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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tuner Pole













Friends reunited

Pole
Tuner

Unsung Records
June 2007

It’s always good to see partnerships mature and develop and the latest release from German touch guitarist, Markus Reuter and King Crimson’s Pat Mastelotto shows just how far they’ve come since their 2005 debut, Totem. Whilst that record showcased their mutual interest in rhythmic risk-taking and glitch-orientated electronica, Pole delivers something altogether deeper and personal.

Though their assured musicianship remains very much in evidence, it’s been integrated into a dream-like suite of surprisingly accessible songs fronted by a series of guest vocalists. Peter Kingsbery (from the group Cock Robin) imbues the material with bags of swaggering character especially on the title track, coming across like a bad-ass whiskey preacher on the con.

Such testosterone is tempered by SirenĂ©e (a guest from their debut) who adds an appealing exotic mystery, via whispered vocals, moanings and an intimacy with close-mic technique that tempts the listener further in. Not above letting her hair down, she stands up to the buzzing guitars and thunderous drumming on louder outings such as “Arson Dandy” and “Black Well Monontony.” Those looking for a fix of Crimson may well be disappointed with only the racing rifferama of “Dig”, with its icy speckles of spiky acoustic guitar and Thrak-ish rumbling, fitting that particular bill.

The success of the album is in its threading together of disparate elements into a convincing narrative: rock textures, acid-folk nuances, astringent experimentation and post-rock ephemera, all add up to something that is both sensual and cerebral at the same time.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dangerous Poetry

I'm grateful to Rupert Loydell for sending me this rib-tickler. I especially like the quote from one of my favourite books of modern poetry...




Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fairport Convention Live At The BBC




















Young Guns Go For It...
Live At The BBC
Fairport Convention
Universal
May 2007
A long time ago, in a land far away young people used to spend their evenings huddled over their radios, keenly listening to see if their favourite band might make that night’s playlist. Possibly it would be a track from the current album, or perhaps if they were really lucky, a bespoke session for the likes of Top Gear, etc. To the present generation of internet-savvy kids, such commitment to the laws of chance and expectation evidenced by such vigils seems laughably arcane.

It’s all a long way away from the world of on-demand downloads, alternative mixes, fan-club exclusives, extra features, out-takes, remixes et al. Back then though, radio sessions were the only way of following your heroes outside of seeing them perform live or on their latest long-player. Try telling that to the kids of today and they just don’t believe you!

Like many groups of the day, Fairport Convention’s numerous sorties into Maida Vale were an opportunity to lay down something that was very much “here and now”. Often grabbed between gigs, such dates gave an instant snapshot of whatever was exercising attentions within the group. For example, Fairport’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” was laid down a mere month after bassist Ashley Hutchings had gate-crashed the great man’s own (and so far, only) BBC session.

Though it had entered their live set, like many of the tracks on this boxset, it had never been formally recorded thanks in part to producer Joe Boyd’s desire to see the band focus on their own writing. One can only guess at the excitement an eager Fairport fan would have felt on hearing its tumbling rhythms fall from a tinny radio speaker during Top Gear.
There have been several attempts in the past to gather all the waifs and strays that were left behind by Fairport during their outings to the Beeb. Privately produced tapes and CDs have been issued from official band sources, whilst the the 2002 expanded edition of Heyday covered 1968/69. The recently remastered studio back catalogue also now has various Beeb items peppered across them as the obligatory bonus material.

However, this is the most comprehensive anthology yet boasting everything that is known to exist from the official archive and off-air recordings, brought together in one easy-to-use set spread over 4CDs. Lavishly packaged with authoritative notes by band pal Kingsley Abbott, it provides a well-informed guided tour from the earliest dates in 1967 to the last in 1974.

Whilst the sound quality on the off air selection ranges somewhere between dodgy bootleg to passable rarity, this would undoubtedly be a poorer compilation had these been left off to save the ears of sensitive audiophile-types.

The fact that it includes gems such as Judy Dyble’s luminous cover of Eric Andersen’s chiming “Violets of Dawn” makes braving the hiss more than worthwhile. Similarly, the barn-storming version of “Time Will Show The Wiser” knocks its studio version into a cocked hat; rough-edged for sure, but viscerally exciting stuff.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Deb Does Brum

While I man the barricades, Debra has been off to Birmingham to spend some time with long-term chums, Neil and Halina.


