Absolutely ESSENTIAL (even with important omissions)
Charles A. Miller | Baltimore, Maryland U.S.A. | 12/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is no way this set could receive anything less than 5 stars, if nothing else, because the material is as good and as important as it is. That said, there are some significant omissions. This is not the fault of the band members, but rather that of the record label. In fact, John Lydon and Martin Atkins both stated their desire to have more in the way of rare material contained on this 4-CD boxed set; however, and as is usually the case, the record company had the final say.
The first giant ommission is the album Commercial Zone (the last studio album to feature Keith Levene, but never officially released). Unfortunately, its inclusion was never a possibility. Besides the bad blood that exists between the band members, there are licensing issues involved that will keep this title forever in unofficial bootleg or download world. It does appear (along with outtakes) on a long out-of-print Japanese issue: Never Mind the Public Image. Amazon lists it as "currently unavailable" but you might have some luck if you Google the title and find a Japanese site that still has it available (or try an international seller from that world-famous auction site).
The remaining tracks from the vaults that could have appeared, but didn't, are another matter. These include:
- 7" version of Memories, which is completely different from the album version
- Albatross (complete Monitor Mix), Death Disco (complete Monitor Mix) and Albatross (the Melodrama Mix); all available as bonus tracks on John Lydon's PAL-format DVD
- Flowers of Romance (instrumental version from 12" single)
- Vampire (a famous outtake from the Flowers of Romance album)
- Rise (instrumental B-side from Single)
- Religion '87 & The Suit '87 (tracks from the unrealized Renovations project, which is just as well... these attempts to reinvent previous versions featuring Keith Levene and Jah Wobble were not very sucessful)
- various Happy and Warrior 12" remixes
- Live At The Ritz (a full live album and once intended for release)
Of note is the fact that along with Commercial Zone, the Japanese set, Never Mind the Public Image, also contains all 5 tracks from the first 3 bullet points of the previous paragraph.
Despite missing much, it has plenty, to include outtakes, unreleased one-off tracks, two Peel Sessions and various remixes. This is a reissue of a long out-of-print set, which up until now has commanded very high prices for new and used copies. That alone says a lot about this set's value. Previously, much of its contents were never available before on CD.
Despite some overlap with official albums still available, this set is certainly worth it for completists due to the sheer volume of unique tracks and very low price, and it is the best possible introduction to the music of Public Image Limited for newcomers. Very highly recommended."
A lot of really good music, but doesn't solve all of the pro
Jeffrey Yutzler | Alexandria, VA USA | 02/18/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Plastic Box was first released over a decade ago, I jumped on it thinking it would be a suitable replacement for all of my PIL cassettes. Well, not exactly.
What is it?
* Almost every track from their first five studio albums, Public Image, Metal Box, Flowers of Romance, This is What You Want This Is What You Get, and Album
* A couple of tracks each from Happy, 9, and That What Is Not
* A hodge-podge of outtakes and one-off releases
* A hodge-podge of remixes, but only some of them
* Two BBC sessions, one early and one late
What's to like?
* I prefer the remastering from the box set to the original CD masters. While some remastering jobs are overdone, I didn't find that to be the case here.
* I appreciate being able to get ahold of the various outtakes, one-offs, and remixes. In particular, I like the the Metal Box-era outtakes, 1/2 Mix Megamix and Another (vocal version of Graveyard).
* The BBC sessions are very good. The second one gives me a greater appreciation for some of the songs from That What Is Not, even though I think the album as a whole is rubbish.
What's not to like?
* I'm not sure what the point is to releasing 90% of the first five albums. A serious fan absolutely has to get Metal Box anyway, but what about the other albums? Someone who bought this might not recognize how powerful the other individual albums were on their ow. Even if the missing tracks aren't the most important ones, they still are important to the album's coherence. As for me, I ended up buying most of the albums anyway.
* This Is Not A Love Song is presented in a remix with most of the lyrics omitted. I guess this is a good thing for the completist, but it also means you need to have TIWYW,TIWYG or Greatest Hits So Far to get the better version.
* I wish more alternative versions were included. If Mr. Miller's review is accurate, I'd like to have a way to get ahold of these things, even if it means that some of the deep cuts of the early albums were left off of the boxed set. (Maybe they'll release a "Deluxe Edition" of Metal Box that includes all of these things in one place - that would at least solve some of the problem.)
The bottom line is that the music here is top notch, but it leaves me wanting more. I guess that is what a boxed set is supposed to do."
Not The Holy Grail
G. L. Richardson | westfield new jersey | 03/05/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this collection up in hopes of getting a few different versions of songs & saving me the expense of buying some of PIL's later albums that were basically just not as enjoyable. Some of the later efforts should actually be called The John Lydon band, but that's up for debate. The BBC sessions are great, you get a different perspective on some of the songs you've been hearing for years. There's also "The Cowboy Song" a 12" remix and another B-Side. I'm sure there was more rarities that could be included here but the price was reasonable, so I can't really get too upset. The songs from HappY?" should have included "Fat Chance Hotel"-which is the closest they came to their original sound. Still waiting for the PIL reunion."