Super Deluxe Rip-off featuring “So”

Super Deluxe Rip-off featuring So by Peter Gabriel

In a few weeks it will be a year since EMI released a Super Deluxe Edition box set that featured – amongst other things –  lossless surround sound album mixes, hi-res stereo, and Blu-ray for video and audio. One year on, and the same label will be shortly releasing another Deluxe Box set for a different artist that has none of the above, but… you guessed it, they are happily charging the same price.

The former was Pink Floyd’s mighty Dark Side Of The Moon ‘Immersion’ box, the later is Peter Gabriel’s flawed So Super Deluxe box set. What is going on, and why are the specifications of some of the most recently announced box sets failing to meet audience expectations? Paul Sinclair examines the issues…

Super. Deluxe. Edition. Words associated with the best, the very best, the ultimate edition of an album. A celebration, where excess knows no bounds. Multiple discs, hi-res audio, surround sound, demos, session tracks, B-sides, remixes, DVDs, Blu-rays, vinyl, memorabilia, linen-bound books – all this, and sometimes more.

The rewards for the fans when these box sets are done properly is obvious, but the record labels are in it for the money. If they get the content and production-run right, they can charge astronomical figures. Last year the Uber Deluxe Edition of U2’s Achtung Baby cost an eye watering £260, and sold out its print run almost immediately.

Almost a year on from The Dark Side Of The Moon ‘Immersion’ Box is the consumer still getting the same high-end content and value from these sets, or can we detect a certain complacency on the part of record labels? Are these boxes being planned and created by music enthusiasts with a desire to produce a stunning combination of content and presentation, or are the ‘bean counters’ taking over, looking to keep costs as low as feasibly possible to increase margin? In short, is the Super Deluxe Edition box set still fit for purpose?

To help with this investigation, let’s examine the contents of the So Super Deluxe Edition from Peter Gabriel. This set was announced late last year and is due out on 22 October 2012. After eight months of fevered speculation about what would be included within the set, the specification was finally released earlier this week, and is as follows:

  • 1 Newly remastered So CD
  • So DNA CD (Audio evolution of So)
  • 3 + 4 Live In Athens 1987 double CD
  • 5 Live In Athens and DVD
  • 6 Classic Albums: So DVD
  • 7 180g So 12-inch LP
  • 8 12-inch AA vinyl collectible
  • • 60 page case-bound book

It’s an eight disc set, so that must be good value, right? Well let’s examine it closely.

Duplicated content

The first thing to note is the duplicated content. The newly remastered So album is presented on CD and Vinyl. One has to ask, why? Vinyl enthusiasts are simply not going to play the CD. On the other hand, you may have last used a turntable in 1992, and have no use whatsoever for the LP (and a further 12″ vinyl included). Either way, at least one disc is immediately redundant.

Live In Athens is presented on DVD and double CD. We can listen to the music and watch the visuals in 5.1 surround on the DVD, so is it really necessary to take up two whole discs of space by providing us with the CDs? When Erasure released a DVD with their Wonderland deluxe reissue last year they included all the live audio in MP3 format in a ‘downloads’ folder in a data section of the DVD for transfer onto a computer. A simple and inspired idea, designed to offer value. Why couldn’t the So set have done the same, but maybe with FLAC instead. That would have saved the two other discs for different content.

Second rate audio/video

Everyone knows that Blu-ray provides the highest levels of picture quality. So, why are we getting DVDs in the So Deluxe box, not once but twice? Even more significantly, Blu-ray also provides hi-res audio for both stereo and surround sound. This is primarily a music release, is it not? It seems that Peter Gabriel and his team do not want purchasers of the So Deluxe Box to hear and see this concert at its very best. Who would have thought it? The counter argument will be that more people can play the DVD, but if movies can be released in ‘triple play’ format with DVD, a digital copy AND Blu-ray for a premium of only a few extra pounds, then why can’t an £80 box set offer the same? Pink Floyd did this, but a year down the line we are apparently going backwards in what is being offered.