It might be a wet day but their garden is lovely place to be...







Debbie also found time to pop into the city centre and meet up with gynaecologist to the stars, Lord Beige Peter himself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mike Oldfield Changeling













Alarm Bells Ringing...
Changeling

Mike Oldfield
Virgin Books
May 2007


Chronicling his uneasy relationship with the world and just about everyone in it, Mike Oldfield traces his sense of alienation back to birth trauma and the slow unravelling of his parent’s marriage. An insular child who “felt different” to his peers, Oldfield is the classic outsider figure, someone whose inability to pick up on the norms of social interaction suggests he’s operating somewhere on the autism spectrum disorder.

Though he paints a fond portrait of his early years, this middle class idyll was undermined by his mother’s mental illness and alcoholism. With his mother spending long periods away from the family home (euphemistically ‘resting’ in a sanatorium), he developed a close relationship with his father, occasionally accompanying him on his rounds as a doctor, but was increasingly troubled by tensions caused by his parent’s difficulties.

Refuge was sought and found in music, eaching himself guitar by playing along with records. Long hours would be spent obsessively returning the needle and returning to a spot on the album until he had mastered it. It’s easy to see how this kind of attention to detail would stand him in good stead when it came to his later musical projects.

Oldfield suffers the curious paradox of being a private person who thrives when operating in the very public field of entertaining people. Playing in the 60s pub and club folk scene with friends and his sister convinced him he liked the approval of others. However, it was during his stint as the teenage bassist in Kevin Ayers’ post-Soft Machine band that he discovered that what he really wanted was to be taken seriously. With something of a serious chip on his shoulder he admits to feeling resentment at being referred to as “young Michael” by his admittedly much older band mates.

It was this umbrage that provided the impetus to record Tubular Bells, his way of making the world sit up and notice him. Living proof that success is no guarantee of happiness, he became even more upset when just about every soul in the world started taking him very seriously indeed.

After years of gently hitting the bottle, struggling with his ambivalence to his own post-Bells output and the strained relationship with his parents, therapy of one sort or another has provided him with a kind of redemption.

One gets the feeling that this book began as part of that recovery process but although the big issues in his life are referred to, somewhat frustratingly they’re never fully explored or evaluated. Perhaps tellingly, his odd relationship with Richard Branson (his music publisher, record label and manager) is alluded to but again Oldfield pulls his punches.

Clearly Branson is something of a father-figure to Oldfield and though he frequently refers to the tycoon as a friend, one can’t help but conclude that a friend who charges him a 20% on all of Oldfield’s earning above and beyond all the other commissions he was raking in, isn’t that much of a mate at all.

Anyone wanting any technical insights about Oldfield’s music will have to look elsewhere. The real problem with this book is that so will anyone looking for any real insights to his emotions and motivations. Defensive to the point of giving out little more than name, rank and serial number, Oldfield’s curiously evasive and stilted writing style gives little away.

After reading this it’s impossible not to agree with Philip Larkin’s glum summary of upbringing and its subsequent fall-out in his poem "This Be The Verse:
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Motorhead No Sleep 'til Hammersmith













Loud & Proud...
No Sleep 'til Hammersmith
Motorhead
Bronze
1981

Not so much a wall of sound as the sound of a wall falling on top of you, the basic game plan with a Motorhead gig is to play numbers louder and faster than their studio counterparts. The hair-raising rendition of “Bomber” here makes the original sound as though it’s suffering from an iron deficiency.

Rumoured to routinely operating at 126 decibels when in concert (think of a vast sold-out baseball stadium with every punter yelling at top of their voice!), it’s a wonder there wasn’t a national shortage of hearing aids after this tour.

Recorded in Leeds and at two sell-out concerts in Newcastle’s City Hall (the latter for younger fans unable to attend gigs at an 18-only venue), this is the band in its natural element, on a concert stage in front of a horde of their adoring fans. Hitting the number one slot the moment it was released, this is Motorhead at the peak of their power and popularity, riding high on the crest of Ace of Spades’ success the previous year.

