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"...The Good Life Is Just A Dream Away..." - Original Album Series by THE CARS (2010 5CD Mini Box Set)
on 9 March 2010
Aping the success of Sony's similarly packaged 5CD box sets, WEA is releasing over FORTY x 5CD "Original Album Series" mini box sets of their own. Issued in the UK and Europe only, the artists featured stretch from rhythm 'n' blues icons of the 1950s (Ray Charles and Clyde McPhatter with The Drifters) all the way through to Metal And Indie bands of the 2000s (Dokken and Echo & The Bunnymen). For those interested, I've compiled a full listing of titles in the series in the 'comment' section attached to this review (some are superb, some are not).
Here's the fine-detail for THE CARS set - released Monday 1 March 2010 in the UK on Elektra/Rhino 8122 79828 1, "Original Album Series" 5CD box set breaks down as follows (none of the discs contain bonus tracks):
Disc 1 is "The Cars" their 9-track debut album released 1978 on Elektra 6E-135 in the USA and Elektra K 52088 in the UK (35:13 minutes)
Disc 2 is "Candy-O" their 11-track 2nd album released 1979 on Elektra 5E-507 in the USA and Elektra K 52148 in the UK (36:33 minutes)
Disc 3 is "Panorama" their 10-track 3rd album released 1980 on Elektra 5E-514 in the USA and Elektra K 52240 in the UK (40:33 minutes)
Disc 4 is "Shake It Up" their 9-track 4th album released 1981 on Elektra 5E-567 in the USA and Elektra K 52330 in the UK (40:45 minutes)
Disc 5 is "Heartbeat City" their 10-track 5th album released March 1984 on Elektra ST-E 60296-1 in the USA and Elektra 960 296-1 in the UK (38:38 minutes)
The five single card sleeves reflect the 'original' front and rear US LP artwork - the gatefold of "Heartbeat City" is not reproduced nor is the inner sleeve for any of the five albums. Each front sleeve is also now 'bordered' with a colour and the label on the CD then reflects that colour code - Dark Blue for Disc 1, Green for 2, Black for 3, Red for 4 and Brown for 5. The outer card box is lightweight and therefore a little bit flimsy (unlike the glossy hard-card Sony issues), but having said that, the card sleeves themselves still look pretty cool once out of the box. And it's also nice to see the original artwork used - it makes such a big difference on the Otis Redding, Paul Butterfield Blues Band [see review], Drifters and Clyde McPhatter and Dionne Warwick rear sleeves - beautiful original album artwork.
Some CD sites seemed to have automatically 'presumed' that each of these sets is "digitally remastered", but it categorically does NOT state that on the outer box or any of the card sleeves or discs. Rhino have been contacted about this thorny subject by fans around the world and Rhino confirm that these are NOT REMASTERS - only repackaging of those discs presently in the marketplace. So if the album was remastered in the 1990's (Aretha Franklin, The Drifters) or the 2000's (Warren Zevon, The Pretender) then that's what you get - if they weren't - then you get the same crappy Eighties discs that have been in the marketplace for decades.
With regard to this Cars set then - the 1st album therefore sounds great (done a while back), but when you compare the superbly detailed and punchy remasters of "Drive" and "You Might Think" on the "Just What I Needed" 2CD 1996 anthology to their versions on here, you immediately hear how dull these versions are; they're the iffy Eighties issues that have needed upgrading for decades. The best way to describe these CDs is that the sound is good - just not great.
To sum up - if you don't own any Cars stuff then the 2CD anthology "Just What I Needed" is a far better buy (and better annotated). But if you just want a slice of great pop, then dig in - just don't expect fireworks in the sound department. I'm afraid remasters of the whole albums are still "...just a dream away".
PS: For US fans this set is an expensive import box giving them CD albums they already own and are reduced to cents online... I'd say avoid.
Also with regard to sound - so far the Little Feat, Bread, Los Lobos, Chris Rea, Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones sets are also disappointingly reported as NON REMASTERS too.