I will be brutally honest, and admit that I didn't become a Metallica fan until they started getting radio play, which means The Black Album. However, when I feel the need for a Black Album fix I throw this collection on instead. Three discs loaded with a collection of songs that span the first decade of the band's career, and most would argue the best years and music they ever made. I won't argue that, because I think Reload is better than both The Black Album and ...And Justice For All combined. However, it's this collection that introduced me to Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets, and for that I love this collection.
The first disc opens with Sandman (Enter Sandman). I should point out that the track list on the back of the CD case has the songs listed by short form. What you read in the brackets are the proper names I've inserted for those that need it. As for the song itself; I like this version better than the album version, but I generally skip to track two right away.
Creep gets the crowd roaring with James screaming "Creeping Death!" I get the same goose bumps everytime I hear this song live, whether it be in person or recorded. There is such a sense of electricity and power that comes out of this song. It is one of my favourites live, and I like how it's always one of the first songs in the set. It's the perfect crowd pumper.
After that it's to the Justice album for Harvester (Harvester of Sorrow). I liked this song when I started hearing it on the radio, and I use to like it on this disc too. Over the years my taste for this song has greatly diminshed. It's actually gotten to a point where I can barely listen to most songs from ...And Justice For All anymore. The album is just too dark and angry in a way that I stopped being fond of about five years after this set came out.
The one song from Master Of Puppets I was never fond of was Welcome Home (Sanitarium). I know it's a live standard and favourite, but I always thought it was one of the weakest songs off the album. Not because it's slower, but due to the fact that it just doesn't sound as musically impressive as some of the other songs.
I have never liked Sad But True, and I hated that this song was technically the single for this boxset. I saw the live video I don't know how many times, and by the time Z-Rock, Much Music and WRIF stopped playing the single I absolutely hated this song. In A Year And Half In The Life, I think it's Bob Rock that says this is Metallica's Kasmir. While I can see what he was saying, I think that's a major insult to the Led Zeppelin song.
Going from one extreme of The Black Album to the other, we get a Metallica song I have loved since the first moment I heard it. Wolf (Of Wolf And Man) comes roaring up next. I would like to start by saying that the album version sounds better. I think this version sounds too distorted and rushed. Almost like they were trying to squeeze it in.
At this point I should mention that the 25 songs that make up the three discs were recorded over five separate nights in Mexico, February 25, 26, 27 and March 1 and 2, 1993. It's not like they played three hours straight and recorded it. Not to say the shows weren't long, but they weren't that long.
After that comes a cool little screw around listed as Guitar Doodle. This was basically a break while James got his accoustic ready to break out Unforgiven. I'm talking about the original, and what I often consider the weakest of the three songs to bare that name. However, this was the only song from the first half of The Black album that I truly enjoyed. Sadly I don't care for this live version either. I find it suffers from the same problem that Wolf does.
After that it's on to one of the longest, angriest, signature changing, tempo changing, collection of riffs and songs ever put together. Justice, which should not be confused with the title track from ...And Justice For All. This is a medley of, as Hetfield puts it, "A collection of our favourite parts". This is a great way to avoid having to play most of the songs from an album that's more complex than this arrangement. That's one of my two favourite things about this particular track. I also love the way that James works the crowd.
After that it's on to Solo (Bass/Guitar), which is exactly how it's listed on the back. Now let me start with the fact that this track runs 18:50 and half of it is the band kind of dicking around a bit. There are parts of the solos that I love. Jason Newstead breaking into as much of My Friend Of Misery as I think he was ever allowed to play live, and Kirk Hammet's work is not to be taken lightly either.
Also according to Jason when he's talking to the crowd, this track was recorded on the fourth night. I personally think it should have been trimmed down and another song should have been added to the CD collection. It's great listening to the two of them play various songs including Dazed And Confused, but it's not like they played any of them in their entirety. This is pretty big filler to me.
The second disc begins with Never (Through The Never), which is the track that leads off the half I like from The Black Album, except track eight, the biggest piece of shit Metallica ever released, which I'll get to on the next disc.
Never is one of the songs that I like the live treatment on at least as much as the original. However, I normally skip this one too, because I'm in a rush to get to the next track.
My very first favourite Metallica song was For Whom the Bell Tolls, and it was because of this album. Bellz is so simple, and yet electrifying. This song gets a crowd pumped just as hard as Creeping Death, if not harder. This is the only Metallica song I ever took the time to learn on drums and it was specifcally because of this live version. In fact this is the only song from this boxset collection I normally put on my Mp3 player.
From there it goes into my least favourite song from Ride the Lightning, Fade (Fade To Black). This is a song that I've heard so many people say that it kept them from committing suicide, and that's great. I on the other hand hate listening to bands whine about being depressed. It's one of the reasons I dislike Grunge. Also please don't think I'm referring to this as Grunge, that's just beyond insulting. I listen to music to escape being depressed, not to have it bring me down more.
