Consider the Beatles' boxed set?or one of these other gift-worthy, extras-packed collections

By David Browne
Updated December 06, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

EW recommends the hottest box sets this holiday season

The Capitol Albums Vol. 1

What’s extra American LP song sequencing and stereo mixes, not included in previous mono, English-style CDs. Pre-1987 U.S. fans will exult: ”Fake stereo, the way God intended!” Anyone who discovered ’em via CDs will puzzle: ”Why are there just handclaps in the right speaker on ‘Roll Over Beethoven’?” What’s missing Sturdy packaging, unless cereal boxes are your idea of a collectors’ medium. Perfect present for… All but smug British expats. A

Beyond Description (1973-1989)
(Grateful Dead Productions/Rhino)

What’s extra The 12-CD set includes 68 previously unreleased cuts, both studio and live. What’s missing A DVD of live footage and videos would’ve been nice, especially their only hit clip, 1987’s ”Touch of Grey.” Perfect present for… Hackey-sacking Dead Heads (duh). Since the studio albums of this period are uneven (the Dead do disco!?!?), few others will want to sift through this beast. B-

Can’t You Hear Me Callin’ — Bluegrass: 80 Years of American Music

What’s on it For those to whom bluegrass merely means O Brother, this four-disc set, dating back to the ’20s (Bill Monroe to the Dixie Chicks), is one huge extra. What’s missing Drums! Plus plenty of acts not affiliated with Sony. Perfect present for… Fans of alt-country and public-radio pledge drives. A-

Fifty Years: The Artistry of Tony Bennett

What’s new Bennett’s 1991 four-CD box, Forty Years, gets updated with a fifth disc documenting his MTV-years comeback. What’s missing Several mid-’70s LPs go unrepresented?but are covered by Concord in their Bennett box. The perfect present for… Whoever was gonna be getting that Rod Stewart Songbook album. A

FY-AH FY-AH (The JAD Masters 1967-1970)

What’s on it Loping rock-steady and R&B-tinged reggae from the years after Marley left the Studio One label, but before he found global success on Island What’s missing Coherent liner notes that put these overlooked tunes in context. Perfect present for… Anyone who’s worn out Legend. B+

The 21st Century Guide to King Crimson (Vol. One 1969-1974)

What’s extra A live track and a 1970 B side are the sole new offerings on this four-disc half-studio/half-live comp culled from these prog-rock progenitors’ best period. What’s missing The full-length version of the majestic ”In the Wake of Poseidon.” Perfect present for… Art-rocking MIT students and Dungeons & Dragons champs. B+

The Ultimate Collection

What’s extra Thirteen unreleased cuts — including ”Scared of the Moon” and a demo version of ”P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” — plus a live 1992 concert DVD. What’s missing Duets with Stevie Wonder and sister Janet are AWOL. Perfect present for… Those who have forgotten why he was called the King of Pop. A-

This is Reggae Music: The Golden Era 1960-1975

What’s on it This ace four-disc primer traces reggae’s evolution, collecting seminal songs from Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Lee Perry, and others. What’s missing ”I Shot the Sheriff” by Eric Clapton. Haw haw haw. Perfect present for… Your buddy who returned from his Jamaica vacation raving about the music, but owns only two reggae CDs. A

100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong…

What’s extra Just about everything. The set consists of unreleased tracks, imports, B sides… What’s missing Just about everything, like all the hits. Perfect present for… Superfans. Of which, apparently, there are 100,000,000. B