Tuesday, 14 December, 2021 in Music

Into Music Reviews: The Best Box Sets of 2021

Well, Christmas is just around the corner so if you’re struggling for a last minute gift, Into Music have looked back over the last twelve months to bring what we think are the best two compilations/boxed sets of 2021. And remember kids, music isn’t just for Christmas! 

Box Set: Gary Crowley’s Lost 80’s Vol. 2
Label: Edsel/Demon Records

This year saw the release of the second of Gary Crowley’s Lost 80’s compilations and to be brutally honest, I didn’t think it would be possible to top Volume 1 (which Into Music reviewed here) but Gary has done exactly that! His impressive selection is split across four discs: A Beat Confection, A Rock And A Dance Place, Ear And Foot Refreshment and The Vinyl Curtain. 

The box set comprises 65 tracks including a number of 12″ remixes and it all adds up to one very cool collection. Aside from the music, there is so much more on offer here – photos, gig tickets, flyers and contributions from the likes of Dr.Robert, Mick Talbot, Corinne Drewery and Dan Donovan. Gary provides excellent sleeve notes, informing us how he got involved in the music scene and meeting the likes of Bananarama, Paul Weller, journalist Nick Kent and pop Svengali Malcolm McLaren. In addition, each band/track is given space with details provided ranging from the well known to some perhaps more obscure offerings. All fascinating stuff which helps elevate the overall package here into something special. 

But what of the music? Well, let’s just say there is something for everyone here and then some. Growing up in the 80’s, the bands and the tracks really resonate with me but it doesn’t matter if you weren’t around then; good music transcends generations. 

There are some big hitting artists included such as The Style Council, Madness, The B-52’s and Sade though pleasingly, the tracks are not necessarily “the hits” with more emphasis on lesser known gems. Another great thing about the selection is that there are a number of artists and/or tracks I had not encountered before including Screen 3, Leisure Process and This Island Earth. 

Difficult to pick stand outs as there are so many from a host of different styles. For example, Bananarama’s take on The Sex Pistols No Feelings is fantastic while General Public’s Tenderness (Special Dance Mix) and You’ve Got The Power (U.S. Dance Mix) by Win are also worth a mention. 

Gary Crowley’s Lost 80s Vol. 2 has upped the ante again and is well worth having in your collection. Question is, can Gary make it a hat-trick with Vol. 3?

You can buy the collection at the link here


Box Set: The Sun Shines Here
Label: Cherry Red Records

It’s fair to say that where Cherry Red Records go, others follow. Their back catalogue of box sets is second to none and with the release of The Sun Shines Here – The Roots Of Indie-Pop 1980-1984 they’ve curated another absolute gem. 

Detailed sleeve notes come courtesy of Tim Barr (who was also involved in similar for Big Gold Dreams – A Story Of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989) taking the reader on a journey from punk rock through to post punk and indie pop. Stories abound of Cherry Red, Rough Trade, Z Block, Postcard, Mute and Creation record labels amongst others and is a real treasure trove of information. 

Thereafter, each track (there are 74 across 3 CD’s) has detailed notes on when it was originally released as well as interesting vignettes on the artist/track. 

The Teardrop Explodes’ version of Read It In Books, more commonly associated with Echo & The Bunnymen – co-written by Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch – is included here. 

What stands out on the box set is the sheer creativity of the indie-pop scene covering only a five year period here. Bands from Liverpool (such as the aforementioned Teardrop Explodes, It’s Immaterial, The Wild Swans, The Pale Fountains) and Scotland (such as Josef K, The Pastels, The Bluebells, The Wee Cherubs) are particularly well represented in what was a fertile period for music.  


Again, we find some obscure crackers on offer here. None more so than Mary Millington by Leicester’s The Disco Zombies. The deadpan vocal offsets the fuzzy guitar perfectly. Leeds outfit Girls At Our Best! offer up the bass driven Go For Gold! and is a breath of fresh air. 

This is a quintessential collection of independent pop music, capturing the essence of a scene, just after post punk, one crammed with melodic tunes and do-it-yourself attitude. It’s all here in spades. If you’ve got this in your collection, you already know this. If you haven’t, then you should! 

You can buy the collection at the link here

John Welsh


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