2005: Sony/BMG 82876741362

    In the Garden

    Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)


    Be Yourself Tonight



    We Too Are One


Although it may (or may not) be purchased mostly by only serious Eurythmics fans and the affluent-and-curious, Boxed makes me terribly happy by its very existence: it’s not their entire body of work, but it does take the listener on a journey from 1980 to the threshhold of 2000 with an open door at the end of the journey (as well as a last look back beyond the start to their roots), and in doing so it puts the generally-known hits in both immediate original context and overall perspective.

I’m happy for those not-fans-but-familiar-and-curious out there who decide to check out Boxed rather than just get a copy of the one or two Eurythmics albums they have or like a couple of hits from: they’ll get to explore a ridiculous profusion of creativity that has an ever-changing face and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Year after year, Eurythmics managed somehow to turn out albums that bore no resemblance to the recordings on the preceding album—the hyperspace-jump from Touch to Be Yourself Tonight is bewildering, and if you reinstate their not-a-soundtrack album 1984—For the Love of Big Brother between them in that timeline it’s even more unexpected, and from Revenge to Savage is all but incomprehendible.

This is where Boxed’s brilliant and near-perfect liner notes (by Phill Savidge) add magnificent value to this compilation: Savidge provides a frank, unsycophantic narrative that doesn’t merely comment on the tracks on the album in question but continues the ongoing story from album to album and explains how events and experiences contributed to the next album’s genesis. They read well for the casually-interested but also provide some delightful nuggets for fans. My only serious issue with Savidge’s notes is the missed opportunity to explain six of the cover versions with a brief mention of the TVP project (see below), and even there I’m so delighted with what he wrote that I’m inclined to assume that he wrote it before it was decided to include the TVP tracks. Other than that, I spent my first readthrough of the eight CD booklets with unblinking, riveted eyes most of the time and gleeful laughter now and then. (For those who are reading this to join in the celebration, examples of the former: the Synclavier, and Jagger’s visit, in Savage’s creation, and the idea of Revenge as “built” and having changed direction; of the latter, learning what “(My My) Baby’s Gonna Cry” was originally called, and “(OK, I made that last bit up).”

I hate to bring up the subject of the graphic design of Boxed and the booklets in particular in a “by the way” parenthetical way, but here I am doing it, and that is a grievous disservice (if not an actual insult) to Laurence Stevens, whose production of nearly all (not “all,” Phill) Eurythmics graphic design and album “looks” has been a zenith of excellence I’ve striven to achieve in my own graphic design work. Individually these booklets are delicious to behold; as a set they are as strong and varied as are the albums themselves and completely reflect the duo’s development. Even where Stevens has only a photo shoot and a video to draw on, as is the case with Savage, he delivers a rich and expressive 24-page booklet as strong as the others.

The dazzling array of visuals here amuses me ironically because, as ridiculously diverse as it seems, it’s far from exhaustive. The same is true of the range of tracks on Boxed: it’s not complete—after listening to all the bonus tracks I found I could easily name 30 tracks not included (without even consulting my vinyl collection, let alone a discography)—and it’s not the Holy Grail of Eurythmics recordings (that would be their actual original soundtrack for the film “1984,” to my mind anyway), but it is great and very welcome. What’s here thrills me—especially because of the bonus tracks, which give non-collectors a gimplse of just how widely (and wildly) talented and experimental D&A have always been. It’s been tricky for me over the years to relate to people who only know two or three Eurythmics hits: they’re thinking Eurythmics sound like “Here Comes the Rain Again” or “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” and I’m thinking of D&A’s contemporaneous “Monkey Monkey” (a Sweet Dreams B-side), or how “Don’t Ask Me Why” and the wailin’ Southern version of “Missionary Man” (sadly not included in Boxed) and the vigorously icy chill of “See No Evil” all existed simultaneously.

Also, since nobody online seems to be making note of this fact, I want to point out right away that six of the cover versions here (“Come Together,” “Fame,” “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me,” “My Guy,” “Something In the Air,” and “Hello I Love You”) are not simply Eurythmics cover versions but were recorded together in or around 1988 for a futuristic film project (“TVP”) that never materialized beyond these (and other) tracks; in it, set in a future in which there was no new music anymore, just recycled old music (we’re not quite there yet, although sometimes it seems close), Annie was to play the slowly-turning-mad operator of a music-broadcasting satellite who was sending out crazier and crazier combinations of past music. These tracks are quirky to say the least if you don’t know about this and hilariously imaginative if you do. “Come Together” and “My Guy” in particular demonstrate the pastiched-fragments aspect of the idea extremely well.

OK, gotta go back to listening to them all now. Check back for a full post in early December!