The music is as you would expect, brilliant. There is not a bad tune on here. The string arrangements with the Brodsky quartet are haunting and beautiful, the remixes are also interesting, Bjork that you can dance to, and the roots cd shows off Bjork's progression from the days before the Sugarcubes to her latest musical offerings.
On to the negative aspects of 'Family Tree' which there are a few, minor, but a few. First of all why the need for the miniature cd's? Surely at around twenty minutes each all these songs could have fit on one or two regular sized cd's. Okay, they quite cute when you first open the box, and the artwork on the slips are nice, but their novelty wears off rather quickly what with having to constantly replace the cd's. I have already mentioned the problem with the pink box itself so I won't dwell on that any more than I have already. However if there is one major complaint to bring up that is the lack of the new song. What is the point of selling a box set for Â£40 knowing full well that the fans will pay and then leave off a new song that is only available on the 'Greatest Hits' until November 25 when the single comes out? It is an insult to the fans and a deplorable rouse to extract more money from a record buying public that already pays way too much.
So is this worth buying? For collectors, completists and obsessive fans I would say without hesitation, "yes". For Neophytes and borderline fans, stick with the 'Greatest Hits' or any of Bjork's back catalog. The music, the presentation and my penchant for collectable stuff by artists I respect has dulled my minor feeling of being ripped off and I do think it is worth the money. The inadequacy of the box is nothing, the mini-cd's, well I can always transfer the tracks to my computer, and the missing song? I would have ended up buying the 'Greatest Hits' at any rate
The minicd's are divided into three sections: Roots, Beats and Stings.
The 2 "roots" cd's are a collection of songs that reveals Björks icelandic background: Songs from the punkbands "kukl" and "Sugarcubes" are mixed with alternative version of songs from Björks solo carrier. The highlight is here the beautiful live version of "generous palmstrokes": Björk gives here one the most touching performances I have ever heard with zeena Harkins harp as support.
The "beats" cd contains hear first recordings with Graham Massey and Mark Bell. Although only the demo version of "All these modern things" is previously unreleased it's good to have them on one cd as an example of a specific period in Björks carreer.
The 2 "strings" cd's contains live and studio recordings of 9 Björk songs arranged and performed by the brodsky quartet. The arrangements are very beautiful and Björk gives thrilling performances almost no technical support. My favourite is "the anchor song" from "debut", where Björk's singing make you hold your breath.
The greatest hits cd differ from the ordinary edition. Björk has selected her own favourite songs not regarding whether they were hits or not. Therefore songs like "Human behaviour" or "Big time sensuality" are missing. Instead you can hear songs like "Unravel" from "Homogenic" and "Scatterheart" from "Selmasongs". Songs of a much higher quality than her early hits.
In short: "Family Tree" is pure joy. The playingtime is only 148 minutes so I find the box a little overprized. But it's only a small objection since the artwork and design is so beautiful, and it is obvious that Björk has carefully selected the songs. To add more material would only blur the picture that Björk tries to draw of herself.
So if you have the cash: GO FOR IT!
There are thirty five songs in the set, adding up to at least three CDs worth of material (so the £40 price isn't so much of a misjudgement), and comes with a book containing Bjork's fondest lyrics and a "map" which explains the methodology behind the box set's construction. Five mini-CDs, each holding around 20 minutes worth of songs, are included alongside Bjork's own favourite clippings from her last five albums ("Debut", "Post", "Homogenic", "SelmaSongs" and "Vespertine") which is manifest in a regular size CD.
The mini-CDs include work with her most affectionate collaborators. The "Roots" CDs detail her development alongside punk bands KUKL ("Fuglar") and the Sugarcubes ("Ammaeli"), as well as Nellee Hooper ("Cover Me"), Zeena Parkins ("Generous Palmstroke") and Guy Sigsworth ("Mother Heroic") amongst others. She also dedicates her "Beats" CD to the work with dance pioneers Graham Massey ("The Modern Things") and Mark Bell ("I Go Humble"), who co-produced most of "Homogenic", and her "Strings" CD to the Brodksy Quartet, who enmesh recognisable classical music alongside her own string arrangements in a series of live performances. The "Hits" CD is then a culmination of all of these elements that Bjork feels she is most proudest of, or as she details in her 'map', has emphatically created "a moment of utopia on the radio".
All of the songs have their merits. The KUKL composition is amazing to listen to as a 19-year-old Bjork screams with as much clairvoyant authority as she does nearly twenty years later and the live performances with the Brodsky Quartet shouldn't disappoint fans of their wonderful remix of "Hyperballad", as found on "Telegram". The "Beats" CD gains extra points also for compiling four of Bjork's best B-sides onto one handy little CD (those left not nodding to "Karvel" or "Nature Is Ancient" should be certified dead). Admittedly, listening to all of this collection is going to take up as much time as it does effort and its without doubt that most die-hard fans have at least twenty of these songs already, but after listening to Bjork's little history lesson, there's no doubt you'll be left gagging for what she's cooking up in the next twenty-five years ... extraordinary!
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