If there's a music lover in your life you really care about, you'll buy her an iPod this Christmas. But if your love doesn't carry a $500 price tag, you can go retro with the recent slew of re-releases.
For audiophiles with stereos to match their passion, 5.1 mixes (which utilize the surround sound made popular by DVDs) are the new standard. This format is best suited for music with a grand scope, so it's no surprise that the Who's Tommy is now available in swirling sound. While not the Mod Quad's best album (or even their best rock opera), Tommy can fill five speakers as well as it can fill two with its tale of a fellow who can clean up at the Special Olympics pinball tournament.
Even though the album is barely two years old, The Flaming Lips have gotten a lot of mileage out of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, including their own 5.1 mix of the instant classic. You have to be a pretty dedicated fan to buy a new mix of a relatively new album, but it makes a pretty good gift.
If you know a Frank Zappa nut (there are still a few left), the new 5.1 mix of the film Baby Snakes is a slam-dunk gift. Zappa's music is incalculably better than his films, but luckily there are some fantastic live performances in the movie, made better by the 5.1 sound (Zappa was a quadraphonic fan, making the mixes easy).
If you're shopping for someone with a more modest number of speakers, there are other gimmicks powering the reissue craze. The Beatles' Let It Be...Naked got lots of attention this year for stripping the Phil Spector atmosphere from the final Fab Four album, but for the most part, the difference is negligible, and Naked will soon pass into the dustbin of history. However, if you need a gift for the type of person who read the previous sentence and said, "Really, Abbey Road was the last album the Beatles recorded, Let It Be was just released later," you'd better go get Naked for her.
For some reason, the Ozark Mountain Daredevils didn't get their best album, 1974's It'll Shine When It Shines, released on CD until this year. Missouri natives best known for Shine's blue-eyed soul hit "Jackie Blue," the Daredevils still have plenty of fans who'd love a non-vinyl copy of the album.
On the other side of the spectrum, My Bloody Valentine fans will want to get their hands on the new vinyl reissue of the shoe-gazer classic Loveless. Besides having a warm, overpowering sound that works well on vinyl, Loveless has a cover that looks like the music sounds, the kind of album art that deserves more than a tiny picture on a jewelbox. It recalls a time when the "thing" of an album was as important as the music on the album. And the importance of things is what Christmas is all about.