Culture Club

Culture Club [4 CD Box Set]

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Culture Club was always a mixture of outrageous, yet fashionable images, largely courtesy of lead singer Boy George, and attractive pop-soul music topped by his melodic, vulnerable tenor voice. The band made only four albums in its 1982-1986 heyday, plus a 1999 reunion effort that was not released in the U.S. Yet this box set manages to spread across more than five hours, and it doesn't even include all of the group's hit singles. One way it achieves that length is by including solo recordings by Boy George, but not all of his hits are featured, either. (His one big solo success in the U.S., "The Crying Game," is missing.) The listener will have to know the difference beforehand, however, since very little is spelled out in the album's sparse annotations, which consist mostly of brief quips from Boy George included in a 72-page booklet of photographs. The collection begins with ten demos Culture Club recorded for EMI before being signed by Virgin, among them a version of their first hit, "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" (one of four renditions on the box). Their hitmaking period is covered during the rest of the first disc, at least through their second album, Colour by Numbers. There is only one track from their third album, and none from their fourth. Before the halfway mark on the second disc, the collection has turned to Boy George solo tracks, many of them in demo or remixed form. And so it goes for the rest of the album, with a generous helping of songs from Don't Mind If I Do, the reunion album. In total, 25 of the 74 tracks are previously unreleased. For the uncritical Boy George fanatic, the result may be nirvana; for the general listener, it is a miscellaneous mess.

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