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2016’s most essential music box sets: Pink Floyd, Dylan, Led Zep and more

By Darryl Sterdan, Special to Postmedia Network

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The album may be running out of steam, but the box set is still going strong. This fall brought another sonic tsunami — more than 75 overhauled classics, archive-raiding anthologies and collectibles for completists. Here are the biggest, the best and most of the rest of this season’s readily available offerings. Some I’ve already reviewed; others are self-explanatory. Almost all are worth your time and money (all prices approximate).

THE BEST

1 | Pink Floyd, The Early Years 1965-1972

It’s the world’s longest flashback: More than 25 hours of Floyd audio and video — unreleased recordings, quad and 5.1 mixes, full-length movies, footage of Syd Barrett and more — spread across seven volumes and augmented by 40-plus pieces of memorabilia. DISCS: 10 CDs, 9 DVDs, 8 Blu-Rays, 5 singles. DATES: 1965-’74 (oddly enough). DAMAGE: $650.

2 | Bob Dylan, The 1966 Live Recordings

Yes, all of them. Every show from Dylan’s momentous tour with most of The Band — including the notorious ‘Royal Albert Hall’ gig. DISCS: 36 CDs. DATES: Duh. DAMAGE: $170.

3 | Led Zeppelin, Complete BBC Sessions

The final Zep reissue is where they should have started: With these powerhouse performances that document their live prowess. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1969-’71. DAMAGE: $25.

4 | Van Morrison, It's Too Late to Stop Now...Volumes II, III, IV & DVD

Wild nights are calling as the Belfast Cowboy’s definitive live release returns in unabridged form, augmented with video. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1973-’74. DAMAGE: $40.

5 | Alex Harvey, Last of the Teenage Idols

The greatest rocker most people have never heard finally gets his due in this comprehensive, rarity-filled set. Sensational. DISCS: 14 CDs. DATES: 1963-’82. DAMAGE: $167.

6 | The Who, My Generation Super Deluxe

Talkin’ about their debut, expanded with recently unearthed demos, dozens of extras and a stereo version with new overdubs. DISCS: 5 CDs. DATES: 1965-2014. DAMAGE: $145.

7 | Rush, 2112 40th Anniversary Super Deluxe

They’ve taken care of everything by reissuing Rush’s opus with live cuts, videos, cover versions and goodies. DISCS: 2 CDs, 3 LPs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1976-2016. DAMAGE: $125.

8 | Big Star, Complete Third box set

Beauty amid chaos. From demos to final mixes, this set chronicles the painful birth of Alex Chilton and Big Star’s tragic swan song. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1974. DAMAGE: $70.

9 | Day Of The Dead, Various Artists

A long, satisfying trip through the Grateful Dead’s vast catalogue — as superbly covered by indie artists of all stylistic stripes. DISCS: 5 CDs. DATES: 2011-’15. DAMAGE: $50.

10 | Otis Redding, Live at the Whisky A Go Go: Complete Recordings

You can turn him loose: And cut loose to this unedited version of the King of Soul’s incendiary 1966 weekend on the Sunset Strip. DISCS: 6 CDs. DATES: 1966. DAMAGE: $82.

THE REST

A-F

Alcatrazz | Ultimate Fortress Rock Set

Three albums and a ton of extras from frontman Graham Bonnet and his revolving door of guitar heroes. DISCS: 5 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1983-2015. DAMAGE: $90.

Duane Allman | Skydog

A vinyl version of the comprehensive 2013 set focusing on Southern rock’s late slide-guitar hero and his brief, rambling career. DISCS: 14 LPs. DATES: 1965-’71. DAMAGE: $600.

Marc Almond | Trials of Eyeliner

The onetime Soft Cell frontman’s career anthology draws from 26 discs and includes mountains of rarities and a hardcover book. DISCS: 10. DATES: 1979-2016. DAMAGE: $135.

Archies | Sugar, Sugar: Complete Albums Collection

Archie’s here. Betty’s here; Veronica too. Along with Ron Dante, Andy Kim and the others behind the cartoon pop band. DISCS: 5. DATES: 1968-’71. DAMAGE: $45.

The Band | The Last Waltz 40th Anniversary

Exactly the same as the last Last Waltz box — except this one has the movie (minus some bonus features) on Blu-Ray. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1976. DAMAGE: $95.

Beach Boys | Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Collectors

Wouldn’t it be nice if they quit reissuing Brian Wilson and the Boys’ landmark album every few years to milk fans? DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1966-2003. DAMAGE: $80.

