I wrote this review for Amazon. But I can't post it because I haven't bought the required USD50 or GBP50 over the last 12 months. Postage is a killer. I bought it locally at JB Hi Fi for AUD37 (from memory) and it is well worth it. So, the review had to go somewhere and here it is.
Well this really is an embarrassment of riches, 3CDs plus a DVD of prime Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. There are a couple of reviewer complaints that some fave tracks are excluded - Henry Lee I think was one mentioned - but it's an indication of the band's quality of output that this is so. I don't know any other band that has such a high quality in terms of rock, lyrics, and performance, given their longevity. Check out the alternative box set of 3CD B sides and Rarities, it's a treat! Ok, its all subjective but that's my view.
Nick Cave, a superb lyrist, vocalist and performer is really without peer IMHO. Dylan and the late lamented Leonard Cohen are on a par lyrically, maybe some of Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson, but do they reach such heights as vocalists and performers in a rock sense?
Your decision. And The Bad Seeds who Nick regards as one equal unit, are beyond any other rock unit in terms of delivery and imaginative interpretation. Yes? No? Its all subjective, whatever pushes your buttons.
How do you choose a 'best of' for this band from an output that spans thirty years? Well, this excellent compilation was chosen by Cave and Mick Harvey with some input by the current Bad Seeds. To quote Nick from his website, “This release is designed to be a way into three decades of music making. That’s a lot of songs. The songs we have chosen are the ones that have stuck around, for whatever reason. Some songs are those that demand to be played live. Others are lesser songs that are personal favourites of ours. Others are just too big and have too much history to leave out. And there are those that didn’t make it, poor things. They are the ones you must discover by yourselves.”
The tracks are in chronological order, a total of 45, from 15 albums with 3 session tracks included, the double Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus being counted as one album. I wasn't familiar with some of the earlier more manic rock tracks, 'The Carny', 'I'm Gonna Kill that Woman', and 'Up Jumped the Devil' but they provide a reflection of where the band was at, which was some liberating place of intense release, a cacophonous maelstrom of deliverance. Such purity, ha, is balanced by a sly dose of black humour and songs of beautiful melodious melancholic majesty.
But the cream on top for me is the DVD with 25 performances and 14 interviews approximate running time 2h 5m. Most of the interviews are short, providing song writing and performance background. Cave is a wordy songwriter, 'swallowed a dictionary' as they say here in Oz, and like similar songwriters, Cohen, Dylan, Shane McGowan, Elvis Costello, you wonder how they remember their lines. But he does, like a cinematic narration I guess, but it's his performances that are stunning. I've seen those artists mentioned above and they were all great, Cohen and Costello particularly, but I haven't seen Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds yet. On my bucket list. I have a number of their DVDs, top entertainment.
And this one will do it for you too. As Kirk Lake describes Cave in his insightful essay, 'ever the stick-thin, jack-knifing, marauding malcontent.' The DVD does not run chronologically which is a good thing. Most are excellent in terms of sound, photography and production but a couple look like Utube phone caught, and you're looking at the performances of course.
The book is cardboard bound, nicely designed, which includes the aforementioned literate insightful essay on the origin and development of Cave and the band, lots of rare photos, plus track and video information. It is superb!