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This review is from: The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album (Audio CD)
Unlike most Outtakes/Extras/B-Sides collections "The Avalanche" doesn't display a drop in quality or execution from the artists' "real" material in most of the tracks. Indeed, most of the songs taken individually are very good and a few rank among Sufjan's best material (Dear Mr. Supercomputer).
Where the Outtakes/Extras label comes into play, quality wise, is in two areas: Album flow and the inclusion of 3 versions of Chicago. Rather than feeling like an album with a single identity, it feels like a collection of songs tossed together haphazardly. So while most of the tracks are top notch, they way they flow together doesn't create anything special like with Illinois or Michigan. The inclusion of three versions of Chicago feels a bit like overkill to me... although arguably they each have their own charm. The only one that feels *essential* however is the Multiple Personality Disorder one, which does a great job of portraying the scattered and almost flying apart tension that it is named after.
This collection shows that Sufjan Stevens on a bad day is still better than 99% of the artists on their best. While it won't convince old skeptics to change their mind, it is still something great to devour until we get a new real album.