After a year long hiatus, Cherry Red and Ralph Records are back with the next entry in their Residents PREServed Edition series. The new release is entitled Cube-E Box: The American Music in 3 E-Z Pieces, a box set devoted to the group’s third tour- which lasted from 1987 to 1990. Boasting a total of seven discs, this is the biggest release from the PREServed Edition series. While some might be overwhelmed by the amount of music here, others will find themselves immersed into the Cube-E project.
Backstory + What’s in the box?
As mentioned before, this set is devoted to the group’s Cube-E years- which remains one of the group’s most memorable tours. Cube-E was a show split into three parts- showing the evolution of American music. Those parts are as follows:
–Buckaroo Blues– a section devoted to cowboy songs and poems, during which the group would dress as cowboys
–Black Barry– a section devoted to black/slave music
–The Baby King– a section devoted to the music of Elvis Presley, with Elvis’ story being told by an impersonator to his grandchildren
As for albums included here, it consists of three albums
Cube-E: Live in Holland– a 1990 release of a 1989 live performance
Cube-E: Live in San Francisco– a previously unreleased performance from the Cube-E shows
The King & Eye- the group’s 1989 studio album of Elvis Presley covers, which is basically a studio recording of The Baby King portion
Cube-E: Live in Holland (1990) + Cube-E: Live in San Francisco
Cube-E is one of the most creative pieces the Residents have ever concocted. The main album in this set, which is taken from a live performance in Amsterdam, goes to show this. For the first time, the group’s show in Holland is presented in its entirety- whereas with the original album had to cut down on the narration tracks during the Baby King portion. Being some who hasn’t heard the original album before, this does sound like a complete performance. As a concept, I really like the Cube E idea- in its presentation of American music. The Buckaroo Blues part is quite enjoyable while the Black Barry part is where things get a little weird. Most people might enjoy the Baby King portions, considering the group are tackling the Elvis songs. Even if you aren’t a fan of Elvis, you’ll know these songs. While there might be some parts of the album that drag on for a while, the amount of creativity in this show is outstanding: the group’s way in breaking down American music as Cowboy songs, Black music and Elvis Presley is clever. While their interpretations of the songs tend to sound the same- with their trademark Residents sound- it’s still a lot of fun to listen to.
As for the San Francisco show, it’s basically the same as the Holland show: same setlist and same structure. The recording quality isn’t as good but it’s still a good show- although grouped into five different tracks. While labeled as being in San Francisco, there is one song here (“Mr. Skull’s NYE Song”) that’s performed in Recklinghausen.
Bonus tracks: Here’s where things get complicated: Live In Holland isn’t offered as a two disc album like it should be. Instead, the three parts of the show are split onto three CDs- with the demos and live renditions (post 1990) for each section staying with the section they belong to. Highlights include the instrumental studio track of the “Buckaroo Blues” suite and the various renditions of “From the Plains to Mexico.”
The King & Eye (1989)
As the last Residents studio album released in the 1980s, The King & Eye is what it sounds like: the Residents covering the music of Elvis Presley. As stated before, this is- more or less- a studio version of the Baby King portion of the Cube-E show. However, it’s not an exact line-for-line re-recording of the Baby King suite. Some of the arrangements are different here compared to their Cube-E counterparts- making most of the tracks sound dated. One of the biggest changes to the suite are the narration parts. In the Cube-E shows, they were performed by one of the Residents- who would also voice two puppets acting as the grandchildren. On The King & Eye, the grandchildren are played by actual children- which I think makes it less funny. Still, it’s not a bad album.
Bonus tracks: Remixes of several songs, along with demos for almost every song on the album.
This Cube-E box set from the Residents is another solid entry in the PREServed Edition series. However, this set isn’t without its downsides. For one thing: this is a 7 CD set devoted to a project. I’m open to anything that the Residents do but there’s probably some that I’m more interested in than others. This is not a diss on the box set at all as I did enjoy the original Holland live album/concert and while not perfect- The King & Eye is still nice to have. However, I don’t know if I’ll come back to the bonus tracks again. As with The Mole Box, this is a set that could’ve benefitted in having a DVD of one of the Cube-E shows- which do exist. Then again, you can easily go on YouTube and look these up. The set does come with a booklet, which is filled with pictures of the shows and new liner notes. However with this being a 7 CD, the price for this set is a little more than the previous entries in the PREServed series. If you’re a diehard Residents fan that must own everything, you’ll be happy with this box set. If you’re more of a casual listener, you’re probably better off with the individual albums- which seem to be out of print at the time of this writing. If you have all of the other entries in the series, I say go for it.
The PREServed Edition Series will continue- with the next release being devoted to Freak Show. For now, listeners can feast their ears on this new box set.
I'm a writer/journalist with a passion for music and pop culture. Having graduated from King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA in 2014, I've been looking for a platform in which I can share my passions. Since 2009, I've been posting to my own blog- The Walrus' Music Blog- via Blogger. I'm also the author of two self-published books, "The Camp: Stories from the Summer" and "The College: Stories from King's." Together, the two books cover the story of my life from 2004 to 2014. I've been lucky enough to interview several of my favorite musicians over the years and go to concerts from time to time. I'm also very devoted to the CBS reality TV show Survivor, which I started watching in 2002 when its fourth season started. I currently live in New Jersey.