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A collection tailor-made for devoted Go-Go's fans
on August 30, 2004
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.