10 May 2019

by Michael-Patrick Harrington


Since the untimely death of lead singer/pianist/guitarist Freddie Mercury in 1991, Queen has consistently been in the music news: from the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (and a subsequent EP with George Michael) to Brian May and Roger Taylor touring as Queen, first with Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) and currently with Adam Lambert—not to mention the behind-the-scenes tumult involved in making a Queen movie. The biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, arrived in 2018 with fact-checkers tearing their hair out while Rami Malek collected Best Actor awards at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. At times it feels as if Queen never went away. Here are a few compilations we can’t stop playing!


Forever {4 LP box set that includes a bonus 12” single} (2015—Virgin Records).
Consisting of 36 tracks (plus 2 additional ones on the bonus 12”), the set also includes a few surprises: the Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson collaboration, “There Must Be More to Life Than This,” a re-worked version of the Freddie solo track, “Love Kills,” and the previously unfinished Works-era track, “Let Me in Your Heart Again” (which is also featured in a William Orbit remix on the 12”). Collectors take note: the b-side of the 12” has a laser etching of the cover. (The Orbit remix was left off of the CD version.)  The box deftly mixes hits, fan-favorites, and deep tracks, spanning from Queen II to the posthumously-released Made in Heaven. There is a small debate among Queen fans as to whether these are actually newly remastered (in one way or another), like the 2011 remasters, or merely a transfer from the original Hollywood Records’ CDs or a mixture of the two, but to our ears, this box sounds superior to a digital transfer. It’s like Freddie, Brian, John, and Roger are right in your face. Overall, the set has a warmth that only comes from vinyl, and a bass sound second to none. And for about $1.94 a song, vinyl fans get to own this alternate history of Queen.

  • Limited Edition.
  • Half-speed mastered.
  • 180 gram heavyweight black vinyl.
  • MP3 download code included.
  • Box set with lift-off lid.
  • Liner notes on the last platter’s sleeve.
  • Lyrics included.

Greatest Hits {2 LPs} (2016—Hollywood Record)
This double set is a remastered augmented version of the classic 1981 release. Some tracks are added, a couple switched out, but they’re all classics (and it still includes “Flash”). If you’ve never bought a Queen album, this is where to start!

  • Half-speed mastered at Abbey Road Studios.
  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 17 tracks.
  • Gatefold cover.
  • Sleeves have information about the singles contained within.
  • CD version available.
  • You might want to also pick up Greatest Hits II {2 LPs}—same general specs as above release—available on compact disc as well.

Queen on Air {3 LPs} (2016—Hollywood Records)
This release is essential for one important reason: while Queen was expanding the boundaries of what a band could do in the studio, they became a fierce live unit. They recorded 6 live performances (mini-concerts) for the BBC—and they’re all here! This is a side of Queen that even many hardcore fans aren’t familiar with—Live Killers, the band’s first live album, only tells part of the story. The 24 tracks include alternate versions and re-worked and re-imagined takes of some of their best-known songs. Recorded between February 1973 and October 1977, the sets have been restored by Queen’s engineer Kris Fredriksson and mastered by Grammy Award winner Adam Ayan.

  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • Tri-fold sleeve.
  • Includes an MP3 voucher.
  • Also available on a 6 CD set.

Bohemian Rhapsody {2 LPs} (2019—Hollywood Records)
While not the place to start, diehard fans will swoon over this album’s rarities. Amid a smattering of remasters are highlights from the band’s Live Aid set, as well snapshots of the group performing at the Hammersmith Odeon, the Rainbow, and more. Note: these tracks feature the band, NOT Rami Malek!

  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 22 tracks.
  • Picture sleeves.
  • Includes an MP3 voucher.
  • Also available on CD.
  • If you missed the movie in the theaters, you might want to pick up the movie (available on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD. Rami Malek is amazing!

