Formed in Canada around 1987, Harem Scarem has been rocking for well over 30 years now. With 15 studio albums, 8 live albums and numerous compilation albums, they have been delivering solid rock music for the masses. The band only has two original members still in it from the beginning and they are the two most crucial in this scenario. Lead singer, Harry Hess, and Lead Guitarist, Pete Lesperance. Why would these two be the most crucial, well they are the principal song writers as well as the voice and sound of the band. I would say that is crucial.
The Ultimate Collection is a box set that contains 12 of their studio albums plus a collection of songs from early in their career as well as a disc of unreleased tracks. And to top it off, the studio albums include all the bonus tracks from those albums as well. That is a lot of music and there are 175 tracks in this set. Incredible.
What does that look like all sprawled out? Here you go…
The nice thing is they have the original artwork of the CDs and the insert includes the lyrics for each song on the disc. The CD themselves even look like little vinyl records. But there are 3 albums missing from the set. 2 of the albums are from a side project Pete & Harry did called Rubber. The 2 albums were ‘Rubber’ and ‘Ultra Feel’ (yes, that kinda rubber). Also missing is the re-recorded version of Mood Swings called Mood Swings II. If those were included, this would have been the true “Ultimate Collection”.
Now there is no way I am going to be able to go through all the songs on every album, but I will at least go through a little about each album so you see what you are getting and tell you that you need to get this if you are a fan. My understanding was the US was only going to get 150 copies of this, so there are very few available. I have one, so that leaves 149 left to grab. Someday, I will come back and do a Ranking of Worst to First…but I will include the 3 albums missed.
HAREM SCAREM (1991)
The debut album came out in 1991, primarily in Canada so those of us in the States didn’t get much on these guys which is a shame. The album did pretty good and a lot of the songs appeared on a hit Canada TV show called Degrassi. Sadly, it was 1991 and hard rock music was about to get pummeled by Grunge. That didn’t stop the band as the continued on unstoppable (or this box set wouldn’t exist). Some of the big songs were “Slowly Slipping Away”, “Love Reaction” and my favorite “Honestly”.
MOOD SWINGS (1993)
The second album produced three singles and didn’t quite do as well as the debut. It only made it to #85 on the Canadian Charts. My favorite song on the album is “No Justice” as well as the Harry Hess penned song “Sentimental BLVD”. The two other singles were “Change Comes Around” and “If There Was A Time”. The album comes with bonus tracks of acoustic songs of the original tracks and some might be better than the originals. This album is a favorite amongst the band and fans as they did a re-record of this album in 2013 (that is omitted here).
VOICE OF REASON (1995)
With their third album, their sound went a little darker. They released a promotional single called “Blue”, but had little success overall with this album. The darker tone was probably in response to the music at the time. Hell, even Def Leppard changed their spots in 1995 with Slang. The album did have some great songs (as they all do) including the song “Candle” and “Let it Go”.
KARMA CLEANSING / BELIEVE (1997)
Karma Cleansing was their fourth album, but in Japan it was called Believe. The Japanese edition had two different songs then Karma Cleansing called “Cages” and “The Mirror” that replaced “Staying Away” and “Baby With A Nail Gun (Instrumental)”. Luckily, all songs are included in this version plus a bonus acoustic song of Rain. The two singles off the album were “Die Off Hard” and “Rain”, both great songs.
BIG BANG THEORY (1998)
With a more modern sound like the last album, the band saw little success with this release and it did not chart. They released four singles including “New Religion”, “What I Do”, “Turn Around” and their last single “So Blind” which also gets an acoustic treatment on this album. After the lack of success, they changed their name to Rubber and for two albums went in that direction. Those are the two albums missing I mentioned earlier.
WEIGHT OF THE WORLD (2002)
Four years later they go back to the Harem Scarem name (however some markets still saw this as Rubber). They went back to the sounds of Mood Swings here and didn’t actually end up releasing any singles off this one. Songs worth noting are the title track, “Weight of the World” and “Killing Me” along with “If You” and “Voice Inside”. All-in-all, I enjoyed it. The extra track you get on here is “End of Time” as the original album only had 11 tracks.
