What does "whole catalog" really entail? Sure, all their albums.... but all their remixes, too? Indie 90's stuff? White labels? Well, rap info hog that I am, I found out: the albums and... some extra stuff. Was there everything? No. The first song I checked for was "Stay Away," and it wasn't there. And you can see pretty quickly that an awful lot else isn't there... but some interesting stuff was, besides the basic albums. There's pretty much all of the 12" remixes for the first album, instrumentals for the AOI albums, a completely redundant(!) 'Best Of' album, an interesting folder of jpgs, a couple of random tracks like "Forever" from their Nike promotional EP. Oh, and yes, Clear Lake
If you don't remember, Clear Lake Auditorium was a highly sought after release for the hardcore fans that came out as a promotional freebie only in 1993/4, in conjunction with with their third album, Buhloone Mind State. I remember my friend, Kareem, who was a huge De La aficionado figured out he could get Tommy Boy to send him a copy because he edited our college 'zine, and how exciting that was. He was a hero, and I can't say I was completely 0% jealous. Dude was the only one any of us knew with it: a sweet greenishly clear vinyl that came in one of those clear plastic sleeves with a press sheet. Later, it was reissued in an also pretty limited black vinyl and CD, and there have been many, many bottlegs. I couldn't get my hands on a legit copy until many years later, thanks to the wonders of the internet. And even then it used to sell for big numbers until Serato finally ate into the #s.
So just what music is on Clear Lake Auditorium? Well, first of all it features four tracks from Buloone: "In the Woods," "I Am I Be," "Patti Dooke" and "I Be Blowin'." Fine tracks, but nothing exciting about them as they're right off the album, exactly the same. Never hurts to have some good De La Soul songs on a nice 12" pressing, but the jewels are the next two songs.
The first exclusive, "Sh.Fe.Mc's," features A Tribe Called Quest. Native Tongues weren't in the best place at this time in history, so it was pretty neat seeing them still doing a song together. The title is an abbreviation for "Shocking Female MCs," a title and hook which doesn't connect too strongly to the generic freestyle verses of the song. It's just a fun throwback song lyrically, but with a 90s style instrumental that reminds me of De La's later post-Prince Paul work, which was especially exciting back when this dropped and that kinda track was new. But it still holds up as a fun song today, especially thanks to the added charm of Phife.
But I have to admit, even back in 1994, I was too distracted by the other exclusive to really pay that much attention to "Sh.Fe.Mc's." "Stix and Stonz" features LA Sunshine of the Treacherous Three, Tito of the Fearless Four, Prince Whipper Whip of the Fantastic Five, and Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. This was before so many of the true school artists started making (sometimes underwhelming) comebacks in the 90s and beyond, so it was really mind blowing. The beat was a cool, blend of contemporary sampling styles and fun, throwback style music, including classic 70s-style hooks and vintage-sounding cuts by Maseo. All these legends on one track, and they all came off well. And they're combining with De La Soul, who weren't exactly traditional; but they made it work. On top of all that, it also featured this new cat, Superstar, who's turned out to be down with Prince Paul and done a lot of work with him. All in all, it was an almost 8-minute long monster jam, that frankly had me more excited than anything on Buhloone Mind State.
Some fans might consider that heresy, but I was a pretty devout purist in those days. But regardless of where you might stand on that debate, it was a great and exciting song. And it came on a preciously rare vinyl EP that was just as exciting. But it probably won't mean nearly so much to heads hearing it for the first time in their Valentine's Day download. But at least they included it.