LITTLE RIVER BAND
I guess bands who continue to have a life of their own, beyond their original foundations and constitution, will always be a point of contention amongst their hardcore fanbase. Australia's Little River Band, formed in 1975, and now with more than 30 million record sales to their name, have no original members left at all. The longest serving musician currently in their ranks is bassist/vocalist Wayne Nelson, who joined in 1980. Other than him, it's all post-millennial membership. It brings to mind Trigger's broom from the perennially popular UK sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses' (Trigger: "This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time"; Sid: "How the hell can it be the same bloody broom, then?") I'm guessing there'll be many dissenters out there who will naturally protest: "How can it be the same bloody band, then?" Well, of course, it's not. But, like any football club that persists through the ages with an ever-changing team of players, Little River Band are still around in their post-millennial formation.
So, what do we have here? 'The Big Box'... which is, in actual fact, a rigid cardboard, standard sized CD box - at least in width and length, but with a little more depth - that houses five CDs and one DVD, all in their own individual cardboard sleeves. 'The Small Box' would've been a more apt name, but that would lose any sense of wordplay against the band's name. And 'The Slightly Bigger Than Average Sized Box' would just be plain ridiculous... albeit way more accurate. The contents of the discs? Shameless repetition is the phrase that springs to mind. Effectively, these are reissues of moments from their discography from 2000 onwards. With albums named 'The Hits... Revisited' and 'Re-arranged', together with a live record, 'One Night in Mississippi'... it's easy to see where the repetition of tracks creeps in. Even one of the two 'original' studio albums that has been included, 'Where We Started From', includes an element of re-recorded material.
BUT... if you don't reside within the "this is just a cover band" camp, and can forgive this collection for its repetitiveness, there's a lot to enjoy here. That is, if your musical proclivities sway towards inoffensive, easy-listening tunes that reside somewhere between AOR and classic rock, all loaded with instantly accessible melodies and wonderfully executed vocal harmonies. Personally, I have to be in the right mood to listen to this kind of stuff. It's all very vanilla. There's no cognitively challenging sonics that I thrive on when listening to new music. And, for the less cognitively challenging art side of my listening habits, it's all about emotional connection to the music... that, unfortunately, is also absent with my Little River Band experience. I have minimal emotional connection to the music on offer here. All that said, I can admire it for what it is. Well-crafted vanilla rock... which I know is the cup of tea for many, if not myself. Oh, and a word of warning - don't expect too much from the DVD in this set. It states in the booklet: "Video footage recorded on various devices at various venues during Little River Band's 40th Anniversary US Tour 2015". It's as random in quality and mediocrity as indicated by what is, in essence, a disclaimer. Certainly do not expect glossy, professionally filmed footage. A DVD over a BD is a disappointment to some in our current HD era... but this is subpar even by a DVD's SD limitations. And the much touted "interviews" that this set promises on the back cover blurb amount to nothing more than under 4 minutes of what resembles some kind of EPK.
A few words need to be said about the artwork for this package, too. It's been described in press blurb as "striking sleeve artwork", designed by the hand of Ernie Cefalu, a Grammy nominated artist, who was the man responsible for The Rolling Stones' iconic lips and tongue artwork. However, it looks like this was mocked-up in Photoshop in a spare half an hour, with no real thought or passion. I'd go as far to say it's a step down from those 'Now Music' album covers. This really does yell of grade Z tacky cheese, and "bargain bin" fodder. Good old Ernie even gets a whole page of liner notes in the accompanying booklet, where he states: "I have been waiting over 40 years to do this album cover". Really?! Certainly not worth the wait, squire.
My advice to Little River Band fans? Tread with caution. It has bargain bin artwork, so perhaps try to buy this for a bargain bin price. Newcomers, like myself? Your affinity with the genre aside, I'm guessing this is an acceptable starting point to sample the twenty first century output of these Australians, but it doesn't particularly have any kind of "wow" factor. At least Ernie's artwork for 'The Big Box' is true to its contents, in that sense!
Store For Music
THE BIG BOX
Review by Mark Holmes
28th April 2017
DISC ONE: Where We Started From
DISC TWO: One Night in Mississippi
DISC THREE: Test of Time
DISC FOUR: Re-arranged
DISC FIVE: Revisited
DISC SIX: Bustin' Out (DVD) 40th Anniversary Tour
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...an acceptable starting point to sample the twenty first century output of these Australians, but it doesn't particularly have any kind of "wow" factor."