My copy of the George Harrison/Ravi Shankar box set “Collaborations” has just arrived. The first thing to say about it is that it’s much bigger than I’d expected it to be from the photos and info on the web so far. Here’s a shot of the box alongside my copy of the 1997 release of the standard “Chants of India” CD so that you can get an idea of the scale:
"Collaborations" box - size comparison
There’s a stick-on label on the plastic shrink-wrap which sums up what you will find inside:
Once you get the plastic off you discover that this is a very solid, richly embossed green-coloured box. It’s a bit like the Beatles “Remastered” stereo box set in that it has a magnetic clasp on the right-hand side that allows the box “lid” to flip out and open:
Once you have it open the first thing you see is your individually numbered “Certificate of Authenticity” and a white ribbon that helps lift out the contents below very neatly:
These box sets are Limited Editions and mine is number 13486. Here’s a close-up of the certificate:
Immediately underneath the certificate is a beautiful hardback book with a foreword written by composer Philip Glass; then George Harrison and Ravi Shankar talk about their collaborations together in a section called “In Their Own Words”. This is followed by descriptions of the three CDs and the DVD; there’s some information about George’s Material World Charitable Foundation; an insight into Indian music by Ravi Shankar (along with drawings and descriptions of the Indian musical instruments used on the albums); information about and photographs of the individual artists who perform on each disc. Then there’s a glossary of terms, and finally the album and production credits.
This book is beautifully produced – clearly it has been put together with a great deal of care and there are many really special glossy photographs included throughout:
After the hardcover book come the albums themselves. And these are a surprise as they are each housed in over-sized cardboard covers that are about 8 1/2 inches (or 21 cms) square. They are “Chants of India”:
Then comes “Music Festival From India”:
Then “Shankar Family and Friends”:
And finally the concert DVD, “Ravi Shankar’s Music Festival From India”:
The CDs all replicate the original LP artwork faithfully. Again, here’s a comparison photograph with a cover from the box set alongside a standard CD so you can get an idea of the size of the box set covers:
That’s the standard “Chants of India” CD on the right, compared to the box set version behind. Each of the CDs in the 2010 box are held in special, thick cardboard inserts:
On the flip-side of each of these cardboard CD holders is a large Dark Horse Records logo:
And inside each CD cover there’s also an accompanying folded paper insert with information about the recording. This is the one for “Chants of India”:
The great part about this set is that both “Shankar Family and Friends” and ”Music Festival From India” are being released for the first time ever on CD, and the DVD “Music Festival From India” is previously unreleased.
In conclusion then, for me this is a very interesting, limited-edition box set. I realise that for many Beatles collectors George Harrison’s excursions into the exotic world of Indian music and culture lie on the outer edges of their musical tastes, but for me this forms an essential part of my collection. I like Indian music and having a connection to it through George makes this set very special – just like the photograph by Carolyn Jones which appears on the final page of the book:
For those who’d like to read a little more there’s an interesting article from “Spinner” magazine, including an interview with Olivia Harrison who produced the box set, which shines a bit more light on how it all came together.