Box Sets: Pop, Country, Soul

Record labels make sure that there are lots of great box set collections available for holiday gift giving. Here are some of our favorite titles now on offer.

Cher - The Best of Cher (9-DVD)
Cher was 28-years-old when, post break-up with Sonny Bono, she took to the television airwaves alone for the "Cher" show. This impressive collection includes 10 episodes of that variety show, available for viewing here for the first time in 40-years. And those episodes are overflowing with memorable moments. Musical numbers include Cher and Elton John singing "Bennie and the Jets," a duet with Linda Ronstadt on the Dobie Gray-associated "Drift Away," a Beatles tribute with Tina Turner and Kate Smith, a duet with Ray Charles on "Georgia on my Mind" and touchingly, a duet with Gregg Allman, who Cher would marry shortly after the episode aired, on "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing." Lots of comedy here too with guests like Carol Burnett, Tim Conway and many others in skits where Cher revisits some of her funny characters like Donna Jean Bodine. There are some classic show-stealers too, like a couple of segments with a very young Chastity Bono and a spot with an also very young Tatum O'Neal wearing a dark wig and pretending she's Cher. Other guests who appear throughout the 10 episodes include Liberace, the Jackson 5, Lily Tomlin, Art Garfunkel, Wayne Rogers, Freddie Prinze, Teri Garr, Charo and Dennis Weaver. And while all of that is certainly enough to elate Cher fans there are also two full concerts from the 1990s recorded live in Las Vegas, Cher's television specials from 1978 and 1979, new interviews, the "Dear Mom, Love Cher" documentary film, and rare clips from rehearsals and even some of Cher's personal camcorder footage. Of course Cher's wardrobe is nothing short of fabulous throughout as she showcases Bob Mackie designs; the set's included booklet is a Bob Mackie "look book" featuring his sketches of Cher in his outfits. A great tribute to this icon, this box set truly lives up to its name.

Dolly Parton - Dolly: The Ultimate Collection - (19-DVD)
She's the undisputed queen of country music and here's a gigantic tribute to some of her work from the past 50 years. Personally working with the folks at TIME LIFE, Dolly has chosen about 35 hours of material for inclusion here, and 30 hours of that has not been seen since it was first aired. This is Parton's first-ever DVD collection of career highlights, and it starts out with 22 episodes of her variety show from the '70s and '80s where appearing guest stars include Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris and many others, even including Miss Piggy of Muppets fame. Then there are multiple episodes of the Porter Wagoner Show including the episode where Dolly first sang "Dumb Blonde." There are live concerts, a selection of duets with Wagoner from shows at the Grand Ole Opry, the entire "Song by Song: Dolly Parton" series, interviews with the likes of Marty Stuart, Kenny Rogers, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and half a dozen others, and a bonus DVD holding the "Dolly Parton: Here I Am" documentary. It all comes in a really nice collector's box where an exclusive book filled with photos and Dolly's remembrances top off the set.

Bobby Bare - Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus - (8-CD)
Shel Silverstein died more than 20-years ago but he left an incredible body of work behind and no artist has displayed a kinship with Silverstein's work more so than Bobby Bare; of the 137 songs included in this set, all but a handful of them were written by Silverstein. Among that treasure trove are 25 previously-unreleased cuts and Bare's version of "Sylvia's Mother," the Silverstein song that Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show had a big hit with in 1972. The set, packaged in an LP-sized box, contains a hardcover book with photos, discography and lyrics as well as an essay and an interview with Bare.

The Staple Singers - Come Go with Me: The Stax Collection - (7-CD)
Respect yourself! Certainly the recipient of this massive collection of Staples Singers material will respect the person who gave it to them. Packed with the hits like "Respect Yourself," "I'll Take You There" and "If You're Ready (Come Go with Me)" this collection also includes lots of rarities and non-album singles as well as live material recorded at the historic Wattstax Music Festival. Holding nearly 80 cuts in all, Come Go with Me is a great career retrospective of the vaunted gospel and soul act, and is presented in high resolution audio for the first time. A booklet with archival photos and liner notes from set curator Levon Williams and ethnomusicologist Dr. Langston Wilkins is included.

Herb Alpert - Herb Alpert Is... - (3-CD)
Herb Alpert is indeed a trumpet player but it would be a disservice to the man to leave it at that; he's had five #1 hits, sold 72 million records, won nine GRAMMY Awards and at one time outsold the Beatles 2-to-1. He has produced award winning Broadway shows, and made stars out of acts like the Police, Cat Stevens and Peter Frampton with the label he co-founded, A&M Records. He's an accomplished sculptor and painter and a longtime philanthropist. Since the bulk of Alpert's work is instrumental, these are things you can think about while you groove to his impressive body of pop music. All the favorites like "A Taste of Honey," "Whipped Cream," "The Lonely Bull" and "South of the Border" are here along with 59 other cuts. The included photo-packed booklet also offers liner notes and an essay from music journalist Bud Scoppa.

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