Guest SDE reviewer Nico Pleimling reviews the collectors’ box set edition of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ debut…
Just over 20 years ago, on the 20th of February 1996 to be exact, the New York City trio Fun Lovin’ Criminals dropped their first studio album, Come Find Yourself. This debut was particularly successful in the UK, where it peaked at number seven and spent well over a year in the British album charts. This success was partly due to the popularity of Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction, from which the band included a few samples in their track Scooby Snacks – one of their biggest hit singles (it also featured dialogue from QT’s Reservoir Dogs).
The album reached Great Britain at the peak of the Britpop craze and seemed rather unlikely to reach a bigger audience at the time. History proved all the sceptics and naysayers wrong and even today, you could say the Fun Lovin Criminals are the world’s finest – and only – purveyors of cinematic hip-hop, Rock’n’Roll, blues-jazz and Latino soul vibes. Besides the smash hit Scooby Snacks, Come Find Yourself includes other gems like The Fun Lovin’ Criminal, Passive/Aggressive, King of New York and, of course, the excellent reinterpretation of the Louis Armstrong classic We have all the Time in the World.
In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Come Find Yourself, Demon Music’s Edsel imprint recently reissued this instant classic in two different formats: A three-CD deluxe edition featuring live recordings (including a collection of the band’s BBC sessions), alternate mixes and a few rarities from the archives, selected by band members Huey Morgan, Brian “Fast” Leiser and Frank Benbini, as well as a collectors’ edition deluxe set which is presented as a large-format book that includes a bonus 12-inch vinyl picture disc with a previously unreleased instrumental version of the original album and a 10-inch vinyl record that features the BBC session recorded for Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq Evening Session on 22nd May 1996. This deluxe package is completed with a DVD that includes the promo videos as well as TV appearances and the original 1996 Come Find Yourself album promo EPK. The 12”x 12” book includes a 4,000 word liner note from renowned music journalist Paul Lester, transcribed from recent interviews undertaken with Huey and Fast.
The book is presented in a very good quality with a hard cover that is meant to last. Opening it, you’ll find the vinyl picture disc in a rather impractical plastic pouch that doesn’t give easy access to its contents. As is often the case for most picture discs, this instrumental version of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals debut album is a mixed bag. Even though it looks amazing and is very thick, the laminated wallet remains its main weakness. The general sound is very good, however there is a background hiss that is common to all picture disc. Besides this flaw, the instrumental versions lack the ‘wow’ factor, unless you want to use them for private karaoke and sing along. It probably would have been a better choice to include the regular album version here on a vinyl record, instead of the previously unreleased instrumentals.
The following 12-page booklet is well presented with a decent amount of text and pictures that live up to the general mood of the album’s musical content. Besides Paul Lester’s liner notes and a few quotes, the track listing can also be found on the back cover as well as original credits, thank yous, and acknowledgements.
The 45 RPM 10-inch vinyl – the content of which is also included on the third CD – is housed in a strong card wallet/folio. This item, like the remastered album on the first CD, shows no flaws and sound perfect. The second CD with a total of 17 tracks is rather difficult to digest, because it mostly features a bunch of alternate versions of five album tracks (Passive/Aggressive, The Grave and the Constant, Scooby Snacks, The Fun Lovin’ Criminal and The King of New York). Since the alternate versions are bundled together (i.e. five Scooby Snacks in a row), it is very likely that even the most avid fan will not listen to the whole CD more than once. Besides this problem of (unavoidable) repetition, some remixes like Bombin’ the L (Circa 1956 Version) and We Have all the Time in the World (Copa Cabana Version) have been omitted from this release for reasons unknown. Besides all the alternate versions, the second disc includes the non-album tracks I’ll be Seeing You and Blues for Suckers, the second of which in two different versions.
The third CD with an in-studio and live sessions is definitely the cherry on the cake. The aforementioned BBC session recorded for Radio 1’s Steve Lamacq Evening Session precedes the live sets recorded in Phoenix, Arizona for Radio 1 on 19 July 1996 and at The Astoria for Radio 1’s Evening Session on 12 November 1996 respectively. Even though some songs reappear a few times on this disk, they offer a more enriching listening experience than the alternate versions on the second CD.
Last but not least, this 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition includes a DVD that features the promo videos as well as TV appearances and the original 1996 Come Find Yourself album promo EPK. Possibly, this content could have been enhanced with a recent interview with a band looking back at the making-of of the album and its unexpected commercial success.
Overall, this deluxe edition of Come Find Yourself is very well presented and offers a few interesting additions to the original album. However, including an instrumental version on vinyl instead of the regular release, it seems incomplete and hardcore fans will have to wait for a vinyl re-release in the future. Considering the content of this box set and its quality, the current price seems adequate. Casual listeners, however, are more likely to be satisfied with the three-CD deluxe edition.
Come Find Yourself reissues are out now.
Review by Nico Pleimling for SDE.