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Give boxes of boxed sets this holiday season

By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor Looking for holiday gift ideas? This week's DVD review column has two boxed sets that might be of interest to you. Rock 'n' Roll Hal of Fame Live This nine-disc set collects well over 100 performances by rock's greatest luminaries at the annual induction ceremonies of the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame over the past 25 years. While there are some great performances, there are also some disappointing ones as well as some featuring artists who are past their prime. One could make the argument that a museum to honor rock musicians is a sort of contradiction since such a process makes formal an element of popular culture that thrives on the informal and rebellion. That same contradiction is transferred to the induction ceremonies, which are treated by some in a sincere manner the two surviving members of Queen bringing the mother of the late Freddie Mercury up on stage to receive his award and others in a haphazard fashion such as Rod Stewart dropping the F-bomb while making the induction speech for Percy Sledge. Each disc clusters various artists and performances with a general theme. One disc presents soul performers such as Isaac Hayes, Parliament Funkadelic, Wilson Pickett, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the O-Jays together. Another brings together early rockers such as Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Etta James. Other discs have themes so loose they don't seem to be themes at all. This lack of organization is a tad irritating. With nine discs, one would like an easy way to find favorite songs or artists. One would also think that all of the people inducted in the Hall of Fame would be represented somehow on these discs each over two hours in length with several boasting of a three-hour running time. That's not the case. For example, the group I've loved since about 1966, The Ventures the biggest-selling instrumental group in rock history is nowhere to be found. And I did look! Some of the performances are hampered by the technical limitations at the induction ceremony. They just don't sound very good. "Won't Get Fooled Again" by the Who is an example. The rendition barely reproduces the original. Others sound great, such as "Say You Love Me" by Fleetwood Mac. Although the set is a mixed bag, it's still fairly impressive and a gift most rock fans would certainly appreciate. Agatha Christie: Poirot & Marple This nine-disc set from A&E Home Video is a classic mystery lover's dream. It contains 21 feature-length adaptations of Christie's beloved stories featuring the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot as well as her amateur detective Miss Jane Marple. Originally shot for British television, the films were seen widely on American television as well. Now they've been collected in a set that is slim on extras. Considering that many times extras are not so extra, this is not necessarily a criticism. All of these films have been filmed with a lush level of production and a reverence to the source material. There are 12 Poirot mysteries, all starring the British actor David Suchet, who has become the most identified with the role. This year, the British television network ITV announced Suchet would return to the role with the planned production of four more Poirot adaptations. The Miss Marple films starred the late Joan Hickson, whom Christie once said she hoped would one day play the role of Marple. There are nine of the 12 Miss Marple mysteries in this collection. If you're tired of the blood-soaked forensics that dominate today's television mysteries, these old school productions with clever plots that keep you involved just might be what you need.

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