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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ecstacy, 12 April 2002
By 
P. A. Murphy "Paulie" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
OK, I'm a fan, and you'd be hard pushed to find someone with only a casual interest in XTC having this package on their shelves at home. But I'll do my best to tell you why it's good.
Like the Beatles Anthologies before it, this extensive look over the last 25 years of Swindon's finest illustrates, broadly, the two same ideas:

a) Their live gigs (or at least recordings thereof) only really cover their early years, but mostly seemed to deliver, the band not being afraid to cut loose from the structures of the songs as presented on album. And good thing that proves to be often, too, providing good, assured renderings of great tunes for the uninitiated, and different twists to old faves for the fans.
b) The finished, official, album or single version of tunes seen here on this set as a demo track or alternative studio idea, are always the best versions. The demos presented here are often very different, no less competent and always curious... but you'll also hear in them why they settled on the version you hear on Drums & Wires, Black Sea, etc. Compare Andy Partridge's searching first ever demo of Senses Working Overtime to the finished article to be shown how his sound pop nous can craft mighty oaks out of sickly acorns, without ever over egging the, er... oak pudding (sorry).
The other thing that comes across loud and clear from just a glance through the entertainingly written booklet that comes with the set is that XTC's songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding care, really care about their stuff as they contribute affectionate, witty and frequently self-deprecating opinions on their own, and each other's tunes. Barry Andrews's words on his own tunes, heard here for the first time, add a touch of perfectionism to the whole, elegant package.
Like I said, I can't see too many non-fans owning it, but on so many levels it's essential: as a document of XTC, as a muso collection of insights into the studio process and song evolution (but never letting that get entirely in the way of a belting good ditty) and as a simple object of desire, with great pictures and classy layout. This is what box sets should be all about.
Back in '79, when I was eight, Making Plans For Nigel used to scare me.
Now, I haven't the faintest clue why. I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant tribute to the world's best unknown pop band, 31 Mar 2002
By 
danharris@alltel.net (Sheridan, Arkansas USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
Look, you didn't just surf over to this review. You are no doubt another hopeless XTC fanatic. You are probably going to buy this set regardless of the reviews. Should you? Absolutely. This is a beautifully packaged four disc set. It includes a 79 page book with an essay by Harrison Sherwood and then a track by track critque by Andy and Colin. As with any XTC record, the more you listen the more your attitudes and opinions evolve. That said, here are seven reasons to purchase this set: 1)Live version of Traffic Light Rock - its simple and raw, just what a pop song should be. 2) Senses Working Overtime - Andy and his guitar and the outside street traffic in an early and sparse version . Much like George and "Something" from the Beatles Anthology. 3) Punch and Judy - Much better than the previously released version. More Punch and less Judy. 4) All You Pretty Girls - This version is so strange you might think its an outtake from a Dukes of Stratosphere session. Or Magical Mystery Tour. Very psychedelic. 5) Grass - Striped from its Summer's Cauldron seque, and a much less produced version, it soars with much sharper guitar and Colin's raw vocals. 6) Mayor of Simpleton - Because its unrecognizable from the Nonsuch version. 7) Terrorism - Hard to believe this song was written for Skylarking. Given the state of the world today the lyrics and middle eastern flavor of the music is chilling.
Given a couple weeks I'm sure I will come up with several other reasons you should buy this set.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That's it... I'm in XTC (almost), 11 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
Needless to say, really, this is the stuff that dreams are made of, but what makes me a bit mad is that it could have been even better.
Why on earth must every boxed CD set have 4 discs? You don't need to be a math wizard to realize very quickly that the material here would have fitted onto 3 discs. In other words, we could have had more than an hour's worth of extra music. I think it would have been a good idea to squeeze the rare tracks from "Rag & Bone Buffet" here as well - that would have made an unbeatable XTC rarities collection.
I also think that there are a couple of home demos too many of the familiar album tracks included, but all in all, this is an indispensable item for every XTC fan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introducing the fantastical oddball synergy of funkpoparoll!, 29 Mar 2002
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
Nothing less than marvellous, these four discs provide the perfect parcel of pop, pageant and pip! pip! pip! to negate the humdrum awfulness of our otherwise mundane existence. OK, maybe that's a little over-the-top, but you will marvel, hum, sway and strum along until the cows come home to Swindon. What's incredible to me is the brilliant arc between the (let's face it) off-our-faces frenetically mad tunefulness of the early stuff to the perfect pastoral er, frenetic tuneful madness of the later erm, waxings. Is XTC Britain's most under-rated pop band ever?..We should be told, but for what it's worth, I'm telling you - I think so. Buy it and wonder at the weird, the erm..wonderful and (believe me) wise words and wibbly instrumental bits.(Who was it once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture? Wise words indeed)
"A one word summary!" I hear you chant. Very well: Ball-bouncingly entertaining! (or is that three words? Do two count as one if hyphenated?....oh, I'm off to listen to this again, follow me after the next paragraph, funsters...)
If you agree, lovely. If you don't - well, I can respect that too, it's a free country, almost. But go on, give it a try - you'll be hooked like a fish with a big lip in a small bucket.
So, in a word: Brilliant and excellent value for money too!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get these fans down, they're ruining my hairdo..., 5 Jun 2002
By 
knowledeayton (Hereford, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
An XTC box set? Nigh on four hours of out-takes, alternative versions, live tracks, demos and LP originals? Oh, go on then, you've twisted my arm.

To use an appalling piece of footballing parlance, COMC is something of a game of two halves. Discs 1 & 2 are notable for some tremendously powerful live recordings, particularly the Atom Medley (this in spite of the band's amps packing up briefly halfway through) and the best version of Crowded Room you're ever likely to hear. These tracks give those of us who never lucky enough to see the band live an indication of why their on-stage reputation was so great.

Not only that, but there are three alternative versions of tracks from Drums & Wires, all of which knock the originals into a cocked hat, not least Real By Reel which, it seems to me, sounds like it was the logical choice to follow-up Making Plans For Nigel. Then again, when was XTC's history ever defined or guided by logic? As for the alternative take of Towers Of London...well...'sublime' just about covers it, I reckon.

Discs 3 & 4 are marginally less enjoyable, being mainly demos and early, inferior versions of LP tracks and b-sides, but there is still much to enjoy, particularly Colin Moulding's Didn't Hurt A Bit which failed to make it onto 1992's Nonsuch for reasons probably known only to its author. The very last track sees a rare live excursion for the band on BBC's Late Show, performing Books Are Burning (or, as Kirsty Wark refers to it in her infinite wisdom, Burning Books).

As has been pointed out by other reviewers, unless you're an XTC fan, chances are COMC won't interest you much, assuming you're even aware of its existence. On the other hand, for those of us bitten by the XTC bug (which might explain my stinking cold, come to think of it), this collection of (mainly) previously unheard material is a joy.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect pop and sublime rock., 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Coat Of Many Cupboards (Audio CD)
A heady brew. From the English summer dreaming of "Grass" to the three minute pop of "Life begins at the hop" to the never fulfilled stadium pomp of "The Dissapointed" XTC prove that music need not be hyped to be hip. For the fan a treasure, for the uninitiated a delightful entry into the mad and magical world of one of our finest groups. The English Beach Boys with big drums meets Blur's dad.
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Coat Of Many Cupboards
Coat Of Many Cupboards by XTC (Audio CD - 2002)
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