David Bowie

David Bowie’s passing in 2016 was a blow, especially since he’d just returned to us with his first album since 2003’s Reality. That album (2013’s The Next Day) and 2016’s Blackstar, released just before the Starman’s untimely departure, were game changers. Blackstar was suffused with jazz, and the Thin White Duke even leapt into the Great White Way with Lazarus, a musical based on his music. What would he have come up with next? While we’ll never know the answer, we can look at his past from the different perspectives offered by the superior Bowie boxes, especially those from Rhino.

Five Years: 1969-1973 {13 LPs} (2015—Rhino/Parlophone)
Released before Bowie’s death, this massive set includes every track he recorded between ’69 and ’73. From Space Oddity to Pin-Ups, including The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane, The Man Who Sold the World, and Hunky Dory. Also includes 2 live albums (Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture and Santa Monica ’72) plus a whole record of rarities. This is beyond essential!

  • Newly remastered.
  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 114 tracks.
  • Includes 84-page book with photos and technical notes from Tony Visconti and Ken Scott. The book also has a forward by the Kinks’ Ray Davies and an original review for each studio album. (Book is 128 pages in the 12 CD set.)

Who Can I Be Now?: 1974-1976 {13 LPs} (2016—Rhinno/Parlophone)
This time period had the 1984-influenced Diamond Dog mutate, quite naturally, into the blue-eyed soul man, the Young American. Whereas Diamond Dogs seemed to be a brilliant iteration of his Ziggy Stardust persona, by the time of David Live, R&B began to mute the futuristic aspects of the Diamond Dogs songs. A year later, Young Americans would show off his soulful, suave side. (The album included the John Lennon collaboration “Fame.”) Station to Station would meld the two approaches and point the way towards his Berlin trilogy (detailed in the New Career in a New Town box set—see below). Who Can I Be Now includes the four albums mentioned above PLUS The Gouster (an unreleased album recorded before Young Americans), new mixes of the David Live and Station to Station records (worry not, the original mixes are included on separate platters), the live album Nassau Coliseum ’76, and a rarities album with 13 tracks. A worthy journey for both the hardcore fan and the neophyte.

  • Newly remastered.
  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 84-page book. (128 pages in the 12 CD set.)
  • Technical notes by Tony Visconti and Harry Maslin.
  • Includes new images and an alternate album cover.

A New Career in a New Town: 1977-1982 {13 LPs} (2017—Rhinno/Parlophone)
A pivotal time in Bowie’s career. Burnt out, he fled to Berlin and with help of Brian Eno (formerly of Roxy Music) and Tony Visconti, he created the Berlin Trilogy: Low, “Heroes, and Lodger. The box set A New Career in a New Town includes the remastered Berlin trilogy PLUS the live album Stage—the original mix and a new one), the “Heroes” EP, a new alternate mix of Lodger (the original is here too), and, of course, one of Bowie’s masterworks: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Oh, let’s not forget the obligatory rarities record, which includes the Baal EP, his collaborations with Queen, Bing Crosby, and Giorgio Moroder, and a whole bunch of single versions.

  • Includes new images and an alternate album cover.
  • Newly remastered.
  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 113 tracks.
  • 84-page book—including unseen photographs from the likes of Helmut Newton and Anton Corbijn plus historical reviews. (Book is 128 pages in the 11 CD set.)
  • Technical notes by Tony Visconti.

Loving the Alien 1983-1988 {15 LPs} (2018—Rhino/Parlophone)

This was a tricky time in Bowie’s story. Let’s Dance was a smash, but the follow-ups, Tonight and Never Let Me Down, were not well-received. However, there is much to enjoy, even love, if these albums are given a second chance. All three are included in the box along with two live records, Serious Moonlight Live ’83 and Glass Spider Live Montreal ’87. The box also has an alternate mix of Never Let Me Down (the original is here too) and a record entitled Dance, which includes all of the 12” remix versions of various singles. The rarities platter is chock full of goodies: “Absolute Beginners,” “This is Not America,” all the Bowie tracks from the Labyrinth soundtrack, duets with Mick Jagger and Tina Turner (and more). Revisit this era from a different perspective!

  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • Newly remastered.
  • 84-page booklet. (128 pages in the 11 CD set.)
  • Book includes historical reviews.
  • Technical notes by Nile Rodgers (of Chic) & more.