Content available elsewhere

The Classic Albums: So documentary is included with this set on DVD but will be available separately elsewhere on a superior Blu-ray. Hello? Buyers of the box set will have to buy it again, if they wish to view it in high definition and listen to Daniel Lanois manipulating the faders during playback of the So multi-track tapes in hi-res audio.

Also, with all the effort that has gone into Live In Athens DVD – “fully restored and pieced together from over 150 reels of original 35mm negatives” –  it will almost certainly get a separate Blu-ray release in the future, bizarrely providing an incentive to NOT buy the deluxe, but to wait for the concert with better quality visuals and audio.

This policy of making content in the Deluxe box available elsewhere with better sound and better picture quality is treating the paying customer with disdain.

Missing content

By far the biggest complaint about this So Deluxe Box is about the lack of non-album tracks that originally appeared on So-era singles? Seriously, where are they? It simply defies belief that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from any of the singles was considered suitable for inclusion. Gabriel fans may remember the B-side to Sledgehammer, the sublime studio recording Don’t Break This Rhythm? Not here. The limited edition white-sleeved John “Tokes” Potoker dance remix of Sledgehammer? Not here. In short, no single edits, no extended remixes, no B-sides, no single bonus tracks. Some of these tracks have never been issued on CD before. It beggars belief. Maybe a Peter Gabriel rarities box set is in the planning and the label are ‘saving’ this content for such a box. In other words, they will happily compromise this release for the promise of future income. Nice. Also, once the decision was made to NOT include any of these tracks, it is likely that this led to ‘padding’ out the box with the duplicates mentioned above.

No 5.1 or hi-res for the album

Where has the ambition gone with these expensive, super deluxe box sets to provide the ultimate in listening experience? Ten years ago when the record industry was trying to sell music on new formats such as SACD and DVD-Audio (both capable of hi-res surround sound), albums were being remixed into 5.1 regularly and hi-res audio was something that music fans got very excited about. R.E.M’s whole Warner-era catalogue got the DVD-A treatment for example. But unlike Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel has chosen NOT to offer his seminal So album as either hi-res audio or in 5.1 surround sound. It has been issued in (stereo) hi-res audio before on a now out-of-print SACD (from 2003). Also SIX of the nine album tracks have already been mixed into 5.1 surround sound for 2004’s Play DVD. The So Deluxe Box is primarily supposed to be about the album but rather than spend a little bit of time working on the three further tracks to create what would be a stunning surround version, the team on this set has been preoccupied with the Live In Athens concert. Although the remastering could well be superb, it is likely that a good sounding CD quality version of So is right at the bottom of most fans’ list of priorities.

Bonus tracks not on CD

To recap, the Deluxe Box does not contain any So album tracks in hi-res surround sound (Blu-ray), we haven’t even been offered lossy surround sound (Dolby or DTS via a DVD), and putting surround to one side, there is nothing in the So Deluxe Box that will play back the album in stereo to match the hi-res version on a nine year old SACD. So far, So disappointing, but it gets worse. The three measly previously unreleased session tracks that do appear on this box AREN’T EVEN ON CD! Yep, you have to own a turntable to enjoy them on the 12-inch vinyl ‘collectible’.


Demos, early versions or perhaps specially edited together takes are collected together on a CD called So DNA. To be fair this sounds like a genuinely interesting disc, but it is not clear whether it will run like a radio documentary (with voice-over), or take the form of nine self-contained tracks.


The record labels want to release these big multi-disc box sets and thereby create a perception of value. The whole of the audio and video content in the So deluxe box would probably fit on ONE Blu-ray disc. Would you pay £80 or $140 for one Blu-ray? Thought not. So the industry have turned it into a numbers game. The Dark Side Of The Moon was six discs, The Wall was seven discs, Peter Gabriel’s So is eight discs. Throw in a book and some marbles and they can set the price accordingly. But it’s not how big your content is, it’s what you do with it.