Unlike a lot of bands in the metal fraternity Motorhead often has its tongue firmly entrenched in that famously pimpled cheek. ‘This one is a slow one so you can get mellowed out’ shouts Lemmy before leading another assault on any eardrums that happen to be within a three mile radius. Of course, “Capricorn”, the number in question, is a might slow by Motorhead standards but more than enough to tucker out most other bands attempting their speed-metal sprint.

There are some live albums which magically capture the moment when everything comes right: the performances, the choice of material, the performances themselves, the crowd, and the whole convoluted backstory leading up to this very point. Whilst this falls short of that kind of classic status it nevertheless shows them at their peak enjoying a head-banging communion with their leather-clad kin.

They would never again achieve the commercial return they did with this one but that doesn’t really matter. Their work here was done, having spawned a whole new metal genre and set an example of unparalleled excess which new generations would attempt to emulate.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

U2 War




















What Is It Good For?
War U2
Island
1983

In 1982, back before world leaders were being brow-beaten by Bono, U2 were teaming up once again with Steve Lillywhite (who’d produced their debut, Boy, and October) for a crack at their third album. Whilst there’s no denying the youthful energy and industrial quantities of testosterone on display, it’s something of a mixed rattlebag that highlights the pros and cons of the band.

After a while all that breathless beseeching, fiery indignation and BIG guitar heroics grows a tad wearisome; a bit like being shouted at by someone who means well but doesn’t know when to turn the volume down.

The palette broadens on “Red Light” with backing vocals from Kid Creole’s Coconuts, and some equally superfluous trumpet - the latter making a tokenistic jazz noise atop the impervious surface of the band’s default setting. Nice idea but it only loosens up enough to work effectively by the time the track is fading-out.

Similarly the hurtling ardour of singer and guitarist going at it full-tilt on “Like A Song”, becomes interesting only when it threatens to spill over into the thunderous rumble of Larry Mullen’s drumming. By then though, once again the faders are sliding down to zero.

More effective contributions arise from Steve Wickham’s soaring violin as it weaves around chiming harmonics and multi-tracked acoustic guitars of “Drowning Man.” – something the Eno-produced James would emulate the following decade. His stirring violin also heats up the anthemic “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, a rough-hewn stomp that falteringly navigates its way between posture and politics.

For all the evident unevenness, you can’t knock the sure-footed pure power-pop of “Two Hearts Beat As One” and “New Years Day”. Though Adam Clayton’s bass line had an unlikely genesis (he was trying to play the Visage hit, “Fade To Grey”), it’s reverberations set off a chain reaction of exultant flag-waving around the world.

Though War explores some of the glassy sonics which The Edge would later perfect, it falls short of the musical maturity they were to find with their 1984 studio follow-up, The Unforgettable Fire.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Motorhead Ace Of Spades













Playing Their Cards Right...
Ace of Spades
Motorhead

Bronze
1980

Formed in 1975 after bassist and lead singer Lemmy was unceremoniously slung out of Hawkwind, Motorhead may have been out of step as support act to the likes of the proggy mainstream such as Greenslade and Blue Oyster Cult, but their brand of high-speed no-nonsense rock was spookily ahead of the curve when it came to the accelerated energies of punk, and the development of subsequent off-shoots notably speed metal.

Doing respectable business with albums such as Overkill and Bomber, it was Ace Of Spades that really broke them, getting to No.4 in the album charts when released in 1980. The furious pace that was by now their trademark sound was repeated once again but this time expertly captured at ear-splitting volume in the studio by producer Vic Maile, who’d done such a sterling job capturing the raw punch of Dr.Feelgood’s Down By The Jetty.

Remarkably fresh after 25 years, Ace of Spades is arguably the ultimate sex, drugs and rock n’ roll album ever recorded.

When Lemmy sings the lyrics to “(We Are) The Road Crew” it’s the sound of a grizzled veteran who has been there, done that and gone back for second helpings. Having spent most of his life on the road and being either on stage or behind it (once upon a time he roadied for Jimi Hendrix no less), it’s a kind of “My Way” testimonial with a twinkle in his eye.

More worryingly perhaps, the same could well apply to “Jailbait.” Sounding not unlike Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” on steroids, as the title less than subtly implies, it’s an after-show encounter of the dodgy debauchery kind.

