Roxette – Bag of Trix – volume 4

This is the end, or is it? The final installment of the fine Bag of Trix. Today the boxes are released.

Mind you that the CD box contains 3 CDs while the vinyl box contains 4 LPs, same as the digital releases. What can we add that hasn’t already been said? Not much, but that it’s been fun reviewing these little gems. Many already known, some leaked and quite a few new ones. Great that Per finally found those Montezuma versions, either he’s searched really hard, or he got them from Micke, who knows. They have been missing in action though. This BoT has also given Per more ideas for releases, let’s see what will come next, Roxette-wise. An AC box? A live album? Remixes? There’s a lot to choose from still, and Per said in a few interviews that he’s found lots of more material, especially from Have A Nice Day

What is known now is that he’s working on his English power-pop album, to be released “this spring” and the other day he said that a new Mono Mind single may pop up “any day”. Gosh, to be that bored… Well we digress, but most has been said about this lovely Bag so enjoy our final review here:

  1. The Centre of the Heart (Is a Suburb to the Brain) (Have A Nice Day Version)

Thomas: The star of this album in my opinion. Not totally different to the released version, but much slower and with some different keyboards, and a weird scratch effect! I like it. Could use some Jonas guitar, but apart from that, very nice.
Kai: Yes, compared to the version we’ve known before, it’s quite tame. At the same time it sounds more lovely, more playful. Interesting to see these two different takes on the same song. I mean, they basically kept the main idea, tweaked a few things basically and woof, there you have another song.
Paul:  Has this been released before?  I’m sure I’ve heard this slowed down version previously.  Compared to the Room Service version, this sounds like a demo to me.  More or less a complete song, but something is missing in the production.  Did they reuse Marie’s vocals on the Room Service release?  Sounds identical to me.
Thomas: No it hasn’t been released before. But from what Per said years ago they used this recording and speeded (sped?) it up so most likely it’s the same vocals.
Paul:  Hmmmm, I’ve definitely heard a slower version before.  Can’t think where now…

  1. Pearls and Passion (Montezuma Demo – Jul 25-26, 1986)

Thomas: Ah yes, the song written before EMI intentionally/unintentionally changed the name of the album to Pearls OF Passion! This is the same as all the other Montezuma demos; Per and Marie singing over an acoustic guitar. And again, I’m still amazed how great their voices worked together.
Kai: This is a one take recording, right? Amazing. Like it how you can hear that Roxette songs work both ways: produced and acoustic. Well, when you listen to these Montezuma demos imagining that you do not know yet how big these two young musicians would become later, you can feel there’s something in the air. 
Thomas: That’s exactly it. They are Per and Marie, on the brink of possibly something magical, and you can hear it.
Paul: Nice! I’ve always liked this song (why wasn’t it included on the actual album?) and, as Thomas and Kai have already said above, the early magic is certainly there on this.  Great to hear another version!

  1. Things Will Never be the Same (T&A Demo – Dec 13, 1990)

Paul:  Interesting how this started as an acoustic ballad and turned into the majestical album version that we all love.  This song is beautiful in the acoustic version that was performed live and this demo captures that vibe, albeit a little bit faster. Look at the date – this version was recorded 30 years (plus 2 days) ago today! 
Thomas: Right, an acoustic demo. Didn’t expect that. Much like the promotional performances on MTV and later on the Joyride World Tour. Very likeable and very unexpected.
Kai: Guys, this is a demo. Just a demo. I mean, this is technically just a concept, never meant to be published. But listen how especially Marie is putting all her emotions into this song. This is this extra mile that made them both stand out: always give everything. And now shush, I need to listen again.
Thomas: That is what I said.

