It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...The year 2012 has proven to be a strange era in the history of the pop music box set. On the one hand, the year has seen an unusually large number of archival collections. On the other, it has witnessed the release of some of the most repetitive, indulgent and sloppy anthologies in recent memory. But, as always, with the gift-giving season upon us, Craven will highlight a few of the boxes he wouldn't mind seeing under his Christmas tree.High on that list would be the new four-CD set, "Tenology," by 10cc. Always an overlooked band on this side of the Atlantic, 10cc's golden period between 1972 and 1982 is thoroughly accounted for on the collection, which brings together the band's best-known hits like "I'm Not in Love" and "The Things We Do For Love" with more progressive and outr album tracks like "Don't Hang Up" and "The Second Sitting For the Last Supper." The set would also make a great introduction to a band which married Pink Floyd's cynical lyrical stance and expansive aural presence with the bopping pop sensibilities of Elton John or Billy Joel.That same period - 1972 through 1982 - is represented on Roxy Music's new "Complete Studio Recordings," which gathers all of Roxy Music's albums from their self-titled debut through the classic "Avalon." It's fascinating to hear the band's music transform from the relentlessly experimental pop of their early years (in songs that are underpinned by a young Brian Eno's restless imagination) into the creamy, mid-tempo setting for singer Bryan Ferry's smooth, melancholic odes to love gone bad.The year 1987 is another year that has been literally recollected in box sets 25 years later. It was in '87 that Paul Simon released the career-redefining "Graceland," and Peter Gabriel issued "So." Both albums found these two talented singer-songwriters dabbling in African rhythms, and helping build American audiences for two of that continent's best-known acts - Ladysmith Black Mambazo in the case of "Graceland," and Youssou N'Dour in the case of "So." Now, both albums have been remastered and reissued, with a slew of unreleased and live material to supplement what were already great albums.We'll look at a few other great box set gift ideas next week in this space.Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture. Notes is supported by the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, promoting the success of after-school programs throughout Colorado in cooperation with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Notes can be heard daily on KAFM 88.1 or at kafmradio.org on the Web.
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