Blondie - Against The Odds: 1974-1982 (4LP Box Set)
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Plenty of Blondie compilations have appeared over the years, but the band endorsed Against the Odds: 1974-1982, a comprehensive complete chronology available in four separate incarnations: a Super Deluxe Collectors' Edition containing ten vinyl records (plus bonuses) and a Deluxe eight-CD set that both contain newly remastered versions of Blondie's first six albums plus 52 bonus tracks, then a Deluxe four-LP set and a triple-CD version that solely feature the non-LP bonus material. Some of the bonus tracks cover B-sides and single mixes that have been in circulation for some time, but there are a grand total of 36 unreleased tracks, most taken from the personal collection of guitarist Chris Stein, who is also the source for much of the memorabilia and pictures seen in the two hefty sets of liner notes accompanying the box. The bonus material runs the gamut of Blondie's career, ranging from edgy early demos from 1974 -- they had the basic elements of "Heart of Glass" in place even then, here heard as "Once Had a Love" -- to some stray synth mixes Stein commissioned for a project in 1982. All the bonus material lacks the polish of the prime studio material, and the lack of gloss makes it easier to hear the formal innovations of Blondie, particularly how they blended pre-Beatles pop with fashionable trends emanating from downtown New York City. Save for a charging rendition of the Doors' "Moonlight Drive," it's hard to call any of the unheard material a surprise, yet these demos, abandoned ideas, and working mixes help to add a dimension and perspective to Blondie's basic canon. Those original albums and, especially, the big hits are so familiar that they can seem set in stone, but when they're paired with these raw, unheard recordings, the group's nervy, arty spirit is resurrected, so it's possible to once again understand what made Blondie such a striking, special band at their peak.