It is hard to find one positive comment about the forthcoming So deluxe box from the readers of this blog, because EMI/Virgin/Peter Gabriel have simply failed to meet the expectations of the people willing to buy this set. Did they ask them what they wanted? It seems not. Gabriel’s interest in music technology is well known, and most people expected him to embrace hi-res and surround sound for the album. Why he hasn’t done this is unfathomable. But worse than this is not doing the basics i.e. using this celebratory So box to gather together all the period remixes, and B-sides. This is pathetic. There are no other word for it. An industry completely and utterly out of touch with its audience and happy to put future income streams (a Gabriel rarities box set) ahead the demands of current products.

Although the focus has been on So, there are lots of other examples of missed opportunities with these box sets

Michael Jackson‘s forthcoming  four-disc deluxe of Bad completely ignores at least 19 period extended remixes, preferring to fill up a bonus disc with demos (three previously released) and modern remixes by currently hip artists such as Afrojack. It also contains no hi-res audio or surround mixes for the album

Paul McCartney released a deluxe four disc Electric Arguments set in 2009 under his pseudonym The Fireman which contained a hi-res stereo audio on a DVD, and multi-track audio files on a data DVD. None of his four McCartney Archive Collection releases, which started the following year, included any physical hi-res audio at all, although they have done an excellent job with hi-res downloads. Band On The Run had already been remixed for surround sound for a DTS CD in the mid-1990s but this was not used for the Deluxe Edition released in 2010.

Pink Floyd offered Blu-ray discs for The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here with hi-res audio and surround mixes, but no 5.1 or hi-res was offered with the third set The Wall.

Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts on whether these sets are meeting your expectations? Leave a comment below.

SuperDeluxeEdition.com helps fans around the world discover physical music and discuss releases. To keep the site free, SDE participates in various affiliate programs, including Amazon and earns from qualifying purchases.


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[…] really have no desire to start the whole So box set rip-off debate again, but already this year we’ve had the Live In Athens blu-ray that there were ‘no […]

[…] Jubiläumsbox produziert worden ist, erschließt sich nicht; immerhin hat das Gabriel selbst in der Kontroverse um den Inhalt als Fehler […]

[…] fans, and was taken to task by the excellent (and excellently-named) Super Deluxe Edition blog for all its shortcomings – one of which was including a DVD of the concert Live in Athens 1987 instead of a […]

[…] months ago we robustly criticised Peter Gabriel‘s overpriced and under-spec’d So 25th anniversary box set. Like many […]

Mike H

I suppose I’m in the vast minority, but I bought this box with the hope that the POV content was upgraded. It’s nice to see the LIVE IN ATHENS concert in it’s complete form, however I was bummed by the exclusion of the original POV presentation as it was on VHS. I quite like all the quirky, extra effects, etc. . It’s that fact that I, in fairly short order, shelved the box.

Mike Fisher

Well I’ve picked this thing up, and I’ve got to say that the DNA disc is reasonably interesting, but not a great listen all the way through. I’m not sure how much repeat listening it will generate. We Do What We’re Told is quite interesting. It gives an at times suprising picture of just how different the tracks were at conception compared to the finished product, so it has historical worth. It feels that the remixes and b-sides really should have been included, their presence is missed. The DNA disc also seems to suggest that there were some interesting mixes worth hearing in full, or even remixes that would highlight parts that did not make the mix. From what little I’ve heard of the vinyl of the main album it sounds amazing. That was a very pleasant surprise. The big hardback book doesn’t include the song lyrics – crazy! The 24 bit download does not include the DNA disc nor the concert CDs. (Part of the concert can be downloaded once signed up to the B&W site.) The download does include the three tracks from the 12″ single. A question though: if the album was resequenced because In Your Eyes wouldn’t sound good enough at the end of a side, how come it has been cut there now?


