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Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's is one of the most interesting compilations I've ever heard. This collection is full of all kinds of stuff; 16 of the 36 tracks come from previously unreleased material, and only 11 of the tracks come directly from the group's first three albums (and, of these 11, two are actually single mixes). It is clearly not a greatest hits collection (although most of the group's hits are included in one form or another), and the rarities and oddities that make up a significant part of these two CDs makes this a collection I would only recommend to diehard Go-Go's fans past or present. I certainly would not purchase this album before getting the group's three studio albums from the early 1980s.

You start out with the Go-Go's before they were famous; these are very interesting tracks, although I must admit that - well - the girls really weren't very good back in the days before they cut Beauty and the Beat. Living at the Canterbury/Party Pose comes from a live rehearsal from February, 1979 (remember, the girls' first album was released in 1981). Screaming, Johnny Are You Queer, Fun With Ropes, and Fashion Seekers are live tracks recorded at The Mabuhay in San Francisco in August 1979 - Johnny Are You Queer is an especially enjoyable track that outshines the other early material found here. A January 1980 rehearsal supplies us with Blades and a pretty amazing early performance of He's So Strange. In December 1981, the Go-Go's went back to high school - specifically, Palos Verdes High School in LA - to perform, and that concert is the source of four tracks on Disc One here: London Boys, Let's Have a Party, Beatnik Beach, and (Remember) Walking in the Sand - which is a great track.

At this point, you start getting into songs from the Go-Go's three 1980s studio albums. You get a great previously unreleased recording of Lust to Love, a previously unreleased version of Cool Jerk (the only Go-Go's song I have never been able to enjoy), and a version of How Much More previously available only as a B-side. After the single mix version of the Go-Go's trademark song We Got the Beat, Disc One closes with three tracks taken directly from Beauty and the Beat: Skidmarks on My Heart, This Town, and Our Lips Are Sealed. Thus, on Disc One, only 4 of the 18 tracks were really available previously.

Disc Two opens with Surfing and Spying, which is basically an instrumental; it is one of three tracks previously released only as B-sides (the other two are Speeding and the excellent song Good For Gone). Three tracks come directly from the Vacation album: the title track, Get Up and Go, and It's Everything But Party Time. If you ask me, 1984's Talk Show was easily the Go-Go's best album (despite the fact the girls were all basically stoned by that point in their careers) - two of the best tracks, Head Over Heels and Turn to You, are transferred over to this collection, followed by the single mix of Yes or No.

The remaining eight tracks all consist of previously unreleased material - five live tracks and three brand new Go-Go's recordings. I'm With You and I'm the Only One (both from Talk Show) along with Can't Stop the World (from Vacation), come from an August 1984 concert at The Greek in LA, We Don't Get Along (from Vacation) comes from a live show at Hakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo in June 1982. Then comes a real treat: an acoustic version of Mercenary from the Go-Go's reunion concert at Universal Amphitheatre in LA in December 1990. The second disc closes with three brand new 1994 songs - Good Girl, Beautiful, and The Whole World Lost Its Head. I think the album is worth buying just for these three songs by themselves. I simply adore Belinda Carlisle, whose voice really didn't develop into a beautiful instrument until she recorded her first solo album, so it's wonderful to hear the new and improved Belinda performing brand new bona fide Go-Go's songs. The talents of all the girls had obviously increased by 1994, and it shows in these three new recordings.

