Box sets: Three highlights of the season

Sly and the Family Stone; Vladimir Horowitz; Herbie Hancock

Sly and the Family Stone



Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

It’s a rare box set that “works as both an introduction for the unaware” and a deeper excursion for dedicated fans, said Nate Patrin in All seven albums recorded by Sly Stone’s pioneering funk band have been collected before, but this 77-song set includes 17 previously unreleased tracks, several “underheard” ones, plus “exhaustive” liner notes. Next to “instant-recognition milestones” like “I Want to Take You Higher” sit pre-1969 songs like “Underdog” and “Trip to Your Heart” that “could’ve and should’ve been hits,” except that Sly hadn’t yet broken through. The San Francisco–based singer and songwriter was “a fusionist from the get-go,” though, said Will Hermes in Rolling Stone. Stone’s mixed-race-and-gender band remains “maybe the most visionary funk operation in pop history,” and they got there honestly: not by gradually grafting rock and R&B but by simply reveling in “the hot glory of multiple styles played simultaneously.” ($60)

Vladimir Horowitz

Live at Carnegie Hall


Among classical releases, “this extraordinary set ranks as the piano collection of the year,” said John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune. “The fire-breathing brilliance, lyrical legerdemain, and overwhelming charisma” that made Vladimir Horowitz (1903–89) one of the all-time greats “have never been heard to better advantage” than on these 41 CDs. Fans of the Ukrainian-born virtuoso will recognize some of the material here—including the 1965 performance that followed an unexplained 12-year retirement. But most of the material had never been released in unedited form until now. Horowitz is “often thought to have acquired depth only in his later years,” said David Patrick Stearns in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Yet in shows from the 1940s, he proves that wrong, peeling off “one miraculously imaginative phrase reading after another.” The sound quality isn’t always great, “but never are Horowitz’s great powers of communication impeded in the least.” ($105)

Herbie Hancock

The Complete Columbia Album Collection: 1972–1988


“Here, for certain, is one of the truly great box sets of the gift season,” said Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News. Because jazz great Herbie Hancock has been such “an astonishingly versatile player,” this 34-disc set delivers a wealth of great listening even for those who ignore all of the jazz funk that made Hancock a popular crossover artist. “He was great in duet” with Chick Corea and great in a quartet that ushered trumpeter Wynton Marsalis into Columbia Records’ fold. And some of his extraordinary work was recorded live when he led a 1970s post-bop outfit known as V.S.O.P. What makes the set essential for jazz listeners is the inclusion of eight Columbia albums that previously had only been released in Japan, said John Kelman in These recordings “cover significant musical turf,” making clear that “Hancock has really never been solely a jazz musician; he’s been a musician, period.” ($180)

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.