I almost went with the Macca BOTR 3disc set but decided when I saw he switched to 2-disc sets with the bonus stuff I wanted in the deluxe sets only, I had to spring for those. I’ve already spent too many times on each album. This is the last time to buy his catalogue. My ears aren’t getting any younger. lol

I heard he was initially holding back tracks from Ram because of using extras on his HP powered website. But since he put the kabosh to the pay portion, maybe we will see more than 8 bonus tracks on a CD in the deluxe sets? I also heard it wasn’t necessarily Paul but those who run TopSpin or HP or HearMusic etc that thought it a good idea. Apparently not the case as they go forward.

As for PG-So25, I opted to forget that release. I can make a better release from the different mixes available on CD from the 80s. I have Don’t Break This Rhythm among others on CD singles/EPs from back in the day. So who needs vinyl? I’d only convert it anyway. Which means, someone else has and it’s out there by now, somewhere.


Couldn’t agree more. I loved the “Darkness” set and picked up both DOTM and WYWH and then stopped. The lack of 5.1 or blu-ray in “The Wall Immersion” set was ridiculous. A clear cash grab.
In order for me to spend the kind of money they are asking for these sets there needs to be stuff I will listen to more than once. Demos are interesting but Springsteen (and Ryan Adams. Box set please!!!) are the only artists whose demos are as good as their released material.


I came across the Sledgehammer remix 12″ the other day. Great version of a great track. And it was never released on CD, right?

Robert P

I hope the concert isn’t a let down like this box is

[…] criticism of Peter Gabriel‘s So Deluxe Box received an unprecedented response from fans, with record […]


I would be very surprised that there is not a 24bit audio version of So.

Peter Gabriel is a founder of B&Ws Society Of Sound which gives a 24bit Real World and LSO album each month. His recent albums have all appeared on there.

Typically he also includes a download code in the physical CD to get the 24bit audio version.

Mike Fisher

@ Matt: I agree about the Smile Sessions set. It was an expensive item (although I managed to get a discounted slightly damaged item) but the CDs were crammed full of stuff – each over 75 mins. Some duplication on the vinyl, and some exclusive stuff on the vinyl too, but a lot of content to listen to over those CDs.


So 25th Boxset To Include 24 Bit Digital download

Peter Gabriel’s ‘So’ Anniversary Box Set will be delivering outstanding studio quality 24 bit audio. Each box contains a unique download code which will let you access the ‘So’ album plus the three tracks available on the 12″ vinyl.


To what extent is Peter Gabriel involved in the deluxe set?
The 25th anniversary of the release of So would have been in May 2011 not October 2012! It seems to me that Gabriel was reluctant to revisit his past when he’s been so busy with ‘new’ material and tour in the last 3 years… the 25th anniversary came and went and it looks like the project was thrust upon Gabriel with very little time to dedicate to it.
I also remember that he doesn’t give much thought for B sides, particularly Curtains and Don’t Break this Rhythm which were requested by fans when he asked what songs he should play live when he did a Summer European tour circa 2007/8 and these songs came to the fore and he thought it was a joke!


I agree with the poster above who mentioned that Darkness really got it right. Even the remaster of the originally album brought the value up.

Now I’m not sure it’s lumped into the Super Deluxe category, but the Smile Sessions was the best boxset I bought in 5 years. Great packaging, amazing music and contained extras that I enjoyed. Looking forward to the new Beach Boys box, even though I’m worried it will not be able to live up to that high standard.

Mikkel Frank

Well put, Mr. Sinclair!
It’s a mystery why there is no hi-res reissue (Blu-ray audio and/or DVD-audio like in some of the Pink Floyd Immersion box sets). And why is the concert film only offered on DVD, when the material seems made for Blu-ray? (And as other Peter Gabriel-/’So’-fans have put it here on superdeluxeedition.com: The Athens concert will most likely be released on Blu-ray some day).
So thank you, Mr. Sinclair for focusing on – not just the thin and hollow ‘So’ Deluxe reissue, but – the quality of Deluxe Box Sets in general.