  1. Entering Your Heart (Long Version)

Thomas: From the Japanese version of the Room Service album, the Japanese always add a track or two to their releases so they can justify their higher prices. It’s been 20 years so I don’t really recall the original, this is… longer… 33 seconds to be exact! And yes, it used to be called the Extended Version.
Paul: This song should have been included on all versions of Room Service.  I’ve always thought it was fantastic. Could’ve even been a contender for a single and I can imagine a great concept for the video.  Another great vocal from Marie on this as well.  
Kai: Riiight! Yes, I still remember these music shops with their CDs. There was one in Berlin, it was called WOM (World of Music), and it was huge and they had every album there that you could think of. Even Marie and Per’s solo stuff and GT. And under 20 copies of an album you could sometimes find that oddly expensive Japanese version with their funny writings on the cover. Those were the times.

  1. Cooper (Closer to God)

Paul:  Who was Cooper? Anyone know? Again, I’ve always been a fan of the album version and when this popped up as a b-side I thought it was random.  Fantastic endings to both versions though – after the break down and those striking strings kick in. Although, I do prefer the album version with the added bass.  
Thomas: Isn’t it Agent Cooper, from Twin Peaks? Ha ha! While I’ve always loved the original “Cooper,” this means little to me. A very weird remix in my opinion.
Kai: It is so obvious that you have no idea. This version has always been the better one. It has lots of strings. Do you really need anything else? When this song came out, I had it playing in a loop. All these tiny details, these arrangements, so great! If there was a song that you would call most unusual for Roxette, it’s maybe this one. (Fine, yes, there was “One Wish” but that was unusual in a very different way.)
Thomas: Riiiight. So this is the good version?? 
Kai: You got it so right, Thomas. As to Cooper, I think to remember that Per once said that this was a person from his personal life.
Thomas: If you say so. This song has always reminded me of “She’s Leaving Home” from Sgt. Pepper’s, at least lyrics wise. Melody wise it’s more “Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave maybe.

  1. Joy of a Toy (Montezuma Demo – Jul 25-26, 1986)

Thomas: Co-written by the mighty MP, I never loved this song. Can’t say why, it’s just not my thing I guess. What we get here is a Montezuma demo, nothing more or less.
Paul:  I love the live version from Sweden Live. I may have repeated myself a bit over the reviews for these four volumes but Marie’s vocals on these old acoustic demos are just fantastic. No edits, no autotune, just pure talent.
Thomas: Stunning to realize there’s no autotune whatsoever here… and I mean all the Montezumas.
Kai: Agree with Thomas here. Never really liked the song but this version is just great. Even better than the album version. In some ways.

  1. It Takes You No Time to Get Here (Long Version)

Kai: Oh yes! Strings! Take my money! Really lovely improvement to an already outstanding song. Good that we finally managed to get to hear it. 
Thomas: Wow, now this is something to listen to, that longer part, the outro, is just fantastic! The harmonies… Love it! Fun trivia: both versions are the same length…
Paul: It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Room Service and this song had slipped my memory.  Hey, I’m getting old. Nice to hear it again and liking this outro more than the fade out.

  1. Before You Go to Sleep (T&A demo – Oct 23, 1992)

Thomas: No, still not nice. Better than the Archives demo, but when you’ve heard Marie’s lovely version it just kills all resistance. The bass and strings are nice, but…
Paul:  I’m with you Thomas, I’ve never been keen on Per’s demos for this song.  Glad that Per gave this to Marie and she came up with the wonderful music for the Crash! Boom! Bang! Version.
Kai: Sure, yes, the demos for this song were so-so. Although I like the uptempo idea of this version I must say that it doesn’t suit the lyrics at all. Anyway, it has strings! Yeah!

  1. I Was So Lucky (The Golden Blow)

Thomas: I thought this was out years ago? I really did. I’ve even discussed it with Per, but neither of us can find it anywhere so I guess I’m wrong. The horror. Call me deaf, but I can’t hear any difference to this and the “normal” version? Anyone… Bueller…? The song itself is wonderful, written for Gabriel, Per’s son, when he was born. Would have been a lovely little single.
Paul: It’s your old ears Thomas! There are few little changes I can hear – extra sax just before the first chorus and in the middle eight right before Marie sings “is there a better place to be?” for example. The mix on the vocals sounds slightly different to me too. Certainly a nice song though!
Thomas: You mean Golden ears…? The Golden Blow probably refers to a sax, but yeah, I can’t really hear it. Fire me.
Kai: Oh, so good to have you two guys. Spares me the trouble of finding these tiny differences sometimes. The sax adds something to the song, more vibes, more atmosphere. Wonder who decided to ignore it in the end?