If ever a piece of music was a manifesto for the mad, bad and dangerous to know party then the title track is it. I recently took a straw poll amongst the five other people who live in our house about Motorhead. With ages ranging from the teens to the 50 plus, all were able to sing the first verse of “Ace of Spades.” Not only that, they all declared the track to be the mutt’s nuts. Surely there can’t be that many serious heavy metal bands whose signature song is so well known and well liked across the generations?

Appealing to the inner biker in all of us, it’s a vicarious thrill of a track. Unrepentant and full of hell, with not one note or snarled sentiment out of place during its meteoric 2 minutes and 49 seconds, this is a career-defining point that’ll be remembered long after Lemmy and co. have popped their Cuban heels.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Van der Graaf Generator Real Time













A Real Good Time Was Had By All...
Real Time
Van der Graaf Generator
Fie
March 2007

“It’s been fun, fantastic and hairy to do this. Thanks for believing in it” laughs Peter Hammill near the end of Van Der Generator’s remarkable return to the stage after an absence of 29 years. Hammill was right about faith having something to do with it. This music, with its gothic construction, atonal adornments and monstrous roar, was always a kind of test of sorts: endurance mostly but yes, faith. There was always that belief that in the end, no matter how convoluted and precarious the music became, VdGG would somehow deliver.

The concert that so many thought would never happen was far better than anyone who crammed into the Royal Festival Hall (here's my review of the night) had any right to expect. It was difficult to imagine, given the passage of time,that they’d have the same fiery presence as all those years ago but it was there and just as hot.

The only disappointment (very churlish of me I know given the historic nature of the event) was that they played just two tracks from what was then their newly released comeback album, Present. The bitterly cutting “Nutter Alert” (an abrasive attack on obsessive fans) and the no less acerbic commentary on our political lords and masters, “Every Bloody Emperor” sound just as vital as any of the classic-era songs included on this two disc set.

This is very much a warts-and-all presentation. In concert, the ropey guitar or fluffed notes and cues are utterly forgiven in the heat of the moment. There’s no equivalent state of grace with a record however and whatever technical shortcomings exist in the performance are preserved in the amber like glare of the play button.

Hammill’s guitar and keyboard playing has always had a significant element of risk involved in getting from one chord to the next, and David Jackson in particular seems to struggle from “Sleepwalkers” onwards, not quite recovering his poise until the very end. Such frailty is easily forgiven for such an intense and emotional performance.

If you weren’t lucky enough to have a ticket for the actual gig then this is your admission to a most glorious, hair-raising racket.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Mudhoney March To Fuzz











Fuzzy Logic...
March To Fuzz
Mudhoney
Sub Pop
2000

Before it became the birthplace of grunge, the Pacific Northwest city of Seattle was probably best known as the birth place of Jimi Hendrix, and whilst Hendrix had to up sticks and go and seek out the wider world, true to type, the nascent grunge movement with its slacker slouch turned up the max shrugged its shoulders, skinned up and hung around for the world to come and find them.

That the world took any notice or even cared at all, was probably due to the sounds emanating from Sub Pop Records and a clutch of proto-grunge releases by the likes of Green River. Having pretty much knocked together the whole grunge template, when Green River washed up in 1988, guitarists Mark Arm and Steve Turner formed Mudhoney as a vehicle for their continuing and most excellent adventures in sound.

Whereas Nirvana tended toward solemnity and sonic belligerence, the overriding Mudhoney vibe is one of surprisingly good humour. There’s a lot of fun to be had. “Who You Driving Now?” detonates spiky parcels of distortion at such jaunty angles it’s impossible not to warm to it.

“Generation Genocide” pokes fun at the dopey jam-band vernacular, whilst “Judgement, Rage, Retribution and Thyme” sticks the finger at self-reflecting obsession with a smattering of slide and marimba that suggests Zappa and Beefheart can’t have been too far away from the turntable that day.

As eclectic as they are electric, they have an unshakable belief in the rightness of the fuzz pedal: “A Thousand Forms Of Mind” giving vent to a Black Sabbath fixation and a more than credible Ozzie impersonation.

Disc 2 also has a smattering of cover versions including a previously unreleased wacky take on Roxy Music’s “Editions Of You.” Homage to Elvis Costello can also be found in a very faithful, though uneventful, “Pump It Up,” included here for no other reason than they like playing it and I suppose, that’s reason enough.