Actually Peter also Co-Owns SSL (Solid State Logic) one of the best sound desk makers in the world. So I think there are other forces at Virgin at play here


Great Article Paul Well done mate

Lets look at some other points
1. where is the SO SACD, this was released I have it, its great its probably superior in sound =Massive Fail of non inclusion
2. Where are the DVD/bluray of the videos from the album release from this period=Massive fail of non inclusion
3. DVD-A or General5.1 mix =Massive fail of non inclusion
4. Look ay what they did to the Genesis box sets ( those where created really beautifully)
5. Gabriel basically owns the best studio in England (I have been there, it was my graceland) so not going the extra mile for the fans is not impressive
6. With regards to Audio quality and 5.1 I thought Peter had a deal wth B&O for realeeing the BEST possbile versions of albums and tracks to the fans

I like you am very disappointed, I cannot believe Peter is doing this, but I also think it must simply be the record company and not him, it certainly does not represent to what he has done with his other work in the past, eg UP 5.1

Thanks again


Rami’s example of the Darkness at the Edge of Town boxed set is right on the money: if an artist is going to do a deluxe+ boxed set, it is important that there be enough material of interest, and Springsteen has shown that he has enough up his sleeve to pull off a set like this (both with The Promise and with the earlier and more modest Born to Run 30th Anniversary set).

Very few artists these days have the very large bodies of previously-unexploited material required to justify this sort of box, and Peter Gabriel was always going to be an unlikely candidate. I take your point that the So box could have better masked its lack of new material with higher resolution, b-sides and less duplication but …. that wouldn’t have altered the fact that there is just not enough to warrant a release at all at this price point.

Danny Joseph

So is my favourite album, even now after 25 years, so I was waiting patiently and with hope for this release that was to celebrate the album I love so much…what is being offered is a dreadful anti-climax, DVDs and CD’s of a concert, however good they are they are not the album. Some of the alternative versions and BSides never made it onto CD so it feels criminal to ignore them on this release, U2 showed how it could be done properly with the Achtung box set (pricey but everything felt focused on the album & should have been a template for this release) From what I can see nearly all the extra content is padding (yes the DNA disc and the Vinyl unreleased tracks are in the right territory, but I don’t even know anyone who owns a Record Player!!) and frankly a massive missed opportunity.


Agree with everything except you’re a little harsh on the MJ Bad set (3CD+DVD)…It’s fairly priced at £20 in UK so it’s not like it’s been marketed as a super deluxe…Fair enough, nobody wants the new remixes, but the DVD alone must be worth £10 of anybody’s money, so it’s a fair enough deal…..no?


Regarding the classic album dvd – U2 went the same way with their Achtung Baby boxset. They included a dvd of ‘From the sky down’ and released the extended cut of the movie as standalone blu-ray, such things really annoy me + are of ten a massive argument not to buy such boxsets. One always feels totally ripped off.


The King Crimson deluxe box set releases are the way to do it, in my opinion: https://www.burningshed.com/store/kingcrimson/ . A whopping 15 disc box set for ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ (also a double CD, and a DVD-A.) Not much missing from their releases!

King Crimson now release stuff through Discipline Global Mobile (DGM) which I gather are connected with Virgin.

Barrie Sillars

The King Crimson material is all released via panegyric. No KC material is released in connection with Virgin/EMI or anyone else. All under Fripp’s control.

Paul Wilson

An interesting article, although it seems to be a bit SO-bashing. I guess this “issue” just came at the wrong time (or the right time, depending on your point of view). While seemingly definitive sets such as this get people excited, I am reminded of what Public Enemy had to say: “Don’t believe the hype”.

