Sunday, July 24, 2011

CD Casualty - Buying My Music by the Pound

Ever since I blew two entire (high school) paychecks on David Bowie's Sound + Vision, I have been in love with the box set. The Bowie set was a great introduction to the concept as it provided a music fan with a very limited income a road map with which to plan the purchases of the then-unprecedented massive CD reissue of an artist's backcatalogue. I have purchased many more sets since then, some great and ten times as many mediocre - and a few downright terrible.  For me, successful sets can come in three different varieties: a one-stop shop for an artist's entire catalogue, a massive collection of otherwise-unavailable rarities or, like Sound + Vision, a mix of the two that successfully serves both the new listener and the veteran fan looking to cap off the collection. Favorites from each of these categories include:

Nine Lives - Robert Plant - 2006
Nine Lives (Box Set)Robert Plant's quarter-century-spanning Nine Lives is a stellar one-stop for anyone interested in his solo output (and anyone who digs Led Zeppelin should be, even if his style frequently diverges drastically). Containing all nine of his solo records, it presents each on a separate disc with generous period-specific bonus tracks and superb remastered sound. An additional DVD adds all of his music videos, live footage and a thorough interview-laced career retrospective. Packaged in a compact hardback format, the accompanying booklet adds additional essay and autobiographical material along with plenty of photographs and all of the session and chart information you would hope to find for every record.

There's little negative to say about Nine Lives. No, it doesn't contain the Page/Plant records, nor Raising Sand. And Band of Joy has come out since. But as a foundation for an essential block of fascinating music, it's just about perfect.

Backtracks - AC/DC - 2009
Backtracks (2CD+DVD)A generous rarities-only set, AC/DC's Backtracks serves as a sequel of sorts to Bonfire and gives us an entire disc of remastered rare tracks that were previously only available on the Australian LPs,  soundtracks, singles and other sources outside of the traditional U.S. releases. A second disc adds live b-sides from '77-'91 and a DVD disc provides a sequel to the standalone video collection 2-DVD set, Family Jewels, picking up with videos since 1991 and going through Black Ice - and also adding alternate versions of videos that did not appear on the original Family Jewels.

A deluxe edition of the set was an actual working one-watt amplifier and added a second CD of rarities and a live DVD from the Circus Krone from 2003. AC/DC knows exactly what their fans need, trim the fat and always provide a fully-loaded, quality collection with sets like this.

Warchest - Megadeth - 2007
WarchestA five-disc career retrospective, Megadeth's handsome Warchest gave a nice overview of their catalogue highlights and also added over a dozen unreleased and rare, hard-to-find non-album tracks, all in chronological order, across its first three discs. The fourth CD provides a previously unreleased 1990 live show from Wembley Stadium in its entirety. The fifth disc, a DVD, gives another live show, a Hammersmith Odeon date from 1992.

While a longtime fan may take pause based on the number of tracks they undoubtedly already own, I didn't hesitate. Warchest is a great workday listen as I can take one set along and work through an incredible highlight reel through the day with some surprises that you just don't get from the tried and true albums.

Honorable mention is also due to the Misfits' Box Set from 1996 which almost manages to collect everything plus a ton of rarities (the exclusion of catalogue cornerstone Walk Among Us due to distribution rights issues was a damn shame). Even those who own all the albums should purchase simply for the great booklet featuring liner notes by Eerie Von. The fact tat it comes in a red velvet-lined coffin makes it irresistible. I'd recommend keeping your single CDs, though, as the set cuts up some of the Collection tracks, placing them among certain sessions, et cetera and any hardcore fan may feel disrupted by the change in flow.

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