We know, we know — the holidays snuck up on you this year (once again), and now you’re scrambling to find the perfect gift (once again) for that special someone in your life who’s a tried-and-true music lover. But with time running out on the holiday shopping clock, what can you do to satisfy those discerning NJ music fans on your list?
Well, we here at Best of NJ feel your pain — and we’re here to help. Here are a half-dozen-plus NJ music-related gift ideas you can still order and obtain in time to arrive for whichever holiday you and your loved ones celebrate. Rock on!
The Boss, In His Own Words
Most of you know about — and may have already read — Bruce Springsteen’s riveting autobiography, Born to Run. But you may not be aware that the companion audiobook came out just last week and it’s a must-get, especially since it’s read entirely by The Boss himself, spanning 16 CDs with a running time of 20 hours. Bruce’s natural flair for storytelling adds additional weight and deeper inflection to the story, especially when he reaches the chapters about living with his grandparents while growing up in Freehold, his being an “inept” altar boy, and his heretofore never discussed bouts with depression as he entered his 60s.
And if you want another fine Born to Run companion, the 18-track Chapter and Verse album, which was compiled by Bruce and is available on CD, vinyl and digital download, is the perfect kick-starter for Boss neophytes (if there are any left out there, that is). It’s also a worthwhile get for longtime fans since it includes five unreleased songs, three of them from a pair of his pre-E Street bands, The Castiles and Steel Mill.
E Street Offshooters
Considering the world-beating marathon-length live shows Bruce and the boys laid down in 2016, it’s a wonder members of the E Street Band had the time or even the energy to do anything else this past year, let alone work on solo projects. Two of them are worth seeking out as NJ music gifts.
First, Bruce’s longtime bass player, Garry Tallent — an ace producer in his own right for artists like Steve Forbert and Jim Lauderdale — released his first-ever solo album, Break Time. It’s not what you’d expect, as Break Time is a record full of acoustic-driven songs with more than a few touches of Nashville-inspired alt-country — not all that surprising, actually, since that’s where Tallent has long resided since departing the Garden State. Clearly, the man has, well, many other talents of his own.
Then there’s Jake Clemons, the younger cousin of the late Clarence Clemons, who became the band’s saxophone player after the Big Man passed away in 2011. Jake just put the finishing touches on a heartfelt solo album, Fear & Love, which will be out on January 13. “This is as exposed as I’ve ever been as an artist,” Clemons told me on Friday, and it’s as honest an album as you’ll hear from any singer/songwriter out there today.
Fear & Love is available for pre-order now, and you can preview the lead track, “A Little Bit Sweet,” right now. If you preorder it directly from Vintage Vinyl in Fords, you’ll have a nice stocking stuffer in hand — and you’ll get a wristband that enables your gift givee to attend Jake’s in-store acoustic performance and signing there on January 14.
More info: Garry Tallent’s Break Time is available on Amazon, and Jake Clemon’s Fear & Love releases January 13, 2017.
Southside’s Got The New Year’s Fever
If New Years Eve is around the corner, then Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes must be playing somewhere nearby — and they will indeed be ringing in 2017 exactly right at the historical Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank on December 31 with a set full of acknowledged classics like “The Fever,” “I Don’t Want to Go Home,” and “Hearts of Stone.” Tickets to this NJ music show are another perfect stocking stuffer. (Click here to get ’em.)
More info: Tickets are available here, with a price range from $39 to $99.
New Jersey’s Other Favorite Son
Not only did Jon Bon Jovi and his band release a fine new album, This House Is Not for Sale, in 2016 (with a supporting world tour to follow next year), but they were also feted in a new in-depth biography, Bon Jovi: The Story, by veteran music insider Bryan Reesman. Reesman conducted over 40 interviews for this 208-page hardcover book to tell the full saga of the band; beyond the better-known arcs of Jon and guitarist Richie Sambora, who’s no longer in the band. In this case, The Story is good medicine, and that’s what you need.
More info: Bon Jovi: The Story is available on Amazon.
Meet The Weeklings
Who loves The Beatles more than The Weeklings, New Jersey’s veteran homegrown moptop fanatics? Earlier this year, The Weeklings traveled across the Pond to cut their second album, aptly titled Studio 2; the did so in Abbey Road Studios in London, the place where The Fab Four recorded many of their hits.
“The Weeklings is a lot of fun for me. It got me back into writing songs again,” bassist/vocalist Glen Burtnik (a.k.a. “Lefty”) admitted to me when we sat down in Asbury Park together last year. Burtnik has one amazing songwriting pedigree, BTW; he co-wrote “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough,” Patty Smyth’s 1992 chart-topping hit duet with Don Henley. Eight originals coupled with four rare Beatles tracks shows that, with Studio 2, The Weeklings really made the grade.
More info: Studio 2 is available here.
Ol’ Blue Eyes Does It Centennial Style
Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday stretches into one more year with the World on a String box set; which houses four CDs and one DVD. String consists of more than 90 live recordings from 1953 to 1982 that were recorded all across the globe; in fact, 34 of them are on the DVD, and many of them never before released. With stunning performances of “Come Fly With Me,” “Moonlight in Vermont” and “My Kind of Town,” you can’t go wrong.
More info: The World on a String box set is available here.
There, that should help you with those last-minute holiday shopping blues, yeah? So why are you still sitting there reading this? Open a new window on your home screen, and get down to shopping for some NJ music gifts, STAT. Happy holiday hunting!