It is very easy to forget Mötley Crüe was once among the kings of the music world. Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Tommy Lee, and Nikki Sixx sold millions of records during the eighties and sold out arenas worldwide.
It is easy to forget all of that because it seems like such a long time ago. It is easy to forget because it has been a long time since the quartet comprising Mötley Crüe has been in the news for anything related to music. The 90s were not kind to Mötley Crüe as a collective nor was it particularly kind to the individual members. Tommy Lee and Vince Neil have both been swept up in the craze of reality TV. Lee and Neil have both been arrested- Lee went to jail. Lee and Vince have both been featured in bestselling porn tapes. Neil has been in and out of the band’s lineup as has Lee. No one is really sure what Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars have been doing.
Fast forward to 2005 and the Crüe have reunited… again… heading out on a world tour to promote another greatest hits package, this one entitled “Red, White & Crüe.” The three questions to ask when reviewing any greatest hits package are:
1. Is the collection necessary?
2. What’s here?
3. What’s missing?
Is a Mötley Crüe greatest hits collection necessary? That answer is determined on an individual basis because Mötley Crüe is something of an acquired taste. There are plenty of music critics who find nothing essential in the Crüe canon and trying to persuade this crowd is pointless. Mötley Crüe is a glam-metal band… for better and for worse. And over the course of 37 songs and two discs, there is plenty of evidence of both the better and the worse. If you cannot appreciate for what they are and tolerate them for they are not, no amount of discussion will convince you.
Is this Mötley Crüe greatest hits collection necessary? Are “Decade of Decadence” and “Greatest Hits” deficient to the point that “Red, White & Crüe” is needed, or is this just some sort of blatant cash grab on the part of the band and its label? “Decade” and “Greatest Hits” are both very solid packages but each of them has a flaw or two and those are worth correcting. Neither of these two discs can be considered definitive. Does “Red, White & Crüe” succeed? That is answered in looking at what is included and what is missing.
What’s missing from “Red, White & Crüe?” Nothing… from the perspective of track listing. Very few listeners would be able to glance at the tracks on these two discs and think of a single Crüe hit not included. But like compilations before it, “Red, White & Crüe” has been deprived of the original versions of some of Mötley’s classic songs. Listeners are saddled with the lousy “Decade” remix of “Home Sweet Home” rather than the original from “Theater of Pain.” Because of this, the song is bumped from the first disc with the other essential songs and is instead banished to the weaker second disc. “Hooligan’s Holiday,” “Misunderstood,” and “Afraid” are also included in remixed versions. Most Mötley Crüe fans will have the original mix of these songs, but compilations are excellent opportunities for the casual fan. Depriving them of the real versions of these songs makes the package less valuable.
These minor bitches aside, “Red, White & Crüe” is a very good hits package. The set is pretty much sequenced chronologically making the first disc the far stronger of the two. It is also possible to hear an actual progression from the “Too Fast for Love” tracks at the beginning through the “Dr. Feelgood” songs at the end. These songs work because the band does not sound the least bit self-conscious. Disc one is filled with pure hedonism and fun. Had “Home Sweet Home” and “Too Young to Fall in Love” been included on disc one in their original forms it would have made this the quintessential eighties glam-rock package.
The second disc is a much spottier proposition. Where the first disc paints a picture of a band at the top of their game, the second disc depicts a band trying to justify its continued existence. The John Corabi era found Mötley Crüe looking for its serious side to better fit in with the 90s alternative scene. They failed miserably at this even though Corabi had a decent set of pipes. The Corabi experiment was quickly abandoned and Vince Neil returned to the fold. What seemed like a good idea on paper wound up inconsistent in its execution. There are occasional moments where the band almost replicates the good old days but it never seems as convincing or as fun as it used to be. When they are not searching for grown up themes, they are experimenting with musical styles that fit about as well as maturity does.
The second disc also includes three new songs. “If I Die Tomorrow” is unremarkable which makes “Sick Love Song” comparatively interesting. The cover of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” is silly and fifteen years too late.
Thirty-seven songs, two and a half hours, and this is still not a definitive hits collection. But it is the best of the band’s three compilations because if you are going to listen to Mötley Crüe, excess has to be the rule.