The arrival of a new Gene set, even a flawed one like this, is still ample reason to celebrate. Gene were adored by the press, and continually feted by Radio One DJ John Peel, yet the pop masses never particularly took to them. Only two of their singles broke into the U.K. Top 20 and, while their albums charted considerably higher, they still remain one of the most under-rated bands of the '90s. This two-CD set opens early in their career, with the group's first Peel session in December, 1995. The songs are all mostly works in progress, several of which will reappear fully fledged on the subsequent Drawn to the Deep End. Disc One then fast forwards to 1998, with the band then previewing songs from their soon to be released Revelations album. The rollicking, raucous, rockabilly tinged "I Need You" didn't make the cut, however, and appears here on CD for the first time. That's not much of a bonus though, considering the disc clocks in at a particularly parsimonious 28 minutes. Gene recorded a variety of other sessions for Radio One, and there's no reason, bar the title, that this compilation couldn't have drawn from one or more of them.
Thus, the set's real meat is found on Disc Two, which is given over to a pair of live performances from 1999. You get 14 songs in all, as Gene trawl through their career with a series of crowd-pleasers. Unfortunately the band work far too hard to re-create the sound of their recordings, but even so, frontman Martin Rossiter's sublime and emotive performances set every number alight. This disc also includes a previously unreleased gem -- the saloon styled "Dirty Old Town." So, not the be all and end all of collections, but a grand reminder of a band that gave intelligence, emotion, and substance to an otherwise fairly bland decade.