Because I've always been openly pro-thanks and pro-turkey, Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. The great Jon Stewart once spoke of celebrating Thanksgiving the old fashioned way: "I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land."
Personally, I choose to take a less traditional and more generous approach to celebrating Thanksgiving. I use the holiday as a golden opportunity to carbo-load in preparation for my second favorite holiday -- Black Friday. For those about to shop, I salute you as you head out to execute your assorted economic stimulus plans. Here then is my own rocking and mildly self-serving 2011 Holiday Gift Guide for this most wonderful time of the year to say, "Thanks -- I spent money on you."
FOR AGING WISEASS FOLKIES OF A CERTAIN AGE, ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH AT LEAST A FEW FAMILY ISSUES
LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III -- 40 ODD YEARS
I've worked on a lot of box sets over the years, but few have ever been as needed and lovingly compiled as this altogether inspired, 4 CD and 1 DVD collection made possible by Executive Producer and devoted Loudon Wainwright III fan Judd Apatow. "40 Odd Years" does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Wainwright's impressive yet too often underappreciated career, and the DVD included here in a true revelation full of strong performances this lifelong Loudon fan had never seen before. Whether you know it or not, nobody on earth writes about the good, the bad and the ugly of life, love and family quite like Loudon. The liner notes for "40 Odd Years" are also fantastic -- especially the ones that I didn't write.
FOR OLDER RELATIVES OR ANYONE ELSE WHO THINKS ROCK & ROLL IS JUST A PASSING FAD
TONY BENNETT -- DUETS II
At age 85, Tony Bennett remains one of music's true and enduring class acts, and here's some further proof. "Duets II" received a lot of attention because it features a duet that Tony recorded with Amy Winehouse of "Body and Soul" shortly before her recent death, but there's so much for multiple generations of music lovers here, including fine versions of "The Lady Is A Tramp" with Lady Gaga, "Speak Low" with Norah Jones, "On The Sunny Side of the Street" with Willie Nelson, "It Had To Be You" with Carrie Underwood, and an especially stunning "The Girl I Love" with Sheryl Crow. Mark my words, boys and girls; this Tony Bennett is going to do very well in this business.
FOR THAT ADORABLE, AGING ALTERNATIVE ROCKER IN YOUR LIFE
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS -- SIAMESE DREAM REISSUE
I worked with Billy Corgan on the liner notes for this fantastic deluxe reissue of The Smashing Pumpkins' 1992 smash album, but even I was pleasantly surprised with the gorgeous final result - the original Butch Vig-produced gem remastered, another CD with 17 previously unreleased or alternative versions of "Siamese Dream" era songs, and a fill length DVD of the band live in Chicago at The Metro in 1993. This is actually less of a reissue, and more of an artful exploration of one of the defining albums of alternative rock. For true Pumpkinheads, don't miss a similarly deluxe reissue of the band's 1991 debut "Gish." Other great gift ideas for this formerly angry, not so young man or woman: PEARL JAM TWENTY, the brilliant rock retrospective documentary directed by Cameron Crowe and AUGUST AND EVERYTHING AFTER - LIVE AT TOWN HALL, which finds the Counting Crows sounding better than ever as they powerfully revisit their classic debut album in concert.
FOR THE METALHEAD DOWN THE BLOCK WITH A HEART OF GOLD AND WORKING EAR DRUMS
SEBASTIAN BACH - KICKING & SCREAMING
I met this rock god back in a magical time called the Nineties when he was in the band Skid Row opening up for Guns N' Roses -- something he's been doing again recently with his own band. I'm no iron man of metal, but I love this dude with the big voice and the big attitude to match. To borrow the title of one of my favorite songs on "Kicking & Screaming," the music has a certain "Dirty Power."
FOR ALL QUIET CLASSIC ROCKERS WITH FAB TASTE
GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD by OLIVIA HARRISON. I worked for one day on the recent Martin Scorsese documentary -- and though I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever, it's an utter masterpiece that you must catch on HBO. The DVD is not out yet in America, but the book by George's beloved wife Olivia is, and seems well worth putting on your coffee table. And for the record, Ringo's last memory of George is simply one of the most moving things that I have ever heard.
FOR ANYONE WHO ENJOYS "GOOD VIBRATIONS" AND A LITTLE - OR A LOT - OF MUSICAL OR CHEMICAL EXPERIMENTATION
THE BEACH BOYS - THE SMiLE SESSIONS This box set is available in a number of configurations, all of them various levels of mind-blowing if you love Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, music and/or America.
FOR THE WANDERING MUSIC LOVER IN YOUR LIFE
NOVA MINI PORTABLE SPEAKERS FROM TEGO AUDIO. I just spent 3 weeks away from home living in a Nashville hotel room, and this tiny but powerful 40 mm speaker which costs less than $40 allowed me to rock out with my iPod whenever I wanted. As it says on the Tego website -- tegoaudio.com - claims, "Loud enough to fill the room, small enough to fit in your pocket." Here's a good gift item for friends who spend too much time with headphones on ignoring your needs, musical or otherwise.
FOR THE LITTLE ONES, AND I DON'T MEAN MY OLDER RELATIVES
ROCKIN' BABIES by DR. JENN BERMAN, CYNTHIA WEIL AND GALIA BERNSTEIN & ROCKABYE BABY!'s LULLABY RENDITIONS OF VAN HALEN. So the cradle really can rock!
FOR YOUR SLIGHTLY SHALLOW FRIENDS WHO SOMEHOW REALLY DID LOVE THE EIGHTIES
I WANT MY MTV: THE UNCENSORED STORY OF THE MUSIC VIDEO REVOLUTION" by CRAIG MARKS AND ROB TANNENBAUM. Personally, I hated a lot of the Eighties, but this book looks like fun about the era that ate popular music.
FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERY MAN, WOMAN, CHILD AND BEAST ON EARTH -- GOD BLESS US ALL, EVERY ONE!
DIARY OF A PLAYER: HOW MY MUSICAL HEROES MADE A GUITAR MAN OUT OF ME BY BRAD PAISLEY AND DAVID WILD This recent "New York Times" Best-Seller is not simply one of the best books of the year. It's also quite possibly the single best book of the year with my name somewhere on the front cover. "Diary of a Player" is more than just a love letter to the guitar by Paisley -- the very witty and gifted country music superstar. It's also really a moving and intimate examination of "life with strings attached" and the importance of following your passions. How do I know this? Because I helped Brad write the book, and you can't get more objective than that, can you? Okay, possibly you can. Still, "Diary of a Player" begins with Brad's grandfather giving him a guitar as a Christmas present when he was eight. So this book makes the perfect present for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or possibly even Pan American Aviation Day, which lest we forget is coming right up on December 17th. So buy "Diary of a Player" - there's a link just below. You'll be thankful that you did, and remember, man does not live by blogging alone.
So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks to all of you for reading my assorted playlists, and now my gift guide. And whether you've been naughty or nice, please take a moment and tell me below what's on your gift list this holiday season.