From a later edition of News, Views and Music: "Made In California" (Beach Boys Box Set, 2013)
The Beach Boys already made one of the very best AAA markets with their superb '30 Years Of Good Vibrations' set in 1993. Twenty years on, their best bet should have been simply to re-issue that set (perhaps with a CD of extras attached), but this time around the band seem to be adamant that this set is going to be as different as it can be. As a result, a new selection of tracks from the Beach Boys' back archives are included, featuring several great choices not part of the 'old' set ('Lonely Sea' 'Busy Doin' Nothin' 'Baby Blue' 'Solar System' and 'Angel Come Home', classics all) but there's nothing here to rival the hits (which were included pretty much complete before and are only here in part) or the excitement of getting half an hour of unheard buts from 'Smile'. The 'new' material is a bit of an odd bunch too, most of which is kept for the 'bonus' sixth CD but strangely not featured in chronological order (so the set actually ends with 'Wendy', one of Brian Wilson's earliest songs). 'Goin' To The Beach' and 'It's a Mystery' are lost classics fully deserving of release and many of the demos heard here for the first time are fascinating too. But why didn't the band go the whole hog and include all the Beach Boys rarities out there and do the thing properly ('We Got Love' is still unavailable on CD after being unceremoniously booted off 'Holland' at the last minute and there's nothing from the unreleased 1977 Christmas album or the aborted get-togethers in the late 1970s and 1980s). The packaging too isn't quite as special as on 'Good Vibrations', even if it does include a nice Brian Wilson essay that's less scatterbrained than his album re-issue essays. Overall, our advice is if you own all the Beach Boys CDs already then you won't miss this - but if you loved the first box set and don't know anything else then this would make a fine companion set. Oh and the new music - from recording in 2012 - is horrible and doesn't deserve the same house space as the band's old classics.
From two later editions of News, Views and Music:) "Timeless Flight" (Moody Blues Box Set, 2013)
(Review One) The Moody Blues “Timeless Flight” (Box Set, 2013)
It wasn’t all that long ago that you could buy a house for the kind of money this box set is selling for – and the jury’s still out as to whether or not I’d rather have a house or just this box to keep me warm at nights. First up, the good news. If you’re new to the Moodies (but know enough about them to want to get into them feet first) then this is a great way of finding out about them. In fact, there’s not very much at all this 17 CD/DVD set is missing (although, personally, I’d have liked to have gone the whole hog and added in what’s missing on another two or three bonus CDs and made this set ‘complete’). As ever with the Moodies the packaging is excellent (especially the ‘bonus’ cassette with early copies of this set, which is a replica of the ‘greatest hits/Days Of Future Passed’ home-made copy taken up into space by Apollo astronauts in 1972) and the hard-back book finally makes good on the stingy amount of literature we Moodies fans have been given to read over the years (somebody write a book on this band – it’s long overdue!) But – and it’s a big but – if you own even a few of the already pretty pricey CD re-issues from five or so years back then you really don’t need to bother. The wealth of bonus tracks dug out from the archives (even though a lot simply turned out to be full edits of songs segued on albums in the 1960s and 70s) was impressive, but all that’s been dug out of the archives now are a sweet but ropey Blue Jays gig from 1976 and a pretty awful 1980s set by the band at their synthesiser peak. The DVDs are better, rounding up most of the rare TV appearances and promos from around the world, but even this should be better and more complete (why no ‘Legend Of A Band’, for instance, the increasingly rare interview video from 1986?) Whilst given that the Moodies cared more for their sound and technology than most, is it also really necessary to feature ‘extra’ DVD audios of CDs already included separately in the same box set? And do we really need a ‘Timeless Flight fabric patch’ to complete the set? (Admittedly this set will cost the shirt off your back, but will it really wear out your trousers as well?) Yet again, as with their last CD re-issues, the Moodies come close to getting it right, but include either way too much or not quite enough to make this the ‘complete’ experience it should be. And frankly charging £160 for perhaps three hours of live audio and a few interesting clips during the time of a credit crunch is insulting to fans who’ve followed this band through thick and thin – and paid for this stuff several times over (some AAA bands don’t treat their bands very well, but the Moodies have nearly always been very giving to their fans over the years). Make this set a hundred pounds cheaper and add in the missing 1980s, 90s and 00s songs (some of them, like ‘Keys To The Kingdom’, pretty rare these days) and this old fan would have been very happy; sadly in its current state this is a rip-off with interesting bits.
