TDR reviews the Rox Box: A great package, well worth buying, that could have been even better
LJUSDAL – So finally it is here, the mystical, mythical and long spoken about RoxBox – full name: The RoxBox – Roxette 86-06. I have it in my hand, it is a hefty piece, very well manufactured. The box contains four fully-crammed CDs, a thick, attached booklet and a DVD of "all Roxette's videos" (which certainly can be debated…) and the legendary MTV Unplugged show from 1993, in full!
Let's start with the box itself. It's made like a book, with the four CDs attached two to each cover, with a very lovely booklet in-between. So where is the DVD? It's in a cardboard sleeve at the very back of the booklet. Not a good place to put it, I would say, as the DVD is double-sided and DVDs are easily scratched. The booklet is written by well-known reporter Janne Gradvall, who has a definite stamp-of-approval from Per. Gradvall is a Swedish pop journalist with a long and genuine background, respected by many of Sweden's pop stars and music business people. The text has been translated by Sven Åke Peterson. The text itself is very informative and has tons of bits and pieces of nice Roxette trivia. I also like the translation, most of it at least. What is a "dropping-bottle" really? I would call that a "drip" or "drip-feed," but hey, that's me! The photos in the booklet are both familiar and unfamiliar, all in truly nice quality. What I miss in the booklet is an explanation from Per and Marie why they selected the tracks that made the box.
Now we get to the DVD(s) and unfortunately I can't say that I'm overjoyed about them. I say "them" because in reality there's two. The disc is a "flipper" (two sided). Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely fabulous to finally get the missing tracks of the Unplugged concert. I'm glad that someone convinced MTV to let Roxette use them. But why, oh why, do it in this poor quality?? I'm sure the original Beta masters were used to render the DVD, but the Mbit/s is only 6.16 which is VERY poor (and it gets worse). The sound is available in both Dolby Digital and DTS stereo, which is fine, however the bonus tracks have plenty of audio clicks and glitches. That may come from the original source material though. Oh well, the Unplugged concert looks decent on a regular 29" TV, but is hard to view at all on a 42" plasma.
Regarding the "video" side of the DVD, it contains 37 Roxette videos, not all videos ever made. And frankly, I doubt we'll ever see that compilation. The bitrate of the video side is an appalling 3.57 Mbit per second! That, my friends, is about as low as you can go on a DVD. And it's quite noticable while watching; for instance in "She Doesn't Live Here Anymore," where the whole picture is pixelated most of the time. I can buy perhaps that the earlier videos have low quality sources, but this is way beyond that. It's not acceptable for a company to release the third lousy (quality-wise) video compilation in a row… Other companies release good DVDs all the time, why not EMI?
Enough nagging now. The CDs are brilliant! They even seem to be made in HDCD (high definition) sound! (My Windows Media Player sometimes shows the HDCD symbol, sometimes not). Sadly, I don't have any HDCD compatible equipment so I can't tell you the difference to normal CD sound.
As I've previously mentioned we get four CDs with more or less all of Roxette's singles, b-sides and odd tracks, interjected with the occasional demo and unreleased track. All in all we get 78 songs, which can be compared to Bon Jovi's 51 songs on the box "100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can't Be Wrong…" (the difference being that all of Bon Jovi's tracks were demos and previously hard-to-get songs). Best track of the box? There are two: the acoustic "Help!" from the Abbey Road sessions in November 1995 and "I Love How You Love Me," the Paris Sisters' hit, mixed with "Anyone."
Voices have been heard that this box didn't have enough rare tracks on it, and God knows I was one of them. However, having listened to the whole box, over and over again, I now understand why they did it like this. And with Per and Marie's upcoming holiday season gift on Roxette.se, I'm sure that you fans will find this as great as I do.
The box jumps right in at #20 on the Swedish album chart while "Hits!" starts off at #2.
Speaking of "Hits!," listening to that CD makes me, once again, realize just how great Roxette is. Track after track makes you go "wow, this song was so good, and this and this…" Funny enough, the DVD that comes in the bonus package has the highest bitrate of them all – 6.64 Mbit per second.
To sum it all up, the Box is very well worth its price, if not for the 14 previously unreleased tracks (well, 12, as "7Twenty7" and "Always Breaking My Heart" in all honesty have been released before), then for the Unplugged concert. I'd like EMI to remaster the whole concert and re-release it, but if this is what we get, it ain't all bad.
I give the Box 4 out of 5 (the DVD gets only 2) and "Hits!" 3 out of 5. "Hits!" would've gotten more, but I think the greatest hits packages come a bit too often lately.
PS. "All Videos Ever Made" has a bitrate of 3.4 Mbits per second while "The Complete Video Collection" won't even be measured.
Technical errors may occur.
October 29th, 2006
Internal reference code for TDR's Good Reporters: [tdr 111489]
This article was posted here on TDR in these categories:
Archive, TDR:Editorial, TDR:Releases, TDR:Roxette, vintage.