We live in the great age of box sets. Career-spanning retrospectivesclassic album deep-dives, state-of-the-art remixes. Repackaged for resale. A dime a dozen. You name it, we’ve got it. Which is why a compilation like Blondie’s “Against the Odds, 1974-1982gives a listener pause.
As with most box sets, “Against the Odds” arrives in multiple configurations, sporting the usual titles — “Super Deluxe,” “Deluxe,” et al. But the important takeaway here, as always, is the music. And Blondie’s box set absolutely rocks. If you’re a completist, I’m delighted to report that the collection includes everything.
Naturally, the band’s original studio albums are in evidence, supplemented by 52 rarities and outtakes. Of particular note are the group’s breezy, unreleased “Mr. Sightseer” and — as the Holy Grail of Blondie’s unreleased archives — a long-rumored cover version of the Doors’ “Moonlight Drive.” For the latter, Blondie amps up the Doors’ bouncy original version with the sizzle and crack of New Wave-era gusto.
If you enjoy geeking out to your favorite bands, “Against the Odds” doesn’t disappoint. The Super Deluxe edition weighs in at an incredible 17 pounds, featuring two separate hardcover books — one of which includes Erin Osmon’s extensive liner notes, as well as commentary from the band members and essays by Richard Gottehrer and Mike Chapman. A second volume affords listeners with a lavishly illustrated discography.
But the real standouts are the remastered versions of Blondie’s first six studio albums, including “Blondie,” “Plastic Letters,” “Parallel Lines,” “Eat to the Beat,” “Autoamerican” and “The Hunter.” There is a depth and immediacy inherent in the remastered LPs. Casual fans and aficionados alike will revel at the opportunity to embark on an aural journey across the band’s career, listening intently as the group refines their sound in advance of pumping out smash hits like “Heart of Glass,” “One Way or Another,” “Dreaming,” “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture.”
And what a journey it was, as Blondie eclipsed their genre, crackling with energy and lording over the New Wave era in unforgettable style. Clocking in with a mind-blowing 124 tracks, the box set was remastered by Michael Graves, who retains the band’s original sound, while affording their songs with greater separation and definition — an aspect that should be music to the ears of audiophiles the world over .
In a veritable sea of box sets, “Against the Odds” manages to succeed where so many others have fallen short. Chock-full of surprises and extras, the anthology never strays from the reason we all originally tuned in to the ragtag band of New Yorkers in the first place — the music.
Love deep dives into musicians’ careers? Listen to Ken’s podcast “Everything Fab Four.”
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