Published on February 13th, 2019 | by Justin G.
Jorn: 50 Years On Earth – The Anniversary Box Set (Frontiers, 2018)
Vocal titan Jorn Lande decided to celebrate his 50th birthday with the release of a massive, 12-disc box set spanning his entire solo career. Titled 50 Years On Earth: The Anniversary Box Set, this set includes most (but unfortunately not all) of Jorn’s solo material, newly remastered, in a compact, but still attractive package.
Let’s break out what you do (and don’t) get in 50 Years on Earth: The Anniversary Box Set. One major strike against this set is the omission of Jorn’s 2000 debut Starfire. Rerecordings of the original Starfire songs are included, but we deserved to get the full original album. That was apparently Jorn’s choice. Oh well, now on to what’s on each disc:
Disc 1: Worldchanger – We get the full 2001 album, newly remastered. It never had bonus material in the first place, so there’s nothing added (or missing) here.
Disc 2: Out To Every Nation – We get the full 2004 album, newly remastered. You don’t get the bonus track “Big,” which was on the Japanese edition (and later The Gathering). It’s a terrible song, but still, why not include it with the rest of the album?
Disc 3: The Duke – We get the full 2006 album, newly remastered. The song “Noose” (a rerecording of an Ark song) that originally appeared on the Japanese edition of The Duke is included later in this set on the Original Bonus Songs disc.
Disc 4: Lonely Are the Brave – We get the full 2008 album, newly remastered. That’s it. There were three bonus tracks from this album: a cover of Deep Purple’s “Stormbringer,” “Like Stone In Water” and a cover of The Snakes’ “Showdown.” “Like Stone In Water” appears later in this set on the Original Bonus Songs disc. The two cover songs do not, which is very disappointing.
Disc 5: Spirit Black – We get the full 2009 album, newly remastered. That’s it. There was one bonus track – “Wild Blood” – that was on the Japanese edition of Spirit Black, but it is missing from this set.
Disc 6: A Song For Ronnie James – Otherwise known as Dio, the 2010 covers album is presented here in its entirety. It has also been remastered. Jorn’s version of “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, which appeared on the Japanese edition of Dio, is included later in this set on The Covers bonus disc.
Disc 7: Bring Heavy Rock To The Land– We get the full 2012 album, newly remastered. The bonus track “Live and Let Fly” that was on the digipack version of Bring Heavy Rock To The Land is not included here, nor does it appear on the Original Bonus Songs disc. Likewise the cover of Black Sabbath’s “Mob Rules” from the Japanese release is missing from this disc as well as The Covers disc.
Disc 8: Traveler– We get the full 2013 album, newly remastered. It also includes the instrumental bonus track “Arctic Night,” which was previously exclusive to the Japanese release.
Disc 9: Life on Death Road – We get the full 2017 album, newly remastered, plus the acoustic version of “The Optimist” that was previously only available on the Japanese edition of the album.
Disc 10: Original Bonus Songs – This is where the set adds value to long-time Jorn fans. We get 16 bonus tracks from the various Jorn albums, including some Starfire rerecordings. Unfortunately it doesn’t include all of the various b-sides and bonus tracks, but there’s still a lot of rare gems here.
Disc 11: Bonus Live CD – This disc has a selection of songs from Live in America and Live in Black. It’s a decent enough addition, but isn’t anything special.
Disc 12: The Covers – “Some of the Covers” might have been a better title. We get 15 cover songs here, but by no means all of the covers that have appeared on Jorn’s albums over the years. We’re missing big chunks of Starfire, Unlocking the Past and Heavy Rock Radio.
As you can see, there’s little rhyme or reason to which bonus tracks and cover versions made the set. It’s hugely frustrating to see so many missing songs on what is otherwise a really impressive box set. They could have left off the Bonus Live CD and added the remaining songs from Unlocking the Past and Heavy Rock Radio, and each disc had room for additional bonus tracks.
Setting aside the frustration with the missing songs, the packaging for this compact set is really quite nice. Sure, a big box with 12 individual jewel cases would have been ideal, but that would have driven the price up. What we get here are cardboard sleeves for each disc. Not the thin promo-style sleeves, but not quite the LP replica sleeves you see on Japanese reissues either. They’re not bad, and it’s a nice touch that each disc has its own inner sleeve and liner notes. The discs fit snugly into the small, but attractive box along with a separate booklet with reissue notes, a message from Jorn and a bunch of vintage photos.
As far as sound quality goes, the albums have all been remastered, but to these ears there are no noticeable improvements (or decline) in sound quality. The albums sounded fine to begin with, and they sound fine here.
The price point (at the moment) is around $60. That’s a bargain any way you look at it. If you don’t have any Jorn albums, or are missing a few, this is a no-brainer. And if you have the albums but want to upgrade for the bonus material – such as it is – it’s not a huge expense, especially if you can sell off or trade in your earlier editions. (You MP3 and streaming kids can get off my lawn right about now).
50 Years On Earth: The Anniversary Box Set has its flaws, and they’re pretty significant flaws. With a little better planning on the track selection, this could have been an absolutely perfect set. Instead it’s just a really good set. Still, the Jorn die-hards are going to want to check it out, and newbies won’t find a better way to discover one of hard rock and heavy metal’s absolute best vocalists.
Summary: Frustrating as hell, but still a really good set