A mouthful, an earful, and, if you go for kitsch '60s style record sleeves — an eyeful.
Thirty-one tracks on the LP, 51 on the cassette and 47 on the CD means you get the Elvis that you pay for, and more, but you don't get a lyric sheet (as if you needed one anyway). Instead, there is a track by track lowdown by the man himself a la exhaustive interview filler not so much demystifing songs that fairly shriek with clarity but enhancing your own conclusions as to the circumstances in which they were written.
We were saving the business of the same music in a different kitchen for the Buzzcocks boxed set, but the order of these songs (spanning '76-'86) seems to be of particular relevance re: the re-packaging and ultimate marketability of the hits and, whatever compiler cheekily refers to as the 'lost songs.'
Wot no outtakes? Apparently the key to this mystery is to be found in the title and we are not to strain ourselves over it, but bad maths could reveal something to do with American rights, or, more dirtily — the easy access to Yank groupies — oh Lord please do let him be misunderstood, because with such revealing liner notes, he's got to get cryptic in some capacity.
Record one consists of all the songs you thought were written on or after some pharmaceutical excess, or were later reviewed by those of like minds, complete with frenzied highs and deathly crashes. This is not a specific drug reference; liquor could just as easily be the culprit.
It's his mind f—— set, complete with nastiness in the middle class guise of wit ("I Hope You're Happy Now") paranoia ("Watching The Detectives") delusions ("Red Shoes") and general rock 'n' roll excess ("Pump It Up"). It's the too much, too soon side, the automatic writing on the wall side — a debauched debacle of being pissed and/or pissed off.
Record two is lashing-out-at-the-world-as-well bit, with political songs ("Oliver's Army" "Pills And Soap" "Shipbuilding") punctuating the dark 'love' songs ("Alison" "I Want You" "I'll Wear It Proudly"). This is the set that slaps you upside the head — when the memory becomes the reality. It's a shit-stirrer.
It's worth checking the complete track listing before you buy, but it's one for collectors, one-LPers, and everybody inbetween.