World Party is the solo project of ex-Waterboy Karl Wallinger. ‘Arkeology’, a gorgeous five-CD set, is a collection of covers, live tracks and B-sides covering an astonishing 25 years.

The first thing that struck me about this collection was the packaging: the five discs come in a 142-page “any year diary,” packed with photos, press cuttings and other ephemera from Wallinger’s prodigious career. It’s an absolute joy to flick through - and practical too! Explaining the unusual packaging, Wallinger says, “The reason it’s an any-year diary is because I got so sick of the CD packaging.” Fair enough.

Packaging aside, however, the real treat is the 70 never-before-heard tracks. Ranging from demos recorded in 1985 to as yet unreleased tracks from as recently as 2011, the sheer scale of the collection is breathtaking.

What’s more, unlike so many other “anthology” type releases, ‘Arkeology’ is actually enjoyable to listen to as a package – every song is in a finished or near finished state so that one gets the feeling of listening to an album rather than a collection of half-finished ideas.

With such a vast collection, it is difficult to single out particular tracks for credit, but for me one of the highlights of the collection was Wallinger’s choice of covers. From the basic rock and roll of ‘Lucille,’ through Dylan’s ‘Sweetheart Like You’, Wallinger’s interpretations are well-worked and respectful. I particularly enjoyed the Beatles covers (‘Fixing a Hole’, ‘Cry Baby Cry’, ‘Dear Prudence’, and the notoriously complicated ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’) – ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun ‘being, for me, one of the stand-out performances of the collection.

Of the five CDs, however, perhaps disc one is the best showcase for Wallinger’s incredible gift for a hook. Opening with the lively and intensely catchy ‘Waiting Such a Long Long Time’, the first disc is packed with reasons why World Party should have been much bigger than they are: the AOR ballad ‘Everybody’s Falling in Love’; the huge piano anthem ‘Photograph’ (recorded over a period of 17 years); the Beatles-inspired, Kinks/Bonzos-sound-alike ‘I’m Only Dozing’.

Throughout the collection there are scattered some true gems: the Beach Boys pastiche ‘Kuwait City’; a fabulous live version of She’s the One (later a hit for Robbie Williams), an extended version of ‘And God Said’ (from 1993’s ‘Bang!’) and the fantastic ‘All the Love that’s Wasted’.

This is a fantastic set from one of Britain’s most imaginative and original songwriters and performers. As a collection, ‘Arkeology’ is immensely enjoyable and accessible to die-hard fans and newcomers alike, and the packaging is simply the cherry on the icing of a very rich and enticing cake.

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