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Pop music gift guide part 2: Music gifts that will move the recipient to the beat

December 2, 2010 |  5:48 pm

Among the off-the-beaten-path ideas are biographies of Keith Richards, Frank Sinatra, Rosanne Cash and Patti Smith, a Michael Jackson video collection, Coachella and Warped Tour-related gifts, and the ultimate Miles Davis collection.

Keith Richards, "Life" (Little, Brown, $29.99)
James Kaplan, "Frank: The Voice" (Doubleday, $35)
Kristin Hersh, "Rat Girl" (Penguin, $15)
Rosanne Cash, "Composed" (Viking Adult, $26.95)
Patti Smith, "Just Kids" (Ecco, $27)

It used to be easier to pick out music for your tune-obsessed relatives. There were far fewer releases than there are now, and unless it was a hot album, chances are good that with enough research one could find sounds desired yet unpurchased. No more. With the instant gratification of iTunes, Amazon and miscellaneous pirate portals, a music freak who wants a particular set of tunes probably already has it, and if not, doesn't want it.

Still, that leaves a ton of music-centric gift options that aren't run-of-the-mill compact discs. Below is a list of ideas for the melodically inclined.

In a year full of excellent music books, artists' biographies and memoirs stand out, and Keith Richards' "Life"

is a high point. Between dishing dirt and co-dependently bashing Mick, the rock god's doorstop reminds us that a passionate (and borderline nerdy) love of jamming is what makes the rock-and-roll lifestyle meaningful. The equally bulky "Frank: The Voice," by James Kaplan, reveals something similar about singing: This hard-boiled, heavily detailed biography reveals that Sinatra's delicate pursuit of vocal refinement was the practice that kept him sane during the rocky first half of his titanic career.

"Rat Girl" by Kristin Hersh, leader of the groundbreaking Throwing Muses, expands upon her teen diaries to confront one cataclysmic year: At 18, Hersh recorded the band's first album, discovered she suffered from bipolar disorder and had a baby. "Composed," by Rosanne Cash, takes a longer view, gracefully exploring how this song-fed daughter of country music royalty learned to take, and give, her own nourishment. And the National Book Award-winning "Just Kids" by Patti Smith, the punk priestess' account of her early romance with New York and with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, describes the way artists give birth to themselves with more love and courage than any book I can remember. — Ann Powers

"Michael Jackson's Vision" DVD box set (Epic, $39.98)

Fans wary of the controversial posthumous album hitting stores can pick up "Michael Jackson's Vision," a DVD box set featuring nearly five hours of remastered Jackson videos and including a 60-page hard-bound book with behind-the-scenes photos. "Vision" is heavy on Jackson's legendary short films, including Martin Scorsese's full 18-minute cut of "Bad" and the groundbreaking short for "Thriller." Ten videos, including the previously unreleased "One More Chance," make their DVD debut here, resulting in quite a comprehensive gift for any MJ fanatic.

— Gerrick D. Kennedy

Coachella hotel reservation

The lineup has yet to be announced — that usually happens in the early part of the new year — but the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio has become an annual event that's bigger than any one band. Therefore, one must plan early. Rooms are still available in the area for the three-day fest that begins April 15, so use the holiday season to save your Coachella-obsessed loved one a few hundred dollars a night. It's the perfect gift for indie rock romantics, who can start plotting that sunset-timed proposal — sure to be made all the more special by a half-naked guy in a unicorn hat.

— Todd Martens

The BoomCase ($380-$550, http://www.theboomcase.com)

These days so much music listening is a private affair. Plug the ear buds into your head and retreat inside the music, where strangers on the street have no idea whether you're listening to Richard Wagner or Waka Flocka Flame. The BoomCase is designed for the opposite effect: maximum external impact. A set of powerful speakers and amplifier built into a vintage suitcase, the portable device transforms your MP3 player into a veritable public address system. Each of the quirky boxes is a one-of-a-kind, hand-built object that looks good propped against a tree at Griffith Park or on a bedroom shelf. Consider it a 2010 version of the classic stereo boombox of the 1980s, except with a dose of 21st century irony tossed in. (Note: Because these are hand-built, there may be a backlog of orders.)