Then it's on to a crowd check, to make sure they are still awake, and a shortened version of Master (Master Of Puppets). This version cuts out the slower mid section and makes it into a more Radio friendly length, although the profanity prevents it from actually getting on the radio. I've always liked this shortened version, not better, but maybe just as much. It's different, without being ridiculously altered. I think part of it comes from the crowd's singing.
Now why they shortened Master and made Seek (Seek And Destroy) eighteen minutes I will never know. The audience Participation is great, and I love Jason's singing/screaming when he gets up to the mic for a verse, but that still doesn't mean this song needs to be as long as it is. The cool little jam in the middle doesn't make up for it either. If this and the solos on the first disc hadn't sucked up so much time we may have gotten more songs on this collection.
The second disc finishes with one of Metallica's most neck breaking songs, Whiplash. Starting with James giving a little intro and insulting the crowd James counts in, "One, two, four, three, two and a half," gives us a few measures and then launches into a slightly sped up version of a song that I like better than the original, although I like other live versions better than this one. Also another song featuring Jason singing.
The thrid and last disc opens with Metallica's worst song, Nothin'. Skip this piece of shit like nothing else matters. I don't care what anyone says, Mama Said and Low Man's Lyric are by far superior to this crap meant only for women.
Roam (Wherever I May Roam) is one of those songs that I can go either way on. I enjoy it, but at the same time I generally skip it. I must agree with my editor when she says that the version from S&M is the best version of this song, but I do like this live one as well.
After that we come up to the first song Metallica inspired me to learn on drums, Am I Evil. This was my introduction to the Diamond Head classic that would end up becoming one of my all time favourite songs, no matter if the original or a Metallica version. I don't like this version anymore, though. They cut the song down by a minute or more, and pretty much took out the fun extras, in the name of adding some screwing around. This brings me back to, eighteen minutes of Seek and Destroy?
Then there's a quick fill of Caress (Last Caress) originally by The Misfits, which is always a great song to hear. It's fun and brash and just vicious. What a great tune, no matter when and where they do it. I just wished they performed it with Green Hell as well.
After that it's into the explosive One. I love how they left all the stage pyro sounds in, which adds a great effect to the live sounds. When I got this boxset, this was one of my favourite songs on it, now it's become a skipper as well. I love seeing the song live, but don't feel a need to listen to it live.
There's another two minutes of complete tom foolery before the band breaks into an unlisted track, So What. It's actually a part of the Battery track, which comes in at over ten minutes, but the official song doesn't even start until after the four minute marker.
In retrospect one of my biggest complaints about this CD collection of songs is how much song space is wasted on screwing around. This is fine when watching live performances, but when listening it really loses it's effect. I figure that a minimum of twenty minutes is completely wasted between these three discs.
After Bellz, Horse (The Four Horsemen) was my favourite Metallica song for a very long time, and specifically because of this live version. It would take a few months before I would pick up the Kill 'Em All album, and even still I more often listen to this version instead. Now a days it's more of the opposite, but at the same time I have other live recordings I like better too.
Motor (Motorbreath) is the last Metallica song on this collection. This is one of those songs I'm neither here nor there on the whole way around. I don't care about the original or this live version. It's a great Thrash Metal song, fast, furious, and full of piss and vinegar. I on the other hand prefer my songs a little more hard and heavy, and less thrashy.
The album finishes with Stone. This would be Queen's classic, bullet fast, Stone Cold Crazy. Oddly, I didn't really know the original prior to Metallica covering it. Detroit rock radio was not very Queen friendly, and neither was my house. Not that anyone in my house had issues with Queen, it's just that no one really listened to them. I think that's why I like Metallica's version a bit better. Also if it were not for this boxset I would have had to go through Hell in a hand basket trying to find the single that had the studio version of this cover as a b-side.
By the end of listening to these discs again in their entirety I remember why I don't do it often. I still find myself wanting to skip through half the songs, so I can listen to just very specific tracks, and it takes everything I have not to do that.
This is a great retrospective, based on the idea that this album has been around longer now than Jason Newstead was even in Metallica. It's listening to Jason on this collection that really makes it worthwhile still. However, I could do without all The Black Album commercial crap, and would have liked to have heard more of the lesser played stuff.
I also can't complain enough about the wasted time on these three discs given to screwing around. This is one of the best sounding live albums I have ever heard, and more music should have been included. Part of me is pissed at the band for wasting such time, but part of me likes the glimpse into a band that I wouldn't get to see live for almost another five years (Load and Reload support tours).
Another downside to this live collection is that it's the only official live album the band has, except for S&M, which is a completely different type of live. There have been other maxi-singles or even just normal singles that contain even better live tracks, but no official collection. We really need one too, but thankfully Metallica is still releasing live DVDs, which is where it's really at.
7/10 - content
7/10 - production
6/10 - personal bias