Released in 2000, March To Fuzz marshalled a bunch of rarities, b-sides and a career through-view into an indispensable package that actually lives up the 'best of' moniker.

Friday, May 11, 2007

REM Green












It's Not Easy Being Green...
Green
REM
Warner Bros
1988

Having parted company with their indie roots after taking the big-buck deal offered by Warner Bros, REM punted away the from their natural comfort zone painstakingly articulated across a string of eclectic albums since their debut in 1983. Enjoying rising popularity not only at home but increasingly in Europe, they took up with producer Scott Litt (who had raised the bar on the preceding album, Document) to make their first real swing at the big-time.

Recorded over an eleven week period, whilst the majority of REM’s trademark elements are in place, there’s also an ambition on Green that’s not always present on their earlier albums. Perhaps it’s being in the company of clear-cut stompers such as “Pop Song 89,” with its Doors-like tease, or the message-laden “Stand”, calling for a raising of political awareness at a time when the Right in America were on the ascendant. Certainly the megaphone diplomacy of the booming “Orange Crush” left nobody in doubt that REM were moving up into the big league. If you had to pick one word to define this album , then it would be "confident."

The commodious and well-lit spaces of Green stand in stark contrast against the moody, atmospherics of old, though there are some stylistic carry-overs. The prog-rock dirge of “I Remember California” bears gloomy witness to a world losing itself in a blur of accelerating change.

How they themselves coped with their increasing visibility was also an area of concern. Ascribing any definitive meaning to a Michael Stipe lyric is fraught and foolish, though “World Leader Pretend” whilst being about the remoteness of our political classes also ponders on how fame erects barriers that are both irksome yet, in some ways, necessary.

Green is not quite the sell-out some REM die-hards would have you believe but it was the point at which the discreet manifesto previously pursued became writ large. A bigger sound made more explicit than ever before, it pump-primed the world for what would become Athens’ biggest export.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

REM Murmur












An Obscure Object Of Desire...
Murmur
REM
IRS
1983

The success of the B-52s in the late 70s placed the spotlight on Athens GA, fuelling speculation about who might follow in the wake of their mighty bouffant vibe. Though there were contenders aplenty all would be eclipsed by REM. After the ep-sized gulp of garage-band air that comprised 1982s Chronic Town, REM not only joined the race but crossed the finishing line with flying colours via their first full-length recording.

Creating the dream-like state implicit in their name with surprising confidence, the normal certainties of rock music were diffused behind a veil of beguiling amorphous harmonies, thoughtfully layered guitars, astute percussion and wilfully vague lyrical musings moved in and out of focus of each.

Although they drew upon an array of influences that included elements of folk-rock, new wave sourness and the melancholic interiors found in some of The Beatles’ lesser known works, Murmur was exquisitely its own thing and hard to pigeon-hole.

Michael Stipe’s artsy inclinations ensured that countless hours would be spent by fans figuring out what he was mumbling (given that he improvised many verses direct to mic – as with “Radio Free Europe” - he was probably in the same boat), whilst the music’s fondness for avoiding the obvious meant that there was more to explore than a numb backbeat or bratty bawling about being bored that marked so much of the competition around them.

With several of the tracks resulting out of studio jams, producers Mitch Easter and Don Dixon had the foresight to roll the tapes ahead of final takes. Edited down, these vignettes pepper the album, building mood and mystery ahead of the actual songs.

Displaying a remarkable maturity, they’re unafraid to experiment. The vein-popping “9-9” constantly moves the pulse into unexpected timings without ever sounding precocious and with an ease far beyond their tender years. Their sure-handedness with glorious melodies such as “Perfect Circle” reveals an aching beauty at the heart of what they do and hints at things to come: the sweet, descending chorus resolves wonderfully without ever schmoozing into the saccharine zone.

The tribal thump of “Moral Kiosk” or yearning lines of “Pilgrimage” proves we don’t have to have everything spelt out in rockist crayons in order to find meaning or be uplifted. Unapologetically intelligent, Murmur is a fully-fledged classic in every respect. Every home should have this one.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Porcupine Tree Fear Of A Blank Planet




















Another Blank Cheque In The Bank

Fear of a Blank Planet
Porcupine Tree
Roadrunner

These days it seems that almost every edition of the monthly music magazines carries a feature in which either a veteran prog rock act is disinterred from the dry-ice wreathed vaults or speculation about who the contenders for the crown of neo-prog rock might be. Muse, Radiohead and the Mars Volta (to name but a few) are all frequently mentioned in dispatches, but one of the names most fervently whispered in connection to the genre that dare not speak its name quite yet, is Porcupine Tree.

