Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Rockin' Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is supposed to appeal to all of our finer instincts as sentient earthlings ”at least that’s the idea that’s been inculcated in us practically since birth. So why is its annual arrival commonly greeted with the kind of dull-eyed existential dread otherwise reserved for tax audits, traffic court and other such frivolities? Maybe it’s because of the stress that comes along with finding just the right gifts for all the loved ones on our lists. After all, some folks are a snap”another Xbox game, Scotch bottle or sweater, and they’re set”but everyone’s holiday shopping list always contains at least one or two of the type we’ll term “The Difficult Ones.” Their tastes are micro-specific, and they usually seem to want nothing, already have everything or both. With that in mind, in the interest of sucking some of the stress out of the season, here are a few humble holiday gift suggestions for “The Difficult Ones” in your own life, conveniently organized by personality type.

The Classic Rockers

Jimi Hendrix – Winterland

Do you have a dude in your life”and in this context, “dude” couldn’t be a more appropriate designation”whose idea of extreme sports is playing air guitar to Bachman-Turner Overdrive while pedaling his exercise bike? Someone whose TV remote has somehow been programmed to never depart from the VH1 Classic channel? He may already have every classic-rock reissue, remaster and repackaging you could conceive of, but he hasn’t gotten around to this one yet”five live discs featuring Jimi Hendrix in his prime at the legendary Winterland Ballroom. Iit’ll send any card-carrying Classic Rocker into a state of six-string ecstasy.

The ’80s Addicts

The Smiths – Complete

You know the type: hair piled up to stratospheric heights, a DVD collection that contains nothing but John Hughes movies and a musical universe that enters into a black hole right around 1990. Skip that Blu-Ray version of The Wedding Singer you were thinking of for the new wave wonder on your shopping list, and let the saber-toothed wit of Morrissey and the jangly jolt of Johnny Marr save the day instead. This all-in-one box set brings together all eight Smiths albums, including studio, live and anthology releases. Remember, misery loves company, but in the case of the Smiths, the feeling is usually mutual.

The Weird Uncles

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Everybody’s got that one oddball uncle (or aunt) who cultivates a plethora of amiable eccentricities, like raising otters, collecting vintage toothpaste tubes or dressing exclusively in canary yellow 365 days a year. In other words, Tom Waits‘ target audience. Waits’ brand of weird is time-tested, and guaranteed to appeal to your more off-kilter loved ones, the kind who’ve been so busy with sorting the jars in their spice racks according to relative heat that they haven’t yet had a chance to snap up the twisted troubadour’s latest.

The Ageless Aquarians

The Grateful Dead – Europe ’72: The Complete Recordings

This designation could apply to at least two different age groups”the stoner senior citizen whose long locks have long since gone gray and whose living room walls are covered with rainbow-colored, super-psychedelic concert posters, or those among their grandkids’ generation who feel like they missed out on all the fun and are hellbent on recreating the hippie era for themselves by any method possible. Both will be equally enthralled with this ambitious collection, which gathers recordings from every single show on the Grateful Dead tour that was initially documented on the classic Europe ’72 album, adding up to an appropriate but nevertheless mind-boggling 72 discs’ worth of sonic explorations from an American institution.

The Gloriously Geeky

Rush “ Sectors

There’s a specific paradigm of humanity that’s not covered by the famous Myers Briggs Personality Test, it’s that particular portion of the populace that’s well versed in science fiction, prog rock and computer technology”the sort whose idea of a wild weekend is one spent watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. If that sounds like one of your loved ones, you might have a grand-scale geek on your list, one whose eyes will light up at the sight of even one volume in Rush‘s Sectors series, let alone all three. Each box set in the series contains five classic Rush albums plus a 5.1 Surround Sound DVD, and you’ll especially enjoy hearing your beloved geek’s heart skip a beat at the way all three sets join together to form a faux rock-tour-style road case.