Greatest hits: album reviews
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Charting different paths to boxed sets

Scott Murphy

Journey: Time (Sony). * * Fleetwood Mac: 25 Years: The Chain (Warner Music). * * * JOURNEY was one of the premiere, safe, stadium rock bands of the early '80s. Beginning with the multi-platinum Escape, which spawned the album oriented rock classics Who's Crying Now and Don't Stop Believin, the group struck an emotional chord with those who believed in love on the wrong side of the tracks.

The wailings of Steve Perry, Neil Schon's endless power chords and Jonathan Cain's emotionally charged keyboards mined the same territory again and again until the band's breakup at the end of the '80s.

Its string of successes are well-documented on the relatively recent Greatest Hits album. The release of the sprawling three-CD box set Time, therefore, is a mystery. What else can the band offer musically? Not much.

To be fair, the group's career is thoroughly analysed, from the Santana-inspired atmospheric rhythms of its beginnings through to its hit factory end.

As a package, though, Time is one of the best around for band insights as the group reveals the circumstances behind every song - usually romantic breakups and disappointing studio improvisations. The demo quality sound of post-Escape studio songs like Liberty also makes one wonder if Journey could have transcended its commercial tag with more time spent on music and less on gloss.

The four-CD Fleetwood Mac box set, 25 Years: The Chain, is virtually the opposite of Journey's. With a vast array of quality music, the group's problem was what to leave out.

The set is dominated by the hit-making Lindsay Buckingham/Stevie Nicks lineup whose Rumours work transformed the group from British blues to near perfect California-styled pop.

Everything from Don't Stop, the song adopted by US President Mr Bill Clinton, to Big Love from Tango in the Night emphasises the multiple and distinct songwriting talents of the group. The group reunited to record four songs especially for this set, and these are equally memorable.

Yet, given the wealth of material and time spent in the studio, there is only a sprinkling of outtakes - and all from the same 1982 Mirage album.

A single by Nicks, Stand Back, appears yet no other solo work by any other band member is included. And the band's vast blues period is relegated to a seemingly random amount of selections on a single disc.

With the group's interchangeable lineup, the accompanying booklet could have benefitted from a storyline a la Journey.