Black Sabbath | Paranoid Super Deluxe

The latest inessential reissue of Ozzy and co.’s sophomore set includes a folded-down quad mix, two gigs and a hardcover book. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: 1970. DAMAGE: $45.

Blink-182 | Vinyl Box Set

They won’t be home for Christmas — but you can compensate with the pop-punk trio’s first seven releases on vinyl. DISCS: 10 LPs. DATES: 1995-2011. DAMAGE: $250.

David Bowie | Who Can I Be Now?

The second comprehensive Bowie box focuses on the chameleon’s Thin White Duke years. DISCS: 12 CDs or 13 LPs. DATES: 1974-’76. DAMAGE: $160 (CDs) or $200 (LPs).

Bright Eyes | The Studio Albums

Conor Oberst and his folk-rock outfit’s six most recent releases, remastered and pressed on limited-edition coloured vinyl. DISCS: 10 LPs. DATES: 2000-’11. DAMAGE: $200.

Ray Charles | Atlantic Years In Mono

Original mono versions of a septet of early studio masterpieces by the late great musical genius, with reproduced covers. DISCS: 7 LPs. DATES: 1957-’61. DAMAGE: $150.

Chicago | Quadio

Think of it as Chicago IV+II — since you get quad and stereo mixes of their first nine studio albums on Blu-Ray audio. DISCS: 9 Blu-Rays. DATES: 1969-’76. DAMAGE: $135.

Joe Cocker | Album Recordings

The British soul man’s box offers plenty of bang for the buck, collecting 12 studio albums, a live disc and a disc of rarities. DISCS: 14 CDs. DATES: 1984-2007. DAMAGE: $60.

John Coltrane | Atlantic Years In Mono

Six mono jazz classics from the sax maverick — including Giant Steps and discs with Milt Jackson and Don Cherry. DISCS: 6 LPs, 1 single. DATES: 1960-’66. DAMAGE: $75.

Creedence Clearwater Revival | 1969

Bayou Country, Green River and Willie & The Poor boys on LP and CD, plus singles and mucho souvenirs. DISCS: 2 CDs, 3 LPs, 3 singles. DATES: One guess. DAMAGE: $150.

Miles Davis Quintet | Freedom Jazz Dance: Bootleg Series 5

Unedited tapes documenting the maverick trumpeter and his groundbreaking quintet cutting Miles Smiles, Nefertiti and more. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1966-’68. DAMAGE: $40.

Dead Or Alive | Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI

Issued days after leader Pete Burns death, this box expands the dance-pop outfit’s albums with tons of rarities. DISCS: 17 CDs, 2 DVDs. DATES: 1984-2000. DAMAGE: $215.

Dio | Decade of Dio

Stand up and shout, fans: Here are newly remastered vinyl versions of Dio’s first six albums, plus a single with rarities. DISCS: 6 LPs, 1 single. DATES: 1983-’93. DAMAGE: $120.

Georgie Fame | Survival

Last year’s Whole World’s Shaking box followed the British R&B organist from 1963 to ’66. This one takes his tale up to today. DISCS: 6 CDs. DATES: 1963-2015. DAMAGE: $85.

Fleetwood Mac | Mirage Deluxe

Can’t go back? Tell it to the Mac. Their 13th album returns with plenty of outtakes and hi-res DVD audio. Substantial. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD, 1 LP. DATES: 1982 DAMAGE: $115.

Free | Vinyl Collection

The first six studio albums from Paul Rodgers and co., along with Free Live — all newly remastered on vinyl. But far from free. DISCS: 7 LPs. DATES: 1969-’73. DAMAGE: $250.

H-P

Paul Hardcastle | The History Of

Forget his synth-pop hits: This box concentrates on the British musician’s smooth-jazz stylings, including brand-new tracks. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: 1984-2016. DAMAGE: $55.

Mitch Hedberg | Complete Vinyl Collection

One for the comedy fans: All three of the the late standup’s albums, plus a USB with live footage and a book.DISCS: 3 LPs, 1 USB. DATES: 1999-2008. DAMAGE: $160.

Highwaymen | Live: American Outlaws

A lively and loose-limbed ’90s New York concert by the country supergroup, with archival footage and a newish song. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1990-2014. DAMAGE: $65.

Steve Hillage | Searching for the Spark

Seek and ye shall find 11 discs of studio fare, four discs of demos, seven live CDs, two books from the British prog veteran. DISCS: 22 CDs. DATES: 1969-2006. DAMAGE: $410.

Human League | A Very British Synthesizer Group

Don’t you want them, baby? The synth-pop vets’ career gets boiled down to two CDs, plus rarities and video footage. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1978-2011. DAMAGE: $142.

