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Deluxe Edition, Super Deluxe Edition
LP (12" album, 33 rpm), Import
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Vinyl, Import, December 23, 2016
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Limited four vinyl LP box set. Super deluxe edition of Public Image Limited's seminal second album, originally released in November 1979. Housed in an embossed metal box, this edition includes rare and unreleased mixes from the recording sessions, along with B-sides and BBC sessions, a live recording from a now legendary unplanned show at Factory Records Russell Club in Manchester arranged on the day of a Granada TV appearance and exclusive posters and art prints. With all lyrics written by John Lydon, Metal Box was recorded with original PiL members Keith Levene and Jah Wobble. Original drummer Jim Walker had left, to be replaced by a succession of drummers. Metal Box came out less than a year after PiL's debut Public Image: First Issue yet it was nothing like it's predecessor. Things had changed, and so had PiL. While outside pressures mounted, PiL channeled their energies (negative and positive) into a record that would set them apart back in 1979, and indeed today in 2016. Whether it be John's powerful and passionate vocals; Keith's wailing guitar and melodic synths; Wobble's sub-disco reggae basslines; or the crashing rhythm that holds it all together, Metal Box has many strengths. The album was originally released as 3 x 45 rpm 12" singles, housed in a metal 'film' canister. As made by The Metal Box Company in London's East End; hence the name.
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The bottom line is that if you love this album as I do, you owe it to yourself to get ahold of this version. It is a rewarding listen that both adds to the original album (or 3EP, if that's how you roll) and helps you appreciate it more.
* The album itself holds up better than ever. The dynamics, the acoustics (especially the bass), the pacing, the running order, it is all phenomenal.
* I am pleased with the mastering - it still has its edge without sounding too loud or compressed. You can turn it up. I did.
* It is great to finally have the 12" versions of Memories and Death Disco together in one place.
* Some of the alternate versions show elements that were (smartly) withheld from the final mixes. Examples include Poptones Version 3 (including extra guitars and other random noises) and The Symphony Suite (AKA Radio 4) which has drums. This album didn't just happen on accident - it was a combination of hard work and inspiration to find the right combinations for each song.
* While the monitor mixes of Albatross and Death Disco were available elsewhere, it is good to have them together in one place on CD. Death Disco runs another couple of minutes longer than the 12" version. At the end, Lydon blurts "That ought to be enough for anybody." Indeed!
* There are several tracks that bridge Metal Box and the next album, Flowers of Romance. Another and Home Is Where The Heart Is were released as bonus tracks on that album and are worthy outtakes. In fact I think I'm going to sneak Home Is Where The Heart Is onto my copy of the main album between No Birds (Do Sing) and Graveyard. That would flesh out "sides 4-5" which were always a little short in the initial 3EP version. Meanwhile Unknown Instrumental #2 suggests that it was time for Wobble to move on. Now that the band had a proper drummer (Atkins), it was time to make an album where the drums were more of a focal point. All the other baggage notwithstanding, it is hard to see how Wobble would fit in.
* In lieu of detailed liner notes, we get a slew of press from the time period. That is far more interesting reading.
* The rectangular tin actually lends itself to being stored properly. (I never had a good way to store that $%^& round tin.)
* While many super deluxe releases these days include a DVD or Blu-Ray of high resolution audio (for example, Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition (5CD/1DVD)), this one does not.
* There is an additional take of Albatross that was released on Best of British One Pound Notes that is missing here.
* There is plenty of video material that they could have compiled and released if they had chosen to do so. You will have to resort to YouTube.
* I would have liked a more detailed sessionography - what was recorded when and who played on what.
* Paris Au Printemps is not included here. That's okay but I hope it is released in its entirety at some point.
* The best of the BBC tracks are the three that were released on Plastic Box. The Top of the Pops version of Death Disco is weak and the Old Grey Whistle Test version of Poptones and Careering aren't as good as the Peel session.
* The Manchester show is a welcome addition. If course being PIL things don't always go smoothly. This time Public Image is the train wreck. It is a shame that Albatross is not available.
* I was under the impression that more tracks were re-cut to make the (abandoned) American release of First Issue. Maybe that's not true but whatever the real story is, the only one of these that appears here is Half Mix / Megga Mix.
However, don't let any of this stop you. This is more about filling out the story of Metal Box, making it complete. You can't create something as grand as Metal Box without taking some chances and making some mistakes along the way. Even the things that don't work out are well worth hearing.