Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
First impressions count, so if the box set design, like the outtakes album, was initially guitarist Mick Harvey's idea then hats off to him.
The three discs in this collector's wet dream are housed in separate cardboard sleeves, which in turn are nestled in a handsome, black cardboard box. Little touches like this immediately make listening to B-Sides a special experience; opening a little box gift-style, slipping the discs out of their sleeves like mini-records...
And when the first strains of the set are acoustic versions of "Deanna" (could anyone resist joining the chorus on "Dee-aye-an-naaaa"?) and the hugely popular electric chair poem "The Mercy Seat", you know you've entered a different realm.
The collection favours low-key, dry instrument arrangements, with few effect or distortion-layered ventures. Spanning 21 years of recordings, the compilation includes outtakes, acoustic versions, deleted b-sides, soundtrack one-offs and unreleased material produced since From Her to Eternity (1984). This is a comprehensive, if very niche-market, tour de force.
There are several highlights: a fine and appropriately dark take on "What a Wonderful World" with Shane McGowan of The Pogues, an early version of what was later a duet with Kylie, on which guitarist Blixa Bargeld (Einsturzende Neubauten) provides a guide track. (A guide track is also called a "ghost" track, and provides something for the singer - Kylie in this case - to sing along to. It doesn't appear on the final recording.) You also get an almost 20 minute long version of the four part epic murder ballad "O' Malley's Bar", an ad lib, hysterical "That's What Jazz is to Me", and the ever popular film version of "Red Right Hand".
My vote would go to the second volume as the most generally satisfying, but by no means is the rest pale. A triple-volume of B-Sides and oddities from the vast Bad Seeds catalogue could never be a bad thing.
It helps if you're a follower of the band's work, of course. And I imagine that unless you are at least familiar with The Bad Seeds, you wouldn't really be impressed with their southern-gospel riling, bourbon-bottle-wisdom-spouting, mass-killer-mayhem Romance. That said, this collection is undoubtedly one of the finest of the year so far.
- Anton Marshall, rating it * * * * *
A SECOND OPINION
B-Sides and Outtakes is a fascinating collection of recordings that provides an insight into the creative process and less commercial workings of a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, a band that managed to be trendy, alternative, controversial, PC, goth, punk, funny and popular, all at the same time.
Nick Cave's spooky preoccupation with femicide hasn't prevented him reaching a mass market. If anything this become a bizarre selling point for him... well, this and his strong song writing. His music is as catchy as it's psychotic. His lyrics are as tender as they are sick.
He's the weirdo who somehow made it onto MTV, partly though clever collaborative tactics like duetting with Kylie Minogue. He's the woman-killer who you'll find in the music collections of feminists.
But B-Sides and Outtakes is not for everyone. In fact, it shows how obscure Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds would have been if it weren't for their strong sense of what could make even a songs about murder wildly popular.
Although the collection (particularly CD 2) has its accessible moments, it's not the first Bad Seeds album you want to own. You need to be familiar with their back catalogue to find these versions of the songs fascinating.
So this collection is really for confirmed Bad Seeds fans - completists who must have everything they can get their hands on. If that's you, you can't do better. B-Sides and Rarities Vols I, II and III fits perfectly on the bookshelf, next to your copy of the John Hillcoat's The Road to God Knows Where (1990), a black and white cinema verite-style documentary about a Bad Seeds tour that shows, in painstaking detail, just how boring it can be to be in a world famous rock 'n roll band.
- Jean Barker, rating it * * * * NOTE: Only selected tracks are listed, and you can click the track names to hear a 30 second sample of the song. For a full track listing and more detail about this CD, go here
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