Go-Go's fans will go gaga over this vast reservoir of rare tracks. The early tracks are more interesting than enjoyable, though, as the band still needed a lot of work in 1979 and 1980. The live recordings on Disc Two are absolutely wonderful to have, but the sound quality of these isn't that great - there's no fullness to the sound of these recordings. This is the main reason I would only recommend this album to devoted Go-Go's fans like myself. We fans get an extra bonus in the form of the booklet included with the discs - this contains a lot of vintage, revealing, oftentimes comic photos from the early 1980s, many of which feature funny little captions supplied by the five band members. The girls also reveal the inspiration for a number of their most successful recordings. If you are a Go-Go's fan, Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's will give you much cause for rejoicing.
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on April 22, 1999
As a chronicle of their humble beginnings and impressive evolution, this 2-disc Go-Go's set probably thrills die-hards. But it's also a worthwhile snapshot of the L.A. punk scene at the turn of the decade. Even in their poorly tuned amateur days, the band demonstrated a unique sound and style. (Indeed, some of these rough edges were eventually polished TOO much on their first two albums.)
Disc 1 follows the Go-Go's rise from tone-deaf punkettes to new-wave darlings culminating in their break-out hits. Disc 2 continues with the hits and throws in a mixed bag of offerings from the group's later days. If the live tracks are any indication, the Go-Go's remained a frustratingly inconsistent live act.
Three new (surprisingly good) songs close the disc. They may not pack the early whallop of "Our Lips Are Sealed" or "Vacation" but who would've thought these gals could still be relevent in the 90's? "Good Girl" stays smart and manages to avoid past Go-Go weaknesses. "Whole World Lost It's Head" was a hit on modern rock radio. And "Beautiful" is a wickedly sarcastic little gem that slams home an unexpected truth -- these women write, play and sing better now than they did in their heyday. Take a listen.
The CD booklet is a generous treat. I can't help but wish they'd revealed even more of their well-hidden debauchery. The entire package is likely to make you lament the fact that these trailblazers didn't last. In fact, the set might convince you that the Go-Go's still have some great music to give.
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on January 28, 2002
The Go-Go's were five beautiful punkettes who emerged from the Southern California punk rock scene in the waning days of the 1970s and then made their mark in the New Wave heyday of the early 1980s. Although they reinvented their act (in public, anyway) prior to the release of their first album in 1981, this double CD proves they were not some prefabricated concoction. In fact, they made history as the first all-female band to reach the top of the charts while playing their own instruments and writing most of their own songs.
This is not properly described as a greatest hits album, although all of the hits are here. It also includes deep album tracks, concert performances, B sides and three songs recorded just for this album during their 1994 reunion. The first seven tracks on Disc 1 are homemade recordings of rehearsals and live performances from the band's formative days in 1979-80. It's true that the sound quality of these early recordings leaves much to be desired, but it can't be helped. Nonetheless, their raw energy shines through in their hilarious rendition of "Johnny Are You Queer" and in their surprisingly surreal demo of "He's So Strange."
Tracks 8 to 11 are from a 1981 concert at Palos Verdes High School in Los Angeles. The Go-Go's were sounding more polished and professional by this time, featuring the pleasures of "Beatnik Beach," "London Boys," and "Let's Have a Party." The latter is a cover of an old Elvis Presley song that was also covered by Paul McCartney on his album RUN DEVIL RUN in 1999.
Indeed, beneath their "eighties new wave" veneer, the Go-Go's always struck me as sounding like a composite of the Shangri-Las and the early Beatles. Tracks 12 to 18, the first formal studio recordings in this collection, are great evidence of this. Check out the hooks and harmonies in "This Town" and in the signature hits "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed." The latter was written by Jane Wiedlin with Terry Hall of the Fun Boy Three, who later recorded his own more subdued version of the song. If you're new to the Go-Go's, I would strongly recommend that you listen to tracks 12 to 18 first because that will make it easier to appreciate the quirks and oddities in the first eleven tracks.
Disc 2 has the hits "Vacation" and "Head Over Heels" and some overlooked B-sides such as "Surfing and Spying" and "Speeding." "Beneath the Blue Sky" is a particular favorite of mine, managing to be both rocking and poignant. There are several songs from a concert at the Greek Theater in LA during the summer of 1984. Unfortunately, these live performances seem to lack the verve of the earlier ones. It's clear, in retrospect, that all of the infighting and substance abuse were grinding the band down by this point. The final three songs on this album were recorded during their 1994 reunion. The best is "The Whole World Lost Its Head." You gotta love the line: "Mary ate her little lamb/And punk rock isn't dead."
The liner notes are almost as much fun as the music. But it's a shame that the lyrics weren't included. One of the fascinating things about the Go-Go's was the way that their cynical and jaded lyrics contrasted with their bubbly music. As bumpy as this collection is at times, this is a great overview of the greatest girl band of all time.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon February 22, 2001
Return to The Valley Of The Go Go's is an excellent double disk anthology from the Go Go's. Their recording career consisted of just three albums, but this disk contains some great unreleased live work from their early days. Songs like "Screaming" & "London Boys" and covers like "Johnny Are You Queer?" and "Walking In The Sand" show the band's punk roots that are balanced by pop sensibilities. All the hits are here including the shimmering "Our Lips Are Sealed", the sprightly "Vacation", the roaring "Turn To You", the pounding "Head Over Heels" and the original Stiff records version of the hypnotic "We Got The Beat". Lesser known album tracks like "This Town", "Everything But Party Time", "Skidmarks on My Heart", "Speeding" and "Get Up & Go" still sound fresh and are equally as good as their hits. The album contains three new songs which are pretty good especially "The Whole World Has Lost It's Head".
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on November 8, 2005
Belinda, Kathy, Charlotte, Jane, & Gina emerged from a smarmy punk background, adding a bit of pop to help smooth out the wrinkles. From there we all know the story, the Go-Go's were one of the premiere girl group's of their time & helped put MTV on the map with their punky, kitchsy pop before personal problems caused the band to implode.

