What is one of the greatest concept albums of all time? That is right! It is the Queensryche masterpiece, ‘Operation: Mindcrime’. The band is celebrating this album with a Super Deluxe Edition Box Set and it is full or wonderful things. You get 4 CDs, 1 DVD and a book all included in a wonderful and sturdy box. It look like a lot of time was spent on the packaging. And if you look at the back cover, it tells you everything you are going to get…or does it? More on that later.
Before we get to the meat of the box set, the CDs and DVD are housed in a tri-fold cardboard sleeve that is all black with the exception of the logo on the front. The CDs slide in to slots on each side while the DVD is housed in its own mini-cardboard sleeve which slides in to its slot in the middle fold. It is not my favorite way to house CDs as you have to be careful not to scratch them when you insert or pull it out.
Then there is a great hardcover book that comes with it. Included in the book are tons of pictures, a new interview with Geoff Tate and an essay written by Alex Milas. The book also includes the lyrics to all the songs on the original album as well as writing and song credits for every track on all 5 discs. It is a good read and there are some great collage pictures that you will examine for quite some time to see all the cool pieces related to the album and that era.
OPERATION: MINDCRIME – THE REMASTERED ALBUM:
If you are expecting a review of the album, sadly, that won’t happen here. One day I will take a massively deep dive and really get in to this one as I think I can do it justice.
Now, the album we have here has been remastered and it was remastered at the famed Abbey Road Studios in the UK and let me tell you it sounds incredible. You hear every scream, every gun shot and even the nurse telling the main character, Nikki, to have “Sweet Dreams, you Bastard” all in crisp, clear and amazing CD sound. It is one of my all time favorite albums and will always be and this will help me enjoy it for years to come.
Why do I love it? Well, I think it is one of the few concept albums that is accessible and flows perfectly. Each song fits so well together and everything is so cohesive. I love hearing the characters speaking in between songs, but only because it isn’t too much. It is just enough to help you understand the story and not get lost. The songs also tell the story in such vivid colors as the lyrics paint each scene beautifully and you start to empathize for Nikki and you understand how he got trapped in this living hell.
Do you want a quick synopsis of the story? Ok, here it is.
The album opens with Nikki in the hospital. He has no memory of why he is there. The TV news is on in he background and Nikki starts to remember. Nikki is a drug addict who gets brainwashed by Dr. X to commit assassinations of high-powered political figures.
Along the way he meets and falls for Sister Mary, former porstitute turned nun. His feelings for her cause him to question what he is doing. Dr. X tells Nikki to kill her and the corrupt priest. When he goes to kill her, he can’t and they plan to escape.
Nikki goes to tell Dr. X that he is leaving but Dr. X messes with him and reminds him that he can only get his drug addiction fix from him. When Nikki goes to see Mary, she is dead. Nikki goes a little mental. The cops grab him under suspicion of killing Mary. Nikki is so messed up he ends up in the hospital. Now we are back to the beginning with him waking up in the hospital and remembering everything.
And it is so good…
OVERSEEING THE OPERATION:
The 2nd CD is called Overseeing the Operation. This discs contains a rarities and B-Sides, but there isn’t a lot here. there are only 6 songs and 1 track that is Chris DeGarmo doing an interview. The Track Listing doesn’t even list all the songs that you get which is a big misstep when looking at the track listing on the back cover.
The Songs are an extended version of “I Don’t Believe in Love” which is a great song and so nice to have more of it. The next two tracks are live songs. First is “The Mission” Live at Hammersmith Oden which is odd considering one of this discs is that whole show…but I believe that this version is from a different night than the concert on another disc. The other track is “My Empty Room” which was Live at the Astoria Theatre in London on 10/20/1994. There are two songs that aren’t even listed on the back cover of the box set and those are a live version of “The Lady Wore Black” and a live version of “Roads to Madness” which were both recorded in Wisconsin which is the show on the 4th Disc, but it omits these two songs because that disc sticks to the album tracks only. The final song is something called “Overseeing the Operation” which I believe was a B-Side. It is a 10-Minute horrible compilation of bits of several songs on the album. The mix is horrendous. There are are awkward transitions and hard stops that make no sense. The person took no effort to blend the songs like a good medley should o.
The interview on here is called “Speak the Word” which is a promo interview that was sent out to radio stations to play while the DJ asked the canned questions. I have the 12″ Vinyl Promo that we talked about recently. So click HERE for it.
OPERATION: LIVECRIME – Live At Hammersmith Odeon, London 11/15/90:
This is one of two concerts captured in this set that has the band playing the album live in its entirety. This disc, in my opinion, sounds better than the Wisconsin show. While playing the CDs, this show is louder and clearer and has a better mix to it. I enjoy this disc more for that fact. I can hear the speaking parts better and the show sounds fuller and more lively. They play this album as it was on the original studio version and amazingly they pull it off nicely. They don’t miss a beat and the guys are hitting on all cylinders. Geoff Tate has such and amazing voice and sounds incredible. They really did a great job with this show.
OPERATION: LIVECRIME – Live in Wisconsin 5/10-12/91:
This second show is the one from Wisconsin in May of 1991. This is also the show that was filmed and is on the DVD that comes in this set. It is nice to have it on CD and DVD both. The only problem with this CD version is the sound is muted a little. When compared to the Hammersmith Show, the sound is softer and lower with not as much punch. It is really apparent when the opening lines come in with the Nurse entering Nikki’s hospital room and talks to Nikki. Here is really low in volume compared to how loud it is in Hammersmith. The volume level is impacted throughout. So, if I am going to listen to one of these shows on CD, I will choose Hammersmith for this very reason.
The DVD is broken out in to four parts on the menu. First up is the Full Live Show of the Wisconsin Shows at Madision, Milwaukee and La Crosse on May 10th-12th. The sound is good here and better than the CD so you don’t have to worry about that. I love to watch live shows over just listening to them when I can so you can take in all the visuals happening on the stage. And the director of this video is none other than Wayne Isham who is one of the biggest music video directors ever.
The second part of the video are all the promotional videos the band made for the album that helped tell the story of the concept. Several of the videos in this promotional set were the actual music videos released on MTV. But the cool thing about them is watching them as a whole in album order. You get a mini-movie of the album concept with actual actors portraying the parts in between the concert type shots of the band performing the songs. It is really cool.
The third part of the DVD is a small 5 minute interview about the making of Operation: Mindcrime.
The final part is a TV promo/commercial for the album. Heck, I would’ve bought it off that commercial alone, but no I bought because I saw them open for Def Leppard and thought they were incredible so I bought their most recent album at the time. And I was not disappointed.
And there you have it. It is a beautiful set, but most of this stuff I believe had been released prior in some form or fashion. Luckily for me, I didn’t have it so it is nice to have it all compiled in one complete set. I do wish there was more bonus material like maybe some demos as that is a big missing piece. I would love to hear some of these songs in their early stages to see how the transformed. Were there any songs that didn’t make the album, those would’ve been cool to have as well. I think it was a big missed opportunity. Maybe they don’t exist, but it still would’ve been cool. The other negative is that we do get two live shows of the album playing in full which I am not sure we needed two as well also got one of those on Video. But I am really not complaining as I will take both. The book was very well done, the remastering was great and that Hammersmith show was fantastic. The original promos I loved and I enjoyed the DVD concert as well so with all that being said, I will give it a 4.0 Out of 5.0 Stars only being dinged for not more rare stuff on the bonus disc. If you are a fan, this is worth grabbing and upgrading the version you already have, I am sure.
Thanks for hanging around.