I have to tell you, I was excited when I learned the Tragically Hip remastered their 1992 album, Fully Completely, and were packaging it up in a box set that would include a DVD and a book! I am not one to buy music box sets…I have a couple of Led Zeppelin sets…but there was just something about this one that made me want it, probably because Fully Completely is one of my favourite albums. Not a day goes by that one of the songs from that album isn’t playing in my head (today, it’s Pigeon Camera). I still have my Fully Completely t-shirt from 1994 that I still wear proudly today, in all its bewbly glory. I love Fully Completely, fully and completely. Every song is a gem. The album artwork is glorious, unique and intricate. The whole album stands the test of time, and brings me back to my university days. I wound up buying the Limited Edition Super Deluxe Box Set, and it arrived in the mail on December 23 – just in time for the Christmas Holidays.
Calling this a “box set” is a bit of a misnomer. It is actually a book, with the CDs and DVD tucked away in pockets situated inside the book. The cover of the book is emblazoned with the recognizable album cover artwork of the bewbly woman dancing front and centre. A piece of gloss paper with a description of what the set contains was oddly affixed to the back of the book with a loonie-sized dollop of rubber cement. The set’s contents: 2 CDs, a DVD, 5 lithographs and of course, the book (acting as the box).
When I opened up the book, five 8.5 by 12 inch cardstock pages fell out of the book and slid across my living room floor. Guess I found the lithographs…These were images taken from the original album’s liner notes. I find those a little disturbing in small scale – imagine Gord Downie’s big screeching mug, blown up onto 8.5 by 12 cardstock! At any rate, I was a bit bothered by the contents of the box set falling out as soon as I opened the book for the first time. Why are these loose? Why aren’t they tucked away like the CDs and DVD were?
The book itself is short (about 40 pages), and is called, “An Oral History of Fully Completely.” Printed on a sturdy cardstock, the stories told on these pages are, for the most part informative, if a little dry. Going song by song, the book gives a history on how a song’s music and lyrics came to be from the vantage point of every member of the band. What you read here is basically a longform interview with the band. The publication includes pics, newspaper clippings from the time, concert posters and images from the album cover. Not a bad keepsake, really, but not something I would buy on its own. What I enjoyed reading about here was artist Lieve Prins’s process in creating the Fully Completely album cover. Of particular interest to me was finding an image of a news article from July 1993, from the Globe and Mail, reviewing the Markham, Ontario leg of The Tragically Hip’s own nine-date touring event, Another Roadside Attraction, which happened to be the very same two day concert extravaganza my sister and I attended July 23 and 24, 1993. What good fortune!
Let’s talk about the music! The Fully Completely CD, was remastered by the legendary Bob Ludwig. What can be said? I don’t have the most sophisticated hearing by any means, but this album sounded crisp and clear. Included are two bonus tracks – a song called Radio Show, and another called So Hard Done By which integrated well with the original album.
Disc 2 is a previously unreleased live CD recording of the Hip performing in Toronto, Ontario at the Horseshoe Tavern, September 13, 1992. They performed their entire Fully Completely album pre-release, also performing the hit, Twist My Arm for good measure. The performance was well mixed – I could hear all instruments clearly. This, my friends, was excellent, and really showcases how good the Hip are live.
The most disappointing piece in the limited edition package was the DVD, titled Heksenketel, which was old footage of the Hip on their tour bus as they crossed the country to perform for Another Roadside Attraction. Initially, when I learned this was from ARA, I thought maybe I’d see some footage of the concert I attended. How exciting that would have been! To see a very young Sarca staring back at me from my TV! Ha! Alas, Heksenketel didn’t show my concert…and barely showed any live concert footage! I mean, there was some. But, barely did we get a full song of the Hip performing before the video would transition to the interior of their tour bus. The ONE FULL song we saw them perform, Blow At High Dough, isn’t even from Fully Completely! The quality of the video was… for a lack of a better term, shite. Terrible sound and video. I recognize this footage is from 1993 and that they were likely using shitty video cameras…but no effort was made to clean the tape up in post production. It looked like one of the guys took the original Maxell VHS tape to Walmart and asked them to dub it to DVD…and what the hell? Let’s put it in the box set and raise the price another 10 bucks!
(No, let’s not, and act like we know better…)
The DVD just looks cheap and awful…The whole time I was watching this I kept thinking: “Where is the Hip in CONCERT?!” followed by, “I could have watched this on YouTube!”
Take this from someone who never blows at high dough: honestly, for what I paid for this set ($49.99), I have to admit, although the CDs kicked ass and the book wasn’t bad, I was still a bit disappointed in the Tragically Hip’s release of this deluxe box set. It’s the lousy DVD and lithos that cheapen the set for me, I think. The Hip lacked attention to detail in the finished product (case in point, the sloppy presentation of the loose-leaf lithos). They really could have done a lot more with this package than they did.
What I would have done in creating a super deluxe package is charge more money and create a documentary…a la Classic Albums, where you see and hear the band discuss the making of Fully Completely with the master tapes, and show them remastering the album. That would have been freaking awesome! They could also include their work with Lieve Prins. And instead of having to read a transcript of the interview (as it is in the book) we see an actual taped interview with the guys talking. Put it out on Blu-Ray, package it up in a 3-Disc set with a little booklet, leave out the lithos and Bob’s your uncle! I’d pay to have that in my collection!
That said, if you are a mega fan and need to have this set, then give ‘er! But, if I were to do it again, I would skip this Super Deluxe box set, and just buy the Fully Completely 2-CD Deluxe package instead, which includes the choice remastered album and live CD for $9.99. It is, after all, about this incredible album.
2 CDs – 5/5
Book – 3/5
DVD and lithos – 1/5
Overall package – 9/15
Tragically Hip: Fully Completely Limited Edition Super Deluxe Box Set
Released: November 2014