Bill Hicks The Essential Collection
If you have been living under a rock for the past twenty years, or are (bless) too young to have experienced Bill Hicks, this Essential Collection may not be the best place to start. The compilation of recordings, music, footage and film, in all its scratchy glory, is designed for the delight of the true Hicks fan.
The four disc set (two CDs and two DVDs) charts his early years and his development as a stand-up; from his beginnings in Texas in 1981, through to his politically eviscerating, beautifully scathing material up to the year before his death.
It boasts footage never seen before and there may be a reason for this; a lot of the material is not nearly as brilliant as his mature work. But the purpose of this collection is not to showcase his best comedy or to capitalise on an already existing body of work. It's a fascinating insight into how he developed as a working comedian. His early work contains the tiny seeds of what would go on to become some of his best known routines, and this whole journey, complete with interview footage, can be tracked through The Essential Collection.
One thing is clear; Hicks could have grown even further as a comedian. We're not looking at the peak of his career at all; this is just how far he got before he died. You're left with a keen sense of loss. Here are the gathered scrapings of a man who was ahead of his time and who is more relevant than ever.
All in all this is a treasure trove for aficionados. If you're new to Hicks, however, go and find the Flying Saucer Tour recordings and then return to this collection as a proper addict.