Several weeks ago, I wrote that the folks from The Show were releasing a “Best Of” compilation from the recent Dead Can Dance tour discs. Entitled Selections From Europe 2005, it was a two-disc set containing 20 tracks culled from the band’s various European performances.
Having missed out on getting one of the “real” tour releases, I quickly plunked down the $36 or so for a copy, which arrived just before all of the wedding madness ensued. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit lately, and it’s quite impressive. For starters, the sound quality is amazing. These are no mere bootlegs, but rather artist-sanctioned recordings made directly through the soundboard and then cleaned up and remastered.
Listening to these recordings, you get a real sense of just how overwhelming this group must be to experience live. From Brendan Perry’s rich baritone and Lisa Gerrard’s angelic voice, to the wide array of esoteric instrumentation, it’s all captured in stunning detail. The song choices are quite interesting, spanning the band’s career as well as Perry and Gerrard’s solo work (and there’s even a gorgeous rendition of This Mortal Coil’s “Dreams Made Flesh” thrown in for good measure).
The highlights are many. “Nierika” kicks off the set, enveloping the listener in its lush, intoxicating rhythms. “Saltarello,” one of the group’s sprightliest tracks ever, sounds like the opening day parade of a Renaissance Fair set in the middle of Tuscany. A haunting rendition of “The Wind That Shakes The Barley” is still one of the most perfect showcases for Gerrard’s unearthly voice. Likewise, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove,” “Black Sun,” “Severance” show off Brendan Perry’s considerable pipes (and makes one wish he’d do a proper solo album that would make up for the disappointing Day Of The Hunter).
“Sanvean,” which can be found on Gerrard’s The Mirror Pool, should be a must-hear for any female-fronted darkwave act so they can see how it should be done. Finally, the exotic drones and percussion that flow throughout “Yulunga” give me a chill everytime I hear them.
Packaging-wise, the release is a bit of a mixed bag. The artwork is gorgeous and printed on solid paper, but I just wish there was more of it. Or at least photos from the various live performances. As it stands, it feels something like a “bargain” release. Not having one of the “real” tour releases, I can’t help but wonder if those have more indepth liner notes, photos, etc.
The one major issue with the release is that the two discs come stacked on top of eachother. Considering how cool and professional the rest of the package looks, especially in it’s slick Jewelbox, this just feels like a cop-out of sorts. I know the discs don’t touch eachother, so there’s no danger of scratching, but it just looks cheesy to me. Personally, I think it would look nicer if the discs were offset a little bit so that they weren’t directly on top of eachother.
The only example of this that I can think of was the recent Ultimate Matrix Collection. While it was still a hassle to get out the second disc from the set’s various two-disc cases — you still had to remove the first disc first — it looked quite a bit nicer, giving you a glimpse of both discs’ artwork.
But that’s a very small quibble. Overall, a very nice release featuring some gorgeous music, the like of which is sadly in short supply these days. (Very few, if any, of Dead Can Dance’s contemporaries and followers come close to being their peer.)