Drawing on his later tenure at Beggars Banquet, this set covers the albums recorded between 1981 and 1983. In 1981, Numan announced his retirement from live performance, playing three farewell concerts at Wembley Arena just prior to the release of Dance. His retirement proved short-lived, but when he returned in 1982 with I, Assassin, some of his popularity had dissipated — perhaps because of the retirement announcement, perhaps because the charts were overflowing with synth pop, much of which was already expanding on Numan’s early innovations. I, Assassin was another Top Ten album, and “We Take Mystery (To Bed)” another hit, but in general Numan’s singles were starting to slip on the charts; the title track of 1983’s Warriors became his last British Top Ten hit.
DISC 1 LIVING ORNAMENTS ‘81 PART ONE
Recorded at the Wembley ‘Farewell’ shows, this show presents a concise overview of Numan’s meteoric career to date and includes versions of some of his best known songs.
DISC 2 LIVING ORNAMENTS ‘81 PART TWO
DISC 3 DANCE
A transition album of sorts, Dance saw Numan departing from the jerky machine music of his synth pop prime to embrace a (bit) warmer sound that is less robotic and more free-form. The subject matter on highlights like “She’s Got Claws,” “Slowcar to China,” “Cry the Clock Said,” and “Crash” are quintessentially Numan, but their musical frameworks are quite far removed from early hits like “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Cars.” – John Bush All Music Guide
DISC 4 I, ASSASSIN
After the spare and lengthy reflections and dislocated experiments of his excellent Dance album, Gary Numan made a return to a more focused approach with I, Assassin, which turned out to be his last truly great album for many years. Numan’s work here with modern electronic funk combines his early rigor and to-the-point rhythms with a deft, creative hand in the arrangements. “White Boys and Heroes,” the brilliant opening number, remains one of his best singles, featuring fretless bass work from Pino Palladino (long before both it and him had turned into rent-a-clichés), and set against droning, distorted vocals and doom-laden keyboards. The vaguely Asian (or at least the group Japan)-inspired textures of Dance linger on in songs like “A Dream of Siam” and the title track (the latter possessing a captivating hollow-drum-punch introduction), while one of Numan’s most randomly entertaining songs pops up with “The 1930s Rust.” It’s a suave finger-snapping number that even features harmonica, but somehow Numan’s ear for to-the-point rhythm and strange futurism still comes through. Perhaps the most underrated song remains the sharp hipshaker “War Songs” — U2 may never want to admit it, but “Numb” takes more than a little from the distorted up-and-down introductory guitar clips. – Ned Raggett All Music Guide
DISC 5 WARRIORS
Former Be-Bop Deluxe leader Bill Nelson was brought in to produce this album and provide some soaring lead guitar work, but the collaboration with Numan was beset by difficulties. While Nelson’s production is evident on many tracks and his guitar is heard in several places, much of this is business as usual (B-side, “Poetry and Power,” features more Nelson and has gone on to a great deal of popularity, especially with the Gravity Kills cover on Random). The science fiction influences here are Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Harlan Ellison’s “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Cried the Tick-Tock Man.” While there is some evidence of confusion as to his direction, the music and songwriting has more energy than anything on the predecessor, I, Assassin, with some genuinely engaging moments along the way. – Steven McDonald All Music Guide.