It has been nearly five years since the fantastic Japanese re-issue label Airmail Recordings honoured us with the outstanding treatment the three proper Buster albums deserved - including rare, unreleased and fascinating bonus tracks, et al. At the time, they only excluded Buster's fourth LP, "Diary - The Best of", from said treatment. However, this past January they more than made up for that exclusion by releasing the double "Best & New" CD, which, as its title suggests, not only contains an ample helping of Buster's best, but also 10 recently recorded tracks by one of Liverpool's finest exports.
Sadly, guitarist Pete Leay didn't live to see this release come to full fruition, since he died under somewhat mysterious circumstances on Boxing Day last year. Apparently, two men are being held, suspected of contributing to his untimely death.
Disc 1 ("Best") features 20 tracks in (almost) chronological order, culled from all four Buster LP's, bookended by a short "interview" - more like an introduction-cum-Christmas greetings - from 1978.
OK, one is nearly never 100% OK with compilations such as these, and since I don't care too much for the Live album, I think the three tracks included from that record don't really gel and seem out of place here...although, of course, that album should somehow be represented here. Similarly, some of the single B-sides/weaker album tracks ("Judy", "If It's Love", "But If It Happens") don't add a whole lot to the mix. But it is nice to finally get early B-side "Salt Lake City - Silver Gun" on CD. For some odd reason it was omitted from the CD release of the first album back in 2008. Nonetheless, some of Buster's best material is missing. For instance, the majestic "We Love Girls" from the first album, and "Goodbye Paradise" and "Lovebreaker" from "Buster 2". That being said, these sort of things are always a matter of opinion and this just happens to be mine.
Disc 2 ("New") features 10 spanking new recordings by the original line-up of Rob Fennah, Kevin Roberts, Les Brians and Pete Leay - their first new recordings since 1978. All are original compositions (Mostly by Rob), aside from a cover of a Genesis (!!) song, "For Absent Friends".
Certainly, the one song here that sounds most like the Buster of old, is actually an old Buster song. "Wish I was Young Again", in spite of its title, was written and demoed way back in 1977/78, and as such first appeared as a bonus track on the CD issue of "Buster 2" in 2008. Here, properly recorded and a bit reminscent of a sparsely produced E.L.O. song - If such a thing exists, it is a definitive highlight and it would have had an obvious hit potential only had it been issued all those years ago.
Opener "Here Comes the Bride" is a catchy Power Pop gem from the pen of Rob Fennah, while the late Pete Leay's "Juliette" is pleasant mid tempo Pop.
For some reason there's a hidden non-Buster track stitched onto album's closer "Rock & Roll Girl". Which wouldn't nessecarily be a bad thing wouldn't it be so completely different in sound and style to the rest of the album. It's a Rap song, ladies and gentlemen. Most likely by Paul Leay, Pete's son, although that certainly doesn't explain/excuse this severe lack in judgement on someone's behalf. After all, there's a time and a place for everything and, as the kids say, IMHO this Rap thing has no place on this otherwise fine album. Again, it's a matter of opinion and this just happens to be mine.
But if you're a Buster fan, as I am, don't let that defer you from purchasing this product. It completes the collection.
3 *** Out of 5
See also: BUSTER