Three records: "Beauty & the Beat", "Vacation", & "Talk Show" are all represented here by their singles (big & minor) & selected b-sides, several new tracks, and a portion of live tracks spread over two discs. While clearly there was enough material to go around, it is the live recording's that leave a bit to be desired.

In a slight chronological order we get how the Go-Go's progressed from the rough punk to their new wave shimmer. While the live tracks are interesting, the sound quality is quite poor. Especially from the earlier live gigs. Possibly because the source tape is older & not as advanced, and I see why it would be appealing to have these live tracks here. But it definitely showed that they needed to be more than five angry punkettes to make it.

The rehearsal tracks ("He's So Strange", "Blades") help pick up the audio quality, & show that they knew they had a sense of pop melody. But not all is lost, the live tracks from their date at the Palos Verdes High School in Los Angeles, taped in December of 1981 really find the Go-Go's working their live muscles. While Belinda sometimes sounds assured, it shows that she isn't a vocal presence live; at least not in every instance. The band of course sounds tight and focused, and sugary background harmonies don't hurt either!

Besides that gripe, as stated the hits, b-sides (plentiful), and new tracks are quite abundant & fun. Also, a great booklet full of pictures from their inception to their reunion in 1990, other personal keepsakes photos, & commentary makes this a better buy than their "Greatest" set from 1990, or their "Behind the Music" set from 2000.

