OK, this is one of those projects that was built up by internet buzz for over three years. As such, the opportunity for disappointment and failure to meet expectations was high. I am a skeptic by nature and especially of the sort of buzz and hype that preceded this release.
Holy ****ing &%$#!!! If you've never been to a Pogues show, but know the material, listen to the live cuts of Sally MacLennane, Dirty Old Town, and The Sickbed of Cuchulainn first. These will confirm what Macgowan has always said, says on the rambling docu-bio "If I Should Fall From Grace. . .", that the Pogues should be recorded live. The energy on those tracks, from the band and the audience is truly extraordinary, and takes me back to New York in the late 80's when I first heard some of this music (at McSorley's Pub on E. 6th St; a night on which I was almost beaten for something unkind a companion said about the Irish). It's raw, it's warm, it's grrrreat fun, and it's a lasting beauty that attends little in popular music, say maybe Bob Dylan and a very few others.
Everything has been said in the other reviews about this set. I can only echo: "when will the other five discs be released"? And: "how about a tour of the US (not just the Northeast)?!" The fact that Shane MacGowan is still alive (look for a prediction of his imminent death to appear in print at least twice a year) is a marvel, and though I do actually say a prayer now and then that he will get sober (at 51 how much longer can he last?), his persistence in breathing the air is a testament to the energy and vitality of the music that flows through him and the band. I enjoy all of this, including the slurred singing from Shane-O (which, incidentally, has as much to do with his very poor dental health as the drinking). The variety, the new stuff, the old stuff in new versions, even the cinematic instrumentals are all a joy. Buy this if you like the Pogues, The Popes, and the genre they spawned, even a little bit. A keeper, a joy, a marvel. Thank you Phil Chevron for this great labor of love. May the Pogues (and Shane) be around and playing another 25 years!