Jane’s Addiction | Sterling Spoon

A limited-edition box with 180-gram vinyl of Jane’s first two albums, Live at the Palladium and some of Kettle Whistle. DISCS: 6 LPs. DATES: 1987-’97. DAMAGE: $125.

Jethro Tull | Stand Up: Elevated

Ian Anderson and Tull’s eclectic second album is the latest title to get a makeover with rarities, 5.1 audio, video and more. DISCS: 2 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1969. DAMAGE: $50.

King Crimson | On (and off) The Road

The first Adrian Belew era’s three discs remixed in stereo and 5.1, plus a slew of live audio and video. DISCS: 13 CDs, 3 DVDs, 3 Blu-Rays. DATES: 1981-’84. DAMAGE: $270.

King Crimson | Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind

At least one version of every song played on Crim’s 2015 tour, plus a Blu-Ray of live footage and hi-res audio. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 2015. DAMAGE: $50.

The Kinks | Mono Collection

The Ray Davies Preservation Society reissues the studio albums up to Arthur, plus a live set, compilation and 48-page book. DISCS: 10 LPs. DATES: 1964-’69. DAMAGE: $230.

Richard H. Kirk | #7489: Collected Works

Sandoz | #9294 Collected Works

Double down with a set of the Cabaret Voltaire co-founder’s solo fare — and another by his ’90s alter-ego. DISCS: 8 CDs | 5 CDs. DATES: 1974-’89 | 1992-’94. DAMAGE: $62 | $52.

Kris Kristofferson | Complete Monument & Columbia Album Collection

The singer-songwriter’s first 11 studio releases, expanded with three live albums and two discs of rarities and outtakes. DISCS: 16 CDs. DATES: 1970-’81. DAMAGE: $110.

Paul McCartney | Pure McCartney

Ever wondered what Paul McCartney’s favourite McCartney songs are? This 67-song post-Beatles set provides the answer. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: 1970-2014. DAMAGE: $38.

Freddie Mercury | Messenger of the Gods

A colourful guy deserves a colourful box — which is what Queen’s Mercury gets with this set of solo singles on vibrant vinyl. DISCS: 13 singles. DATES: 1973-’93. DAMAGE: $100.

Oasis | Be Here Now Deluxe

As if it weren’t long enough already, the Gallaghers’ third album gets expanded with B-sides, live cuts and Noel’s original demos. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1996-’97. DAMAGE: $35.

Graham Parker | These Dreams Will Never Sleep

The trenchant U.K. troubadour’s career gets condensed to three studio CDs and four live discs. Not perfect, but not bad. DISCS: 6 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1976-2015. DAMAGE: $87.

Alan Parsons Project | Tales of Mystery & Imagination 40th Anniversary

Quoth the raven: Plenty more. APP’s debut comes with a 1987 remix, 5.1 audio, outtakes and memorabilia. DISCS: 3 CDs, 2 LPs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1976-1987. DAMAGE: $130.

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris | Complete Trio Collection

Triple your pleasure with the sweetly harmonious country legends’ two albums are joined by a third disc of outtakes. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1987-’99. DAMAGE: $30.

Tom Petty | Complete Studio Albums 1 & 2

Sixteen Petty vinyl albums divided between two boxes that seem ironically overpriced for Mr. $8.98. DISCS: 9 LPs | 12 LPs. DATES: 1976-’91 | 1994-2014. DAMAGE: $315 each.

PiL | Metal Box Super Deluxe | Album Super Deluxe

A pair of John Lydon’s post-punk masterpieces return with plenty of extras and high-quality packaging. DISCS: 4 CDs each. DATES: 1978-’80 | 1984-’86. DAMAGE: $100 | $75.

Elvis Presley | Album Collection

The King of all Presley anthologies collects virtually every album he released in his lifetime, along with a 300-page book. DISCS: 60 CDs. DATES: 1956-’77. DAMAGE: $350.

Q-Z

Queen | On Air Super Deluxe

Another year, another Queen live set. This one compiles three discs of BBC sessions and concert fare, plus three interview discs. DISCS: 6 CDs. DATES: 1973-’92. DAMAGE: $65.

Ramones | Ramones 40th Anniversary

Hey, ho, let’s go back to The Ramones’ landmark 1976 debut — now expanded with demos, live cuts and a mono mix on vinyl. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 LP. DATES: 1976. DAMAGE: $55.

Lou Reed | RCA & Arista Album Collection

All Reed’s solo albums (except two live outings) up to Mistrial were remastered under his supervision shortly before his death. DISCS: 17 CDs. DATES: 1972-’86. DAMAGE: $142.

