At 16 tracks long, Blur clearly had a ton of musical tastes to fit into one album. After getting through it, the experience left this reviewer actually wanting to hear more. The spacey acoustic track "Far Out," for example, features James on lead vocals, but at 1:38 in length, it is just too short. More high energy punk rock like "Bank Holiday" would've been welcomed too. A sax-aided rocker like the lazy teen-bashing rock of "Jubilee" and punk-ish "Trouble in the Message Centre" are aggressive in their own right, however, though the low-key vocals by Albarn on the latter track don't quite match the energy of the music, thereby keeping it from being a true standout.
For fans who do crave more from this era of the band, this new edition of Parklife does indeed come with more music. In fact, a second CD of 16 songs is included, and contains b-sides collected from the band's four hit singles, "G&B," "End of a Century," "Parklife," and "To the End," as well as some acoustic performances of songs from the album. The package also comes with new artwork postcards, an expanded booklet with new photos and liner notes that contain a new interview with the band about the album's legacy.
The live full band acoustic versions of the title track and "Jubilee" from a BBC session in 1994 are well played, but the acoustic guitars are a little hidden in the mix. Perhaps the most surprising among these b-sides, however, is the fun, jazz-rock of "Beard." And Coxon shows his sense of humor on the country-mocking number "Red Necks." Most of the rest of these b-sides and alternate versions aren't essential listening, but definitely show that they belong where they ended up.
Eighteen years after it took the world by storm, Blur's Parklife is still the lively, creative genius of an album now that it was then and should be an essential piece of your Blur collection, or for any fan of the Britpop movement of the '90s. This remastered "Special Edition" 2-CD edition is available now and should satisfy any major fan of the band.