New York Times

Originally Published: December 12, 1999


Already Boxed. Just Add a Little Wrapping.

Author: Neil Strauss

EACH year recording companies dig more deeply into their archives. They are eager to retrieve the obscure recordings that justify expanding greatest-hits collections into the boxed sets that have becomefixtures of the holiday market. Theme anthologies are devised; concert tapes and studio outtakes are gleaned; old recordings are remixed. And if there's nothing left in the vaults, then new material is created: electronically assisted posthumous collaborations (as with the latest set by the Doors) or recent live recordings (as with Phish). Here, the pop music and jazz critics of The New York Times assess a selection of this year's boxed sets. (Prices are suggested retail.)

(Warner Brothers/Rhino four CD's; RS 75680, four CD's, $59.98). It's strange to hear music fans in the 90's disparage Alice Cooper as being just an act, because they are missing the point that it was a great act. His songs were show tunes for those whose lifestyle required them to hate show tunes. And not only did Cooper make a perfect bogeyman for the early 70's; he also made pop music -- a perfect balance of mimicry and personal vision, like a plagiarist with warped lenses -- that still holds up today. These chronological CD's begin with Cooper's early garage-rock recordings and stretch through his recent industrial-strength techno collaboration with Rob Zombie. In the mix are his greatest bits, previously unreleased shtick and superior alternate takes.