I'll add to this review as I work my way through the box.
As far as the package goes - it comes in an actual box, with a removable lid. There's a little satin "bookmark" in it, which is well over the top given the spartan contents. You get five discs (3 CD, 2 DVD). There's also a hardback "book". I put that in quotes because the "book" is only 32 pages long. Of those 32 pages, 22 are various pictures of memorabilia and of Mike, leaving only 10 pages for text. A little underwhelming. The box feels empty, if I'm honest.
Each CD/DVD comes in a card sleeve, and all covers are identical (close up of the moon from the cover art). The back of the sleeves list the tracks etc.
I'm not going to go into whether it's "better" than the previous release I have (the original CD release). I think we're at a point where we tend to have our own personal preferences, and too many offer up opinions as though they're definitive dictates. I will say that to me the music is more detailed, and yes louder. Not blown out, though. I heard little bits of guitar I'd never heard before, and some hi-hat's I'd missed previously. For me, it's very good (it's a new 2013 master, by the way).
This CD includes some extra tracks, including two additional versions of Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall. The first of these are "unplugged", which essentially means it's a play through of the album track with everything other than Oldfield's acoustic guitar taken out. Does it work? Not particularly well, imo. We get the same treatment for Shadow on the Wall - and in reality that fares even less well, really highlighting how idiosyncratic the vocal performance is.
Along with these we get a single - Mistake. Mistake was on the US pressing of the original vinyl, and for me it's a bit too similar to Moonlight Shadow, with none of the charm. We also have the single Crime of Passion, and that's much better. It's B side, Jungle Gardenia, is also included.
Finally we have the 12" versions of Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall. These are good actually, coming in at around two minutes additional running time. You'd think you'd not want to hear a third version of each of these on this disc, but they're such good songs they never seem to get old.
All in all a nice CD, and the sound quality is good. Only four more discs to go....
CD2 & CD3: Live at Wembley Arena 22nd July 1983
The next two discs are the complete live show from 1983. The first of these (CD2) contains tracks from Five Miles Out, Ommadawn, and Tubular Bells (which also contains the band intro's). CD 3 includes the Crisis material, with the title track in complete form, with Moonlight Shadow and Shadow on the Wall along for the ride too. It also has a complete Taurus and Family Man. CD 3 is included as the second disc of the two-disc version of this release (giving you the original album with the 2013 master, and the live material for Crisis). CD 2 is exclusive to this set (I believe those who buy MP3's can get the extra stuff though).
All that said - what of the concert? Well, sound quality is generally good. Some personal preference comes into play here. Some expect live recordings to be as pristine as studio recordings, even if that means some post dubbing. Others accept the recording is "live", and so may include imperfections and slight differences. Since this was professionally recorded at the time for a proposed release that never happened, overall quality is very good - this is NOT a bootleg quality disc. On the other hand, it sounds very "live". Sometimes instruments drop out, and the vocals aren't stellar (especially Roger Chapman on Shadow on the Wall). Even Moonlight Shadow suffers during the first few moments with a weak vocal mix. The music doesn't expand at all, it's pretty much the album played live, but since a lot of these tracks are 20+ minutes long, they are through composed, so that's not a surprise.
Is the concert good? Yes, it is. I'm happy to have it. Those buying the two disc version are being short-changed, since they only get half the show. Not only that, but it's probably the weaker half truth be told. Just keep in mind, this is live in capital letters - it's LIVE. So it's not perfect, it's very "real". Pristine quality and perfection is not on offer - and for me, neither it should be.
More to come.....