Personally, I prefer the “less is more” approach. Sonic Youth’s GOO and DAYDREAM NATION felt more special than the Pink Floyd boxsets. I swooned over Pulp’s HIS ‘N’ HERS and DIFFERENT CLASS, and The Orb’s ADVENTURES BEYOND THE ULTRAWORLD for their simplicity. Ditto the ZTT/Salvo Element Series (mono cock-ups aside, and the related complaints [most of which I thought were over-the-top]). And there are plently of these types of sets out there.

Have (some) record companies lost sight of what “collectors” (otherwise known as “fans”) really want? Or have they suddenly realised, in way that we, the fans, would categorise as cynicism, that there is money to be made by exploiting their catalogues (espcially if done in a drip-feed manner, leaving off items for no apparent reason, only to create a new version a few years down the line with the omissions included, though for the same premium price). Have they relaised that (once again) fans of musical entertainment will repeatedly re-buy the music that they bought previously, albeit in every now-redundant format?

While I am happy to indulge in this past-time (selectively), I am sad that I have not heard anything exciting and new in long time. I also feel a little deflated by these deluxe, super-special, expanded, enhanced, limited, numbered, signed and whatever, multi-format editions. It’s nice to hear them, nice to know that material languishing in the vaults finally gets out there, but it never quite lives up to expectations.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be…


I was pretty excited about this, but when I looked at the price, I thought, forget it. The 3XCD option is a little better, but not by much. Yes, alternate mixes and demos, anything worth a look into would have been nice. By far the best reissues I have found recently are the Sanctuary/Universal Kinks releases. Lots of extra tracks, singles, mono/stereo and radio sessions for each release. Also, these bigger labels should take a tip from Salvo and Edsel–the former gave us budget reissues of Madness and several ZTT artists’ reissues; Edsel did a superb job with the Mary Chain, Suede, Everything But the Girl and Beat sets. In most cases you get two discs and often a DVD, all for very reasonable prices. And EMI, the offending label in this case, at least did it right with the Roxy Music box. No DVDs or additional mixes, but an affordable, nicely presented box with bonus CDs to go along with the studio albums. The Floyd boxes were good, too, and I’m fairly happy with the Blur box, though it wasn’t cheap, but it has plenty of material, extras, download link and DVDs.

Otherwise, a revolt is order.

Paul Kent

Brilliant piece, Paul. My take on it has never changed: put out super deluxe box sets, if you must, but do not divide the fans into haves and have-nots. When DSOTM was reissued, the audio content of the Experience and Immersion sets was identical, bar one disc of extra material and a load of superfluous ephemera. Would it have been so hard to make the Experience edition a 3 disc set so ALL fans have a chance to own the same audio? WYWH had exactly the same audio but the Immersion still flew off the shelves – there’ll always be a market for Floyd marbles!!!! And so it goes with So – an extra disc in the deluxe box that could easily be made available to those who can only afford a cheaper option. The whole operation stinks and I despise these releases. They’re wholly divisive and, more often than not, contain nothing of any great worth. It comes to something when even the artists themselves are bemoaning this heinous practice – Costello urging fans to spend their cash on a Leadbelly box rather than his own ridiculously overpriced Spectacular Spinning Songbook deluxe edition. Solution: make exclusive audio content available to everyone, and pack the flimsy boxes chock-full of scarves, facsimile programmes and ticket stubs, coasters, certificates, posters and, yes, effing marbles, for fans with the deeper pocket. If not, the message from the labels is clear: low-income fans aren’t “real” fans.


I agree. After buying The Wall and Dark Side boxes, which are pretty good, I just went for the two-disc WYWH. edition. Saved a lot of money, kept some space in mu house open, and I am pleased with teh 2XCD set. I would recommend the T Rex Electric Warrior box, even if you have the previous expanded single disc from several years ago. It is pretty nice, very complete as far as additional tracks go, has a DVD and is packaged nicely.