R.E.M. | Out of Time: 25th Anniversary Deluxe

Just in time: R.E.M.’s commercial breakthrough gets upgraded with demos, 5.1 audio, a full concert and videos. DISCS: 3 CDs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1990-’91. DAMAGE: $62.

Rolling Stones | In Mono

Here it comes: Meticulously remastered one-track mixes of all the Stones albums up to Let It Bleed, plus a rarities comp. DISCS: 15 CDs. DATES: 1964-’69. DAMAGE: $230.

Rolling Stones | Totally Stripped Super Deluxe

The Stones add a bigger bang to their 1995 live disc with a new set list and footage, three full concert videos and a doc. DISCS: 4 Blu-Rays, 1 CD. DATES: 1995. DAMAGE: $110.

Saxon | Vinyl Hoard

A solid ball of rock from the British metalheads, who deliver four vintage double-live albums in new sleeves and on gold vinyl. DISCS: 8 LPs. DATES: 1995-2006. DAMAGE: $190.

Scientists | A Place Called Bad

Primal blues-punk frenzies and proto-grunge noisefests from some beloved Australian cult heroes. Play it good and loud. DISCS: 4. DATES: 1979-’87. DAMAGE: $60.

Sex Pistols | Live ’76

Ever get the feeling you’ve been treated to four historic shows by the punk pioneers? Warning: The sound quality is bootleg-level. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: 1976. DAMAGE: $50.

DJ Shadow | Endtroducing…. 20th Anniversary

Fittingly, Shadow “Re-Emagines” his groundbreaking debut disc by adding remixes from electronica luminaries and a book. DISCS: 6 LPs. DATES: 1996-2016. DAMAGE: $180.

Simple Minds | New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) Super Deluxe

The Scottish art-popsters pad their nine-song album with umpteen remixes, edits, extended versions, radio gigs and 5.1.DISCS: 5 CD, 1 DVD. DATES: 1982-2005. DAMAGE: $60.

Frank Sinatra | World On a String

Old Blue Eyes is back with another box featuring live recordings in eight different exotic cities on various world tours. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES:1953-’82. DAMAGE: $80.

Soundgarden | Badmotorfinger Super Deluxe

Better than bad. And bigger, with outtakes, a vintage live show, 5.1 audio and more — in a motorized box. DISCS: 4 CDs, 2 DVDs, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1991-’92. DAMAGE: $200.

Sting | Studio Collection

Synchronicity strikes again as Sting’s solo studio catalogue (minus the lute albums, thankfully) are collected on vinyl. DISCS: 11 LPs. DATES: 1985-2013. DAMAGE: $285.

Suede | Coming Up: 20th Anniversary

No trash here. Just the band’s 1996 comeback disc augmented with more than 50 extras, a live DVD and a book. DISCS: 4 CDs, 1 DVD. DATES: 1996-’97. DAMAGE: $75.

Temple of the Dog | Temple of the Dog Deluxe

The pre-Pearl Jam tribute to Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood adds demos, 5.1 audio and many live cuts. DISCS: 2 CDs, 1 DVD, 1 Blu-Ray. DATES: 1990-2015. DAMAGE: $130.

UK | Ultimate Collectors’ Edition

Both the prog supergroup’s ’70s studio albums, refurbished and joined by 5.1 audio, outtakes and concerts. DISCS: 12 CDs, 4 Blu-Rays. DATES: 1977-2015. DAMAGE: $440.

Various Artists | Action Time Vision: U.K. Independent Punk

Pogo down memory lane with more than 110 punk classics from The Damned, Skids, Alternative TV, U.K. Subs and more. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: 1976-’79. DAMAGE: $45.

Various Artists | Cooking Vinyl 1986-2016

The influential U.K. label collects hit and highlights from its roster — including Canucks like Cowboy Junkies and Ron Sexsmith. DISCS: 4 CDs. DATES: Hmm. DAMAGE: $120.

The Who | Polydor Singles Vol. 4

The final instalment in The Who vinyl-singles box series includes several live releases and their Wire & Glass EP. DISCS: 15 singles. DATES: 1975-2015. DAMAGE: $175.

Neil Young | Official Release Series Discs 8.5-12

Neil reissues Long May You Run, American Stars 'N Bars, Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust on 180-gram vinyl. DISCS: 5 LPs. DATES: 1976-’79. DAMAGE: $150.

Frank Zappa | Meat Light: Uncle Meat Project/Object

The iconoclastic Mothers’ sixth album gets refurbished, resequenced and expanded with more than 20 outtakes and variations. DISCS: 3 CDs. DATES: 1967-’69. DAMAGE: $30.