By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
By Julie Seabaugh
By Julie Seabaugh
Various Artists, The Hip-Hop Box
The skinny: Get your old-school fix anytime you want with this four-CD set that spans the history of hip-hop from Kurtis, Afrika and the Sugarhill Gang right up to Fiddy and the Roots.
Drawbacks: Way too much focus on the East Coast, even if LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, the Beastie Boys, Slick Rick and Jay-Z were left off, no doubt for some legal reason or other. Also, there's an error of inclusion -- MC Hammer's "Turn This Mutha Out." There are hundreds of better choices.
Advantages: A pretty decent rundown of a portion of the genre's history.
Corny verdict: Even if there's relatively little from south or west of "Tennessee," this "Rapper's Delight" can still "Fight the Power" with its "Body Rock" and put plenty of "Flava in Your Ear."
Various Artists, Get Down Tonight: The Disco Explosion
The skinny: A three-disc set that has a pretty broad definition of disco. The Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" always seemed more like funk, while Bananarama's "Venus" struck us as pop/new wave. Between those extremes, though, the mainstream of the genre is well represented by the likes of "Y.M.C.A," "Get Down Tonight," "Fly Robin Fly" and "The Hustle."
Drawbacks: A disco box with no Bee Gees? You must be jivin'.
Advantages: With the exception of the Bee Gees, this is all the disco you'll ever need, packed into one slim volume.
Corny verdict: A great set to spin long "After Dark" on one of those "Boogie Nights" to keep the "Boogie Fever" high among those of the "Super Freak," "Dancing Queen" and "Disco Lady" persuasions.
Bon Jovi, 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong
The skinny: Oh, yes, they can. They can, and they are.
Drawbacks: Its very existence.
Advantages: Surely there's some ne'er-do-well on your Christmas list who deserves this musical lump of coal.
Corny verdict: "You Give Love a Bad Name" when you give someone this box for Xmas. -- John Nova Lomax