  1. Jag älskar (Surrender) (Montezuma Demo – Jul 25-26, 1986)

Thomas: Interesting version. Likely Marie on the Fender Rhodes, then they both sing. Marie belts it out like never before. This is way better in English.
Paul: Hmmm. Despite Marie’s powerhouse vocals, this doesn’t do much for me at all. Nothing at all like the album version which, for me, is one of the best songs on Pearls of Passion.  
Thomas: Agree.
Kai: It’s almost like two different songs, don’t you think? Yes, same melody but totally different set of emotions here. I like this one, too. 

  1. Som i en dröm (So Far Away) (Montezuma Demo – Jul 25-26, 1986)

Thomas: Whoa! Talk about belting it out!! Forget my comment on “Jag älskar.” No Per on this one.
Paul:  This comment is probably going to get me shot, but I’ve never really liked “So Far Away” – both versions from either Pearls of Passion or Tourism just aren’t for me.  This version is my favourite though.  The way Marie belts out those high notes – WOW! 
Thomas: Oh I love this song, both versions. Maybe just not this particular one. And the Swedish lyrics are iffy at best. Hasse Huss wrote the English ones.
Kai: Interesting in a very good way! Come on, imagine there was no BoT box and you’d get to hear this demo on its own. Like a giveaway before Xmas. You’d rave about it. Just to have this pure recording of a unique singer. Very nice!

  1. Alguien (Anyone)

Thomas: What can I say? A wonderful song, this time in Spanish. If I’m not mistaken there’s a video to this as well, the one where Marie’s walking in traffic? Per’s melodies and Marie’s voice make me not care about the lyrics (should I understand them).
Paul: How can anyone not like “Anyone”?  It’s got those trademark Roxette-ballad sounds – sweeping strings and poignant lyrics delivered so powerfully by Marie. Musically nothing is lost in this version. I can’t comment on the lyrics though.  
Thomas: Donde esta mi tequila, guapa?
Kai: No need to discuss the utter quality of the original song but I find it stunning that Marie sounds like a native Spanish speaker here. At least to my ears. Still a great song, no matter how old it is now.

Final final thoughts

Paul: It’s been so much fun reviewing these four volumes with the rest of the TDR crew.  Discovering hidden gems and relistening to songs I haven’t heard for years has been a great journey these last few weeks.  A massive thanks to Per for digging through his massive archive to find these tracks and for sharing them with the fans.  Hopefully the rumours are true and there will be something ‘new’ released in the future, but if this is the last, this is a excellent way to finish it off.  What a musical legacy Roxette has given the world!

Thomas: An honor really. Per’s done good with this box. It’s been fun to review these 47 gems. Lots of new acquaintances, a few old friends. All in all, a very nice bag of tricks. It’s been very interesting to not just hear, but realize, that they recorded all the initial demos for Pearls of Passion during that one weekend at the end of July 1986… Amazing. I also would like to thank Per for daring to let us review it. On the other hand, he should have called me to get some more angles and demo ideas before… Next time maybe, Per? I’m in the book! It will be interesting to read the booklet tomorrow, which I hope contains even more fun facts about the songs, provided the mail works in this country.

Kai: Doing this kind of review with you is always special. You get new angles, there is so much background information added to each track you’d normally not have when you just play down the tracks one by one. It’s amazing to hear how songs developed, how ideas are born. This is a special journey through music history if you’re willing to travel. After having listened to BoT and TPGA and all the other demos that have been released on single B-sides, extended CD editions etc it quite feels like we now have more demo tracks than actual album tracks. Which may make us feel like the musicians who have produced this amazing music for more than 30 years now. Thank you for this experience.

PS: Where the hell is Stevo??

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December 10th, 2020

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