Here are the 15 compilations and reissues that have hogged my turntable (and the CD player too) in 2016.
15 Pugwash – Almond Tea (vinyl)
Pugwash’s first two albums got the vinyl treatment this year courtesy of Sugarbush Records (get it here). For me the first, Almond Tea, has the edge as Thomas Walsh perfected the Fabs via Oasis ballad on tracks like Shine On Norvell Jefferson and Finer Things In Life. Both are worth owning though.
14 Duncan Maitland – Lullabies For The Twenty First Century (vinyl)
The singer’s genius album from a few years back finally got a vinyl issue from Sugarbush and it still sounds like one of the best Beach Boys inflected power pop albums ever. Loads of great tracks but the jazzy finale of Insect Under The Stone is the stand out for me. review here.
13 Britxotica Goes East – Various (CD and vinyl)
A decade or so before Ravi Shankar and the pals, Brit pop was already obsessed with Asian influenced pop. This is a wonderfully eclectic collection from the Beverley Sisters’ upbeat pop Sphinx Don’t Tell to the dry run of Miserlou in the guise of Tony Osborne’s Turkish Coffee. A wonderful excavation of a forgotten genre. In fact all the albums in the series are tremendous.
12 The Bangles – Ladies and Gentlemen: The Bangles (CD and vinyl)
A brilliant round up of the early singles by The Bangles in their various early punked up Mamas and Papas incarnations. The Real World is a shuffling garage pop classic that’s as good ass anything from their debut. Meanwhile the covers of The La De Das How Is The Air Up There? and The Turtles Outside Chance really shine. Be great to see them back in the Uk sometime.
11 Cornflake Zoo – Various (CD)
Cornflake Zoo is the latest CD compilation series that rounds up long forgotten late 60s singles. They are up to under five already but the first is probably the best for David’s marvellously groovy Please Mr Policeman and The Hearts and Flowers incredible Ode to a Tin Angel as well as some intriguing Dutch and Swedish singles.
10 C87 – Various (3 CD set)
Another Cherry Rd compilation which round up singles and obscurities from many of the bands who were inspired by the acts on the C86 comp from the previous year. There’s a lot more pop here and in songs like The Primitives’ Found A Way To The Sun and The Bachelor Pad’s Albert Hoffman, hints of the the psychedelic revival that would engulf Manchester and then the rest of the UK too. Lovely too to hear The House Of Love’s Real Animal and Rosemary’s Children’s Southern Fields – both massively under rated single. Again, like all the Cherry Red boxed sets this is smartly packaged and is accompanied by copious sleeve notes. Roll on C88!
9 8×8 – Azalea’s Room (vinyl)
Another Sugarbush vinyl reissue, the second album from 8×8, a pairing of a Ukrainian and an American who work remotely, was a lovely surprise. Like The Orgone Box they have the power pop thing nailed though Azalea’s Room mines the Beach Boys and Abbey Road and in tracks like Ice Wings and Law Of Attraction create some truly beautiful soundscapes. Get it here.
8 Tales of Justine – Petals From A Sunflower (CD)
As my knackered version of this band’s vinyl compilation from a decade or so ago ably attests Tales of Justine were one of the most underrated of the British psych acts. So it is great to have their many fabulous tunes on CD in pristine sound quality with a few lovely additions too, most notably the should have been a single Eleventh Obsolete Indecent. Monday Morning and Sitting On A Blunestone, with their rumbling bass and Rick Wright-esq keyboards, still sound amazing.
7 Brotherhood of Lizards – Lizardland: The Complete Works (CD and vinyl)
The Brotherhood of Lizards is the forgotten Martin Newell band, the one that split The Cleaners From Venus his solo masterpiece The Greatest Living Englishman. For the Brotherhood’s album then he teamed up with Nelson, who would end up in of all places New Model Army and crafted songs which the pair toured on bicycle with amps strapped to their backs!
Lizardland has so many English pop gems it is hard to keep count. From the original album the classic Newell moments are Clockwork Train with its myriad railway puns and the Beatley Rusty Old Sun. Yet the finger in the ear folky strum of Carmoisine, which was a non album single, is perhaps its most memorable moment.
It’ll be interesting to see if Newell has any more surprises from his archive.
