The Rarities album is a collection of recordings that, for various reasons, were not included in Millenium's studio albums. I'm not sure, in the digital age, quite what makes for a rarity since once it's in the public domain there is little rare about it. Just previously unreleased would suffice, though I suppose'Rarities' sells better than 'Outtakes'. Now as we all know, this is not necessarily a bad thing. We can all think of tracks which mystifyingly never made the final release. They just didn't fit in with the album concept, or in cynical terms were needed to sell the deluxe box set edition. Similarly we can all think of 'previously unreleased' tracks which should have stayed that way, and some of the 'bonus tracks' used to pad out original LP releases to CD length should never have seen the light of day.
So which is it with this collection from veteran Polish quintet+ Millenium? Almost predictably the answer is - a bit of both. This collection features some tracks which really showcase what a force Millenium can be at their best, and others which probably only diehard fans and completionists will have more than a passing interest in. In the band's own words, Rarities is the second part and complement to the older White Crow album, and consists of 10 tracks from various incarnations. Most if not all play to the traditional strength of festival friendly crossover rock ballad, such as the opener River Of Love full of sweeping orchestrations and Piotr Plonka's acoustic guitar picking. Time Vehicle one of two extended tracks in the collection is one that I would have gladly heard on a full release. Hypnotic, industrialised synthesiser, the introduction of backing singers on the chorus and a scintillating sax solo present a multi textured musical palette which has perhaps been missing from some of the more recent releases, which have concentrated on the core quintet. Karolina Lesko's ethereal emotion packed vocalised lines again show how she can bring a new dimension to the sound, taking the band in directions we haven't heard recently. The Song Of Hope & Love is less fully realised by contrast, a buskers' outing which gives space to showcase Lukasz Gall's powerful and plaintive vocal. Although the addition of a choir is also a nice touch. If Commercial Song is musically standard fare for Millenium, I did enjoy the, at least partly, confessional heartfelt tale of a band too good (at least in their own opinion) to get played on the radio, delivered with a nice mix of humour and satire. Not a view to earn friends in radio land or change the schedules and playlists but I can certainly understand the frustrations for a rock band and it was disappointing that this one faded out - like one of those songs on the radio. There follows some quirky type tracks, ideas which were only half worked out, or which never bore fruit and dangle orphan like and homeless. Its worth persisting beyond this as InOutro is an intense emotional instrumental which really does showcase all the musicians to fine effect and the finale, Woman & Man is one of the highlights, on one reading a standard rock ballad, but in performance a duet of the kind which Millenium shine at, a bravura performance from both the vocalists which is as good as many things I have heard from them,
In the end, this collection is as you might expect. There are certainly sections of great rock music and the individual musicians are, as ever never anything other than excellent. If you are familiar with Millenium, then this is well worth a listen as there is much to intrigue and delight you. If not you might want to listen to some other releases first to find out what they are about before committing to this one.
*** Andrew Cottrell
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