6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
07/10. Some GREAT music, some bland music, average box set, slightly overblown price,
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This review is from: 30 Years (Audio CD)
THE MUSIC: First of all, The music contained within; there is good music on each of the seven studio albums here. There really is, even on the last two, which was rather surprising to me. However, that being said, it is really only the first 3 albums which could be considered consistent. The evolution of both quality songs and their style continues, I feel, all through their discography, but only the first 3 albums (Red Roses to If I should fall...)contain consistent greatness. The rest range from lots of highlights marred by intensely average (Peace and love), mostly pretty good, but not enough overall highlights (Hell's ditch, Pogues Mahone) to out and out, mind numbingly bland (Waiting for Herb). It was slightly disheartening coming across an album as out and out superb as If I should Fall From Grace With God and then having it followed by such inconsistency, but time having passed, it is easier to dig out highlights even from them, especially Peace and love, which I feel has some real Pogues classics on it, and a good evolution of sound, just slightly marred by some average, standard songs.
It suppose it would have been rather easy for the band even on the first three albums to fall victim to just putting out standard songs of their style played passionately as they are, but across those albums, there is a real talent for shaping what could be considered fairly typical, enjoyable Celtic melodies into very defined, memorable songs. This ability to shape and blend the folk and the Punk marvelously evolves throughout their first 3 albums, reaching a real peak with If I should fall..., which contains their most (to these ears) melodic songs up to that point, wherein they are more clearly defined than ever before, and consistently, thereafter. Peace and Love contains some evolution of the sound - a lot of song are more defined and disparate than ever before, and a couple seem to edge close to pop, even. However, the more typically pogue songs on it occasionally sound like more flatly played versions of leftovers from the previous album. Hell's Ditch has a very cool sound, and mostly all good songs, nothing I find intensely average like the occasional song on Peace and Love, and whilst there is a sort of Eastern, and sometime straighter folk rather than Celtic sound which keeps things interesting throughout, I find a lot of the songs to just edge on greatness rather than fulfilling their potential, as the performances I find to be a tad flatter than before, especially in terms of MacGowan's voice.
As for the last two, well there is not a great deal to say about them. They are basically more dully produced versions of what has gone before, with both vocals and instruments that seem like that of a Pogues tribute band desperately grappling to the real band's sound as strongly as possible. Not that there is not still highlights, there is, but not too many, and as I said before, a real dull, lifeless production for both, though I find Pogue Mahone to have a few more highlights than Waiting for Herb. Both these albums contain many songs that sound like more lifeless versions of previous tunes, but there is also a noticeably larger amount of poppier, more commercial songs in the vein of Lorelai from Peace and Love, which are often the stronger songs with these albums.
Brief Album Summaries and ratings:
Red Roses for Me - Whilst a slightly typical sound rears its head every now and again, even these slightly average songs are lifted by passionate, energetic playing and "singing". This feels like a lesser version of Rum, Sodomy... in many ways, but is mostly all still great, with loads of highlights, and a real raucous, rebellious nature. Best songs: Boys from the County Hell/Greenland Whale fisheries. Worst Songs: Dingle Regatta/Kitty - 08/10
Rum, Sodomy and the Lash - A real step forward for the band, taking everything that was good about their debut and expanding up and more clearly defining the individual songs. The Wild Cats of Kilkenny is possibly my favorite Pogues instrumental with a rollicking, energetic feel. A Pair of Brown Eyes is an expert, mournful folk ballad and the Band played Waltzing Matilda is as epic a folk song as you will ever need. Best songs: A pair of Brown eyes/sally MacLennane. Worst Songs: Navigator/Billy's Bones (not bad, just a bit more unremarkable than what goes before it). 09/10
If I should fall from Grace with God - Superb album. Just superb. Takes everything that was great about their sound, gives it a slightly more commercial sound in places, widens certain influences, and just groups together some basically superb songs. Highlights for me include the moment when the up tempo kicks into gear on Fiesta, the chorus on the title track, the chorus on Broad Majestic Shannon, and the entirety of Fairytale in New York, which really is just a majestic song. Best songs: Title track/Fairytale of new york/Fiesta/Broad Majestic Shannon. Worst songs: None that come to mind really. 10/10
Peace and Love - Undeniably disappointing follow up. Still contains great songs, just not consistently - it also contains some further evolution of their sound. Some of the more typical songs are slightly duller than whats came before, but there strong highlights. I find it hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere of Young Ned of the Hill, Lorelai is memorable venture into poppier territory, and I adore the melody to London you're a lady. Best songs: Young Ned of the Hill/London you're a Lady. Worst songs: Gartloney Rats/Boat Train. 07/10
Hell's Ditch - again, a leap below the first three, but slightly more consistent than peace - though I don't feel the high points reach quite as high as that album's. Less of an out and out Celtic feel, sort of a more eastern theme and sound in places I think. Best Songs: Ghost of a smile/Sunny side of the Street. Worst Songs: Hell's Ditch/Madrin Rain. 07/10
Waiting for Herb - Now I don't count myself as a particularly harsh judge of music - i find aspects to enjoy in most albums, and it takes something exceptionally mundane for me to give it less than a six (and conversely, it takes a lot to impress me enough to award a 10/10, but this album really is a bland thing. All the style of before now with added dull production and exceptionally mundane, MacGowan-like Karaoke style vocals. The opening track is a good Pogues-like borderline pop song (Tuesday morning), but everything else ranges from acceptable and average to out and out bad (big city, pachinko, my baby's gone) Best song: Tuesday Morning. Worst: Big city, Pachinko. 05/10
Pogue Mahone - I feel this is a definite improvement over Herb, but none the less a predominantly pretty pale imitation of what has came before. Livin in a world without her is a real fave of mine - a catchy, rollicking song, and Love you till the end is a nice little pop song, and I rather like the cover of When the Ship comes in. So yeah, only a few highlights still and little evolution in sound from that album, but a better sound and overall quality than herb. Best songs: Livin in a world without her/Love you till the end. Worst songs: Oretown/Tosspint. 06/10.
THE SET/PACKAGING; Pretty uninspired stuff really. No liner notes or separate booklet, which I would have expected from a celebratory set of the band. The lyrics printed within the individual cardboard album sleeves are nice, and generally strong quality print to these eyes. But yeah, pretty standard stuff really - cardboard box, cardboard sleeves, like a lot of these complete collections, but no accompanying booklet, so a bit of a dearth of information. Now I would accept this and not pay it much mind, but this seems to cost a fair amount (49.99 at time of writing, 45 at time of buying)for what it is. There are numerous other sets that contain much more music and albums for a much better price, WITH an accompanying booklet. So this is a relatively expensive, very bare bones set. If it had been a bit cheaper and not labeled as a "30 years" box set, I would have accepted it, but as good as the music can be, it's hard not to be a little disappointed in the actual set itself. still nice to have the albums in the one set mind - just wish more thought had been put into the package - it all smacks of a bit of a budget set, despite the price tag.