Tom Petty

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers were more plainspoken than Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band and didn’t jump genres like their British counterparts, Elvis Costello & the Attractions. But Petty’s songwriting was every bit as poetic as Bruce’s, and his worldview was as inclusive as Elvis’. “Laconic” is a word often used to describe Petty’s brand of Americana, and while it’s true—there was the very Southern, laid back, side to his approach—at times the songs could barely hold in his excitement. They frequently reached through the radio and throttled listeners with an urgency to grab every piece of life that was in reach—and some of those that weren’t. Petty, at the time of his death, was on an upswing, having just released two Heartbreakers albums back-to-back, followed by the second offering of Mudcrutch, his reincarnated pre-Heartbreakers band. Whether you’re late to the party or a hardcore fan, there are some excellent box sets for the vinyl fiends out there. Prepare to immerse yourself!

An American Treasure {6 LPs} (2018—Reprise)
Even you own Playback, the 6 CD set that included 3 discs of rarities, you need to buy this now! Bonus: An American Treasure is available on vinyl and CD (4 discs), while Playback is only available on compact disc. What this set does is mix Heartbreakers tracks (live & studio cuts) with some solo material and a dash of Mudcrutch. (The only projects not represented are the Traveling Wilburys and Unchained, the album the Heartbreakers did with Johnny Cash.) The live cuts are previously unreleased (and many are eye-opening). There are plenty of alternate takes and demos, plus Petty’s daughter picked out some key album tracks that have not been represented on previous compilations, giving An American Treasure a story arc that’s just as intimate Bruce’s one-man show Springsteen on Broadway—it tracks the evolution of one of America’s greatest songwriters and performers.

  • 60 tracks.
  • All previously unreleased recordings have been mixed by Ryan Ulyate from pristine transfers of the original studio multi-track masters.
  • All recordings have been remastered for this collection.
  • 48-page book with rare and previously unseen photographs. The book also features detailed track-by-track liner notes by journalist Bud Scoppa, drawn from interviews with Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, Petty’s family, and more.

The Best of Everything: The Definitive Career Spanning Collection {4 LPs} (2019) – This is the greatest hit collection to end all greatest hits collections! It spans Petty’s entire career, from the first Heartbreakers album to Mudcrutch 2. (Like An American Treasure, it passes over the Traveling Wilburys and Unchained, their album with Johnny Cash.) While one can always quibble about a compilation’s track listing, this set is so thorough that you’ll be too busy listening to Petty’s journey to bother! It includes the previously unreleased track “For Real” plus the Stevie Nicks’ version of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (recorded with Tom & the band.)

  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 38 tracks.
  • Remastered from the original studio masters.
  • Includes an essay by journalist-turned-filmmaker Cameron Crowe.
  • Also available on a 2 CD set.

The Live Anthology {7 LPs} (2009)

This amazing set culls live tracks from various Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ tours, 1978-2007. Besides the stellar originals, there are a plethora of covers including: Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” the theme from Goldfinger, the Zombies’ “I Want You Back Again,” James Brown’s “Good, Good Lovin’,” the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil,” and Booker T. and the MGs’ “Green Onions.”

  • No fixes or overdubs!
  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • 51 tracks.
  • 24-page booklet.
  • Also available on 4 CD set.

Traveling Wilburys Collection Box {3 LPs} (2016)

All the Petty collections skip over the Traveling Wilburys, but this set, which thrilled us to no end, is indispensible. It includes both remastered Wilbury albums plus a third platter of rarities and extended versions.

  • 180 black gram.
  • Remastered.
  • Linen-cloth life-off cover.
  • 14-page booklet (12x12).
  • Includes 36 x 12 fold-out color poster.
  • Also includes six 6 x 4 sepia colored postcards & envelope.
  • Also available in a 2 CD set.


