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Released: 1998, JVC (Japan)
Rumours abound about the Helloweenies releasing a Double CD set of rarities, covers and re-recorded tunes this year. So in honour of this mighty band I decided to go back and look at one of their first rarities packages, The Pumpkin Box. Helloween has had a slightly scattered career in a sense with various versions of various releases for various parts of the world. This package brings together material from 1985 to 1996 so it is in sorts a 10th Anniversary (give or take) box-set.
I’m quite proud of this review in many ways. I initially automatically assigned the Pumpkin Box a 4.5 because to give anything less than the highest grade for any release (yes, including Chamleon) by one of the longest running, most successful, influential and popular metal bands of all time would amount to be the most unholy of all blasphemies!!
But then my journalistic integrity got the best of me and I re-visited my initial review and the Box-set a few days later. This is what I discovered.
This four Disc set comes in a nice hard cover case that folds open to reveal four colourful discs, a book, a sticker and the whole thing comes with 2 posters. The posters are kinda lame, just pictures of the band. Nothing special, the kind you used to see in Hit Parader. The sticker is, what else, the pumpkin mascot! Nothing interesting or exciting. The book is quite cool with 69 pages with everything you could want…with one major problem for me…a lot of it is in Japanese! Oh, well. There are well over 100 photos from all eras of the band, touring in Germany, Japan and England. They have live shots, studio shots, casual shots and even pictures from the making of the Halloween video. Full lyrics are included in Japanese and English. The book also has a Family Tree, a band history (in Japanese) and essay (in Japanese), full production notes and a comprehensive discography (although not perfect) with pictures of all the releases including the 15 singles and 2 videos! A truly magnificent retrospective.
The music ipicked for inclusion is where we get let down.
Disc 1 (15 songs) is called “The Early Years and B-sides”. It has 2 quite rare tracks, alternate versions of “Starlight” and “A Little Time”.
Disc 2 (11 songs) is called “Keeper of the Seven Keys” and covers those two majestic triumphs but with no rare or unreleased material. Two of the songs are actually intros and “Follow the Sign” isn’t really a song per se, more of a outro, so in reality we have 8 songs.
Disc 3 (12 songs) is called “With Roland and Live tracks” and has no rare or unreleased material. The live stuff is from Live in the UK, also known as I Want Out…Live in North America.
Disc 4 (3 songs) called “Helloween Special” has “Eagle Fly Free” again (it is on Disc 2) and “Power”. What is included is the 46 minute “Helloween Special”. It is a 30 minute collection of interviews with DJ. Masa Ito of Japan. The interview questions are in Japanese and the answers are in English! There were long stretches of Japanese dialogue which unfortunately mean nothing to me. I generally find interviews on discs quite boring, including this one. You listen to it once or twice and that’s it. The disc says two songs but the song “Halloween” appears (again) so there are 3 songs and interviews with members of the band past and present.
Overall we get 41 songs, which is a poor value. In reality you only get 31 songs. There are two versions of 7 songs so in reality dropping intro’s, outros and the 7 duplicates and live versions of the same songs, you get 31 ”real” songs. Not nearly as good as the Alice Cooper box-set which had 81 songs on 4 discs. Not nearly as good as the Aerosmith box-set which had 50+ songs on 3 discs. Of course Helloween writes much longer songs than Alice or Aerosmith, which is a factor. I would liked to have seen more of the B-sides from Master of The Rings (which in some parts of the world came with an extra 7 songs) or maybe some cuts that didn’t make High Live. A few unreleased tracks would have been good as well. They could have added “Oernst For Life” for the cool and rare, noise death Metal compilation.
So to lay it on the line…If you are a long-standing Helloween fan and own The Best, The Rest and The Rare (aka Pumpkin Tracks in some parts of the world) you may want to pass on this expensive rarity due to lack of rare and unreleased music. You probably own most of it already. For guys like me who have the first 10 or 11 releases on cassette tape (!) it is great because I get the best of the best without having to go re-buy another 10 discs. And it is a beautiful package. And for the die-hard fans who must buy everything the band has ever done, get it!! Make your choice…follow the sign…
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