Electronic music has come a long way since Cabaret Voltaire began mixing it up with machines in order to evade boredom. As primitive as Watson, Kirk, and Mallinder's early material sounds decades after conception, in the wake of countless movements within the form, nothing can take away from the fact that no one will ever approach the spectral wonder inherent in the group's early work. Just over a third of The Original Sound of Sheffield: '78/'82 -- the sister release to 2001's similarly titled anthology that covers 1983-1987 -- overlaps with The Living Legends compilation, but this disc now acts as the first place to go for early Cabaret Voltaire. The Living Legends covered roughly the same period, collecting tracks from singles, EPs, and compilations. This one opens up the scope to consider the landmark (and vastly different) post-punk LPs Red Mecca and 2 X 45, and thankfully resists the unavoidable temptation of including large chunks from both. This compilation and the one that covers the era that followed form an excellent overview of the Sheffield group. Despite the fact that longtime fans might balk at the exclusion of equally immense moments like 2 X 45's "Breathe Deep," 8 Crepuscule Tracks' "Sluggin' fer Jesus," and Red Mecca's "Sly Doubt," there's simply too much prime material from this phase to cram onto one disc. For the unfamiliar who have grown tired of hearing about the group's influence upon a wide swath of electronic producers and groups, two discs that neatly summarize their startling greatness are now at the ready.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman