Holiday Gift Guide 2022: Music for Old Heads and New Wavers

UK-based label Cherry Red has long been one of the premier sources of carefully archived collections of obscure music in the world. This holiday season, Cherry Red is offering some box sets that will freak out your mind while you dance your face off. Put on your holiday hat and take a look at these potential gift ideas for the music lovers in your life.

Deep in the Woods: Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk 1968-1975 highlights music that emerged in the waning days of the psychedelic movement. Embracing a back-to-the-land viewpoint with a smattering of pagan mythology and folk stories, Deep in the Woods offers surprises at every turn.

“I Wanna Stay Here” by Ray Fenwick showcases Fenwick’s evocative voice while throwing in some crazed phasing in the chorus. Open Road’s “Mother Earth” deftly blends a soulful groove with a lament of how industrialism has ruined the planet. “The Evil Venus Tree” by The Occasional Word, both mournful and sinister, is punctuated by spooky slide guitar. The clashing of musical styles into cohesiveness displayed by the songs in Deep in the Woods is sometimes jarring, but always fascinating. There’s an engaging audacity to this collection that will please most listeners.

Prog rock fans will be delighted with Wind of Change: Progressive Sounds of 1973. Long songs, some with classical or orchestral leanings, make up this set. A smattering of well-known bands resides along with bands that never fully broke out in North America, making Wind of Change feel like a relatively complete selection.

Songs from Electric Light Orchestra and Al Stewart are here, as is a great interpretation of the old Mason Williams’ hit “Classical Gas” by Beggars Opera. Nektar’s “Good Day” stands out as a song I had never heard before but became entranced with on first listen. It couldn’t be a prog-rock collection without masters of the genre Yes, and this set features a blistering live version of the fan favorite, “Starship Trooper.”

Kids on the Street: UK Power Pop and New Wave 1977-1981 culls some of the finest, most creative songs from that tiny period were punk and new wave collided on the radio in beautiful ways.

Bands that went on to become legendary, such as Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Echo and the Bunnymen, and the Pretenders are here. Listeners will also find great singles from The Motors (“Dancing the Night Away”), The Innocent Vicars (“She Was My Girl”), The Teenage Filmstars (“Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Follow Trends”) and others you may have only read about in hand-printed zines. Points to Cherry Red for including “Doubleback Alley” by The Rutles, who parodied the Beatles by not exactly making fun of them.

Music for New Romantics lives up to its name by culling some of the favorite tunes of that group of music fans. As a subculture, the New Romantics had a propensity toward thrift-store glam and music that straddled the lines between rock, disco, and new wave.

From the glittery rock of Mott the Hoople to Throbbing Gristle’s “Hot on the Heels of Love,” Music for New Romantics feels like the early days of MTV should have been. With classic tracks like “(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang” by Heaven 17 to “Klactoveesedstein” by Blue Rondo A La Turk, this set is perfect for anyone wondering what inspired the dance music of the early 1980s and beyond.

All four of these sets feel like handing the aux cord to a mad genius so they can rip through their playlists. There is plenty to enjoy in any of these collections, all of which feature detailed booklets and essays. You may recognize some of the tunes, but other less familiar songs will sideswipe you with their brilliance.

Box sets from Cherry Red can be purchased directly from its website, from Amazon, or wherever fine music is sold.

Leave a Reply