The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison arrive at New York's Kennedy Airport on Feb. 7, 1964. / AP Photo
Last Updated December 29, 2012, 1:43 PM ET
When it comes to shopping for music, especially around this time of the year, nothing is more reliable and guaranteed than the greatest hits compilation or archival release that conveniently packages an artist's well-known tracks. This year's offerings feature music by some heavy-hitters, from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to Elvis Presley and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Here is a roundup of a few of those releases that came out this past year:
"The Vinyl Stereo Box Set"
Three years ago, the Beatles created a splash when the group's classic albums were reissued again on CD for much-better sound quality and improved packaging. Just recently, the Beatles' records, from 1962's "Please Please Me" to 1970's "Let It Be," were re-released in their original vinyl incarnations, along with "Past Masters Volumes 1 and 2," which collects the non-album singles.
In keeping with the packaging of the original records, some of the albums, such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "The Beatles" (a.k.a. "The White Album") contain the special inserts -- and accompanying the vinyl box is 252-page hardcover book. And according to a press release, the vinyl albums will also be reissued in mono next year.
If you haven't been paying attention to the news in the last month or so, the Rolling Stones recently celebrated 50 years together with special live performances in London and in the New York City area. Also marking that golden anniversary is a new three-CD 50-song compilation, "Grrr!", spanning chronologically from "Come On" to "Don't Stop."
In between are the usual suspects "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Gimme Shelter," "Brown Sugar," and "Start Me Up," along with some deep album cuts. "Grrr!" also contains two newly-recorded songs, "Doom and Gloom" and "One More Shot."
Marking the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's 1987 album, "Bad," is this new four-disc set that contains the original record, extra songs including remixes, and an audio and DVD version of the late singer's performance at London's Wembley Stadium in 1988. Being that it was the follow-up to Jackson's iconic record, "Thriller," when it was first released, Bad nevertheless was a successful album in its own right with five Billboard Number One songs: "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana."
"Thick As a Brick"
Another band is celebrating another anniversary of sorts--Jethro Tull's classic 1972 progressive rock album "Thick As a Brick." This special edition set features the original album on CD and in a remixed version on DVD with 5.1 surround sound along with a recreation of The St. Cleve Chronicle newspaper in which the album was first packaged 40 years ago. According to group leader Ian Anderson in Dom Lawson's liner notes, "Thick As a Brick" was written and recorded as a response to the assumption that the band's previous album "Aqualung" was a concept record. Thus, Anderson crafted an epic-length work consisting of one 45-minutes song divided into two parts. Furthermore, he concocted a fictitious story in that the work was based on a poem written by a young boy named Gerald "Little Milton" Bostock.
"Thick as a Brick" remains one of Tull's best works, and earlier this year, Anderson released a sequel ("Thick As a Brick 2") under his own name.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
"Ultimate Creedence Clearwater Revival"
From the late '60s to early '70s, Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded songs that have since become iconic -- "Proud Mary," "Born on the Bayou," "Bad Moon Rising," "Travelin' Band," and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" are just a few of the hits that John Fogerty and co. remarkably churned out. All of those classic songs as well as key album tracks have been collected on a 3-CD collection fittingly titled "Ultimate Creedence Clearwater Revival."
In addition to the studio recordings, "Ultimate" also features live performances of some of those hits recorded on the West Coast and in Europe between 1970 and 1971. It merely reaffirms why CCR was a such a great band and Fogerty -- as the band's singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer -- a genius.
"Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live in Budapest"
Queen's 1986 "Magic Tour" -- the band's final one featuring the late Freddie Mercury -- had been previously documented on "Live at Wembley." But this new DVD/CD collection "Hungarian Rhapsody," whose music is also from that same tour, is unique because it marked Queen's visit to Hungary. Shot on film, "Live in Budapest" features the same tour setlist but with one exception: a touching rendition of a Hungarian folk song "Tavazsi Szel Vizet Araszt."
Otherwise, "Live in Budapest" is just another example of how dynamic and exciting Queen was in a live setting with Mercury as the focal point.
"Prince From Another Planet"
It is remarkable that in Elvis Presley's legendary life and career that he had never performed in concert in New York City other than for television appearances. Thus, the King's shows at Madison Square Garden in 1972 is considered a major historical event, now captured on this new three-disc set "Prince From Another Planet." It features Presley in performances taken from the afternoon and evening shows as he rolled out the hits "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up" and others -- in glitzy yet rocking Vegas-styled fashion; he even covered CCR's "Proud Mary" and the Righteous Brothers' "You Lost That Loving Feeling."
Accompanying the release is a DVD featuring rare fan footage of the King delivering a command performance from the afternoon show, along with 20-minute press conference in New York City kicking off his four-show stand at the Garden.
Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship
"The Essential Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship"
The story of legendary '60s San Francisco band Jefferson Airplane is fascinating not only because of how the band started out, but also what it became much later as an '80s hit machine under the moniker Starship, which this 2-CD collection covers. In its first phase, Jefferson Airplane was an iconoclastic band that embodied the spirit of the Summer of Love generation with its signature songs "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." After a personnel shift, the Airplane became Jefferson Starship in the '70s and experienced a second wind of success as its music veered towards the mainstream with tracks such as "Miracles" and "Count On Me."
By the mid-'80s, Jefferson Starship's music evolved into Starship, inaugurating probably the most successful commercial era for the band highlighted by the hits "We Built This City" and "Sara." There are individual compilations that focus on the different periods of the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship eras, but this set conveniently puts them altogether in one package.
Talking Heads became one of the most successful bands to emerge from the downtown New York mid- to late-'70s punk scene, becoming known for its arty New Wave rock and its nervous-sounding singer/songwriter David Byrne. "Chronology," a recently-released DVD, features 18 live performances spanning the history of the band, from its early years at CBGB in 1975, to its induction at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002; it also showcases the group's musical evolution from this three-piece minimalist art rock outfit to a vastly expanded band by the '80s exploring world music rhythms.
Its best-known works such as "Psycho Killer," "Thank You For Sending Me an Angel," "Cross Eyed and Painless," "Life During Wartime," and the Al Green cover "Take Me to the River," performed on "American Bandstand." Bonus extras on the DVD includes a "South Bank Show" documentary from 1979, as well as recent audio commentary by all four former members of the band.
"Best of Bond...James Bond: 50 Years-50 Tracks"
Just as memorable as the James Bond films themselves are their dramatic and elegant theme songs, a good portion of them featuring the work of composer John Barry. In marking the film franchise's 50th anniversary this year, Capitol/MGM has put out perhaps the ultimate Bond theme songs compilation with two CDs' worth of music spanning from the first Bond movie, "Dr. No," to "Quantum of Solace." Kicking off with, of course, Monty Norman's iconic "James Bond Theme," the set delivers the hit songs, among them Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger," Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die," Carly Simon's "The Spy Who Loved Me," and Duran Duran's "A View to a Kill." Other artists who have had the distinction of performing Bond themes -- which are also in the set -- include Madonna, a-ha, Gladys Knight, Garbage, Louis Armstrong and Tina Turner.
Also some other reissues/archival releases from 2012:
Pink Floyd: "The Wall" (Immersion Edition)
Heart: "Strange Euphoria"
Roxy Music: The Complete Studio Recordings
Peter Gabriel: "So"
The Velvet Underground and Nico: "The Velvet Underground and Nico"
RUN-D.M.C.: "The Essential RUN-D.M.C."
The Beach Boys: "50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits"
The Doors: "L.A. Woman"
Art Garfunkel: "The Singer"