Usually, when a record label released a boxed set, I expect -when it comes to an artist I revere- to spend a large amount of money for those few songs that were unreleased or belonging to EPs I did not buy. In general, I am resigned to the fact that the rarities and occasional collaborations will be few and varying in quality, And I if buy these collections is due to my heart being hostage to my passion for having the complete works of someone I respect.
This could not be farther from the truth, when it comes to this collection. The material selected throughout this 3CD set -by the band's Mick Harvey, by the way- finds Cave and his esteemed Bad Seeds show a wealth of great songs. The quality of what's goes from very good and interesting to superb. Actually, some of these songs are inexplicable exclusions from his albums, given their depth and beauty.
On Disc 1, you get a thorough sample of Cave's fiercer output, when a certain "literate Punk" spirit reigned over the Bad Seeds' material. Selections like "The Moon Is In The Gutter," "Rye Whiskey" -which sways like you might, if you ever drank the stuff- or "The Girl At The Bottom Of My Glass, are great examples of such period.
In addition, there are some rare beauties like the stunning acoustic version of "The Mercy Seat," the tender melody of "The Train Song," the somber "Blue Bird." Also noteworthy are his version of Neil Young's "Helpless" and "Cassiel's Song" from the movie "Faraway, So Close."
Disc 2, in my opinion, is dominated by the mood, if not the songs, from Cave's "Murder Ballads" period, in which the acoustic rendition of "Jack The Ripper," the raucous multi-part "O'Malley's Bar," and "The Willow Garden" and the gorgeous "Where The Wild Roses Grow" with the original guide vocals by Herr Bargeld.
And then comes, to my taste, the best of the three CDs which is infused of Cave's most recent material, ranging from the "The Boatman's Call"s atmosphere of "Little Empty Boat," "Right Now I'm A-Roaming," and the band version of "Black Hair," to the moving outtake of "Sheep May Safely Grace," anticipating the hymn-like ballads of No More Shall We Part."
Speaking of this last mentioned album, if you've been moved by the work contained in it as much as I have, you are in for an abundance of gems. Both, "Grief Came Riding" and "Bless His Ever Loving Heart," are Cave's poetry and melodies at their dramatic peak ("where beauty lies exhausted on the streets").
The great songs don't end there, with Nocturama being represented through the B-sides of several singles. Actually, if you already like Cave's most recent album, you may be further enthralled with it when listening to these songs. "Shoot Me Down" is stunning, and "Everything Must Converge" is the band at their most hopeful, a call to hope that has always been part of Cave's vision side by side with his dark denunciations.
All in all this is superb collection of songs that, to many, weren't known nor recognized. It is a tribute to a great band that three CDs worth of more obscure material can hold such depth of graces.
Whether you are a faithful worshipper already or a curious beginner, this collection is an excellent retrospective of an artist who has written some of the most remarkable material recorded over the last twenty years.
Cave's name does not only deserve to be mentioned along Tom Waits, or even Leonard Cohen -both obvious musical comparisons- but also it must be included in any list you may compile of those singer-songwriters whose music may shape your life.
I can't imagine any other future releases this year that can surpass this one, for reissue of the year.