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Gizmo Guy: Dazzling CDs, DVDs

Want to tickle an entertain- ment lover's senses? We've found some high-quality and cool software to give this season, intriguing from a tech and pleasure perspective.

"Weather Report: The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981" captures band's greatness.
"Weather Report: The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981" captures band's greatness.Read more

Want to tickle an entertain-

ment lover's senses?

We've found some high-quality and cool software to give this season, intriguing from a tech and pleasure perspective.

DIY entertainment. "Make your own bear" is a cute idea.

But even more special, and techy, is a "one-off" printed book that features your small child's name and/or location. The gasp-worthy The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name packs a plot-building twist for every letter in the subject's name, while The Incredible Intergalactic Journey ends with a picture of your child's front door. $29.99 at

Burned-to-order video disc rarities from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection (at also say "this one's for you . . . and only you."

You could snag the star-studded 1957 Sigmund Romberg musical biography Deep in My Heart or director Michael Curtiz's Nazi-fighting follow-up to Casablanca called Passage to Marseille - a 1944 release that rounded up such usual suspects as Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet.

The disc doctor is in. A book could be writ just about the sleuthing and restoration work done for Frank Sinatra's A Voice on Air (1935-1955) (Sony/Legacy), four CDs and book, $58.99 list. Previous CD issues of his radio recordings sounded as dull as dishwater.

But for Frank's centennial, the gang dug up "first edition" 16-inch, cut-on-metal radio transcription masters, then meticulously corrected the music for pitch, pops, and off-center pressings. Also, each disc "was carefully auditioned using a variety of custom-made styli to determine which one fit the precise size and shape of the groove," producer Charles Granata gushed. Part of his sonic arsenal was a 1958 vintage MacIntosh C8S tube amp.

Bottom line: These young-at-heart Sinatra performances sound like spring has sprung.

Sony/Legacy also has put on a full-court press for the newly upgraded The Complete Concert by the Sea ($13-$20) by the distinctively rollicking jazz pianist Erroll Garner. While captured roughly for Armed Forces Radio, the show was so strong that Garner's manager took the tapes to his label, and a super seller resulted. The new three-CD edition adds 10 songs and sounds far better, having gone through the Plangent Processor, which does a great job of correcting for tape-transport issues like "wow and flutter."

We're also sensing some tech tweaking on two other new Legacy boxes. Miles Davis at Newport - 1955-1975 ($30) upgrades some spartan recordings made for Voice of America shortwave broadcasts. And while listeners probably won't sense it, several bootleg audience recordings have been deployed on the four-CD set Weather Report - The Legendary Live Tapes: 1978-1981 ($45). It still does justice to the world's greatest jazz/fusion band ever - and we're not just saying that because bassist supremo Jaco Pastorius hailed from Norristown.

As keeper of the keys of the Beatles catalog originally shepherded by his dad (George Martin), Giles Martin first dared to slice and dice their treasured tunes for the Cirque Du Soleil "Love" show and a refreshed A Hard Day's Night.

Now for The Beatles, 1+ CD/DVD set ($35-$50), he's worked up fresh 5.1 channel sound mixes for the nearly 50 music videos the group created back in the day, plus a couple more newly created "performances" such as an "Eight Days a Week" reworking footage from their Shea Stadium show.

How do you extract surround sound from early recordings that were essentially monaural? Martin just played 'em back in a studio and captured room-ambiance reverberation for the rear channels/speakers. Headier stuff cut on eight track - such as "A Day in the Life" - offered more to play with. Personal faves include "All You Need Is Love" from the first-ever global satellite broadcast and "I Feel Fine," wherein our hungry fellas gobble fish and chips, and don't even pretend to lip-synch!

We've enjoyed a decent bunch of long-form Grateful Dead concert video releases through the decades. Most were marketing afterthoughts, board recordings of the closed-circuit video that had played in the arena.

For their last hurrah in Chicago this past summer, the guys went all out with a multi-camera high-definition shoot (even engaging a blimp cam). Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead (Rhino/, $30-$60, captures the final 7/5/15 stand.

It wasn't a great vocal night for Dead survivors Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, though the instrumental interplay is solid and the visual/audio work stunning in Blu-ray form.

Holiday music. Only a couple of new holiday albums - boasting excellent engineering as well as innovative arrangements - have garnered replays at Gizmo Guy's house. Get happy with Big Band Holidays (Blue Engine Records), $13.50 (CD), $17 (vinyl) as Wynton Marsalis strikes up the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in concert with super vocal assists from Cecile McLorin Salvant, Gregory Porter, and Rene Marie. And come back for seconds with Creole Christmas (Culture Shock Music), $14.99, a New Orleans holiday gumbo seasoned to perfection by Etienne Charles and friends. Even makes room for calypso (David Rudder's jovial "Tell Santa Claus").

More video treats. Recent blockbusters that show off the glories of a big-screen high-definition TV with 3-D capability (if buying the compatible 3-D Blu-ray edition) and a super surround system are also looming large on our gifting list.

Almost every shot in Ant Man (Marvel) celebrates smart stereoscopic camera plotting. And the flick is great fun for your whole clan; think Marvel superheroes mashed up with Toy Story.

The racing/crashing becomes monotonous, but the steam punk art direction and blowing up good (in every direction) Dolby Atmos sound processing make Max Max: Fury Road 3D (Warner Bros) another terrific showpiece for your home theater rig.

Also worthy: Jurassic World (Universal), the disjointed but distracting Terminator Genisys (3-D, Paramount) and surprisingly deep animated feature Inside Out (Disney/Pixar), each about $30.

215-854-5960 @JTakiff