And now we are to the timeframe where I actually discovered the band thanks to the site Melodicrock.com. This was the time Harry released his first solo album and even Pete did the following year. The album saw them modernize their sound again and the big song off this album was the title track, “Higher”. But you can’t forget “Give It To You” or “Lost” either as that would be a crime.
The band’s Tenth Studio Album (if you count Rubber)…wow!! Let’s go ahead and get the disappointment out of the way that this did not include the Japanese edition of the AC/DC cover of “You Shook Me All Night Long”. That should be here. Outside of that is another good album with songs like “Dagger”, “Afterglow” and “Don’t Come Easy” that lead the pack. After 10 albums, they still got it.
HUMAN NATURE (2006)
This was the album that really sealed it for me. I really loved the song “Human Nature” and it was this point, I finally decided to dive deep into the band and started getting their earlier albums. The album did well in Japan like a lot of their stuff, but they were still basically non-existent in the States and even today not much is ever said. The strong songs on here are the one I mentioned earlier as well as “Next Time Around”, “Tomorrow May Be Gone” and “Caught Up In Your World” which also gets an acoustic number on here. An acoustic version of “Human Nature” is also a bonus track.
‘Hope’ was announced as the bands lasts studio album. After 20 years together, they were breaking up. Not for fights or any of the normal drama, they were busy doing so many side projects they felt the time had come. There were more solid tracks to have including “Watch Your Back” and “Days Are Numbered”. Sadly, no bonus tracks. I had only been listening to the band 5 years and they were done. I was bummed, but at least I had a lot of albums to get to know.
In 2013, the band got back together to re-record Mood Swings and add a few more new songs. They did this to retain the rights to the songs. That time together brought about the recording of a new album simply called ‘Thirteen’. The band was back all refreshed and ready to go. With songs like “The Midnight Hour”, “Stardust” and “Garden of Eden”, you can see the band is back in full force. The bonus tracks are acoustic versions of “Garden of Eden” and “The Midnight Hour” so that makes them the bands favorites as well.
Another great release. How do they keep doing it?? However, so far this is the last one, but I hope not the last one. There are more great songs to add to the collection including “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, “Sinking Ship” and “One of Life’s Mysteries” and I like “The Sky is Falling” as well. Two of these songs were also given an acoustic treatment for the release as well.
THE EARLY YEARS (2003)
This is a collection of songs from the days before the debut album. There are two songs on here on the debut including “Honestly” and “All Over Again”, but these are early demos. Surprisingly, it is really great stuff and a must in the collection. Some other great songs include “You’re the One”, “Looking Back” and “One of the Wounded”. This was released as a CD in 2003 and the only song I think different is the bonus track “Lost in Yesterday” which was “End of Time” on the original release.
BONUS TRACKS & RARITIES (2019)
This is the real gem of the bunch as it consists of bonus tracks and some rare songs not previously released that I can see. I am not sure where all the songs come from, but here is what I do know.
- If I’d Been Awake – Rocks Compilation
- World Gone to Pieces
- Brighter Day
- Remember – Ballads Collection
- Why – Ballads Collection
- Freedom – The Very Best of Harem Scarem
- More than You’ll Ever Know – B-Side & Ballads Collection
- Good Enough – B-Side Collection
- Coming Down – might come from the Melodicrock E.P.
Okay, that is what I know. I do know I like it and so cool to have all these on one disc.
You do get a little booklet that has the track listing of each album and a little essay by Harry Hess where he walks through, ever so briefly, on each album. Not much to it and not that great, but I will take it.
All-in-All, it is a very nice collection of all their albums…well almost all. There were some missteps along the way by omitting some great albums, but I will forgive for now. It does hurt the score as I am only going to give it a 3.75 out of 5 Stars. I really think those 3 albums should have been added and maybe a disc of live songs would have been nice as well. I know…I want a lot in my box set. Well blame Whitesnake as they do it up nice!!!
Still…this is worth getting for the value as it was only $75 for 14 CDs and they all sound fantastic!! Go out and find one now. Thanks for hanging around so long!!