Like listening to your favourite 'alternative' station in the late 70s, the Stiff compilation is very much hit and miss. Even those with broad tastes will find some of the dross too much of a challenge, but every disc contains some real gems, and much of it still sounds pretty fresh. The fourth disc shows how off-the-rails Stiff became before imploding, with the frankly bizarre recordings of The Belle Stars and painful wailing of The Inspirational Choir of the Pentecostal First-Born Church of the Living God, but the presence of the Pogues, Rachel Sweet, Jona Lewie and the mysterious The Rumour more than make up for them. Entertaining.
The Stiff label has repackaged its product many times first as vinyl then with CD Box sets. After the double A Hard Night's Day which gathered 40 tracks came the Stiff Box and now this one The Big Stiff Box. There was so much product through its existence from 1977 for over 10 years that these last 2 Boxes don't repeat that much and this current one has a great book added in the package-known as a Long Box. At only £15 its damned good value. The Stiff label was in a sense like Apple-the most off the wall items were issued and how much further off the wall can you get than the LP of Ronald Reagan's "speeches" as The Wit & Wisdom of...? Yes total silence and Stiff have enough of a sense of humor to add -as the last track on this current box- an "except"! I don't think any collector could go along equally with even 60% of the Stiff output-me I could do without the appalling Fairytale song of the Pogues-an all time bad record to my mind. Like Apple the label signed up artists who'd already had a crack somewhere else and Jona Lewie-whose Christmas song was as good as the Pogues was bad-was in previous incarnations as Brett Marvin and Terry Dactyl. Those who went for straight ahead traditional pop music would find it in Tracey Ullman,the Go Gos,Rachel Sweet or Dave Edmunds.There were plenty of 60s covers among the hits,plenty of New Wave and ska and plenty of Outsider Music, Something for everyone really. Even those who liked the idea of a mainly New Wave label issuing a provincial cast of Oklahoma!!