6 Miles Over Matter – Vagabonds of Psychedelia (CD)
One of the defining bands of the early 80s Brit psych movement, whose history was chronicled on Another Splash Of Colour, finally got round issuing their debut album about 35 years after it should have happened. Again I have shared more than my two pennyworth on MOM here. Suffice to say that on this evidence had they had a little more love from their record company they could have gone onto become an era-defining band.
5 Pink Floyd – The Early Years 67-72 Re/creation (CD boxed set)
I can probably live without the 27 disc boxed set. However this twin CD round up of the band’s early years is a wonderful trip through the band’s nascent years. It captures the Barrett penned singles, the bonkers instrumental freak outs and then the evolution of space rock. The alternative version of Matilda Mother has the edge on the Piper version and it is lovely to have a legitimate version of In the Beechwoods.
4 Big Star Third complete (CD and vinyl)
It is such an incredible thing that the likes of The Lemon Twigs are bringing Alex Chilton and Big Star to a new generation of music fans. Let’s hope that once they have gorged themselves silly on Radio City they eventually find their way to this three CD set which pretty much rounds up everything that was recorded for the legendary third album.
For me that album in its finished incarnation aka CD 3 is my favourite record of the whole of the 1970s. Fractured, challenging, and totally at odds with the music of the era, yet breathtakingly melodic with it. Very little from that decade gets close to it. The genius of the compilation is that it tracks the creation of the album across the discs in a chronological away. So on the first disc are the sketches of the songs featuring Alex Chilton piano and guitar or two. By disc two’s Jim Dickinson has his hand on the faders and the tracks are evolving, and then the third disc is the finished album plus an outtake or two. Much of this has already been archived before on Big Star’s Keep An Eye On The Sky, but the way it has sequenced make this essential.
3 Let’s Go Down And Blow Our Minds – Various (3CD set)
I could argue forever about which is the greatest year for pop music. Jon Savage thinks its 1966 while David Hepworth opts for 1971. Surely though the compilers of Let’s Go Down And Blow Our Minds got it bang on with 1967. Like Another Splash of Colour, which is also a Cherry Red compilation, this a trawl through an era which pairs classics from well worn vinyl comps like Rupert’s People’s Reflections of Charles Brown and The Fresh Windows’ Fashion Conscious with the likes of Jade Hexagram, Geranium Pond and many other strangely named acts which are almost certainly making their CD debut. It just hangs together so well too. I’ve not played too many CDs this year, but this had kept the tray busier than I thought it would be.
2 Orgone Box – Lorne Park Tapes (vinyl)
I am happy to argue with anyone that the Orgone Box’s debut album is the most stunning distillation of power pop since the 60s. Lennon-esque vocals, Revolver-ish guitars and Beach Boy harmonies embellish some truly wonderful tunes. The Orgone Box’s Lorne Park Tapes, which I have written about here, captures the band in its most primitive trebley form. Some of the tracks have been issued before in more realised versions, but there’s plenty of new delights for us hardcore fans. Favourites, well pretty much every track zips along with gloriously guitar, soaring vocals and harmonies and inspired chord changes. Even the tracks that pay closest homage to the Fabs – In The Right Hands and Hard For Me for could easily be Beatles For Sale out-takes – sound fresh and joyful.
But the two that have long lost pop classic stamped through their middle are Just Like a Woman Should Be, and Last Ride On The Jets both of which featured later on the second OB album Things That Happened Then. The former is a big, brooding ballad helmed by a Macc-esque bass that builds beautifully into a glorious middle eight and then a clever finale where the band go a little Led Zeppelin.
Top marks then to Sugarbush Records for offering this on vinyl. There are apparently other Orgone Box related goodies coming in the new year – can’t wait for those. Review here.
1 Another Splash of Colour – Various (3CD set)
I’ve rambled on at length about this wonderful round up of 80s Brit psych. For me this is the template for how you create a CD boxed set compilation. Cherry Red took the original album and cleverly embellished with similar tracks form the era. And while it was joy to hear The High Tide’s Dancing in My Mind, Nick Nicely’s 49 Cigars and The Playn Jayn’s In Your Eyes again, the real obscurities from the likes of The Onlookers, The Heartbeats and The Von Trapp Family proved to be just as much fun. A wonderful excavation of a largely forgotten about genre of 1980 music. Top class packaging and exhaustive sleeve notes too.
Here’s a playlist of tracks from the albums