Walked past the boxed set display at the CD store recently. I never look at those things, but something caught the corner of my eye. "Bonzo", it said. I did a double-take. A Bonzo Dog Band boxed set? Yep, that's indeed what it was! And, a double treat, it shows all the attention that did not go into EMI's single-disc "Bestiality" compilation.
There are three discs, apparently available separately as well as in the box. "The Intro" combines the first two albums, "Gorilla" and "The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse"; "The Outro" has "Tadpoles" and the masterpiece "Keynsham"; "Dog Ends" compiles six non-album single tracks, the "Let's Make Up and Be Friendly" album and three tantalizing post-Bonzo solo tracks. An extensive history of the Bonzos is split between the three disc booklets, which also feature many of the band's ludicrous publicity photos & other illustrations. The discs sound excellent, better, I think, than the other Bonzo CDs released.
The early single sides ("My Brother Makes the Noises For The Talkies", "I'm Going to Bring a Watermelon To My Girl Tonight", "Alley Oop" and "Button Up Your Overcoat") are reason enough for dedicated Bonzo fans to get this collection -- these tracks have been unavailable for years, issued only on one obscure compilation LP. (The other two single tracks are the beautiful "Ready Mades", which has been collected for several other compilations, and a version of "Mr. Apollo" with ersatz German narration.)
The post-Bonzo tracks are nice (and not really needed for padding purposes -- all three discs are in the mid-70s, minute-wise, and without them "Dog Ends" would still have been a respectable 60 minutes), but only Vivan Stanshall's "Labio Dental Fricative" is a really great track. Neil Innes' "Recycled Vinyl Blues" is amusing, but not one of his best (incidentally both of these tracks feature famous guests -- Eric Clapton and Michael Palin respectively). The third is the title track from Roger Ruskin Spear's "Trouser Freak" EP. The inclusion of these tracks just makes me long for a fourth disc that could have included much more post-Bonzo material. Obviously there is much too much of it to all be collected here, and not all of it is owned by EMI; but Vivian's other single tracks ("Suspicion", "Blind Date"), the rest of Spear's EP, the album by Innes' group The World, and Spear's rare "Unusual" album are all in EMI's possession. It would have been nice to at least have all the material that appeared on "History of the Bonzos" (which included four tracks from those albums, but didn't have "Trouser Freak" or "Recycled Vinyl Blues").
Really, though, I have no cause for complaint. That fourth disc would have made me delerious, as it is I'm merely ecstatic. After years of digging up used copies of various mediocre vinyl reissues, to have all the Bonzos' material collected into one reasonably-priced (it cost me $45, not bad for a three-disc import), well-packaged, good-sounding set is far more than I could have asked for. Doo Dah!