For the under-valued diva lover: For years, it seemed you couldn’t watch a major Hollywood movie without hearing Jennifer Warnes’ gorgeous voice singing the theme song. Beginning with the Oscar-winning “It Goes Like It Goes” and continuing with Randy Newman’s Oscar-nominated “One More Hour” from Ragtime, the Oscar-winning “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman, the Oscar-winning “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing, and so on.
Warnes’ own recording career, which began in the late ’60s, yielded hit singles such as “Right Time of the Night” from 1977 and produced a handful of albums, most notably the acclaimed 1986 Famous Blue Raincoat, on which she performed her own interpretations of songs by friend, collaborator, and occasional boss Leonard Cohen. (Warnes was a back-up singer.)
The Hunter (Impex), from 1992, is the latest in a series of remastered and handsomely repackaged 24-karat-gold special-edition reissues of her albums. The underappreciated disc features Warnes’ exquisite readings of Todd Rundgren’s “Pretending to Care,” The Waterboys’ “The Whole of the Moon,” Donald Fagen’s “Big Noise, New York,” and exceptional originals including “Lights of Lousianne,” “Way Down Deep” (co-written by Cohen), and “I Can’t Hide,” making this an essential part of her canon.
For the apple of your eye: Impressive in its scope, as well as its distinctive packaging, the 17-disc Apple Records Box Set (Apple/EMI) is both a souvenir and a celebration of a specific moment in musical history. The Beatles’ legendary, if short-lived, label was home to a mind-blowing array of musical acts, reflecting their eclectic tastes in music.
In addition to a double-disc set of rarities and the 21-track single-disc compilation “Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records,” you will find two albums by Mary (“Those Were the Days”) Hopkin, one by a pre-Warner Brothers James Taylor, one by Doris Troy, four by Badfinger, two by the late Billy Preston, and one by The Radha Krishna Temple, to mention a few. An utterly thrilling musical experience is in store for anyone who listens to these recordings.
For the Saturday night feverish: The Bee Gees have been the subject of numerous box sets in recent years. There was the “red velvet” repackaging of 1969’s groundbreaking Odessa, the 2006 box of 1967-68 studio albums, and a couple of greatest-hits compilations.
The four-disc set Mythology (Reprise) takes a different approach than the aforementioned compilations. Each of the four brothers—Barry, Robin, the late Maurice, and the late Andy—are represented on their own disc. Containing Bee Gees tracks that go back to the 1960s, as well as previously unreleased selections, the box does its part in expanding the trio’s legacy. The addition of a disc representing Andy’s work, including hit singles such as “Shadow Dancing,” “(Love Is) Thicker than Water,” “I Just Want to Be Your Everything,” and “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away,” among others, highlights the musical contributions of the brothers Gibb, individually and collectively.
For the metal queen: The LGBT community is well-respected and renowned for its wide-ranging artistic tastes, and that includes music. LGBT folks listen to opera and polka music, punk and show tunes, disco and classical, cabaret and salsa, country and hip-hop. So it would make sense that within this varied community there are those who listen to metal and progressive rock.
The expanded, double-disc 20th-anniversary edition of Empire (Capitol) by Queensryche would therefore make an ideal Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone. That segment of queer listeners will probably delight in the theatricality of the whole affair, exemplified in the songs “Best I Can,” “The Thin Line,” the Pink Floyd-esque hit single “Silent Lucidity,” and the title cut, as well as the “Scarborough Fair” bonus track. The second disc consists of a 1990 Hammersmith Odeon concert.
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.