Box Set Review: Bill Hicks The Essential Collection

Full Title: Bill Hicks: The Essential Collection
Year: 2010
What’s On It?: “Ryko is proud to announce the release of The Essential Collection, a four disc set (2 CD/2 DVD) that encompasses Bill Hicks’ short but influential career as a satirist, social critic and stand-up comedian. The package contains double DVD discs with over five hours of footage from Bill Hicks’ personal archives including rare, never-before-seen performances from the early 80’s, the cult short film Ninja Bachelor Party (starring Bill Hicks, Kevin Booth and David Johndrow), in-depth interviews with Hicks and a photo gallery from his family’s keepsakes. The 2 CD discs offer over two hours of his best stand-up material with never-before-released performance pieces from a San Ramon , CA show recorded by Bill Hicks that was found in his archives. The box set also features new liner notes written by family members as well as renowned figures (including Henry Rollins, Eric Bogosian, noted UK author Paul Outhwaite, and UK journalist/tv personality, Clive Anderson), and a download card containing original song recordings by Hicks (that were mastered at Abbey Road Studios – London, England) entitled, Lo-Fi Troubadour.”- http://www.billhicks.com/essentialcollection.html

Comments: I am a die hard Bill Hicks fan (if you visit the site frequently, you should know that- hence the “Hicks Vid of The Day” posts), so when I heard about this box set I knew I had to have it. First, I threw in the CDs only to be somewhat dissapointed that I knew all the material. Hicks fans should be warned (though it was advertised) that the CDs on here are essentially the same as those found on Rant In E-Minor, Dangerous, and other Hicks albums. I had the impression that this would be new material and already owning all of Hicks’ recordings pretty much made nearly half of this box set obsolete. With that being said, considering this is an Essential Collection, it should have his best material. So, I guess I can’t complain. Now, the DVDs are another story. With a few exceptions, I had never seen any of the live performances they offer us here. They truly are rare, never before seen shows. Mostly we see early Hicks, all the way back to his teen years (or close to it) mocking his parents, teachers, and the drinkers of the world. Then just a couple of years later he, himself is pounding them back and discussing his experiences with cocaine and acid; I’ve never seen Hicks talk about doing blow before and being a Hicksian scholar, I knew he did plenty of it, but this just goes to show you how obscure and old some of these performances are. With some exceptions out there, before this collection was released you would be hard pressed to find footage of entire performances of Hicks from 81-88 (the wild, drunken, drugged out Hicks era). Though, on this DVD, his sets are all comedy and there’s no hullabaloo a la audience members heckling “YOU SUCK!” and Hicks retaliating with verbal rape. His routines range from school/home life to his earliest forays into the realm of politics/society, jokes about the military and government, amongst other topics. Some of the material you have seen/heard before, but there is plenty on the plate I guarantee you have not. Besides performances, the interviews are fun to watch as well as the epic kun-fu classic, Ninja Bachelor Party, which I was already a big fan of. If you’re into Hicks, I recommend this and if you have never heard of him or are not that familiar with his work, then this is a good place to start.

In the spirit of Bill

Grade: 8/10

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