Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why The Enhanced Songs Of Mass Destruction Is The Only Version Worth Buying!

The Good: Good songs, Great bonus tracks, Interesting commentary, All right video
The Bad: Still not perfect - could have used more extra songs/easier video format
The Basics: The Deluxe version of Songs Of Mass Destruction might not change the original, but it adds well to it and has added value.

It is a rare thing when I would choose the standard version of an album as opposed to the enhanced, deluxe version of it. Sometimes, the deluxe version is a draw with the original release, as I recently discovered with Sara Bareilles' enhanced Little Voice release (reviewed here!). With Annie Lennox's Songs Of Mass Destruction (reviewed here!), I was eagerly anticipating listening to the album and as a result, when I found myself a more lukewarm to it, I turned to the Deluxe version in hopes of getting a different perspective.

Given that I have already reviewed Songs Of Mass Destruction, this review will focus exclusively on the differences between the original (one-disc) version and the deluxe (2-disc) version. The 2-disc version consists of the original c.d. pressed now with two additional tracks. As a result, it is a thirteen track album that clocks out at over fifty-four minutes.

One of the bonus tracks is simply an acoustic version of the album's first single, "Dark Road." "Dark Road" lends itself very naturally to an acoustic version and as one might suspect, the non-electric version is more haunting, relying on Annie Lennox's voice and passion more than any instruments to create its mood. This works incredibly well with this song as it has a lyrical power that combines well with Lennox's vocal power to establish a real sense of loss and . . . well, destruction.

The bonus track "Don't Take Me Down" bookends the album well, though the music thwarts some of the lyrical power. Take, for example the closing lines, which are magnificently written as "I've been caught by the spell of temptation / I've been burned by the hell of damnation / And I don't need to be taken there again / All I want's for this wounded heart to mend" ("Don't Take Me Down"). It could be longing and wrenching, but the tempo is faster paced than one might expect from the lyrics and that makes for a less great song than one might hope for.

That said, the deluxe version is easily redeemed by the second disc. The second disc contains the original pressing of Songs Of Mass Destruction with Annie Lennox providing a commentary track. The commentary track cannot be muted, so the album is all about Lennox telling the story about her thoughts and feelings about the creation of the music. Rather amazingly, the album plays in any c.d. player because the commentary version is a standard compact disc in its formatting.

The commentary track is insightful with Lennox putting songs in a larger musical context ("Through The Glass Darkly," "Smithereens"), telling anecdotes (her daughter told her not to do the rap on "Womankind") and editorializing on the state of the world and the intent of her music in it ("Dark Road," "Sing"). The commentary track, like many commentary tracks on DVDs (this is my first c.d. commentary track) drifts and surrenders to the music at times, but for the most part, the information and enthusiasm Annie Lennox brings to the project keeps her talking.

Sure, there are moments where Lennox is obvious - talking about war being horrible on "Lost" for example - but she more than makes up for it with her sense of vision. She is articulate and when she stays focused, the commentary disc provides an experience that is both interesting to listen to and informative. I have found myself re-listening to the commentary album almost in equal measure with the thirteen track disc almost in equal measure because it is so entertaining. This is something I rarely do with DVD commentary tracks, so I find this significant.

Also on the disc is the video for "Dark Road," which plays in any computer with Quicktime. I swear, I thought this sort of Enhanced CD had gone the way of the dinosaur. I can't remember the last time I found a c.d. with a Quicktime video as opposed to a DVD video. Honestly, I prefer the DVD versions, but it is neat to see the video for "Dark Road" (which I had not seen before picking up this version of the c.d.) Lennox gives a good performance and makes an interesting story from the song that illustrates a sense of being tormented by the consequences of the past. It's a fine video, despite the format.

Anyone who enjoys the works of Annie Lennox will like the Deluxe version of Songs Of Mass Destruction. It might not solve any of the structural problems - admittedly mostly tied to my expectations based on the album's title - of the original, but it makes what is there make more sense and the additional tracks add value as well.

This is definitely the preferred version for anyone who likes Annie Lennox; the value of the additional disc and bonus tracks make it a clear choice over the original release, especially considering how little added expense there is for this version!

For other works by Annie Lennox, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Little Bird (single)
The Annie Lennox Collection (Deluxe Edition)


Check out how this album stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best to worst!

© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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