A large amount of discordant banging and thwacking opens this collection of demos from late 1983 or early 1984. First up is Master and Servant, which apart from the slightly unnecessarily explosive introduction is actually not unlike the version which would make it onto the album a few months later. It’s admittedly not one of my personal favourites (actually, apart from Blasphemous Rumours I’ve always been a little unsure about Some Great Reward), but it kicks things off in a very lively way.
Rather unpredictably the second track is a Casio-inspired version of Shake the Disease, which wouldn’t even make it onto the album – instead kicking off the compilation The Singles 81-85 as its lead single the following year. In its demo form it does sound very unfinished – perhaps it had only just been written, as Dave Gahan does seem a little unsure of the melody, and the backing gets a bit lost in places too. There’s a little extra bit in the middle which even got rewritten somewhere down the line, as Dave sings “That’s not what I mean / That’s not for us, we want a different scene.”
Lie to Me is next, which did make it onto the album but I think is perhaps one of the weaker tracks on there. The demo has a fun jaunty quality which was lacking in the completed album version. It’s very listenable, but also somewhat out of place.
Then comes another version of Shake the Disease, apparently “Martin’s Demo Version”, as Martin L. Gore delivers a wonderfully cheesy instrumental rendition on his Yamaha Portasound keyboard. It’s actually rather good – definitely a lot better than the presumably later vocal version which turned up a few moments ago.
Next up is a fairly advanced version of Stories of Old. On this collection it’s called the “First Mix,” but since it’s clearly more than just a demo, this presumably means the first of the studio mixes. Although it’s not one of my favourite tracks on the album, the demo is pretty good. If you want to listen to the evolution of a Depeche Mode album, this collection is a good way to do it.
The final track is something of a surprise, Joe South‘s Down in the Boondocks. I can’t help but feel it’s been included among these demos by mistake, as Wikipedia tells me it was recorded by Martin L. Gore for his original Counterfeit EP but never released. This seems a lot more likely than it having been recorded for Some Great Reward. Either way, it’s a decent performance of a frankly fairly ropey song.
The Some Great Reward demos are, as always, a fascinating collection of tracks, even if somebody down the line has made some slightly eccentric compilation decisions.