With Christmas around the corner, it’s boxed-set season, and what over-35 -year-old wouldn’t be thrilled to unwrap “The Monterey International Pop Festival,” a collection of the first and, some say, the best, of the rock era’s gatherings. It’s now available as a beautifully packaged four compact disc/four cassette retrospective on Rhino Records.

Sadly, no vinyl is available; Rhino has stopped pressing in that configuration.

The Festival, staged at the Monterey County Fairgrounds on the weekend of June 16-18 while the 1967 Summer of Love was in full bloom, captured the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Miller and Jefferson Airplane on the cusp of international stardom. In the case of Joplin, Miller and Quicksilver Messenger Service, the gig won them their recording contracts.

“It took over three years of hard work to make it happen,” says set co-producer Stephen K. Peeples, who teamed on the collection with Rhino art director Geoff Gans and executive producer Lou Adler, one of the original festival co-promoters. “With all of the licensing problems … it’s a wonder it happened at all.”

Peeples said all of the acts involved in the original festival had been asked to participate, but quite a few declined.

The original festival was staged as a charity event, and proceeds from the boxed set (as has all Monterey-connected product) will be given to the Monterey International Foundation, which donates to such charities as the Los Angeles Free Clinic, the R&B Foundation, and KCET. Rhino will be taking a low overhead fee to cover expenses, according to Peeples.

Eric Burdon’s “Monterey” commemorated the event as “three days of understanding,” and that’s the gist of the set’s magnificent color booklet, written by Peeples.

The sound is a little strange for a lot of the tracks on this collection, which may explain why so many of these performances have taken so long to see the light of day. Sets by Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix have already been marketed.

But considering that current “live” albums are often re-recorded in the studio, these performances are totally real. The collection, which carries a suggested retail of $ 54.98 for CD and $ 39.95 for cassettes, is a must for archivists and collectors.

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