Three CDs, plus a fourth stuffed with rarities, sum up a career that both deserves far greater critical acclaim than it has ever been granted, and which has gone out of its way to discourage that from ever happening. An admittedly well-loved cult throughout his first decade of recording, Chris De Burgh
exploded worldwide following the success of "The Lady in Red" and that, unfortunately, remains most peoples' sole perception of him; "unfortunately" because, at his best (which is more often than not), De Burgh
both writes and performs with an extraordinary passion, and a musical ambition that travels way beyond that one song's parameters. A limited-edition CD available only via De Burgh
's website and live shows, with all profits bound for the United Nations' IIMSAM fund, Much More Than This
careens through a 30-year career by dividing De Burgh
's output by theme, vision, romance, and emotion, and then filling each disc accordingly. It's a fair enough assessment, allowing all the expected glories to shine within, while also bringing new context and verve to a handful of numbers that might otherwise have been overlooked.
Of course there are omissions -- the epic title track to Crusader
, still one of the most important songs in his canon, is the most unforgivable, while the short shrift given to his Far Beyond These Castle Walls
debut (just two songs) seems myopic, to say the least. But half-a-dozen cuts from Spanish Train
, and healthy chunks of Eastern Wind
and The Getaway
are no less than they deserve and, if the later '80s and '90s material does tend to drag a little, then that only vindicates the decision to eschew chronology. For most die-hard fans, it's the fourth disc that promises the most surprises, a collection of demos, alternate versions, and live cuts that have never before seen release. Sadly, it's also the most disappointing -- there's little in the way of genuinely unheard songs (unless you count a clutch of live covers), and there's little in the way of variety either, as we learn that De Burgh
's demos are more or less identical to the finished articles. Still, a good packaging job and a very healthy song selection render Much More Than This
as enjoyable as any career-spanning box set can be, while the accompanying booklet tells its story in smartly matter-of-fact style. Buy it for your next cocktail party.