The Best Music Boxed Sets of 2020

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Each artist’s estate opened up the vaults to celebrate a single classic album

Tom Petty, “Wildflowers & All the Rest — Super Deluxe” (5 CDs; also available as a 9-LP edition) It’s hard to think of any archival project that has spent more years in the making, and in fans’ anticipatory imaginations, than the set built around Petty’s 1994 “Wildflowers.”(Variety)

 

Prince, “Sign O’ the Times — Super Deluxe” (8 CDs/1 DVD; also available as a 13-LP/1-DVD edition)prince best boxed sets 2020

There have been many prolific musicians over the decades, but it’s safe to say that there were none quite like Prince, who seems to have recorded a song, concert or rehearsal virtually every day for 40-odd years.

The Rolling Stones, “Goats Head Soup — Super Deluxe”

(3 CDs/1 Blu-Ray; also available as a 4-LP edition)

While it spawned one of the biggest hits of their career with the uncharacteristically saccharine ballad “Angie,” this 1973 album captures the Rolling Stones at an awkward stage of their history. Most of the band members were entering their 30s, the group was entering its second decade (nearly unheard-of for a rock band at the time), and Keith Richards’ spiraling heroin addiction and related legal troubles made him less present than on any other Stones album — he doesn’t even play guitar on three of its 10 songs. None of which is to say that “Goats Head Soup” is not a good album — it is, and finds the group exploring rare or new terrain.

Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos, “Live at the Hollywood Palladium”

(1 CD/2 LPs/1 EP/1 DVD)

This year’s expansive Stones action does not end with the “Goats Head Soup” set. Keith kultists might get even more of a kick out of the lavish repackaging of a previously available Richards solo live album, culled from a short 1988 tour he did to promote the solo album “Talk Is Cheap,” now with three previously unreleased tracks from the Palladium show (the Stones song “Little T&A,” the Stones-or-is-it-Beatles song “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “You Don’t Move Me”)

 

 

Elton John, “Jewel Box” (8 CDs; also available split up into thematically separate LP editions)

Elton’s certainly counts as the hardest-to-describe boxed set of the year, since it’s really more like several different conceptually distinct collections bundled into one disparate, epic set.

Elvis Costello, “The Complete Armed Forces”

(3 LPs/3 EPs/3 singles)

There has been some controversy over the decision by Costello and Universal Music to not offer any CD edition of this celebration of his 1979 masterpiece “Armed Forces.” The choices are to spring for the super-deluxe, nine-disc vinyl iteration, which comes with a felled tree’s worth of elaborate printed material (and is available in black or color-vinyl variants), or to do without the battery of paper doo-dads and settle for no-frills streaming or downloading.

 

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