In this very strange time of a worldwide pandemic and (subsequent) necessary isolation, going gift shopping may not be the best idea. However, if you have someone in your life who loves music – and you want to turn them on to something new that’s old and spectacular – the list below may help ease your quandary of “what can I get them?” as a holiday gift.

There’s no shortage of quality, beauty and musical thrills in all of these selections. I grew up in the era of “give the gift of music” and these albums will continue to supply a lifetime of listening pleasure – and that’s putting it mildly:

Big Star – #1 Record and Radio City

The 180-gram reissues (part of the “Made In Memphis” vinyl pressing program) of two essential power pop albums, Big Star’s #1 Record (“Thirteen”, “When My Baby’s Beside Me”) and Radio City (“September Gurls,” “Back of a Car”) are available from Craft Recordings. Drawing on British Invasion influences as well as homegrown Southern rock, the Memphis group developed a guitar-driven, harmonically complex yet hooky sound all their own. Though they found limited commercial success in their time–disbanding after their third record was shelved–over the years, they became “one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll” (AllMusic). Alt-rock icons like R.E.M., The Replacements, Elliot Smith and Wilco have cited Big Star as a major influence. Rolling Stone went so far as to assert that they’ve “never stopped inspiring succeeding generations of rockers, from the power-pop revivalists of the late 1970’s to alternative rockers at the end of the century to the indie rock nation in the new millennium.”

The Zombies – The Zombies, I Love You, and R.I.P.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, The Zombies, have reissued three of their classic albums, The Zombies, I Love You, and R.I.P. on vinyl. The Zombies is the classic American debut album from the rock icons (originally released on Parrot Records), including the smashes “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No”. I Love You is best known to Zombies fanatics as the crucial compilation, originally released as an introduction to the American public, featuring the top 5 hit “She’s Not There.” The reissue of I Love You will be the record’s first wide re-release in the United States. Scrapped initially in 1969, R.I.P. has gone down in musical lore as the legendary group’s “lost” album. Assembled in the wake of the success of “Time Of The Season”, the album contains the band’s last recordings and other assorted unreleased numbers including, “Imagine the Swan” and “Don’t Cry For Me.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

The 50th anniversary pressing of the iconic studio album from America’s greatest rock and roll band which was first released in 1970, at the peak of Creedence’s prolific career. This monster release includes the hits “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Run Though the Jungle,” “Up Around The Bend,” “Looking Out My Back Door,” and more, plus a cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” The album was mastered at half-speed at Abbey Road Studios, benefiting from an exacting process that allows for an exceptional level of sonic clarity and punch. This 180-gram vinyl comes housed in a tip-on jacket replicating the original pressing packaging and the original blue Fantasy Records label.

The Staple Singers – Come Go With Me: The Stax Collection

Come Go With Me presents all of the group’s studio albums released on the iconic Stax Records, spanning 1968 – 1974, and features the Staples’ biggest hits, including “I’ll Take You There,” “Respect Yourself” and “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me).” Each album was remastered from the original analog masters by Jeff Powell at Take Out Vinyl, while the seventh disc offers rarities, non-album singles and live recordings from the legendary 1972 Wattstax music festival. Housed in a slipcase, the seven-disc collection also includes a booklet with archival photos and liner notes from American music specialist and curator Levon Williams (formerly of the Stax Museum and the National Museum of African American Music), and folklorist, ethnomusicologist and writer Dr. Langston Wilkins. Last December, the six studio albums from this collection were released in hi-res 24-bit/192 kHz and 24-bit/96 kHz formats for the first time. Plus, the deluxe 7-LP box set version (plus digital release of all seven albums) was released last February.

The Gospel Truth: The Complete Singles Collection

Craft Recordings honors the music of The Gospel Truth Records, a subsidiary of Stax Records, with the first-ever complete collection of all 17 singles—and their respective B-sides—issued by the imprint between 1972 and 1974. The compilation features in-depth liner notes by Jared Boyd, a Memphis-based journalist and NPR radio host, who captured new interviews with Stax Records executive Al Bell, trailblazing gospel artist Rance Allen, and Mary Peak Patterson, who helped establish the label. The Gospel Truth stands as an essential part of Stax’s enduring legacy and marks a landmark moment in gospel music history.”

Vince Guaraldi Trio – A Charlie Brown Christmas

A one-time vinyl pressing of the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s beloved jazz and holiday album, A Charlie Brown Christmas, will include a bonus lenticular print of the original 1965 album cover featuring Charles Schulz’s iconic illustration to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Peanuts. The LP has been pressed on a range of colors and picture discs for participating retailers.

Van Duren – Are You Serious? and Idiot Optimism

A Memphis pop icon, Van Duren was not only a contemporary of Big Star, he played with both Chris Bell and Jody Stephens in The Baker Street Regulars. Managed by Andrew Loog Oldham (The Rolling Stones), his 1978 debut album, Are You Serious?, found folks comparing him to artists like Todd Rundgren and Paul McCartney. He recorded a second album, Idiot Optimism,which was shelved, then eventually released in Japan without his involvement.

With full creative control from Van Duren, this reissue of Idiot Optimism is packaged with new art, liners from Van outlining the story of the album, and many previously unseen photos. Featuring 14 originals and a cover of Chris Bell’s (Big Star) “Make A Scene,” this new edition is remastered from the original analog tapes. Idiot Optimism has never looked nor sounded better.

Now, four decades later, thanks to the acclaimed documentary Waiting: The Van Duren Story, and its soundtrack, many discovered Van Duren for the first time, while those who knew about him found out what really happened. Finally, Are You Serious? returns and Idiot Optimism makes its “official” debut, remastered from the original analog tapes on CD, LP, and, for the first time, digital.

All of the above listed/shown items are currently available through different outlets, such as etc. or can be purchased directly from Craft Recordings (Big Star, The Zombies, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Staple Singers, The Gospel Truth, Vince Guaraldi Trio) and Omnivore Recordings (Van Duren).

By Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been involved in the music industry for over 30 years - as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, freelance journalist, producer, manager and working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star, traveling down South and his orange Gretsch. He's pretty groovy!