Thanks to the boxed-set frenzy of the last few years, record stores now seem to have entire sections devoted to these behemoths. But which ones are ultimately worth owning (or snatching up as Christmas gifts for others)? Try on any of these 10 classics for (byte)size:
*BOB DYLAN Biograph
Not just for its mix of hits, rarities, and oddities, but for the way in which it literally makes you rehear and rethink his work.
*JAMES BROWN Star Time
Who else but the Godfather of Soul could sustain grunts, wails, and relentless funk over 30 years?
*ERIC CLAPTON Crossroads
From the Yardbirds to his solo incarnations, the essential boxed set for students of the air guitar.
*PHIL SPECTOR Back to Mono (1958-1969)
Great songs, orchestras that could rock, and girl groups with achy-breaky voices.
*ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND Dreams
Good times, death, despair, and redemption from the preeminent Southern rock band.
*MUDDY WATERS The Chess Box
The best blues box yet, from the man who wrote many of the rules (and a lot of the songs) of the standard repertoire.
*THE BYRDS The Byrds
Four CDs’ worth of reasons why this great and eclectic band should be remembered for more than ”Mr. Tambourine Man.”
*LED ZEPPELIN Led Zeppelin
The Magna Charta of hard rock. Too bad CDs can’t be played in reverse to hear back-masking messages, though.
*THE ROLLING STONES The Singles Collection: The London Years
Anthology of ’60s hits and B sides that proves why they were once called the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band.
*THE CLASH On Broadway
Hyped during the punk heyday as ”the only band that matters,” and, judging from this, not such an absurd idea.