1979 box set (BMG)

In September, a report from the Recording Industry Association of America told us that vinyl was set to outsell CDs for the first time since 1986. That’s quite an astonishing result for a format that has outlasted 8-track tape, cassette tape and now the CD, and has been considered antiquated by many for decades. Vinyl just won’t go away, and that has as much to do with the aesthetic, tangible quality as the much-debated sound quality. A piece of vinyl looks beautiful, and the artistic options available are much greater than with other formats — certainly greater than streaming.

BMG have taken full advantage of all that with this new Motorhead box set, which frankly is a thing of absolute beauty. Let’s talk packaging first, because this set is immaculate. The box itself is designed to look like a black leather jacket over a faded Motorhead tee — pins and all. The attention to detail is magnificent, to the point that the reverse side of the lid indeed looks like the inside of a jacket complete with label. It’s the sort of thing that makes a vinyl junkie stand up and applaud.

The theme of this set, as the title suggests, is the year 1979 — a high point in the band’s career. Both the Overkill and Bomber albums were released in ’79, and both are included here. It’s a little ironic that we’re discussing the career high of the Lemmy, Fast Eddie Clark and Philthy Animal Taylor lineup the same week that Phil Campbell and Mikkey Dee, who were together with the band for a quarter of a century, were initially overlooked by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during the nomination process, but that’s the way the dice rolled. While the later-era band was superb, there’s no denying the raw, primal clout of the original three.

As well as those two albums, we get two previously unreleased double live albums from that year, plus another  LP of B-sides, demos and outtakes. There’s a 7″ of the “No Class” single which unfolds to reveal all of the different sleeves it was initially released with. Then there’s a five-pack of pins, reproductions from the 1979 tours. There’s a reproduction of the Bomber tour program from ’79, sheet music for “Overkill,” and a lovingly assembled magazine, called Melody Breaker, which looks like an old issue of Melody Maker and features work from journos and Motorhead fans such as Steve “Krusher” Joule, regular L.A. Weekly contributor Morat, Girlschool’s Kim Macauliffe and New Order’s Peter Hook.

You could easily spend a day admiring and reading this box before starting to listen to the music. When you do drop the needle on the vinyl, there’s much to love there too. Most of the people spending the $170-ish dollars on this will already be familiar with the two studio albums. They really are two of the band’s best — punky and nasty rock & roll. Songs such as the two title tracks, “No Class,” “Metropolis,” “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Stone Dead Forever” — this really is prime Motorhead.

The first of the live albums was recorded in March ’79 in Aylesbury, U.K. and obviously focuses on the Overkill material. The second, recorded on November of that year in Le Mans, France, introduces the Bomber material. Both sound phenomenal — a band in their pomp. Both sets also end with the song “Motorhead,” originally written by Lemmy for the space-rock band Hawkwind.

The B-sides and outtakes are a mixed bag, but all of it is fun to sift through and the sleeve art, designed to look like an old demo cassette, is gorgeous.

Whether the whole thing is worth the hefty price is subjective. But for the huge Motorhead fans that this is aimed at, it’s at least worth considering. This is one if the better box sets from any band that we’ve seen in a long time.


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