The prolific, multi-talented Prince released some 40 albums in his lifetime. For the music fiend, the question is where to start: the ‘80s art funk of 1999, the Hendrix-y rock’n’roll of Purple Rain, the psychedelic Around the World in a Day, the skinny dance floor moves of 3121, the eclectic sparse Sign O’the Times, his ’94 “comeback” Musicology? We dug through all our Prince albums to come up with a couple great places to start off.

4Ever {4 LPs} (2017)

This is an excellent place to start for both the uninitiated and the stone-cold fan. Focusing on the Warner Brothers years, the set includes the previously unreleased “Moonbeam Levels.” It also includes “Peach” from The Hits/The B-Sides, as well as Prince’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” This set features tracks from 9 albums (1978’s For You to 1992’s Love Symbol). This is the first compilation to include a track from the Batman soundtrack. It begins with the big hitters, dips back into the start of his career, and expands out into slightly more experimental tracks such as “If I Was Girlfriend.” Note: his later years are covered in the download-only Anthology 1995-2010.

  • 180 gram black vinyl
  • 40 tracks
  • 12-page booklet of never-before-seen photographs by Herb Ritts
  • Also available in a 2 CD set.

Purple Rain (1984)

There is a bit of a dilemma here. The beautifully remastered album is available both on vinyl and CD. But Purple Rain Deluxe is, for some unknown reason, only available on CD, in two configurations. There is a 4 CD set that includes a disc of tracks from the Vault, a disc of b-sides and single edits, and a DVD of a Purple Rain-era show in Syracuse, NY, 1985. There is also a 2 CD set that has the Vault tracks on the second disc. While we wait for a vinyl version to appear, we picked up both the 4 CD and the 2 CD set, and the sound is excellent—but would sound better on vinyl!

Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul’s first single was released in 1956, and she gave her last full concert in 2017. That’s 61 years of entertaining, and when Aretha died in 2018, she left behind a formidable body of work. While celebrating her music after her passing, many of us danced across kitchens and living rooms to “Respect” and “Chain of Fools.” For us vinyl fiends, there were two posthumous releases that are essential to understanding the genius that was Aretha. These sets not only cover her most fertile period but bring home the gospel sound that was never very far from her voice. Both of these sets are worth owning! Get your Aretha on!

The Atlantic Singles Collection 1967-1970 {2 LPs}(2018)

Although she signed with Atlantic Records in 1966 and left in 1979, it was during the four years documented in this set that cemented Aretha’s legend.  Working with producer Jerry Wexler and recording with Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (nicknamed the Swampers), which included such legends as guitarist Jimmy Johnson and organist/pianist Spooner Oldham, Aretha brought her gospel background to songs by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Don Covay, among others. Backed by a band of all-white Southerners and produced by a music journalist-turned-producer, Aretha dipped her soaring voice into the muddy swamp of the south, creating a sound that other legends, such as Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, and Dusty Springfield, would incorporate into their own complex music. Aretha’s sound influenced those outside of the R&B world too: one of her young session players was Duane Allman, founder of the swamped-drenched Allman Brothers Band. If Martians landed on Earth and you wanted to explain what R&B is, this record would do the job and then some. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Respect,” “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Loved You)”— they’re all here in this set (in glorious mono) and much more!

  • Remastered.
  • Mono!
  • 25 tracks.
  • Black vinyl.
  • 12-page booklet with liner notes by David Nathan.
  • Also available in a 2 CD set

Amazing Grace: The Complete Recordings {4 LPs} (2018)

In 1972, Aretha proved that you can go home again when she released Amazing Grace, a double album of gospel recorded before a live audience with Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. It’s still the bestselling live gospel album of all time (and also Aretha’s biggest LP release), and no wonder: the record was groundbreaking, and some fans and critics believe it is her best work. This set expands the original 14 tracks to 29 and includes everything Franklin and company recorded during the show. It simply has to be heard to be believed, and you do NOT have to be religious to soak in what Aretha is putting out here. Her concerns and her all-encompassing love transcend any particular faith. “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream,” sang a great man, and that is my recommendation to you.

  • 180 gram black vinyl.
  • Remastered.
  • Includes booklet.
  • Also available in a 2 CD set.


by Michael-Patrick Harrington