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The King Of British Pop Closes Off An Amazing Chapter
on 22 August 2010
Being a big fan of Robert Williams, I was extremely excited at the idea of him releasing a career-spanning comprehensive collection of hits, music videos and b-sides. Already having released his first Greatest Hits album back in 2004 which spanned his first 5 studio albums, Robbie now brings us In And Out Of Consciousness, which oversees all of those albums as well as his 3 albums since. And while Greatest Hits omitted some of his singles, this new collection includes ALL of his solo UK singles to date. The first 2 CD's contain 39 tracks including 2 new songs, "Shame" (UK Peak Position #2) and "Heart and I", as well as his rare first solo single "Freedom" (UK Peak Position #2), which was a cover of the George Michael song. Robbie's version had been previously unreleased on any album until now) and a sole track from his original tenure with Take That ("Everything Changes" (UK #1)).
The songs on the first 2 discs run in reverse chronological order, starting with the 2 new songs, then from the newest hits to the older classics.
From Robbie's 1997 debut solo album, LIFE THRU A LENS, the singles "Old Before I Die" (UK #2), "Lazy Days" (UK #8), "South Of The Border (UK #14), "Angels" (UK #4), and "Let Me Entertain You" (UK #3) are included. The songs showcase the rock-n-roll / pop beginning of Robbie's career, with "Angels" being his signature song.
From 1998's I'VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU, all 4 of the singles are here: "Millennium" (UK #1), "No Regrets" (UK #4), "Strong" (UK #4), and "She's The One", which was released as a double A-side with the non-album track "It's Only Us" [UK double-A side #1], which is also included in this set. By this point, the songwriting in his work was a bit more mature, and the production more solid. "Win Some, Lose Some", another track from the album, was released only in New Zealand as the final single, and is sadly not included on this greatest hits collection.
Robbie's third album, 2000's SING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING, produced 6 big international hits: "Rock DJ" (UK #1), "Kids" with Kylie Minogue (UK #2), "Supreme" (UK #4), "Let Love Be Your Energy" (UK #10), the double a-side release "Eternity" (at the time, a non-album track) coupled with "The Road To Mandalay" (UK #1), and "Better Man", which was only released in Australia, New Zealand, and South America. With this album, Robbie had found his stride, and had become a bonafide pop star. All of these singles are included on IN AND OUT OF CONSCIOUSNESS with the exception of "Better Man", one of Robbie's best songs ever, in my opinion. This is understandable because the song was not a UK single, but I feel that an exception could have been made for this beautiful song.
From Robbie's one-off 2001 swing standards album SWING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING, his duet with Nicole Kidman, "Somethin' Stupid (UK #1) is featured, as well as the European only double a-side tracks "Mr. Bojangles" and "I Will Talk And Hollywood Will Listen".
In my opinion, 2002's ESCAPOLOGY is still Robbie's all-time best album, easily shown by 4 excellent singles: "Feel" (UK #4. i still can't believe this didn't chart higher!), "Come Undone" (UK #4), "Something Beautiful" (UK #3), and "Sexed Up" (UK #10), which had originally been released as an acoustic b-side back in 1998 on the "No Regrets" single.
In 2004, Robbie's first GREATEST HITS album was released, and featured 2 new singles: "Radio" (UK #1), and "Misunderstood" (UK #8). Both songs are included on this new hits set as well, which kind of renders the original GREATEST HITS useless, except for the gorgeous album covers.
2005's INTENSIVE CARE contributes the 3 official singles "Tripping" (UK #2), "Advertising Space" (UK #8) and "Sin Sin Sin" (UK #22, at the time his first solo single to miss the top 20), as well as the airplay only single "Make Me Pure".
2006's underrated electronic/dance RUDEBOX album also contributes 3 singles: "Rudebox" (UK #4), "Lovelight" (UK #8) and "She's Madonna" (UK #16). "Bongo Bong" was released as a single in Europe and South America but is not featured on this collection.
From Robbie's latest album, 2009's REALITY KILLED THE VIDEO STAR, the featured singles are "Bodies" (UK #2), "You Know Me" (UK #6) and"Morning Sun" (UK #45, his lowest-charting UK single to date).
The third CD is where all of the major flaws come in for me. This is the disc of B-sides and Rarities. First things first: Robbie has nearly eighty (80!) b-side / non-album / compilation-only tracks (most of those being -b-sides) yet they only serve us up ONE disc including 18 tracks. Seriously?? To add insult to injury, the selection of some of the tracks that they DO include are questionable ("Lonestar Rising"? "Do Me Now"?? These are FAR from his best.) Where are "Ugly Love", "Come Take Me Over", "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye", "Berliner Star", "Appliance Of Science", "Bag Full Of Silly", etc.??? There are a few b-sides that exist only on DVD singles that should have been included because most people cannot rip DVD audio very easily into am mp3. The b-sides section should have been 3 discs, AT LEAST. and what about some remixes thrown in for good measure?
This Ultimate Edition also features 2 DVD's (Discs 4 and 5) with all of the videos of the songs featured on the first 2 CD's. It's going to be nice to have all the official videos in once place for the first time, although I wish they had included some bonuses like the U.S. version of "Angels" or other fan-release videos like "Dance With The Devil" and "A Place To Crash".
The 6th disc is a DVD of a previously unreleased 2005 concert in Berlin, Germany.
Also worthy of note is that the digital edition of this album feature 2 bonus previoulsy unreleased tracks "Dogs And Birds" and "Email From A Vampire". They should have added both of these the physical CD. You would think they would want to give people more of an incentive to buy the actual product to help the already dying cd industry.
STANDARD 2-CD Edition: Comes in a trifold cardboard case with one disc inserted on each of the side flaps, and a booklet in the middle.
DELUXE 3-CD Edition: Comes in a CD sized casebound book with the same basic booklet as the standard edition, but with a few additional additional photos.
ULTIMATE EDITION: comes in a longer version of the Deluxe packaging at 2 times the length. The booklet is much more expanded with lyrics, release dates, single cover, and UK chart positions. One of the first things I noticed is that the release date and peak position for Tripping is incorrect. Sorry, but I am a nerd and minor details like this get on my nerves SO much. The bad news is that the discs are inserted into flaps on the side panels, and then almost rub up against each other so there is plenty of opportunity for scratches on the discs with time.