We’re getting close to about a quarter-century or more since the box set entered the CD era. (Bruce Springsteen’s Live 1975/85 and Bob Dylan’s Biograph would be among the first great examples of such anthologies.) Lately, we’ve started to see a strange pattern of artists who received great early box sets getting revisited yet again in new sets. The next few months will see boxes devoted to Derek and The Dominoes’ Layla (anthologized as its own anniversary set in 1991 and Clapton’s Crossroads box in 1988) and the works of Robert Johnson (whose Complete Recordings was an early, darling box in 1990). That upcoming Phil Spector box in June also has echoes of the classic Back to Mono set.
It’s easy (and perhaps common) to grouse about the recycling of material from the major labels, but I’d rather take the conversation in another direction. If you had to pick, say, up to five definitive box sets of the CD era, what would you pick? They could be from the early days of the format, they could be from the past few years – no matter. I’m interested in seeing everyone’s opinions. What makes them definitive to you?
Sound off in the comments! Looking very forward to seeing what everyone has to say.