5 ended with Johnny Sack in jail, Tony So­prano killing his cousin and sanc­tion­ing the hit on Christo­pher’s girl­friend Adri­ana. The new se­ries sees Tony and his crew look­ing into the fu­ture and not lik­ing what they see, Tony re­ceiv­ing a ma­jor set­back in his per­sonal life, and hereto­fore mi­nor char­ac­ters Vito Spate­fore and Phil Leo­tardo com­ing into their own.

if the Mob too tough for you, then per­haps Neil Young’s Heart of Gold is more your thing. Di­rected by Jonathan Demme, this gen­tle and poignant two-disc set cap­tures Young on stage in Nashville as he pre­mieres his 2005 Prairie Wind album. Disc 1 is the gig, and disc 2 fea­tures more good­ies, in­clud­ing smart and in­for­ma­tive fea­turettes and a rare clip of the Cana­dian singer­song­writer guest­ing on the Johnny Cash show in 1971.

Other mu­sic DVDs you need to look out for in­clude Pet Shop Boys: A Life in Pop (ex­cel­lent ret­ro­spec­tive doc­u­men­tary), Dylan Speaks (the al­most myth­i­cal 1965 press con­fer­ence that Dylan gave in San Fran­cisco) and, last but not least, Christy Moore Live at the Point, a bumper pack­age (35 tracks) tai­lor-made for those who like their folk mu­sic rugged, funny and soaked with sweat.

And on that sop­ping note, may we wish you an odour-free Christ­mas and New Year. Peace and good­will, etc. Ex­cept toWestlife, of course.

Watch with­out prej­u­dice... Fes­tive fare from Ge­orge Michael (left) and the Pet Shop Boys

(main pic­ture)

Noel Gal­lagher

U2

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