Released in France as a counterpart to a more straightforward compilation of hits (called, but of course, The Heaven Collection), Hell is a totally schizophrenic (and all the more appealing for it), 20-song grab-bag of alternate takes, live versions, strange rarities and the like from nearly all phases of the Maels' career. Organized in no particular fashion, but with detailed and funny liner notes from Russell about each of the tracks' origins, along with near-complete lyrics, Hell definitely appeals much more to the hardcore fan than the casual listener, but there's enough going on here to warrant investigation to one extent or another. Most of the alternate versions or remixes here, including "All You Ever Think About Is Sex" and "Just Got Back From Heaven," are pleasant if generally not much different from the more familiar versions. It's the various unreleased or live numbers which really sparkle here. "Je M'Appelle Russell" and the harsh-sounding heavy synth groover "The Japanese Have Come and They Bought My Number One" are trippy little cuts, while the live 1985 version of "I Predict" and two 1975 concert cuts (a bit flat on sound quality but still listenable, complete with rabid U.K. audience squeals) show the band cutting it equally well on stage as in the studio. On top of all this are a number of radio ads for shows in Europe and at L.A.'s Magic Mountain, a proposed Nissan commercial, and songs rescued from movie soundtracks and other random sources (a classic Russell quote from his notes on "The Armies of the Night," recorded for Fright Night: "one of those horror films that makes Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula look better and better by the minute"). A mixed bag, but one which showcases the continuing Sparks appeal in its own right nonetheless.
The Hell Collection Review
by Ned Raggett