Eleven months after the Songs Of Faith And Devotion The 12" Singles boxset, the Ultra The 12" Singles boxset has arrived. What's in it? Are there any surprises? Is it something rather lovely? Well, records, yes and very much yes are the answers. Let me explain.
As with the previous releases in this series, the 12" singles are housed in a thick cardboard box. The Useless hand has provided the inspiration for the covert art this time.
The rear of the box tells you what is inside.
As ever, we have the picture menu that shows what you'll find inside, including the three new 12" singles each of which we will come onto shortly.
There's a download card too. Put that beside the box and convince your friends that you have two boxsets and that one of them is really far away.
This review is just a look at the records, not a review of the music. As part of my ongoing what seemed a good idea at the time but it's only when you write about them do you realise just how many singles Depeche Mode have released project, the four Ultra era singles have each been reviewed. You can find them here:
Barrel Of A Gun - http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.com/2021/06/depeche-mode-singles-1981-to-2021-part_30.html
It's No Good - http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.com/2021/07/depeche-mode-singles-1981-to-2021-part.html
Home - http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.com/2021/08/depeche-mode-singles-1981-to-2021-part.html
Useless - http://almostpredictablealmost1.blogspot.com/2021/08/depeche-mode-singles-1981-to-2021-part_13.html
First out of the box is Barrel Of A Gun. Once again, all of the packaging is faithfully reproduced. In the case of this record, there are some lovely touches. When the single was originally released, early pressings came with a silver inner sleeve. That's what you get here which is very nice.
That's what it looks like on its own.
A poster was also tucked into a few of the original releases and we get one of those here too. It's a lovely thing and just what you want if you've ever wondered what Fletch and Martin look like without faces.
The original 12" (the bottom one in the picture above) has a sticker in the top left telling you the names of the remixes. Here, as we got in the wonderful Violator The 12" Singles box, the sticker is included for you to stick on if you wish.
That's it above. Don't worry - (a) I've not stuck it on and (b) I know it shouldn't go there. I wouldn't do that to you.
The sleeve is a gatefold just like the original. Dave is still chained to a radiator and Martin is ready to go deep sea diving.
Side A and the front cover are pictured above. Sadly, even a remastered Underworld Hard Mix still sounds like something that shouldn't have happened.
The rear sleeve is black and shiny which is marvellous but a bugger to photograph as you can see me in it which kind of ruins everything. I had to snap it from an odd angle as a result.
We only got one L12 in 1997 and it was this beauty.
L12BONG25 is a wonderful thing.
When It's No Good was first released, there was one 12", the first time Depeche Mode had not released an L12 since A Question Of Lust. Don't say "But what about Little 15?" Nobody knows if that single was released in any official capacity anywhere on earth.
Here, 12BONG26 is faithfully reproduced which means we have to sit through those remixes again. This song was crying out for a top notch, classic Depeche Mode 12" remix but sadly that just didn't happen.
Hang on - what's this? Well, for the first time ever, we have an L12BONG26. The single's original release saw two CD singles accompany the 12" and cassette single in the UK and to ensure that the remixes that appeared on the original LCD are included in this boxset, a 12" has been specially created. Now, Depeche Mode fans are probably the most relaxed fans of any band there is and they don't get bothered at all by things like catalogue numbers, so will anyone even be interested in the addition of a new L12 to the band's catalogue? I joke of course as the creation of the L12BONG26 catalogue number together with its two companions we'll look at shortly has annoyed some people. There are some collectors who won't buy the box meaning they will now have a gap in their collection and there are others who feel that this is a pointless rewriting of history. Fair enough. I'm very much in the group of people who think this is a pretty cool idea. Perhaps I'd feel differently if I didn't have the box.
The sleeve is based on the LCDBONG26 design and the labels are very nicely done. On Side A, we have It's No Good and Slowblow. On Side B (above), we get Slowblow (Darren Price Mix) and It's No Good (Bass Bounce Mix). That is not the same tracklisting as LCDBONG26 but does mean that the two tracks on the A Side and the remix of Slowblow get a vinyl release. The Bass Bounce Mix of It's No Good is also known as the Dom T Mix and that already appears on the 12BONG26 in the boxset. The version on this record is 3 seconds longer. Quite what is in those three seconds is a mystery. The inclusion of a remix that is already in this boxset is the only negative point about this L12.
The Home 12" is naturally just the same as the original 12BONG27.
I do love those labels.
Home sees the introduction of the second new L12, L12BONG27. It takes the four songs from CDBONG27 and LCDBONG27 that didn't make it onto the 12" at the time and gives them a vinyl release. On Side A (above), we have the single version of Home and Home (The Noodles And The Damage Done. The orange label is a very nice thing and reminds me of the promo CD for World In My Eyes. I really do need to get out more.
As with L12BONG26, the artwork for L12BONG27 is based on the LCD release. On Side B, we have the live versions of Barrel Of A Gun and It's No Good from the London Ultra party. The label is again a joy to behold.
The last single from Ultra was Useless and 12BONG28 is here in all its purple glory.
The tracklisting remains the same as the original release.
Talking of the original release, it had a sticker on the front of the 12" (see bottom record above). As with Barrel Of A Gun, we get the sticker inside the sleeve again to stick on if we wish. The addition of the sticker is another great touch and it's yet another example of the thought that has gone into these boxsets. It's pictured above but here's a close-up:
Finally, we have another new 12", L12BONG28. It takes the five remixes of Useless that didn't get a vinyl release and grants them one. On Side A (above) we have Useless (Remix), Useless (Escape From Whenever: Parts 1 & 2!) and Useless (Cosmic Blues). The latter remix first appeared on CDBONG28 where it was called Cosmic Blues Mix. Wonder why that's not the case here? The artwork is based on LCDBONG28 and, yes, the labels are very nice too.
The rear sleeve is a superb thing isn't it? The two tracks on Side B are Useless (CJ Bolland Ultrasonar Mix) and Useless (Live), another recording from the Ultra party. The videos for Barrel Of A Gun and It's No Good that featured on the enhanced CDBONG28 and LCDBONG28 respectively don't appear on either 12" but that is entirely understandable.
The last part of the box is the reproduction poster and this time round it's the Useless advert that we get.
As with all the 12" boxsets, this is expensive and arguably not that necessary if you have all the 12" singles already but, just like its predecessors, it is a thoroughly well thought out and well put together collection. The singles look and sound fantastic and the attention to detail both in an audio and visual sense is outstanding. The creation of three L12 singles is controversial but it makes sense when you see them in the context of the boxset. As an aside, it's interesting to note that the second It's No Good promo, PL12BONG26 is nowhere to be seen here. Since this box was announced, it has in fact disappeared from the discography section on the official Depeche Mode site. The Club 69 mixes seem destined to remain unloved, unacknowledged and on promo only forever.
Will we wait 11 months for the Exciter boxset? And just how many 12" singles will be in that one? If all of the promos are reproduced, it's going to be a very large box indeed.