As I mentioned in Part I of this set, I chose to forgo the remastered vinyl editions in favour of the CD box sets. If you're looking for more information on the vinyl sets, I'm sure there's lots of people on the internet that can help with that. They do come in some spectacular looking boxes, so I'm sure people will be happy with whichever format they choose to buy.
All the albums in this set, with the exception of Before The Dawn, have been fully remastered.
Once again I'm keeping the shrink wrap plastic on my box lid to protect it as much as possible, so apologies for any plastic seams showing or space dust weirdness on any scans.
THE BOX - ARTWORK AND DESIGN:
The cover art is unique to the CD release of this box set only. It features an image from the Aerial era, which is repeated along the back of the box. There's also an Aerial sound wave along the top of the box, which looks much nicer than that overbearing Fish People logo on Part I.
Just like with Part I, Kate's name and the box set title appear on the front of the box only. While I like the artwork on both boxes, I probably prefer the artwork on this box set a bit more. I generally like most of the images from Aerial anyway - so maybe I'm a bit biased. It's also a nice contrast to the first box.
Although I never mentioned it in the first part of this post, I do think the typewriter font is far too understated. It also would have been nice to have the printing on the side of both boxes as many people do tend to store their box sets sideways.
As I already mentioned a moment ago, the front image is repeated on the back of the box. Unfortunately I can't show this due to the insert placed over it, which is trapped underneath the shrink wrap. Just imagine the exact same photo but without the text.
The artwork for Between Two Worlds by Timorous Beasties has been used for the bottom portion of the box housing the CDs. Again, the artwork appears to be unique to the two parts of this CD box set only.
You can see on this side panel of the box above how the paper hasn't lined up properly along the edge to make the join seamless. I'm not sure if this is a manufacturing flaw on all boxes or if I just got lucky. It's no big deal, but I thought I would point it out in case anyone else came across this with their own box.
The design also continues along the bottom of the box just like on Part I.
THE CDs: PACKAGING AND DESIGN:
While I don't really care that the CD packaging isn't consistent to the ones found in Part I with the tri-fold digipaks, I do have one small gripe over the lack of plastic CD trays on these releases. The packaging from Aerial to 50 Words For Snow is identical to their original releases, so pretty much a mixed bag of terrible CD storage options right there. All the CDs inside of The Other Sides set are in pocket sleeves, and even though the pockets aren't nearly as bad on this release as they have been on some other past releases, it's still a very poorly designed idea in general. The box for this set is considerably smaller than the first box. If they had made it the same size as the first box, then plastic CD trays could have easily been used on all the releases for this set. Just saying!
CD SOUND QUALITY:
Once again, stunning isn't even the right word to use here. It's amazing how a little bit of remastering really does go a long way in making a song shine more than it already does. Some of the differences are subtle, while others are very immediate. Aerial has many new layers to it, which I personally didn't think was remotely possible, especially as it already sounded great to begin with. There are also definite improvements to Director's Cut overall, which actually came as a huge surprise to me. Flower of the Mountain still sounds like it was sung through a paper bag, but apart from this there are noticeable improvements to the other songs. Even 50 Words for Snow sounds a lot better. The Other Sides set came as a total surprise. While I already had these songs a gazillion times over (with the exception of one), I really didn't think they could sound any better - I was wrong.
Prior to both box sets being released it was revealed that a certain vocal on An Architects Dream and The Painter's Link would be replaced. Everyone assumed a re-record for those particular bits, but that isn't quite what happened. Instead, Kate replaced both sections with the live recordings from Before The Dawn. I'm certainly not getting into any of the specific reasons for the vocal replacement in the first place as this isn't the place for it. I'll just simply say that if Kate felt this was the best course of action to take with her music then that's her right.
If you haven't yet heard it, I can tell you that the substitution is seamlessly made. However, reactions appear to be somewhat divided with some people liking it and others hating it. Considering the circumstances, and why it was changed to begin with, this really has become one of those instances where an artist is damned if they do and damned if they don't. I may not be a fan of Bertie, and while I actually find his voice grating on the ears, that still isn't going to take away from my enjoyment of this album. For those who don't like the change... well, I'm sure you still have your original copies you can listen to.
In 2010 the second CD, A Sky of Honey, was renamed An Endless Sky of Honey. All eight individual tracks from that point onward became one continuous track. The 2018 remaster has gone back to its original title and individual tracks format once again.
The booklet is fairly identical, but with a few adjustments made as you will see.
On this page an amendment has been made to include the addition of live material from Before The Dawn.
On the back page of the booklet two notable changes have officially been made with this release. A credit for the didgeridoo has been removed entirely, and a separate credit for The Painter has been replaced.
