Our species uses music and dance to express various feelings: love, joy, comfort, ceremony, knowledge and friendship. - Daniel J. Levitin "Dancing in the Seats" The New York Times
Now that it has been scientifically proven that shaking one's booty to the groove is healthy for us humans, music should be at the top of gift lists everywhere. Here then is a guide to some ways to bring the gift of musical comfort and joy to the lives of your loved ones.
I have a bad habit of constantly losing my holiday music. Somehow it never makes it back into my regular CD collection. So the perfect stocking stuffer or hostess gift for me would be a CD of holiday tunes.
Christmas albums can be found in every style of music under the sun so I won't recount the plethora of choices out there. I'll just point you to a new one that is selling like hotcakes this year: Noel by Josh Groban. The poperatic twenty-something crooner also has guest turns from Brian McKnight (R&B) and Faith Hill (Country) so it really has something for almost everybody.
For observances of other faiths and winter celebrations, there are fewer options but choices nonetheless.
For Hanukkah, instead of an endless loop of a mix tape of "The Dreidel Song" and Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" why not mix it up a bit with some hipster Klezmer music like Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah by The Klezmatics who describe themselves thusly: "The Klezmatics have forever transcended genres: blending klezmer with aching shtetl melodies, raucous Latin stomps, wild jazz riffs and provocative Arabic, African, American and Balkan rhythms." For bonus hipster points with the younguns, throw in some tracks from Chassidic Reggae Rapper, Matisyahu.
If in your family, like mine, your Kinara joins the holiday decorations on December 26 then The Kwanzaa Album by Women of the Calabash might be a great gift for whoever hosts celebrations. Fill up the disc-changer with some Zap Mama and Sweet Honey In The Rock and you'll be serenaded all evening long by the soul stirring sounds of women of the African diaspora.
And if you just want to celebrate the winter season, choices old and new include December by George Winston (which is lovely instrumental music, evocative of winter, despite the Christian track titles) and Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan which has some contemporary seasonal songs interspersed with traditional Christmas tunes.
Boxed sets are a way to wow those on your gift list with something that they would love to have but may not be willing to lavish on themselves. This year sees the release of box sets that will thrill most any music lover.
U2 is coming out with a "Limited Edition Super Deluxe" remastered recording of their seminal album, Joshua Tree. This set includes the original album, a bonus audio CD and a DVD.
There is a new David Bowie box set cleverly titled David Bowie Box.
Luther Vandross has a posthumous box set called Love, Luther.
There is yet another Bob Dylan collection (Dylan) which offers nothing new for established fans but which would serve as a fine introduction for young folks who know nothing beyond his trippy appearance in a Victoria's Secret commercial a few years back.
AC/DC: Plug Me In would be perfect for the headbanger on your list though no mullet is required to rock out to the boys from down under - everyone in my high school did even if they weren't rockers.
One of the coolest box sets I've seen in a long time is from classical pianist, Glenn Gould: The Complete Original Jacket Collection. It's an 80 disc set of CDs that come packaged in reproductions of the original vinyl album art. Glenn Gould is one of those musicians that any fan of music in any genre should know. $222 is cheap for the invaluable education.
Give the music lover on your list the gift of American Music in the set City of Dreams: A Collection of New Orleans Music which is a sampler from legendary label, Rounder Records.
If you know your music lover's tastes well enough, you'll know if this is the gift for them - and if it is, it's a fabulous gift: Robyn Hitchcock I Wanna Go Backwards.
And, saving for last, the set I'd personally most like to receive, is Brit Box from Rhino Records, a sampling of Britpop through the 80's and 90's featuring The Smiths, New Order, Cocteau Twins, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Blur, Oasis and so many more. Artist Direct claims: "we may have a contender for the best box set ever."
If you are looking for funky new ways to play that music blog girl, here are a few suggestions to hook a deserving music lover up.
iPod Touch: Coveting the cool looks and seductive touch screen of the iPhone but don't want a phone or don't want your music listening to come with the distractions of voice mail or email? Then iPod touch to the rescue.
Vers 2X: Vers is a new MP3 player dock from Sprout Creation. Instead of the usual ugly hunk of plastic, Vers is made of beautiful cherry wood veneer. The wood is harvested from sustainably managed forests and comes in 100% recycled packaging. At $179 it is much less expensive than comparable players while offering specs that promise the delivery of as good if not better sound.
Know someone who has say, 1,500 vinyl albums in their mother's closet and who has just recently grudgingly accepted the reality of digital music? How about helping them move into the 21st century with a turntable designed to convert music from vinyl albums into digital files? TEAC has an all in one module that looks a little like an old fashioned radio and this article from The New York Times has a couple of additional models from other manufacturers reviewed.
Bonus Idea: Combine all of the previous suggestions in a way and pre-load a MP3 player with your gift recipient's favorite holiday music or the catalog of a beloved artist. They'll appreciate that there is nothing to do when they open the gift but pop it on a dock, turn up the volume and dance a little joy into their lives.
BlogHer Contributing Editor Maria Niles also shakes her groove thang at Beyond Help
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