(Review Two) I write this review just after the news has broken that this expensive box set has just won a 're-issue of the year' award at some big music do. All I can say is - the judges got their copy for free or are millionaires because this surely is another case of the Moodies abusing the patience of fans after 30 years of being one of the most caring bands on the planet. The set retails for nearly £200 and while it would be the perfect way of getting hold of a complete set of Moody Blues albums if you didn't know any, surely the newcomer fan isn't going to be interested in a bunch of pretty gormless live recordings exclusive to this set. As for longterm fans, yes the new concert from the Blue Jays at the Royal Albert Hall is a great show that surprisingly escaped the bootlegger's clutches (featuring an especially gorgeous 'Who Are You Now?' and the best live version of 'Question' yet) and the 1983 shows promoting 'The Present' are quite interesting (we've not had the chance to hear many songs from that under-rated album done live before - and they sound pretty good!) But these are collection-filler curios at best and the talk of 'rare' outtakes and BBC radio sessions heard before the set come out turn out to be simply the (admittedly generally excellent) bonus tracks from the set of deluxe re-issues of Moody albums that came out a mere five years ago (and cost a fortune to buy at the time). I also resent the fact that the Moodies put out two separate versions of most of the albums in both CD and super CD format: surely whichever format you own you're only going to need one or the other - and I can't say I noticed any life-0changing improvement in the sound on the better equipment anyway. What a shame, what a waste, what a slap in the face for fans. The best thing about this set was the limited edition 'cassette' that came with it, replicating the copies of the Moodies' 'Greatest Hits' and 'Seventh Sojourn' taken up into space by the astronauts of apollo 15 - although sadly that was only available as a 'limited edition' and made the box set cost even more! Hmm, two expensive box sets now and the band still haven't got things right yet...
From a later edition of News, Views and Music: "Grrrrr!" (Rolling Stones compilation, 2013)
Grrrr indeed! The Rolling Stones finally get round to doing the sensible thing and putting all of their hits (and a couple of choice album cuts) into a three CD set for their 50th birthday - less than a decade after most of us bought the comparatively shoddy '40 Licks'. While this set still doesn't match the brilliant As and B sides comp 'The London Collection', it is one of the better compilations on the market, giving the casual fan everything they probably expect to find on CD - and full marks both for putting them in strict chronological order this time and for finally giving room to both 'We Love You' and 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?' (possibly the two greatest Stones singles of the 60s, obscure as both of them are). As for the two new songs 'Doom and Gloom' and 'One More Shot' they continue the good work of last Stones album 'A Bigger Bang' without coming close to matching anything released on this set from before 1979. But why oh why did it take 50 years (or 25 years since the coming of the CD if you prefer) to get this set right? And why oh why oh goodness why is there a cover of an inane grinning ape with teeth on the cover instead of a picture of the band?!? Grrrr!
From a later edition of News, Views and Music: "Tenology" (10cc Box Set, 2012)
10cc always get over-looked and their box set was long overdue after so many years of the same tired old tracks doing the rounds. As one of Hipgnosis' last commissions before the death of founder Storm Thorgerson, this set looks every bit as scrumptious as the band deserves and the special 'free' postcards that come with the set are a lot more 'special' than the coasters given away with Punk Floyd sets. The set also sensibly divides the band's career into 'singles' (both hit and flop), comparatively rare 'B sides' and a disc of 'album tracks', giving a much broader sense of what 10cc were than any other set to date. The album tracks feature a pretty spot-on selection of the 'Godley and Creme' years, while the pair of 'singles' CDs feature several songs available on CD for the first time (including the delightful 'Runaway' and the superb '24 Hours' which may well be my favourite 10cc song of all. However, the B-sides are a pretty sorry bunch (none of them are as rare as the box makes out either, as they've all been bonus tracks on one 10cc CD re-issue or another) and the set is terrible at even acknowledging 10cc's career post Godley and Creme. As far as I'm concerned the trio of albums 10cc made later ('Bloody Tourists' 'Ten Out Of Ten' and 'Windows In The Jungle') are the best the band ever made and the not-that-exciting liner notes add insult to injury by claiming the band should have given up in 1976, sticking the rest of 10cc's career into a single sentence (what about Eric Stewart's life-changing car-crash or even a mention of 10cc's biggest hit 'Dreadlock Holiday'?) A bit of a curate's egg of a box set this: parts of it are spot-on, others get things completely wrong; as it is this is an expensive way of getting a handful of rare songs and some gorgeous packaging when, surely, there will be a definitive box set dedicated to this most worthy of bands some day?