Brainchild of guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and writer Steve Wilson, it started out in 1987 almost as a joke as he created the "lost" tapes of an imaginary psychedelic / Progressive band (much like XTC’s spoof psyche Dukes of the Stratosphear outfit) band on his home studio set-up. As with Andy Partridge and company, much to Wilson’s surprise he found there was actually an audience for a group that didn't exist. By 2003, the wide-screen values of In Absentia helped shift over 100,000 wallet-warming units, and their popularity was consolidated in 2005 with the darker though no less commercially friendly, Deadwing.

The new album (extensively world-toured to an ever-growing army of predominantly younger audiences before it was recorded) sees a logical continuation of their successful formula. Based around concerns that young people are becoming separated from real life by a desensitising diet of video games and the internet, Fear of A Blank Planet explores such alienation via tracks such as the 17 minute ‘Anesthetize’, which traverses atmospheric terrains (largely supplied by ex-Japan member, Richard Barbieri’s keyboards) and bombastic dynamics from their constantly inventive drummer, Gavin Harrison.

The band grasp at sweeping, propulsive themes (‘Way Out Of Here’) that can give the hairs on the back of your neck a close shave. Having honed in on the fine details of the old-school prog of his youth (both Rush’s Alex Lifeson and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp guest), Wilson has welded to this the jagged recursive riffs which bands such as Killswitch Engage or Tool deploy to bone-crushing effect. What keeps PT from merely rattling around in the metal ghetto are those polished layers (especially effective on ‘Sleep Together’) and Wilson’s avowedly accessible melodic sensibilities.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Debbie Does A Day Out

As I am currently confined to barracks, Debbie does a day out. "Take the camera - show me what the outside world looks like" I moan in a self-indulgent, pathetic kind of way.

She pops round to see chums Lill and Cowgill (seen here in their splendid kitchen)

And then they head out to Hamsterly Forest



Time for a scoff...
...great minds think alike!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Breath Of Fresh Air Harvest Records Anthology











Labelled With Love

A Breath Of Fresh Air:A Harvest Records Anthology 1969 - 1974
Various Artists
EMI / Harvest

In the late 60s and early 70s, the Harvest label held a beacon-like status for a certain sort of record buyer. In the adspeak of today, EMI’s progressive / underground scene off-shoot achieved a high-level brand recognition factor that gave it blue-chip status. Though the notion of putting your trust in a major record company these days seems akin to an act of unconscionable lunacy, back then if an artist appeared on the label (ditto Charisma, Vertigo, Island and later the fledgling Virgin), it was well worth taking a punt on the product before you.

That said Harvest, perhaps more than most, was a broad church that encompassed hairy-arsed blues-based freak-outery (Edgar Broughton Band), medieval atonalists (Third Ear Band), inspirational troubadours (Michael Chapman, Roy Harper) heavy rock pioneers (Deep Purple), poppy pastoralists (Barclay James Harvest), peripheral counter-culture dilettantes (Pete Brown, Kevin Ayers) and of course, a peak-approaching Pink Floyd.

With every winner there came a brace of also-rans, those bands that schlepped around with the resigned grimness of the Flying Dutchman, doomed to forever roam the polytechnics and dance halls of the support slot purgatory. Originally released as a single album calling card in 1970, it’s now been significantly upgraded to three CD’s worth.

Such is the democratising of these expanded compilations, the good, bad and (let’s face it) really ugly bands all get to rub shoulders together, providing an entertaining, if occasionally skewed state of the musical nation address. There’s also the added bonus of allowing us to celebrate the madcap diversity of the scene of the day without having to get our hands too dirty in the process.

So let’s hear it for the wacky folkish antics of Tea & Symphony, the laudable proto-prog experimentation of Quatermass, the truly ludicrous country blues fakery of the Panama Limited Jug Band, pushy blues busking of Bakerloo, the seriously misnamed The Greatest Show On Earth and a cast of forgotten heroes who can now enjoy their time in the sun all over again.

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