New York trio Fun Lovin' Criminals first made an impact back in 1996 with the release of their since acclaimed debut LP Come Find Yourself. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the monumental debut album, which catapulted three New Yorkers into British stardom, with their hip-hop, rock, blues combination. It was unlike anything that preceded it, and to be honest nothing's really come close to replicating their vibe since, the FLC trio are a truly unique bunch of musicians.
The hillbilly rock/NY hip-hop combination is immediately showcased with the anthemic The Fun Lovin' Criminal. Huey Morgan's charismatic, witty vocals have kept a continuing draw to FLC's work, and Steve Borgovini's (who was replaced in 2003 by the equally fantastic drummer Frank Benbini) ultra-solid percussion is the backbone to the LP's success. Multi-instrumentalist Brian Leiser (aka Fast) lays his eclectic, virtuosic touch across Come Find Yourself too; the chemistry between the three original Criminals was key to the success when it was first released, and it sounds just as fresh two decade's on. From the subtle, soulful The Grave & The Constant to the powerful, modern classic Scooby Snacks to the somber Methadonia, the album shows a versatile, polished skill set, and it's easy to see why British audiences took to it so readily.
The second disc of the four features a selection of clean versions and various mixes (or remixes) of various tracks on the original tracklist. We also get the excellent well known b-side Blues For Suckers. Stephen Lironi's 12" mix of The Grave & The Constant is a great find for the hardcore fan, with his funky organ, and more danceable drum sound making it stand out from, but remain on-par with, the original LP version. The latin, hazy 20MG version of Scooby Snacks is excellent too, and the Dub gives it yet another new life. A countrified switch-up of The Fun Lovin' Criminal serves as another example of the versatility the three piece show; even when altering the vibe of their well known tracks it's refreshingly entertaining, and it's certainly not like there's a drop in quality.
We also get a disc filled with live versions of tracks from Come Find Yourself, originally recorded back in 1996 for various Radio 1 shows. The Radio 1 Session of Smoke Em is a standout, with Huey's deep, gruff tone sounding smooth and cocky over punchy, tight instrumentation; the Fun Lovin' Criminals have built up a fantastic reputation for their appearances on the live circuit, and with this disc it's easy to see why. The Phoenix Arizona performance of The King Of New York shows Frank's strong and steady beat providing a backdrop for intricate guitar lines; the group come together with an undeniably cool persona, and it's a joy to listen to them across the selection of live versions on this special edition box-set.
The final inclusion is the instrumentals for every track from the original album, and it's a great lesson in musicality. The touch of the ride cymbal bell on the bridge of The Fun Lovin' Criminal is an inclusion you might not notice on the original, but it adds another excellent dynamic that is blatantly obvious on the instrumental version. There are even some tracks I prefer in this format; We Have All The Time In The World is beautifully performed, something which is perhaps under-appreciated with vocals on top. The in-your-face Crime & Punishment instrumental is also a standout.
Still as suave as they were in 1996, the Fun Lovin' Criminals haven't ever stopped releasing quality music, and they're still going strong on the live circuit, currently touring the album to mark the landmark occasion. This special edition is full of extra goodies, and Come Find Yourself remains one of my favourite LP's of all time.
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