DIRECTOR'S CUT (STANDARD RELEASE):
I have the original release of this, but I never actually opened it. At the time I opted to open and post the deluxe version instead. The packaging looks identical to how it was set up in the deluxe edition.
50 WORDS FOR SNOW:
Not much to say about the packaging on this one, other than the fact that the pocket sleeve is just as tight and annoying as it is on the original. I would suggest to anyone who dislikes these pocket sleeves as much as I do to keep your CDs in separate cases.
I did notice that one less staple is used in the construction of the booklet. If you check the original release and compare it to this one you will see for yourself.
BEFORE THE DAWN:
Before The Dawn can only be found in this CD set, and is not included with any of the vinyl sets. However, with that being said, the copy contained in this set is the 2016 release, so you aren't getting anything new or different with it. Same packaging. Same sound. Same everything. It's fine if you don't already own it, but for everyone else it's kind of redundant. It's for this reason that I'm not re-scanning it all over again because it would be a complete waste of time. If you want to see full scans you can check out my original post HERE.
THE OTHER SIDES:
The Other Sides release is exclusive to the CD and Vinyl box sets only and cannot be purchased as a separate physical release. I've heard that tracks are available for download via iTunes, but since I don't do iTunes I can't confirm this. This is something people will have to check out for themselves.
This 4 CD set contains 34 tracks and is comprised of B-Sides, remixes and standalone singles. The previously unreleased "Humming" track has also been officially released for the first time ever. This appears to be the same version that was partially played on BBC Radio 1 back in 1979 during an interview with Kate. Just under a minute only ever made it to air, and the track never leaked in full - so don't confuse it with an early demo version that's been circulating for years. Hopefully, with Kate's change of heart on this one, she might be more inclined at some point to release further material like this. Fingers crossed.
The CDs are housed in a laminated thick card digipak similar to the packaging used for Director's Cut (standard and deluxe versions) and 50 Words For Snow. If you're looking for the KT symbol on this one - it's there ; )
Unfortunately (or not) there are quite a few tracks that never made it onto these CDs. This includes:
The Empty Bullring
December Will Be Magic Again (Bongo Version)
Not This Time
Be Kind To My Mistakes (Castaway Version)
On Stage (Live 4 Track EP)
Cloudbusting (Video Mix)
Experiment IV (Video Mix)
Shoedance (The Red Shoes Dance Mix)
The Sensual World (Instrumental)
Moments of Pleasure (Instrumental)
Candle In The Wind (Instrumental)
Rubberband Girl (Extended Mix)
Rubberband Girl (U.S. Mix)
Eat The Music (12” Version)
Eat The Music (U.S. Mix)
While I’m not surprised the majority of these tracks were left off, I am a bit shocked the Empty Bullring and Not This Time were excluded from the set. I also think not using the Castaway soundtrack version of Be Kind To My Mistakes was a wasted opportunity. It's far superior to the edited down version we always seem to get and would have been nice to have it in this collection. At least Kate had enough sense to leave Ken off this time.
Ever since its release people have been moaning over the fact that none of Kate's collaborative efforts with other artists have made it onto this set. While there have been many good ones over the years, I really don't see those songs as having any place here. I know. Shocking I would even say that, isn't it? But it's true. They don't belong here.
Even despite the fact that every last song or mix may not be included on this set, and I certainly never mentioned them all, it's still a very well-rounded collection in my opinion. Lots of fantastic B-Sides and other random tracks all pulled together for the first time in this set. I also like how everything is mixed up a bit and not in chronological order as they have been on past releases. Truthfully, I probably would have just been happy with this 4 CD set if we hadn't got any remasters at all - but we did, and this just happens to be a very nice bonus.
The inside end papers on the CD also feature the artwork for Between Two Worlds, but printed in a sepia tone.
As I mentioned earlier on, the pockets on this release aren't nearly as bad as some of them have been on other past releases. In fact, these ones are pretty roomy. Tipping the pockets bottom side up a tiny bit will easily get the CDs to slide out just enough to properly grip them by the edge.
CD 1: 12" MIXES
CD 2: THE OTHER SIDE 1
CD 3: THE OTHER SIDE 2
CD 4: IN OTHERS' WORDS
Whether you see yourself as a completest or a casual fan, it's definitely worth picking up the two CD sets, or even the vinyl sets if you prefer that. All the albums sound better than ever. They're definitely worth the money and I haven't regretted buying them for one second.
I've seen some people complaining there's no sound difference between the remasters and older album releases, and basically claiming these sets are a rip off, etc. The only real answer I have for that comes in the form of a random comment that I read online quite a while ago, but it sums up my own feeling on it exactly. I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the person simply stated: If you can't hear the difference, then you need better equipment.