2020 Holiday Gift Guide: Music

From CD box sets by Prince and the Grateful Dead to a classic jazz photo book by William Claxton and a Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Not in This Lifetime’ pinball machine, choices abound


Has there ever been a year when music has been more welcome? Here are some music-related holiday gift options that have caught our attention.


“The Meaning of Mariah Carey”

"The Meaning of Mariah Carey," a memoir.
(Ruven Afanador)

Who better to celebrate Mariah Carey’s rags-to-riches rise to fame than Mariah Carey? But there’s more to this super-diva than meets the eye, as her 349-page memoir — co-written with Michaela Angela Davis — attests. Carey is at her best discussing the challenges she faced as a bi-racial child confronted by poverty and a dysfunctional family, and when detailing her later conflicts with music industry honchos (including her first husband) who insisted she dial down her “Blackness.” Available at bookstores, where prices vary, and at for $29.99


Burt Sugarman’s “The Soul of The Midnight Special”

Burt Sugarman's "The Soul of The Midnight Special"



Blondie, Peter Frampton and the Steve Miller Band are just some of the many rock acts who performed on the weekly Friday TV concert series “The Midnight Special,” which aired 450 times on NBC between 1972 and 1981. This five-disc DVD collection from Time Life compiles more than 70 vibrant live performances by everyone from James Brown, Al Green and Minnie Ripperton to Sly & The Family Stone, Bill Withers and former Point Loma resident Barry White. $41.39 at


Prince, “Sign O’ The Times” Super Deluxe Edition

Prince, "Sign O' The Times"

The second double-album by Prince in just four years, 1987’s “Sign O’ The Times” remains one of his greatest works — a genre-blurring opus he originally made as a triple-album. This aptly titled “Super Deluxe Edition” offers 45 previously unreleased recordings that clock in at nearly four hours. It also includes a nearly two-hour-long 1987 concert, a live DVD shot and a 120-page hardback book. $159.98 at


Arturo O’Farrill and The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, “Fandango at the Wall — A Soundtrack for The United States, Mexico and Beyond”

"Fandango at the Wall"

The recently released “Fandango at the Wall” film documentary focuses largely on the 2018 edition of the now 13-year-old Fandango Fronterizo festival, which is held concurrently on the Tijuana side of the U.S.-Mexico border and at San Diego’s adjacent Friendship Park to celebrate the string music of Veracruz. The 2018 Fandango also featured a superb Tijuana performance by Grammy winner Arturo O’Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. This two-CD set features that outdoor concert at the border in full and showcases such stellar guests as violinist Regina Carter, drum master Antonio Sanchez and Fandango founder Jorge Francisco Castillo. $13.69 at


“Let Love Rule,” Lenny Kravitz, with David Ritz

Lenny Kravitz, "Let Love Rule"


At 56, Lenny Kravitz has had what appears to be a mostly charmed life as a rock star, actor and entrepreneur who, in 2018, was named Dom Perignon’s Global Creative Director. “Let Love Rule,” co-written with veteran music David Ritz, provides a candid chronicle of the first 25 years of his life as the son of a Black Christian mother and White Jewish father. Kravitz seemed destined for success early on; how he got there makes for a most entertaining read. Available at bookstores, where prices vary, and at for $19.48


Grateful Dead, “Workingman’s Dead,” 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Grateful Dead, "Workingman's Dead"

This three-CD 50th anniversary box set edition of “Workingman’s Dead,” the greatest studio album by the Grateful Dead, offers a lovingly re-mastered version of the original album and features such landmark songs as “Casey Jones” and “Uncle John’s Band.” Also included is a recording of the Dead’s Feb. 21, 1971 concert in Port Chester, N.Y., which clocks in at nearly 2 1/2 hours and boasts numbers from “Workingman’s Dead” and the band’s second classic 1970 album, “American Beauty.” $31.92 at


“Jazz Images” by William Claxton

"Jazz Images" by William Claxton

Pasadena-born photographer William Claxton was only 25 when he became house photographer and art director for Pacific Jazz Records in 1952. Eschewing dark, smoke-filled nightclubs, he favored outdoor settings that included Thelonious Monk on the back of a San Francisco trolley, Chet Baker perched on the mast of a sailboat and a cowboy-suited Sonny Rollins at Joshua Tree National Park. This three-pound book boasts more than 150 color and black-and-white images by Claxton, who memorably described his photos as “jazz for the eye.” Available at bookstores, where prices vary, and at for $46.92


Guns N’ Roses’ “Not in This Lifetime” pinball machine

Guns N' Roses "Not in This Lifetime" pinball machine

Is it “Welcome to the Jungle,” or “Welcome to the Pinball?” The new Guns’ N’ Roses “Not in This Lifetime” pinball machine boasts hundreds of interactive LED lights, multiple LCD displays and a 120-watt 2.1 stereo sound system that blasts out the full-length studio master tracks of the 21 songs GNR performed on

This year, finding ways to have a holly jolly holiday season begins with giving. This year’s top picks.