Box Set, Remastered
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Limited eight CD box set containing digitally remastered editions of all eight Smiths albums. This box includes all four of the band's studio albums: The Smiths (1984), Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead (1986), and Strangeways, Here We Come (1987) plus their sole live album Rank (1988) as well as the compilations Hatful Of Hollow (1984), The World Won't Listen (1987) and Louder Than Bombs (1987). Rhino. 2011.
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Rhino has been doing a pretty good job of these remaster projects. They are definitely paying attention to what they are doing. These are quite good, however not in the league of what Rhino did with the first four Pretenders albums. Those where such an obvious improvement, I doubt that there will be any controversy at all about those - plus all the bonus material, also with nice sound quality. Those sound excellent.
Remasters are a very interesting topic these days. After ten years of over driven, compressed reissues, the industry is finally coming back around to its senses (hopefully). The 2009 Beatles remasters set an example. The 2002 Stones hybrid SACDs, long OOP, are worth seeking out, though every Stones reissue since is inferior to the 2002 DSD redbook CDs or the 1994 Virgins (what's going on with the Stones catalogue anyway?). The gold standard is the Genesis 1970-1975 remixed & remastered box with SACDs and 5.1 DVDs of each of the first 5 albums + bonus disks that was only released in Europe. Kudos to Peter Gabriel and Rhino for that box. If only all reissues were like that.
Sometimes I wonder whether it's worth buying an upgrade to music I already have. I figure I'm not alone. The Smiths Complete box is probably worth it if you can find it at a good price. If you don't own all the albums already, more incentive. Great band, great music, and the sound is generally a significant upgrade here.
I've been a life-long fan of the Smiths (Morrissey is one year older than me, just to give perspective), but for whatever reason I hadd never bought the 4 proper albums. I did have the early-90s "Best of I and II" compilations and also the "Louder Than Bombs" collection. But when I saw this collection annnounced, and at what a very competitive price you can buy it here on Amazon, I just knew I had to have it (call it my Christmas present to myself--similar to buying the Beatles set in 2009).
"Complete" brings a LOT of Smiths music but not quite everything that's out there--and that's ok to be honest, I am not that fanatic that I feel let down by it. What amazes me most about listening to these albums is the incredible improvement in the remastered sound quality. It's almost like listening to it for the very first time again, I swear. New for me as well is listening to the songs in the proper album sequences, which also brings a new perspective that I didn't have before. I had "Rank" on cassette back in the day. Lost the cassette years ago and to relisten to "Rank" for the first time in probably 15+ years was quite the treat.
Even though this release was prepped by the usual-stellar Rhino folks (Rhino UK, to be exact), there are a couple of things that disappointed me in the packaging and presentation of the albums: first, no liner notes to speak of (a flimsy 2 pages). Second, no track-by-track credits as to what song was recorded when and where (which would've been really valuable in particularly on the Louder Than Bombs, Hatful of Hollow, and The World Won't Listen compilations). Third, the albums are reissued in their original vinyl-style format, of course shrunk to CD size. That means that it is literally impossible to read any of the lyrics printed on the album sleeves! Howy cow, didn't anyone think that it might've been a good idea to reprint the lyrics in a separate booklet that would actually be, you know, legible? Packaging aside, the music is stellar, and the economic value likewise.