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Bruce Springsteen The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story The classic 1978 album remastered, plus a ton of extras, including two CDs of excellent outtakes and an amazing 1978 concert on DVD.
Who it’s for Any devotee of ’70s Spring-steen needs to pick this up. It’s that simple.
Why it’s essential The 21 unreleased tracks basically form a great lost Springsteen double album.
Why it isn’t Many fans saw the included film The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town when it aired on HBO.
Cost per song $3.87 (not counting DVDs)
Fun liner-note fact Springsteen writes about buying ”all the early punk singles as they hit the street” — a source of inspiration for Darkness.
Grade: A

Various Artists Matador at 21 Songs by the indie label’s best artists — Spoon, Cat Power, Yo La Tengo, etc. — along with an 85-page history.
Who it’s for The dude with the graying temples who proudly wore his 1993 tour T-shirt to this summer’s Pavement reunion shows.
Why it’s essential It handily captures an era and an ethos in one box, supplying a sweet memento for those who lived it and a gateway drug for newbies.
Why it isn’t If you’ve loved the label for two decades, you’ve got this stuff — 10th-anniversary live disc aside.
Cost per song 51¢
Fun liner-note fact Matador’s staff once had an epic argument over who the best Megadeth drummer was.
Grade: B+

Bob Dylan The Original Mono Recordings His first eight albums (1962’s Bob Dylan through 1967’s John Wesley Harding) in remastered monaural sound.
Who it’s for Audio purists who see stereo as an abomination.
Why it’s essential Agelessly brilliant albums in lovely LP-replica packaging — what’s not to like?
Why it isn’t No extra tracks, and the stereo CDs you already own sound just fine.
Cost per song $1.40
Fun liner-note fact 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan was recorded in a single day.
Grade: A-

Various Artists CTI Records: The Cool Revolution Four CDs of 1970s jazz from producer Creed Taylor’s famed label.
Who it’s for Anyone looking for an easy way into the complexities of fusion. (And jazz-flute enthusiast Ron Burgundy!)
Why it’s essential Funky jazz tracks from the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, and Hubert Laws.
Why it isn’t Cool as the music is, this is still essentially a souped-up label sampler.
Cost per song $1.28
Fun liner-note fact The Vietnam War-evoking helicopter cover of Kenny Burrell’s God Bless the Child album was actually taken in Hawaii.
Grade: B+

Syl Johnson Complete Mythology Six gorgeously reproduced LPs and four CDs from an undersung legend of blues and soul.
Who it’s for Fans of classic artists like Al Green and Jimmy Reed; hip-hop heads curious about where some of their fave samples originated.
Why it’s essential The renown that came for peers like James Brown and labelmate Green largely eluded him; this set gives him his due.
Why it isn’t Strictly speaking, do you really need the CDs and the records? Then again, ”need” is a subjective term.
Cost per song 99¢
Fun liner-note fact The 74-year-old Mississippi native’s first guitar was homemade, crafted from ”haywire and a two-by-four.”
Grade: A

Jimi Hendrix West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology Four career-spanning CDs — larded with alternate takes and unreleased tracks — plus a DVD documentary.
Who it’s for The Hendrix completist with room on his iPod for yet another take of ”Fire.”
Why it’s essential The set explores Hendrix’s transformation from soul-band sideman to guitar wizard.
Why it isn’t Some of the disinterred material should probably have remained buried.
Cost per song $1.19
Fun liner-note fact ”Calling All the Devil’s Children” was inspired by the Peter Sellers-starring radio show The Goon Show.
Grade: B-

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