Wayne Bledsoe: CD sets, special editions have changed with the times

The cover of the 2012 boxed set 'Elvis: Prince from Another Planet

The cover of the 2012 boxed set "Elvis: Prince from Another Planet

The whole CD boxed set thing has gotten so complicated over the past couple of years. When the CD boxed set trend began it consisted of compilations of favorite artists filled (hopefully) with cool rarities and a good overview of the artist's work.

With that formula exhausted, companies now release packages that include all manner of recording session tracks, vinyl pressings and CD editions of the albums and extras — packages that can run into the hundreds of dollars just to document one album. Both The Who and Pink Floyd have grandiose reissues of their classics and even not-so-classics.

Companies are also less free to send out review copies to reviewers, so I haven't heard nearly so many this year. Here's a sampling of the handful I can comment on:

"Live at Hull 1970," The Who (Geffen)

If for no other reason, fans of The Who need this album to hear Keith Moon, one of rock's most amazing drummers, in all his glory. Moon's furious pounding is so far up in the mix that it sounds like a showcase for him. Despite some occasional sound issues, there are moments that excel the group's classic "Live at Leeds" album (recorded in the same week).

Set-wise "Leeds" and "Hull" are pretty much duplicates and performances are so close that the bass track on the first few "Hull" tracks are taken from the "Leeds" show because the bass wasn't recorded on those "Hull" tracks. A few "Leeds" numbers sound better or are slightly better performances, but other tracks on the "Hull" are the winners because of interplay between Moon and guitarist Pete Townshend. For those who want BOTH "Leeds" and "Hull," the Hull performance is included on the 2010 40th Anniversary edition of "Live at Leeds."

"Thick As a Brick: 40th Anniversary Edition," Jethro Tull (Chrysalis)

Jethro Tull's best moment was a one-song 44-minute opus that pretended to be the musical adaptation of an epic poem written by an 8-year-old literary prodigy.

This 40th Anniversary edition presents the original album remasted and a DVD 5.1 Dolby and DTS digital surround mix along with a book-style reproduction of the entire newspaper parody that accompanied the original release. The book also contains a good selection of essays, interviews and rare photos to flesh the product out.

The music and package is terrific. "Brick" remains one of classic rock's essentials. Beware, though, early pressings have a glitch in the DVD mix. Replacements are available.

"Kick: 25th Anniversary Edition," INXS (Universal)

Beware, the bass speakers on your puny little computer probably can't handle the bass guitar and drum from this burst of energy from 1987. "Kick" turned INXS into one of Australia's most vital exports.

The super deluxe edition presents the original album sounding absolutely great, plus two CDs of B-sides, demos, live tracks, rarities, extended and alternate mixes, plus a DVD with a documentary and video. Plus there's a hardcover book, a poster and stickers.

For a fan of this album, it would be hard to find a better presentation than this.

"50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits," The Beach Boys (Capitol)

There's not much new here, except a few remixes. But, if you don't already have all the classic Beach Boys singles, this is a fine collection that spans the group's career from the beginning to 2012's "That's Why God Made the Radio." If you're a longtime Beach Boys' fan there's no need to have it beyond the nice packaging that includes a collection of loose photos and a bare bones booklet.

"Too Far to Care (Expanded Edition)," Old 97's (Omnivore)

Newcomer Omnivore Records has been busy all year releasing intriguing re-issues and vintage discoveries.

This much-needed reissue of Texas alt-country (as they were known then) act Old 97's classic third album, presents the 1997 disc with four bonus tracks and an entire second disc of previously unissued demos for the album, which are often less frenetic than the original album versions.

If you don't have this album, this is a great time to ante up.

"Prince From Another Planet," Elvis Presley (RCA)

In 1972 Elvis Presley had become somewhat of a deity. His greatest music had already been recorded, but in concert he was an undeniable force.

This set contains two CDs documenting Presley's 1972 appearance at Madison Square Garden. The music has been available before, but not sounding this good. And, the set includes a documentary utilizing fan-shot film at one of the shows.

If Presley fanatics thought they could get away with not picking this up, they're probably wrong.

"Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings," Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders (Fantasy)

Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia and keyboard player Merl Saunders performed for two nights at the Keystone club in Berkeley. Calif. This presents the complete concerts with long cover versions of R&B, folk, reggae, jazz and Bob Dylan songs. The jams can be long and great, but I've never been a big fan of Garcia and Saunders as a team.

Longtime Garcia fanatics may love it though.

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