They "got the beat".
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"Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's" came out in 1994 and served a multitude of purposes. First, it provided a musical history of the band going all the way back to 1979 and songs taped during rehearsal and at an early gig at The Mabuhay in San Francisco. Second, it went into the vault and came up with previously unreleased live ("Johnny Are Your Queer?") and alternative versions of various songs (an acoustic version of "Mercenary") to go along with the well-known hits ("Our Lips Are Sealed," "Head Over Heels," etc.). Third, it gave the group a chance to release a trio of new recordings ("Good Girl," "Beautiful," and "The Whole World Lost Its Head") and provided a test of the waters for both their popularity and their willingness to make music together. When this 2-CD album came out in 1994 it was a bit depressing, because when you looked back it was clear the glory days of the Go-Go's were far behind.
I might have been in the minority, but I thought their final album, "Talk Show," was far and away the best work by the Go-Go's, light years beyond the Pop Punk of "Beauty and the Beat" and "Vacation." So my opinion was always that the band broke up just as it was starting to hit stride big time. Today, the third rationale for this album overshadows the first two because the Go-Go's did indeed get back together and "God Bless the Go-Go's" is one of the best rock albums I have ever heard. Consequently, "Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's has lost a lot of its depressing aspects for me because this was not the end of the story. Still, of more interest to true fans of the group than those who have fond musical memories of a couple of their songs.
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on September 8, 2004
The early demos and live stuff that starts disc one are rough, admittedly, but gives a fascinating look into the evolution of this band. The Palos Verdes High School concert tracks sound good, the band is in peak form, but I wish there would have been more from it. The only thing missing from the early rare B-sides is the original Stiff Records version of "We Got the Beat" ( I've heard bits of it, it's a little faster than the version cut for IRS Records ) . Highlights from the first album close disc one. Disc two hits the highlights from Vacation, including a few more b-sides and rarities, and also the incredible Talk Show ( FINALLY issued on CD a year or so ago, it is their best all around studio recording ) and some live tracks from here there and yonder. The disc closes with three new songs that are much better than anyone would have thought, as these ladies had not recorded anything new in quite some time. All in all a GREAT buy. Highly recommended for fans of the band.
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on December 24, 2001
......this CD is a must have for anyone who enjoy's the GO GO'S, especially for those of us natives who were there at those early shows. The GO GO'S always had amazing energy at those shows, heck, there were ALWAYS mosh pits at GO GO'S shows!!I think the candy coated image that the record company came up with was wrong, they should have remained themselves. But I think at that time, they didn't look at street credibility as a positive force for pop record sales. Unfortunately, their image overwhelemed the music, which I feel was one of the main reasons the band fell apart. People dismissed them as a bubble-gum flash in the pan sort of thing. This CD is the TRUE GO GO'S, and hopefully when people listen to this, the GO GO'S will get the credibility they REALLY deserve, as the first ever grrrl power band, long before that term was ever coined.
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on July 11, 2001
This is a must have for any Go-Go's fan. It thoroughly captures the magic, and fun of the gals at their peak. All of the major hits are their, but honestly the hits are not the reason to buy this collection.
The inclusion of their punk-era performances make this set absolutely golden. Yes their sound is rough, and the recording quality is sub par on some tracks (though the low fi works well with the raw edges of their music) but honestly, most of these songs were recorded at small clubs, and a performance at a high school, so you can't exactly expect fine acoustics and high quality recordings.
What you do get from these recordings is the sense of fun, and the party atmosphere that the Go-Go's created so well. The songs give credence to their punk roots, give a good sense of the seeds of the more polished sounds available on their commercial releases, and showed just how far ahead of their time they were. Riot grrls before there was such a thing.
There are some great b-sides and soundtrack releases, a fantastic alternate version of lust to love, three GREAT new songs (The Whole World Lost Its Head recaptures and updates the Go-Go's sound better than almost anything on God Bless the Go-Go's)
The live acoustic version of Mercenary is worth the price of admission all on its own. A great mid-tempo song has been transformed in to a gorgeous ballad. I don't believe that I have ever heard Belinda Carlisle emote so well. Her voice has a raw strained edge to it, and it sounds as if she could burst into tears, drop pleading to her knees, or tell you to shove it at any minute (perhaps all three at the same time.) Simply amazing.
In short (too late) this is a fantastic album, and I strongly recommend it.
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on January 27, 2002
I doubt it, but it is a worthy effort to showcase the talent that these 5 punk rock princesses had in the late 70s and early 80s. They rocked the world. They rocked a lot of guys' hearts and then they broke up! Nearly nine years later, and with numerous solo projects, they returned. Three 'new' tracks and a tour brought the fun back into fundamental rock and roll. In 1994 this album made my summer. It rocked then and it rocks now. It is definitely better in quantity of material in the "Greatest Hits" and "VH-1" offerings. Definitely 5 full stars for this one. In fact, make that a star apiece for each member of this band!!!
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