— Randall Roberts

The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box ($500, http://www.burtonelfman.com)

Whether making weirdly touching romances — "Edward Scissorhands," "Corpse Bride" — or big-budget high-concept pictures — "Alice in Wonderland," "Planet of the Apes" — the one constant in the work of director Tim Burton has been the playfully cinematic scores of former rocker Danny Elfman. This exhaustive 16-album box, which is available for pre-orders now and will arrive in February, is an absolute treasure trove for anyone who appreciates Elfman's gothic symphonies. In addition to the requisite box set book, the set is packed with outtakes, demos and unreleased tracks, and boasts a bonus USB drive for easily transferring the contents to a computer.

— TM

Warped Tour gift package ($45, warpedtour.com/)

The Warped Tour remains one of the better bargains on the summer tour circuit, at least for those who like punk rock. The tour's genre focus makes committing to tickets before a lineup is announced less of a risk, and through Wednesday, you can guarantee the skateboarder/Bad Religion fan on your list a spot on the 2011 jaunt via the Warped Tour site. The gift package comes with a commemorative ticket, as well as an ornament and a pair of socks.

— TM

Ableton Live (download, $379, http://www.ableton.com)

Yes, you could give your budding music fan a banjo, or a ukulele, or a drum kit. But if said obsessive is in his or her teen years, chances are each will be met with a grumble, a fake smile and an eye roll. These days making music is all about creating beats, remixes and mix tapes, and the Ableton Live software can do all three on a professional level but without a ridiculously expensive setup. Just purchase the software, take a few weeks to master the wonderfully intuitive design, and soon your budding superstar will have all the tools to make music. Teenagers are perennially plugged into their computers anyway; why not offer them the gear to be creative too?

— RR

Crosley Revolution Record Player ($149.95, http://www.crosleyradio.com)

Some gifts are cool just because of the way they look, and the Crosley Revolution Record Player has a design to die for: sleek, portable and perfect for your crate-digging needs. Whereas before, any self-respecting vinyl lover would have to lug around a big box turntable to flea markets, used vinyl stores and the occasional sock-hop or slumber party, the Crosley Revolution's design makes it perfect for on-the-go listening — that is, as long as you keep that vinyl out of the sun.

— RR

Simon Goddard, "Mozipedia: The Encyclopedia of Morrissey and the Smiths" (Plume, $30)

Fun fact: Did you know that fey British crooner Morrissey once turned down an offer by Dennis Hopper to appear nude and painted blue in a film the actor/director was making? Or that Morrissey's two-night stint at the Hollywood Bowl in 1992 sold out in 23 minutes — besting the previous fastest sellout by the Beatles? Or that he has had a long love affair with Los Angeles? The Mozipedia, lovingly, obsessively compiled by British journalist Simon Goddard, provides insight into lyrics, settings, travels, recordings, gossip and history of the British band the Smiths and its former lead singer.

— RR

"The Genius of Miles Davis" (Columbia, $1,199)

For the Miles Davis fan who has everything — and there's a lot of Miles Davis on the market — this mega collection isn't actually a box set. It is, more accurately, a trumpet case set featuring eight different box sets. More specifically, according to Sony, the set is "the most comprehensive and lavishly packaged collection ever dedicated to a single musical artist." Davis was a prolific artist, and the limited edition "The Genius of Miles Davis" lovingly compiles his entire Columbia Records oeuvre from 1955 to 1985. That's 43 CDs comprising 384 recordings, along with an individually numbered, exact replica of Davis' trumpet case, a T-shirt, a previously unpublished lithograph of the trumpeter's visual art, and a Gustat Heim horn mouthpiece identical to the one Davis used throughout his career. That's a lot of Miles.

— RR


- Pop music gift guide: Because it's hard to wrap MP3s

Images: The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box (Associated Press / Warner Bros.); Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video (MJJ Productions); "The Genius of Miles Davis" (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times);  Keith Richards (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)