TOP PICK – CD
Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia
Before she became the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin recorded seven albums for Columbia. This 12-disc box gathers them plus various singles, outtakes, and mixes. (There's also a DVD featuring a 1964 TV appearance.) Aretha was occasionally saddled with sappy songs and arrangements, but that big voice of hers often breaks through, hinting at the legend to come.
The 1920s-era mobster has been portrayed many times onscreen, but this 1975 movie starring Ben Gazzara is one of the most fun. Produced by Roger Corman, this colorful biopic loads up on bullets and blood, keeping the focus where it belongs: on gangland massacres. Look for Sylvester Stallone as rival wiseguy Frank Nitti, a year before his breakthrough role in Rocky.
Neil Diamond The Bang Years 1966-1968
Neil Diamond didn't earn his recent Rock and Roll of Fame induction with cheesy hits like "Song Sung Blue" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." He's in the Rock Hall because of the songs he wrote more than 40 years ago. This 23-song compilation collects early cuts like "Kentucky Woman," "Cherry, Cherry," and "I'm a Believer," which the Monkees took to No. 1.
Galaxina/The Crater Lake Monster
This new Blu-ray double feature pairs two cult movies from the late '70s/early '80s. The Crater Lake Monster (from 1977) is about a flippered critter that fall from the sky; 1980's sci-fi parody Galaxina stars Playmate Dorothy Stratten, who was killed by her estranged husband not long after the movie wrapped. Her biopic is a better film, but not nearly as much fun.
Nick Lowe: Labour of Lust
Lowe's 1979 album has been out of print for almost 20 years. Shocking, seeing that it's a great companion to other British pop-rock records from the era by Elvis Costello (whom Lowe produced) and Dave Edmunds (a bandmate). "Cruel to Be Kind" is the song everyone knows, but the rest of the album is just as good. This reissue adds a U.K.-only cut and a B-side.